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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
A Terrible Week for Journalism; Questions About Williams' SEAL Team Six Claims; Does Brian Williams Deserve Another Chance?
Aired February 15, 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. I'm Brian Stelter, and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.
There are just no ways about it. This week was just terrible for journalism. My colleague John Berman said it best -- it was a shock to the system.
Let's think about it. On Monday, a familiar face went missing. Brian Williams absent from "NBC Nightly News," America's most watched nightly newscast. On Tuesday, Williams was suspended without pay for six months with no guarantee he will ever return to the chair.
That same night Jon Stewart announced he's going to sign off for "The Daily Show," which he's been anchoring for longer than Williams has been anchoring "NBC Nightly News." Stewart fans, mostly liberals, felt lying they lost a true anchor.
Then, on Wednesday night, legendary "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon died in a car accident on the way home from work here in Manhattan. He had just finished a story that will air tonight.
On Thursday night, my friend David Carr died. David was the man who knew all these men, who covered them all, who held them all to account. David helped us and helped them understand the revolutionary changes that keep coming, coming, coming in the media industry.
David was the wisest, most wired media reporter in this country. His Monday column was the definition of a must read. And he collapsed in "The New York Times" newsroom he loved so much.
David used to say, I just want to get in the boat and row. He just wanted to help cover the big stories in the world of media. So, today, we will pick up an oar and try to row without him.
And I'm joined by the best person to make sense of this week's news, Carl Bernstein, one-half of the Woodward and Bernstein team that exposed Watergate to the world.
And, Carl, and I wanted you to join us on set today because we've been talking about all of these stories and how they're all interconnected.
And they're all very different. We're talking about deaths, suspensions, retirement. But it seems it me what connects all these stories is the word "trust."
CARL BERNSTEIN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Trust is a big part of it. Also the concept of the best obtainable version of the truth, which really is what good reporting, good journalism is about.
If all of these people we're talking about understood, including Brian Williams, the ideal of the best obtainable version of the truth, I think this week gives us a chance in all the horror, an opportunity to look again at who we are, what it is we do, and also maybe to throw away some of the sanctimony that we've kind of had washing over us this week.
There's been too much sanctimony, too much holiness about what it is we do. We should talk about that a bit, too.
STELTER: Tell me what you mean by that?
BERNSTEIN: I mean the best attainable version of the truth is an ideal. We don't meet it as often as we should. There have been failures by NBC News. Not just Brian Williams.
STELTER: Right, right.
BERNSTEIN: Here, we have in Jon Stewart, somebody who really understood the best obtainable version of the truth.
STELTER: You think so? Even though people call him a fake news anchor.
BERNSTEIN: Much better than the evening news on all three networks does. Maybe we'll take a look at that. What he was able to do was pick out what was really important, what was core, put it up there with videotape and say, look at this America, look at this evening news, you just went right by this, and this is what counts.
And we often do not understand what counts. We kowtow to the demographic. Look at the evening news. Let's talk about that. We've got a lot of time. The evening news is not really -- on any of the networks -- is not really about the news, as it should be.
STELTER: What's it about then?
BERNSTEIN: It's about satisfying a demographic. Look, also, we are all in the entertainment business. That's what I meant about sanctimony. We're all performing up here to an extent. The question is can we do the performing and look at the newspapers and entertainment. It has comics. It has great feature writing. It has sports, nothing wrong --
STELTER: David Carr was very funny. Yes.
BERNSTEIN: Nothing wrong with entertainment. Our core purpose, best obtainable version of the truth, can we stay fixed on that, have fun, be entertaining, not be sanctimonious about ourselves? We're not judges. We're not meant to be judiciary and pass judgment on everybody. I think it's time to lower the temperature about ourselves, look
at ourselves with some real introspection. This is a great occasion to do it, particularly because in David Carr, in Bob Simon, in "The Daily Show", we have some real examples of people who understood news and what is good news let's talk about that?
STELTER: Also describing sort of the blurring of the lines between news and entertainment because "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart always would say, he's just a comedian, just performing satire. But so many people proceeded to be more than that. And so many people in my generation learned real news from it, took away real news from it.
At the same time, Brian Williams is being criticized, and he's befallen partly by going on late night talk shows and entertaining people and seeming sillier than his "Nightly News" job.
BERNSTEIN: We've all -- not all, but many of us have been on late night talk shows and let's not forget that. The question is, what is the core thing Brian Williams was expected to do? It was to be truthful.
And so, the trust you're speaking of that has been lost is because he undermined his reputation for being truthful. That's where we've got to keep looking at. What is it that we're about?
And incidentally, truthfulness is not just about delivering a set of facts. It's about context. That again goes to Jon Stewart, goes to Bob Simon's reports on "60 Minutes." Goes to what David Carr understood so well about the what the elements of good journalism are. What's the most important thing we do perhaps.
And again, let's look at Stewart and let's look at the evening news. We decide what is news. I would say that Stewart's agenda is a far superior one in terms of what is news than the evening news shows today.
STELTER: "60 Minutes," "New York Times," "The Daily Show", they all have agenda setting functions. We're going to explore that as the hour goes on.
Stay with me. I'm really good you're here.
I want to dig a little deeper on the Brian Williams part because think about this for a second. This is really an extraordinary situation, the nation's top TV news anchor sidelined and now, some of his past claims are getting a lot of scrutiny, including one about his time with SEAL Team Six.
Here's what he said in the past, this is once on NBC and once on Letterman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: About six weeks after the bin Laden raid, I got a white envelope. In it was a thank you note unsigned. Attached to it was a piece of fuselage, the fuselage from the blown up Black Hawk in that courtyard. I don't know how many pieces survived. But I --
DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: Wow. Sent to you by one of the --
WILLIAMS: Yes, one of my friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Williams also said that he promised at the time he would never speak of what he saw on that aircraft, what they were carrying and who they were after.
Now, there's been no definitive proof one way or another about those specific claims by Brian Williams, but they are raising a lot of eyebrows in the SEAL Team Six community. And NBC is not commenting.
Don Mann is a former member of SEAL Team Six and he's with me now from Miami.
Sir, thank you for being here.
DON D. MANN, FORMER MEMBER OF SEAL TEAM SIX: You're welcome.
STELTER: You've spoken to other SEAL team members, what have they told you about the possibility of what Brian Williams is saying is true.
MANN: Well, by all accounts, from any SEAL, any SEAL Team Six member, anybody in the tier one spec ops community, it's unheard of. What Brian Williams is saying, none of it can be true. For a reporter to be embedded with SEAL Team Six or any tier one unit, that just doesn't happen.
The objectives of SEAL Team or SEAL Team Six or any tier one unit is to conceal our faces. The team one faces, tier one faces, their identities, the tactics, techniques, procedures, the equipment they used.
The last thing in the world we would want is have a reporter sitting in a helicopter embedded with one of these units. It hurt the United States in many ways.
STELTER: I wonder, did you ever notice him saying this stuff at the time, because it's sort of hidden in plain sight these allegations. Did you notice him at the time saying this stuff?
MANN: No, I have never heard of any reports at all or any accounts of Brian Williams or any reporter being with SEAL Team Six.
STELTER: Now that we have seen all these sound bites and now that we've seen they can't be backed up, what would you like to hear from NBC? Because they are not letting Brian Williams really comment on these issues?
MANN: Well, you know, Brian Williams can actually show that piece of the fuselage, show that piece of the tail of the stealth helicopter, bring it on the air and that would clear it up.
STELTER: Since you mentioned that, do you mind if I play a little bit of sound from him? I'll play the sound, this is about souvenir issue.
Actually, I guess we don't have it. But, you know, what you're describing this other allegations, that he was given as a souvenir part of the fuselage of the helicopter that crashed on the night bin Laden was assassinated.
Tell me about what -- how could that be true? Let's give him the benefit of the doubt here. How could that be true?
MANN: OK. The SEALs went into Abbottabad, they attacked the compound, they got bin Laden, they got his bodyguards, they got his son. They collected all this intelligence, hard drive computer information, a lot of documents. They ran out.
The helicopter that was in the courtyard, they put a termite grenade in it to destroy it, so people can't get ahold of that technology, that stealth technology. And then, in the midst of all that, a SEAL would have to grab a piece of that tail, bring it back with him and give it as a gift. There's no way in the world that would happen. It would be criminal.
STELTER: Wow, that -- it's so striking to hear you say that, because here he was making these claims repeatedly and no one really pointed it out at the time.
MANN: Now, there are accounts of SEALs in other units like SEAL Teams giving gifts, war mementos to presidents, CIA directors, but never to a reporter.
A reporter's objective is in contrast to the military. The military has to conceal all of this. A reporter wants to expose everything we're trying to conceal. The story doesn't match up at all.
STELTER: Don, thank you for being here.
Carl, what do you think of the --
BERNSTEIN: I want to try one suggestion here, and that is that NBC has a real obligation to publish the results of its investigation of all of these claims, counterclaims, to publish in full much like "The Washington Post" did after it had return of Pulitzer Prize because it involved invented story by a journalist who was a fabulist, who made up the whole story. It's incumbent on NBC we learned what the facts are.
What we do understand, I think, at this point is Brian Williams clearly was inventing some things. Not necessarily on his air with regularity but in some other public appearances.
And NBC also apparently was aware. People in the newsroom we think we're aware of this. NBC needs to address its own procedures and what it knew and when it knew about these tendencies if they existed.
STELTER: And their comment for now is no comment. They say they want to get to all of it, fact check it, but in the meantime there's this vacuum.
When we come back, we want to talk more about this issue. We're going to hear some strong words from veteran war correspondent and ask, is there anything Brian Williams can say or do to regain his credibility? We have exclusive new research to show you on that.
And later, we'll look at Jon Stewart's pending departure from "The Daily Show." Who is going to hold FOX News accountable when he's gone? Stay tuned.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Carl Bernstein is alongside me today to add his wisdom to what has been going with this NBC News crisis.
But let's set our seen for a moment, because really almost everybody in the news industry has weighed in on the Brian Williams controversy except for Brian Williams. The newsman at the center of it all has yet to utter a peep since his self-imposed suspension. Even as new allegations against Williams are surfacing nearly every day.
My sense is he's not being allowed to speak by NBC. And sources at the network tell me fact checking into his past claims is, quote, "nowhere near done."
Now, while there's some that think Williams should get a break, a second chance, others say he should not return to the chair.
Carl, before the break, you were saying to me, you think that it's clear that he's invented stories that he simply didn't just misremember innocently.
BERNSTEIN: I don't know what the extent of it. That's what the investigation is for. Let's withhold any kind of final judgment here. Let's be careful and as I say not sanctimonious. And we do need to hear from Brian. I expect and hope we will.
But NBC News, we also need to hear from, as I mentioned.
STELTER: I checked in again this morning, no comment.
BERNSTEIN: I think it will be a while incidentally. Let them put the facts together and let Brian collect himself also. It's a terrible experience for any person. STELTER: It's a good reminder. On a very human level, this is a
pretty rough story.
Let's bring in Michael Ware. He's joining us at the table, former CNN war correspondent who has spent decades reporting from conflict zones. He was in Iraq for years.
Michael, you've heard stories Brian Williams has told. Do they sound like tall tales to you? Do they sound like something more than that?
MICHAEL WARE, FORMER CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, put it this way -- it eludes my understanding to see what it is Brian Williams is saying about this conflation of this notion he was in a helicopter that he was never in.
I mean, simply put, it's like arriving on the scene of a downed chopper or arriving on the scene of a vehicle that's been destroyed by an IED roadside bomb and eventually deciding that. well, I was in that vehicle, I was in that chopper. I just don't see how that happens.
Somehow or other, Brian Williams has committed a fraud of memory either upon himself. Or worse, upon all of us.
STELTER: Have you ever been in the field and found yourself wanting to take it on a step beyond what's true? Is it true war correspondents understate what happens to them rather than overstate?
WARE: Well, it's a hard won right of every old veteran to embellish the story as each year passes at each reunion. The bullets in the air get thicker, the enemy becomes more numerous. But as I say, that's their right.
But journalists, embellishment is poison. For a journalist, invention is a kind of professional death.
And we can be sanctimonious about ourselves and our role in society and inflate our importance, but I do believe that we all must be high church when it comes to these things, comes to matters of integrity. We have to hold ourselves to the highest standard -- a standard higher than that which we hold anyone else, because what we have with the public, with the viewer, with the reader, quite honestly, is a sacred trust.
And for me, a betrayal of that, a breaking of that, strikes at the core of what it is to be a journalist.
BERNSTEIN: I think that point about the high church separation is really right. We do have to obtain and strive for that standard.
One of the things again that I think and hope will be looked at is what is the standard of news. What is it that we're putting on the air? Let's forget about Brian Williams for a moment. Let's look at his show. Let's look at the "Today" show. Let's look at the morning show we put on the air. What is news, what ought to be on there? Incidentally, what is
entertainment? Fine, but let's try to define what it is we do, be honest about what it is we do. I think that's part of the problem.
BERNSTEIN: We're not honest enough about what we do. That's why I keep saying, look, there's an element of performance. Walter Cronkite knew.
BERNSTEIN: He had a certain delivery that was about performance. This is part of what we do on television.
WARE: And --
BERNSTEIN: And also in print, how we write, our style, one thing and another. But let's cut out the bull about what it is we do. Be honest and up front about what we do. Bring us down to earth and then be, as you say, high church about getting there in the right way.
STELTER: -- from you?
WARE: TV news particularly is a lot more about theater than, say, even print news is. It divorces itself or separates itself to some degree from the news itself, from journalism.
BERNSTEIN: Unless you read the "New York Post" every day.
WARE: There you go.
BERNSTEIN: It's not the only one, they're not just Murdoch papers.
STELTER: A hard look at what we do and this is an occasion to do that.
WARE: Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for reflection across our industry. One of the questions we they'd to ask coming out of this is, to what degree do we decide what is the news and how we define that? And to what degree we lead our viewers and readers, and what degree we react to them?
Because let's face it, news these days is so ratings-driven by necessity. It's about the matter of our relationship with those ratings and that business necessity. That's also in jeopardy right now.
And never could trust in journalism be more important than it is now. Technology, accelerating at an exponential rate has forced a revolution upon our soul. There's a social revolution with social media and instantaneous nature of things.
BERNSTEIN: That's how Brian Williams found out as it were. This was driven by social media. Something that appeared on Facebook, that's picked up by the press, et cetera. So, this rolling thunder that everyone is under scrutiny 24/7.
STELTER: Let me take a break here, because I want to talk more about NBC News and systemic issues.
Michael, thank you for being here.
Carl, stay with me if you can.
Brian Williams is just the latest blow hitting NBC News chief Deborah Turness. We're going to look at all the big problems in that news division when we come back.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Is Brian Williams going to be the only casualty of the swirling controversy over his misstatements? I kind of doubt it. I mean, this has become a full blown crisis inside NBC News. That's what people there are telling me, not what I'm telling them.
This news division was hurting even before Williams was suspended.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chairman and CEO of Comcast, Brian Roberts --
STELTER (voice-over): What a difference four years makes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Best quarter we ever had.
STELTER: Listen to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts when he first acquired NBC Universal.
BRIAN ROBERTS, COMCAST CEO: Tell you my view on news -- it's the crown jewel of Comcast.
STELTER: It appears the crown jewel and other gems in the safe may need a polish or more. The news division once famous for Huntley and Brinkley, for Katie and Bryant, for Tim and for Tom, for a long time it was the envy of the TV news business, a place others wanted to work, a place that was number one in every ratings race that mattered.
But now, NBC has been struggling with a host of problems, ones that even predated this Brian Williams scandal.
ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS: For all of you who saw ground breaker I'm sorry I didn't carry the ball over the finish line, but, man, I did try.
STELTER: The biggest ratings king lost its crown to "Good Morning America" a couple of years ago.
CURRY: Sorry I turned into a sob sister this morning. Please forgive me.
STELTER: Downfall began with messy 2012 ouster of Ann Curry, and break up scene that was almost as painful for viewers, as it was for her and Matt Lauer.
Two and a half years later, the bosses just recently finish a deal for Curry to leave the network. NBC News president Deborah Turness and her boss, Pat Fili-Krushel, came to fix and guide NBC into the future. But some insiders are now losing confidence in their capabilities.
Last fall, David Gregory of "Meet the Press" was left to meet the door after a year of waiting in what can only be described as employment purgatory. Forced to announce the news of his own departure via Twitter after it had already been leaked to various news outlets.
More recently, NBC has been trying to rehab Dr. Nancy Snyderman who violated an Ebola quarantine after returning from West Africa, torching (ph) her credibility.
DR. NANCY SYNDERMAN, NBC NEWS: Good people make mistakes.
STELTER: And staffers have been reeling from a series of factual mistakes, like the report that Bowe Bergdahl would be charged with desertion. It still hasn't happened.
And then there are the management mistakes. A few months ago, Turness installed a new captain at the helm of the "Today" show, former ESPN executive Jamie Horowitz brought on to right the ship as general manager. But just 10 years later, this: Turness wrote a memo to her staff that she and Horowitz have come to the conclusion that this is not the right fit.
Uh, what? Yes, he was dismissed, a head-spinning change that triggered new doubts about executive competence, and news president Turness is not the only one with the weight of the peacock on her shoulders.
Fili-Krushel also oversees two other troubled assets, CNBC and MSNBC. They have both seen viewers turn away in droves. 2014 was CNBC's least watched year since the glory days of the anyone 90s, when they were the dominant financial network.
And just last week, MSNBC had its lowest full-day rating in close to a decade. Parent company Comcast stands to lose millions of ad revenue. Meanwhile, its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable is still pending and Comcast hates distractions.
(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER: They sure do.
And this weekend, the news division is trying to move forward. But how can it when a fact-checking investigation is still going on and Williams is still silent and the staff is still seething?
Well, Carl Bernstein is back with me on set. And we're joined by one of the few men who has actually faced a crisis like this, Andrew Heyward, a former president of CBS News.
Thank you for being here this morning.
ANDREW HEYWARD, FORMER CBS NEWS PRESIDENT: My pleasure.
STELTER: Your read on how NBC has handled this so far. Have they done as much as they can?
HEYWARD: I think it's very easy to second-guess, but I must say, seeing that litany of problems, as somebody who sat in the same seat, I'm getting a rash under the sweater.
It's really unfair to pile on after the whistle. I think there's lots of ways to handle these things. But I think NBC is trying to be responsive. It's trying to get back to business. There's a six-month inquiry -- I'm sorry -- six-month suspension, an inquiry that continues.
Let's -- as Carl said earlier, let's let some time elapse and let's see what the response is. I don't think you can overstate the pressure on these executives when every single thing they do is second-guessed, third-guessed, fourth-guessed by the likes of us.
I'm not going to contribute to that. I do think there are unanswered questions, as you and Carl have been discussing. I think we will get the answers. And in the meantime, there are hundreds of dedicated men and women who are going to come to work tomorrow and put on news programming. When you say it's a mess, they are still absolutely in the news business and they are still going to cover the news tomorrow, as they did last week.
STELTER: That's a great point. And Deborah Turness, who we showed in that package, her message to staff this week has been, we're not going to get through this with words. We're going to get through this with actions. We have to go out and produce great journalism and that will win people back.
Let me put on screen some findings from Magid. It's a consulting firm. NBC is a client, but NBC News is not. And these are some headlines from a survey over the weekend. We're sharing it for the first time today. It finds that many think Williams' actions were intentional, but that most don't see a career-ending offense. Most people don't want to see him fired.
And, finally, most people said NBC News' actions were appropriate. To suspend him for six months was an appropriate result. I guess what I'm wondering, Andrew, is, if all that's the case,
and I believe that's what NBC is hearing in their own research as well, if that's all the case, and Lester Holt is at the chair for six months, as long as the audience doesn't reject him, can't NBC News get through with this, all of this, have Lester Holt stay in the chair and say goodbye to Brian Williams?
HEYWARD: Theoretically, yes, although, from what I understand, there's a great deal of sentiment inside the company, including at very high levels, that in some ways hope that doesn't happen. I think there's a lot of goodwill towards Brian.
And I don't think by any means this is a way to just usher him out the door with a six-month delay on when the lock clicks. I think there's actually going to be a good-faith effort to see how deeply the inquiry goes and see what happens next.
And you guys have made a big point of his not commenting. I'm sure he's not been allowed to comment. He would love to. I'm sure he's going through hell.
BERNSTEIN: I was very struck by the setup piece there, because nine-tenths -- don't hold me to nine-tenths, whatever the percentage was, was about ratings.
It's about an institutional failure to get the ratings. And it's about money. And we ought to talk a little bit, I think, about money driving news values and determining -- look, the morning shows are more important than those three evening newscasts. Those three evening newscasts are 22-and-a-half minutes. How much of those 22- and-a-half is really news?
HEYWARD: Yes, 17 or 18.
BERNSTEIN: And how much of the 17 or 18 is real news?
HEYWARD: Well, again, I thought, frankly, Carl, you're a friend, but I thought you were unfair in saying they are not in the news business. They are.
BERNSTEIN: I misspoke. They are still in the news business.
HEYWARD: I think the evening newscasts actually are remarkable for the degree to which they continue to cover serious topics, given the sea of trivialization and tabloidization of television around them.
But, yes, it's a small hole. I think we underestimate their importance. Not only is the collective audience still between 20 million and 25 million a night. They are -- as you pointed out, they carry the brand still, the news brand, to a large degree.
STELTER: They do.
HEYWARD: And also the revenues, while they are not terribly profitable, that's because a lot of the revenue actually supports the news gathering infrastructure that the networks depend on.
They are still very important. Listen, it's -- one of the ironies of this whole affair has been, well, the evening newscasts aren't what they used to be, and yet there's this giant outcry when one of the anchor people...
STELTER: I'm glad you said that. I have been feeling the same way.
I have got to fit in a break here.
But, Andrew, thank you for being here.
BERNSTEIN: Can I ask Andrew one very quick question?
STELTER: They are going to give me the wrap.
STELTER: But I do want to get to a little bit more of that in a moment, because Jon Stewart, we have all been talking about that, too, Jon Stewart stepping down from the anchor desk of "The Daily Show," which leaves me to wonder, who is going after FOX News and CNN now? And what's next for the so-called fake newsman? That's next.
STELTER: Jon Stewart's announcement that he was leaving "The Daily Show" later this year drew so much sadness from his fans, he wondered the next day, "Did I die?"
The comedian's loyal followers were positively heartbroken, they really were, about his upcoming departure. But probably nobody was happier than those his favorite targets, cable news networks, like here at CNN, but especially FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I wonder what is going on at that other network that doesn't suspend or fire their employees for backing political candidates, but instead goes ahead and hires the actual candidates, thus cutting out the middleman?
These people are putting their lives on the line for us. Show respect, so (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you and all your false patriotism.
What we were ridiculing was the way you exaggerate the scope of public assistance abuse through random, often unprovable anecdotes, hour-long specials and for some reason this hand bursting through the heart of America. (LAUGHTER)
STEWART: I simply would like to know, as an honest and balanced newsperson, when you're going to pull your Stalinist head out of your Leninist ass and listen to real Americans.
Health care bill includes death panels. Oh, that was PolitiFact's 2009 Lie of the Year. FOX News is like a lying dynasty. Oh, my gosh, FOX has been outsourcing even their (EXPLETIVE DELETED) manufacturing jobs. This is crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Without anything as popular as FOX on the left, "The Daily Show" really filled in sometimes. In some ways, it was the counterweight to FOX News, which leaves me wondering who, if anyone, might step up and replace him?
Well, joining me now, political comedian and host of "Tell Me Everything" on SiriusXM Radio, John Fugelsang. And Carl Bernstein is also with us.
Carl, earlier in the show, you said you think there's more real news on Jon Stewart's show than on the newscasts. Who would you nominate to replace him?
BERNSTEIN: I don't know. I'm not in the...
STELTER: Maybe Brian Williams?
BERNSTEIN: It's been suggested.
STELTER: I think this guy here. I think Mr. Fugelsang.
STELTER: But what do you think? Do you think I'm on to something here, that we needed "The Daily Show" to hold FOX News accountable?
JOHN FUGELSANG, SIRIUSXM RADIO: Absolutely.
We need the regular media to hold FOX News accountable, in my opinion. I don't know why CNN doesn't go after them more.
BERNSTEIN: How about holding CNN...
BERNSTEIN: The idea that Jon Stewart did only liberal-oriented stuff is wrong.
FUGELSANG: It is wrong. However...
BERNSTEIN: And he went after left, he went after political correctness.
FUGELSANG: But I would submit to you, Carl, that is liberal. Liberal is not defending the Democratic Party. It's going after all sides.
FUGELSANG: And CNN, very often, the networks. He was hitting all around the infield and the outfield.
STELTER: I thought there were times where he took cheap shots at CNN. But there were a lot of times where I found myself agreeing with him, and I think some of the bosses here did, too. That was the genius of Jon Stewart. He was a media critic.
FUGELSANG: Yes. And it's not that there's a liberal counterweight to FOX. Jon didn't go for liberals on the show. Liberals already get their news from a variety of sources.
He went for the millions of Americans who identify with liberal positions, but choose to not identify themselves as liberal.
A 2007 Gallup poll showed that 77 percent of Americans support abortion rights in all or some cases, but only 43 percent want to call themselves pro-choice. And it's much the same with liberals in our society. The FOX News definition of the word has overtaken the dictionary definition of the word.
So, what Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" did, along with Colbert, along with Maher, along with Wilmore, was reach out to those people who aren't necessarily news junkies, but who do agree with progressive taxation, with marriage equality, with not locking people up for smoking marijuana, and use entertainment first, preachiness last to make it a fun show. And that's the way you beat FOX News.
BERNSTEIN: Well, also, it went to young people. And that's another thing we haven't talked about. The demographic of the news divisions, particularly the evening news, is way up there with people my age and a little younger. And the demographic of Comedy Central is much lower, where the networks would like to be.
FUGELSANG: Billy Wilder said if you're going to tell people the truth, make it funny or they will kill you.
That's a good arbiter for what political comedy is supposed to be. You have to be attacking up. You have to be attacking those in power, and ridicule is a powerful tool of satirists to take on those in power. And again this is not defending the Democratic Party.
To their credit, they went after Democrats almost as much as after Republicans, when they deserved it at least. And so that's in a sense why it's really going to be missed. If they hire someone who is just a great joke teller, it will still be a funny show. It will lose its social relevance. I want to see them still be a media watchdog, as well as a
watchdog of the two-party system.
STELTER: Me too.
BERNSTEIN: We also need to look though at the reportorial manner of Jon Stewart, of finding, going back to the clips, and say, look what Cheney said on December 31 that you, the mainstream media, forgot.
There was a great journalist named I.F. Stone who was shut out because he was a left-wing guy in the '50s and the '60s. And what he did is, he found things in print that the rest of us had totally glossed over. He knew what real news was.
Bill Maher, again, Bill Maher is just as quick to go after Islamic terrorism and criticize the networks, for instance, for not using the term. So, it's not just about being politically correct. These guys have a function that's reportorial and keeping us to hopefully going more where we belong reportorially.
FUGELSANG: We're in an age where we trade information for access.
And all too often, in some media outlets, they don't want to ask the tough questions because they are afraid of losing the booking. By being a comedy show first, you can take those on because you care about the truth and getting laugh more than getting the return booking. And that's why the show had so much power. That's why they were fearless.
STELTER: He did have a lot of power. We will see when he leaves, I think maybe sometime this summer, maybe the fall.
John, Carl, thank you both for being here this morning.
STELTER: Been a great discussion.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
STELTER: When we come back, frankly something I have been dreading here, a discussion with Anthony Bourdain about the life of a man who influenced both of us and influenced the whole profession -- what we learned from David Carr after this.
STELTER: David Carr was the editor of "The New York Times." That's what the actual editor of "The Times," Dean Baquet" said this week.
In title, David was the newspaper's Monday media columnist. But he was so much more than that. He was an ambassador for "The Times." He was the embodiment of its values. And beyond just "The Times," he was a cheerleader for good journalism and a coach for young people and the announcer in the booth somehow able to explain every play and decipher what is happening to the media industry.
I was so lucky to have him as a coach. Jake Tapper was lucky to have him as a coach, too. And Jake said it so well on Friday. He said, David was a one-person journalism school.
Allow me to speak from the heart for a moment. My dad died 14 years ago this week. And since then, since then, David had been the closest thing I have had to a dad. Here we are with our wives -- let me put the picture on screen -- at our wedding, my wedding last year.
David was so much fun at a party. He stayed until the very end. He was more fun sober than the rest of us were drunk.
And now here's the part I haven't wanted to say. David died on Thursday at the age of 58, after collapsing in the newsroom at "The Times."
And I'm angry, not at David. I'm angry at whatever took him from us, lung cancer, apparently. I'm angry because he had so much more to tell us. He had so much more to teach us. He wasn't perfect, and he would be the first to say so. And, somehow, that made him all the more perfect.
I want to tell you what he taught me, because, at "The Times," he taught me to report with curiosity, to make phone calls, and to keep calling, and to be prepared for those calls to change my mind. And he taught me to write with every muscle in my body, to pour it out onto the page, to write with confidence, to live with confidence and with joy and with humor and with passion and with heart.
With David's columns, explaining the media revolution, you could be a media mogul or just a 21-year-old kid just trying to get your first big break. No matter who you were, you knew you weren't alone.
We needed him. I needed him.
And, earlier, another friend of David's was here, CNN's Anthony Bourdain.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, "PARTS UNKNOWN": David interviewed me many years back.
We bonded right away, I think. We both made it through drug addiction. So there was that shared experience right away. And I think that's a part of what made David special also. Here's a guy who had -- really, as a journalist, had to be a professional cynic who had...
STELTER: Right. Right. BOURDAIN: ... was fully aware of how ugly life can be and how
ugly his own behavior could be, who looked into the abyss, and yet who still believed in things, who really ferociously believed in things, and as -- there are many examples of this -- would leap to the defense of those things that he believed in.
STELTER: Such an optimist, really.
BOURDAIN: And I think that's why he was such an inspiring figure to so many people, one of the reasons.
It's that, in spite of everything, this was a guy who still believed in things, who was such a ferocious advocate for the things that he felt mattered. And one of the things that he felt mattered was the real importance of words properly used and print journalism.
STELTER: He loved "The New York Times" more than anybody I know.
STELTER: Let me play a sound bite from the documentary that he and I were in a few years ago called "Page One."
This was taped toward the end of the documentary's production, because he had started making a joke about me as this young kid at "The New York Times." And here's -- here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CARR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Can't get over the feeling that Brian Stelter was a robot assembled to destroy me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I mean, if I was a robot, I failed. Not only did he -- he grew stronger really over time. I feel like he grew from the young people he surrounded himself with and who he mentored and learned from us the way we learned from him. And that's something you don't always see in newspaper newsrooms.
BOURDAIN: Here was a guy -- coming from anyone else, that kind of ringing defense of print journalism in general and "The Times" in particular might seem quaint.
But, from David Carr, it was absolutely convincing. He could single-handedly reinvigorate and re-inspire, I think, even the most cynical person. And you -- and it was just a pleasure being around him. It was just -- you really kind of just -- I'm sorry. Words fail me.
STELTER: They have been failing me ever since Thursday night.
And I -- I guess I just wonder -- I find myself wondering what we can all learn from him as a storyteller. Is there -- do you think there's a takeaway for all of us from him?
BOURDAIN: That there are things worth believing in, and that words really do matter, that there's stuff still worth believing in, maybe even that there's real good and evil in this world.
STELTER: But he was helping to guide us all throughout this turbulent time. And I just don't know what we're going to do without him.
But thanks for talking with me this morning.
BOURDAIN: Thank you. I'm honored.
STELTER: I will carry a piece of David with me for the rest of my life.
And we will be right back.
STELTER: Tonight, "60 Minutes" will broadcast Bob Simon's final story. It shouldn't be his last. He was actually working on several this winter.
But it is because he died in a car accident on Wednesday night. He produced the story with his daughter Tanya. Bob was the best writer in television news.
So, instead of words, we end here with silence.