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North Korea Threatens More Cyber-Attack Against U.S.; Will Anyone Dare Air "The Interview"?

Aired December 21, 2014 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. And welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter, live in New York.

And we are standing by for any new developments on the assassination of these two New York City police officers. My heart is aching for my city this morning. And we will keep you fully informed on this throughout the day here on CNN.

We also have breaking news about another major and fast-moving story. That is the Sony pictures cyber attack. It is an attack the U.S. now believes was instigated by North Korea.

In an interview on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning, President Obama told Candy Crowley that it was an act of cyber vandalism, a very costly one at that, and he said the U.S. will respond proportionally.

Now, as we come to air this morning, there is a new statement from the North Korean regime. A regime that keeps denying it's behind the hacking, but a regime that keeps threatening the United States and keeps condemning the movie "The Interview."

Yes, "The Interview". Can you believe we are talking cyber attacks and threats because of a Seth Rogen movie?

This really is an extraordinary moment. What was thought of as a silly, maybe lousy comedy just a few weeks ago has now become a symbol of two of America's greatest values, freedom of expression, and freedom from fear. I want to say that one again. Freedom from fear.

This affects every movie studio, every media company, really every news organization in the digital age. In fact, President Obama said that this morning and we're going to play that sound bite just ahead.

So, I have a group of guests standing by this morning covering this from every angle. We've got Mark Cuban, Larry King, Alan Dershowitz and many more.

We need to begin with this new threat from North Korea, because it was published in English earlier this morning, and I'm going to read a bit of it to you now. It says, "The DPRK has clear evidence that the U.S. administration was deeply involved in the making of such dishonest reactionary movie." They're talking about "The Interview." It goes on to say later, "The army and people of the DPRK is fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces, including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels."

This is a long statement that was published. So, let's go straight to Kyung Lah, CNN's correspondent in Seoul, South Korea.

You're up late with this and thank you for being here.

When you read this statement, what were the big takeaways to you?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Oh, I thought that the usual writer for the DPRK has finally come back from vacation because we're seeing that bellicose, saber-rattling, this typical rhetoric from North Korea. They are upping the ante. It is just like the rhetoric we hear whenever North Korea attacks, whenever they lash out, and they are at their very best here.

A couple things to note: it did come out in English, Brian. You're right about that. It came out a couple hours ago, late here in Korea.

The audience is absolutely not the domestic audience. It is for America. It came from the national defense commission. This is essentially the agency that as far as we know runs the military, the Pentagon, if you will, speaking directly for Kim Jong-un.

And the other thing I really note about this is that they are trying to up the ante. North Korea craves attention, and they are saying, OK, everyone is concerned about cyberattacks, so we're going to make it worse.

STELTER: So, when you read this, we were on air together yesterday, and you called one of the threats from North Korea ridiculous. You know, they were coming out yesterday talking about this film.

What's different between what we heard yesterday and what we're now hearing this morning?

LAH: It's even more ridiculous. I mean, they say that they're going to wage war against the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. mainland. I mean, it is typical North Korea language, but at the same time we have to remember this is a brutal regime. What they say you have to take with some sort of seriousness, and the fact that they have been so successful with Sony Pictures, you know, how much of this rhetoric can they actually achieve?

So, there is this crazy over-the-top language they throw out there, but there is some seriousness. We have to take that away from that.

STELTER: To your point, reading this long statement, at one point it says "The Interview" is a movie that's undesirable and it justifies and incites terrorism. It should not be allowed in any country in any region.

As I read this news statement, Kyung, I thought to myself, it sounds a lot like what this anonymous group of hackers said on Thursday. You know, on Thursday night, they sent a threatening e-mail to the heads of the Sony studio basically saying, you did the right thing by cutting the movie "The Interview" out of theaters. You did the right thing, and as long as you never release the movie, we will stop attacking you.

This sounds somewhat similar, does it not?

LAH: Yes, the same ghostwriter. It's like someone who continues to smoke and smells like cigarette smoke but pledges they kicked the habit. I mean, North Korea simply is trying to say that they don't know who they are but, oh, we really love what they have done. So, yes, you're absolutely right.

STELTER: It occurs to me this is the kind of statement, the kind of rhetoric, that causes people like Seth Rogen to want to make a movie making fun of Kim Jong-un.

Let me ask you one more thing, because I think it's important that North Korea is claiming the administration was involved in the making of the movie.

I wanted to play a sound bite from Fareed Zakaria's interview with Michael Lynton, the head of Sony Pictures, where they talked about how all of this started because it was back in June when North Korea actually first condemned the movie. It was six months before it was supposed to be released.

Here is what Michael Lynton said.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Michael, let me ask you to go through the sequence of what happened. When did you first realize that you had a problem?

MICHAEL LYNTON, SONY PICTURES CEO: The first time we understood that there was an issue with the North Koreans was back in June of last summer when they came forward with various e-mails and statements and actually I think they were in touch with the White House itself and described their disfavor with the movie.

At that point in time, we actually reached out to experts at various -- at think tanks, within the State Department, to try to get a proper understanding of whether or not there was a problem here and whether or not we were providing a security risk, and we were told that there wasn't a problem here, and so we continued to proceed.

ZAKARIA: Including the U.S. government told you there wasn't a problem.

LYNTON: The U.S. government told us there wasn't a problem, that's correct. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: What is the significance of North Korea claiming that the government, the U.S. government, is behind this movie?

LAH: Well, they really like the idea of everything playing into the U.S. government. That everything that every American does, every negative piece of whatever points directly back to the United States because that's how North Korea works. Of course, they think it goes back to the head of the state.

So, that doesn't surprise me at all, but that to me is part of the ridiculousness of North Korean thinking. What we have to take away from this is not that. I think the important thing for people to take away is that bottom part of the threat where they do say that they are going to escalate the cyber war, escalate the attacks.

That's what I think the White House is going to walk away and wonder how serious is North Korea about that, what is the next attack going to be?

LAH: Doesn't seem to me President Obama is going to get much of a vacation in Hawaii given this escalation we're hearing from North Korea.

Kyung, thank you for being here for us.

LAH: You bet.

STELTER: What we're hearing from South Korea is the geopolitical story, which is unfolding as we speak.

There's another side of the story that's also unfolding this morning, and that's the commercial side. It has been Sony Pictures' worst week ever. Already crippled by that cyberattack that happened at the end of the November, the movie studio had to cancel the Christmas release of "The Interview" on Wednesday, that was because theater owners said they wouldn't show the movie. We're talking about AMC and Regal and Cinemark and others.

So why did the theater owners say that? Because of anonymous hackers' threats. That threat from Tuesday you heard about, it even invoked 9/11 and warned Americans to stay away from theaters.

Here on CNN, I called this capitulation, and so did a lot of others and even the president said Sony had made a mistake, but now Sony -- this is the important part -- now, Sony is trying to find a new way to distribute the movie.

David Boies, an attorney retained by Sony, said this on "Meet the Press" just a few minutes ago.


DAVID BOIES, ATTORNEY FOR SONY: Remember, Sony only delayed this. Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it's going to be distributed I don't think anybody knows quite yet, but it's going to be distributed.


STELTER: I'll tell you a little background about how this story is happening. Some e-mail servers at Sony are still having trouble. The best way to communicate to sources there is via their personal cell phones, not their work phones. And one source told me we are still pursuing all options.

So, what could that be? Could that be it Netflix, could that be independent theater owners maybe? I think we will find out in the days to come.

I have a guest standing by in Hollywood. He's very concerned that this movie might never be seen. He's Gary Michael Walters, the CEO of Bold Films. It's a company behind movies like "Drive," "Whiplash", and the brand new one, "Night Crawler" that is in theaters right now.

Gary, thanks for being here.

GARY MICHAEL WALTERS, CEO, BOLD FILMS: It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Gary, tell me what the problem would be with this movie never getting into the public domain.

WALTERS: I think that would be terrible. At Bold Films, we're dedicated to artistic freedom, but we simply make the films. At the end of the day, we rely on our studio partners like Sony, which is releasing "Whiplash" in theaters now, to release the films in theaters, on television, on DVD, on SVOD.

STELTER: And so, if this movie never comes out, it's going to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression much more broadly. You know, not just about this silly comedy.

WALTERS: I think that it will have terrible effect because when investors like us try to figure out how to make the movie and how to get our money back and how to make a profit, the domestic distribution has become a very crucial area that's difficult to secure. Any impediment to that is going to make a hard job much harder.

And so, I think what is crucial is not that we talk just about "The Interview" but Sony not stand alone. The industry, law enforcement, the government needs to come together and formulate a common policy because when America unites in a crisis, we're unstoppable.

STELTER: Gary, you mentioned you are in business with Sony. I want to ask you more about that right after this break. You have to fit in a quick break. So, stay with me.

There's so much more to talk about, including the Republican National Committee's petition to theater owners. We'll tell you about that. And later, millionaire Mark Cuban is here, telling me about how

he found out his personal e-mails were leaked amid all this hacking at Sony. He also is going to tell me how he thinks behavior in Hollywood is going to change because of all this.

Stay tuned. I'll be right back.


STELTER: Welcome back.

We are talking about the controversial comedy "The Interview", and whether any companies are going to step up now and help Sony Pictures get it seen, get it distributed to the American people.

Netflix is not commenting this weekend. YouTube is not getting back to me. They are two obvious possibilities.

I want to bring in some other voices in this conversation now. "Variety" co-editor in chief Andrew Wallenstein is back with us this week in Los Angeles. And in Miami, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz who has called this cyberattack at Sony Pearl Harbor on First Amendment. And still with me here also, Gary Michael Walters, CEO of Bold Films.

Thank you all for being here now.

Let me start with you -- tell me about what you said earlier on CNN, Pearl Harbor on the First Amendment. What is it this?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL'; Well, this is a frontal attack on our freedoms. And remember, it's a diversified attack. It's a high-tech attack through the hacking, but it's also a low tech attack through the threats.

And it's not the first one. Remember that Theo Van Gogh was murdered for producing a film called "Submission", and his co-producer was threatened with death and had to come to America. And my feeling is unless this film is seen now more widely than it ever would have been seen before, which is the message that has to be sent to North Korea, this is the beginning, and it's going to continue with Iran.

Remember, Iran may develop nuclear weapons soon. They are much worse censors than North Korea. They put the fatwa on Salman Rushdie and we beat that because all the publishers got together and collectively published Salman Rushdie's book.

If the Hollywood studio would say do what the publishers did and if we make sure that every time they try to censor, more people will see it, more people will read it, then it will backfire and that will send the most powerful message.

STELTER: Alan, who do you blame to where we're at this moment? You know, this time last week, we were talking about the titillating e-mails about celebrities and executives. But so much has changed since then. Sony has canceled the movie. Now, they're desperately seeking other partners to get it out. Do you blame theater owners for being wary at this movie? Do you

blame American citizens for being fearful of threats that don't seem to be backed up by actual capabilities? Who do blame?

DERSHOWITZ: I blame the media, that is the Hollywood studios and the television stations and the radio, and the movie theaters. They think don't understand. They think they have a fiduciary obligation only to the shareholders.

No, everyone who is covered by the First Amendment, Sony, they have a fiduciary obligation to the First Amendment. And what they should have said in day one is, we may have to cancel the theatrical release, but let me tell you, North Korea, more people will see this film because of what you did than anything that would have happened had you not done this. We are not going to let you censor American films.

That was the bottom line that should have been expressed and it took too long to say it and it was done too weakly and David is a great lawyer but he's been very vague about it.

STELTER: Andrew, you cover this every day, you're covering it for "Variety." So, why didn't Sony do what Alan is saying?

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, VARIETY MAGAZINE: I think you've got to bring it back to the movie theaters. And First Amendment is one thing, but legal liability is something entirely different. Let's not forget back in 2012, the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 dead.

Just a few months ago a federal judge indicated that the theater owners could be sued because they should have foreseen such an incident could have occurred. If you think that was foreseeable, believe me, this could have also here with "The Interview" been entirely foreseeable. That's what I think has the theaters running scared.

DERSHOWITZ: I disagree completely with that. I think the First Amendment trumps any kind of liability. Any theater owner who says we have a First Amendment obligation to show this film, the government has an obligation to protect us, would have been immune from liability. I don't think you can hide behind legal liability. The First Amendment trumps this kind of legal liability.

STELTER: Hey, Gary, I mean --


WALTERS: So, the First Amendment would have been a proper defense?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, in this case absolutely because the government had an obligation to protect the theaters. In the other case, it was not anticipated. It wasn't the nature of the movie or anything. It was somebody who walked into a theater and killed. They should have had maybe better protection. Here, we have a threat on the First Amendment, and it can't be

that you have liable if you exercise your first amendment right. Remember, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," they were risking liability, too. They were risking criminal liability. They were risking financial liability.

But they took it right to the government and they said, we're going to publish the Pentagon papers. Movie theaters are protected by the First Amendment which means they have an obligation under the first amendment. They are the guardians of the First Amendment in the first instance.

STELTER: Let me ask you, Gary, because I mentioned in the last block --


WALLENSTEIN: I don't think you're right. I think the First Amendment protects the artists --

STELTER: I'm sorry to interrupt you, Andrew, but I want to turn to Gary because of something that happened two days ago that I found very interesting.

Gary, you're back in business with Sony. I partnered with them on Friday it was announced, for another film. And I'm curious, how that came out. I mean, are you even able to communicate with the studio given the attack that crippled them? Was it face-to-face? Was it via fax?

And why did you decide to still work with them given all this uncertainty?

WALTERS: I think it's like Mark Twain said, the rumors of Sony's demise are greatly exaggerated. They're a great company. They do a lot of great work.

I have got a movie in the theaters with them now. We're glad to work with them again. We've got a project, a fantasy movie called "Fire and Ice." I don't think we're going to offend anyone unless you're an evil ice wizard, I think we're safe there.

But, more seriously, I think the liability issue is a more specious one. The Boston marathon was bombed and ran again. Office buildings were bombed on 9/11 and I go into an office building every day.

Airlines were taken down. Reasonable measures were taken to ensure the safety of the American people. I would never not focus on the safety of the public, but we can't cower every time some third generation dynastic dictator of a tottering totalitarian regime makes an empty threat. The think the fact is it shows the strength of America. The fact that this government is so preoccupied with the efforts of Seth Rogen and James Franco, who I hope don't end up rooming with Salman Rushdie. But we've got to stand tall. We're America. We're the most

powerful, dynamic country in the history of the world, and our culture is our great asset, and it's used to change regimes and we need to stand tall. Alan, I believe everybody has an obligation as Americans to stand tall. The first amendment protects us from the government, but that doesn't mean that we are going to self-regulate the American soul into some fearful place.

STELTER: That's what we should also address, Gary, because when I was reading about your latest project with Sony, here's the first comment that I saw on, the first comment on the sorry. It said, "God, I hope they ask North Korea for permission this time."

It's that kind of thing that --


WALTERS: I will never ask North Korea for permission for me or any of my artists ever.

DERSHOWITZ: I agree with that.

WALTERS: We are a defender of artists' rights. That's our sole mission as financers of independent feature film.

STELTER: Alan, I hear you chiming in.

DERSHOWITZ: A year ago, I wrote in my book "Taking the Stand", that the greatest danger to the First Amendment is going to come in the future from self-censorship. I worry even more from self- censorship from Islamic extremists.

This is only a coming attraction to what we're going to get from Iran. Remember, this dictator managed to get what no American president can do, that is censor a film because of its content. And we must fight back and the answer has to be, as it always is, if you try to censor, it will backfire. More people will see, more people will read, we will fight fire with fire and we will use the --


DERSHOWITZ: Yes, I was --

STELTER: Let me ask you, because I'm coming up against a hard break in 15 seconds. Andrew, a week from now, is this movie going to have a distribution deal in place?

WALLENSTEIN: I'd be surprised to see it happen that imminently, but I do think Sony wants to strike while the iron is hot. There's a lot of controversy generating publicity. They spent a lot of marketing money. I think they want to make it happen soon.

STELTER: I agree with you. I think we're all going to see this movie at some point.

Well, all three of you, thank you for being here. I really appreciate it this morning.


STELTER: And coming up, the king of Hollywood, I'm talking about Larry King, and he will join me with his take on Sony and on the media ethics here as well when we come back.



We're talking about the impact of the cyber attack at Sony pictures. With every passing day, the damage seems to get worse. We've seen more leaks of e-mails. We've seen new revelations about the studio and its stars. And now, we've seen the cancellation of the film "The Interview."

So, let's turn to a legend who knows Hollywood more well than anyone else alive. That's Larry King who joins me on the phone.

Good morning, Larry.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST (via telephone): Good morning, Brian. Happy to be with you.

STELTER: Thank you for being here.

I have to ask -- have you ever seen anything like this in your entire career?

KING: No, the closest I am come to it is from memory. I was 6 years old when Charlie Chaplin release "The Great Dictator" in 1939. That was before we were at war with Germany and the Germans did go crazy. They threatened our ambassador, there were all sorts of threats made, but that did not back down. The movie was released. It was a great comedy maybe the opposite of "The Interview."


KING: "The Great Dictator" was just a phenomenal comedy, but nothing stopped it. Of course, they didn't have the technology now. The Germans could not interrupt our ability to send an e-mail. There were no e-mails.

I think the trouble here, Brian, is some part blame on the American press, why did so much media release all these stories of conversations between the president of Sony and the Sony officials and actors or agents? That was stolen property. Why did the media release that?

STELTER: So, it sounds like you're on the side of David Boies and Sony who have said, this should not be reported on and the reporters who have this information should delete it?

KING: Yes. The First Amendment, of course, we have a right to report it. Now, the question is, should we report it? We don't show beheadings. We have the right to show a beheading.

We don't do it out of taste or a feeling it would bother people. So why do something that you know will only increase harm just to titillate the public to find out that this actor was being criticized by that agent?

That was stolen property and I think that was a mistake.

STELTER: Some people even suggested it was intentional on the part of the hackers to have folks go and talk all about these embarrassing leaks, be distracted by that, and then come out and basically issue an extortion demand and say, do not show this film, you will be in danger if you show this film.

What do you think of the theater owners' decision and then, eventually, Sony's decision to cancel it?

KING: Well, they had a problem. I try -- what I have done all my career is try to step into the other person's shoes. If you were a theater owner, Brian, and that threat existed, what would you do?

STELTER: Well, you know, I guess I have two hats about this, Larry. Maybe you do, too.

A big part of me wants to say -- you know, you stand your ground and the last thing you do is pull your movie. And then we have to be able to have acceptable risk. Every day we get in a car, we're taking a risk that we're going to get hurt in a car accident, but we do it because we know -- we have the good sense of what the risk is.

But, then, the other part of me understands what we've heard earlier in the show. There are legal issues and security issues. So, I guess I see it both ways.

KING: That's right.

Now, when 9/11 happened and the rest, we didn't cancel airline flights. We took protections. We have -- you're searched now when you go to the airport. You can't get in if you have even possible dangerous materials.

That is reacting. That is reacting. That is reacting to fear, but logical reaction to fear. So, maybe there was a way that the theater owners could have done something. I don't know what the answer is, and as you pointed out very well, it's a two-edged sword. What do you do?

STELTER: Yes. Yes.

KING: I think I agree with those who say this is only going to get worse. If this is in the hands of North Korea, imagine it in the hands of people with more technology than North Korea might have. I think this is a cause of grave concern.

STELTER: Larry, I appreciate you being here this morning. Thanks for calling in. KING: Any time.

STELTER: It was really only a matter of time before all of this we're talking about became political.

CNN obtained last night a letter by the Republican National Committee. It was to the CEOs of 10 major theater chains, all urging them to put the movie back on their screens. Let me read you part of that letter. It was signed by the RNC chairman, Reince Priebus.

He wrote this: "As a sign of my commitment, if you agree to show this movie, I will send a note to the Republican Party's millions of donors and supporters urging them to buy a ticket, not to support one movie or Hollywood, but to show North Korea we cannot be bullied into giving up our freedom."

Now, of course, Hollywood has always been identified as a Democratic town, so this was a rather interesting letter to see. Is this about tapping into a new donor stream? Is this a swipe at President Obama, or something else altogether?

Well, let's ask, let's bring in Sean Spicer, who is the RNC's spokesman.

Good morning, Sean. Thanks for being here.


STELTER: Is this just a P.R. stunt? Tell me about what instigated this.

SPICER: Well, I think this isn't -- as you alluded to, this isn't -- Hollywood and the Republican Party have had a love-hate relationship for years. This is not about Hollywood.

This is not about the entertainment industry and this is frankly not about this movie. I think frankly what this comes down to is the very fiber of America. If we can be bullied into not releasing a movie, you have to ask, what's next? Is it an energy company? Is it a mom-and-pop small store that gets told don't show this? Is it someone who gets told you can't post a video to YouTube?

And I think that we as Americans have a duty to stand up and show what we're all about when it comes to instances like this. Our view at the RNC was this was an opportunity. Somebody wanted to take away our freedom and so what we want to do is turn it into an opportunity to reward those who give our freedom.

And what we said to the studio and theater execs is show the movie and guarantee that a share of the profits go to military organizations like the USO and the Yellow Ribbon Fund to help show the rest of the world that America knows how to stand and fight.

STELTER: Have you heard from any of those 10 theater owner CEOs yet? SPICER: We have not. It's obviously over the weekend, but you

have seen people like Mark Kirk from Illinois call for hearings. Senator John McCain had a piece in CNN this morning.

I think that the momentum continues to move in the right direction, with other people, not just Hollywood, business types, other Republican politicians, getting on board on this and realizing that this is bigger than one movie and one industry.

STELTER: You said in the letter that President Obama has been sending mixed messages about this movie. What did you mean by that?

SPICER: Well, I think Alan Dershowitz referred to it a little earlier in terms of that there wasn't a clear sign from the administration early on.

And what the chairman was alluding to was when he was asked about this incidence on ABC News the day before or on Thursday, he was a little murky about it. Then on Friday, after public opinion started to sway, it started to come out that Sony should release the movie, he said that Sony hadn't called. Sony, as you -- as CNN has widely reported, the Sony executives had been in talks with the White House.

I think the administration wasn't as forthcoming and as strong as they could have and that's what the chairman was alluding to in the letter.

STELTER: My reporting indicates that Valerie Jarrett was the main contact for Sony when these conversations were going on, but it did not get directly to the president. And the president says if it had gotten directly to him, well, maybe there would have -- maybe he could have tugged on the ear of the theater owners and weighed in on this matter. That would have been an extraordinary moment.


SPICER: Brian, you can't blame Sony or anyone else. It's not like the president has a direct line to them.

We rely on the president's staff to do their job. And if the president's most trusted advisers, of which Valerie Jarrett is one of them, don't inform him of big incidents like this, you can't blame anyone else but the White House and the White House staff for it.

STELTER: Let me play a sound bite from the president's interview this morning here on CNN on Candy Crowley's "STATE OF THE UNION."

He was talking about how this is not just about -- as you said, not just about one movie. Let's take a look. Actually, I think we don't have it.

I will paraphrase what he said. He said it's not just about Sony or movies. It's also about the news industry. He talked about CNN having critical coverage of North Korea in the past and he suggested that all media companies, all news organizations have to be concerned about this, the precedent that might be set here, that an anonymous threat from hackers could actually change behavior.

It seems to me, Sean, this might be a rare moment of agreement between the left and the right, between the Democrats and the Republicans.

SPICER: Well, I would hope so.

And I would take it a step further. I don't just think it's about media organizations, as I alluded to. First, when you look at the media, entertainment industry as a whole, it's a major, major export of the United States that attributes for countless jobs and then domestically is a major part of our domestic economy.

But beyond that, as I said, what happens when a manufacturer builds something that another country objects to or a small business posts something and they get threatened if they don't take it down? This is not just about the movie industry and it's not about Hollywood. This is about who we are as America and the ability for us to be able to speak freely and express our thoughts and do things that may be controversial, but may be -- but are very -- are part of the fabric of who we are and what we stand for. So I would take this well beyond the media industry.

STELTER: Forgive me for being a little cynical here, but is this also for the RNC a chance to sign up some new donors perhaps?

SPICER: Well, if you look going back 10 to 20 years, I don't think you will find many people with a Hollywood zip code donating to us.

So, again, I think if this was a ploy, there's a lot easier way to do -- we have been very successful at fund-raising over the last few years under chairman Priebus. I don't think we need stunts like this to do it.

And, frankly, Hollywood wouldn't be the place that we would go to look for them. I think this truly comes down to sometimes you actually see people in Washington doing the right thing and standing for the right thing.

STELTER: And if you don't hear from the theater owners in the next few days, what then? Is there any future plan to push this even harder?

SPICER: I think what the theater owners need to know is -- and, again, you saw like Mark Kirk call for hearings, Senator McCain get out there and others, that this is continuing to grow.

This is not just people in Hollywood and producers and industry executives talking about this. You're seeing the American people, and what we want to do is have a groundswell of support. Talk about people that are saying -- it's not about "The Interview" and it's not about the movie, but we will stand with the theater owners if they show this because we want to show that America is bigger than this issue.


STELTER: Well, I have got an idea for you, Sean. How about a screening at the RNC headquarters?

SPICER: We would love it. Feel free.

STELTER: Sean, thanks for being here. I appreciate it.

SPICER: Thank you, Brian. Merry Christmas.

STELTER: And let us know if that comes together.

No comment yet for Sony either on the letter from the RNC, but we are going to stay with that, check in with Sony and the theater owners.

And coming up, a slight turn here, another important angle on this story. I want you to hear what it's like to be on the receiving end, to have your private messages exposed to the world. It happened to this guy, billionaire Mark Cuban, star of Sony's TV show "Shark Tank." His demands for more money from Sony are now fodder for bloggers. His reaction to what that was like surprised me and I think it will surprise you, too. It's next.


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

What do George Clooney and Alex Trebek have in common? Well, they are two of the many celebrities whose private e-mails were revealed to the world after Sony was digitally robbed by hackers. That story now just getting bigger every day, as Sony tries to figure out some way to release the movie "The Interview."

Also in that boat right alongside George Clooney and Alex Trebek is one of America's most successful and outspoken businessmen, billionaire Mark Cuban. He owns the Dallas Mavericks. He stars on the hit ABC reality show "Shark Tank." He operates a cable channel and he's an investor in dozens of businesses.

Sony is the studio that produces "Shark Tank." And it turns out that Cuban was -- well, let's just say he was not very happy with Sony's salary offer of about $30,000 per episode for the next few seasons.

This, because of the leaked e-mails, is what we know Cuban said to Sony. "Seriously? No chance. This is beyond an insult."

And then he went a little further. He said, "You may want to start cutting me out of the promos.'

Well, Cuban hasn't really talked about the hacking or those negotiations with Sony. So when he was in New York this week, I got ahold of him and asked about that, as well as the future of private communications more generally and the possibility of disappearing text messaging apps. In true Mark Cuban style, he had a lot to say.


STELTER: Mark, thanks for being here.


STELTER: Tell me about when you realized that you were along all of these hacked e-mails inside Sony Pictures.

CUBAN: I read it online somewhere. I forget where I saw it, but I was curious about the Sony hack as well.

And then I was like, oh, wait, that's me. Right? And then I got an e-mail from somebody who said that they had gone through all the hacked things that had been released and that they saw e-mails and other stuff, other information there. I was like, OK, cool, you know, and then I just read more, as everybody else did.

STELTER: So, were you embarrassed?

CUBAN: No, no. I didn't care. It's nothing I wouldn't have said publicly.

If they want me to be there to continue to do good television, right, and make investments that I like to do, but that I otherwise would not have otherwise done or would not have been accessible to me, then it's a decision they have to make. And if, you know, we don't come to a resolution, I will leave the show.

STELTER: To me, it was one of, I guess, hundreds of examples in recent weeks of seeing how Hollywood really works behind the scenes, and seeing that there's a lot of personal disputes.

CUBAN: Yes, I wouldn't take it so much that it's how Hollywood works.

I would take it to, here is the type of personal dynamics between people in Hollywood and how e-mail has become the new face-to-face or had become the new face-to-face. You know, whereas before you might go to the Beverly Hills Hotel and have lunch and hash all this out, now everybody is so busy, whatever you might have said over lunch, they're popping in an e-mail, including talking trash.

It's like being on a basketball court, the way people talk trash in their e-mails.

STELTER: I noticed you said past tense, though. That's the way it had been communicating.

CUBAN: Right.

STELTER: Do you think that will profoundly change in Hollywood as a result of this hack?

CUBAN: Not until the next one. And there will be a next one.

STELTER: It takes one more to change...


CUBAN: Yes, because everybody will think, look, that's not going to happen to me. It happens. Right. It can't -- that's just the way people think.

And now that the hack has gotten so much notoriety and it's had such an impact, you know, that's a chip for any hacker. That's a trophy hack, and people -- hackers are going to want more trophy hacks just to put the trophy on their mantle.

STELTER: It seems like this hack might have been a good thing for you, because you're using it as a chance to promote your app Cyber Dust.

CUBAN: Right.

STELTER: You say you're in touch with Sony via this app now.

CUBAN: Right.

STELTER: So, you're really negotiating them via an app.

CUBAN: Sony -- well, actually, Mark Burnett's people do most of the negotiations, right? And so but we also have to incorporate Sony into it.

What went from and Steve and Holly Jacobs and all the whole Sony crew has turned into, OK, I'm only doing it on Cyber Dust. But I started this before the hack, before there was any awareness of the hack. It wasn't something in response to the hack. It something that I had already pushed them to do in the first place, knowing that, look, when you hit send on a tweet, a Facebook post, a text, or an e- mail, the minute you hit send, you lose ownership of it.

Whoever you send it to now controls that message. They can do whatever they want. They can put it anywhere they want in any context and you have no idea. But you don't lose responsibility for that.

STELTER: How do you feel as someone that works with Sony to see them crippled by this attack?


CUBAN: I feel bad for the people. Yes, for me, I feel horrible for the people.

You know, the way the media is kind of -- you talk about me spinning it to my advantage, right? I mean, the media, here we are talking about it. It's turned into a big story. And there's a lot of collateral damage.

All the people whose personal information who just happened to work at Sony, they went to work for a big company, maybe they wanted the security. They're not running a studio. They're not movie stars.

STELTER: Yes, not the millionaires.

CUBAN: Right. Yes. It's just people who are going to work.


CUBAN: Now they have to worry about identity theft. Now they have to worry about the threats, the risk.

There are so many nuanced problems that have been created by all this blowing up in the media that Steve Mosko and Amy Pascal, they're big people. They can deal with these things. Right? They took a job that put them in the public eye. And this is one...


STELTER: They signed up for not the hacking, but for public spotlight.

CUBAN: Right. It comes with it, right? My e-mail being there, stuff happens, right?

But on the flip side, you know, Sammy or Susie or Joey or whoever that works at Sony and may be a receptionist, may be a delivery person, may be somebody who just happened to get an e-mail from one of these people whose e-mails have been made public, all of their information is now searchable for the most part if you know where to look.

STELTER: So, the question becomes should Sony have green-lit and made this movie that involved this plotline involving Kim Jong-un?

CUBAN: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. You can't be afraid like that, but, you know, we learn over time, right?

I don't think there's ever been a movie made in the history of moviemaking where somebody side, well, we might get hacked by a sovereign government.

STELTER: This is a new one.

CUBAN: This is a new one, right? And so you learn. And had it not happened to them, it would have been something else.

You know, it would have been China or it would have been, if not North Korea, Russia, whatever it may be, right? There's always tension somewhere where people want to downplay or it would have been...


STELTER: But you're on the side of free expression here.

CUBAN: You have to be, right? You have to be, but now you just increase the moat that you try to build around it to protect yourself. There's always risk involved with filmmaking, and there's good

and bad to it. But, yes, you can't -- we will learn going forward.

STELTER: Mark, thanks for being here. Great talking to you.

CUBAN: Thanks. Appreciate it. Yes, any time.


STELTER: We will share more of that interview on

And when we come back, my personal point of view on America's response to the Sony cyber-attack and this. How can you narrow down nine years of sheer pompous genius into a top-five list? Well, I'm going to try to do that. My top five Colbert moments as we bid a fond farewell to "The Colbert Report" next.


STELTER: I still can't quite believe it, but it is true. Stephen Colbert has signed off from "The Colbert Report."

And what a sign-off it was; 2.5 million people tuned in, his highest rated show ever.

I think Colbert was the comedian the cable news era needed. He didn't just mock the news. He became a mock anchor and he made his show a nine-year-long media critique. Well, now the real Colbert will be replacing David Letterman on CBS next fall.

But, until then, let's look back at the character Colbert and a few of his best moments.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": And welcome to the very first "Colbert Report."

STELTER (voice-over): He has been the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" since 2005 and he's interviewed everyone from Tony Bennett to Lady Gaga to Hillary and President Obama.

So coming up with a list of the top five Colbert moments is no easy task, but we are giving it a shot, starting with truthiness. Colbert coined the phrase on his very first show back in October 2005.

COLBERT: Anybody can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you.


STELTER: The following year, the American Dialect Society named truthiness the word of the year, defining it as what one wishes to be the truth, regardless of the facts.

Another Colbert mainstay, his "Better Know a District" segment. We're taking a cue from the host himself on his favorite moment, getting to know members of Congress.

COLBERT: I have fenced with Marsha Fudge. I have skateboarded with Jackie Speier. I have leg wrestled Jason Chaffetz. I have tossed salmon with Jim McDermott. I have drank beer with Russ Carnahan. I have shotgunned beer with Dan Maffei. I have funneled beer with Jared Polis, and I have dropped acid with Maurice Hinchey."


STELTER: And who can forget one of the most memorable and controversial White House Correspondent Dinner roasts ever, with Colbert as host back in 2006?

COLBERT: I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound, with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world.

STELTER: Colbert even testified before Congress in 2010 about immigration reform after he tried his hand as a farmworker.

COLBERT: I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.

STELTER: And our favorite moment, when French music duo Daft Punk canceled a scheduled appearance on the show last year, Colbert filled the time with a star-studded dance video to Daft Punk with everyone from Hugh Laurie and Bryan Cranston to Jeff Bridges and even Henry Kissinger.

Maybe we will be seeing some of those guests on CBS on Colbert's "Late Show" next year.


STELTER: From a fake TV anchor there to one of the greatest real anchors.

While we have been on the air this hour, we have learned some wonderful news about NBC's Tom Brokaw. I will share it with you in just a moment.


STELTER: Welcome back. We have been covering the Sony cyber- attack all this morning.

So, before we sign off, I have got to say this. I understand why the theater owners and Sony pulled their movie "The Interview." I get it. There were threats. I understand.

But they, we, all of us have to get more realistic about processing risks. Fear can be crippling and can give hackers and dictators needless victories.

I agree with Philip Mudd said on CNN on Friday. Let me play the clip.


PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: But we sat on risk every day in the counterterrorism world. If I responded, if Fran responded to every if, nothing would have ever happened in America. We would have told people to stay home. So I think you got to take some risk every day, and this is a risk I would have taken.


STELTER: I could not have said it better.

And, finally this morning, some very good news about NBC's Tom Brokaw. You may remember that about a year ago, he was diagnosed with cancer with multiple myeloma, and it was a very serious diagnosis and very concerning to so many of us in the media business.

But we received some wonderful news just a few minutes ago. And I'm going to read to you a letter from Tom Brokaw to NBC News staff.

He said: "The cancer is in remission. And I will shortly go on a drug maintenance regimen to keep it there" -- some wonderful news from NBC in the past hour.

That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but our media coverage keeps going all the time on

I will see you there and right back here next week, next Sunday at 11:00 Eastern time.

And now, on Candy Crowley's final day -- she's really had a tremendous run on "STATE OF THE UNION" -- it is my honor to say, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY" starts right now.