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Will Donald Trump Sue NBC?; Donald Trump Drives the News Cycle; Jim Webb, Chris Christie Join the 2016 Race; Hulk Hogan v. Gawker Lawsuit. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 5, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:07] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. Happy Independence Day weekend. I'm Brian Stelter, and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

And we have a whole lot in store today starting with the sentence I never thought I would say. Let me get ready for this, is presidential candidate Donald Trump going to sue NBC over its Miss USA pageant?

OK, there it is. It sounds like he is. Trump's lawyer is actually standing by with me here in New York to talk about it.

You know, it's been that kind of week, hasn't it -- a week with Donald Trump driving the news cycle, with reporters scrambling to keep up.

I was with them. I took a road trip to New Hampshire this week to find out just how seriously the political press pack has taken Trump and asked reporters how seriously they should be taking them.

You can see him here. He was at a pool party basically in New Hampshire in the rain, talking to people. And people loved him there.

So, I'll show you the fascinating answers coming up this hour. But, first, Trump versus corporate America.

The headlines were all over the place, "You're fired," they said, turning Trump's slogan around and using it against him.

Univision decided not to air the July 12th Miss USA pageant because Trump owns half of it. Why? Because he said this:


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some, I assume, are good people.


STELTER: So, Univision is the first to object to those words. Then, the network that owns the other half of the Miss USA pageant, NBC Universal, also backed out of broadcasting the pageant. And soon, Macy's was pulling Trump's clothing line. Other companies were also distancing themselves from Trump.

And he fought back, telling CNN's Don Lemon that his long time business partners were -- well, here's what he said.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Another company --

TRUMP (via telephone): Because they're weak. You know what? They cut ties because they're weak.

LEMON: Who? NBC you think?

TRUMP: They're weak and it's very sad to see.


STELTER: Trump has filed a big lawsuit against Univision, seeking $500 million in damages.

Keep in mind, Univision is the most popular, most powerful Spanish language network in this country. And now, it's being sued by a presidential candidate who's rising in the Republican polls. I never thought we would be here a week ago.

I'm joined by a very special guest, an insider in this situation, Alan Garten. He's the general counsel for the Trump Organization, which means he is Donald Trump's top lawyer.

Alan, thanks for being here.


STELTER: Look on the day he announced, that comment about immigrants being rapists. I mean, did you cringe when you heard, knowing the legal implication potentially of something like that, something so incendiary?

GARTEN: Well, I'm not get into a back and forth on what he said and how it can be interpreted. I can tell you I was at his speech and his comments -- if anyone who heard his speech in full knew exactly what he was saying, and what he said was not no different than really anything that he has said for years. In fact, in our complaint against Univision, which was filed this week, we quoted Mr. Trump giving almost identical comments back in 2011 on a Bill O'Reilly show.

STELTER: We saw Univision withdraw from Miss USA. Then, we saw NBC do it. He decided to file suit against Univision. The suit hinges on what, the idea that there wasn't a morals clause in the contract and that's why they couldn't walk away from Trump?

GARTEN: The suit hinges upon sort of the very basic premise of our legal system, which is contracts. And this contract is clear and unambiguous. It's set forth in our complaint. And it very clearly provides that Univision -- which, by the way, just signed in January of this year --


GARTEN: -- is contractually obligated to broadcast the Miss Universe pageant and the Miss USA pageant.

STELTER: But people on television and elsewhere have assumed that there is a morals clause of some sort. It allows Univision to back out because if the person you are if business with does something outlandish, violates, you know, some sort of clause, that that would give Univision an out. Is that not the case? Do they not have an out like that?

GARTEN: That is absolutely not the case. There's no morals clause in it. And the reality is, you know, people, I think, you know, come to Mr. Trump and want to do business with Mr. Trump and the companies he's associated with because of his celebrity and because he is known as someone who is in the spotlight, draws a lot of media attention and talks straight.

And certainly, I'm sure that drew Univision to get involved in Miss Universe. Mr. Trump is the executive --

STELTER: Well, I think it was actually the women we see on screen that drew Univision on getting involved in Miss Universe in --

GARTEN: That means -- well, all that is certainly true. But I think what brings ratings and popularity to the pageant is association with Mr. Trump. I think, you know, certainly since, you know, the Miss Universe organization and the pageant is associated with it were not doing too well before Mr. Trump brought the interest in there. And since then, the ratings are hitting all time highs. And, you know, it's doing better than ever before.

STELTER: So, you are now suing Univision, what about NBC? The Trump Organization and NBC were business partners. They each own half of Miss USA. NBC says it's ending that relationship.

Will you filing suit against them as well?

GARTEN: I can't get into details but certainly, we will be taking action against NBC. NBC is in a unique position because there is a clear conflict playing out here.

[11:05:02] NBC is not only a -- you know, one aspect of NBC is a partner in the Miss Universe organization, and you've got another division which is, has separate agreements with the Miss Universe organization as a broadcaster and under those agreements, NBC had the clear obligation to broadcast the Miss Universe pageant in 2016. They also elected to schedule, to broadcast the Miss USA pageant in 2015 and then backed away from that.

And that's I believe a clear breach of the provisions in the agreement.

STELTER: What's going to happen with this business relationship? Are you all going to sell your stake to NBC? Is NBC going to sell -- are you going to sell yours to NBC? Do we know how this deal is going to be broken up?

GARTEN: We don't know. We don't know if it will be broken up. Certainly --

STELTER: Well, NBC said it's ending -- the business relationship is ending. Are you saying it might not end?

GARTEN: Well, we don't know. We'll have to see what happens and have it all play out and certainly if it requires litigation, then it will be litigation. But it will certainly be an interesting few months.

STELTER: I thought maybe Trump would voluntarily sell his stake in the pageants to NBC. That way, this will all be cleaned up in time for the pageant next Sunday.

GARTEN: I am not aware of those plans. Mr. Trump is committed to this. And he's -- you know, I believe he is the one who's turned around the pageant to begin with. So, I believe he deserves auto all the credit for the popularity and the huge ratings and sort of -- you know, last year, I know the Miss Universe pageant did record numbers. And it was broadcast all over the world, to, you know, 200-plus countries and I think a billion viewers worldwide.

STELTER: Sometimes in these cases between media giants, there's an arbitration clause, that requires arbitration, a mediation, instead of a public trial. Is that the case here with NBC and Mr. Trump, that you all have to do this privately through arbitration?

GARTEN: There is an arbitration clause. We will obviously be following the contract. I think that represents the difference between how we as an organization act and how NBC has acted. We follow the contract. They have not. The Univision situation is a little different.

STELTER: It must not have had an arbitration clause.

GARTEN: There is no arbitration clause. And accordingly, we filed suit in New York state supreme court on Tuesday. And we'll see how that plays out.

STELTER: What about Macy's? Macy's is also saying they're going to get out of business with Trump. Any lawsuit possibility there?

GARTEN: We're certainly looking into it. I can't comment on that now. But we're looking at all possible avenues.

Again, I think it's -- I think it's important and this was highlighted in our Univision, I think what is important to reinforce is when Mr. Trump made his comments, people can agree, disagree, they can agree on what he said. They can agree whether it was factually accurate or not factually accurate. They can agree with the way it was transmitted.

The reality is he is exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. He is speaking his mind. And he is entitled to do that. There is nothing unlawful about that. Really, what you have is

companies both networks and other companies you know bowing to public pressure and really suppressing his freedom of speech. And that's been highlighted in our Univision complaint and I think that holds true for a lot of these situations.

STELTER: But freedom of speech is something -- it's about the government's relations with an individual. The First Amendment is not about private corporations stopping me from speaking. You say freedom of speech, aren't you confusing the two?

GARTEN: Not at all. I mean, that's what contracts are for. You are right, but what governs contracts -- what governs rather, you know, the relationship between private parties, whether it be Macy's and Mr. Trump or any other private parties are contracts. And, you know, if a contract is breached, then we're going to pursue our remedies under those contracts and enforce them, as those companies would against us.

STELTER: Are you sitting here wondering, wishing that he hadn't run for president?

GARTEN: Not at all, because I truly believe in working with him day- to-day quite closely the last eight years, I can tell you, he is an exception ally intelligent guy. He is exceptionally capable guy. He is an incredible leader.

And he's really what this country needs, which is sort of the anti- politician, someone who's not beholden to public interest groups, but rather he's going to act in the best interest of the country. And I think he's the guy to do it.

STELTER: Al, thanks for being here.

GARTEN: Thank you.

STELTER: Appreciate it.

GARTEN: Great.

STELTER: Now, for more on this and the prospects of whether these lawsuits could actually succeed, let me bring in CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, you're able to listen in here. What is your sense of this NBC possibility going into NBC possibility, going into mediation or arbitration, what would Trump and his lawyers be arguing in that sense?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, it all depends on one thing, which is the contract between them.

You know, Alan is making statements about the First Amendment, and about defamation. And, frankly, none of that matters. The only thing that matters in this dispute is what the contract says between NBC and Donald Trump and whether NBC has, in fact, violated it. Just as in this Univision dispute, the only thing that matters is the contract, which I have read, and whether Univision violated it and caused damages to Donald Trump.

[11:10:01] STELTER: So having read that contract, do you think they did? Do you think they did their damages to Donald Trump?

TOOBIN: Well, certainly, Alan is right, that there is no morals clause, there is no clause that says if Univision is embarrassed to be associated with Donald Trump they get to drop it -- drop him.

The question is, have they already paid enough more than on the contract that they are simply permitted to walk away from it? Certainly, the claim of $500 million is silly. That there is no chance for those sorts of damages. But it's a very narrow question that a judge would deal with here is whether Univision has performed sufficiently so that they have the right to walk away?

STELTER: Is it noteworthy that Trump's lawyer says that no morals clause was included in the Univision contract? Does that matter? Does that help their case?

TOOBIN: Well, I think it does help their case because it doesn't -- there is nothing obvious in the contract that said -- as there often is in contracts involving entertainment personalities -- in effect, if you embarrass yourself or embarrass us, we can cut our ties with you. Many of us who have contracts with CNN or with other entertainment and news organizations have those sorts of contracts.

But remember, this is a contract not between Donald Trump person and Univision. This is a contract between the Trump Organization and Univision. It's not a personal services contract and, therefore, it's not really surprising that there wouldn't be a morals clause involved.

STELTER: Do you think a serious presidential candidate would ever sue a giant network that covers him every day? Is that the kind of behavior of a serious candidate?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, Donald Trump is a unique -- if he's serious candidate and his combativeness is part of his appeal. Now, whether we are simply riding a boomlet of attention for him is a very separate question whether -- from whether people will actually vote, you know, go into a polling place and vote for Donald Trump. I think those are two very different questions. But, certainly, his aggressiveness, his outspokenness, his willingness to take on all comers is a part of his appeal and so it's not surprising that he would take on the people he had been in business with and the people that cover him every day.

STELTER: When you see this Univision lawsuit, would you give any odds of it getting to trial?

TOOBIN: Extremely remote. These sorts of lawsuits almost never go to trial. Usually, they are settled either with a check or some sort of settlement where both sides can walk away and claim victory.

The one thing we know about Donald Trump is that he always claims victory, no matter what. So, you can certain whatever the resolution of the case, it almost certainly will be an out of court settlement, Trump will claim victory. STELTER: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for being here and making sense for

it for us.

TOOBIN: OK, Brian.

STELTER: Now, coming up here, is the press being too soft on candidate Trump? That's what one Republican media consultant says. And he'll join me in a moment.

Plus, my trip to New Jersey to see what reporters covering Trump really think about him. That's next.


[11:17:07] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

With Donald Trump making so much news this week with his presidential campaign rolling through early primary states, I have to see it for myself what he's like as a candidate, and how the press is treating them.

So, I caught up with Trump at a House party in Bedford, New Hampshire, where journalists were piled around the pool to hear what he would say and he was introduced on the stump by Sean Van Anglen, 22-years-old and a life long fan.


SEAN VAN ANGLEN, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: The next president of the United States, my friend Donald Trump.


TRUMP: Wow, what a good job.

STELTER: What was it like to see so many journalists all crowded around your pool to hear Trump today?

VAN ANGLEN: This was a little bit different. I mean, it's not like a Mitt Romney or anyone like that. This is -- we are talking about Donald Trump here. He's a worldwide icon.

TRUMP: The truth does not get out. The media is not giving the truth.

STELTER: How seriously the press should be covering this campaign? It's such an unusual campaign and some competitors say it shouldn't be taken seriously at all.

KEVIN LANDRIGAN, CHIEF POLIITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NH1 NEWS: I think the national media ignores it to their own peril. One, obviously, any time this guy comes into any major primary state, he makes news.

BEN JACOBS, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: The folks I talk to seem to actually welcome the Donald Trump is the reason why to vote for him, because the fact he's not a politician. Because he sort of runs off at the mouth, that for them is an endorsement.

STATE REP. FRED DOUCETTE, TRUMP NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE CO-CHAIR: The thing I hear the most from my constituents and from people I talk to is Mr. Trump says things that I want to say but I'm afraid to say because of the PC factor.

STELTER: What do you make of his applause lines about the media? When he criticizes the press?

SHARON GANNON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Oh, my gosh. I have been saying this for years.

STELTER: Some of the biggest applause lines, right?

GANNON: I have been saying this for years. I don't believe the stuff the media says.

TRUMP: You got to trust your instinct. You can't believe the press. You can't believe the press.

LANDRIGAN: All the candidates deserve coverage. And this one more than most as I said before.

STELTER: This one more than most?

LANDRIGAN: More than most really because he is so controversial.

DOUCETTE: I think as the campaign goes on and I think as his policy starts coming out a little more clear, I think the press is bound to take him more serious because he is very serious.

TRUMP: Donald Trump, who has done more than me? I have employed tens of thousands of people over my life.

STELTER: I don't mean to be totally cynical. But do you think the Trump campaign is the ultimate example of a clickbait, something everyone wants to read about but, you know, may not matter that much in the long term?

CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SR. DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: It's probably going to have a little bit more of an impact on the campaign, at least in the short term, than just clickbait, but that is certainly a part of what's happening here.

JACOBS: He's said repeatedly, he wants to be treated like a real candidate. He wants to be treated like a serious candidate, and we're starting the process now. He's getting precisely what he asked for.


STELTER: Now, no surprise, some of the biggest applause lines were when Trump made fun of the press. He was electrifying in person. The audience loved him. But does the press get him? Do political supporters take Donald Trump seriously enough? Or conversely, are they and we taking him way too seriously?

Media consultant Rick Wilson has advised Republican candidates from New York to Florida and all points between, and he joins me now.

[11:20:04] Rick, let me start with a twist on that question. Is the Republican Party taking Trump seriously enough?

RICK WILSON, GOP MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, look, I think they're taking him increasingly seriously because he is sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the room for a lot 340r serious and more thoughtful candidates, because he's a fantastic spectacle.

STELTER: A spectacle. That's an interesting word to use. Are you not taking him as a legitimate serious candidate?

WILSON: He is in no way a serious candidate. He is attempting to campaign based on, you know, 25-year televised career as a celebrity and that built-in name ID is what's happening in the polls to some degree.

And there is a certain strain of populism inside the Republican Party that is angry about everything and everyone, and they think they that Donald Trump will somehow be the solution to their problems -- whereas, in fact, he's really the solution only to Hillary's problems, which is to say if it's Hillary versus Donald, we are probably looking at her taking 43 states.

STELTER: Well, let's take this at face value for a moment.


STELTER: Do you think other candidates should learn from what Trump is doing then?

WILSON: Well, look, they should learn there is a certain value to showmanship. However, this is still going to be a contest where you're going to have to have the right person, the right personally the right philosophy, the right programs to post up against Hillary.

And the fact of the matter is I think a lot of Americans would clearly look at a guy who is clearly rather short-tempered and clearly rather impulsive and question whether or not they want his finger on the nuclear trigger, and question, whether this is a guy who negotiates with Vladimir Putin.

But it isn't like negotiating a price of your ties made in Mexico. This is the real stuff. This is the big deal. And this is consequential.

And so, I think that eventually voters will look at the Trump show as another marketing effort rather than a serious presidential campaign.

STELTER: The Trump show. Is that what we should be calling this, maybe put a logo on the screen?

WILSON: Well, I think you should. And I think the media actually has a responsibility to look at this not just -- look, I get it. He's fantastic television. He's fantastic television, but there is a point here where at some point the media will decry the fact that we're not talking about serious issues and the serious challenges facing America, because you know what, we are talking about Donald Trump losing his latest endorsement deal or Donald Trump, you know, saying his latest, most outrageous things about Mexicans or about the Chinese or whomever.

STELTER: Now, he is also very polarizing. People love him or hate him, right?

WILSON: Yes. And you look at actually, you drill through the polling a little bit. And even among Republicans, his poll data approve or disapprove.

So, this is not a unalloyed singular tidal wave of, you know, enthusiasm for Donald Trump. A lot is being driven by the fact that the media has a wonderful spectacle. They're watching this guy chew up all the scenery. They're waiting every day for the, you know, what's the outrageous Trump statement of the minute going to be.

And they love it. It drives clicks. It drives views. It is -- it's bait.

And at some point, if they want to look at this as is serious presidential campaign where we are talking about a Democratic candidate, probably in the form of Hillary Clinton, and one of the four or five extremely serious thoughtful Republican candidates who are not marginal, who are not the B tier, they're going to have to ask themselves if covering Donald Trump is something that's actually good for the countries and ask themselves if covering Donald Trump is taking air out of the room, where we could be talking about more consequential and meaningful political questions.

STELTER: He is clickbait indeed, certainly drives traffic to Web sites.

I know you're not on the business of giving advice to journalists, but in this case, what advice to journalists would you give? To make it more serious, to focus on the serious contenders?

WILSON: Don't roll around in the mud with the pigs, the picks leak it. This guy -- he wants to be baited. He wants to be insulted. He wants them to go and yell at him about, you know, his deal is being canceled, or whatever Republicans said something about and he disagrees with, or whatever group complains.

This is a cycle that reporters will get into and it will feat feed upon itself over and over again. The worm will try to eat its tail, you know, chasing Donald Trump in his outrage of the day.

STELTER: Don't roll --

WILSON: And so, you know --

STELTER: You say don't roll around in the mud. Does that mean I actually go take a shower after this?

WILSON: Well, that's up to you, Brian. I'd use at least hand sanitizer.

STELTER: On that note, Rick, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.

WILSON: Any time, Brian.

STELTER: All right. Hand sanitizer it is.

Up next here on the program, the unenviable task of trying to fact check Trump and all the other candidates. He's not the only one facing allegations of being less than honest. A long time Chris Christie watcher joins me next. He is not pulling any punches about the latest candidate to throw his hat in the Republican ring. Why he says you cannot trust this man, after this.


[11:29:05] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

And speaking of reliable, is it possible to fact-check Donald Trump? That's what some journalists actually ask me in New Hampshire when I was there this week, because with all the bluster and all the trash talk, how can anybody really pin him down to facts in his pronouncement? Sometimes he says one thing one day, the next thing the next day.

Well, Angie Holan is the editor at PolitiFact, one of my favorite sites. It is dedicated to finding the truth in politics. She and her colleagues have been wrestling with Trump in their ongoing, possibly feckless search for accuracy.

Angie, thanks for being here.


STELTER: So, how do you solve a problem like Donald Trump?

HOLAN: Well, with Donald Trump, we treat him like we treat any other candidate. We take his statement. We put it on our truth-o-meter. We do the research. We look at documents. We talk to experts and we fact check whatever he says and give it our truth-o-meter rating at the end of the report.

STELTER: And I'm looking at his rating.

[11:30:02] It looks like it's not very favorable for the Donald.

HOLAN: You know, his ratings have been fairly negative. Now...

STELTER: Look at this, 75 percent mostly false.

HOLAN: You know, we use our news judgment to pick what to check.

We listen for things that are provocative or make people go hmm. But we fact-checked him on some fairly substantial issues, what's going on in Iraq, the U.S. military capability, and he often gets all the details wrong or he gets the big picture wrong. So he's gotten some pretty negative ratings from us.

STELTER: When it comes to Trump, when it comes to the stories that are not quite right, the details, are there cases where he doesn't have Pants on Fire lies, as you all like to call them, but something that's somewhat false that maybe might sound true enough to people at home?

HOLAN: Well, one example is, he says that Islamic State, the terrorists, had built a hotel in Syria. Well, we thought that was just interesting and would make an interesting fact-check.

When we looked into it, he got the details wrong. They hadn't built a hotel in Syria. They took over a hotel in Iraq, but they hadn't built it, and they were using it to house their commanders. But because so many of the details were wrong, we rated that false, too, because it was so just wrong too many different ways.

STELTER: This week, another candidate, Ted Cruz, was quoted criticize PolitiFact in his book. He talked about this as yellow journalism and said, "Through this Web site, left-wing editorial writers frequently dress up their liberal views as facts."

What is your reaction to that? Because we have seen complaints from others as well that PolitiFact skewers Republicans, conservatives more than Democrats.

HOLAN: We don't look at it that way. We come to every fact-check on its own and just try to look at the evidence. And if people read our site regularly, I think they are going to see where we are coming from and we will find that we are a good source of information.

STELTER: On the Democratic side, are you finding Hillary Clinton out there on the stump telling Pinocchio-style untruths?

HOLAN: You know, Hillary Clinton is interesting, because she is a very practiced politician. We don't see her speaking off the cuff much, which I would contrast with Donald Trump.

It seems like Donald Trump winged a lot of his announcement speech. It seems like he was kind of speaking off the top of his head. Someone like Hillary Clinton or, on the Republican side, Jeb Bush, they don't tend to go off script very much. They have either prepared remarks or they have policy material that they're very familiar with. So what we find is that when politicians are being careful and they use prepared material, they tend to get more accurate ratings.

STELTER: I have a guest standing by who wrote about Chris Christie this week, saying about the New Jersey governor, "Don't believe a word the man says."

And it just makes me wonder, is this congenital? Do you find that every politician is out there saying a whole lot that is untrue and that journalists have to step up and do a better job of fact-checking?

HOLAN: I think in recent years, we as a journalism community have been fact-checking more and more, even in our traditional news reports.

So I think when they say things that are inaccurate, they are getting called on it more often. So I think if people are having like a full media diet, if they're doing their homework before they go into the voting booth, they can offer sort these things out.

STELTER: Well, I, for one, am glad PolitiFact is here for us.

Angie, thanks for being here this morning.

HOLAN: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Even more candidates entered the race this week. I mentioned Governor Christie on the Republican side. We also saw Jim Webb enter the race on the Democratic side.

And if Governor Christie was expecting a warm welcome from his local New Jersey press corps, not so much.

Tom Moran, the editorial page editor and longtime political columnist for the largest paper in the state, "The Newark Star-Ledger," trumped the governor's announcement with a column titled, "After 14 Years of Watching Christie, a Warning: He Lies."

And Tom joins me now here in New York.

So, this column got me thinking a lot about what it's like to be a reporter on ground level following someone for years, and then seeing them run for president. What should we know about Christie that the rest of the country doesn't know?

TOM MORAN, "THE NEWARK STAR-LEDGER": Well, that's exactly the question we tried to answer with this column.

We thought -- the other big nominee was to write about how many serious problems New Jersey has that aren't being addressed, because that hasn't come up much in the national coverage of Christie either.

But we decided in the end that we wanted to give something to people that would help them filter what Christie says, and basically, our message was, be on guard, because he tells real whoppers quite constantly.

STELTER: It's pretty unusual to hear journalists, to hear an editorial page editor say, this candidate lies.


STELTER: People rarely call it out so explicitly. Why did you feel comfortable doing that?

MORAN: The gist is, the statement has to be false. He has to know it's false and it has to serve a political purpose.

So we didn't include things like broken promises of the sort -- like, he didn't -- he promised -- he passed a law, signed a law that he would deposit a bunch of money into the pension fund. The economy was slower than he expected. He didn't have the money and he broke that promise. We don't count that as a lie. Innocent mistakes, we couldn't count as a lie.

[11:35:03] But when they're real whoopers with a political purpose around it, we did. And notice, too, that he doesn't speak much to the New Jersey press, because he knows he can't get away with this stuff with people who have been following these issues for years.


STELTER: Or he might just think you all are fundamentally unfair to him.

MORAN: Yes, true.

But he's not -- it's a blanket ban. He doesn't do sit-down interviews with pretty much anybody in New Jersey. So everybody is being unfair to him by that theory. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

STELTER: But here is a quote from your column. I wanted to read this.

It says: "Christie is a remarkable talent with a silver tongue, but if you look closely, you can see that it's forked like a serpent's."

That almost sounds like you personally dislike the man.

MORAN: Well, no, this is an assessment. It's a warning to people who are listening to be careful that he does lie. It's not personal. We support him on bunch of stuff. We supported him on the bulk of his program in the first two years of cutting public spending left and right.

STELTER: What's the best example you can cite or the worst example of a Christie lie?

MORAN: Well, he was on FOX News with Megyn Kelly a couple of weeks ago, and he said the Bridgegate matter is almost basically over. The U.S. attorney said he will not file any more charges in the case. And he came back to that and said it three or four times.

This is another one where we are -- New Jersey people watching that are agape, because if you sat in the press conference with Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney, it's the opposite of the truth.

STELTER: I think what I hear you saying is, as we're entering the next however many months of this presidential cycle, whether it's Christie or frankly other candidates, we have got to turn our skepticism up even more than it might already be.

From your vantage point, at least Christie is fibbing all the time.

MORAN: Well, I don't know if I could go so far as say that I will judge all the candidates like that, but what I am doing myself is looking at what their home state newspapers say, because those people know them best.

So I will be going to Florida, for example, to look about judgments on Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

STELTER: And thanks to the Web, we can actually do that now.

MORAN: Right.

STELTER: It's a great point.

Tom Moran, thanks for being here.

MORAN: OK. Thank you.

STELTER: Up next here, is the former wrestling star Hulk Hogan about to body-slam Gawker? This is amazing. The site's founder will join me next to discuss the high-stakes legal battle over a sex tape that could force the Web site out of business. Don't go away.


[11:41:18] STELTER: Welcome back.

The stage is set for a major courtroom battle between -- get this -- former WWE pro wrestling turned reality TV star Hulk Hogan and Gawker, the New York-based media company that started as a gossip blog.

At the heart of the $100 million lawsuit is a sex tape which Gawker published 41 seconds of, a montage of sorts. And the stakes could not be any higher, because the verdict could honestly leave the Web site fighting for its life.

Hogan is suing for invasion of privacy. But Gawker maintains that Hogan is a public figure and that the sex tape was newsworthy. And now a jury of Hogan's peers will have to decide.

Joining me now is Nick Denton, the CEO of Gawker Media.

Nick, thanks for being here.


STELTER: There were lots of new developments this week. You were expecting a trial starting next week. Now it's been delayed. And we will get into the reasons why.

But, first, why is this a sort of life-or-death situation for Gawker?

DENTON: It's a $100 million lawsuit that we are talking about.

And we are a successful small to medium sized online media company. Very few media companies keep $100 million in a war chest for this kind of occasion.

STELTER: So, you're saying, if you lose, which you don't think you will, but if you lose, it could bankrupt Gawker? DENTON: We will win this case eventually. The constitutional

principles are clear. The law is clear. And nobody is contesting, I think, a single fact in the story that we ran.

So we will win. And there's already indications that the appeals court is rather more favorable to our side of the story and our side of the argument.

STELTER: But to your point about the $100 million, you published a lot of your finances this week revealing that Gawker makes a lot of money, turned a profit of, what, $6 million recently?

DENTON: Well, $6.5 million.

STELTER: But the message there was, you don't have $100 million laying around for this.

DENTON: The message there was that this is a healthy, viable company with more than 100 million monthly visitors. And even the company like ours is vulnerable to the intricacies of the American court system.

STELTER: And we will get into the reason why it's been delayed and why it's going to be dragged out.

But, first, on these First Amendment principles, you want this case to be cast as a journalism fight, right, as a fight for the right to publish information, even if it's really embarrassing for a celebrity?

DENTON: I want this to be -- this is a case about the freedom of the press, the freedom of the press to report on a story that actually had already been aired by other outlets.

And it's about freedom of expression.


STELTER: Even when the press is a blog, and even when the content is a sex tape?

DENTON: We employ journalists. We employ journalists that are recently unionized members of the Writers Guild of America East, along with Salon, which I think today also -- also unionized.

So, we do stories -- you're focused on the sex tape. We do stories about Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend, a story that the mainstream media ran with for weeks or months. And we exposed the truth behind that. We have run stories about personal technology, about video games. It just so happens that the media is more interested than sex tapes.


STELTER: So, you're blaming the rest of the media. That's funny.

DENTON: I'm just acknowledging the fact that we're all human, and sex is an important part of existence. It is a topic of news. And particularly for modern news consumers, it's not something that shocks them particularly. It's a part of life and part of news.

STELTER: And the reality about court cases involving journalism is that sometimes they fought over not government secrets, but issues like sex tapes. They still have some of the same principles at play.

DENTON: I am a former "Financial Times" journalist. I never really thought I would be cast in the role of the Internet generation's Larry Flynt. But, hey, here I am.

[11:45:00] STELTER: So where are you today? What is the current status? Because everyone is expecting this to go to trial starting in early July. Now we don't know when it's going to go to trial. Right?

DENTON: Well, my bags were packed.

STELTER: You were ready to go to Florida.

DENTON: I was ready to go to Florida tomorrow. And I guess I will have a slightly more leisurely summer than I would have otherwise had.

STELTER: I just can't help but laugh when you mentioned Hulk Hogan. Did you ever think that you would find yourself in the proverbial wrestling ring with someone like this?

DENTON: I -- no. No. Life sometimes is stranger than fiction. And -- this reads like a Carl Hiaasen novel.

STELTER: And sometimes it can seem silly. And yet, at the same time, so much money is at stake that it is so serious. You have even had to cut back on some expenses at Gawker, right? You all have been a little cheaper at work, perhaps?

DENTON: A little bit, but not much. We are carrying on, on the principle and in the expectation that First Amendment rules in this country, that freedom of the press and freedom of expression is essential to the functioning of a healthy society.

Here was a newsworthy story. We dug deeper. We exposed the truth. And we are not embarrassed about it.

STELTER: Knowing what you know now, knowing all of the legal costs already, would you have still published the video?

DENTON: I am glad that decisions that are taken on publishing are taken at the time. And I'm glad that we only really look at whether the story is both true and interesting. This story was true and interesting. And we'd absolutely publish it again in a heartbeat.

STELTER: You don't ever kind of wish you hadn't, though?

DENTON: There are too many people in the media who make calculations. I can understand that -- what they do. But they make cautious, conservative financial and reputational calculations that often result in good stories not seeing the light of day. And they settle cases. They settle cases, like this one, even when

they know they're in the right. We are independently owned. And we can afford to stand up for the principles of good journalism.

STELTER: You say you can afford it. And yet you're saying you don't have that $100 million in the bank.

DENTON: We can afford to bear the risk. We have a higher tolerance for risk than most organizations. But, being independently owned, we can make those calls.

And as far as business goes, to have a reputation for putting out the real story, despite the risks, that is a rare and -- is a rare thing in the modern world, in the modern media world. So I am confident that this reputation that we have built and that we continue to build will pay off in the longer term.

STELTER: Nick, great to see you.

DENTON: Good to see you.

STELTER: Thanks for being here.

Now, for their part, Hogan's lawyers say this case poses no potential danger whatsoever to the First Amendment. They say this sex tape is an example of speech that is not a matter of legitimate public concern. I would love to have Hulk Hogan here on the program in the future to hear his side.

Now, up next here, why you might never hear the words T is for Trump on "Sesame Street." One of the legendary children's show's stars will join me talking about the very grown-up problems Donald Trump's statements have caused.

Stay tuned.


[11:52:12] STELTER: Welcome back.

There has been so much talk about Donald Trump's talk, the way he described Mexican immigrants, calling some of them rapists. It's become at this point part of a deeper national discussion of race and ethnicity.

While offensive words about immigration tend to divide people, there are ways to bring people together with words. And you know which television show knows a lot about that? "Sesame Street," yes, the iconic children's show "Sesame Street."

And joining me here on set the actor Emilio Delgado, who plays Luis on "Sesame Street" and is Mexican-American.

Thanks for being here.

EMILIO DELGADO, ACTOR: Oh, you're very welcome. STELTER: Of course, you play an iconic character, but you have got

strong feelings about this in real life. Your outrage was certainly not delayed.

DELGADO: No, it was not.

It was immediate, because you are denigrating my people that I come from, being a Mexican-American. I was born in this country, but, still, everybody that comes from the south is part of my family. It was hard to believe that somebody was saying these words in this day and age, you know?

STELTER: So, let's cast Donald Trump on "Sesame Street."


STELTER: What would he be told on "Sesame Street"?


DELGADO: That makes me laugh. I'm sorry.

Most probably, he would have -- most probably, he would have a tete-a- tete with Oscar the Grouch.


STELTER: Do you think Trump is even grouchier?

DELGADO: I don't know about that. I mean, Oscar the Grouch is pretty grouchy, but I think he could best him.

STELTER: I do wonder if working in children's media makes you more optimistic about future generations or younger generations currently and about tolerance.


STELTER: Because there's been stories recently that say a lot of millennials hold some of the same racist views that older generations do...

DELGADO: Yes. Yes.

STELTER: ... contrary to maybe what people want to believe.

DELGADO: Well, I'm glad you brought up the point, because in the whole time that I have been on the show, in the whole time of the "Sesame Street"'s existence, the only thing that we have tried to do is create a window to the world out there...


DELGADO: ... all of the -- all of the beautiful things in the world, so that the children can be exposed to other things besides what they know themselves, to make them see that there other people that are different from them, but that are still human beings, and that we can all live together.

I mean, that's what "Sesame Street" was. We are all living in the same neighborhood, different people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, speaking different languages. It was the perfect ideal for what America could be.

STELTER: That's the power of both the news and entertainment media when used effectively, to show us the other.


STELTER: Thanks for being here. Great talking with you.

DELGADO: You're very welcome, Brian. Thank you very much.

[11:55:02] STELTER: And stay with us. We have much more RELIABLE SOURCES right after this quick break.


STELTER: Well, that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. Thank you for tuning in this morning. Our media coverage keeps going all the time on

Let me know what you thought of today's show. Send me a message on Twitter and Facebook. My user name is Brian Stelter. And I will be getting back to your comments right after the show.