Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
More Bad Journalism in "Rolling Stone" Story; Damaging Fallout From Sony Hacking Scandal
Aired December 14, 2014 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's Sunday, December 14th, and it is time for RELIABLE SOURCES.
This morning, too little, too late. The writer of that disputed "Rolling Stone" story about rape is calling her sources back. But one of those sources is refusing to talk to the writer again. She will tell me why.
Plus, torture in Hollywood. The movie "Zero Dark Thirty" told a story about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a story that is now refuted by a new Senate report. What should we believe?
And home for the holidays. An emotional plea to the Iranian government by the brother of jailed "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, just let him come home and be with us. It's the holidays and we all just want to be together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: And first this morning, new developments in a year's long standoff between the federal government and a "New York Times" reporter. Attorney General Eric Holder has decided that the Justice Department will not try to force James Risen to identify his anonymous source. You may remember, I recently Risen here on this show.
Back in 2006, Risen's source told him about a botched CIA plot to disrupt Iran's nuclear weapons program. The government has been trying to prosecute the man it believes was the source for Risen's story. So, Risen was facing the prospect of jail time because he was refusing to give up the source.
Now, sources tell CNN's Evan Perez that it's off the table, that jail time is not a possibility, that Risen will not have to reveal that source. Very good news for Risen and his family.
Also, new information about the disturbing and now this disputed "Rolling Stone" story, about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Sabrina Rubin Erdely's story, "A Rape On Campus", recounted a brutal attack suffered by a woman named Jackie at a UVA fraternity party. But all the pieces did not add up, and "Rolling Stone" apologized for the discrepancies on December 5th.
But it has gotten worse since then. In recent days, three students who talked with Jackie after the assault are now all contradicting parts of the story. One of them, Randall, claims he was never even contacted by Erdely even though she wrote that he declined to comment.
Let's be clear here: we don't know exactly what happened that night and we should take rape victims' assertions very seriously. But we do know this, we know that Erdely's reporting was negligent, shockingly so. Erdely has not said a word since "Rolling Stone" apologized. Me and many others have been trying to reach her.
So, the question for us is: did she ignore facts in order to fit the narrative she wanted to write?
I want you to hear what my next guest has to say about that. She's a friend of Jackie, a fellow UVA student, who also spoke to Erdely. Her name is Alex Pinkleton and she joins me now from Charlottesville.
Thank you for having me.
ALEX PINKLETON, FRIEND OF ALLEGED UVA ASSAULT VICTIM: Thank you for having me.
STELTER: Most importantly, how is your friend doing?
PINKLETON: She's -- it's a chaotic time for her. So, she's hanging in there.
STELTER: And when is the last time you spoke to her? Because I saw that on Wednesday, her and her family retained a lawyer. Is she still in touch with you?
PINKLETON: She was in touch with me earlier this week. I'm sure she has a lot going on. So --
STELTER: I think I should ask, before you get into the dealings with the reporter, do you believe her story? Because I've seen some of her friends quoted saying, yes, they do. I've seen others raised doubts.
PINKLETON: I definitely believe something traumatic happened to her that night. That has been something consistent from the night of the three friends that saw her, and moving forward, everyone that she told has always been that she was raped. So, I'm definitely not questioning that.
STELTER: Back last month when this story was first published and got a lot of national attention, you were quoted in "The Washington Post" on November 21st, as saying you believed her account was 100 percent true. Do you still think it's 100 percent true?
PINKLETON: I think some of the details we're finding out may have some discrepancies due to trauma. That's something that comes along with being a survivor. You don't know exactly what happened that night and I think one thing that she might have done is try to fill in the blanks herself and might have filled it in with something that isn't entirely, quote/unquote, "true", but it's something that she believes may have happened to her that night and it got lost with the traumatic events.
STELTER: So, do you put more accountability on the reporter who decided to publish her story and not thoroughly fact check?
PINKLETON: I definitely am not blaming Jackie at all for this situation. Sabrina had the power to look into the matter more and this either would not have been published at all or she would have noticed the inconsistencies, and went from there.
STELTER: So, what did you experience with the reporter? She was on the campus for a long time. She interviewed you and a lot of other students. What were your impressions of her?
PINKLETON: I think she had her heart in the right place. She wanted to bring light to this issue and it is a prevalent issue at UVA and at campuses across the nation. However, she did have an agenda, and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities themselves as an institution are, and blaming the administration for a lot of the sexual assaults.
STELTER: What were some of the questions that she asked you that made you feel that way?
PINKLETON: When she asked about my own assault, she kept asking, did he fed you the drinks? Was he keeping tabs of the drink that night? And he wasn't and that's something that I had to keep saying over and over again, and I think -- I felt like she wasn't satisfied with my perpetrator as someone who wasn't clearly monstrous.
STELTER: Let me go into more detail about that. To be clear to the viewers at home, you are a rape survivor. This happened your freshman year at UVA?
PINKLETON: It happened my second year.
STELTER: Your second year. So, it happened last year?
STELTER: Tell me what you told her about it because I've seen you quoted elsewhere saying that you felt like Sabrina Erdely just chose the most sensational, the most extreme story to write about it.
PINKLETON: Right. Well, I don't like to use the word typical, but the type assaults that we see on college campuses a lot of times do deal with alcohol and they're not as clear cut at all what was in the "Rolling Stone" article. What we see is that people will be at a party, at a fraternity or an apartment, and they'll be drinking and then one person has drank a lot more than the other, they are in a state of blackout or they're unconscious and then their perpetrator rapes them. And that was similar to my case, where I had drank a lot of alcohol that night, was unconscious and came to with him on top of me.
So, very -- it's a very clear-cut rape in the sense that you know it's rape, but it's not what she was looking for of where we had a very innocent victim and a very monstrous perpetrator.
STELTER: When you say innocent victim, you sound like an innocent victim.
PINKLETON: Self-blame is a huge issue for survivors and I guess that comes out sometimes.
STELTER: I wanted to ask about a few quotes that were from you in her article, because she writes this 9,000-word article. You appear in it a couple of times. And when I read this quote, I wondered, did she get it right? Let me put it up on screen.
She wrote, talking about frat culture, social culture, how girls who are drunk always get in, it's a good idea to act drunker than you really are. Also, you have to seem very innocent and vulnerable. That's why they love the first-year girls.
So, that's a quote from you in her piece. Was it accurate? Did she at least quote you accurately?
PINKLETON: That is something I said. I think it's definitely true that the fraternities play a significant role in sexual assault. We know that you're more likely to be sexually assaulted in fraternities. I just didn't like that it seems like she was looking for a story that had to be in a fraternity.
STELTER: So, you felt like you were quoted accurately in the piece. Did you see other inaccuracies, though, elsewhere in the story?
PINKLETON: I mean, just from the information that we're getting from "The Washington Post," it's very clear that there needed to be fact checking and verifying of the story in general. So, I definitely see discrepancies now. But --
STELTER: It does sound like you don't trust the reporter anymore.
PINKLETON: I think that she should have fact checked and I'm really upset and angry like a lot of people are that that didn't happen and now we're in a very difficult situation.
STELTER: Has she been back in touch with you in recent weeks?
PINKLETON: She has contacted me since the article and in recent weeks, yes.
STELTER: So, tell me about that. When did she reach out to you and why?
PINKLETON: I am under the impression that she just wants to know what's going on and I think that's a fair question, because I think there's a lot of confusion of what happened that night and she, like everyone else, wants to know, and I basically can't tell anyone else any more than what I've already said.
STELTER: Yes, I know that "Rolling Stone" is reporting the story, reviewing the story, figuring out what went wrong, but I haven't heard that Sabrina herself, the writer herself, is getting back in touch with her sources.
I guess it suggests that she herself is also re-reporting her own story and trying to get to the bottom of it.
PINKLETON: I'm not really sure. I haven't responded yet.
STELTER: Why haven't you -- why haven't you responded?
PINKLETON: I am in the middle of exams and I have two more next week and I have a paper due tonight. So, I really don't have that much time to talk to her.
STELTER: So, it's not that you resent her and don't want to deal with her?
PINKLETON: I don't resent most people. Again, I think her intentions were good. I just think that the job was done poorly, and I am upset with that aspect of it, but I also know that she was trying to come from a point of advocacy.
But as a reporter, you can't be like an advocate and support a story and listen to it and think everything is true and then report on it without trying to figure out if it's true.
My job as an advocate was never to question Jackie's story or question the details, because I didn't need to.
But the role that she's in as a reporter --
PINKLETON: -- she needed to do that.
STELTER: So, as we wrap up, what's your takeaway throughout all of this?
PINKLETON: Well, it's never been about this one story. We know that there are many, many stories of sexual assaults here on the grounds. So, what we've been saying is we want people's main message to be, that regardless of what they think of this article, taking away that this is an issue and if they are willing to engage and help us to try to prevent it with our bystander intervention programs and things like that, then that would be the best outcome we could have of this entire chaotic situation.
STELTER: Alex, thank you for joining me.
PINKLETON: Thank you.
STELTER: And I do think we'll hear something from "Rolling Stone" in the days to come.
We are just getting started this morning. And after the break, the question that everyone in Hollywood is asking: can Sony pictures recover from the cyber attack that spilled all of its corporate secrets onto the Internet? I have two guests with answers. So, stay tuned.
STELTER: What would it be like to live in a world with no secrets? It sure does feel like we're getting a preview of that. Consider all of the details that poured forth this week about the U.S. government's torture of prisoners after 9/11.
Also, consider the awful stories being told by Bill Cosby's accusers now that they feel comfortable sharing them.
And consider this: the extraordinary and devastating cyber attack directed at Sony Pictures, airing so much dirty laundry from that studio, with many now wondering how the company will ever recover. Private emails, salaries, Social Security numbers -- it's been a mountain of private information dumped on to the Internet by hackers.
Why? Well, many are pointing to North Korea as the source of the hack, potentially in retaliation for this Sony movie, "The Interview", about two goofy reporters who want to interview Leader Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You two are going to be in a room alone with Kim, and the CIA would love him if you could take him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For coffee?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dinner?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For kimchi?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Take him out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want us to kill the leader of North Korea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: This hacking happened a couple of weeks ago, but the leaks keep coming, and one Sony executive told me he considers what happened to be a terrorist attack, that serious for his company.
The thing is, there's been a lot of gossipy revelations, lots of leaks, but also real damage done. Look at this exchange that came out a few days ago. This is between powerful producer Scott Rudin and the head of the studio, Amy Pascal, about President Obama. It seems like there's clear racial overtones here. Pascal says, "Should I ask him if he liked Django?" Rudin responds, "12 years a slave." Pascal wrote back, "The Butler".
Now, they have both apologized. But anger over the tone of the exchanges continues to mount.
And for me, this story got personal this week, when I discovered that some of my private e-mails to sources at Sony were among all the now public and now leaked files. Now, none of my communications were embarrassing, but it does not feel good to know that now the world can see who my sources were.
So, there's that and also the fallout in Hollywood, because that's been immense. Look at this picture of Angelina Jolie greeting or not greeting the Sony chief I was just talking about. This picture was taken right after the revelations of an e-mail between Pascal and Rudin, in which Rudin called Jolie a minimally talented spoiled brat. And then as we talk about this, there are ethically considerations here. This is stolen material. So, should journalist like I and many others simply feel free to republish something that was taken illegally?
With me now to discuss all of that, Andrew Wallenstein, the co- editor in chief of "Variety", and here in New York, CNN's own Don Lemon.
Don, usually you're interviewing me. I decided it'd be fun to flip the table around this time.
And I'm interested in hearing your reaction to those e-mails I was reading, talking about President Obama, all referring to films with African-American themes.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I didn't find it funny, obviously. I hate to call people's actions racist. They were certainly racially insensitive and I think it really makes the point of what Chris rock has said about Hollywood when he wrote the essay saying Hollywood is a white industry and has a racial problem. It certainly does. And this highlights it.
STELTER: So, we see documentary evidence of it in a way we rarely see?
LEMON: Right, because -- I mean, think about those antiquated conversations that they were having. You would think that was back in the 1930s or '40 or '50s when people would talk in that manner.
STELTER: Andrew, what is the fallout been in Hollywood?
ANDREW WALLENSTEIN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, VARIETY MAGAZINE: This is all anyone is talking about. It's just amazing. And you have to wonder about the executives at the center of this, how this is going to impact their future. You know, what we talk about with regarding Obama is one thing, but when you're talking about people like Angelina Jolie, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, you know, this is going time pact the studio going forward. Their ability to get the biggest stars in their projects, you better believe there's going to be some impact.
STELTER: That's interesting to hear you say that. You know, part of me thinks that -- and, Don, tell me what you think about this. Part of me thinks, this is Hollywood, this is how things are. Everybody in Hollywood knows it, but now we are seeing it and that's what's new. Maybe they all know it's a nasty business.
LEMON: People are commodity in Hollywood, and that's what you are selling, a personality. So, you're going to talk about people as if they are products.
STELTER: Andrew, do you think there will be a price to pay for Sony pictures in particular? Will some talent choose, you know, but in terms of these relationships with them in the future?
WALLENSTEIN: Oh, it's quite possible. You know, let's not forget certain stars probably have very fragile egos, probably had no idea that some of the comments out of these e-mails were what the executives they were thinking -- that what the executives they were dealing with were thinking. So, you know, I'm not saying that Sony is going out of business now or something like that, but you better believe every star and their representatives are going to think twice.
STELTER: Andrew, you wrestled with this for days, this issue of whether to publish this content. It's been on my mind as well. You actually wrote about it for a "Variety". Why do you think it's defensible to be quoting from these very private e-mails?
WALLENSTEIN: Well, a very tough decision for us and one we made with a very heavy heart.
On the one hand, I don't like being treated as a pawn by the hackers, which I believe is what has gone on here. And, you know, it's also -- let's not forget people are drawing comparison like Edward Snowden. This is not information that had to come out for the public good.
STELTER: That's right.
WALLENSTEIN: So, I think that is a false equivalency.
But ultimately, the decision lies in the fact that regardless of whether variety would have abstained or not, dozens of publications were talking about this, blogs, the most reputable publications around, it was amplified by social media. We had some of the most powerful people in Hollywood calling us this week, talking about it constantly, some pressuring us not to do this.
WALLENSTEIN: But, you know, my prime director, as editor-in- chief of "Variety", is to stay relevant, to be talking about the things that everyone in the business are talking about, and ultimately that tipped my hand.
STELTER: When you say some of them were pressuring you, were folks from Sony calling you?
WALLENSTEIN: No, no, folks from Sony were not doing anything pressuring like that.
LEMON: But it does do a service, I have to say, because it exposes the lack diversity in Hollywood, and then Hollywood, again, does have a race problem. And I think when you put it there, bare face for people to see, they have to deal with it.
So, I think it does a service by publishing them.
STELTER: One of the things by putting it out there, I think the very first publication of any of these documents was from "Fusion", the Web site owned by Univision and Disney. And their justification was they were showing the executive salaries and how almost all of the top executives at Sony Pictures are white men, as are many of the cases in other production companies, but they were singling out Sony because they have a very detailed data they can point to.
And one of the points "Fusion" has made, now I read from it. It says, "From the beginning, the Sony Pictures hackers clearly saw journalists as part of their tool kit, which gets to what you were saying, Andrew, you don't want to be a pawn for these anonymous hackers at the same time there is news worthy content now out in the public domain.
WALLENSTEIN: Yes. I mean, essentially we've done their bidding. We've maximized the exposure to this content. I don't do that lightly. But on the other hand, it was going to get out there anyway, and we have to be part of the conversation.
STELTER: Andrew and Don, thanks to both for being here.
LEMON: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: We are just getting started this morning. And when we come back, another secret revealed to the world this week. That is how the CIA uses the media, how they leak information that makes the agency look good and why some reporters now look bad because of it.
But as we go to break, a lighter note here. This year's nominees for the Golden Globes were announced this week and this is the best TV comedy category. Notice transparent on this lit. That is Amazon.com's first golden globe nomination ever, Amazon, Netflix, HBO all competing for awards now, a sign of the changing times.
STELTER: The Senate's torture report, it might be the purest example of red news/blue news that we've ever had on this show.
On the left, the revelations about CIA's interrogation of prisoners were a horrific confirmation of people's worst fears, that our nation lost its mind and some of its collective morality in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. On the left, the report was a much needed document.
On the right, it was partisan. It was treated like a Democratic attempt to shame the Bush administration, or even distract from more timely issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA TANTAROS, FOX NEWS: The United States of America is awesome. We are awesome. But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it and we stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: The U.S. is awesome, and it is also at the same time not entirely awesome. Obviously, both things are true.
So, let's go over to the blue news now, because MSNBC's Rachel Maddow most definitely did not think the U.S. treatment of prisoners was awesome.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: We knew before today that the United States -- specifically, the CIA -- had tortured people after 9/11. What we did not know before today was exactly how they did some of it and exactly how much of it they did, and how much they tried to conceal it while they were doing it and after.
But the other thing we didn't know, which I'm not sure anybody knew to expect before today, the other thing we didn't know is just what a mess they were as they tried to invent this program out of whole cloth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, she's saying lots of news came from the report.
Now, this is the thing about red news/blue news. You probably never heard what Maddow said over on FOX. And you would never hear what Tantaros said over on MSNBC -- except if they played a clip and made fun of her.
So, let's not talk about the red news/blue news noise of this, but instead talk about the facts, about what the media has reported through the years about the CIA's practices, because the Senate report this week makes it pretty clear that the CIA funneled information to journalists, info about the interrogation program, info that was false. The CIA, of course, disputes that conclusion.
So, joining me now to try to get to some of the truth here, our guests on both sides of the journalist source relationship, Bill Harlow, who was a CIA spokesman and who coordinated some of the push back against the Senate report this week, and Michael Isikoff, the famous investigative correspondent most recently at NBC News, now at Yahoo.
Thank you both for being here.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO: Good to be with you, Brian.
BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA SPOKESMAN: Likewise.
STELTER: Bill, is there such a thing as a sanctioned leak from the CIA, where the agency puts out positive information? Because one of the takeaways from the Senate report this week is that there were times when the CIA would leak information that made the interrogation program look favorable.
HARLOW: Well, I think the word "leak" is a pejorative right there. When reporters like Michael would call me up and ask questions about things that were happening at the agency, and I would respond to it, he wouldn't look at it as a leak.
A leak to a reporter is something that some other reporter got. So, no, the job with the agency spokesman is to provide information as best they can on an unclassified basis to reporters and that's what they did.
STELTER: Michael, I see you smiling.
Have you been on the receiving end of some of this?
ISIKOFF: Well, I have certainly been on the receiving end of information from Bill and a lot of others at the CIA. I think, look, one of the disturbing things about the report is clearly there's a political red-blue red-blue food fight over what the conclusions of the report were.
But the real merit or advantage of the report is it quotes voluminously from internal CIA cables, internal CIA e-mails that shed a lot of light on this program that we've been talking about for years with limited information.
And it gives us a much fuller picture and it tells us a lot of things that, frankly, Bill and others at the CIA public affairs shop were not saying about the program.
STELTER: Bill, does the CIA in the future need to be a little less secretive with journalists and do an even better job perhaps communicating its message, its point of view to journalists?
HARLOW: Certainly. And I recognize when I was there that I had one of the strangest jobs in America.
STELTER: I bet.
HARLOW: The chief spokesman for a secret organization.
HARLOW: That's an oxymoron right in itself and it was always a struggle to try to provide information to the media while protecting necessary secrets. And it is a very difficult job to do and whoever has it now really has a difficult job ahead of them.
But, that said, there still is a requirement to protect necessary secrets. And while we may be debating this now, if people were to put out information which caused damage to national security, we'd be having an entirely different discussion.
STELTER: On the flip side of this, Michael, having lived through and reported through this period of American history, are you less likely to trust what you're told by the CIA or other government agencies?
ISIKOFF: Well, I try to always be skeptical, Brian, not just of the CIA but of all government agencies. But it is a reminder that what we are told at one point in time about especially covert operations, often when we learn more, when it's put under a microscope, the picture looks very different.
And I think that applies particularly to the covert operations the CIA has engaged in today, the drone program, where we know President Obama himself had said last year that we are haunted -- some of us are haunted for the rest of our lives by some of the civilian deaths who have been caused by this drone program.
How many civilians have been killed or injured?
How many time -- how many -- who has been held accountable when that happens? We've never gotten answers from the agency about that and I think a report like this is a reminder that we have to keep pressing.
STELTER: I do wonder if we're going to be sitting here in 2022 reading the results of a drone report. But that's a conversation for another day.
Bill, Michael, thank you both for being here.
HARLOW: Thank you.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
STELTER: Up next here on the program, a busy week for the president.
Why is he doing so many interviews and does he have a different message for each reporter?
I'll sit down with two of the anchors who talked to him this week when we come back.
STELTER: Welcome back. It seems like the president was everywhere on TV this week. He was on Univision and Telemundo, talking immigration. He was on BET talking Ferguson and race. He was on ESPNU, talking sports and politics and he was on Comedy Central, on "The Colbert Report." He was just trying to keep up with Stephen Colbert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Are you still president after the midterms? Because the Republicans are quite surprised that you're doing anything at all.
COLBERT: That shellacking didn't rattle the presidential seal off your podium?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, look, the election didn't go as I would have liked.
OBAMA: You notice, I made a little correction there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Obama is even on Ryan Seacrest's radio show tomorrow. And here's the thing. Depending on who he was talking to, you got a very different Barack Obama: funny Obama on Colbert, defensive Obama on Univision, somber Obama on BET. And you also got very different interviewers.
So now I want to bring in two of them, Jorge Ramos of Univision and Fusion and Jeff Johnson who conducted the interview for BET.
Gentlemen, thanks both for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be here, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
STELTER: Let's start by looking at a couple of clips.
Jorge, you were pretty confrontational with the president. Here's a clip from the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION: As you were saying, you always have the
legal authority to stop deportations. Then why did you deport 2 million people?
OBAMA: Jorge, we're not getting --
RAMOS: For six years, you did it. You --
RAMOS: -- many families.
OBAMA: Jorge, we're --
OBAMA: -- I -- you called me deporter in chief.
But let me say this, Jorge.
RAMOS: But you could have stopped the deportation.
OBAMA: That is not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Jorge, tell me about your strategy there.
RAMOS: Well, whenever you're talking to the president, it's a unique opportunity and you have to use that opportunity to get new information but at the same time you have to challenge the president on controversial issues.
But I think an interview should not be a celebration of your guest and especially when you're talking to the President of the United States. So even though I agree with what he has done on immigration in his executive decision, I have to challenge him on the other part, that it's very controversial that he actually deported 2 million people and that he destroyed thousands of families.
So it's not an agenda. I had to ask him about that and probably he didn't like it.
STELTER: Jeff, how does the president change when talking about race? What's your impression?
JOHNSON: It's a difficult challenge when you're talking about the country being so torn in different circles. And the moment he talks about race here, his approval ratings drop somewhere else, very similar to the immigration issue.
The moment he talks about immigration and ending deportation, you see a whole 'nother sector of the country begin to have approval ratings that are in opposition. We're in a very interesting time and I think it makes it makes it challenging to talk about race from a president who has got to serve so many different demographics.
STELTER: I've been thinking about what the message is behind all of these interviews, and speaking to BET and Univision and Telemundo and Comedy Central and now Ryan Seacrest next week. Maybe the message is -- you know, maybe the message is simply that the White House is juggling many balls at the same time, that it's walking and chewing gum at the same time, that it's able to handle lots of different topics at the same time.
RAMOS: Let me say something, Brian. What he's saying right now is that he's an active president, that he's not a lame duck president. I think that this is very important. This is a person completely involved in race issues, completely involved on immigration.
JOHNSON: I think to Jorge's point, what we're dealing with now is a president who wants to show what the White House has the ability to do, without Congress, where some of his initiatives are going to be, whether it's through executive order or whether it's through utilization of mechanisms like the DoJ.
He wants to be very aggressive in saying, here's where we're going to use our authority to be able to address these very pressing issues. And so that's very different.
I think the difference between the African-American community and the Latino community is that there have been much fewer interviews on television with African-American press.
And so I think this interview was incredibly important because there have been fewer interviews with African-American press. So we were glad to get the interview but I hope that in between now and the end of his term there's going to be a lot more conversation with the black press, not just on radio but on television.
RAMOS: And I'm noticing also, Brian, a much more assertive president, it's a president who is establishing his power. And he realizes perfectly that he's not going to be able to work with Congress.
And I'm remembering what he mentioned in his book, "Audacity of Hope," he warned about how power can change you in the White House, the isolation that the White House creates. And I think President Barack Obama is going precisely through that process right now.
STELTER: Recently at an awards dinner here in New York, Jorge, you said that when you're doing an interview with someone important like the president, you assume that you will probably never speak to that person again. And yet you've interviewed the president five times.
Tell me about that tactic, of coming in assuming you won't have this chance again.
RAMOS: Well, I mean, if you're all the time protecting your access to your sources, then it's going to be a very different conversation. It's going to be, how are you doing and I hope you're having a great day. That's not what we should do as journalists.
And so whenever I'm talking with someone important, I'm assuming two things. First, that I just have to ask the questions that nobody else will. And the second one is that it might be -- in this case it hasn't happened, thanks to the president, but it might be the last time you talk to that person.
And then if you take that attitude, it's going to be a completely different interview.
STELTER: Jeff, Jorge, thank you both for being here.
RAMOS: Thank you.
JOHNSON: Thank you so much.
STELTER: And next on the program, a story that you've got to hear. It's a Washington Post correspondent who is living every journalist's worst nightmare. He has been imprisoned in a foreign country for five months now. And coming up next, his brother makes an emotional plea to the Iranian government for his release. Don't go away.
STELTER: One hundred forty-four days and counting, that is how long Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has been locked up in an Iranian prison.
He was detained on July 22nd with his wife and two photojournalists. Those three have been released on bail. But Jason has remained in solitary confinement. Journalists around the world are outraged by this.
And the question that no one seems to be able to answer is, why? Why is he in jail?
Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron said this after the Iranians charged Jason with unspecified crimes last week.
"We have never had a clear view of why Jason is being held, how long he would be held, what might lead to his release, or when. We still don't. The key thing to remember is that he should never have been arrested and imprisoned in the first place. And he should be released immediately."
Now we've been staying in touch with Marty Baron and giving updates on Jason's case here on RELIABLE SOURCES. And now his family is speaking out, pleading for Jason's release so he can come home for the holidays.
Ali, thank you for being here on this very difficult occasion.
ALI REZAIAN, BROTHER OF IMPRISONED JOURNALIST JASON REZALAN: Thanks for having me, Brian. STELTER: What is the latest we know about Jason's condition?
What do we know about where he is being held and what he is experiencing in detention?
REZAIAN: Well, so we know that he is being held in Teheran in Evin Prison. We know that he has got some health issues as well. He has problems with his back as well as some eye infections. And we know that he is also very, very depressed. It has really taken a toll on him.
STELTER: The only person who has been able to visit him is his wife who was held and then released. What has she told you about the conditions in the prison?
REZAIAN: Well, you know, we haven't really talked about the conditions inside there. And she doesn't have access to his room, obviously, so I can tell you that. She does know that, you know, he is -- it is cold. She has been able to give him some warm clothes, and that, you know, the toll of being in solitary is really adding up.
STELTER: Is there any particular story, you think, they were upset by, offended by, bothered by, anything like that?
REZAIAN: We went back and looked at them. We looked at the stories, and we are wondering about that. But one of the last stories that he wrote was about the Iranian national baseball team. He really loved to be able to give people outside of Iran a better view of what society is like there, and what real life is like there. Jason didn't really -- sorry about that.
STELTER: That is OK. Go ahead.
REZAIAN: So, I don't think that Jason did anything in his writing that would have provoked him to do this. I'm not sure why they would.
STELTER: I have a younger brother named Jason, also, and I am sitting here trying to imagine what I would be going through, what I would be thinking about if my brother had been in an Iranian prison now for months and months.
Are there times where you are mad at him? Are there times where you lash out like that?
REZAIAN: I wouldn't say lash out, but that's a great question. You go through the entire spectrum of emotions. I mean, if anything, I would say the biggest thing is guilt. I'm living parts of my life normally, when I'm with my son, when I'm sitting down at Thanksgiving dinner, when I'm sitting down to any meal, I think about Jason and that he doesn't have access to those basic things that we take for granted every day.
You know, there are times where I say, you know, I didn't sign up for this, it wasn't my job, but I need to take care of my brother and I need to do whatever I can to bring him home.
STELTER: So what is your message today for the Iranians?
REZAIAN: Well, Brian, I think that really what I want to say is that everybody that looks at this objectively knows that if there was any basis for these charges, they would have brought them a long time ago.
And I would say, please, just go back, look to see what's there and realize that Jason shouldn't be there. He has been in jail for almost five months. Please, just let him come home and be with us. It's the holidays, and we all just want to be together.
STELTER: Ali, thank you for being he here.
REZAIAN: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: And we will keep you up to date on Jason's case, and what is going on with him.
And now, coming up here, we are going back to the topic from earlier in the hour, the Senate torture report and I want to look at torture and how it's portrayed in Hollywood. I'm going to reexamine one of my favorite movies, "Zero Dark Thirty," and show you what it shows, next.
STELTER: Welcome back.
The news this week was dominated by headlines about the Senate's torture report and it got us thinking about the influence of the media in shaping public perceptions about the war on terror. I once interviewed a human rights activist who called the FOX show "24" "a big ol' ad for torture."
Now more recently, Showtime's "Homeland" has been presenting a more nuanced look at the subject matter.
But what about the big screen?
I went back and rewatched the film that dramatized the killing of Osama bin Laden and here's what I found.
STELTER (voice-over): It was the number one film at the box office the weekend it opened in wide release and went to make more than $130 million and earned five Oscar nominations, but "Zero Dark Thirty" has never been without controversy and now the new Senate torture report is raising even more doubts about the story it told.
The movie's torture scenes were graphic and crucial to the plot because they implied that useful information came as a result, information that led to Osama bin Laden.
(MOVIE CLIP, "ZERO DARK THIRTY")
STELTER (voice-over): Movies like this one can be influential. They can also be misleading.
This week the Senate Intelligence Committee's blistering report specifically targeted that raid that killed bin Laden. The report rejected what the CIA said right after the raid. You probably remember; they said that the interrogations provided key intel. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIR., CIA: The facts of the matter are people against whom we used these interrogation techniques provided us at least one of the strings of information that led to last weekend's events.
STELTER (voice-over): But the Senate report disputes that. It says that the vast majority of the CIA's claims about this were inaccurate and not surprisingly CIA Director John Brennan disagrees.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: The detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against bin Laden.
STELTER: At the same time Brennan was speaking, the chair of the Senate Intel Committee, Dianne Feinstein, fired back.
Her office said in this tweet, "The study definitively proves EITs did not lead to bin Laden."
Feinstein, along with Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, complained about the movie when it was first released in 2012, calling the torture scenes, "grossly inaccurate and misleading," and pointed out that the CIA had been cooperating with the filmmakers.
This led Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal to say, quote, "The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes."
And two years later, that is still being debated.
STELTER: And that is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But our media coverage keeps going seven days a week on cnn.com. We will have the latest all week on the Sony hack and the scandal at "Rolling Stone." And I'll see you right back here next Sunday at 11:00 am Eastern time. Stay tuned now; "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now.