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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Jason Rezaian "Sentenced" in Iran; Is Trump Now the Republican Kingmaker?; The "Gray Lady" Gets a Digital Facelift; Anderson Cooper to Moderate CNN Democratic Debate Tuesday; Rupert Murdoch Tweet about Ben Carson Drew Huge Backlash. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 11, 2015 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:09] ANNOUNCER: This CNN breaking news.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter.

And RELIABLE SOURCES begins this morning with breaking news out of Iran, where a court has finally issued a verdict in a possible sentence in the espionage trial of jailed "Washington Post" journalist Jason Rezaian. This information is coming from the semi-official Iranian news agency, ISNA.

The verdict and the sentence are not yet known. And we have not been able to get comment from Rezaian's family this morning. We have heard from "The Washington Post". They are trying to gather information the same time we are. And we will check in with the foreign editor there in just a moment.

Rezaian has dual Iranian and American citizenship, and he's been imprisoned in Iran's notorious Evin Prison for 447 days. That's longer than any American journalist has been held in Iran in the past. It's also longer than the duration of Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 and 1981.

Rezaian was charged with espionage. Those are charges his family and colleagues at "The Washington Post" had said are ridiculous, baseless, absurd. And I've got to tell you, there's been no evidence for those charges.

This case has become a symbol of the dangers that journalist face all around the world. And while we wait for specific details, we can tell you that ISNA report, the ruling is not final and may be appealed by Rezaian or his lawyer in the next 20 days.

We have several people standing by to talk about these developments. But let's first go live to Tehran, to Thomas Erdbrink. He's the Tehran bureau chief for "The New York Times", one of few Western journalists operating in that country.

Thomas, what can you tell us about the lack of information around this ruling? The fact that we do not have a verdict, is that right?

THOMAS ERDBRINK, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Well, it almost seems to be a strategy, Brian, a strategy by the Iranian judicial authorities who since July very persistently have been given conflicting, ambiguous information over the verdict. First, they said there is a final court case and that means according to Iranian law that there must be a verdict within a week. That was July.

Then they said, oh, we haven't heard of any court case. Maybe it will happen. We can't get hold of judge. And now, they're saying there is a final verdict but no one knows what it is.

STELTER: So, there's this cloak of secrecy that's been surrounding this trial ever since it started in May. Trial ended in August. Now, it's October. We still don't know what the ruling was.

You were able to reach his defense lawyer. What did she tell you today?

ERDBRINK: Well, she said actually the same thing, as we are concluding now. She had not received the verdict. She also told me that Jason's mother, Mary, had also not received the verdict. And when we asked her if she knew that Jason had seen the verdict, she said, no, I think so, because Jason is not in contact with the outside world.

So, this is a mystery verdict and mystery court case. And Jason Rezaian, my friend and colleague, has been the victim of this over the past year. It is time many people here say for the Iranian authorities to come clean with what it is that Mr. Rezaian has allegedly done.

STELTER: This is a very personal story for you, as you're indicating Thomas. Do you have any concerns personally about yourself as you work in Tehran every day?

ERDBRINK: Well, I am -- I am one of the few western remaining journalists here. I'm a Dutch national, which is probably obvious from my accent. I experience issues like many other journalists experience here in Iran. I must note that the situation for journalists in other countries is much worse.

You just only recently -- yesterday saw that car bombing of a very influential journalist in Aleppo. But when it comes down to Iran, we can note that a lot of journalists have issues working here. I, however, have had my permit over the past ten years. It's been taken away from me on some occasions.

But I have been, I find, able to bring out reports about Iran as journalists will do in other countries. It's not always easy, but it has been possible.

STELTER: Thomas, thank you so much for the update from Tehran. Please stay in touch.

Thomas' boss at "The Times", Dean Baquet, executive editor of the paper, will be here later this hour.

But let's go now to Washington, to "The Washington Post". We're also hearing from State Department spokesman John Kirby. He's telling CNN that the U.S. State Department has not seen any official confirmation or details of a specific verdict from Iranian authorities.

"We're monitoring the situation closely. We continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released."

[11:05:06] "The Post" over these many months has called this entire situation a travesty and this morning, they're calling this apparent ruling vague and puzzling.

Doug Jehl is the foreign editor there. He joins me now from the newsroom.

Doug, you don't know anything more than we know at this point, right?

DOUG JEHL, FOREIGN EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: We don't. This remains a mystery to us. But I think it does underscore that what we're seeing unfolding here is sham. For Iran to say that there's been a verdict but it's not final simply suggest again that this is not matter for the courts. It's matter that's being decided in the political spheres in Iran.

STELTER: And people have suggested, many people, that he has a geopolitical pawn between Iran and U.S. and other world powers. Have you been able to speak to any family members of Rezaian this morning?

JEHL: No, we have not.

STELTER: And what has the situation been over the months between "The Post" and the U.S. government and the Iranian government. Have you received enough support from the State Department, for example?

JEHL: We've been pleased with the efforts the U.S. government has made to raise attention to Jason's case throughout. On the other hand, we do believe there's much, much more the U.S. government could be doing at the very highest levels to work with Jason's family and "The Post", to bring Jason home.

STELTER: What's an example of that that you'd like to see the government doing today?

JEHL: I think it's important that this case remain very much in the public sphere. We believe it's important that the president, the secretary of state and others repeat and put in the public sphere the fact that Jason has been held unconscionably long. Longer, as you said in your introduction, than the U.S. hostages were held during the hostage crisis in 1979.

STELTER: We're talking about the U.S. government.

What about the Iranian government? I understand from Marty Baron, the executive editor at "The Post", that you all have been trying for months to receive permission to have an editor come to Tehran perhaps to see Jason. But all of those requests have been denied?

JEHL: I visited Jason in June of 2014, about six weeks before he was detained. I've tried ever since to persuade the Iranian government to grant me a visa that will allow me to go raise his case at the highest levels and provide support to his family and those requests have been ignored.

STELTER: What is "The Post" plan from here on out? Obviously, you're having to be there and work early this morning. We're trying to get information on what the actual sentence is.

What's the plan from here on out?

JEHL: Well, we'll continue to try to get what information we can. But I do think that we're seeing is Thomas Erdbrink suggested earlier maybe some gamesmanship on the part of the Iranian authorities.

There doesn't seem to be any indication they're going to tell Jason or Jason's lawyer what this supposed verdict is. For them to say there's a verdict but that it's not final does suggest that ultimately this is matter for the government to decide. And we heard President Rouhani say last month that he was willing to work toward the release of Jason and two other Americans if the U.S. government also took some steps.

This suggests once again that Jason is not really a prisoner. He's a bargaining chip being used by the Iranian government to extract some concessions from the U.S.

STELTER: Important context there. Doug, thank you very much for being here.

JEHL: Thank you.

STELTER: Let's go to London next. The former "Newsweek" reporter Maziar Bahari was himself held prisoner in Iran in the very same prison in 2009.

You may know his name because Jon Stewart turned his story into the movie "Rosewater".

Maziar, thank you for joining me.

MAZIAR BAHARI, FORMER NEWSWEEK REPORTER (via telephone): Thank you.

STELTER: You spent, I believe, four months in this prison. Jason Rezaian now there for 447 days. What can you tell us about the experience of being held not knowing how long you're going to be held for? What can you tell us about what Jason might be going through right now?

BAHARI: Well, unfortunately, the prisoner has a much easier time inside prison than the family of the prisoner, because the prisoner knows what is happening to him or her. But the family of the prisoner, they are in the dark and they are just people who are really suffering.

I really feel for Jason's mother, Jason's brother, Jason's wife and his friends and colleagues all around the world, because they don't know what is going on.

STELTER: When you say in the dark, do you mean physically? Can you kind of describe to us what this prison condition is like?

BAHARI: Well, no. The prisoner might be in the dark but because they know, Jason's mother does not know what is the reason for Jason being in jail for 446 days. The family, they do not know what the charges are, what is the sentence.

And I think, based on what we have heard from President Rouhani and other Iranian officials in the past few months, there are some negotiations going on behind the scenes now.

[11:10:03] Negotiations that we do not know abut them and Jason's family do not know. Jason himself doesn't know about them.

And because of the structure of the Iranian government and the Iranian system, it will be very difficult for this negotiation to come to a conclusion.

STELTER: Maziar, thank you so much for calling in. I appreciate it.

BAHARI: Thank you.

STELTER: We've been showing video of Jason with CNN's own Anthony Bourdain. The reason is because Bourdain interviewed him in Iran earlier in 2014 before this detention happened. That's just an example of how prominent a reporter Rezaian was and is in Tehran. That he's one of the people Bourdain sought out.

We're going to stay on top of the story throughout the hour and throughout the day here on CNN. If we have any more information on the sentencing, we will bring it to you.

In the meantime, we join journalist all around the world who are saying with one voice -- free Jason.

We have a lot more still to come this hour, including my interview with one of the most influential figures in journalism, I mentioned him before. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of "The New York Times", his first appearance here on CNN.

Plus, Anderson Cooper teeing up Tuesday's first Democratic debate. We're going to get a first look at his moderating plan.

And up next, a Sunday morning exclusive. Donald Trump's right hand man Michael Cohen standing by. Is Mr. Trump the new Republican kingmaker?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:07] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

There was true chaos in Washington this week as Republicans in Congress now scrambled to find a replacement for House Speaker John Boehner.

Guess who claims to be behind Kevin McCarthy's stunning decision to quit the race? Wait for it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to say that Kevin McCarthy is out. You know that, right?

They're giving me a lot of credit for that because I said you really need somebody very, very tough and very smart. You know, smart goes with tough, not just tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Now, whether or not Trump deserves credit or blame for the tumult in Washington, it is clear he is a factor in Republican politics for the foreseeable future. As he said on CNN earlier this week, "I'm not going anywhere."

Is it a promise or a threat?

Michael Cohen is the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel of Donald Trump and he joins me now.

And, Michael, when we last spoke on this program it was July. Some pundits, a lot of c commentators actually, thought Trump was a flash in the pan. I wonder if you've seen a big change between the summer and now the fall, and the way Trump is treated by the press?

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Let me start by saying, I really want to commend you. I saw somewhere in August, you had on two individuals, two pundits that you brought back to the show --

STELTER: Oh, that's right.

COHEN: -- and you asked them to reevaluate and to cast some comments regarding their predictions regarding Mr. Trump. And both of them, at your insistence, turned around and said the right things, which is Donald Trump is here to stay. Not only is he here to stay, he's actually going to take the White House.

STELTER: You are 100 percent confident he's going all the way?

COHEN: He's going all the way.

STELTER: What about this rise in Ben Carson in the polls? You see him as a clear number two. Sometimes really right behind Trump in the polls.

COHEN: You know, this will now answer your question regarding the media, and how they treat Mr. Trump. Totally dishonest in terms of the way that they speak. MJ Lee yesterday on CNN made a comment about how in Georgia, it was packed place but it wasn't filled to capacity. But they are people still outside. They were overcapacity, by more than 3,000 people.

STELTER: But MJ is one of our best reporters. Wasn't she's doing her job by describing the scene?

COHEN: It's dishonest reporting and I think her intent was to marginalize Mr. Trump. So, let's --

STELTER: You think people are marginalizing. A lot of people think the press has actually built up Trump, created him, turned him into what he is today.

COHEN: I would say the opposite. I would say that Mr. Trump is actually building up the media. When you start seeing 24 million, 30 million people watching debates that were basically unwatchable -- and who knows, let's see what happens with the Democratic debate. Though Bernie Sanders is probably going to be the driving force on that one and not Hillary.

But you can ask a great question regarding the polls. So, here's the last four polls. New Hampshire, Public Policy, "The Corning Consult" and IPSOS/Reuters. Donald Trump is anywhere between 32 and 27 percent with Ben Carson anywhere from 12 to 17.

Mr. Trump has gone up in every single poll. Yet they turned around and still say things like, he's at his status, and he's not going to go higher.

STELTER: The press likes a horse race, you know that.

COHEN: Yes, but Ben Carson went up from, what, 10 to 12, 13 to 17?

Mr. Trump is a command -- he's commanding a sizable lead by more than double of everybody else. In terms of Marco Rubio --

STELTER: The gap was six points between Trump and Carson in the new CBS poll this morning.

But I hear what you're saying. Trump, there's no doubt he's number one. You feel that when the press focuses on the polls where Carson is rising, that they're trying to marginalize your candidate.

COHEN: Absolutely, and it's not going to work.

STELTER: Let me show you a quote from "The New York Times". This is something that was published a couple of days. It says, "Mr. Trump's ability to command voter and news media attention simply by being as outlandish, bombastic self is starting to wane. The decline and attention from Mr. Trump seems particularly pronounced in the conservative news media to carry influence over many Republican primary voters."

Is this your experience that interest is starting to wane? That there's maybe fewer press request than there were in July or August?

COHEN: Not in the slightest.

STELTER: No?

COHEN: Actually, he has enough press requests for the next five years for multiple times during a day, all right?

Donald Trump, let me tell you what he presents, he represents the heart and soul of America, of the silent majority in the middle class that has been overlooked. He represents the minorities, despite what things like the U.S. SEC said about him or others have criticized him in the past.

Absolutely inaccurate. He represents exactly what America is looking for, leadership, ability and nothing shy of being what an American president should be.

STELTER: Let me ask you a couple of questions about media coverage, because last month here on CNN, you said FOX News was trying to get Donald Trump out of the race. There's been feuding that's been going back and forth. Right now, it seems like they've made peace.

COHEN: Yes, there's no problem now with FOX.

STELTER: Can you give us insight on how you got to that point?

COHEN: You know, I wasn't involved in that, so I don't know. I know there's no issue any longer between FOX and Mr. Trump.

STELTER: There were reports that the head of FOX News would meet with Mr. Trump. Do you know if it ever happened?

[11:20:01] COHEN: I'm not going to discuss Mr. Trump's private affairs, whether with the head of FOX.

STELTER: Right now, no feud. Would he ever go on Megyn Kelly's show by the way?

COHEN: You know, I don't know. It's something that Megyn should probably ask him.

STELTER: Oh, I'm sure she's been asking.

COHEN: Well, I don't know. Then, I think it's probably something the campaign manager would be better suited to respond.

You know, can I touch on one other additional quality Mr. Trump has that no other candidates have? He's a doer. The guy has been able and successful if doing so much. He does it with honesty.

That's something that so many of these other candidates lack. They're just not honest. We as voters, we see right through this.

STELTER: Let me ask you about honesty. You've been pretty aggressive with the press yourself. This summer, you were quoted in "The Daily Beast" that are making this threat against reporter Tim Mack. I'm going to quote part of it, it's pretty lengthy.

"So, I'm warning, you said, tread very blanking likely, because what I'm about to do to you is going to be blanking disgusting. You understand me?"

You went on because you were trying to stop him from publishing a story about Trump and one of his ex-wives. Do comments like that impact the tone of campaign coverage? Do you regret the way you talked to that reporter?

COHEN: Do I regret it? I regret the fact it got out there. It's not what our conversation was really about. I received an e-mail from him. It was a disgusting e-mail that accused Mr. Trump of a horrific act with his ex-wife.

I was thinking about the children, the grandchildren that were going to see these stories and reports. And I'm very protective of Mr. Trump. I care about him not just as my boss but as a person, because he's really a good man.

STELTER: Have you ever talked to that reporter again and apologize?

COHEN: Never, never.

STELTER: Why not apologize?

COHEN: I have no reason to apologize.

STELTER: That's a very Trump-esque quality.

COHEN: Maybe that's why I work with him. But I can tell you, what he did is he sent an e-mail to a young lady, basically actually verbatim stating, "I intend on writing a story about Mr. Trump and this horrific act with his wife in 1999. Care to comment."

Well, he got my comment. As far as I'm concerned, I have no use for the likes of him. I don't consider him to be a journalist.

STELTER: Do you think Trump is running anti-press campaign and at the same time he's using the media as interviews. Is that fair characterization?

COHEN: No, I don't think it's fair at all. I think it's exactly the opposite. Mr. Trump will be Mr. Trump.

STELTER: He likes to call us dishonest, when he's up at his rallies. He likes to take the press.

COHEN: Well, when you are dishonest, then you should be called exactly what you are. That's -- again, that goes back to the whole point -- he's honest. He says what he believes and he believes what he says. He doesn't need a pollster to tell him, Mr. Trump, you need to answer it this way, because that's what the majority wants. He's going to call it the way he sees it and not the way anybody else sees it. That's why he's leading the polls dramatically.

STELTER: I have to run, but I wanted to ask you about the Univision lawsuit. Is it still going on? Are you all still suing Univision for $500 million?

COHEN: It's still pending.

STELTER: It's about the Miss USA, Miss Universe pageant. Any status update on that? Do know what's going on with it?

COHEN: You'll be seeing it in the papers, hopefully, in a short period.

STELTER: OK, we would love to have you back and talk about it.

COHEN: Always.

STELTER: Good to see you.

COHEN: Really nice to you.

STELTER: Thank you for being here.

COHEN: Always.

STELTER: We talked a little bit on Ben Carson here. And we're going to spend more time later this hour talking about his cozy relationship with FOX News owner Rupert Morduch.

But up next, a news junkies dream. "New York Times" editor Dean Baquet joins me in just a moment. And you've got to hear why he says the paper must radically transform itself to survive and thrive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:53] STELTER: Welcome back. More now on the breaking news from Iran with reports of a verdict and a sentence in the long, ongoing espionage trial of Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post" reporter. He's been jailed for more than 14 months.

We're still waiting for specifics of the verdict, but we're told that the family, that Jason's family is working on statement and we'll bring it to you when we have it.

We spoke earlier with Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran bureau chief for "The New York Times". And now, Dean Baquet joins me. He's the executive editor for "The Times", responsible for Thomas and all "The Times" reporters in trouble spots all around the world.

Dean, welcome to the program.

DEAN BAQUET, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you. Good to be here.

STELTER: When you hear about a possible verdict in the case, what does it make you think about because you have reporters like Thomas in hot spots around the world?

BAQUET: Sure. But part of me is hoping it's good news. But 'The post" is right, the whole thing is a sham. And if the Iranian government and other governments, including the Chinese government, really want to be covered fairly and really want to participate in the sort of a broad conversation among nations, they have to let journalists do their job.

And Jason was just doing his job. And it's an outrage that we're even at this point. But I'm going the hold this out some hope that the news is good. STELTER: Yes, it's the same here.

Let's talk about developments at "The Times". This was a really interesting week.

BAQUET: Yes.

STELTER: You released an 11-page strategy memo that says "The Times" must be transformed for the digital age.

BAQUET: Yes.

STELTER: It was written by you and the business side. So, tell us what the plan is.

BAQUET: Yes.

STELTER: Because a lot of people wonder how any print newspaper can survive in this age.

BAQUET: First up, we'll still be a print newspaper. We'll still be a print newspaper for a long time to come, I believe.

But the goal of this was to say, first off, "The New York Times" is already further along than in the other big digital business.

STELTER: How much money do you make from the web currently?

BAQUET: Four hundred million dollars in revenue.

STELTER: And that's from advertising, but mostly from subscribers.

BAQUET: Yes. Well, no, about half and half.

STELTER: And how much for the print side.

BAQUET: Print is twice that.

STELTER: And that's the problem in a nutshell, right? Four hundred million for the web. A lot more for the print --

BAQUET: It's hard to say it's a problem when you still have the money coming in.

First of all, I would say two things. "The New York Times" is the best news gathering operation in the world.

[11:30:00]

And I think what we're finally seeing, what we really understand, is there's a huge opportunity for us in the digital life of the world. We want to build up -- we need to get a bigger audience internationally. We need to increase our audience domestically. And we can do that.

And think once the business side and the newsroom sat together, we realized we were actually in agreement on most of the important stuff and we could deal with the stuff that we weren't in agreement on.

And the biggest thing we're in agreement on -- and this is my fifth newspaper, so this is no small matter -- we all agree that the future of "The New York Times" is going to depend on its journalism and it's going to depend on its commitment to its mission that's not only good for the journalists and the journalism of "The New York Times" but the whole business side realizes that's good for future of it as a business, too.

STELTER: My takeaway from your memo was that subscribers are the future. Yes, you're going to have ads but it's about making sure more people are willing to pay for "The Times."

BAQUET: That's right.

STELTER: People pay for CNN and other cable news channels from their cable bill. With "The Times," you have to pay directly. You have go online and type in your credit card.

How will you make millions of more people pay for the paper, the first Web version of the paper?

BAQUET: The first thing we have to do is we have to make it more available to them. One of the things that we're focusing on a lot -- and I'll talk a little bit about that -- is international. We have a million paid subscribers, which is a big deal. That's way more than anybody else like "The New York Times."

About 12 to 13 percent of them are international subscribers. And we really haven't pursued them. We give them great journalism. But we don't go out and figure out what more they want. We don't go out and figure out; we have not in the past and we're going to do that.

And when I say remake "The New York Times," it's natural that "The New York Times" would go hard after building an international audience.

STELTER: Right.

BAQUET: I just got back from London and one editor -- whose name I won't mention -- said that all of the British papers and all of the British news organizations have been waiting for the moment that "The New York Times" says we're coming and we're going to build an audience -- and we are.

STELTER: So you're saying that now?

BAQUET: I'm saying that now.

STELTER: Now we used to work together. I used to be at "The Times" as a media reporter for years. I know how important politics is to the paper.

And here's the question. When I told people on Twitter you were coming on, a lot of the questions were about Hillary Clinton coverage. People say you're unfair to Clinton and to the campaign.

How you respond to people that say you all are too aggressive, that you treat her differently than all the other candidates in the race?

BAQUET: We're aggressive on all the candidates. And I'll say two things.

First off, one thing that has fueled it is we made a mistake on a story.

STELTER: The email server story --

(CROSSTALK)

BAQUET: -- which we corrected.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: -- a criminal and then you --

BAQUET: No. We screwed it up. But I will also point out that we also broke the story today about dissension within the Benghazi committee. We also did the most deeply reported story about who did what in the whole Benghazi fiasco that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador, which I think the Clinton people would say was fair and made -- and did not point a finger at her.

So I think if you add all that up and add up the daily coverage of her, we're not unfair.

STELTER: You're just saying we have to look at the full picture.

BAQUET: You have to look at the full picture.

And you have to look at the fact that when we screw up, we own up to it.

STELTER: I wonder about screwing up? I wonder if, in an age of the Web being the top priority, that maybe more mistakes are getting through and more errors. Let me put up on screen, I think were five correction that were published on a profile -- well, you laugh, but five corrections on a profile maligning Trump, Donald Trump's wife.

Do incidents like this undercut your claim to be the best news source in the world?

BAQUET: Sure they do. Any time we make a mistake it hurts us. I'm not convinced more mistakes get made. I actually think something healthy is going on, even though it's something that we have to deal with.

STELTER: Healthy?

BAQUET: Healthy more mistakes are being caught, more people, readers come to us and say you've got that one wrong.

You know what, 25 years ago they couldn't do that. They had no ability to do that. Readers come to us and say, hey, I think you're off on this one. I respond to a lot of readers. And when we get stuff wrong, we correct it.

I actually think, believe it or not, something healthy has happened, which is we now listen to reader. We hear them out and we correct them when we get it wrong.

STELTER: There's not a sense that y'all move too fast on the Web sometimes?

BAQUET: I don't think so. Boy, I mean when you think about the amount of coverage that a news organization like "The New York Times" offers every day and you count the number of corrections and the fact that we, unlike most news organizations, look for corrections and correct them, I don't think so.

STELTER: When you, at the end of the day, think how long print might be around for, do you have a guess these days or a prediction?

BAQUET: I don't.

(LAUGHTER)

BAQUET: But I will say this: so far, "The New York Times'" print edition is still so vibrant that it makes money every day, seven days a week. It still has a huge audience. And that huge audience spends more time with print than it does with our digital "New York Times."

So I won't -- here is what I will do. I won't bet or guess but I hope it lasts a long time.

STELTER: Can "The New York Times" without a print product have -- is it now 1,200-1,300 journalists?

Can it sustain that size?

[11:35:00]

BAQUET: Tomorrow, probably not. But I don't think we're facing that right now. I don't think we're facing -- there's no evidence that print will go away any time soon.

By the way, one reason we want to double -- our big announcement this week is that our goal is to double digital revenue. It's to double digital revenue to sustain a big newsroom that can continue the mission that we have.

STELTER: In the short term, there's a lot of concern about buyoffs or layoffs this year.

Any guidance on that? Is that possible?

BAQUET: There's no plan or discussion about buyoffs or layoffs NYT: -- but I should say this -- because I've been an editor or journalist long enough. Any editor who says he's not going to cut, have to cut in the future is sort of kidding you. There are things outside of our control. We happen to be publishing a news operation in a robust economy. I don't know what the economy looks like a year from now. So I can't make any promise like that.

STELTER: Seems like that, for someone like you, one of the top editors in the country, it's the best of times and also the most uncertain of times.

BAQUET: Right.

STELTER: But it's dizzying in some ways.

BAQUET: It is. But you know what? For journalism -- and you have to separate journalism from the institutions like "The New York Times" -- for journalism, this is the best of times. We can do things we could never do before. We can do video. We can take a look the campaign finance story that we published yesterday and today and look at how it was presented online.

We couldn't do that 10 years ago. That's good for the country. It's good for journalism. Even though it makes the business life, our business life uncertain, for the country and for journalism, all this stuff is great.

STELTER: This is more optimistic a conversation that I have expected to have. And I'll e-mail you when I spot a mistake.

BAQUET: OK.

STELTER: Good to see you.

Thanks for being here.

BAQUET: Be well.

STELTER: Up next on reliablesources, Bernie Sanders all but ignored by the network news.

Is that going to change on Tuesday night?

My next guest is the moderator of Tuesday's debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper and I'll ask him, what's the toughest part of moderating that we don't see on TV? His surprising answer is next.

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[11:40:00]

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STELTER: Welcome back.

I don't know about you but I think there's one Democratic presidential candidate who has been getting short shrift from the press. His name is Bernie Sanders.

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STELTER (voice-over): Take a look at this. Two minutes: that's the total amount of coverage that the big three evening news programs -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- have devoted to Sanders since Labor Day.

Compare that to 26 minutes for Hillary Clinton and six minutes for Joe Biden, a candidate that's not even in the race, at least not yet.

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STELTER: By the way, the others in the race, zero minutes of coverage. But all that could change in two days. Let's put up the clock because on Tuesday the Democrats take the stage in the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate.

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STELTER (voice-over): Here is a live look inside the debate hall in Las Vegas. The preparations very much underway. Tuesday will be the first time the candidates will go head to head. For many Americans it'll be the first time they are seeing Sanders and especially the other three: Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee.

So what kind of debate will this be? I caught up with moderator Anderson Cooper right before he left for Vegas.

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STELTER: Anderson, thank you for previewing the debate with us.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Sure.

STELTER: We've seen two GOP debates so far. The FOX debate was all about interview questions, probing questions of the candidates.

CNN's debate was more about face-off questions, getting the candidates to talk with each other.

What's your style going to be on Tuesday?

COOPER: I don't think this is a debate where you'll have candidates attack each other. We've not seen this on the campaign trail. Going to the Republican debates you pretty much knew there were a number of candidates who were willing to do that, looking to do that.

And some lower-level candidates wanted to punch up and try to make a name for themselves. So that's not the case so far we've seen on the Democratic side. So I think it's a mistake to anticipate that there's going to be a lot of -- you know, Bernie Sanders has been very clear. He's not going to go after Hillary Clinton by name. He's not going to criticize her. And I see no reason that Hillary Clinton would do that with any of the candidates.

STELTER: So you're saying trying to set them up for a faceoff isn't something that's probably going to work? COOPER: I don't think so. First of all, I'm always uncomfortable with that notion of setting people up in order to kind of promote some sort of a faceoff. I think these are all serious people. This is a serious debate. They want to talk about the issues. And I want to give them an opportunity to do that.

STELTER: What does it mean to have this be first of the Democratic debates? It's October. It's pretty late in the cycle, compared to past recent presidential cycles.

COOPER: Look, I've done a number of primary debates over the last, I don't know, I guess 11 or so years. I think this is my sixth one.

STELTER: You've lost count, huh?

COOPER: Yes, I'm not just a very good counter. But five or six. And so I just think it's exciting that so many people are interested and so many people are watching. And I think to have the first Democratic debate, where you've never seen these candidates really all on a stage together, I think the dynamics will be interesting.

The stakes are incredibly high. They all have a lot to prove. And I think it's going to be fascinating to see Bernie Sanders next to Hillary Clinton and how that dynamic works and some of these other candidates, who people really don't know very much about.

STELTER: For one thing, it's Bernie Sanders' most prominent stage ever.

COOPER: Yes. We've seen him in front of big audiences. He's been packing --

STELTER: -- these rallies of 20,000 people.

COOPER: -- you know, huge rallies for him.

But in terms of this size of debate, yes, he's not been on this kind of a stage. He's done a number of debates in his home state. He's an accomplished debater in that sense.

And all the indications from his campaign are that he's not doing sort of mock debates. He's just going to be himself. And you know, I think that's been working for him so far.

STELTER: You mentioned how popular the debates have been so far. The two Republican debates having 23 million to 25 million viewers.

COOPER: I haven't heard that.

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STELTER: A record for cable news.

Of course, a lot of that, maybe most of that was --

[11:45:00] STELTER: -- Donald Trump. I wonder if you think there's a Donald Trump halo even for the Democrats this fall.

COOPER: You know, I really don't know. I -- we'll see. In the world of television, as you know, there's so many moving parts and so many things that you can influence, that you can worry about. I try not to worry about the things I really can't influence.

STELTER: You can't influence, for example, there's baseball games up against this debate on Tuesday. There's all those sorts of factors that influence the ultimate ratings for these events.

But it is interesting that Trump has gotten people to watch debate --

COOPER: No doubt about it.

STELTER: -- never would have watched debates before.

COOPER: Absolutely. Yes. No, at this stage in a primary battle to have that many people watching a debate with that many candidates, it's incredibly -- it's amazing. It's extraordinary and I think it's good for the process.

STELTER: What makes for an effective debate, a successful debate, in your mind, given that you've been on these stages many times?

COOPER: I think it really depends. Certainly I think from my vantage point, if the next day the story is about the moderators, I think that's not something I aim for. This is about the candidates.

STELTER: We're sitting here in your studio so there's not much of an audience. You're going to have hundreds of people in the audience for this debate.

What kind of difference does it make to have a studio audience?

COOPER: You know, I like having an audience. There's -- it's -- there's electricity to it. There's an energy to it.

When you're on the stage with a number of candidates, one of whom has a very real possibility of becoming the next President of the United States, you don't need extra energy. I mean, the energy is palpable on that stage.

STELTER: Even with only five candidates as opposed to 11?

ANDERSON: It's electric. These are candidates who are intense people, every single one of them. And this is an incredibly important night for them. And they want to be on their A game. They have staffs of people who are incredibly stressed out just like pacing behind the scenes. They want you to call on them.

What you don't see on camera a lot of times are sort of the poker signals, the poker tells that the candidates are giving you to try to get you to call on them, glaring at you with their eyes, motioning at you with their fingers, whatever it may be. You know, I've had candidates, spouses come up to me during commercial

breaks, yelling during debates that their loved one is not getting enough time. And that happens pretty routinely.

STELTER: I do wonder if that will be an issue with Lincoln Chafee, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, these second-tier candidates that aren't getting nearly as much as support as Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

COOPER: Yes, certainly, if you look at the poll numbers.

Look, I think it's important to give fair questions to everybody across the board. I think it's just as interesting to kind of learn about some of these candidates who the American public doesn't really know much about as it is to hear from some of the candidates you do.

STELTER: Last question for you.

Do you have a debate day ritual of sorts?

COOPER: I do not. No, I don't. I mean, I like to be overprepared. I like to be doing more research than less. So I'm reading up until the last moment.

I was in Greece, Turkey -- no, sorry; Greece, Germany and Austria and England last week for "60 Minutes," coverage the refugee migrant crisis and shooting that during the day and then at night reading a foot-tall packet of research that I had on every interview these candidates have given over the last several months.

I like to know, I like to be armed with information and facts. So no matter what happens, whatever the direction it goes in, the idea is that you'll be able to respond and think on your feet.

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STELTER: And the debate podium order came out this morning. Take a look.

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STELTER (voice-over): Hillary Clinton, of course, in the middle because she has the highest poll numbers. You can watch Anderson Cooper moderate that debate Tuesday, 8:30 pm Eastern here on CNN.

Coming up, Ben Carson dishing it out, taking on the media and also really reacting in strong, strong terms.

Is the honeymoon over for the Republicans' number two candidate?

We'll be right back.

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STELTER: Ben Carson is emerging as the GOP candidate, who, more than anybody else, is running against the media this election cycle. But he has a big fan in the media, this man, Rupert Murdoch, the head of FOX who tweeted on Wednesday, "Ben and Candy Carson are terrific. What about a real black president who can properly address the racial divide? And much else?"

STELTER: Real black president? As you know, Murdoch's tweet drew a huge backlash. He sort of apologized the next day. And his spokeswoman told me, "We don't comment on his tweets."

Joining me now, Tanzina Vega, CNN digital correspondent, who covers race, inequality, tech and media diversity.

So, Tanzina, when you hear the words "real black president" and you know the context of seven to eight years to delegitimize this president, how do you take it?

TANZINA VEGA, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: So I think the question here isn't so much that Rupert was supporting Carson, it was that issue of the "real black president," right?

Who is the arbiter of blackness?

What do we define as "real blackness"?

And so there are a couple of things to unpack here. We need to look at Rupert's tweets. And when we see the narrative that he's tweeted about Carson and he says Carson is someone that came from the Detroit ghetto, and I quote, there's a sort of reliance on the narrative that conservatives I think really feel comfortable with, which is this self-made person that pulled themselves up by their boot straps and sort of didn't have to really address the issues of structural inequities that we're dealing with when we talk about race.

Obama's identity has often been called into question. He was born in Hawaii, he's biracial. Is he too black, is he black enough?

And that's the thing that's really getting unpacked here, is the question of who defines blackness and why do we only have one narrative that's very myopic when we look at what blackness is today.

STELTER: We know that Murdoch is championing Carson. He's been tweeting support for months.

Then a couple of days later this "GQ" article comes out. We can sort of show it on screen but we have to blur one of the words because it's attacking Ben Carson. FOX News went wild about this, defending Carson. I think understandably I mean, this is a pretty shocking headline.

But it was getting at something deeper, wasn't it? VEGA: Yes, absolutely. I think the question here, again, is: is Ben Carson going to really resonate with an African American base or with the Obama, quote-unquote, "coalition"?

You know, will we --

[11:55:00]

VEGA: -- see that level of support for this type of candidate?

So I'm not sure if we're actually going to see that, to be honest with you.

STELTER: These issues of race are so fraught in this campaign. And when you see 140-character tweet there's really no way to get to the detail and the context.

VEGA: Rupert runs his own Twitter account, which is pretty amazing. He doesn't have someone else doing it for him. But I think here what we're seeing is a conversation or a comment that might have happened behind closed doors. It may have happened at dinner at some point and there never would have been an apology.

But when you tweet something like that, the conversation on race is happening in real time, it gets a real-time reaction.

STELTER: And he did sort of apologize.

Tanzina, good to see you.

VEGA:

STELTER: Thanks for being here.

Coming up next, why the first CNN debate -- the Democratic debate, that is -- will make history on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

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STELTER: Tuesday's Democratic debate will make history because it's going to be the first news event streamed live in virtual reality. We'll tell you what that means next week. We're out of time for now. "STATE OF THE UNION" starts right now.