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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
New Questions About Bill O'Reilly's Credibility; Fox vs. All Other Media?; Al Sharpton, Comcast and Time Warner Cable Faces $20 Billion Lawsuit Over Alleged Racial Discrimination; The Dress Debate That Buzzfeed Created; Fighter Over Net Neutrality May Not Be Over Despite New Rules
Aired March 1, 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.
We have a big show in store for you today, beginning with new questions for the biggest star on all of cable news, Bill O'Reilly. And they are questions about his reliability.
This week, it sure seems like every time you turned around there was a new story about the FOX News host exaggerating his reporting credentials. We talked about one them here on the program last week. That was about O'Reilly calling Argentina a "war zone" in 1982, when, in fact, the war was 1,000 miles out to sea.
And since then there have been a bunch more. One is about nuns. The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters, a longtime O'Reilly foe, claims that he lied when he said: "He saw nuns get shot in the back of the head while covering a conflict in El Salvador in 1981. O'Reilly clarified that he saw images of the nuns who had been shot." Got it? OK.
So later in the week, FOX News relayed the same defense when The Washington Post questioned an O'Reilly claim about Northern Ireland. O'Reilly said in a book that he had seen: "Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs." A spokesman now says O'Reilly only saw photos of the bombings.
So The Post focused on that one, while the Guardian newspaper zeroed in on a different O'Reilly claim. That was one when he was back working for "Inside Edition," covering the LA. riots.
Here's the Guardian story. It says that his crew was "attacked by protesters." Well, a lot of other staffers say that's not quite true and that it sounds like an overstatement.
So there were all of those claims this week. And we're going to explore FOX's responses and whether any of this really matters for O'Reilly at all. His ratings are up quite a bit this week.
But first, let's hone in on one other O'Reilly story. This one is about his time in Dallas as a young reporter in the late 1970s. He was working on a story about the investigation into JFK's assassination. And he was trying to track down a former friend of Lee Harvey Oswald.
The man's name was George de Mohrenschmidt (sic). Now here's -- I think I'm getting that wrong. We'll check it. Now here is what he wrote about it in his best-selling book "Killing Kennedy." This is from page 300.
It says: "The reporter traced him to Palm Beach, Florida, and traveled there to confront him. As the reported knocked on the door of the daughter's home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood."
By the way, that reporter's name is Bill O'Reilly. So that's what O'Reilly wrote in the book, plain and simple right there. O'Reilly says he was outside the guy's house in Florida when he heard the fatal gunshot.
And he said basically the same thing on FOX News while promoting his book. But O'Reilly wasn't there. Remarkably there's an audiotape from that very day of a phone call between O'Reilly and an investigator named Gaeton Fonzi.
Fonzi's widow let CNN hear the tape. And it speaks for itself. So listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Hi, Gaeton, Bill O'Reilly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'REILLY: Something definitely did happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I got it.
O'REILLY: What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He committed suicide up here in where I was trying to locate him.
O'REILLY: OK. Where is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a place called Manalapan, M-A-N-A-L-A-P-A-N, Palm Beach County.
O'REILLY: OK. So he committed suicide, he's dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'REILLY: OK. What time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Late this afternoon, I don't know.
O'REILLY: OK. Gun?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- yes, I think he shot himself.
O'REILLY: OK. Yes, Jesus Christ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't that something? Jesus.
O'REILLY: We've got to get this guy (INAUDIBLE). I'm coming down there tomorrow. I'm coming to Florida. We've got to get this guy. He knows. He knows what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm going to be up there probably trying to secure the papers.
O'REILLY: Yes, OK. All right. I'm going to get in there tomorrow. I'm going to get a car. Is there a number -- will you leave a number at your house where I can reach you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only way, call the magazine.
O'REILLY: OK. OK. Now, I'm going to try to get a night flight out of here if I can. But I might have to go tomorrow morning. Let me see.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STELTER: So it seems pretty clear, O'Reilly says there, I'm coming to Florida. But in his book he says he was already there. So how does he explain this? Well, he hasn't. At least not yet.
I checked in with FOX News this morning. They referred me to the publisher of the book, which has said repeatedly for the past few days that they stand by O'Reilly.
So credit goes to the man who first pointed this out two years ago. And he's here with me in New York this morning. His name is Jefferson Morley. And he's author-editor of JFKFacts.org.
Thanks for being here.
JEFFERSON MORLEY, AUTHOR & EDITOR, JFKFACTS.ORG: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: So I butchered George's name. Who is George? Tell about the characters in this story.
MORLEY: George de Mohrenschildt was a raconteur, a bon vivant, an international traveler who lived in Dallas, and was introduced to Lee and Marina Oswald because he had lived in Minsk as a child, and the Oswalds had lived -- had just come from Minsk.
So he thought they would be interesting. And de Mohrenschildt and Oswald became friends for a few months in the late 1962/early 1963.
STELTER: When he killed himself it was a significant story. And O'Reilly has said he was there. Clearly this tape shows he was not there. You found this tape a couple years ago. You received it from the family. And you contacted FOX about it?
STELTER: And what happened?
MORLEY: No answer.
STELTER: So you -- basically they ignored it.
MORLEY: Yes. I mean, when I read the book, I thought, that doesn't sound right. I knew other reporters had been there. And I checked the books. And then I checked Gaeton Fonzi's book, and he said the story that's on the tape, that he had received a phone call from O'Reilly that night.
So then I had a guy, you know, who wrote a book 20 years ago, versus Bill O'Reilly. I just didn't think it was a story. Then I met Marie Fonzi, and she said, can you believe what Bill O'Reilly wrote in his book? And I said, yes, that's not right, is it?
She said, I know it's not right. Gaeton has the tape. And I said, Gaeton has the tape? She said, yes, Gaeton taped all his conversations. I have a tape of that conversation. That's when I did the story.
STELTER: Right. So you published kind of a lower quality version of recording. We were able to get this higher quality version so we make sure we hear the words correctly. It's pretty clear, he says he is going to come to Florida, which indicates he wasn't there at the time.
Do you think this matters that much, though, for Bill O'Reilly?
MORLEY: You know, he's an entertainer. He's popular because of his point of view. But a lot of people listen to him. And a lot of people take what he's saying on faith. And I think especially on something like this, Bill O'Reilly did not hear a gunshot from 1,200 miles away, you know? He made this story up.
STELTER: Well, it makes you wonder whether the editor of the book, the publisher of the book questioned it and brought it up with him at the time.
MORLEY: You know, I don't think there's fact-checking done on a lot of books these days, you know? And so, I mean, it's an important story also because the JFK story is important. People care about it. People are interested in it.
You know, George de Mohrenschildt's memoir was just published this year. So, you know, people care about this story.
STELTER: Facts do matter, especially in this story.
MORLEY: Yes. And that's why we did it. We're not out to get Bill O'Reilly. On JFKFacts, we have left wing, right wing, libertarian, moderate. Partisan politics don't divide us. We don't have a mission to get Bill O'Reilly. Our mission is to sort out bad information from good when it comes to
the Kennedy Assassination. He's not a reliable narrator based on the Kennedy assassination based on this -- on this story that he made up.
STELTER: I think what you said is really important. It's about the fact that he may be an entertainer, but he says he's a journalist. And he commits acts of journalism all the time. People take what he says and they believe it.
And I think maybe the bigger, broader issue of this whole controversy that has gone on for like 10 days now, people questioning O'Reilly's past stories, is that we have to apply the same critical thinking skills we apply to everything else to Bill O'Reilly.
You can't watch O'Reilly's show and just turn off your brain and then turn it back on when every other show is on. We have to have critical thinking skills that are applied equally across the board.
MORLEY: Right. And this business that FOX is trying to put out now that this is people ganging up on Bill O'Reilly, you know, nobody is ganging up on Bill O'Reilly. We wanted the story, you know, and people...
STELTER: Why do you think he hasn't responded to this specific claim?
MORLEY: Because this isn't Morley saying, oh, O'Reilly said, you know, something wrong. This is Bill O'Reilly saying, I wasn't there.
STELTER: Right. He's on the tape.
MORLEY: Yes. So it's not -- this isn't a point of view. Now he could come and say, he's not the person making that phone call or whatever, you know, that's why he's not talking about it, because this isn't between me and him. This is between him and himself.
STELTER: Jefferson, thanks for being here.
MORLEY: Thank you.
STELTER: Appreciate your help.
You know, Jefferson has not been the target of O'Reilly's wrath yet, but I say the word "yet" for a reason, because the FOX host has gone on the attack against others who are questioning his credibility, like me, and like the reporter who first scrutinized O'Reilly's Falkland story, Mother Jones editor David Corn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: An irresponsible guttersnipe, a far left zealot who has attacked FOX News many times before, spit the stuff out on the net. And you know what, nothing is going to happen to David Corn. Mother Jones and the far left Web sites couldn't care less about the truth. They are in the business to injure. This is a political hit job.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: O'Reilly also called Corn a piece of garbage who should be
in the "kill zone."
And earlier this week when New York Times reporter Emily Steel talked to O'Reilly on the phone covering this controversy, this happened. O'Reilly told Steel that there would be repercussions if he felt any of her coverage was inappropriate. Quote: "'I am coming after you with everything I have,' Mr. O'Reilly said, 'you can take it as a threat'."
Steel declined to be here this morning. She's letting her story speak for itself. But there's a history of this kind of behavior. And I think you at home should know about it, because FOX is unique, and O'Reilly is unique.
Amanda Terkel knows about it because O'Reilly's show ambushed her back in 2009 after she published a critical blog post about the host. She is now a senior political reporter for the Huffington Post, and she is with me from Washington.
Amanda, good morning.
AMANDA TERKEL, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, HUFFINGTON POST: Good morning.
STELTER: So a lot of tension this week around O'Reilly's supposed threats to reporters. You experienced it many years ago and you came away feeling you were ambushed?
TERKEL: Oh, absolutely. So I had written a critical post about Bill O'Reilly regarding some comments he made about a woman who had been raped. He seemed to place the blame for the rape in part on her.
And about three weeks later when I was on a weekend vacation in Virginia, a couple of hours outside of Washington , D.C., I saw two men with a FOX News camera run at me across the street as I was leaving my hotel, and started asking me why I was hurting rape victims and causing so much pain and suffering.
Bill O'Reilly had never reached out to me. And so this was a complete surprise when I was on vacation.
STELTER: Let's go ahead and play part of that clip. It's from 2009 on "The O'Reilly Factor."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE O'REILLY FACTOR")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wrote a blog about Bill O'Reilly going to speak for this rape function, this charity group. And you attacked him personally and you attacked the foundation. And you brought a lot of pain and suffering to this group. What's your reaction?
TERKEL: What I remember was writing was highlighting a comment that Bill O'Reilly had said, and that's what I remember doing. I don't remember attacking the foundation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Is the trick here, Amanda, to put someone on the defense?
TERKEL: Yes. I mean, if Bill O'Reilly really wanted a statement from me, if he wanted to have a discussion, he would have reached out to me first to get a comment or to have me on his show. He said he did that but he never did that.
What he wanted, because I wasn't the first ambush victim, is he wants to make you look stupid. You're caught off-guard. He went to people -- he sent his producers to ambush people while they are out getting the mail, getting out of their cars.
This is when people are not at the top of their game, they're not thinking about work necessarily. The producers cut up the clips, take your quotes out of context, and it's made to -- it's meant to make you look silly.
STELTER: On the bottom of this screen during the segment about you, it said "far left blogger." Now I don't think anyone would mistake you for a far right blogger, but do you think, Amanda, there's an attempt to delegitimatize anyone who is not on the same quote-unquote "team" as Bill O'Reilly and FOX?
TERKEL: Yes, Bill O'Reilly's whole thing is he's a "culture warrior." He has his "pinheads and patriots." And in many ways these things help Bill O'Reilly's image. He is out there fighting the good fight against all of these pinheads. He is fighting the culture wars and he is going after people on the far left or just people who he disagrees with.
Now it's important to note too I didn't tell anyone where I'm going that week. And I didn't say, I'm going exactly to this hotel. I didn't really broadcast it to all my friends.
And so FOX News has never answered my inquiries about how Bill O'Reilly's producers found me. But in retrospect, we remember a car following us. And you're not paranoid usually at the time that this car is following us.
So what we -- our best guess is he found my home address and followed us for a couple of hours until I came out of my hotel, which is pretty unsettling, because at the time I lived alone. And you just realize how vulnerable you can be.
STELTER: Let me show the statement that FOX News put out earlier this week, and they reiterated to me again this morning. This is sort of their blanket response now to any new questions about O'Reilly.
It says: "Bill O'Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him. This is nothing more than an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates Mother Jones and Media Matters responding to the unproven accusation du jour, has become an exercise in futility. FOX News maintains its staunch support of O'Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts."
So, Amanda, since you've experienced this firsthand, how would you translate that statement from FOX?
TERKEL: Well, I think like you said earlier, FOX News is standing behind him. This is all part of the conspiracy against Bill O'Reilly. And this is helping him. He -- Bill O'Reilly does best when he's going to war with someone. And right now it's basically him versus the rest of the media, whether its Mother Jones or The New York Times or just other pinhead journalists.
And so Bill O'Reilly is there. He is making sure that all of these far left journalists or bloggers or whatever aren't going after -- you know, sort of taking down the America he loves so much.
And so I think FOX News right now likes a lot of the attention Bill O'Reilly is getting.
STELTER: Well, Amanda, I don't think you sound like a pinhead, but I appreciate you being here and trying to break it down for us. Thank you.
TERKEL: Great. Thank you.
STELTER: Now another person who knows what it's like to be on the wrong side of O'Reilly is Senator Al Franken. And when I interviewed him earlier about net neutrality, I had to ask to him about the man he once called "Bill O'Liely."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Before you became a senator, you were one of Bill O'Reilly's nemeses; I suppose that's the right word. And now you know there's this controversy around his reporting claims in the past. It's the biggest story I'm covering today. So I have to ask you, do you think Bill O'Reilly has been embellishing reporting of his past?
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: You know, I really haven't been following this. It wouldn't surprise me. But I haven't been following this controversy.
STELTER: You say it wouldn't surprise you. Is that because you wrote the book 10 years ago or, what, 12 years ago at this point, you know, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them"? I mean, O'Reilly was on the cover back then. And they tried to take you to court because you wanted to use the phrase "fair and balanced."
FRANKEN: Yes, that was basically just a misunderstanding. I guess the misunderstanding was that they didn't -- FOX didn't understand that satire was protected speech even if the object of the satire didn't get it.
STELTER: Well, even last week O'Reilly called you "perhaps the biggest liar I've ever known."
STELTER: So what is it like to be on the receiving end of O'Reilly attacks?
FRANKEN: You know what, it just -- it doesn't register. We have a lot of very important business before us in the United States Senate. We're trying to fund the Department of Homeland Security. That's the kind of stuff I need to focus on and do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: What a diplomatic response from Senator Franken there. Well, I'll have more from Senator Franken later in the hour. Plus the creator of "House of Cards," the editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed, and the TV producer who is suing Comcast and Al Sharpton for $20 billion. All of them are coming up this hour.
We're also going to stay on this FOX News story because my next guest says the revelations about O'Reilly are actually making FOX stronger, and that this all requires a whole new understanding of media. You've got to hear what he means right after this.
STELTER: NBC's Brian Williams and FOX's Bill O'Reilly, they are both TV news stars, and they are both being scrutinized for exaggerating stories, puffing themselves up, placing themselves in the center of world events.
But there are big differences between the two. For one thing, most of the O'Reilly claims are decades old, from a time when he was a beat reporter. And here is the biggest difference of all, how NBC and FOX have handled controversies.
Williams, as we all know, apologized and was suspended. He's on the bench for another five-and-a-half months. O'Reilly is still on the air and FOX is staunchly defending him.
Why? Well, you might say it's because FOX News plays by different rules, because it doesn't see itself as a part of the mainstream media. Now you might say, well, it's a cable news channel, clearly it's part of the media.
But folks at FOX would beg to differ. FOX portrays itself as the outsider, the real truth-teller, the antidote to the biased mainstream media. FOX portrays itself as the anti-media.
So here to explore that a little bit more is Jay Rosen, a media critic and professor of journalism at NYU.
Thanks for coming in.
JAY ROSEN, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Thanks. It's great to be on with a far left guy like you, Brian.
STELTER: A "far left zealot," I think, is the phrase Bill O'Reilly has used. And we should get into why he does that and why he tries to tar people like that, and whether it should even be tarring to try to say someone is on the left or the right. You know, one of the concerns I think about this story in the last
nine or 10 days, it doesn't seem like there's an honest broker that O'Reilly would look at and say, OK, you are right, you're calling me out and it's fair.
He doesn't think any of the coverage is fair, whether it's in The Washington Post or CNN or elsewhere.
ROSEN: Mm-hmm. Well, I think the reason for that is that FOX News styles itself as news for people who don't believe the rest of the news media. And that formula requires a kind of constant tension or even a state of war between FOX and the others who are trying to report on FOX.
STELTER: And it's important for us to understand that, isn't it? Because, among other things, that's a business calculation. When O'Reilly says you can't trust the media, he's also saying you've got to only watch FOX and stay tuned to FOX.
ROSEN: Yes. It's a business media -- a business decision. It's a programming strategy. It's also a cultural strategy because it appeals to people who wanted to yell at their television set all those years before they discovered that FOX News could do the yelling for them.
And I think that's why you see such a difference in response between mainstream media like NBC and FOX, is the whole idea of FOX is, trust us, they can't be trusted.
STELTER: And we saw this week some people asking, why isn't FOX having an investigation the way NBC is continuing to have an investigation into Brian Williams? I wonder if that's a category error, though, to equate Brian Williams and Bill O'Reilly. They are in two different ponds, two different oceans.
ROSEN: Yes, I think -- well, first of all, FOX is niche programming. It's for a group of people who are alienated from the rest of the news media. It's also wedge programming.
In wedge politics, the idea is to divide the audience, and grab hold of the part that agrees with you. And so it require this constant state of battle and warfare with the mainstream.
I think also we have to keep in mind that for NBC, even though its audience is smaller than decades past, it's still trying to appeal to everyone. It's trying to be a consensus view of the world. And FOX is not trying to do that.
It's trying to gain intense loyalty among a segment of the audience.
STELTER: Let me read from "USA Today's" editorial this week. I thought it was notable, this newspaper, not a far left newspaper, came out with this editorial that said: "FOX should distance itself from its truth-challenged employee."
Distance itself. "But that's not likely to happen. Having common enemies matters more than factual detail. That's why FOX has left a canyon-wide gap between its standards and those of NBC."
That's exactly what you're saying as well. So I just wonder, is there any chance they would distance themselves from O'Reilly?
ROSEN: Not at the moment. I mean, I think people often advise me to see O'Reilly as an entertainer, but I think it's more accurate to say he's a kind of performance artist. And his...
STELTER: Performance artist.
ROSEN: Yes. And his medium is television. The genre is resentment news. And what makes it go is his performance every night in shooting down liberals and expressing the anger and resentment that a certain portion of the country feels towards another portion of the country.
And since his aim is so true in that he hits that chord, his stories don't have to be true.
STELTER: Meanwhile O'Reilly back at work tomorrow, but Keith Olbermann has been suspended for a few days. He's going to be back tomorrow but he was suspended all week due to some tweets he posted about Penn State students.
There's the famous rivalry between the two of them. Let me just show what Olbermann said. It was kind of a long-ish story about a back and forth. But the gist is that Olbermann called PSU students ""pitiful" and then sent this tweet.
"I'd like to thank the students and alums of Penn State for proving my point about mediocrity of their education and ethics."
ESPN said that was completely inappropriate. He apologized. He returns to ESPN tomorrow.
Are -- in some ways are these two guys kind of peas in a pod, Olbermann and O'Reilly?
ROSEN: Yes. Except that even at ESPN, if you divide the audience, if you offend a portion of the audience, that's a problem. At FOX News, if you divide the audience and offend a portion of it, that's not a problem, that's a programming strategy.
STELTER: A programming strategy. Well, Jay, thanks for being here. Great talking with you
ROSEN: My pleasure.
STELTER: Appreciate the time.
There was yet another media personality in the news this week. And that's Al Sharpton. A new lawsuit claims his deal with MSNBC's parent company is preventing other African-American entertainment companies from getting any business.
The entertainer-turned-businessman behind the suit will join me next.
STELTER: He's a host on MSNBC, and one of America's most prominent outspoken civil rights activists. And now Al Sharpton, along with Comcast and Time Warner Cable, are facing a $20 billion lawsuit over alleged racial discrimination against black-owned media companies.
Now, in the complaint, Byron Allen, a comedian, TV presenter, and CEO of Entertainment Studios, alleges that Comcast gave Al Sharpton that 6:00 p.m. show on MSNBC, for which he's been paid approximately $750,000 per year, despite notoriously low ratings and in exchange for his continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity.
Now, it all sounds kind of convoluted. And I want to get to the bottom of it.
So, joining me now in Los Angeles is Byron Allen.
Thank you for being here this morning.
BYRON ALLEN, CEO, ENTERTAINMENT STUDIOS: Thank you, Brian, for having me.
STELTER: This case has been getting a lot of coverage this week. We have heard from Comcast. And I will read their comment in a minute.
But tell me the one-minute version of what you're alleging.
ALLEN: Real simple.
The cable industry, AT&T, DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner, they spend about $50 billion a year licensing cable networks and advertising, with less than $3 million per year going to 100 percent African- American-owned media.
Now, what they do is, they make token donations to people like Al Sharpton, the NAACP, the Urban League. And after taking those negotiations, they negotiated a fraudulent MOU that says this is OK for black people to live by.
What America needs to understand is that Al Sharpton does not speak for me. Al Sharpton does not speak for black people. It's like I ask people , who is the white person who speaks for you? It's racist to even believe that Al Sharpton is the go-to person.
Shame on you, Sony, for thinking, sit down with Al Sharpton and that negates your racist e-mails about President Obama. So, it's real simple. These token donations they make to him, as reported in "The New York Post," allows them to have racial cover.
This is why we're not getting enough advertising, or any advertising from McDonald's and Coca-Cola and Chrysler and General Motors and AT&T. They don't spend any money with African-American owned media.
Something that's very alarming, AT&T spent more money on Al Sharpton's lavish 60th birthday than they spent on "Ebony" magazine, the biggest African-American magazine in America, around 70 years, 10 million readers per month. AT&T spent only $30,000 on that magazine.
Wal-Mart has given money to Al Sharpton. Wal-Mart doesn't spend any money in "Ebony" magazine, and they barely do business with me in a long-term partnership. And I'm constantly going back and forth with Wal-Mart and Chrysler as well. So he is the least expensive Negro. Don't really do business with the real African-American-owned companies.
STELTER: Now, you know how inflammatory something like that sounds. When you say that about Al Sharpton, are you saying he's shaking down these companies?
ALLEN: The numbers -- the numbers are actual.
The numbers are -- just follow the money. Don't do business with real African-American-owned companies. Just make a token -- give him $50,000 and a bucket of chicken, and we're good. We won't have any problems with real African-American-owned media.
You should not be -- Chrysler, you shouldn't be giving him money and not spending money with me and others like me and Stevie Wonder's radio station here in Los Angeles.
STELTER: So, you are saying it's a shakedown, but aren't you trying to shake them down the same way, by filing this lawsuit, which you --
ALLEN: No, no, no.
Look, Brian, let's define a shakedown. He doesn't give anything in return. I am a legitimate businessman. I am one of the largest independent producers of television and media in the world. I have 36 television shows on the air and seven 24-hour H.D. networks. They are not letting us participate in the $50 billion that they spend on licensing and advertising.
There's a very big difference. He's the shakedown. I'm the legitimate entrepreneur. We have to make sure that --
STELTER: And we're showing some of your programs now.
But let me read Comcast's response, because I think it's really important to hear their side here.
STELTER: They say: "This complaint represents nothing more than a string of inflammatory, inaccurate and unsupported allegations. We're proud of our outstanding record supporting and fostering diverse programming."
They went on to say, "We will defend rigorously against the scurrilous accusations -- allegations in this complaint, and we fully expect that the court will dismiss them."
Now, Sharpton has not commented on the record.
Do you have a question for him or a thing you would like him to address about this?
ALLEN: No. Al Sharpton is not that -- he's not important. He's nothing more than a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game.
He's being used by his white masters at Comcast and AT&T. He just needs to shut up and get in the bleachers. What we have to do is get there -- get these corporations to understand, you must include African-American-owned media. We have to stop the financial genocide against the black community.
STELTER: But that's different from Al Sharpton.
STELTER: You understand how offensive this all sounds to someone like Al Sharpton.
ALLEN: Well, I'm not worried about his feelings. I'm more focused on getting corporate America to understand it's time to do business with us.
And President Obama -- President Obama has been bought and paid for. He has taken donations from Comcast. Comcast is his biggest contributor. AT&T is one of his biggest contributors.
Listen, Obama, your own FTC is investigating AT&T for throttling. How can you even consider them to buy DirecTV, when you're suing them? Is it because you took donations? Yes, Obama. Don't even think about letting them merge until they settle this lawsuit and that lawsuit. Comcast got caught --
STELTER: It sounds to me like your main issues here are about the mergers, Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV.
ALLEN: No, Brian, let me be clear.
My main issue is about economic inclusion for African-Americans. Comcast deployed software that slowed down video over the Web in 2008. They broke federal laws. That's like me robbing a bank and then, after I get out on probation, saying I want to be president of the bank.
Obama has to do more. I'm very proud of what Obama has done for the gay community. I'm very proud that he has achieved gay marriage. And if you can do that, you can achieve economic inclusion for all Americans, especially African-Americans, who have been left the furthest behind.
Obama, you bailed out the banks. The banks you bailed out don't even make commercial loans to African-Americans. Obama, you bailed out the car companies. Those car companies don't advertise with people like me and people like "Ebony" magazine. Obama controls close to $2 billion in advertising. Join the Army, join the Navy, join the Marines. We, as African-Americans, do not receive --
STELTER: It sounds like your issues are about media consolidation, yes. Yes.
ALLEN: My -- no, Brian, you're not hearing me. Brian, listen to me carefully. My concern is that African-American --
STELTER: I hear what you're saying. You're saying that they're not advertising with independently owned media. These are issues about media consolidation.
STELTER: But I understand that you're making these racial points about how they affect African-American communities and businesses.
ALLEN: It's not just about me.
STELTER: I do want viewers to know, we read the Comcast statement. And we'd like to hear from Sharpton as well on this, and hopefully we can in the future.
But, Mr. Allen, I do appreciate you being here this morning and telling us about the suit.
Obama, do the right thing.
STELTER: It's time for a quick break here.
But when we return, something a little lighter, this dress. You know what I'm talking about. The question of its color sent the Internet ablaze.
So, when we come back, the designer of this record-breaking debate is here. Don't go away.
STELTER: All right.
Let's face it. This dress needs no introduction. Thanks to BuzzFeed, the debate over the colors of the dress -- there it is -- blew up the Internet on Thursday night. White and gold or black and blue?
It's black and blue. In fact, I wore black and blue for the occasion today. Now, the dress debate was all in good fun. But it actually revealed
something pretty important about how our media works these days. Look at this stat from BuzzFeed. It says: "The dress post broke our traffic records tonight with more than 670,000 people on BuzzFeed.com simultaneously," 670,000 people. That's roughly how many people are watching this show right now.
Web sites can get that big nowadays all at the same time.
So, what media business lessons can we learn from the dress seen around the world?
So, Ben Smith is here to tell us. He's the editor in chief of BuzzFeed.
BEN SMITH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BUZZFEED: Thanks for having me on, Brian.
STELTER: So, I bring up that cable news analogy because, obviously, BuzzFeed gets tens of millions, over 100 million visitors a month. But to has all those people at once, it felt like you were doing saturation coverage, the way cable news does its stories.
SMITH: Yes, I do think there's sort of a broadcast quality to the Web, which has been true for a long time.
But there's a mass scale in which -- and I don't know. Is it the Web or is it real life, where I'm showing you my phone or I'm showing my kids my phone? I think that line sort of blurs.
STELTER: Right. We consider that the Internet, but it sounds like, in real life --
SMITH: But it's also a real world event with a physical object. And I think those things -- this was a moment of sort of seeing those things blur a bit.
STELTER: I was on a plane when this happened. It sounds funny to say that. But it did happen. It was a moment in time where it took over Twitter and Facebook.
SMITH: Least important, but most fun news --
STELTER: And other people on the plane were following along, too. And then we talked about it in real life as we were getting off the plane. So, it actually brings people together, I suppose?
SMITH: Yes, absolutely.
And I think that is something that is certainly part of the way we think about content, is what it does in the world. Does it connect people? Does it make people laugh? Does it inform them? And this clearly did sort of create this great conversation. STELTER: And 79 percent of the views of that main article were on
mobile devices. What does that mean about the future?
SMITH: I think it's the present, not the future.
But just -- it's certainly the way we think about our readers, is a person holding a phone.
STELTER: You wrote this in a blog post the next day.
You said: "What happened is the world has moved toward us. What might a few years ago have been a Web culture phenomenon is today just a cultural phenomenon. And the distinction between the two isn't really intelligible."
So, basically, you're saying the Internet is life. You can no longer segregate it as a separate part of the world.
SMITH: Yes, I think that's right, for better -- for better or for worse.
It just -- and I think mobile, and the fact that this very kind of intimate device is with you all the time, and the things you're reading and the things you're talking about are on it is to some degree what blurs on that line. It's not a thing you leave behind at work.
STELTER: The idea, if you get them in the house for the dress, then they will stay for your foreign affairs coverage? Is that the idea of BuzzFeed?
SMITH: It's part of the idea. But we really don't see ourselves as trying to bake spinach into the brownie.
We do great foreign affairs coverage for people who love that. And there's a big overlap between the people who are interested in the dress and that, but certainly not 100 percent.
STELTER: Well, Ben, thanks for being here today. Great to see you.
SMITH: Thanks for having me on.
Like I'm saying here, the dress really does illustrate the culture of the Internet. That's what we're saying.
And coming up, I want to tell you how the Internet might be like Social Security. Yes, there is a connection. And Senator Al Franken is next. We're talking about that and the war for net neutrality, a war that is far from over, despite these week's headlines. We will go behind the headlines next.
STELTER: John Oliver must be a pretty happy guy this morning. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER")
JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially, it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it. It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field. Startups can supplant established brands. That's how Facebook supplanted MySpace, which supplanted Friendster, which supplanted actually having any friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Oliver has a lot of friends.
His commentary last year about net neutrality helped generate millions of comments to the government regulatory agency known as the FCC. President Obama got behind the idea that broadband service should be regulated like a utility, with all the consumer protections that come along with that.
Now, a few months ago, President Obama spoke out and this week the Democrats in charge of the FCC agreed with the president, adopting a whole new set of rules to ensure just what Oliver said there, that all Web sites have to be treated equally, whether it's Netflix or some tiny startup that wants to challenge Netflix.
Opponents of the new rules say the government doesn't need to be involved. They are predicting years of court battles. For example, Comcast said it's going to have to reexamine its broadband investment plans because of the new regulations.
But supporters of the new rules say that's just empty bluster.
Earlier, I talked with Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota. And he immediately cautioned that the fight is not over.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Well, it was a big win for those of us who have been fighting to preserve net neutrality.
But we are going to have to stay vigilant on this.
STELTER: Our Internet didn't suddenly change on Thursday. We are still getting the same connections at home. Will we ever notice these rules go into effect and do you believe they will be upheld in court?
FRANKEN: I believe they will be upheld in court.
The fact of the matter is, this is about nothing changing. Net neutrality has been the architecture of the Internet from the very beginning. It's about all content on the Internet being treated the same. Over four million Americans submitted comments to the FCC, more than double the number of comments that have ever been submitted to the FCC on any other issue, vast, vast majority for continuing net neutrality, against this fast lane/slow lane paid prioritization.
STELTER: Are we at the point now where the Internet is like a third rail of American politics? It's like Social Security. You can't touch it because Americans care about it too much?
FRANKEN: I think we saw that here.
I think a lot of people were surprised by this overwhelming public opinion for preserving net neutrality. I think that there was an attempt to say, oh, this is too complicated. You just can't understand it. This is very arcane and technical. You will never understand it. People get it.
STELTER: When you hear Comcast talk about maybe reevaluating its investment plans for broadband, do you hear that as an empty threat, just bluster from Comcast, or is it possible that companies like Comcast and AT&T and Verizon are going to spend less to give us faster and better broadband at home all across the country?
FRANKEN: Well, no, I consider it bluster. That's a good word for that.
STELTER: Senator Franken, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.
FRANKEN: You bet.
STELTER: Need to take a quick break here, but, when we come back, is Frank Underwood really all that different than you or I? The creator of Netflix's "House of Cards" joins me in just a moment.
STELTER: Everything so often, a TV show comes and captures the public's imagination and becomes not just a show, but a full-blow phenomenon.
And "House of Cards" is one of them. Why? Look, it helps that the show is on Netflix, which is helping redefine the very definition of the word TV by streaming full season all at once. And it also helps that it has huge stars, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. And it helps that the show is about power, which might be why people like President Obama are said to be fans of the show.
In fact, maybe the president is binge-watching season three of "House of Cards" this very weekend, along with the rest of us.
Early, down at Bubby's restaurant in Tribeca, I met up with the show's creator, Beau Willimon, and he told me why he thinks journalists relate to the plot too.
STELTER: Does it ever weird you out that so many politicians like the show?
BEAU WILLIMON, CREATOR, "HOUSE OF CARDS": I think that it's cool that a lot of politicians like the show, because they themselves aren't necessarily murderers or quite as self-serving or power-hungry like Francis is.
And that they are able to take it with a grain of salt, because they know what it is to actually work day to day in Washington. I think most politicians actually are good people. And I think there's a certain vicarious enjoyment for those politicians to say, sometimes, I wish I could be like that, I could go to the lengths that he goes to. That would be liberating.
And I think that there's also this notion of, do the ends justify the means, which is something politicians confront all the time?
STELTER: Do any of the fans surprise you, any names that come to mind that are surprising to you?
WILLIMON: Well, the biggest surprise was when President Obama tweeted at the eve of season two launch that he's a fan of the show.
STELTER: Right, "Tomorrow, House of Cards, no spoilers."
WILLIMON: Yes, "no spoilers."
We wondered. Of course you are curious, has anyone in the White House watched it? And we weren't about to call up and say, hey, have you checked it out? It was very surprising and thrilling to think that this very powerful person was taking 13 hours out of his very busy schedule to watch what we had made.
STELTER: My sense from the first few episodes of the season is that this is not an easy situation for President Underwood.
WILLIMON: No, not at all.
At the end of season two, what do we know? That it was really tough to get there. There were a lot of casualties along the way, that he was part of an administration that was mired in scandal. And he doesn't see himself as evil. He sees himself in a world in which it's highly competitive, that is cutthroat, where it's hunt or be hunted.
And he feels he's got the best version of leadership to offer. I mean, for instance, as a journalist, right, journalists in the purest sense are truth-seekers. They have a desire, a hunger to find the truth and to share it with the rest of the world. But they also know the power of that truth. They know that it could lead to a Pulitzer. They know it could lead to a front-page byline.
You have to tap into this ambition that you have on the other end of the spectrum.
STELTER: And there's all -- a bit of Frank Underwood in all of us.
WILLIMON: Yes. And I think we are seeing the most extreme version of Frank Underwood in all of us. So often, we face odds that we think are insurmountable in our own lives. And it can be inspiring to see someone who goes, there are no odds that are too big to overcome.
STELTER: You can watch more of my interview on CNNMoney.com.
And finally this morning, a word about Dori Maynard, a powerful voice and advocate for diversity in journalism. For many years, she was the president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Dori died on Tuesday at the age of 56.
She wanted all of our newsrooms to be inclusive, representative, and treat all voices equally. And we dedicate today's program to her.
That's all for today's televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But check us out on CNN.com.