Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Shots Fired Outside VP Biden's Delaware Home; The World's Most Controversial Cartoon; When Your Source is a Terrorist
Aired January 18, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter and welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES. It's 11:00 a.m. here in New York and 5:00 p.m. in Western Europe where authorities are on very high alert.
We are covering the aftermath of the awful attack at "Charlie Hebdo" magazine in Paris.
We need to begin with some urgent breaking news from Delaware. We just learned a vehicle that drove near Vice President Joe Biden's residence last night and fired multiple gunshots. This happened around 8:25 p.m.
The vice president was not home at the time. He was out to dinner with his wife. But he was expected to spend the weekend at his home. We're going to have more as we get it during this hour. But I can read a bit to you what we're getting from our CNN producer in Washington.
The shots were heard by Secret Service personnel. They were posted at the residence. And a vehicle was observed driving by at a high rate of speed by one of the agents. The vice president, as I said, was not home at the time. And searches will be taking place outside the residence now to see if there are any rounds that can be recovered or if any rounds actually hit the structure.
But I should tell you vice president's residence in Delaware is several hundred yards away from the main road where these shots were fired. As I mentioned, we'll have more on this developing throughout the here.
But I want to get to Paris, because this morning, the top surviving editor of "Charlie Hebdo", Gerard Biard, is speaking for the first time about the slaughter at his office in Paris and the controversial cover image that was published on Wednesday of the Prophet Muhammad.
We have a guest standing by with us in Paris to talk about what that editor said. Caroline Fourest knows him and the staff members who died ten days ago. She used to work for the magazine. She's been one of the staunchest public defenders of it. She joins me now from Paris. Caroline, first, let me express my condolences to you for the
loss of your friends. I know you just returned from a memorial service from one of the magazine's cartoonist. Can you tell me what happened there?
CATHERINE FOUREST, FORMER CHARLIE HEBDO JOURNALIST: It was not a funeral ceremony. It was more, let's say a friendship ceremony. We had through that. We tried to keep on.
STELTER: What have you and your friends been saying about how to move on from this? The magazine will continue to be published every week, is that right?
FOUREST: Yes. That's the fight that my colleagues are doing right now, picking a lot of calls about sometimes world pursuing "Charlie Hebdo" because very difficult to make people understanding what is the spirit of "Charlie Hebdo" especially after the last cover. We've heard a lot of comments, U.K., in America was very strange to French people speaking about provocation.
You know, "Charlie Hebdo" is a really anti-racist and secularist newspaper, satirical one making jokes about every religion. After what happened after this slaughter, it was really impossible for my colleague and friends to not do a cover about what happened. It could be only a cover about, of course, Muhammad, but a very forgiving one, a very sweet cover. "Charlie Hebdo" is to be sweet even after a slaughter.
STELTER: The image reads "all is forgiven" in French, along with the words "I am Charlie" in French. And yet, as you know, that image is highly offensive to Muslims. I want to get to that in a moment.
But I want to ask you about what one of the founders of the magazine said this week. He's 80 years old. He's no longer associated with the publication. He said the magazine went too far with its past depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
How did you feel when you saw him come out and say that?
FOUREST: Many of "Charlie Hebdo" members were very shocked by this comment, because, of course, it's typically the coward (ph) comments that the terrorists are expecting. So, thanks to them, he did it.
STELTER: Let me play a bit of audio from the current top editor of the magazine, Gerard Biard. He was in London at the time of the attack. So, he was not in Paris. He was not at the office.
This morning on NBC's "Meet the Press," he spoke for the first time to American television about the new cover and about the controversy surrounding it. Here is what he said about decisions by some outlets, including CNN, not to show the cover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERARD BIARD, CHARLIE HEBDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF (through translator): Listen, we cannot blame newspapers that already suffered much difficulty in getting published and distributed in totalitarian regimes, for not for not publishing the cartoon that could cost at best jail, at worst, death. On the other hand, I'm quite critical of newspapers which are published in democratic countries. This cartoon is not just a little figure, a little Muhammad drawn by Luz, it's a symbol. When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out, when they decline to publish it, they blur out democracy, secularism, freedom of religion and they insult the citizenship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: CNN executives and other newspapers are saying they are not showing the cover because of safety concerns for staff members, particularly in the Middle East. How do you respond to that?
FOUREST: At least they are thinking about safety, because I'm remembering in 2006, where already some American and U.K. journalists refused to show cartoons. It was in the name of protecting religion, protecting the feelings of some believers. And my reaction to that is that if we censor ourselves when we are under huge attack like this threat, if we do not show the drawings that the fanatics don't want to see is like not showing the film that North Korea do not want to see, it's the same problem.
We are killing ourselves, our rules of democracy. We are already under a dictatorship. If we cannot show a simple drawing just by fear. And, of course, it's a huge betrayal. It's a huge -- it's very offending. Not offending for believers, it's offending of journalists, it's offending for freedom of speech. It's offending for democracy.
STELTER: I hear what you're saying and I've heard many say that, including some at CNN.
But I want to play devil's advocate with you a little bit, because I'm sure you've seen over the past couple of days the protest that have broken out in a number of Middle Eastern and African countries. For example in Pakistan, we saw French flags being burned. We saw a photographer for a French-based news wire be wounded by gunfire. And in Niger, we've seen a number die because churches have been burned.
These are all protests against this cover. So, I wonder if there's any point at which that has to be taken into consideration while at the same time trying to protect freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
FOUREST: But you understand that the way you can put it, you're blaming not the people who are killing because of the cartoons but you're blaming the cartoonist. This is exactly what the terrorist wants. This is the coward's way to see things the terrorist wants.
And the problem is that people can kill for a drawing. This is the problem. And just to be the larger picture, remember at the end of the '80s, there were 10,000 in the street of Pakistan, just a few today. But still, too much of course, but still we cannot leave until Pakistani law.
We are living in France. We are satirical newspaper respecting the French law. The French law is very clear. The blasphemy is a right.
In Pakistan, the blasphemy is forbidden. This is why Christians are going to jail. If they are expressing their view, they are seen by some Muslims as doing blasphemy.
In France, blasphemy is free. The only thing we do not admit is inciting for hatred. In the case of crazy (INAUDIBLE) actual politicians we've got who are very anti-Semitics, but also who are columnists who are very racists against Muslims, those are inciting to hatred, those are to pay fee because the action is forbidden by the law. But the law concerning religion fortunately because we're not living in Pakistan has let us to be free.
STELTER: Caroline, thank you so much for being here today. And my condolences again to your friends and colleagues.
FOUREST: Thank you.
STELTER: You can read more about what the editor said on "Meet the Press" on CNN.com. My story is online about now.
And we should note new circulation number for "Charlie Hebdo," an incredible 7 million copies printed by the distributor, not just in France but in Germany they are coming out and a few copies have reached the United States now.
Let me talk more about this issue of showing or not showing the Muhammad cartoon with Frank Sesno, the award winning journalist, former CNN Washington bureau chief and director of school and media affairs at George Washington University.
Frank, let me ask you a blunt question. Do you think it is cowardly for the CNNs of the world to not show this cartoon?
FRANK SESNO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No, I don't think it's cowardly. I think it's a difficult decision. I think people need to realize that when they understand.
I think these news organizations should be explicit with why they're not publishing. They need to explain it. They owe that to the public.
But there are several reasons. One as you pointed out is concerns about staff safety. I'm not sure I buy that so much, although there is legitimacy to it, because news organizations put their staff at risk all the time when they send them into war zones and elsewhere, that's part of the job.
But the other thing, of course, is the sensibilities of audience. And news organizations make decision what to write about, what to portray, what to broadcast all the time revolving around the sensibilities of their audience. So, I think the main thing is for these publications, channels
and all the rest to explain very clearly what they are doing and why?
STELTER: Transparency you're saying is crucial.
And, you know, along those lines I was in Paris Wednesday. But CNN was having a town hall meeting previously scheduled about the whole company on Wednesday. And according to news reports about it, the head of CNN, Jeff Zucker, said among other things he had deliberations with lots of employees about the decision, including Muslim employees and including employees in hot spots around the world.
I found that interesting, because you've got to think about how big an organization like CNN or BBC or al Jazeera are. When they are thinking about those decisions, they are thinking about so many people, aren't they?
SESNO: Well, they are. They are quite right to do that, to talk to their employees.
I mean, we talked a long time about diversity in the newsroom, when you have diversity living side by side with globalization, living side by side with these journalistic decisions, it gets really rough.
Look, the journalist in me says put it all out there, you know, but that applies to everything. And then you take into consideration what your responsibility is, how you can -- can you tell the story in other ways.
You know, it's interesting, Brian, "The Washington Post," Marty Baron, executive editor there, posted, went and published this. They said, "Our policy has been to avoid publication of material that is pointedly, deliberately or needlessly offensive to members of religious groups. That remains our policy but this does not fall into that category."
Your old employer "The New York Times" said, "We do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. Many Muslims consider publishing images of their prophet innately offensive, and we have refrained from doing so."
"The Guardian" went ahead and published it but at the top of the article, it had a big bold a headliner of things --
STELTER: Yes, a disclaimer, a warning.
SESNO: Warning, right, it said, "Warning, this article contains images of the magazine cover which some may find offensive."
So, there are a lot of different formations here.
STELTER: Frank, thank you for being here and stay with me. We're going to come back a little later in the hour. And, you know, I know some people disagree with me. I think
Internet in some ways changed these calculations at least a little bit. You know, for example, as you're saying, "The Guardian" can include a warning, or in some cases, news outlets can refer people to their Web sites to see these images.
We're just getting started this morning. We're going to talk more about the decisions that media outlet had made about the Muhammad cartoons, including with a cartoonist and a comedian.
I want to show you what I saw in Paris at the memorial for cartoonists who were killed there.
Also, this question coming up -- journalists use anonymous sources all the time. But what about when those unnamed sources are members of terror groups? We'll go live to Yemen in a moment.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Busy news morning, and we have more now on the aftermath of the attacks in Paris.
After Kouachi brothers stormed into "Charlie Hebdo" offices and killed some of the staffers there, journalists from all over the world scrambled to get information they could about the attackers and it led them to Yemen.
Jeremy Scahill of "The Intercept" was the first to say al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack. And his source was an anonymous member of al Qaeda. Other news organizations did the same. They all used unnamed al Qaeda sources in their reporting.
And the FBI was livid. Director James Comey called it disgusting.
I'll talk to Scahill in a moment, but first, I want to go to Yemen and go to senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's in Sana'a.
And, Nick, I suspect you have to deal with this on a daily basis while you're there. Where do you come down on this issue of getting information from terror groups even anonymously?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Our job is to get as much information together as we can, assess what's reliable and true and present in a comprehensible fashion to the reader. Doesn't come into it quite what level of attribution we would give to anybody in question. I mean, the FBI themselves regularly rely (INAUDIBLE) various bits of information, too. Of course, as a whole, larger moral decision to be made when it comes to terror groups, as many call al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
But in instances like this, we had already heard according to two attackers say they had been sent by al Qaeda in Yemen. So, naturally, you would reach out to al Qaeda in Yemen and ask if they are aware of any particularly link. Now, of course, it's complicated because anonymous may choose to mislead you and that's, of course, why many organizations wait for the more public statements like we heard from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a few days later in that lengthy 12- minute video one of their main spokespeople gave.
And really, I'm kind of somewhat surprised, frankly, because the job of journalist not to necessarily publicize their sources or pick and choose quite who we choose to convey to the viewer, our job is something like that, to find out what motivation people had, what people are saying they claim to have done and just pass it onto the viewer. And if this happens, but a source wishes to be anonymous, that may be a compromise we just simply have to go along with -- Brian.
STELTER: Nick, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it. Nick Paton Walsh in Sana'a for us.
And Jeremy Scahill is here on set with me. Let me bring him as well because -- Jeremy, I have a feeling this is one of the most uncomfortable issues for a journalist like you. I mean, it's hard for me to imagine trying to pick up the phone or send a text or an e-mail to a terrorist to get a comment.
JEREMY SCAHILL, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: Well, I mean, first of all, in a time of war, good journalists have a responsibility to go to the other side and interview people that we're told we're at war with. In the case of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, this group has been identified by the U.S. government as single biggest external threat facing in the United States. Why wouldn't we want to have an understanding of their thinking?
The anonymous issue, I first of all am generally against anonymous sources particularly when they're senior U.S. officials. We saw leading up to Iraq when Dick Cheney and others were leaking information to "The New York Times" and other papers that ultimately benefited the administration.
In this case, we had a situation where the gunmen had declared they were from al Qaeda in Yemen. I spent a lot of time on the ground in Yemen. I have sources from a variety of factions and groups in that country. I decided through a process involved our editor-in- chief and our legal counsel to grant anonymity to a verified source within al Qaeda because it was of news value, and if we had revealed the source, their life could be in danger. And that's where it gets complicated, because that to me is one of the highest standards for granting anonymity is if a life of a source could be in danger.
STELTER: How does communication the work?
SCAHILL: I really can't tell you. But let's say that AQAP and other terror groups have developed sophisticated ways to communicate using encrypted technologies. In fact, they are ever changing. There was an app they were using some time ago that it turns out NSA was involved creating.
STELTER: Really? SCAHILL: It caused a big shake-up in the jihadist community
online, because this app that had been developed, it looked like it was actually a Trojan horse developed by U.S. intelligence. If you go and look at "Inspire" magazine, which I assume you're not a subscriber to, this is an al Qaeda English language glossy.
SCAHILL: They have all sorts of encryption keys for people who want to write a letter to the editor or interested in joining al Qaeda. So, you can actually send them encrypted message.
STELTER: It's disturbing who hear how sophisticated these people have become how to communicate.
SCAHILL: Well, they also -- you know, of course, you have a verified Twitter account, I have a verified Twitter account, that means we have a blue checkmark next to our name. Al Qaeda has its own way of verifying their Twitter account, it's sort of like an alternative to the blue checkmark. They list the accounts that are not shut down by Twitter and they claim speak for them as a group and they'll publish through their official channels. They are getting much for sophisticated using Twitter, other online than they did before that.
STELTER: Jeremy, you've been highly critical of some television news coverage of the war on terror for many years. I wonder if you think that coverage currently of terror in Europe and investigation under way is sowing too much fear in the audience and people watching at home.
SCAHILL: Well, I would separate the two categories. On the one hand, we as journalists have a responsibility to cover this huge story that has global implications. And I think many networks have a good job. I think CNN has some great reporters on the ground. We just heard Nick Paton Walsh. He's a fantastic reporter.
Where it gets into really fear generating territory when you have these come called terror analysts on the air, many work for risk consultancy firms that benefit from the idea of making us afraid. I don't think CNN, MSNBC and FOX News do good enough at revealing potential conflicts of interests of some of the on-air analysts who also work in the private sector and make money off of the idea that we should be afraid.
STELTER: Well, you understand that that's a pretty incendiary charge, that these people want us to be frightened inappropriately for unnecessary reasons.
SCAHILL: I mean, look, I've spent a lot of years investigating how the war contracting industry works. You'll have these retired generals come on CNN, MSNBC and FOX and they'll talk about the danger of a terror group in a particular country and they are on the board of a huge weapons manufacturer or defense company that is going to benefit from an extension of that war and expansion of that war. Perhaps the biggest violator of this is General Barry McCaffrey
who made a tremendous amount of money off of war contracting and then he's brought onto these networks and treated as though he's an objective observer.
STELTER: So, he's brought on. And so are you. What happens in green rooms? I mean, you must see these people, talk to these people here in cable news green rooms.
SCAHILL: Yes. Well, I mean, it's -- I have a lot of people, they see I'm in a greenroom, leave because I also try to interview people in green rooms because they never return my calls. So, if you had a retired general sitting in the greenroom with me, I would probably turn on my iPhone recorder and started asking them questions.
STELTER: Right now, I wish I had booked one.
But let me change topics real quickly because I want to turn back to "Charlie Hebdo," and this moment from the Paris unity rally at this time last week that we're covering live on CNN.
This was really a historic image. We're looking at 40 world leaders marching arm in arm united in their support of a free press and freedom of expression. Well, you call it a circus of hypocrisy, countries with terrible records when it comes to press freedom. We made graphics about this, beginning with Saudi Arabia here, relentless in its censorship of the media and the Internet, Saudi Arabia jails writers for insulting Islam.
Let me go to Egypt now, we're looking at the faces in the crowd here. Actually, this is Russia. Russian media under effective state control, journalists, bloggers, we can go onto another one as well.
This is a prime minister of Turkey who was at the rally. Turkey has imprisoned journalists in any other country in 2012 and '13. By the way, all this data is from Reporter Without Borders.
And here is Israel, media in Israeli territory most comply with military censorship and gag orders. "The New York Times" experienced this last year for example. So, as we go through this, Jeremy, and here is Egypt, the last one, tell me if you feel like a week later after this rally if anything is going to change when it comes to press freedom in these countries.
SCAHILL: Well, no. I mean, let's remember Egypt, which is a close ally of the United States is currently holding multiple al Jazeera journalists who have been in prison for a number of years, on totally ridiculous trumped up charges that they were somehow involved with promoting terrorism.
The United States got a lot of flak because President Obama didn't go, Joe Biden didn't go. But the U.S. also has a very poor record on press freedom. And under this administration, the war against whistleblowers is, in effect, against journalism, because the message the White House sending, I'm glad the James Risen case seems to be going away -- but it should have gone away a long time ago. STELTER: Right.
SCAHILL: When you say we don't have a right to talk to unauthorized sources in government, what you're effectively saying is that you're only allowed to print official leaks or official statements of the government. It undermines the very idea of a free press.
So, the U.S. is not absent in this even if it was absent in the literal sense on the ground in Paris.
STELTER: I think to get into comparisons, though, to Russia and Egypt makes me nervous. We are much more free here.
SCAHILL: Absolutely. We're much freer and we hold ourselves up as a beacon to the world. There's no comparison with Russia, Turkey, and United States. But that doesn't mean we don't have our own war on journalism, you know?
Yes, there are different levels of it. But let's no pretend like United States does not have hostile posture at times toward journalists who are reporting inconvenient facts.
STELTER: Jeremy, thank you for being here. Great talking to you.
SCAHILL: Thank you.
STELTER: And when we come back, when is it OK to poke fun after a tragedy like what happened in Paris. We're going to talk about when satire and cartooning becomes very serious -- right after this break.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Now, for the last 10 days, I've been covering "Charlie Hebdo" attack in its publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons right here on CNN without being able to actually show the cartoons. I understand the network's decision but it is a weird decision to be in. It's not just here on CNN, it is all across the global media.
So, what happens when satire turns gravely serious? Because the attacks on the magazine and subsequent outpouring of support for freedom and freedom of expression demonstrated incredible power of cartooning, we saw these images this time last week.
And this cartoon I'm about to show you is the perfect representation of internal debate that many of us here in the media have struggled over about showing this cartoon. It says, "I have to draw him." It was drawn by my next guest here, Eli Valley.
I think I mispronounced your name.
ELI VALLEY, COMIC ARTIST: Eli is actually good.
STELTER: Oh good. OK. He's the cartoonist whose cartoon I have to dwell in (ph) was recently published in the Atlantic.
And also joining me in L.A., comedian Maz Jobrani.
I appreciate you both being here.
Let me start with you right here on set. Tell me what you were going after on that image, "I have to draw him". What are you trying to say?
VALLEY: Well, I have to draw him because my brethren were murdered. Normally, you know, drawing Muhammad is not like a thing I have to do. When I see mass murder on the basis of free speech, I'm compelled to do so. And so, I wanted to draw him to show solidarity --
STELTER: But take me through the series of frames here. We're not going to show all of them.
STELTER: But, basically, what you were trying to express was, I have to draw him, but I can't.
VALLEY: Yes, I can't because I'm afraid of being dead.
And it was sort of a satirical trope, you know? I mean, I think everyone is afraid. The fear is pervasive based on what's going on today. There -- those who are drawing Mohammed are also afraid, but their way of reacting to the fear is like sticking their finger in eye of the censors essentially. Mine was a little bit more sad, serious satire on how -- sad, serious satire on how -- I'm sorry -- my mind just went blank.
STELTER: Money how difficult this is.
VALLEY: I'm sorry. I just want to say it's like when you're begging someone, can I draw just an eye, just an eyelash, it gets into the absurdity of the whole...
STELTER: So, show us your last frame.
STELTER: You can hold it up to the camera, though. Your point was, you were just trying to show an eyeball. You were just trying to ask, can I show an eyeball is your question.
VALLEY: Yes. Exactly. I don't know if this is going to be unacceptable by CNN standards or by international standards, when you're just showing half-an-eye. It's only half-an-eye. So...
STELTER: And the point by that is, what is it, who is it? How do we know if it's the Prophet Mohammed?
STELTER: When the cover was shown on Wednesday, until the magazine "Charlie Hebdo"'s editor said, yes, we're trying to portray the Prophet Mohammed, there was even uncertainty about what they were trying to do.
But let me ask you this.
And, actually, let me go to Maz first out in L.A.
Has there ever been a time like this with any other topic, any other joke? Is there anything off-limits like this?
MAZ JOBRANI, COMEDIAN: You know, for me as a stand-up comedian, the first thing I was saying is that we need to kind of step back and look at the guys who went and did this.
They were criminals. And it's not somebody -- it wasn't a common Muslim that went in and did this. So, the question becomes, what was their strategy? And I think that there was political strategies beyond them just saying we're offended by the images of the Prophet Mohammed.
And when you ask, have there been times like this before, as a stand-up, I look at just 50, 60 years ago, somebody like Lenny Bruce being arrested for things he was saying on stage. He wasn't killed, but he was arrested. There was censorship.
I myself during the beginning of the Iraq war, I was doing jokes about President Bush in comedy clubs. There was times when during my set people would scream out at me and say, you can't make fun of the commander in chief during a time of war.
And I had to remind them that that was the whole point of this country, the beauty of this country, that we are supposed to be able to say what we want to say. And we started that war with the pretense that we were bringing democracy to Iraq, and then yet here these people were telling me that I couldn't express my own freedom of speech, which is part of democracy.
So, there has been censorship. And there are people that are sensitive to topics. And so I just want to point that out, that we can't just criticize and say, oh, it's only Muslims that get offended, because we get offended as well.
STELTER: That's a fair point. And I want to turn back to you as well.
Are there -- is there anything else that you have ever chosen not to draw? Is this the only thing like it?
VALLEY: I mean, in terms of red lines with satire, I think the general rule is something I agree with on a general basis. You should be punching up, not punching down.
Like, if there's a commander in a concentration camp making caricatures of the prisoners, that's not really funny because he's mocking the powerless, you know? And so you try to go after the powerful. There's some question with "Charlie Hebdo." Some people are saying, well, they are mocking people who are North African immigrants in France, and so they're actually going for the powerless.
But I look at it from a different perspective. I look at it from a larger context of Muslim fundamentalism today. They had their office firebombed. They were bringing a pen and a brush to a gunfight. And so that's actually punching up, in my opinion.
STELTER: Eli, thanks for being here.
Maz, thank you as well. I appreciate your time today.
I need to fit in a quick break here.
When we come back, why Muslims and Jews are both disappointed by media coverage of the recent terror attacks.
And you have got to see an incredible on-air apology FOX News aired last night, actually four of them. I will show you right after this.
STELTER: Muslims and Jews, you might say they are usually connected by opposition, by tension at least.
But in the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks, there have actually been some commonalities. The two groups have shared one common reaction and that is anger about the way media outlets have portrayed them.
So, for more on this, let's bring in Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. He's former host at Al-Jazeera and a Huffington Post Live host as well. He now teaches at Columbia University. And in Washington, former presidential adviser Elliott Abrams, he's now a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Thank you both for being here.
AHMED SHIHAB-ELDIN, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: It's great to be with you.
STELTER: Elliott, I have read what you have written on the topic, and for you it isn't what the press is covering, so much as more what the press is not covering, what the press is not saying. You say France is in solidarity with journalists, but not with Jews. Tell me more.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, most of the coverage since the events of that Friday has been about "Charlie Hebdo." And most of the activity in France, the million man march has been about "Charlie Hebdo."
The journalists at "Charlie Hebdo" were very courageous, but they understood the risks they were taking. They did it knowing the risks. They had two police guards there full time. They had been bombed already.
The Jews who were killed didn't do anything. They were killed going shopping, for the crime of being Jews. But once that day was over, I think the coverage by the press has been really 90 percent on the "Charlie Hebdo" story, rather than on the story of those four victims.
STELTER: Do you see that as something that has continued on for a long time? Is this something new?
ABRAMS: Well, I think the press always likes to cover the press. This is a great and enticing story for journalists to cover, very brave journalists.
The deeper story of the condition of Jewish communities in Europe is probably less photogenic and it's one that I think print journalism has done a better job on. But there has been still a great imbalance in the coverage of the "Charlie Hebdo" part and the part about the Jewish community there in Paris, which, as you know, is really afraid now even to walk in the street showing signs like a skullcap of being Jews. It seems to be dangerous.
STELTER: Ahmed, let me turn to you here on set, because I was kind of amazed by something that happened yesterday on FOX News, four apologies in a row on various newscasts all relating to negative content about Muslims, things that have been said on air that were negative, that portrayed Muslims in a negative light.
And they were mostly focusing on this idea of no-go zones, that there are allegedly all these places in Europe that you can't travel to because they're ruled under Islamic law and they're too dangerous for non-Muslims.
Well, that's generally not true. But we put together a highlight reel of all these mistakes. Let's take a look at that first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We apologize for the error.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We apologize for that error.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We deeply regret the errors and apologize to any and all who may have taken offense, including the people of France and England.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who have been offended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, I'm not trying to beat up FOX here. I have respect that they apologized. I think that was the right thing to do. But I'm worried that all of this content on FOX about no-go zones
plays into a narrative that portrays Muslims as the other, as somehow evil.
SHIHAB-ELDIN: You know, Brian, that's the issue.
We have seen FOX News suggest that there haven't been condemnation by Muslim leaders or that there should be more by moderate Muslims in the Arab world, in the Muslim world, even here in America. This the problem. Muslims since 9/11 have been portrayed as the other, something to be feared, not just in mainstream news coverage, but even in entertainment.
I think this plays into exactly what the terrorists are trying to do, trying to show Islam as being in a perpetual clash with the Western world. When there are Christian terrorist attacks or when Buddhist extremists kill Muslims in Myanmar or Burma, we don't see these same condemnations or this ritual of condemnation, an expectation that Christians around the world should speak up about this or speak out about this.
And I think this all points to, you know, I think, a perception issue, a distortion of the real threat vs. the perceived threat that Islam actually places. As you must know, there was that statistic by Europol that was released earlier this week that showed in Europe in the past five years less than 2 percent of terrorist attacks were actually launched by Muslims or any religious groups, for that matter, which means 98 percent were either separatists or people on the other side of the political spectrum.
And I think that this is an opportunity for the media to be responsible.
STELTER: Does part of this relate, Elliott, to the use of the word terror, to the application of the word terrorist in certain times and not at other times? Do you feel that's something that affects coverage of attacks and of violence directed at Jews as well as Muslims?
ABRAMS: Well, I think people are trying to turn away from the truth.
One of the people is the president, who won't use the term Islamic terrorism. But I don't agree with what was just said. If you're a Jew in Amsterdam or Paris or Malmo, you do have a problem and it's coming from the immigrant Muslim communities there.
The attacks on Jews in Brussels, in Toulouse, in Paris have come from Muslims. And there's just no denying that.
SHIHAB-ELDIN: But, in the same vein, you could say that there have been attacks on Muslims in recent days, dozens of attacks as a result of these attacks by groups that are xenophobic, that are Islamophobic.
And that's why I think it's important, when these types of incidents occur, that the mainstream media not focus on the narrow kind of story of Islam as an inherently violent religion, but really look at how various groups, such as Marine Le Pen's Front National Party, are going to take advantage of this.
Why did these two Algerian brothers actually do this? Was it about the cartoons or, as they had expressed back in 2005, when one of the brothers was going to go to Iraq to wage jihad, was this about the cycle of violence since 9/11 that we have seen? Was this about revenge?
He stated that it was the Abu Ghraib torture cartoons that actually motivated him to want to fight this jihad. There's an alienation, there's a vilification of Islam, as well as Judaism. We see anti-Semitism on the rise. We see anti-Islam sentiment on the rise.
So, I think it's important to look at this in the context of France and in the context of Europe, not just in this kind of us vs. them, you know, Islam is inherently against secular Western values.
STELTER: Elliott, last word to you.
ABRAMS: I didn't say that.
But what I am saying is that if you're a Jew living in Western Europe, the problem of violence you face is coming from Muslim communities. That's just a fact.
STELTER: I need to take another quick break here.
But I appreciate you both being here this morning and discussing this from different perspectives.
When we come back here, we will switch gears and ask how the Sony cyber-attack helps us understand this week's controversial Oscar nominations and Oscar snubs. The answer to that is right after this.
STELTER: Welcome back.
The nominations for the 87th Academy Awards in. And for the first time since 1998, contenders for the all the biggest categories are all white.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is being criticized for its glaring lack of diversity. But should we really be surprised? Let's consider what the e-mails leaked by the Sony cyber- attack showed us.
We saw cases of women in Hollywood not being paid the same as men and jokes with clearly racial overtones about President Obama's movie preferences.
And then there is this, the startling lack of diversity in the Academy itself. Look at the stats here, 94 percent Caucasian, 77 percent male. Black makes up about 2 percent of the Academy voters, Latino less than 2 percent, and Oscar voters have a median age of 62.
Joining me now is actor Gbenga Akinnagbe. He has starred on HBO's "The Wire," CBS' "The Good Wife," and Fox's "24."
That's where I remember you most recently, "24" on Fox.
And I wanted to start with that data I just presented. Should we be surprised that if the Academy doesn't reflect the diversity of the country, that the results of the nominations don't reflect the diversity of the country?
GBENGA AKINNAGBE, ACTOR: No. No, not at all. It's very similar to Congress.
We get these rules and regulations that benefit one class because we have a Congress full of millionaires. That's pretty much how...
STELTER: You have remarked that the Hollywood star-making system is built on replicating itself like Congress.
AKINNAGBE: Yes. Yes, it's encouraged to sustain itself.
There's no incentive to change. And it is what it is. We can either rage against it or try to make it more equitable, but at the same time make our own machines and our own projects and get that out there.
STELTER: So, instead of going through their system, make your own system.
So, have you tried to do that, and if so, how?
AKINNAGBE: I have. I have.
I have been fortunate enough. I have been able to produce some films. A film called "Newlyweeds," we saw that at Sundance a couple years ago. Another movie called "Home." So, I have gone into producing and writing as well. But I love acting, so I continue to do that as well.
STELTER: So, "Selma" was one of the big topics of conversation this week. It was nominated for the best picture, but not any of the other big categories. And that seemed to be a surprise to a lot of people.
We saw the White House have a screening on Friday, which they say is a coincidence. And today we have Oprah Winfrey and others in Selma reenacting the march that took place there so many years ago.
Do you think that -- have you seen the film, first of all?
AKINNAGBE: I have. I have seen the film.
STELTER: Some people have said, well, maybe it is simply not as good a film as the others.
AKINNAGBE: No, it is a good film.
Ava had a private screening.
STELTER: The director.
AKINNAGBE: Ava, the director, had a private screening about a month or two ago, and I got to see the film up close with a lot of the people involved in it.
And it's -- not only is it a good film. It is a well-thought- out, well-crafted film. So the fact that it was not nominated, it is a shame, but it is not a surprise either, aside from the fact that it's a good film from a black female director.
STELTER: But you say not surprising because of the system you are describing that perpetuates itself.
AKINNAGBE: Exactly. And on top of that, Ava is not a safe black woman.
STELTER: What does that mean?
AKINNAGBE: Well, like if -- she would be more likely to be nominated if she was more demure, if she kept her opinions to herself, if she didn't make projects having to do with political or racial issues.
STELTER: Now, I'm sitting here, as a white guy, not wanting that to be true. You really believe that to be true?
AKINNAGBE: I mean, have you seen what's going out on the streets as far as these protests? This is our reality.
And when I say our reality, I mean as far as American reality, not just black people. It is interesting because people were very surprised about the indictments or lack of indictments with the Eric Garner case and so on.
I was more surprised that, like, so many of our white brothers and sisters were surprised, because this is how people live every day.
STELTER: Before we go, let me show a quote from the one, the only Al Sharpton. Let me put it up on screen.
He says, "Right now" -- and this is reacting to the Oscar nominations. "Right now, Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains." He said, "The higher up it goes, the whiter it looks."
He said he wants to have some sort of protest of the Oscars. But does that get you anywhere? Does that get him anywhere? Does that get people who are upset by the snubs anywhere? AKINNAGBE: I think it is like I said before. It's its own
system. There's only -- there's almost -- only so much rage you can have against that system, but you should try to make it more equitable and just.
But more of our energy should go towards making our own system, our own projects, like Ava is doing, and having audiences come out to that, and reconditioning American audiences, not just black audiences, but American audience, to be able to see films and television shows where you have black and Asian and Latino leads and these stories are viable and real. But we're not trained to see that.
STELTER: That's sort of the dream of digital distribution as well, isn't it?
STELTER: And let me mention real quick, the head of the Academy said: "It was a very competitive time. A lot of great work's been done. I'm very happy 'Selma' is included in our best picture nominations."
That was their comment about this.
AKINNAGBE: That's nice.
STELTER: I will leave it there.
Gbenga, thanks for being here. Great talking with you.
AKINNAGBE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
STELTER: I'm going to go see "Foxcatcher" today, because I have already seen "Selma."
AKINNAGBE: I'm a wrestler.
STELTER: Oh, are you?
AKINNAGBE: Oh, yes. I wrestled at Bucknell University. I have been waiting for this movie to come out. The script was great. I wanted to be in it.
STELTER: Well, that's my next one.
AKINNAGBE: But, like, all the wrestlers -- that movie is very, very white.
STELTER: Now you know my afternoon. Thanks for being here.
AKINNAGBE: Thanks for...
STELTER: And after a quick break, I do want to return to France. I want to show you what I saw outside the office of "Charlie Hebdo," including a sharply pointed symbol of free speech. That's next.
STELTER: Thank you for staying with us today.
It's painful to think about what happened on that usually quiet street in Paris on January 7. "Charlie Hebdo" staffers lost their lives for what they dared to do with their pencils.
And every day I was in Paris this week, I spent a few minutes walking through the memorial that emerged there. The magnitude of support for the fallen writers and cartoonists was really overwhelming. And I wish I could show it all to you, but here is just a glimpse of what I saw.
STELTER: So many staffers of "Charlie Hebdo" died right there at their offices.
But the magazine has been reborn here, through this public outpouring of grief, with flowers, cards, candles, and old magazine covers. There are so many homemade messages along this wall.
Here's one that says, "Where is Charlie? Certainly not dead."
And here's an illustration someone made, God in heaven as the deceased members of the magazine arrive. He says, "Oh, no, not them."
And down here, a handprint. "Do not touch my freedom of expression."
This was actually placed here by an artist about a week after the attack. It is a crime scene with tape and a broken pencil, even chalk outline, as if the pencil is a dead body.
On this wall, there are messages from a dozen countries, including the United States. A person here has written: "Bon courage. Joining with you in the march for freedom of speech.'
And this from Germany: "I will always express my thoughts, opinions and ideas with pencil and color, no matter what."
And a new addition out here placed overnight by someone, a bundle of pencils fresh out of the box, newly sharpened, perhaps the ultimate symbol of freedom of expression.
STELTER: And the killings at "Charlie Hebdo" remind us that journalists are in danger all around the globe, sometimes when they don't even know it.
So, I want to end this hour with a very specific reminder about Jason Rezaian. Last week, I interview his brother here on RELIABLE SOURCES. Jason is the "Washington Post" correspondent in Iran. He has been in jail for six months now for reasons that are still unclear.
No Western journalist has ever been held in Iran this long. Now, this week, his case was referred to Iran's Revolutionary Court. His brother and mother have renewed their call for his immediate release. And we will continue to keep you informed about his status for as long as he is behind bars.
Now, that is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But our media coverage keeps going all the time on CNN.com. Check out our stories at CNNMoney.com/media.
And let me know what you thought of today's show. Send me a message on Twitter or Facebook. My username is Brian Stelter. And I will be responding to your comments right before I go see "Foxcatcher."
I will see you right back here next week, Sunday at 11:00 Eastern time.