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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Has Stephanopoulos Recovered from Donations?; Interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS; Interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders; Fox to Limit GOP Debates to Top 10; All Six Officers Indicted in Freddie Gray Case. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 24, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:00:16] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Is FOX News actually bad for the GOP? A conservative heavyweight says it's guilty of self- brainwashing Republican voters.
And behind the scenes of the George Stephanopoulos donations controversy. Does the website that broke the news have more to come?
Plus, my in-depth interview with legendary CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, before he faces the nation one last time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Good morning. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter in Washington, with some special interviews this weekend.
And I'm starting with a question that matters enormously to ABC News. Has George Stephanopoulos recovered from his self-inflicted wound? That is, his donation to the Clinton Foundation.
This week, he resumed his usual coverage of the Clintons on "Good Morning America." Here he is interviewing ABC's Hillary campaign reporter on Wednesday.
But tabloid newspapers and commentators continue to skewer him for the $75,000 he donated in 2012, 2013, 2014. Yes, he apologized repeatedly and ABC says it supports him 100 percent. But there are other rumors that other ABC anchors like David Muir will be more involved in election coverage as a result of this donation controversy.
And an enterprising artist sought to keep people talking about Stephanopoulos by hanging these posters outside ABC headquarters. Pay Pal, they say, linking George and Hillary Clinton.
Now, they were taken down in a matter of hours, but not before the blogs noticed.
So, what are Stephanopoulos' rivals saying about the donations?
Check out what CBS' Bob Schieffer told me. Bob, of course, moderates "Face the Nation." So, he directly competes with George's Sunday show, "This Week." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Did you read about the Stephanopoulos donations and just smack your head and think, what was he thinking? It seemed like so many people in the news business reacted that way.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: You know, again, I just never comment on my competitors and what they do. I mean, that requires no comment from me. People will make up their minds what they think about that.
STELTER: Well, I think it requires comment from you because people wonder, is everybody doing it? Are you making donations to --
SCHIEFFER: No. I don't.
STELTER: I asked because it's pretty obvious people don't give to campaigns --
SCHIEFFER: I have never --
STELTER: -- but giving to a charity is different.
SCHIEFFER: I -- number one, I have never made a political donation to anybody. I've always felt one of the great things about being a reporter is you can say, hey, I don't do that. And the other part, I'll let people make up their minds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I spent some time with Schieffer as he gets ready to retire from "Face the Nation" and more of my interview is coming up.
But, first, the story you haven't heard about Stephanopoulos. No one would have found out about the donations at all if a startup conservative news Web site called "The Washington Free Beacon" had not broke the news. In an age of opining, this Web site is doing actual reporting.
And joining me now is the co-founder and editor in chief, Matthew Continetti.
Thanks for being here.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: Thanks for having me.
STELTER: So, let's get right to it. Do you believe Stephanopoulos is permanently tainted by these donations and the controversy around him?
CONTINETTI: I think it does taint him for the simple reason that he had an opportunity to disclose his donations when he interviewed the author of this very controversial book "Clinton Cash" and really grilled the officer, Peter Schweitzer. He could have taken that moment to say, I was a Clinton Foundation donor.
He didn't. And I think that's the reason that "The Washington Free Beacon" pursued the story and the reason why the story has legs in other media.
STELTER: So, let's talk more about that in a minute, but take me to the moment where you all found out about this. How exactly did you all find out this donation even happened?
CONTINETTI: Sure. Well, I mean, it's simple investigative reporting. One of my reporters had composed a spreadsheet of all the foundation's donors and another of my reporters was spending his off hours going through it. He just happened to see that George Stephanopoulos was in the list.
So, he contacts me and says, "I found this out, what do I do?" My first thought was, well, has he disclosed it?
We did the research. It turned out George had not.
My second thought was -- well, we're going to write it up as a straight news piece but first go to ABC News for comment.
STELTER: So, let's pick up there in a minute. But are you surprised that nobody had seen his name on a list before?
CONTINETTI: Not really. I found since in the three years we've been doing the "Free Beacon" that there are a lot of stories out there that, for whatever reason, media just doesn't cover. And so, whether it's archival research we've done pertaining to Hillary Clinton, whether it's the staff of Senator Rand Paul, or whether it's George Stephanopoulos' donations, there's plenty of material for an upstart conservative site like the "Free Beacon" to cover.
[11:05:04] STELTER: There definitely is. The foundation has been under such scrutiny, it seems surprising people haven't gone through the list and spotted Stephanopoulos' name.
CONTINETTI: Right, it's surprising to me, too, especially since he's connected to the Clintons in so many was.
Of course, his donation, $75,000, wasn't quite as big as some of the millions of dollars that the Clintons have received from foreign countries, for example, which is where I think most people's attention is right now.
And to be clear and to be fair, it was a charitable donation. Not a donation to a campaign. What I would say, though, and what a lot of others have said is it's a one-of-a-kind charity. It's not your average charity and it's a very controversial organization.
So, tell me about what happened when you reached out to ABC and you're asked for comment. CONTINETTI: Well, we reached out to ABC News because, like any news
site, we wanted fair comment from the subject of our stories, and ABC had said that they would get back to us. Well, Friday morning, we were about to run the story, I asked if we had received anything. My reporter said, no, ABC hadn't gotten back to him, and just as we were about to publish our story, another story on "Politico" with a headline "George Stephanopoulos discloses Clinton Foundation donations" appears at that very moment.
I knew right away that what had happen was ABC new had gone to "Politico" with our scoop in order to control the narrative.
STELTER: How did you feel when you saw it happened?
CONTINETTI: I felt very angry, Brian.
STELTER: I would have, too, I guess.
CONTINETTI: And it's lucky in this new media age that an angry editor has outlets like Twitter to express himself.
So, I went on Twitter a expressed my rage and gratifyingly --
STELTER: And got a lot of attention.
CONTINETTI: It got a lot of attention. And so, the "Free Beacon" was still able to own the story which we had uncovered.
STELTER: By taking it to "Politico", leaking it to "Politico", they made it worse for themselves.
CONTINETTI: Absolutely, because it then became a media story. It became --
STELTER: It became an inside baseball story as well.
CONTINETTI: An inside baseball story that then kind of picked up and then what you saw basically was George Stephanopoulos, the old campaign operative, basically functioning like a campaign operative by taking information one source, the reporter is asking questions, and handing it another source in order to shape the narrative.
STELTER: We talked in the opening about you being a conservative site. You use the same word. So, what do you say to people who might think you're just going after a guy you think is liberal? You know, this is all ideological for an editor like you or a reporter like yours?
CONTINETTI: You might be ideological on the way you approach the news, the subjects you start to cover, even the way you go about your investigations. But what you cannot do is be ideological in the way you report the news. And one thing we've always tried to do at the "Free Beacon" is make copy that could appear in "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post" except the names of the people we cover are different, the types of stories we cover are different, our selection of expert quotes, for example, are different. STELTER: What if you had found, let's take the biggest political
anchor on FOX News, Bret Bair, what if you found his name in the list, would it have been a story?
CONTINETTI: I think it would have been a story but, of course, I probably wouldn't have found it because there are plenty of liberal reporters looking for exactly that sort of information, who would have gotten to it first. We're looking for the stories that most of the media aren't paying attention to just because of their prior beliefs and experiences.
STELTER: You guys acknowledge you come from the conservative point of view but are doing real reporting.
CONTINETTI: Right. Well, I think that's our value added to this fractured media landscape we're all in.
When we set up the "Free Beacon", we made a rule there would be one opinion column on the site and that would be mine and that's the editor's prerogative. But, otherwise, every writer I hire is there to do reporting, and they've done a pretty good job so far I think.
STELTER: Have you heard much from ABC in recent days and have they apologized for this apparent handing off of your scoop to "Politico"?
CONTINETTI: No apology. I'm still waiting by the phone, ABC, anytime.
STELTER: I think you're being a little sarcastic there.
CONTINETTI: No apology. They responded to one of our inquiries about a separate story which was thrilling. But I have to say it does make me pause as an editor if a reporter comes up with another George Stephanopoulos story and says, should I go to him for comment? I'm going to think twice.
STELTER: Matt, thanks for being here. Great talking with you.
CONTINETTI: Thank you, Brian.
We're just getting started this morning. And coming up, you're going to see more of my interview with "Face the Nation's" Bob Schieffer. It is the eve of his retirement and we talked about the lessons from his 46 years in the television news business. Don't go away.
[11:13:15] STELTER: There was a whole lot of hullabaloo this week about the departure of David Letterman from late night, after 33 years on CBS and before that, NBC.
But my next CBS guest, Bob Schieffer, has Letterman beat by more than a decade actually. The legendary newsman has been with CBS for 46 years and has hosted the Sunday morning political program "Face the Nation" for 24 of those years. He is retiring after next Sunday's broadcast.
Schieffer's journalism career began in print with the "Fort Worth Star Telegram." He said he's still a newspaperman at heart.
At CBS, he's done it all, from covering the Pentagon, to the White House, starting with Richard Nixon, to the morning show on CBS, and the evening news. He's moderated debates, written four books and he really has done it all.
I was lucky to sit down with him on "The Face the Nation" set to learn about his storied career.
STELTER: We're sitting here on your set. You'll be signing off here in a few days. What does it feel like to be leaving the show?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I'm not quite sure it's really sunk in yet. I wanted to leave while I thought I could still do the job. I mean, I have seen too many people in Washington that have to be sort of led by the hand off the stage, as it were. And I didn't want to be one of those guys. I feel like I can still do it.
CBS is doing very well these days. "Face the Nation" is doing well. And I thought this is just a good time to do it. It had to come sometimes. So, I did.
STELTER: Jon Stewart suggested that one of the reasons why he's stepping down this summer is because he's just over it. He's tired of it.
Is that true for you?
SCHIEFFER: No, no. I'll never get tired of it. I mean, I have wanted to be a reporter since I was on the eighth grade and, you know, I got to be one which a lot of people don't get the chance to do when they grow up what they wanted to do when they were a little boy.
[11:15:03] And I've always found it interesting. Every job I have ever had in journalism, and that's the only thing I have ever done, I always thought it was the best job in the world, and I always felt that way. I just love the news.
STELTER: Let me show you a couple photos we saw from your storied career. I thought this was so remarkable. It's an advertisement in the newspaper for you heading to Vietnam as a reporter for the "Fort Worth Star Telegram".
STELTER: I can't imagine a newspaper doing that nowadays, but they were trying to promote the fact you would be over there checking in with the troops from the local community who were over there.
SCHIEFFER: That was a full-age ad. They ran a full-page ad and the idea was I would go to Vietnam. I was the first reporter from "The Star Telegram" to go overseas since World War II. I was the first reporter from a Texas newspaper to go to Vietnam, and so, the idea was I would go and find boys from Fort Worth and write stories about them, which I did. And I wound up writing about kids from all over Texas.
But that was what it was all about, and I got more than 700 letters while I was in Vietnam, and I would just line them up and then I would just go out by myself and I'm bum rides on helicopters and so forth and go find these kids.
It was the single most rewarding thing I have ever done in journalism because when these kids. And I mean they're 19 -- you know, I was 26 years old. Sometimes seven or eight years older than they were, when a guy from their hometown showed up and said, you know, your mama asked me to come and check on you and I never forgot it.
SCHIEFFER: They loved it.
STELTER: These images of you questioning Jimmy Carter at a presidential press conference.
STELTER: When you see these press conferences now, how much has changed and how much has stayed the same with relationships between the press and the presidency?
SCHIEFFER: Well, for one thing, they're more orderly than they were. In those days, presidents didn't have a list of reporters --
STELTER: I think the list is kind of -- it sort of makes it less interesting.
SCHIEFFER: And we would have to hold our hands up and say, "Mr. President, Mr. President," and sometimes they would respond to you and sometimes they didn't.
STELTER: There's a lot less access now to the administration or is there more access, more transparency?
SCHIEFFER: People always ask me, what's the most manipulative and the most secret administration you have covered? I always say the current one. This one is always more restrictive than the guys who came before and they were -- they had the screws turned down more tightly than the people who came before. They all learned from the previous administration, and I guess it will be ever thus. I mean --
STELTER: So what do we do? What do we do in the industry to combat that?
SCHIEFFER: Well, there are two -- we have to understand, there are two things here. The politicians' mission is to deliver a message. Our message -- our mission is to try to find out if it's true and to try to get to whatever the truth is.
SCHIEFFER: And that's not saying there's, you know, anything wrong with what the politicians do. But what's happened, Brian, is that information management has become so much more sophisticated, not just in politics, but in business, in sports.
Think about this, when I came to Washington in 1969, most members of Congress still didn't have press secretaries. Most of them, you know, handle their own press relations.
STELTER: People hear so much negativity about our profession.
SCHIEFFER: You know, we've got to have journalists. The need for accurate information is more important than ever, and unless -- I mean, in our system of government, having access to independently gathered, accurate information is as important to our process as the right to vote. You have to have that in a democracy like we have.
I don't know where reporters are going to work in the future but whatever their platform, we have to have that information, and getting accurate information, Brian, is harder now than it's ever been.
STELTER: You think so even though the internet has made it more accessible?
SCHIEFFER: Yes, because most of the information is wrong. I mean, you know, we're just overwhelmed by news. There's so much news that we can't get to the news. And, you know, that's what our job is as mainstream journalists is try to cut through this great maw of information and tell them what we think is relevant, what they need to know.
STELTER: Do you think the Brian Williams exaggeration controversy hurt the whole industry, made all journalists look bad?
[11:20:00] SCHIEFFER: You know, I don't know. I don't think it did us any good, that's for sure.
But Brian is a friend of mine. I haven't talked to him in a long, long time, and I've kind of made a practice, Brian, of not commenting on my competitors, and I always had the feeling that it requires no comment from me. Things like that, people come to their own conclusions about it, and I just kind of let it go at that.
STELTER: Do you see him returning to NBC?
SCHIEFFER: I have no idea. You know, I have also --
STELTER: You know how CBS works though. I mean, you know how network politics work.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. I will say this -- I have never offered advice to my competitors because I was afraid they might use it.
SCHIEFFER: Might use it to their advantage.
So, NBC will make up its mind about what to do about that.
STELTER: To me, still a newbie to television, one of the lessons of television is stability and time are so key. You know, you have been on "Face the Nation" for so many years and you re seeing some of your best ratings in years.
STELTER: Because over time, people have come to know you're there and to trust you. All of that makes me wonder if all the changes you see on television, all the anchor changes and all of this and that, kind of hurt the networks that they happen to.
SCHIEFFER: You know, I have seen so many wheels invented, reinvented in the time that I have been in television. I'm not sure you can reinvent this wheel. I think you have to get back to basics.
What people want when they turn on a news program of any kind is news. They want to know what it is that they need to know about that's going to impact their lives. And that's what we've tried to do, and I think that's what the success in recent years of "Face the Nation" has been.
STELTER: Is there any job in journalism you wish you had, that you wanted to have that you didn't have?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I tried -- when I came back from Vietnam, I tried very hard to get a job at "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post", and I never got an appointment. And so I finally wound up working for a local television station in Texas.
STELTER: I guess it worked out pretty well here, huh, TV?
SCHIEFFER: So far, it's worked out just fine.
STELTER: Bob, thanks so much.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you, Brian. I appreciate it. OK.
STELTER: Schieffer signs off one week from today and it will truly be an end of an era moment for television news. John Dickerson will be taking his place in June.
Now, coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, attacking Hillary Clinton, we could call it a common sport for Republican presidential wannabes. But one non-Republican candidate says he thinks it's the only way he can get airtime here on CNN and elsewhere. Hear what he says about that right after the break.
[11:26:55] STELTER: We are back with more RELIABLE SOURCES. And this next segment is about something you probably noticed about
election coverage. Each week, a new presidential candidate jumps into an already crowded race, mostly on the Republican side. But there are also declared candidates besides Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, including Bernie Sanders and soon Martin O'Malley.
Clinton has been taking a lot of heat from the media for ignoring the media, and I think that heat is perfectly appropriate. She did answer some questions from reporters early in the week and she says she's now planning a big campaign event in mid-June.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has appeared on multiple networks. He's willing to answer almost any question, but it seems sometimes all anyone wants to talk about is Hillary.
What got me thinking about this is what Sanders said last Sunday here on CNN on "STATE OF THE UNION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The American people want to hear serious discussions why they're working longer hours for lower wages. They want to know about why year after year, we have these disastrous trade agreements, why the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer? Are you and the media prepared to allow us to engage in that serious debate, or do I have to make media attention by simply making reckless attacks on Hillary Clinton or anybody else? I don't believe in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, are journalists giving that campaign a fair shake?
Senator Bernie Sanders is here with me now on set to talk about that. Thanks for being here.
SANDERS: My pleasure.
STELTER: It's rare to hear a candidate or any politician really talk about the systemic issues in the press the way you did last week. I kind of lit up when I heard it, and I wondered, is it a winning strategy for you to be going at the press?
SANDERS: Look, I don't know if it's a winning strategy or not, but this is what I do know: the middle class of this country is disappearing despite the fact that people are working longer hours and they're earning lower wages. We have seen an explosion in technology and productivity and yet all of the increase in income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. Do you think that that's an important issue to discuss?
According to the scientific community, climate change is the great planetary crisis we now face. Do you think we might want to be discussing that issue?
You have the top 1/10th of 1 percent now owning more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. I'm the ranking member of the budget committee. I dealt with the Republican budget which throws 27 million people off of health insurance, cuts educational programs by tens of billions of dollars, gives tax breaks to billionaires. Do you know how much coverage that got, outside of the political gossip? Virtually nothing.
Last year, I had the president of CBS, NBC, ABC -- and we talked to them. Why is it you're not covering climate change significantly? OK?
STELTER: So, what happened in that meeting?
SANDERS: Well, actually, a couple weeks later, there was a lot of discussion about climate change. But the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, already causing devastating problems and that we have to reverse course. Do you think we're seeing that kind of discussion in the media?
STELTER: Some Republicans will hear about that meeting you had with the presidents of some of the networks and say -- the news divisions of the networks -- and say that sounds like some sort of inappropriate coordination between the government and the press.
[11:30:04] SANDERS: Inappropriate coordination. To ask them, well, we're not discussing the major planetary crisis facing us? I don't think so.
STELTER: But the rebuttal would be, the press should make up its own mind collectively about what should be a priority to be covered.
SANDERS: The answer is, of course, the American people and elected officials can weigh in as well. No one is telling them, no one is forcing them.
But when the scientific community tells us something is enormously important, maybe, just maybe, we may want to be discussing it.
STELTER: With your campaign now a few weeks in, are you finding that the media is taking it seriously or are you finding they're using you only as a foil to Hillary Clinton to get headlines?
SANDERS: I think we are doing pretty well. And I think the media -- we have gotten more serious discussion on our issues than I might have thought about.
But this is what I worry about. In terms of campaign coverage...
SANDERS: ... there is more coverage about the political gossip of a campaign, about raising money, about polling, about somebody saying something dumb, or some kid works for a campaign sends out something stupid on Facebook, right? We can expect that to be a major story.
But what your job is, what the media's job is, is to say, look, these are the major issues facing the country. We're a democracy. People have different points of view. Let's argue it.
STELTER: Fundamentally, you're describing what is the systemic issue in press, in the nation's news media, which is an interesting spectacle over policy.
SANDERS: To me, it is astounding. And correct me if you think I'm wrong. When you have ABC, CBS, and NBC not devoting one minute to the most significant trade agreement in the history of the United States of America, help me out, help me out. Give me an explanation.
STELTER: They might say they're covering it on the Web site.
STELTER: They might say there are niche outlets that can do a better job covering it in this day and age on the Internet.
SANDERS: Not a good answer.
SANDERS: I mean, television is an important medium. You cannot ignore that. You cannot ignore the reality of income and wealth inequality.
You cannot ignore the fact that Citizens United is undermining our democratic way of life. Now, there are two sides to the story. I'm not saying everybody has got to agree with me, but have that issue, have that debate. That's what elections should be about.
STELTER: Some people might say, how do you do that in a way that keeps people watching, that gets people stay tuned and not turn the channel?
SANDERS: Oh, all right, good question, good question. All right.
So, let me back it up. About a year ago, there was a poll out there. Pollsters asked the American people, tell me which political party controls the U.S. Senate and controls the U.S. House? That was a year ago, when the Democrats controlled the Senate.
STELTER: It's always disappointing to see how many people are wrong with their answers.
SANDERS: Sixty-three percent of the people in this country did not know that answer.
Who bears responsibility for that? Does the media bear any responsibility? How do you have a serious discussion? If you don't like what's going on in Washington, which nobody does, who are you going to Plame if you don't know which party controls what? So I think that, instead of coming up with the next news of the
moment, breaking news, there was an automobile accident, a cat got run over, here is breaking news. For 40 years, the American middle class has been disappearing and the rich have been getting richer. Why?
STELTER: I have an idea for you.
STELTER: Bernie Sanders, cable news president.
SANDERS: All right. Are you offer -- are you making me that offer on behalf of CNN?
STELTER: Oh, I don't think I'm able to make that offer.
SANDERS: I accept it.
STELTER: But it sounds like you have got some ideas.
SANDERS: I just think that, as a nation, no matter what our political point of view is, I would hope that we are concerned about the state of American democracy. We need serious discussion about serious issues.
STELTER: I want to briefly go back to the issue about Hillary Clinton. I don't want to become a parody of this conversation by focusing on it, because that would miss the point.
STELTER: But I wonder what it's been like for the past few weeks, as you have officially declared? Do you wake up some mornings and think, well, the way I'm going to get attention today is to criticize Hillary Clinton?
SANDERS: Well, look...
STELTER: Are you leaning in to that reality of the media?
SANDERS: You're looking -- of course Hillary Clinton and anybody else deserves criticism. When you have different points of view, I guess that's what criticism is about.
But I will tell you that I have never run a negative political ad in the state of Vermont in my life. People of Vermont know that. I just don't think that that's what politics is about. So, will I criticize Hillary Clinton on her position of TPP, or the lack of position? Will I criticize her on her views of Wall Street? Will I criticize her on foreign policy?
That's what democracy is about. But taking cheap shots at people, making it personal, I don't think that's what politics should be about.
STELTER: Senator Sanders, thank you for being here this morning. SANDERS: OK. My pleasure.
STELTER: Thank you.
And coming up here on the program: a question that came up this week. Is FOX News actually hurting the Republican Party? A major conservative thinker says yes, and he will join me to say why right after the break.
STELTER: Welcome back.
Something very important for the 2016 election happened this week, something that I bet you didn't hear about. The entry rules for the first Republican primary debates were announced. Might not sound exciting, but it is very important, because FOX News is only going to include the 10 candidates who are faring best in the polls.
That means, as of today, actually, Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham would be among the uninvited candidates. Now, the polls will change between now and the first debate in August, but that's how it's going to be.
CNN is going to do it a little bit differently, and have a two-part debate. One part will have the top eight to 10 candidates, according to those polls, and the other part that will have candidates that aren't polling as well, but have at least 1 percentage of support in poll -- 1 percent will be the threshold.
So, what is FOX going to do with those folks, those folks that are around 1 percent or above? Well, it says they will be invited on other FOX shows the day of the debate, but not on the debate stage.
Now, these rules are a great example of how FOX News influences politics. FOX has long been the favorite channel of the Republican Party, but is it actually bad for the GOP? The question was reignited this week not by Jon Stewart or a liberal columnist, but by the well- respected conservative historian Bruce Bartlett.
He wrote this paper. It's titled "How FOX News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics," using statistics to charge that FOX makes its viewers less educated and that the channel even dampened turnout for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.
This is the rare scholarly paper that has stirred a media frenzy, maybe because Bartlett worked in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
And he's joining me right here on the set in Washington.
Thanks for being here.
BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH TREASURY OFFICIAL: Happy to be here.
STELTER: Let me read one line that I thought stood out to me and a lot of other people.
You said: "It can almost be called self-brainwashing. Many conservatives now refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through FOX and to believe whatever appears on it as the gospel truth."
BARTLETT: I don't think that word is too strong.
I think many conservatives live in a bubble, where they watch only FOX News on television, they listen only to conservative talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, many of the same people. They -- when they go on to the Internet, they look at only conservative Web sites, like "National Review," Newsmax, World Net Daily.
And so they are completely in a universe in which they are hearing the same exact ideas, the same arguments, the same limited amount of data repeated over and over and over again. And that's -- that's brainwashing.
STELTER: And do you believe that's more true for conservatives than for liberals?
BARTLETT: Yes, I do. I believe that, but...
STELTER: What causes that?
BARTLETT: Well, I think, for a long time, the media was -- did tilt a bit to the left. And so I think that conservatives, once they got a media of their own, just sort of glommed onto it like a man in the desert, you know, being given some water. They drank very heavily from the FOX waters.
And -- but what I don't think they have quite come to understand yet is, it's a double-edged sword. There's no question that FOX helps the Republican Party enormously, but it's not 100 percent positive. There are some negatives. And I think we're starting to see some of them in this election cycle.
STELTER: You're bringing up what -- basically, you're describing negative consequences of having a channel that does reinforce viewers' beliefs.
BARTLETT: That's right.
One of the things, I cite a study in my paper where I talk about how FOX viewers in the 2012 election cycle tended to have more wishful thinking, so to speak. That is, they were more confident, unrealistically confident, I think, based on objective analysis of the polls. And you may remember, there was this Web site, what was it, Unskewed Polls. Remember that?
STELTER: Right. Right.
BARTLETT: Where some -- it was just widely, widely believed in Republican circles that all of the polls were biased against Romney, and that he was actually doing really, really well, much better, and was going to win pretty easily.
And, as we know, Karl Rove, among others, was shocked on election night, when he didn't do as well as expected.
STELTER: So, circling back to that point I made in the beginning about the debate rules, do you think those debate rules, where only the top 10 contenders will be allowed on to the stage, does that help the Republican Party or hurt the Republican Party?
BARTLETT: Well, I don't know. It depends, I suppose, on who gets left off the list.
Certain candidates have broad, but not deep support. Others have very deep, but not broad support. And so I think, if you're somebody who feels strongly about, say, Ben Carson, and he ends up being the guy who gets left off, your feelings towards the party and perhaps towards FOX News may be affected.
STELTER: Bruce, thanks for being here.
BARTLETT: Thank you.
STELTER: Thanks for the thoughtful conversation this morning.
STELTER: Still ahead here: There's been as much debate over the lack of the use of the word thug in Waco this week as there was over the use of the word in Baltimore. Is there a media double standard on this issue? And how does social media help or hurt? We are going to tackle that when we come back.
STELTER: Welcome back.
A major announcement on Thursday. Baltimore City state's attorney general, Marilyn Mosby, said that six police officers were all indicted in the death of Freddie Gray. Some are calling this a victory for a national grassroots movement, a movement sometimes called Black Lives Matter.
And as the police killing of unarmed black Americans, like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and most recently Freddie Gray, all received significant national media coverage, the movement's message about alleged police brutality has spread from social media into the mainstream media.
But you have to wonder if the media, mainly cable news, gets the coverage right, gets the tone right, or at times actually makes it worse.
I wanted to talk about this with community organizer and civil rights activist DeRay McKesson, who joins me here now.
DeRay, thanks for being here.
DERAY MCKESSON, SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVIST: It's good to be here.
STELTER: I know you through Twitter, because I feel like you live- broadcast protests via your Twitter account.
But, this time last year, you were just a school administrators in Minneapolis.
MCKESSON: Yes, I was...
STELTER: You quit your job for this, right?
MCKESSON: Yes. I wouldn't say just an administrator, but, yes, I was an administrator in Minneapolis.
STELTER: What provoked you? What moment provoked you -- you may disagree with the term full-time protester -- but to become a full- time protester?
MCKESSON: You know, I was in -- I was sitting on my couch on August 16. Mike Brown got killed on August 9.
And I was sitting there. And I was looking on Twitter. And I was like, this looks really crazy. So, I got in my car, drove nine hours to Saint Louis, didn't know anybody, and I became a protester then.
So, the reason that I quit was that I wanted to figure out how to, like, use my skills and talent to fight for this -- to fight in this space, because you can't just kill people. Right? Like, all the work that I did in education was important, but kids have to be alive to learn, and that was important to me to do this work.
STELTER: What's your single biggest objection to the way the movement is treated by the press?
MCKESSON: I think that -- I think that there is a constant pathologizing of black bodies, right? So, when black people assemble...
STELTER: When you say that, what does that mean? Elaborate on that.
MCKESSON: Yes. It's this idea that, like, when black people assemble, it's always criminal. So, what you saw in Saint Louis is like...
STELTER: But who's saying that?
MCKESSON: It's the way the story is crafted. Right?
So, what you saw in Saint Louis is, like, the police were literally attacking protesters. And that wasn't always the narrative that was like put out by the mainstream media.
What you saw in Baltimore sometimes, is you saw people focusing on sort of the property damage, and not actually focusing on what caused the unrest in the first place.
STELTER: I wonder, are you saying the press should automatically assume the worst about the officers, about the authorities?
MCKESSON: I'm saying that there should be balance in the way that the critique is spread. And there isn't.
So, when I see news articles or when I see broadcasts that present the police narrative as true, so when they say things like...
STELTER: But it is oftentimes true, the police narrative.
MCKESSON: Is it true? I don't know if it was true with Mike Brown. I don't know if it was true with Rekia Boyd.
Or I -- maybe we differ on what true means.
STELTER: But aren't you talking about anecdotes, as opposed to the statistics? Are you saying that the majority of statements by police officers in the U.S. are not true, public statements, press releases, et cetera?
MCKESSON: What I'm saying is that the police are killing people and that they're saying that -- they're saying that it's justified in every case, in a way that it just isn't.
This is a conversation about state violence. So when I think about Walter Scott, the police gave an account that was untrue, and we would not have known unless there was a video.
STELTER: Right. That was very clear-cut.
MCKESSON: And I would say there are many other case. Freddie Gray's another one. What the police -- the way the police mobilized to respond to his death was really different until we got a video.
Right? So we challenge the police narratives because we have reason to challenge, because we have been lied to. STELTER: It sounds like you see a double standard of sorts on race.
I want to see if you agree with that sentiment, because what we saw in Waco earlier in the week, the coverage of this biker -- this biker gang madness -- I don't even know what to call it -- the coverage of this biker gang madness that happened in Waco, there wasn't the use of the word thug in the media coverage.
People like you, I think, spoke out and said there's a double standard as a result. Am I getting that right?
MCKESSON: Yes, I think that Waco's fascinating. Right?
So, what we didn't see were any dead bodies. Right? They kept -- nine people were dead. There were 18 people injured. And, like, there was no -- the media didn't show any of that spectacle of blood. Right?
And not that I want to see bloody bodies, but there was a stark difference. And you also saw, like, the bikers chilling. Right? They are like -- they are in gangs. This is organized crime. And they are just, like, hanging out at the police line after nine people are killed, and they're now saying that they might have recovered 1,000 weapons.
That never -- that context would not happen if those bodies were dark- skinned. What was interesting about Waco is that it was -- there was all this nuance, suddenly, right, because whiteness gets nuance in the media and blackness doesn't.
So, what you saw with Waco was like, oh, these are biker -- this is just like a biker group. It's a biker shoot-out. And you're like, wait a minute, they killed nine people, like, shot in the presence of innocent bystanders, 1,000 weapons potentially recovered.
STELTER: So, you're saying the media -- I think you're painting with a pretty broad brush. But let me take it to the next step. Are the journalists who are involved in these stories subconsciously racist? What causes the differences you're describing?
MCKESSON: So, it's a good question.
I think one of the dangers when we talk about racism is that we tend to think about racism only at the extremes. Right? So it's this idea that, like, the N-word is the only signifier of racism in America, when that's actually not true. Racism is about how power is used to negatively impact people because of issues of race.
So, what you saw with Waco is that you saw this radical humanization of people who actually committed violent crimes, who really did violent crimes, in a way that you didn't actually see that same humanization with people in Baltimore, who were breaking curfew. Right? They were treated in ways that, like, criminalized them in really intense ways, in a way that you didn't see with actual criminals, like, people who, like, violently did things.
STELTER: DeRay, thanks so much for being here. MCKESSON: Well, thank you.
STELTER: Thank you.
Coming up here on the program: a glimmer of hope for a freelance journalist who's been missing in Syria for nearly three years, and a major development for jailed "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian.
Stay with us for the details.
STELTER: This week, two very unfortunate reminders of the perils that reporters face when trying to inform all of us about conflict zones and repressive regimes.
Today marks 1,013 days since freelance journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria. At the time he vanished, he had contributed to news outlets like CBS and "The Washington Post." And on Tuesday, his mother, Debra Tice, held a press conference in Beirut, where she made an emotional plea to the U.S. and Syrian governments, asking them to work together to secure her son's release.
And for the first time in a long time, she gave us a specific flicker of hope that her son is still alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA TICE, MOTHER OF AUSTIN TICE: We ask both governments to work together and to work effectively to locate Austin and to secure his safe release.
We hear that he's well, that he's safe, which is of course very important. And the most important thing is for us to stay patient. I long to hold my son in my arms. I want my family to be whole again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Hopefully, someday soon, we can report the news that Austin has been reunited with his mother.
Meanwhile, next week in Iran, "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian will appear in a Tehran court. Rezaian has been detained for 306 days on charges of espionage, charges that are not backed up by any evidence.
According to an attorney, the trial will begin on May 26. And there are widespread doubts that it will be a fair trial. "Washington Post" editor Marty Baron recently said here on the program that the charges are absurd and not supported by a single fact.
And journalists around the world continue to hope that the charges will be dismissed and that Jason will be released. That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But our media coverage keeps going 24/7 on CNN.com. We will see you right back here next Sunday at 11:00 a.m.