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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Tackling Deflategate: Who Let the Air Out?; Palin "Seriously Interested" in 2016 Bid
Aired January 25, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter in New York.
And we have a whole lot ahead for you on this busy morning, including brand-new box office totals for "American Sniper." Hollywood has never seen anything like this. It is astonishing. But is patriotism pushing aside inconvenient facts?
Also a little later, she is back, or is she? Sarah Palin says, quote, "She's seriously interested in a White House run in 2016." Aren't we all being fooled here? How seriously shoot media take her.
An impassioned plea from the parents of two of the victims from the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting. They say sources like this one, like RELIABLE SOURCES, should not name the shooter or show his picture. I wonder to hear what they think about that coming up.
But, first, it is the sports world whodunit, the super scandal before the Super Bowl. So, who or what let the air out of Tom Brady's football? Well, the New England Patriots quarterback said it wasn't him and his head coach Bill Belichick is also denying any wrongdoing.
In an odd, odd press conference, Belichick turned scientist, even while denying as a scientist, explaining in detail how weather contributed to those 11 footballs becoming deflated in last Sunday's hugely high-rated game.
Now, Belichick failed to mention --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: The atmospheric conditions were adjusted to the climatic conditions. The balls, you know, reached an equilibrium. They were down approximately 1.5 pounds per square inch. This is the end of this subject for me for a long time. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, we heard there how he failed to mention how the Indianapolis Colts footballs were somehow immune to those same conditions he was just describing. Now, league officials say Patriots footballs were, in fact, underinflated but they are not sure how it happened or who, if anyone, is responsible for it.
You can almost hear investigative reporters kicking into high gear, because somehow deflate-gate become one of the top news stories in the country. I want to examine why?
By the way, to talk about it, keep in mind here, NFL is basically a big media company. They produce entertaining competitions for tens of millions of viewers. So, scandals on the field, even perceived scandals, can sometimes really affect the networks who televise the games.
Let me bring start by bringing in two former NFL players, Chris Kluwe, who spent eight years at the Minnesota Vikings, and Tim Green played eight seasons at the Atlanta Falcons.
TIM GREEN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Thank you.
CHRIS KLUWE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Thanks for having me.
STELTER: So, Chris, you were a punter. What do you think happened here?
KLUWE: I think the Patriots definitely deflated the balls to try to gain a competitive advantage. But I think overall it doesn't really matter. From the initial reports that are out, the refs re- inflated them at halftime. So, you know, the second half, when they go on their huge scoring run, they are doing it with regulation footballs. And NFL has plenty of other scandals that actually mean something for people to be concerned about rather than what the PSI is in a football.
STELTER: You wrote for "TIME" magazine, "Every player's sole purpose out there is entertain you and the more likely they are to entertain you, the more likely people are going to keep watching. You said when you played you would do whatever you could to make the footballs easier to kick.
So, give me a couple of examples of that.
KLUWE: So, basically, slightly different than quarterback balls. The team gets the quarterback balls a week beforehand. And the equipment managers get a week to break them in, because quarterbacks are ranked higher than punters and kickers. So, that's -- it's one of the courts of football.
KLUWE: Essentially during the game, when we got K-balls, we would try to beat them up, we tried to slam them into benches, anything to try to make them a little more worn in so we could do our job better.
STELTER: And, Tim, you think someone tampered intentionally here as well. Along with Chris, you say it didn't affect the outcome of the game.
So, is there part of this scandal that does matter, something that we should be paying attention to, something that investigative reporters should follow up on?
GREEN: Well, it matters in the sense that if someone broke the rules, you can't have that. The NFL doesn't want that. And this is a team that had the spy-gate scandal several years ago.
I disagree with Chris slightly in that I think having deflated balls over time, especially if you factor it in, may explain why Patriots have such a low fumble ratio. It's extraordinarily lower than any other team in the league. And if, in fact, someone has been deflating the balls consistently throughout the last several seasons, then I think that over time it could have a statistical impact.
As Chris pointed out, the reason why he and his counter-parts who are kickers do everything single thing they can, because the NFL is a game, it's a league where even the slightest advantage is something that everyone is seeking, because the line between winning and losing is so fine. So, I'm not saying that it's Tom Brady or Coach Belichick. The lawyer in me says everyone is innocent until proven guilty. They have both denied any knowledge or wrongdoing and I would accept that.
But I think that his explanation, the coach's explanation yesterday, didn't completely fulfill my idea that somebody tampered with these balls.
STELTER: And that press conference, I've never seen a press conference like that. Do you think that Belichick handled this well coming out surprising the press with a press conference, then showing up late to it, and then going on and on about this?
GREEN: I think Bill Belichick is a master of strategy. His strategy right now is to win his fourth championship with the Patriots and to beat the Seattle Seahawks.
So, what he needs to do is in that bigger game, he's got to get people's minds off of this. He wants to dispense with this. He's come up with an argument as to what may have happened where no one tampered with the ball. It's a little thin but it was an argument, and, you know, it was somewhat plausible.
And I think a lot of people are saying, well, maybe this is what happened. So, what he did was, he was able to throw this out as an explanation and now say to his team and the media, enough of this. We may never know but here is an explanation. We're talking and thinking about the Seattle Seahawks.
STELTER: And yet journalists are going to keep hounding him about this and keep investigating this. Chris, do you think in some ways, I don't mean to sound conspiratorial here, but NFL has bigger issues and bigger true scandals to deal with. Is this somewhat good for them? Is this a distraction from the bigger stories? KLUWE: Yes, I think this is one of the best things that could
have happened to the NFL right now. I don't think they are in any way behind it. I don't think there was an organize push, hey, let's reveal this Patriots thing.
STELTER: Right, right.
KLUWE: But I do think that, you now, with the deflate-gate, the ballgazi stuff, whatever you want to call it, the fact is people aren't focusing on Ray Rice.
STELTER: You just said ballgazi.
I know that if Carl Bernstein was here he would say he hates deflate-gate or importance of Benghazi. Why is it we have to attach a label to the stories like ballghazi.
KLUWE: I think it's an automatic thing, where it's easier to transfer the information if you have a keyword that symbolizes what you're talking about. So, people are familiar with Watergate, Benghazi. By labeling it as the same thing, then you get that context and suggested it's similar to that.
STELTER: Well, what would you try to label or give a label to for the bigger stories you think should be getting more attention with regards to the NFL?
KLUWE: Well, I think there are three main ones. There are the player discipline and domestic violence/criminal stuff that's going on. I think that's a really big one for the NFL.
I think another one is the stadium situation where you have public financing going to privately owned stadiums. You know, St. Louis Rams right now, case in appoint, they are essentially holding St. Louis hostage and saying they will move to California if they don't get their money.
The third one would be the medical issues. The fact that the NFL has done this concussion settlement but what are the protocols for players who qualify for that and does that mean that enough players will be qualifying for that money? Or is it set up in a way where very, very few players will qualify to get a payout?
STELTER: So, Tim, do stories like those need Twitter friendly hashtags?
GREEN: Look, I think the NFL doesn't want this out there. It's slightly embarrassing to them. There focus isn't to try -- but I don't think their focus is to try to diffract focus on these other issues. The issues have run their course. They are out there or they are not out there.
I think that really what this is, this is a function of the NFL's own success. People pay such clothes attention to this. We've got a superstar quarterback and a super coach and team. They may have broken the rules or someone in there may have broken the rules. And as the American public, it's the lead story. I'm sorry to
laugh but it's incredible to me, but that's how much we care. We care about these teams. We care about the NFL. People are paying a lot of attention to it.
On the more serious side of that, we don't want our heroes to cheat, right? Even if it's bending the rules a little bit, there are people who don't want that, you know? We hold the NFL and everything about it to an incredibly high standard.
I think that the name deflate-gate, I mean, I think it's just kind of funny. But it certainly isn't of the seriousness of, you know, Watergate and Benghazi.
STELTER: Of course.
GREEN: And even in the sports, it's not as serious as spy-gate where they were stealing signals, which wasn't that huge of a deal and certainly not on the same level as the bounty-gate where New Orleans saints players were being offered money to hurt opposing players. That is something on a completely other level.
STELTER: Well, Tim Green and Chris Kluwe, thank you both for being here this morning. Great talking with you.
GREEN: Thanks very much, Brian.
KLUWE: Thank you.
STELTER: And I want to elaborate a bit on what Tim was just saying on why this story has become so big, what it taps into in the public. We're going to talk about that. Is the press -- I'm sorry I have to say this, it's too easy, I have to -- overinflating coverage of the scandal? Let do my best Sean Hannity impression going to break, toss that football.
Be right back.
STELTER: Well, my wife-manager catch that lousy pass. Sean Hannity much better than me at that at least.
We're going to talk more about deflate-gate now, because I'm really fascinated by the media coverage of this story.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made it clear he was sick about talking about this. It really was surreal. You know, instead of defensive schemes and game plans for the Super Bowl, Belichick was dropping science knowledge to a whole room of reporters.
But he may be over this. He may be tired of it, but the media is not. The media finds this story to be irresistible.
I want to explore some reasons why that is. Let me bring in two guests who I think know the answers better than anybody, L.Z. Granderson of ESPN and of CNN. And Chris Villani, he is up in Boston. He's a talk show host and columnist at "The Boston Herald."
Thank you both for being here.
CHRIS VILLANI, BOSTON HERALD/WEEI RADIO: Thank you.
L.Z. GRANDERSON, ESPN: Good morning, Brian.
STELTER: So, Chris, you're in Boston. Tell me what the feeling in the town is. Is there a resentment for how the national media has come in and focused on deflate-gate and not the Super Bowl in one week?
VILLANI: Well, definitely from fans, you got a lot of circling of the wagons around the Patriots, and it's similar to what happened seven or eight years ago with spy-gate. It's similar to what's going to happen with any fan base when it kind of feels like its team is under attack or on trial with the media. I think what the local media here, though, you get a good degree of healthy skepticism, again, because of spy-gate, because of the reputation both proven and rumored of the Patriots and their penchant for pushing the envelope a little bit and sometimes going across the line.
So, I think you've seen a mixed reaction in that regard. But certainly for fans, they would rather be talking about Seahawks, post- spygate championship rather than trying to weather another scandal.
L.Z., it seems to me this is made for news coverage, that's got characters, it's got supposedly heroes and villains. What am I missing in that combination of factors?
GRANDERSON: Well, I think that you have to remember this is more than just a game. This is a multi-billion dollar international industry that produced 20 of the 25 most broadcast in history. So, we're talking about a vital part of our American DNA in terms of pop culture. And so, that also is fueling why this is such a story that it is, is that the NFL is just a story.
STELTER: Right, right. I mean, the Super Bowl next weekend is going to have at least 100 million viewers and those are just the ones Nielsen can count. They can't count viewing parties at bars and restaurants that's going to be played out. I mean, that's an extraordinary thing. No other gets 50 million viewers. It's going to have more than 100 million.
But, L.Z., you were telling this is a test, early test of how they handle scandal in the wake of Ray Rice situation and others.
GRANDERSON: Absolutely. By no means is what deflate-gate represents on par with domestic violence or child abuse and other things that we saw play out last year for NFL. What this does show us is whether or not the NFL has improved the way that it polices itself and improve the way it investigates wrongdoing by players and franchises. It's a very small test but it's important test, because at the end of the day, after all this comp, fans are asking themselves, now what?
If the NFL has done all this investigation, if the NFL knows purposefully or not balls were deflated and that's against the rules, what exactly is the NFL going to do to enforce its rules. It's a small test but it's sort of an important one after 2014.
STELTER: Let me ask the control room to put on screen a great headline from Quartz this week, they were looking at survey data about people's perceptions of the NFL. And the headline here says, that was quick. America has already forgiven the NFL. There's the headline. Let's put up the poll on screen.
This is data from YouGov, a market research firm. You're going to see a big drop-off poll data 2013, 2014, and 2015. Maybe we can't put it up. But essentially it shows -- I can draw it with my hands here. NFL perception is very high, they drop all of a sudden with Ray Rice and now, they're back to where they were after that Ray Rice scandal, after that domestic abuse talk.
Chris, that tells me there's nothing that can cause viewers to give up on the NFL. Now, really important scandals about domestic violence or issues about cheating like deflate-gate.
VILLANI: Yes, I just think it shows the game is a machine. It's been rolling along for a while and continuing to grow. I do think it's worth pointing out even though the shield of the NFL has been tarnished, the vast majority of guys who play football, people cheer for every Sunday are pretty good guys, law abiding guys who try to do their business, do their job and kind of live their life the right way.
So, I do think people can compartmentalize the unsavory aspects of NFL and not support those while supporting their teams and supporting the vast majority of players that frankly aren't involved in some of the things that have gone on this year.
STELTER: Chris, L.Z., thanks both for being here. It's a great conversation to have.
GRANDERSON: Thank you.
VILLANI: Thank you.
STELTER: The pro-bowl coming up later today. Super Bowl media day coming up on Tuesday. There will be plenty more on this story. I'm sure CNN will be covering it all this week from Phoenix, the site of the Super Bowl.
Coming up, she is back. Sarah Palin is taking center stage in Iowa yesterday at a very interesting summit, a number of presidential contenders. We're going to look at the red news/blue news reaction, right after this.
STELTER: Thanks for staying with us. It's time for red news/blue news, time to examine how a single
story is framed differently. And yesterday's Iowa Freedom Summit is a perfect example, because 200 journalists attend, said a lot about 2016 presidential race based on which conservative candidates were taken seriously and which ones were not and by which media outlet.
Take a look at this FOX News highlight reel. We sped it up a little bit, you'll see Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker and Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson, but also, wait, here she comes, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin, then, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, now notably Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio all skipped the event.
But how journalists cover this field of candidates can be very revealing. I mean, should they take Sarah Palin seriously when she says she's seriously interested in running for president. Should they take Donald Trump serious at all?
On the topic of Trump, I don't think so. What's called the blue news, this is how Steve Kornacki buried a mention of Palin at the very end of an MSNBC segment this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: I'm being told Sarah Palin was there and has said she might run for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's one in a million chance. There's a chance.
KORNACKI: Right. Yes, exactly. One in a million. That's the optimistic --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, overnight, "Politico's" Roger Simon wrote that Republican clown car has become a clown van.
But to some viewers, some readers, dismissing Palin's chances or Trump's chances is a sign of disrespect, even a sign of bias. And keep in mind here, celebrities like Palin are good for page views, they're good for clicks and ratings. FOXNews.com thought so. It thought Palin's speech deserved it's own headline. Others called her speech incoherent.
She is, by the way, still a paid FOX News contributor. She was on the air two weeks ago identified that way, and FOX's policy is contributors have to leave when they take concrete steps toward running for president, like setting up exploratory committee. Ben Carson left FOX last fall, Mike Huckabee left FOX earlier this month. So, what's going to happen to Palin? I asked FOX this morning, so far no comment.
Now, let's go out to Iowa, to one of the best political reporters in the country, "The Washington Post's" Robert Costa, he's in Des Moines this morning. And here in New York with me, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Robert, you're the reporter who asked Palin about 2016 on Friday. That's when she said she was seriously interested in running. You've seen columnists like Roger Simon roll their eyes at Palin.
So, how do you handle this? Do you take her interest seriously?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's not my job to judge Sarah Palin's political intentions, but I did want to ask the question. I saw she had given an interview to ABC News on Thursday. Her answer about 2016 seemed a little vague. So, I was staking out Marriott Hotel lobby in Des Moines. I saw her come in close to midnight.
I really had to press her two or three times to clarify exactly where she stood. She said, I'm, quote, "seriously considering the idea." And that's what I printed and reported.
She's a former vice presidential candidate. I thought it was worth at least getting her comment out there.
STELTER: And yet, Jeffrey, so many people don't take her seriously. They laugh at the idea she could run again and don't believe she's going to. They believe she's just doing it for commercial gain.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think what makes this such a difficult race to cover is the complete absence of a real front-runner. Who is the serious candidate?
You know, usually, candidates in the high teens would sort of be dismissed as irrelevant. But the highest any candidate is polling in this race is high teens, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie. They are -- I would hesitate to call them front-runners, but even they are at a very, very low rate. So, it's very hard to say Ben Carson is a ridiculous candidate, Sarah Palin is a ridiculous candidate.
STELTER: Well, they're not even ridiculous but in it for something else besides a nomination to be president.
TOOBIN: That's a very hard thing to judge, reading someone's intent. I'm sure Sarah Palin would like to be president. But is she going to give up her FOX gig and risk the embarrassment?
STELTER: Yes, Robert?
COSTA: I think one thing I've learned covering national politics for a couple years is that, it's really best sometimes to reserve editorial judgment. It's the only way to go when you're reporting on some of these candidates.
I think the greatest example was in 2012 when I was covering Rick Santorum. No one gave him a shot. They thought he was doing it for TV. But he ended up winning Iowa caucuses.
Mike Huckabee in 2007 did the same with Iowa. And you just got to pay attention to these people early to see actually, could they get some traction?
TOOBIN: But, Robert, isn't it a problem that you have so many candidates, you have to decide which to cover? You have to decide which candidate to mention in a story. You can't mention all ten of them. So, you do have to make some sort of judgment about who is a serious candidate and who is not, right?
COSTA: That's true. One thing I was watching yesterday with my colleague, Dan Balz, is not just who was there, but who really improved their standing. How was Ben Carson -- he's maybe not on the radar for everyone, but what did he do to forward his candidacy.
I thought Carly Fiorina was interesting. No one was talking about her, fewer people there knew her but she gave a well received speech about Hillary Clinton. That's what you're trying to look for, who is pushing the ball forward for their own political future.
STELTER: Chuck Todd had a pretty sick burn this morning on "Meet the Press". He said about Donald Trump, he said nobody is going to mistake Donald Trump for a presidential candidate, except maybe Donald Trump. I mean, he's the most illustrative example I think of someone who's on this for other reasons.
STELTER: He's promoting his NBC show "The Apprentice". He's go other commercial interest.
TOOBIN: He runs this scam every year.
STELTER: A scam?
TOOBIN: Oh, it's a total scam of pretending to run for president. I think this time around, fewer people will fall for it. I think he's getting the ignoring, the disdain that he so richly deserves.
STELTER: Really interesting intention we're talking about that on the one hand and you're saying, Robert, on the other hand to keep editorializing out of it, report what people are saying and let people decide in Iowa a year from now.
COSTA: Right. I think, for example, Donald Trump, does he do this perennially and tease the press and voters? Of course he does. That's just a fact.
However, when you listen to his speech yesterday, he for the first time talked about filing papers, looking forward to filing papers and revealing his financial statements. For someone who is always -- right, I agree with you.
TOOBIN: Robert, come on.
COSTA: You have to take everything he says with a grain of salt. My point is, it's hard to predict with some of these unpredictable politicians will do. STELTER: Hey, Robert, before we have to go, do you have any
sense of what Sarah Palin is thinking in regard to FOX? I mean, we did see Mike Huckabee leave his show a few weeks ago because he's getting serious about running for president. We have not seen Sarah Palin do the same.
COSTA: Governor Palin told me she's -- quote -- "seriously interested" in the idea.
But when I pressed whether she's ramping up her national political operation or anything like that, she said she is not; it's just an idea.
TOOBIN: It's all about hot air, right?
COSTA: Oh, let's...
TOOBIN: That is that -- no.
STELTER: It's a good theme for the whole show, isn't it?
Jeffrey Toobin, Robert Costa, thank you both being here.
I'm a little bit better catching than I am passing.
After a quick break, I want to turn to something that was really meaningful for me actually yesterday. Here in New York, I interviewed two -- actually four parents of two victims of the Colorado movie theater shooting. They told me why believe I and others in the press should not name the shooter, should not show the shooter's face.
And I want to show you why it changed my mind. It's a really important interview coming up after this.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Let me ask you something really important, something you may have never considered before. Should the news media name mass shooters? Should the media, should we at CNN show their faces?
Now, my instinctive answer is yes. Journalists are taught to show the truth, the whole truth, no matter how awful or sinister it is. But the parents of Alex Teves and Jessica Phillips say no. Alex and Jessie were killed in Aurora, Colorado, inside that movie theater on July 20, 2012.
And this week, as 9,000 people were summoned for jury selection in the trial of the shooting suspect, family members launched a campaign, NoNotoriety.com, to deprive mass killers of attention by urging the media not to show them on air or online. The truth is that before I sat down with the Teves and Phillips
families, I was planning on saying the Aurora's killers name right here and showing his face right there on screen. But what they said to me was persuasive.
I still think members of the press have to examine these shooters. They have to examine their histories, sometimes have to show their faces. But we also have to think about the impact that repetitive media images can have. And we have to consider these families' arguments.
As Alex's dad, Tom, said to me, they are members of a club with the world's highest admission fee. No one wants to join. And once you're in, you can never get out.
Listen to Tom and his wife, Caren, here, joined by Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, who are joining the campaign.
See if they can change your mind.
STELTER: Tom, I want to start with you and ask you about the first time that you saw the face of the man that killed your child and heard the name and what stood out to you in that moment.
TOM TEVES, FATHER OF AURORA SHOOTING VICTIM: We had landed the night before in Hawaii to go on vacation.
And at 4:30 in the morning Hawaii time, Amanda, who is Alex's girlfriend, love of his life, so to speak, rang my phone and said: "Tom, there was a shooting. We're at the theater. There was a shooting. And I tried to wake him up, but they pulled me away."
I said, "Where is Alex?"
And she said: "They made me leave him. They made me leave him."
And then we spent trying to find -- calling hospitals at 4:45 in the morning in Hawaii time. So, then we turned on the television. We could find out nothing, other than seeing that thing's face and what that thing did. There wasn't anything about any victims. There was nothing. I couldn't even leave the television on, because I was going to break it.
And that's the first time I saw his face.
STELTER: And when you say thing, you're doing that on purpose. Why?
T. TEVES: Because he's not human.
What human being would walk in and take a machine gun and start shooting people in a theater? He shot a 6-year-old girl point-blank. That's a human being? If that's a human being, that's a race I don't want to belong to.
STELTER: I asked you about that day because that day led to this day.
And, Caren, you have led the charge on a Web site called and a campaign called No Notoriety for gunmen like this man. What spurred you to want to do this?
CAREN TEVES, MOTHER OF AURORA SHOOTING VICTIM: Well, the quest for notoriety and infamy is a known motivating factor for people that want to commit mass killings or copycats.
All we're asking is, after the initial identification of a mass killer, set up the initial identification and throughout the article or newscast just refer to them as the shooter, the defendant. It's not that difficult.
I also ask them to stand in my shoes. Stand in the shoes of a parent who had a child brutally murdered by someone that their only motivation was to have their face splattered all over every ounce of media out there. And I have a feeling that whoever writes this article will do their best to limit that name.
STELTER: Lonnie and Sandy, you're wearing the same buttons as well, relaying the message.
I'm hearing Tom and Caren say they have been thinking about this ever since the day of the shooting, that the media should not be showing the names and showing the faces. When did you all start thinking about that?
SANDY PHILLIPS, MOTHER OF AURORA SHOOTING VICTIM: Immediately.
STELTER: The same time?
S. PHILLIPS: Yes. I remember the same day. And we were lucky that we knew that Jessie was gone. We knew early on. We didn't have to go through the search and the questioning, where is she? Is she in the hospital?
STELTER: Because she was put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital.
S. PHILLIPS: Right.
LONNIE PHILLIPS, FATHER OF AURORA SHOOTING VICTIM: We knew because her face was the first plastered over the news. She was the first victim, but, other than that, just a picture of the killer.
S. PHILLIPS: I remember turning on CNN and turning the television on that morning.
And that's the first image that I saw. And I actually threw up and had dry heaves every time his picture came on. And it still does that to me. So, we're already victims. And we get revictimized over and over and over again by seeing that picture, hearing his name, having to deal with all the things that we have to deal with just to survive getting out of bed.
L. PHILLIPS: Two-and-a-half years later, the trial is starting. It's going to start all over again, and it's not going to be like it's been two-and-a-half years. It's going to be like this was yesterday.
STELTER: Lonnie, you wrote an essay for Politico, "The Killer I Refuse to Name."
And you said in it -- and I wanted to quote part of it -- you said: "The judge's decision in this trial means that the killer's need for a worldwide stage outweighs the rights of the victims."
That's because he has decided to allow one camera inside the trial.
Are you at peace with that decision?
L. PHILLIPS: It's my feelings that the trial would be covered just as well without the camera.
The camera is going to create an electronic record and media that's going to be on YouTube. It will be there forever to be replayed over and over again. Not necessary. It's really not necessary for the outcome of the trial to be any different.
He was unable to provide any kind of proof that having cameras there would better serve justice, so why have them?
STELTER: So when you bring this up to journalists, what do they tell you? What are their reasons?
T. TEVES: First off, they always go, well, we have to tell the story.
Quite frankly, I think you're hiding behind it. The facts are, the data is unsurmountable that it is a material reason they do this.
STELTER: Do you buy into the slippery slope argument, that if journalists make this choice, then there could be other choices down the road that are harmful?
T. TEVES: You have already made it.
You don't name rape victims. You don't name children. You have already made it. Tell me the relevance of whether you put the thing's picture and its name on television or you just say the shooter and then you do the rest of what you were going to do, other than you think it draws viewers and clicks and ratings and creates revenue.
If we want this to stop -- and I would assume CNN wants it to stop -- you could make an argument that, from a revenue-generating perspective, it's a big boon for you guys.
STELTER: But that's a horrifying thing to say.
T. TEVES: That is a horrifying thing to say. S. PHILLIPS: You could make that argument.
T. TEVES: But I'm horrified every day.
STELTER: But I wonder what would happen if there was a blackout, if there was no photo, if there was no name, because I do think some people learn from looking into the eyes of these madmen.
C. TEVES: I have looked into his eyes. And that killer was very detached when they were speaking of the lives that it took and other aspects.
The moment a photo of himself came on to that big screen, his eyes lit up. There was a small smile. I could see his eyes crinkle with delight, actually. And it made me physically ill. I have seen it. I have seen it with my own eyes. They crave it. They like it. You're giving it to them. And we're asking you to take it away.
L. PHILLIPS: I guess, as a journalist, you have to decide whether you want to be Walter Cronkite or you want to be TMZ. That's basically the choice. Do you want to tell the truth and do what you have through the medieval times your role in society, because it's a very, very important role.
And I have huge respect for you guys. But which do you want to be? Choose. You have to choose. You can't do it halfway.
S. PHILLIPS: And you have to feed the beast. We get that.
But how much do you have to feed that beast? And when does it cross the line from being factual to being sensationalism? I think that's where we need to go with this whole conversation, is, really, what do you have to do?
T. TEVES: I actually challenged Anderson on camera.
STELTER: This is Anderson Cooper of CNN in one of the parking lots covering the story.
T. TEVES: Yes. Yes, Anderson Cooper, and said, I will give you a challenge. Don't name him. Can you get through the next 12 minutes without naming him? Stop naming him, because this is -- it's awful for us, OK?
But the reality is, it could be awful for anybody in this room, because what you're doing is making a call to action for all the people out there that need the motivation to move from thought to action.
STELTER: You believe, if the media was not giving saturation coverage to them, that they would not go through with it?
T. TEVES: I believe they would go through with it. The next one wouldn't. C. TEVES: We're asking for the media not to turn our children's
deaths into a form of entertainment.
Stick to the facts. Don't lend notoriety to these killers. This is not for your entertainment. These are our lives. These are our children's lives that once were, and that's also what we're asking.
STELTER: As soon as we started talking, I noticed that Lonnie gripped Sandy's hand and Caren reached for Tom's hand.
For them, this is not a tragedy in the past. It is very much in the present and always will be. We will be right back.
STELTER: New this morning, box office numbers that are surprising Hollywood once again.
Take a look at this headline. I just put the story up on CNNMoney.com. "'American Sniper' Hauls in $200 million at the box office."
Let me just put that into perspective for you. It's going to be make $200 million as today. It's only been out 10 days nationwide. Almost no R-rated movie has ever done that before this. This movie is now on track to beat "The Passion of the Christ" as the highest grossing R-rated film in American history.
It has already become the highest grossing January movie release ever. And it's receiving a whole lot of critical praise. For the first time, there is a truly popular movie about the Iraq war. Even "The Hurt Locker" didn't do nearly as much at the box office as this movie has.
But the film is also fueling political debate by its somewhat black-and-white portrayal of one of America's most famed, legendary, but also controversial figures, Chris Kyle. He's known as America's most lethal sniper. And he is depicted, rightfully so, as a hero in the film.
It's based on his book also known as "American Sniper." But in the past, Kyle made a number of bizarre accusations that reporters have failed to confirm.
He died two years ago, tragically. And the trial for his killer, his alleged killer is about to get under way.
But all of that -- issues, all of those controversies are now back in the forefront because of this movie and because of the astonishing popularity of it.
I want to talk about that with two guests who know very well and have a lot of experience on this. Let me bring in Paul Rieckhoff. He's the executive director of
the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Jonathan Gilliam here as well, a former Navy SEAL.
I appreciate you both coming in this morning, because, Paul, it was you that initially got me thinking about the importance of this movie to the American people, to have people be able to go and see a movie that connects them to a veteran's experience is really important.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: It's critical.
It's best tool that we have had in the veterans community since the Iraq war began. Now, we could pick it apart for its technical accuracy or the political pieces that are comprised.
But at the end of the day, this is connecting millions of people with the Iraq experience and with the experience of our soldiers who have been on the ground. So, that opens up a door for us to have real discussions about veterans transition, about foreign policy and about veterans affairs, things like post-traumatic stress disorder, the VA scandal.
No matter how you cut it, this is a hit. And it's really going to generate tremendous conversation around an issue that a lot of Americans haven't wanted to talk about. We need that.
STELTER: With that in mind, does it matter, Jonathan, that some of the details in Chris Kyle's story cannot be corroborated, that even the number of so-called confirmed kills he had in Iraq, where he saved the lives of many other troops, that even some of those can't be confirmed?
JONATHAN GILLIAM, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: I don't think, speaking to what he was just talking about there, I don't think it really matters, because what this film has done, I'm not even sure if that's what they set out to do, but it's inspired a lot of people.
It has brought recognition to the way, the struggle that these warriors have when they go over and then they come back, how their life goes from 100 miles per hour to zero when they come back home.
And I think, knowingly or unknowingly, that really is the focus. We do know that Chris Kyle was one of the greatest snipers of all time, one of the greatest warriors. And I think that the further we get along to what his legacy has brought us, the less important it is of the specific numbers.
I believe in those numbers, however.
STELTER: It gets to this issue, Paul, of should movies be reliable sources? Are they supposed to be?
RIECKHOFF: The short answer is no.
Documentaries can be. And the documentaries around the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts I think have been tremendous.
STELTER: They have. They have.
RIECKHOFF: "The War Tapes" and "Gunner Palace" and "Restrepo" and others that really put you in the viewpoint of being on the ground.
But this is a big-budget feature Hollywood film. And I think with that comes a lot of creative liberty. They're telling a story. Now, on the other side of things, the media does have a responsibility to focus on those issues. There's a big difference between running a "New York Times" story on Chris Kyle's life and Clint Eastwood doing a Hollywood picture.
And I think if you're looking for the truth, Hollywood is generally not the place to go.
STELTER: But isn't the issue here that if it becomes controversialized, it becomes a distraction from the movie?
Some people are going to have already viewed this movie as political propaganda.
GILLIAM: Well, sometimes it helps, actually, because it's bringing more attention to the movie.
GILLIAM: So, that's bringing more attention to veterans, more attention to the real story of Chris Kyle, which you were just saying this is Hollywood.
And the real story, a lot of the times, having been in the FBI as well, fact is stranger than fiction. And the real story of who this guy was, the real story of what Chris Kyle did is actually even more amazing when you actually talk to the guys who were out there with him. It's amazing.
STELTER: And his book, by the way, now back atop the Amazon bestseller list. So, people are reconnecting with his story and then researching his story more as well.
RIECKHOFF: It's kind of become like a Rorschach test for how you view the war.
STELTER: Yes, it really has.
RIECKHOFF: You could see political people on both sides using it for their agendas.
Media covers it differently. MSNBC is covering it dramatically differently than on FOX. STELTER: Yes, Rorschach test is exactly right.
RIECKHOFF: That's really what it is.
But at the end of the day, for us as veterans, there's nothing that has more powerfully connected the American people with our stories so far than "American Sniper."
STELTER: Paul, Jonathan, thanks both for being here.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you.
GILLIAM: Thank you.
STELTER: And to your point, I'm just e-mailing with the head of Warner Bros. distribution. By the way, Warner Bros. is owned by the same company as CNN. I need to disclose that.
He says only 30 films have ever reached that $200 million benchmark in the first 10 days of release. So, this movie, you can see just how popular it has become.
Coming up after this break, the first interview with the head of Amazon Studios after they have announced they are going to make movies. Yes, Amazon is getting into the movie-making business.
Hear more about this right after this.
STELTER: Amazon has disrupted how books are sold. It's disrupted how all sorts of everyday products are shipped.
And now it's disrupting movie-making. Yes, fresh off a big win at the Golden Globes for its show "Transparent," Amazon says it's going to produce and acquire movies. It wants to release them in theaters, then stream them on Amazon Prime about six weeks later.
And that would be a big change, because right now most movies don't show up online for free for many months after they're in theaters. Sometimes, it takes years. Now, Sony's "The Interview," you remember this, was a desperate exception. It actually became available on Netflix yesterday.
Now, both Amazon and Netflix are at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend shopping for movies.
So, when I was there, I talked to the two men who get to decide what to buy. These guys have very cool jobs.
First, Amazon Studios boss Roy Price, he says he's trying to strike a compromise between releasing movies in person, in theaters and online on demand. He calls it a balance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY PRICE, VICE PRESIDENT, AMAZON STUDIOS: There's got to be a balance.
There's a real role for theatrical. There's a role for theatrical. But the people who are making the argument that it should come into digital sooner are totally right. Of course, it should certainly come to digital sooner.
I think this is our attempt to kind of find the middle ground.
STELTER: So, is it going to start at six weeks and then go to four weeks and then two weeks? Are you eventually trying to squeeze out the theaters?
PRICE: I don't think so, no.
See, we're definitely not trying to squeeze out the theaters. I think there's a very happy, symbiotic relationship. They have their role and we have ours.
The movies will appear on Amazon roughly every month, like probably not -- maybe not in 2016, but we will scale up to about 12 a year.
STELTER: When will the first one be, by the way? Will it be in 2015?
PRICE: We will see.
STELTER: Possible .
PRICE: That would be great.
PRICE: Yes, then that would be fantastic, yes.
STELTER: You could be up for a Golden Globe next year for TV and for movies.
PRICE: That would be like a fantasy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, that's Amazon's plan, but Netflix has a huge head- start here. In fact, one of the biggest premieres at Sundance was a documentary that Netflix bankrolled.
So, I asked Netflix's TV and movies boss, Ted Sarandos, about the new kid on the block.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: This week, Amazon said they're going to make movies. How did you react to that?
TED SARANDOS, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER, NETFLIX: There's, as you know, a lot of movies getting made all over the world, and finding homes for them is difficult.
And there's a lot of disruption to come in the movie distribution business and it will come from inside and outside the studios and the theaters.
STELTER: So, when people like me made it out to be Amazon vs. Netflix, do you feel it's that?
This year, in the scripted series business, there's over 300 new scripted series coming to television this year, between over-the-top services, cable, broadcast. So, they're another one. We don't look at that like it's a zero-sum game.
We hope they make great content. We hope it helps advance the over-the-top initiative and Internet television in a way that rises all boats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: My take, there is plenty of room for Netflix and Amazon in this business.
We're going to share more of my interviews on CNNMoney.com/media.
That is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But I will see you right back here next week, next Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.