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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Trump Coverage Chokes GOP Field; Outrage Over Use of Term "Anchor Baby"; The Tenth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Approaching; The Fate of Imprisoned Journalist Jason Rezaian; Patrick Stewart's "Blunt Talk". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 23, 2015 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES -- with a fantastic lineup of stories for you this hour, including a follow-up to this dramatic exchange between Donald Trump and ABC News reporter.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: That's an offensive term. People find that hurtful.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You mean it's politically incorrect and yet everybody uses it?

REPORTER: Look it up in the dictionary. It's offensive.

TRUMP: I'll use the word "anchor baby". Excuse me. I'll use the word "anchor baby."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: We'll be talking about that politically charged phrase.

Plus, journalistic lessons from Hurricane Katrina, as we approach the 10-year anniversary. I want you to hear the story behind the story, of a heartbreaking phone call from a CNN correspondent in the flood waters. It's something that stayed with me for 10 years. I think you will be struck by it as well.

And later in the hour, Captain Picard from "Star Trek", Patrick Stewart. He's now playing a cable news blow-hard and he's gong to try to teach me a thing or two about hosting. It's something that's very entertaining, coming up.

But let's set the table with this big question today. What are the effects of the media's Trump mania? How is it warping the race for the White House?

Let's begin with a moment that illustrates Trump-mania perfectly from FOX News on Wednesday. Watch what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I'm all in in creating strategies to deal with this. Heroin is particularly --

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: There's so much going on in New Hampshire tonight. And right now, also New Hampshire GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump drawing a huge crowd. We're taking you there live coming up. Do not go away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: That's right. Jeb Bush is talking about addiction when Greta Van Susteren breaks away to show an empty podium for Donald Trump nearby. Now, to Greta's credit, she was trying to cover Jeb. The other channels of that hour, I don't think cover Jeb at all.

But it's true that Trump is the media's addiction. When he speaks, he is given something no other candidate gets. That's wall-to-wall coverage here on cable news. He sucks up all the oxygen.

So, this week, we decided to crunch the numbers, because it's not just cable news that Trump is dominating. We watched every nightly newscast since the GOP debate on August 6th, ABC, CBS, NBC. And this shows how many minutes each candidate has been talked about, the bigger the bubble, the greater the coverage. Two and a half minutes for John Kasich, almost 10 minutes for Jeb Bush.

But now, let's add Donald Trump -- 36 minutes and 22 seconds. That's almost twice as much air time as all of the other 16 candidates combined. Some of them didn't get on the nightly news at all. Listen to this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TV ANCHOR: John's guests Sunday will include three presidential candidates, Republicans Lindsey Graham and John Kasich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: OK, did you catch that? That was the only mention of Lindsey Graham in this entire period, on any of the nightly newscasts. One second.

Now, lest you think this phenomenon is unique to TV, we looked to "The New York Times" coverage too. Ever since the debate, Trump has been mentioned on NYTimes.com 318 times, that's 10 times as much as Graham, by the way.

So, let's move on to the why. Why is Trump running roughshod over everybody else?

Well, there are many ratings, and one is that he is ratings gold. Last week, he was on "Meet the Press" and that program had its biggest audience in a year and a half. And right here on CNN, Chris Cuomo's sit-down with Trump score this channel's biggest 9:00 audience in months. Frank Rich has been taking a deep look at this summer of Trump and

maybe a fall of Trump. He writes about politics and culture for the "New York Magazine", after a distinguished career as op-ed columnist and theater critic for "The New York Times". He is also an executive producer of the HBO comedy series "Veep," which, by the way, is the odds on favorite to win Best Comedy series of the Emmy Awards next month. And it satirizes politics like no other show.

So, I think, Frank -- he joins me on the set -- you've got a unique perspective on entertainment and politics. That's what we're seeing with Donald Trump. We're at this intersection that we've rarely been at in this country where he is such a bona fide celebrity that cable news covers every single time he speaks like no other candidate.

FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I agree to a point. I think it's not just about his celebrity-hood. I think he actually is making news, and he's making more news, for the most part, than his opponents in the Republican race who are bland, by and large, who are very, unlike him, don't fly off with ad hominem attacks and positions. You know, it took the Republicans a couple days to even call for the Confederate flag to come down after Charleston.

So, they're not making news and he is.

STELTER: So, I said earlier he's sucking up all the oxygen.

RICH: My feeling is he is the oxygen.

STELTER: He is the oxygen.

RICH: He is the one who's made this race interesting. Not only -- he is the one who, of course, attracts viewers to the debate on fox that might otherwise have been a sleep-fest and had much lower ratings.

[11:05:00] And he is challenging the Republican establishment, the Democratic Party, the press, everybody, with views that are actually controversial and he is not afraid to state them out loud.

STELTER: What does it say about us -- many of us in the press that didn't expect to be here two months ago? When he entered the race in mid-June, there were a predictions that he wouldn't go far, that he wouldn't release his financials, et cetera. You saw this coming in many ways and expected him to be a significant force, but a lot of people in the media didn't see it that way two months ago.

RICH: I think because -- I think there is a gap between the political press and the entertainment world. The truth is that if you're standing outside the entertainment world, Trump seems like a silly celebrity, which he is, but he was -- the show he was on, "Celebrity Apprentice," he was a second-tier celebrity. People were so blinded by that prime-time television connection they didn't connect what he was saying to forces that have been out there among the public -- disenchantment, populist feelings, well before Trump took this turn.

STELTER: I've been thinking about how unique his events really are. On Friday night, I found myself saying to my wife, it's 8:00, time for Trump, like he was a show, like he was a prime-time show. That's sort of what he is. He timed his events for a big audience.

Let's look at a little montage we've done, because I'm not sure really how unpredictable he is. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: We'll start with a little talk on the illegal immigration.

We're building a wall. It's going to be built right.

And by the way, Mexico can pay for the wall, just so you understand.

I will build the greatest wall that you've ever seen.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I could give a Donald Trump speech right now.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

STELTER: Now, I'm with Ana Navarro on that. I could give a Donald Trump speech by now. It's pretty predictable. He uses a lot of the same lines. But I guess what makes him unique is you never know when he whether go off script and surprise us.

RICH: Exactly, it's like a rattle snake taking a path through the dirt, but suddenly he shows off his fangs and you don't expect that to happen with any of the others. Look how programmed, not just the Republican side, Hillary Clinton. No one is ever going to go off script. He has a script. They all have scripts. But he at least raises the prospect he'll go off it and often attack someone else.

STELTER: Are there scenes from "Veep," episodes this past season that this summer's experience reminds you of?

RICH: Well, you know, it's funny, I've just been spending a few weeks with the writers of "Veep" for the new season as the Trump thing has been happening. The truth is you can't go up against Trump. You can't duplicate it. We have our own fictional world. I don't think anyone would believe a Trump character if we invented one.

STELTER: You don't think so?

RICH: No, I think this is actually one of the rare times when the farce in politics is even stranger than what fiction could come up with.

STELTER: When you say farce though, you're saying you do take him seriously at the same time, or what he represents seriously.

RICH: I think the forces he represents seriously, the damage he could do to the body of politics and the Republican Party is real because he is not going away. And -- but he is a farcical figure. He is a buffoon. I mean, he has very shallow views. The views don't quite add up.

STELTER: But you know he's going to tweet an attack at you now for saying he's a buffoon.

RICH: It's happened before, with him and me, but that's fine. You know, that's the fun for him. He'll go after anyone.

STELTER: To the point, he's having fun. He says that to interviewers. He's having fun. That's something you don't hear from the other candidates. Some of them seem joyless.

RICH: And joy is a big part of politics. That was part of the Reagan appeal, the Kennedy appeal. You look at Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, do you think either of them emit an ounce of joy? It's sort of an eat-your-spinach kind of campaign for both of them.

STELTER: Well, let's pivot to other candidates because the big headline of the weekend, a story by CNN's Jeff Zeleny yesterday, that Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren met by themselves yesterday, it was Biden's request for the meeting.

How does that change the possibility for the Democratic race this fall?

RICH: I think what's happened for the Democrats is there is a sinking feeling as many have said and written that Hillary Clinton is running another mediocre campaign as she did against Obama and her poll numbers are sinking. She is still far and away the most popular candidate of the Democratic Party by far but she is somewhat vulnerable.

I think Biden meeting with Elizabeth Warren is incredibly provocative and making it more interesting, whether it means Biden is going to enter the race, I doubt it. I don't know. But I feel he's well- positioned should she falter. Everyone feels that way.

STELTER: For the moment at least, Trump is the dominant force on the right. Hillary is the dominant force on the left. In terms of the coverage, in terms of those measurements we were talking about at the top of the show.

Is the press unfairly at this point warping the race? Do you think there is a vicious cycle that's happening where more people are supporting Trump, for example, purely because of the television spectacle?

RICH: No. I don't think the press is unfair to the candidates. If someone makes news, like Carly Fiorina, they give that person a ton of coverage. You know, they give that person a ton of coverage, and I think it is the news.

You know, they're the leading candidates, in essence, Bush, Trump and Hillary Clinton.

[11:10:04] And so, that only makes sense to me.

Whether the other candidates feel that they're being wronged, Lindsey Graham or whomever, what do they have to show for their campaigns? What's their following? They have, you know, 1 percent following. All the Trump insults about them are sort of true.

STELTER: You're saying the viewers at home who are tweeting right now stop talking about Trump, they're actually wrong you're saying. They're saying -- you're saying we should be talking about Trump. He is the one making news.

RICH: Trump should be examined thoroughly. He is leading the polls and continues to lead the polls, he goes up every time the press and the Republican Party count him out. So, perhaps he is a serious threat to a lot that's going to happen in the next year and a half, and we should look at him. We shouldn't say, oh, you know, he is just the comic books and file him away and forget him.

STELTER: Frank, thanks for being here. Great to hear your perspective this morning.

We're just getting started this morning. We're hoping to get word today or tomorrow about Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post " reporter who remains behind bars in Iran. His brother Ali will join us later this hour.

And Hollywood's top editor is also standing by, because I don't know about you, but this intrigued me. It's one thing for Trump to be on the cover of "TIME" magazine. That makes sense, right? But "The Hollywood Reporter"? How seriously should we be taking his campaign?

It's a theme we've been talking about here. We're going to learn about the ever blurrier line between politics and entertainment, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:08] STELTER: Welcome back.

Some exclusive reporting I can share with you this morning about Donald Trump's next magazine cover. It's usually home to rock stars, but "Rolling Stone," the iconic music and culture magazine, is planning to feature Trump on the cover of its next issue. That's according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

"Rolling Stone" has declined to comment, but I'm told the cover shoot will happen and it will show up on the news stand in early September.

You know, it's the latest example of how Trump is showing up in some unexpected places in the media, including on the cover of "The Hollywood Reporter", the entertainment industry bible. He's also on the cover of "TIME" magazine this week, and like I mentioned, coming to "Rolling Stone" soon.

So, what does this all about?

Let me bring in Janice Min. She's the chief creative officer and co- president of Guggenheim Entertainment Media.

I think I'm getting your title. Is that right, Janice?

JANICE MIN, GUGGENHEIM ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA: It's good enough. STELTER: OK, good. I think of you as the top editor of "The Hollywood Reporter." Let's go with that. You interviewed Trump in his office in New York. It was actually a pretty easy interview to get, wasn't it?

MIN: It was surprisingly easy. We -- I had approached Donald Trump's person several weeks ago wanting to get a cover with him. And this was -- it was scheduled for September, when he did really well at the debates. I contacted them again and said, "Listen, I want it to be the next cover."

Within days, I was in his office doing the interview. I was in with him, all told, about three hours.

STELTER: Three hours! Wow.

MIN: Three hours, you know, not all of it was interview. A lot of it was just spending time with him. But it was good -- it was a good amount of time to sort of see how he operates.

STETLER: The last time I interviewed with you at your office, I think I got like a half hour. But it goes to show that Trump knows his audience. He knows how to reach out to entertainment outlets.

What I'm wondering is -- does your decision to put him on the cover suggest that his rise is just as much an entertainment story as it is a political story?

MIN: The two are definitely intertwined. I made the point in the story to say this is the first presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan to be born out of Hollywood.

And we say the story of Reagan was the great communicator. He is the 21st century version of that. He's the great entertainment. It seems to be working right now, no matter what you think about his politics, you know, love him or loathe him, it seems to be working.

And I think a big part of the story, you've covered it so well, Brian, is that media story is so intertwined with this. When you look at media now and television ratings being, FOX News, Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, NBC -- I mean, it all goes together in way that we have never seen before with a presidential candidate.

STELTER: For sure. In fact, let me play a part of your interview that was recorded. You were asking him about this war with FOX. I thought it was notable that he actually called it a war, although now they've made peace. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIN: Will you ever be on Megyn Kelly's show?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's unlikely, but it could happen. They wanted me to do her show. But I'm not looking to do that. I'm a very real person. And I know it's good showbiz and good for ratings and everything else. But, you know, that doesn't -- hey, I did Sean Hannity's show the other night. It's the highest rated show he's ever had. And it won over all of cable as you probably saw.

MIN: Yes, absolutely.

TRUMP: That was Sean Hannity. And he's been such a gentleman to me.

Bill O'Reilly has been so great. He is a tough cookie and he's smart. But he's been so great to me and so fair to me. So, I don't -- I mean, it's possible I'll do the show sometime but not in the immediate future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Janice, did you believe him when he said that he had made peace with Roger Ailes, the head of FOX News, that all is well now?

MIN: Yes, I do. I think it's an uneasy peace and it's a peace that will be broken several times. Like Israel and Palestine for the next -- for, you know, the duration of the election season.

But, listen, it's mutual need at the moment. One thing that really made people on the left pay attention to Trump this time was that someone actually took on Roger Ailes. You have never seen a GOP candidate do that. In I would say, what, the last 12 years?

So, even if you don't like his politics or like him as a person there is a begrudging respect for Trump and his ability to take on -- to completely challenge the status quo in a way that's never been done.

STELTER: My last question is what he said about CNN. He suggested to you and also suggested to "TIME" magazine this week that maybe CNN should pay him to be interviewed or pay him to show up at the debate next month. He suggested maybe a donation. He could get a $10 million donation to any charity in order for him to show up at the debate.

Tell me he was kidding.

MIN: You know, I don't think he was kidding. I mean, this is one of the things that was surprising about Trump when I was with him. You think he's setting up a joke, and then you realize he actually wasn't joking and he's quite serious. That's sort of what's breath-taking about him.

He realizes he is ratings gold. He is the only thing that matters right now in television. I believe he's the death of summer TV ratings right now because everybody is watching the real life Trump ratings show.

[11:20:03] STELTER: Huh!

MIN: He is obsessed with Trump and how well he performs.

STELTER: Yes.

MIN: He knows all the numbers by heart. So, listen, he's a businessman. There is a reason he's a billionaire.

There's a reason he's a celebrity CEO, but he will make these outlandish claims and statements like this. I do believe there is probably a large part of the public that says, if I were driving ratings for a billion dollar operation like News Corp or CNN, I would absolutely ask for money, too. So, you know --

STELTER: With that said, we should say no network is going to pay for a Trump interview and CNN should decline to comment on the idea.

But the idea is he has leverage. He knows he has leverage, whether he's giving an interview, whether he's doing a debate. That's why he's able to call into shows instead of show up on camera like you and I.

MIN: Listen, he is no different than let's say a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. Or, you know, let's say Kim Kardashian. Kim Kardashian, you know, gets paid thousands of dollars to tweet something, or if you're Brad Pitt you know your appearance on a red carpet can materially change an event. He's well aware of his status in the star-stratosphere right now.

STELTER: I think Brad and Angelina are a little better looking. But Donald has a lot going on too, I hear you on that.

Janet, thanks for being here this morning.

MIN: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Coming up here on the program, it may not be a four-letter word, but the latest term used by Donald Trump to describe the children of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has placed a big spotlight on how the media covers immigration and citizenship, an important conversation about that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:25:57] STELTER: "Anchor babies", it is a loaded term referring to the concept that babies born in the United States to non-citizen parents are automatically citizens. Many people say it's an offensive term, a derogatory term. And yet we're hearing and reading it all over the place this week, thanks to Donald Trump.

But check this out, this is a very intense exchange a couple days ago between Trump and ABC's Tom Llamas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: That's an offensive term. People find that hurtful.

TRUMP: You mean it's politically incorrect and yet everybody uses it?

REPORTER: Look it up in the dictionary. It's offensive.

TRUMP: I'll use the word "anchor baby". Excuse me. I'll use the word "anchor baby." (END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Trump demanded an apology from ABC for that one. But he did not get one, at least not publicly.

And now, ever since Trump talked about it, other candidates are taking sides with Jeb Bush defending his own use of "anchor babies" at a pretty testy press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you regret using the term "anchor baby" yesterday on the radio?

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I didn't.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I don't, I don't regret it.

REPORTER: You don't regret it?

BUSH: No. Do you have a better term?

REPORTER: I'm not -- I'm asking you.

BUSH: You give me -- you give me a better term, and I'll use it. I'm serious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: You can see it right there. Many journalists pushing back, challenging candidates.

What you haven't seen are debates inside newsrooms like this one about how to cover this, what language to use, what language not to use.

Let me bring in someone with strong feelings about this, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Jose Antonio Vargas, the editor of Emerging U.S., a Web site covering immigration and multiculturalism that works with "The L.A. Times".

Jose, good morning. Thanks for being here.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Good morning. Emerging Us is launching next month. It's not completely live yet. But check it out.

STELTER: And it's with "The L.A. Times". It's part of an effort to cover this topic in greater detail.

VARGAS: Yes.

STELTER: You would not use the phrase "anchor babies" on the website unless it's in quote marks attributed to a candidate. Is that right? VARGAS: Absolutely. I have to say, by the way, back to your original

point. I mean, I think we're seeing reporters are pushing back more and more, and demanding more context from politicians like Donald Trump. And we ought to be commended. You know, reporters ought to be commended who are doing that.

STELTER: Are they pushing back and giving context, or are they showing liberal bias using the phrase that the Democrats want them to use?

VARGAS: Oh, I don't know about liberal bias. I mean, if anything -- I have to say, by the way, Donald Trump always saying the term "politically correct", is it being politically correct or is it being morally decent? I mean, how shameful is it to call people just babies?

You know, when Jeb Bush was asking, give me a better term, well, what about babies? What about U.S. citizen babies? What about just kids? Why must call them (ph) anchor babies?

STELTER: Which is something that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have said. But is it not correct that we do need to cover this debate, do need to acknowledge both sides of it, or do you not think there are two equal sides?

VARGAS: Well, I mean, there are not two equal sides. I mean, I think what's really sad about this, right -- I mean, as you said, reporters are getting better, but I think we must provide more context and more facts. For example, a lot of the conversation about illegal immigration that Donald Trump talks about is tied to Mexico. Does Donald Trump know, by the way, that the actual highest growing rate of undocumented population are from Asian countries? Not from Mexico, not from Central America but from Asian countries, since 2000, right? Is that a fact that Donald Trump knows?

Does he know that, out of the 40 million Mexican-Americans in this country, out of the 40 million, the great majority of them are U.S. citizens? And for them, when you use the term illegals and "anchor babies", you're offending a great majority of people in this country.

STELTER: That's part of the media calculation as well, right?

But let me show a few of the comments from conservative talk shows this week. Here is a sample of what I saw on TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By using the term "anchor baby" or is it the latest example of political correctness run amok?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who cares about the term itself? This is another example of the left trying to shut down debate by name-calling. You're a racist, be quiet. Let's not have the conversation.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This "anchor baby" stuff is a great illustration of how everybody gets distracted over silly, meaningless things.

[11:30:01]

And by silly and meaningless, I mean people on the left are offended by it. Well, so freaking what?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Jose, what's your response to Rush Limbaugh saying this is a meaningless thing?

VARGAS: Well...

STELTER: We have seen that and I have heard that online as well from people who think this should not be being discussed, we should talk about the problem, not the language around it.

VARGAS: Well, words matter. Words matter.

And I have to tell you this. As you know, I have been traveling nonstop in our country for the past four years since outing myself as undocumented. And once people realize, by the way, that I'm Mexican, I'm Filipino, they feel totally fine calling people illegals in front of me and using the term Mexican and illegal interchangeably. Right?

Language matters here. And, by the way, this is not just about FOX News and Rush Limbaugh. "The New York Times" -- I just did a search on this in LexisNexis -- "The New York Times" in the past six months have used illegal immigrant like 8000 times -- I mean, actually, 300 times -- "The Washington Post" 800 times.

What is the responsibility of these news organizations, right, to actually determine what language it uses? When it calls people illegal, are they siding by Donald Trump? Are they siding by Ted Cruz or are they siding by whatever party?

Now, mind you, I'm neither a Democrat nor Republican. I'm undocumented. I can't vote. I don't think this is a right issue or a left issue. This is a human decency issue.

STELTER: You're saying it's about moral decency.

VARGAS: It -- look, what if we called one of your kids illegals? What if we called one of your kids anchor babies?

Now, in my view, by the way, at its very term, right, to call somebody anchor baby, when people come to this country, right, and they give birth to a U.S. citizen kid, it doesn't automatically make them American citizens. They have to wait years and years, if not decades, for that to happen.

Are you actually telling me that people are planning, oh, yes, I'm going to come to America, give birth to my children, and wait 20 years or so before I become a U.S. citizen? Do we actually think that's how people think about this?

STELTER: Well, that is the debate, isn't it? And that's the debate on the campaign trail that will continue.

But I'm thankful to you for helping illustrate what's happening in newsrooms, because these are the conversations that have been happening in recent days.

Jose, thanks for being here.

VARGAS: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me.

STELTER: All right.

Coming up on the program here, Sir Patrick Stewart here to talk about his latest, greatest role, a cable news host.

And up next is something that is actually still etched in my memory 10 years after the fact. It's the moment the Hurricane Katrina narrative changed. And it's a lesson for all of us about journalism today.

We will be right back with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:36:35]

STELTER: Welcome back.

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which was a savage, awful storm, but a shining moment for journalists who alerted the country to the disaster that was unfolding.

And right now, I want to take you back to one of those moments in particular, and one journalist's story that personally I know I'm never going to forget.

Katrina made landfall in the morning August 29, 2005. And throughout that first day, August 29, it was widely reported that New Orleans had been spared the worst, widely and prematurely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2005)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: That last-minute tug to the right was all it took to spare this city from the very worst.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this hour, it appears as if New Orleans has been spared cataclysmic damage. Most levees protecting this historic city appear to have held.

JEFFREY KOFMAN, ABC NEWS: No question Hurricane Katrina has given New Orleans a terrible thrashing. But, that said, this was not the apocalyptic hurricane that so many had feared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: I went to bed that night thinking, like many, that New Orleans had gotten lucky, that it had been spared the worst. But there was a very different story being told by reporters who were

outside of the French Quarter. They were in neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward.

Here is the part I will never forget. I heard it the next morning. I have listened to it many times since. I think it's one of the single best examples of journalism I have ever seen on television.

It's a report, by phone, by CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2005)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As I left tonight, darkness, of course, had fallen.

And you can hear people yelling for help. You can hear the dogs yelping, all of them stranded, all of them hoping someone will come.

But, for tonight, they've had to suspend the rescue efforts.

We watched one woman whose leg had been severed. Mark Biello, one of our cameramen, went out in one of the boats to help shoot. He ended up being out for hours and told horrific tales. He saw bodies. He saw where -- he saw other just unfathomable things.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, people sometimes think that we're a bunch of kind of wacky thrill-seekers doing this work sometimes. And no one who has listened to the words you've spoken or the tone of your voice could possibly think that now.

MESERVE: We are sometimes wacky thrill-seekers. But when you stand in the dark, and you hear people yelling for help, and no one can get to them, it's a totally different experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: She wept. She whispered, which made it all the more frightening, all the more disturbing.

And after Aaron Brown returned from commercial break, you could see in that very moment how the coverage of Katrina had shifted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2005)

BROWN: I was going to say the worst of Katrina is over. I'm not sure, in fact, that we can say that. What we can say is the worst of the weather is over.

But what remains, we are just beginning now, I think, to understand. And that may be far worse than our imaginations to this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: And Jeanne Meserve joins me now here in New York to talk more about that day.

Now a former CNN correspondent, she is the director of training at the Communications Center in D.C.

Jeanne, to me, this is one of the best illustrations of a journalist as a true first-responder. You were trying to alert the country and the officials in Washington about what you were seeing.

[11:40:08]

MESERVE: Yes, I call it my Paul Revere moment.

I really was very aware of the fact that we were the only people broadcasting from that part of the city, that we had the story, the real story.

And it was on my mind. Particularly, the people at the Department of Homeland Security knew me, they knew my reporting, they knew I didn't hype. They must be listening. They're going to understand. But they went home that night not understanding.

STELTER: It's because you didn't sensationalize, it's because you were in hushed tones, you were almost whispering at points, that I think it was even more attention-grabbing.

You weren't trying to overstate. If anything, you were understating what you were seeing there.

MESERVE: However, the fact that we didn't have pictures made it a very different kind of story. I think people would have heard it if they could have seen it. And they couldn't see it.

STELTER: Yes, let's talk about that day and why they couldn't see it.

So, it was in the afternoon. You were at the Superdome. And people started arriving, survivors who were soaking wet. And that's why you ended up driving out to the interstate to find this part of the city?

MESERVE: Yes.

In all honesty, it was one of our producers who was at the Superdome who said, "Hey, something is going on here."

And we went down there, linked up with a city council member who took us out to where the flooding was.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: And then you're seeing it that evening. You're hearing people out there. You tried to get onto television. And a couple times, you did get onto television. And the anchors in some cases didn't recognize the gravity of it.

MESERVE: They didn't get it. They didn't get it.

STELTER: A couple other times, you -- I think you called into Larry King's show. The phone didn't work.

And, finally, it's 11:30 when you finally reach Aaron Brown. MESERVE: That's right.

We had pulled our satellite truck out of the city because they were afraid we'd lose it, that the flooding might be catastrophic. We were working with something called a BGAN which would put us up on the satellite. That was late to get to us, and then we lost light.

So telephone was the only way that we could do it. But, yes, I had started probably around 6:00 in the evening telling people by phone what I was seeing on the air. And people couldn't hear it. They just couldn't hear it.

One of the heroes of that night, to me, is Aaron Brown, who actually listened to what I was saying and played it out and asked me questions.

STELTER: Which is one of the most important skills in television...

MESERVE: It is.

STELTER: ... actually listening to the guest, in that case you, trying to get people's attention.

MESERVE: It is.

But, listen, I have been in the anchor chair myself. I know how tough it is in a breaking news situation, when you have lots of inputs. You're thinking one, two, three steps ahead. But it is true that nobody was really paying attention to what I said.

STELTER: Once you started to relay this, once you started to break down, started to weep in this 10-minute-long report, did you find yourself thinking, this is unprofessional to be tearing up? To me, it was the most -- most human thing you could be doing at the time.

MESERVE: Yes. Yes. I am prone to tearing up. I have done it at other instances in my career.

When I finished this phone conversation with Aaron, I -- I talked to myself and was very disappointed that I had been so emotional. But, as you say, because we didn't have the pictures, it may have been that emotion that put across the gravity of the situation we were dealing with.

STELTER: And, in that moment, the story shifts, because we realize it's only just beginning, right? It's just starting to become the worst.

MESERVE: Yes.

STELTER: The water wasn't just there. It was rising. You were seeing it actually rise at the time, right?

MESERVE: Yes.

At that particular location where we were, it was already up to the eaves of the buildings. But when we drove back to downtown, we could see that it had come up in the hours since we had left.

STELTER: And one of the lessons for journalists now taking away from this is, go where others aren't.

MESERVE: Yes.

STELTER: Go where all the other reporters aren't.

MESERVE: Yes. You can only see what you see.

There may be a very different situation over the hill or down the road. Go and seek it out.

STELTER: Jeanne, thanks for being here and recounting it with us.

MESERVE: My pleasure.

STELTER: I appreciate it.

MESERVE: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: We have a special report here on CNN with Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, "Katrina: The Storm That Never Stopped," premiering Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. here on CNN.

And up next on RELIABLE SOURCES: An Iranian judge's verdict in the sham trial of "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian is said to be imminent. Hear from Jason's brother Ali, who is awaiting word from Tehran, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:48:15]

STELTER: Welcome back.

Any day now, an Iranian court is supposed to hand down its verdict against "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian. But the wait is agonizing and getting worse every day, because his family and friends and colleagues thought we would know something by now.

Rezaian has spent over a year in prison on unproven espionage charges, charges that have been roundly denied by his editor, Marty Baron. But if he is convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

So, let's get an update now from Jason's brother Ali, who has put his life on hold to advocate for his brother.

Ali, the last hearing in the trial was on August 10. Under Iranian law, the court had one week to come up with a verdict. But now it's August 22. So, do we have any idea what's happening?

ALI REZAIAN, BROTHER OF JASON REZAIAN: You know, you're right. We should have heard the verdict by last Tuesday. At this point, we're just waiting. The judiciary came out and said that we might hear something this

week. And the Iranian week starts on Saturday. So, right now, we're just waiting and hoping that we hear something soon. And we hope they do the right thing and let Jason out.

STELTER: So, you have had no signal that a verdict could actually come tomorrow or Tuesday?

REZAIAN: We haven't heard anything directly from the court. We keep on asking, and they won't give us any kind of indication.

STELTER: I checked with Marty Baron today at "The Post" today. He doesn't know anything either.

This must be -- I can't think of a word beyond frustrating to describe what this must be like for you.

REZAIAN: I think that you have to just put your normal ideas of how things should run out of window. People expect there to be a process. You expect a judicial process to be there, but this is not what we're going through.

We're going through something that is completely different that doesn't have any rules, apparently. And they do what they want to do.

STELTER: And what do you know about your brother's condition in prison? What do you know about what he's going through?

REZAIAN: You know, we know that he's very isolated right now. He doesn't see people for very long periods of time.

[11:50:00]

They have been feeding him disinformation about kind of the outside world, so that he gets more and more worried about things, more and more concerned about what's going on. And they really try and scare him as much as they can.

They don't have any evidence against him, and so they're trying to get him to say something, say that he did something that he didn't do. It's now been 396 days that he's been held. He was in court for a total of about eight hours and he spent 10 months before he even had an attorney. This whole situation is just unbelievable.

STELTER: And are you optimistic that he will be freed? Your mother was quoted this week saying she does not -- she expects a harsh sentence and for him not to be freed.

REZAIAN: Well, I think my mom is over there, and she is dealing with those things.

I think that what we have heard from our lawyer is that there is no evidence and that there's nothing to support those charges. So we have to go with that and be ready for whatever happens.

STELTER: Well, Ali, we're with you. The journalism world stands in solidarity with you and Jason.

Thank you for being here this morning.

REZAIAN: Thanks for having me on, Brian.

STELTER: And we will stay on top of this case here on RELIABLE SOURCES.

Coming up, we're going to take a turn. You may know him as the captain of the starship Enterprise or head of the X-Men army. Now Sir Patrick Stewart is taking on comedy as a TV newsman -- my interview with the self-professed news junkie next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:50]

STELTER: Welcome back.

From "Network" and "Broadcast News," to one of my favorites, ABC's "Sports Night," and more recently HBO's "The Newsroom," film and television have always had a preoccupation with the person sitting in the big chair, both on and off camera.

And now there is a new entry to the genre, "Blunt Talk." It's a sitcom starring British actor Sir Patrick Stewart debuting this weekend on Starz.

Stewart plays Walter Blunt, a hard-drinking cable TV news host whose personal life is in chaos. I'm sure that's entirely fictional right? Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLUNT TALK")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mr. Blunt, I saw your show tonight.

PATRICK STEWART, ACTOR: Thank you. You may be the only one who did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Now, Stewart is of course best known for his roles as "Star Trek" Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the X-Men mutant army chief Charles Xavier.

So, how did he prepare for this fictional newsroom role? I invited him to our real-life newsroom and found out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: In the first episode, your character, Walter Blunt, gets wasted, sings rap, I believe picks up a transgender prostitute, and ends up in jail, right?

STEWART: And also drives his car while he's underneath all these influences as well, yes.

STELTER: So, what does that say about the state of the news business? What are you trying to say about journalism?

STEWART: Well, you know, his numbers are slipping. This is something you wouldn't understand, of course, or people here.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: But the show is not doing quite as well. He has been on the air for five years.

And Walter wants to reinvigorate how he's approaching this. He wants to establish a new relationship with his audience. He wants to change the world with his news program. And -- but, in the meantime, he needs to get his personal life a little bit more organized and less -- less chaotic.

STELTER: This is very much a satire of the news business. How did you study? How did you prepare?

STEWART: I have been a news junkie all my life. I love the news. News and sport are my two primary preoccupations with television.

But I spent two days, one at "The Daily Show" and one with Rachel Maddow.

STELTER: What did you learn from them, from Jon Stewart and from Maddow?

STEWART: I learned very quickly how clever people are who work on those shows, how intellectually clever they are and how articulate.

I sat in on production meetings 9:00 in the morning, at the beginning of the day. "Tonight's show, what is it going to be?" And there was never a silence, because the moment someone finished talking about a subject or pitching a subject, somebody else was in, or there would be three or four people with their ideas.

So, I said to our team, whenever we are having our production meetings or discussions about what is going on, there should never be silence. Always somebody has something they want to say that is really urgent and they want their voice to be heard. That was the first thing I got from it.

I have learned the techniques of teleprompt reading by watching real anchors and newsmen and presenters do it.

STELTER: Maybe I can learn from you. What did you learn about reading the teleprompter?

STEWART: The important thing is not to stay fixed, rigid, staring at it as though there is a poisonous snake in front of you...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ... but to be relaxed and easy and look away...

(CROSSTALK) STELTER: To try to be conversational.

STEWART: Yes, as though you're just talking, but all the time, you have got an eye -- you need to have an excellent relationship with the operator, who can speed up when you speed up and slow down when you slow down, so it appears as though, like now, that it is all spontaneous speech.

STELTER: If you were in character right now, what would you be -- what would you be challenging me about? What kind of interviewer is Walter Blunt?

STEWART: Tell me, Brian...

STELTER: Maybe I shouldn't have asked this.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Tell me, Brian, you have a very big election coming up in just over a year's time. How do you think that election is going to go, and, most importantly, what impact is it going to have on the rest of the world?

STELTER: I'm trying to think of a way not to use the word Trump in my answer.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: I would love to get Mr. Trump onto "Blunt Talk."

I think -- I think Walter and Donald would hit it off really well.

STELTER: So, what do you think, Patrick Stewart, actual cable news anchor someday?

STEWART: I would love to have a go. I would love to.

STELTER: Thanks so much.

STEWART: Oh, thank you, Brian. Good talking to you again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Some blunt talk right there.

Now, we are all out of time on this televised of "RELIABLE SOURCES."