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Did CNBC & GOP Cave on Upcoming Debate?; Record-Shattering Debates; The Naked Truth Behind Playboy's Historic Move; "Goosebumps" In Theaters This Weekend; The Future of Virtual Reality. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 18, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter, and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story as news in pop culture get made.

And ahead this hour, it is an end of an era. Is no nudes good news for "Playboy"? We'll get a hot take from rival publisher Larry Flynt.

Plus, from adult magazines to children's books. A very personal interview with "Goosebumps" creator, R.L. Stine, one of the best selling authors of all time.

But, first, we have two presidential debates to talk about. Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein is standing by to talk about Tuesday's Democratic debate which shattered ratings records for the party.

But let's start with the next debate, actually, the GOP matchup coming to CNBC later this month. The question is, did the network and the Republican Party get strong-armed by two of its leading candidates?

It sure seems that way. You know, Ben Carson and Donald Trump threatened to boycott the debate this week. Take a look at this letter from both of them. It says, "Neither Mr. Trump or Dr. Carson will participate in your debate if it is longer than 120 minutes including commercials, and does not include opening and closing statements."

In other words, nice little debate you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it, right?

Well, in a moment, I'll talk to one of Dr. Carson's closest advisers, Armstrong Williams, about how this all went down.

But, first, Sean Spicer, the communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee.

Sean, good to see you this morning.


STELTER: Let's get into the debate in just a moment. But, right now, there's a debate playing out here on Sunday morning TV between two of the leading candidates for your party's nomination, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.

And amazingly it's over the topic of 9/11. Here's what we heard this morning from Jeb Bush and Donald Trump on the Sunday morning shows.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Does anybody blame my brother for the attacks on 9/11? If they do, they are totally marginalizing our society.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not blaming George Bush, but I don't want Jeb Bush to say my brother kept us safe, because September 11th was one of the worst days in the history of this country.


STELTER: Fourteen years after that terrible day, Sean, did you ever imagine the RNC, would be having this intra-party debates about the attacks?

SPICER: No, I think, look, you know where I come down, Brian. I think myself and Chairman Reince Priebus want these candidates talking positively about where to take this country, why we have a better vision that the Democrats and to stop litigating necessarily the past and each other, and focus on what they will do as individuals as Republicans to make this country --

STELTER: So, you're agreeing this is not what the RNC had in mind heading into the fall of 2015?

SPICER: Well, I would say this is one little spat, right? I think all of them, there's been several. On the Republican side, we believe it's much more helpful, much more beneficial in the long run if we're actually focusing on why we're better and why our candidates are better?

STELTER: Does the party have any point of view on whether Trump or Bush are in the right here, about whether former President George W. Bush should be given any blame for the people that died that day?

SPICER: I think George Bush did a great job keeping America safe. There's no question about that. We'd have a horrific attack --

STELTER: Do you mean after 9/11? Do you mean starting on 9/12?


SPICER: Excuse me?

STELTER: Do you mean starting on 9/12?

SPICER: Yes, absolutely. There's no question.

When this country was attacked, George Bush did everything he could to keep the safe going forward. I think it is a bit -- I don't believe Donald Trump and you saw that comment earlier this morning that he made on another network where he's not blaming him for 9/11. I think we can all agree that President Bush, regardless if you're Republican or Democrat, did everything to protect this country before 9/11 and definitely after 9/11.

STELTER: We talked on this program over the summer about some of the worst we've seen within the GOP. You called for, quote, "no more name-calling". Do you feel that's been ignored in recent weeks especially involving Trump?

SPICER: I mean, a lot of them actually, it hasn't been completely followed. Doesn't mean we're not going to keep pushing for it.

STELTER: So, you're reiterating that this morning?

SPICER: Excuse me?

STELTER: So, you're reiterating that this morning?

SPICER: I think Chairman Priebus, when talks to everyone of those candidates on a regular basis does the same and he says I get what you're trying to do but here's where I think would be more helpful.

Look, they're going to run their own campaigns, we get that. But our job is to try to do what's best for the party and try to make sure we put ourselves in the best possible position to win next November.

STELTER: That brings us to the next GOP debate on CNBC. Take us behind the scenes a bit. These normally private negotiations about how long a debate is going to be and the format is going to be spilled out into public view this week. What was the ultimate conclusion about the CNBC debate?

SPICER: Right. Well, look, and you frame it perfectly. Every single one of these debates takes about five years off my life in terms of the negotiations. But they're just that. There's a back and forth with the RNC advocates for things that the candidates wants and tries to work with the network to help collectively take care of that.

That was definitely the case this time. It's been back and forth between the networks and the candidates.

[11:05:01] CNBC has been committed to having a really, really great debate. And they had some tweets they wanted to implement that they've always done in the past. The candidates felt it was important to have an opportunity both at the beginning and end of the debate to express who they were and why they were running.

We agreed with them and we worked with CNBC back and forth on behalf of the candidates. We came to an agreement on something that I think is very helpful for them.

With respect to the timing, when CNBC announced this debate in September 28th, they said very explicitly it would be a two-hour debate.


SPICER: What the debate about that was is there was a question whether that two hours would or would not include commercial breaks. Several of the candidates felt like the last debate had gone on too long, and so, they wanted to ensure it was two hours of total time. We were ultimately able to work with CNBC to get that as well.

So, I feel very good about how the RNC handled this on behalf of the candidates and, ultimately, we're going to have a great debate on CNBC.

STELTER: You mentioned the last debate. It was on CNBC for the GOP. It was three hours long. What's remarkable is that viewers, almost all of them stayed for the whole debate. Isn't it good for viewers, good for voters to have longer debates, not shorter?

SPICER: Well, I think it's a formula, right? Because it's not just a question of timing. It's how many candidates are on stage, where you are. In the case of the Reagan Library, it's what people don't see necessarily off camera is that the room was rather hot. The candidates were getting -- it was late in the evening. Remember, it was a West Coast debate. So, if you're from the East Coast, which most of them are, it's not just, you can't say this is the time that makes sense. Each debate has to get negotiated in itself.

STELTER: It's a balancing act between interest of all the people involved.

SPICER: Right.

STELTER: Last question. I heard the candidates aren't polling as well, that all you should be using and CNBC frankly should be using early state polls and not just national polls. Can you tell us why national polls are determining factor for who is on the main stage for the next debate?

SPICER: That's a really good question, Brian, and there's a couple reasons. Number one, there's very few consistent early state polls. So, when you look at Iowa, for example, there's only three that's been done and they're not consistent, so that you've got maybe two in New Hampshire, one in South Carolina.

One of the things that's really interesting about a lot of these candidates who want early state polling is they don't want early state polling. They want specific early state polling. So, someone might say I want Iowa included or only Iowa and New Hampshire or I want just South Carolina or South Carolina and New Hampshire.

But if you want just early state polling, which would be the four states Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. That yields a different scenario to where we are now. So, when the candidates talk about including early state polling, they're not necessarily saying we want all early state polling. They are only saying they want early state polling that generally benefits them.

STELTER: What a fascinating job you have to see how as we everything the past four months, this campaign is not following the rules. New rules are being created by Trump and the others, and in this case, private negotiations going public is the latest example.

Sean, thanks for being here this morning.

SPICER: You bet, Brian.

STELTER: Let me bring in Armstrong Williams now. He is one of Ben Carson's closest advisers, also Carson's business manager. And he also joins me this morning.

Thanks for being here.


STELTER: I want who hear, you know, the Carson camp side of the story about how this debate situation went down, because it sure seemed to a lot of people as if the CNBC and the RNC caved to the demands from outsider candidates like your candidate Carson to have a shorter debate.

Is that how you perceive what happened, was it caving?

WILLIAMS: Life is about compromise. It's about taking everybody interests into consideration. If the network, the RNC and ultimately the candidates.

What many people don't realize is that the candidates are not really involved in the negotiations and rarely are their staff. We find out about it maybe a week or two before the debate and they send us the rules and guidelines. It was quite clear before that the three-hour debate was very exhausting, very tiring.

It appears as if the beginning of the debate, especially with Jake Tapper and CNN, it was an attack. It was almost a comedy. And we don't feel as though the brand was protected.

If you look at the debate that CNN hosted with Anderson Cooper, they talk about policy. There were none of those personal attack, it was very dignified and it looked very grown up and very adult.

You say, wait a minute, I mean, obviously, somebody, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is doing a very good job of protecting her brand, and the RNC should do the same. It starts with the length of the debate. And to Dr. Carson and many of the other candidates, we feel it's important that they have opening and closing statements.

And so, we expressed -- the campaigns expressed their concerns to the RNC and to CNBC.

[11:00:00] And it all worked out.

STELTER: NBC Universal sources say they are trying to charge $250,000 for these ad packages around the debate. It's an extraordinary number for an advertisement on a cable news channel. Of course, we're expecting extraordinary ratings for this next debate. Do you and Dr. Carson have any discomfort with the idea networks like

CNN and CNBC and FOX News profit off these debates and charge so much for ads?

WILLIAMS: Remember, I'm his business manager. We don't have a problem with capitalism. People make money as long as legal, moral and ethical. We don't mind. We understand the networks paid out a fortune to put these debates on. It costs a lot of money. It's a lot of sacrifice and it's the American way to make money. And if they make a profit, all well and good.

But in the process of doing that, make sure that the candidates are not exploited or exhausted in the process.

STELTER: Rumor has it that CNBC might not be able to charge quite as much now that these rules have changed a little bit. But my source denies that, says they are seeing strong demand from advertisers taking advantage of the big audience of this next debate and, of course, that's because of these outsider candidates like your candidate and Donald Trump.

Armstrong, thank you so much for being here this morning.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, a reality check about the Democratic debate with legendary journalist Carl Bernstein.

And ahead later on the program, you know, you look at the headlines. They say who won, they say who lost, but are those headlines really worth the pixels they are written on.

Later, after more than half a century in the bunny business, can "Playboy" still shock the world?

Lots ahead for you. Stay with us.


[11:15:31] STELTER: Welcome back.

Political reporters are waiting, waiting, waiting for Joe Biden, tracking his every move and begging sources for intel about whether the vice president is really going to run for president.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming consensus from those same reporters and definitely from the talking heads is that Hillary Clinton won Tuesday's Democratic debate here on CNN. It was the highest rated Democratic debate ever. They broke CNN's prior record of 8.3 million set back in 2008 and it surpassed the overall record for the Dems. They had an average on Tuesday night of 15.3 million viewers.

Honestly, those numbers were jaw dropping. I mean, yes, the GOP debates had like 25 million viewers thanks to Donald Trump. It seems as the Trump halo effect of sorts that's helping the Democrats too, getting more people to pay attention to the election. So, if the ratings were sky high and the talking heads all say Clinton won, this is great news for her, right? My next guest is not so sure.

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, half of the Woodward and Bernstein team, is the author of many books, including the Clinton biography, "A Woman in Charge".

Carl, wonderful to have you here.


STELTER: You feel that some of the praise for Clinton is masking an underlying problem for her.

BERNSTEIN: Well, first, I think it was her greatest moment in this campaign, which had been a disaster for her up until the debate.

STELTER: A disaster?

BERNSTEIN: Up until the debate. But I don't think that a reset button was successfully hit. We're still back to these basic questions about her truthfulness, about the server, about the foundation, about the FBI investigation. And it's all one story that's not going to go away.

But was it her best moment? Absolutely.

STELTER: You say it's all one story. Oftentimes in the press in these days of headlines things come, things go. You're saying there's all one big story that everything ties into.

BERNSTEIN: Well, there's a question of what we saw Hillary at her best -- her competence, her preparation, her readiness to be president, her command of the issues which was masterful, and then we get back to her difficult relationship to the truth, alighting over easy questions about what happened and should have been able to be recited about what really happened as opposed to obfuscation.

This doesn't go away. It's a huge issue for the Republicans to hit on, and it's one of the reasons Joe Biden is considering running because he understands where she's weak.

STELTER: What are you hearing currently about Biden and the prospect of an entrance to the process? There had been talk about an announcement the next couple of days or at least a leaked sense of whether he's going to run. But then again we've been talk about this since, I don't know, June.

BERNSTEIN: I talked to people talking to him over the weekend. It's family decision. A family, his family has to really be all behind it according to these people and they are meeting this weekend again. I think they are very close to a decision.

He wants to run. The question is can the whole family be up for this and enthusiastic the way they need to be after the tragedy that's occurred. But they also see this opportunity did not exist until we've seen

Hillary being weakened by what's happened, including an ongoing FBI investigation. It's not going to go away. We have the committee, the Benghazi Committee this week and she's going to murder them, because it has been a witch hunt. It has been partisan. It's great opportunity for her.

But still, this story goes on. Distrust, big factor.

STELTER: We remember this image we're seeing right now of Hillary Clinton in a prior testimony about Benghazi. This week, coming up, we'll see her again. I suspect it's going to be live, wall to wall on cable news.

Do you think that the press has paid enough attention to these looming issues around Clinton's candidacy?

BERNSTEIN: I think in terms of Benghazi, what happened to Benghazi itself, too much attention. I think we know. I think this committee is an illegitimate force and she's correct about that. Incidentally, about these ratings that you've been talking about --


STELTER: Where are 15 million viewers coming from?

BERNSTEIN: From FOX. Let's -- come on, we're getting a lot of FOX viewers who look at this as a reality show. Who look at this as Hillary Clinton, they are there to watch Hillary Clinton stumble and fall and then to attack her.

This was not just Democratic friends watching this debate. It had a big Republican audience.

STELTER: The ratings reminded me that Clinton is a giant celebrity and sometimes journalist may not fully appreciate that. Think about political reporters in D.C., they have been covering her for decades. They might even be a little tired of writing about her.

[11:20:03] But to folks out there in the country, she's an A-list celebrity, a woman unlike any other in the country.

BERNSTEIN: She is the most famous woman in the world. And now, Donald Trump, who's always wanted to be the most famous man in the world is running for the nomination. So, you have the ultimate celebrity clash. It's a cultural moment and we need to be looking at it in terms of celebrity culture, reality TV. It's very hard to stay focused on real issues.

STELTER: Last question for you is about Biden, because Gabriel Sherman in "New York Magazine" suggested a couple of days ago that Biden's already running. He's been running for months and he just wants us to think he's not decided yet.

What do you make of the possibility that this is the best thing for Biden, to appear to not quit be running yet when in fact he's already running?

BERNSTEIN: I think he wants to run. I think he's not reached that final decision, but it's coalescing and I think we'll see it in a matter of hours or a few days.

STELTER: And in a meantime, it's great story for the press. The press loves nothings more than a will he or won't he story.

BERNSTEIN: Got to deep all these elements together -- server, Biden, trust, Trump, all one story. We got to keep these connections. It's very important.

STELTER: Love that point. Thank you for sharing that.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

STELTER: Good to see you.

I know you've within following this next story very carefully given your history at "The Washington Post". It's a story of Jason Rezaian, the jailed journalist who remains behind bars in Iraq. We covered it last week and, unfortunately, I have nothing new to tell you this morning.

There was a verdict in the case. The authorities in Iran say Jason has been found guilty, but haven't said what his sentence is. "The Post" says an appeal is under way.

While he remains in limbo, one of his colleagues started this sketch as a protest to his unjust imprisonment. He's keeping track of every day Jason remains behind bars. We'll try to keep you up to date on that story and hopefully has some good news to report soon.

Coming up ahead here, we're changing gears and talking about a story that says a lot about print is waning while the Internet is winning. "Playboy" magazine deciding nudity no longer has any place in its pages. And my next guests says that decision was ludicrous.

"Hustler Magazine" publisher, Larry Flynt, right after the break.


[11:26:36] STELTER: I think people stopped by shocked by "Playboy Magazine's" photos a long time ago. The magazine truly shocked the world this week by announcing that it is covering up, eliminating fully nude photos in just a few months. This is front page news in "The New York Times".

And one of the major factors behind the decision is that while sex still sells but not nearly as much as it used to. "Playboy" circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to under 800,000 today. We all know where people are seeing those pictures. It's online instead of print.

So, the magazine needs to broaden its appeal to readers and advertisers. In fact, it already removed nude photos from its Web site.

Here's what the CEO of "Playboy" told CNN's Alison Kosik about that decision in May of this year.


SCOTT FLANDERS, CEO, PLAYBOY ENTERPRISES: We haven't made a profit on the magazine for more than a decade. When I came in six years ago it was losing over a million dollars an issue. But we've cut the losses, but it still loses money. We have over 750,000 readers every single month. And so, we have a loyal reader base that still prefers print.

Having said that, our digital audience is much larger and the future of the company is going to be more digital.


STELTER: Now, the obvious question to ask is do people really read "Playboy" for the articles?

Joining me from Los Angeles to talk about that, Larry Flynt, founder and publisher of the rival "Hustler Magazine". And from Washington, D.C., Alyssa Rosenberg, culture columnist for "The Washington Post" opinion section.

Larry, you're no stranger to controversial public decisions. "Playboy" says it wants to be more like "Maxim", "GQ", "Esquire". Do you believe that's smart decision for this famous magazine?

LARRY FLYNT, FOUNDER, HUSTLER: You know, Hefner is 99 (ph), I knew he was getting old but I didn't know he lost his mind.

STELTER: Lost his mind, you say. Wow.

FLYNT: How you take the most important feature in your magazine and drop it? What it became notorious for.

I think it was a silly move. They need to change their financial blueprint. They have always approached "Playboy" from an artistic point of view because Hefner's background is an artist.

But you have to run a magazine like a business. When you lose revenue, you got to cut your fixed cost.

To give you an example, my editorial staff is seven. His is probably between 40 and 50. I make a profit, yet he's losing money every month. That's the story right there.

I mean, no one can ever deny this guy, the fact he paved the way for the sexual revolution but he will not be remembered for his business acumen.

STELTER: Alyssa, I think you have a different point of view on this, you think this is the right thing for "Playboy", don't you? ALYSSA ROSENBERG, CULTURE COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I

think it's a move for "Playboy". I think there's a couple of things going on.

First, you have the explosion of available images of naked women, not just for free and online, but if you look at cable TV artistic revolution, part of that is driven by sex and increasingly explicit sex scenes. So, you have both high end and low end competition. You know, Larry has mentioned what the selling point of "Playboy" is, but "Playboy" has always been more than naked pictures. It's been a lifestyle brand.

And Amanda has had a really smart piece in "Slate" saying that dropping nude pictures from "Playboy" might shrink American audiences but it could open up new audiences in countries where "Playboy" can't circulate in countries with fully nude images.


The "Playboy" brand and "Playboy" merchandise are huge in China, but the magazine itself can't be sold there.

So, you might be sacrificing a domestic audience that is already getting fully nude images elsewhere in favor of an international audience that can't be print subscribers right now.

STELTER: Larry, it's true that most of your revenues these days come from television, not print magazine, right?

FLYNT: Yes, I'm the largest Internet content provider for adult content on broadcast television in the world.

That's where we -- our main focus is, is -- because, you know, gambling and retail -- we place very little emphasis on publishing. But we're still publishing because we're profitable.

I'm going to take a little bit of an issue about what "Playboy" might gain by dropping the photographs. Look, they say they wanted to start doing really great lifestyle pieces and more good investigative journalism. I can name you 100 organizations in America that does good investigative journalism. And you're lucky in a year if you can break two stories. You are really lucky, no matter who you are, if you break two really good stories.

So, besides, you know, "GQ" has tried that, been there, and so has a lot of other publications.


STELTER: You're saying that the market for this kind of article, this kind of journalism is oversaturated. And, at the same time, the market for pornography is oversaturated online.

I wanted to ask you, by the way, are you still offering sometimes to pay hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for information about sex scandals? FLYNT: We -- we still have our bounty out there all the time,

constantly. If we...

STELTER: A bounty?


If we -- we like to keep our politicians honest, you know? There's conventional wisdom in this country that if there's a scandal and, if money is involved, it's a Republican, if sex is involved, it's a Democrat.

It's actually the complete opposite. It's sex with Republicans and money with Democrats.

STELTER: Well, let me wrap up by asking Alyssa one more thing I'm curious about, the idea that "Playboy" has a complicated relationship with feminism.

This is something you write about on "The Washington Post Web site, Alyssa. Do you feel that this decision to remove fully nude pictures from the magazine moves the needle at all on this topic?

ROSENBERG: I don't know that I would say that it particularly changes "Playboy"'s legacy in terms of sexualization of women. I mean, that's still going to be a selling point for the magazine.

But, look, "Playboy" has always had its cultural products and then its policy campaigns, right? Hugh Hefner was of an early supporter of contraception access, of legalized abortion, both of which are things that certainly benefit the sort of "Playboy" man, someone who wants to be able to have sex, maybe sex with a lot of different women, without necessarily becoming a father or dealing with all of the consequences.

But, certainly, you know, "Playboy" and Hugh Hefner have supported goals of feminist policy. And so I think it's a complicated relationship for feminists to work out with the magazine.

STELTER: Alyssa Rosenberg, Larry Flynt, thank you so much, both, for joining us this morning.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

FLYNT: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next here: plenty of laughs last night with Tracy Morgan making his long-awaited return to "SNL."

But it's actually Donald Trump's upcoming hosting that's no laughing matter for NBC's legal department. Exclusive new information about something you may never heard of, equal time rules, right after the break.


[11:37:45] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: After Tracy Morgan's near fatal car

accident last year, he wondered if he could ever be funny again.

Well, night, he proved he could with a triumphant return to "SNL."


TRACY MORGAN, COMEDIAN: People are wondering, can he speak? Does he have 100 percent mental capacity? But the truth is, I never did.


MORGAN: I might actually be a few points higher now.



STELTER: And he's no that only one making a huge "SNL" return this season. Donald Trump will be live from New York on November 7. Mark your calender. He will be picking up where he left off the last time he hosted. That was back in 2004.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: It's great to be here at "Saturday Night Live."

But I will be completely honest. It's even better for "Saturday Night Live" that I'm here.



TRUMP: Nobody's bigger than me.


TRUMP: Nobody's better than me.


TRUMP: I'm a ratings machine.



STELTER: And now a couple prominent Hispanic groups want NBC to cancel Trump. They say his appearance will -- quote -- "legitimize and validate his anti-Latino comments."

Now, there's another group also paying close attention. Who? The lawyers for Trump's GOP rivals. They are going to be tallying up every second of airtime Trump gets, because it could trigger the government's equal time rule.

Now, the rule doesn't apply to news shows or even late-night talk shows like "The Tonight Show." But it could apply to "SNL." The rule give candidates a chance to demand the same amount of time that their opponent was given.

And here is an example you might remember. Remember, two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton made a cameo as Val, the bartender, on "SNL." Well, one of her Democratic challenges, Larry Lessig, is asking NBC stations for three minutes and 12 seconds in equal airtime.

Now, here to help us make sense of all this, the authority on late night, Bill Carter, a CNN contributor and the author of several books, most recently "The War for Late Night."


STELTER: And so, Bill, good to see you here.

CARTER: Good to see you.

STELTER: We're reporting this morning that Lessig is in talks with NBC now about trying to get some airtime.

This infects, what, local stations at NBC, their own, or has affiliation relationships here?

CARTER: Right, only the local stations, and only in the areas where the candidate is a legitimate candidate.

He has to be a legal, on-the-record candidate in those markets. So, when Al Sharpton was a presidential candidate way back when and hosted the show, there was a demand for equal time. But it only took place in I think one market or maybe just a few.



CARTER: And it was done on a Saturday night when the show was in repeat, and only for the amount of time that he was on the air. And you're right. It was tallied up. So...


STELTER: Yes, Lessig's counsel is telling us, we're not asking to put Larry on "SNL." We're just asking for other time elsewhere on the channel.


CARTER: No, he's not going to get on "SNL."

But she was only on for about three, four, five minutes anyway, right? Trump will be on for a substantial amount of time.

STELTER: So, this could be a big deal for some of the lower-polling GOP candidates.

CARTER: Only -- but only -- and NBC tells me only in markets of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

STELTER: Oh, why is that?

CARTER: Because that's the only place where Trump is technically a legal candidate so far or will be by the time of this performance. So, they have worked this out.

And if you want to have equal time in a station in South Carolina on a -- during a repeat night on Saturday night on an NBC affiliate, yes, you can get that, apparently.

STELTER: That's fascinating.


STELTER: Let's talk about this broader point of having Trump on "SNL." It's unprecedented to have a front-runner for either party hosting "SNL."

CARTER: It's unprecedented. Never happened before. Never happened before.

STELTER: And you have been covering this -- this program for decades.

CARTER: Yes. Yes.

STELTER: When you heard the announcement, were you surprised?

CARTER: I was very surprised that they were going to take the risk of doing it, because he's become a lightning rod. But I'm not surprised.


STELTER: It made sense to be doing a cameo, right?

CARTER: Well, but he said on the air, I'm bigger than the show. And in this case, he probably is.

He is -- he's going to bring the biggest audience of the year, probably, at that night. So, it's even more so this year. So, it doesn't surprise me they invited him, no.

STELTER: Is there some egg, though, on NBC's face? Back in July, they severed ties with Donald Trump in the most public way possible. Now it's October and he's back.

CARTER: They did.

In fact, they basically said, not only will he not be back. He will absolutely never host "The Apprentice" again. They have said absolutely never. And that was, you know, at the heat of the debate about what he was saying about Hispanics. And, already, they have backed way off that. You can see that he's all over their news. So...

STELTER: He's already been on "Fallon," for example.

CARTER: He's already been on "Fallon." Exactly.

STELTER: He's doing a town hall...


CARTER: And he did a sketch on "Fallon." He wasn't just interviewed on "Fallon."

The rule actually is an interview show, so that's why "The Tonight Show" does not get into equal time. But he did a sketch on "Fallon." That wasn't just an interview. But that still didn't trigger apparently equal time for that.

STELTER: These Hispanic groups that are calling for Trump to be canceled, there's no chance.

CARTER: I would say there is no chance of that.

But it is -- it makes a tightrope for "Saturday Night Live." They can't just have a thing that is sort of like it's fun and games and everything. They kind of to challenge him, I think, a little bit.

It's also awkward, I think. There's no Hispanics on the show. There's no Hispanic talent on the show right now. And that makes it a little awkward for them, I think.

STELTER: NBC declined to comment on that when this was -- arose a couple of days ago. For now, they're saying nothing. But I do wonder if they will take steps to improve the diversity of the program.

CARTER: They might.

And I think Michaels -- Lorne Michaels is very sensitive to this. And the black cast is now enormous. You saw in a sketch last night there was like almost black players. So, I do think Lorne is a very smart guy. He's going to handle this, I think.

And it will come out probably positive both for Trump and the show.

STELTER: Bill, good to see you.

CARTER: Good to see you.

STELTER: Coming up next, an interview I have literally been waiting 20 years to do. I used to be this author's biggest fan. And now we have become friends. And he has advice for every storyteller who is watching right now.

Stay tuned.



STELTER: This next story is really personal to me and also a little embarrassing.

But it's also about one of the bestselling -- it's also about one of the bestselling books series of all times, with 400 million copies in print. Talking about these "Goosebumps" books by R.L. Stine.

Back in the mid-'90s, I was obsessed with these books. I even had a Web site dedicated to them. It was called The Bumps. And it actually became pretty popular. I ended up getting to know Stine. And now we're real-life friends.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the relationship between creator and fan. I used to send snail mail letters to Stine, then e- mails. And, nowadays, I can just tweet at him.

So, this weekend, "Goosebumps" are back because the first movie based on the series is out with actor Jack Black playing the role of Stine. And it's the number one movie, according to the box office, this weekend.

Now, I sat down with Stine a few days ago. It was a wild opportunity. And I asked him how the movie came about.


R.L. STINE, "GOOSEBUMPS" AUTHOR: It took 20 years, which is a long time. And no one could figure out which story should we do, which book should we base the movie on?

And that's what -- script after script, and nobody liked anything. And then a couple years ago, somebody had the idea. They said, let's not do one story. Let's do them all. Let's put all the monsters in one movie. And then after that, it was able to move forward.

STELTER: There's a scene in the movie where Jack Black, playing you, says that every "Goosebumps" book has three parts, a beginning, a middle and a twist.

Is that how you think about your books too?

STINE: That's my favorite line in the movie.


STINE: And it's pretty accurate.

But what I care -- that's all I care about are the twists. In every "Goosebumps" book, there has to be a point where the reader stops and says, oh, my goodness, I didn't know that. I didn't realize that was -- that's totally different from what I thought.

And it takes them off in a completely different direction.

STELTER: Do you think that the "Goosebumps" movie will appeal to -- more to young children now or to millennials who, like me, grew up reading the books?

STINE: Well, we have to get everyone. Right?

I have to get the 30-year-olds who grew up with "Goosebumps," and they have to bring their 7-year-olds.

STELTER: That's the secret.

STINE: And so -- and the movie is designed that way. I think a lot of '90s kids, my original readers, will say, oh, look, there's the Abominable Snowman. Oh, look, there are the lawn gnomes.

STELTER: Right. Right.


STINE: I think they will get -- have a lot of fun remembering these characters. And then it's a good kids movie. It's great. It's mainly a chase, all these monsters chasing me and the other characters.

STELTER: I have such a personal connection to your life, because back in the '90s, I created this "Goosebumps" fan Web site. I feel kind of silly saying it now. But I was obsessed with the books.


STELTER: Well...


STINE: It was an amazing accomplishment, I think.

STELTER: Well, thank you. I mean, I was just a kid and I was learning how to building Web pages, writing about my passions.


STINE: Right, but it wasn't easy. In those days, it wasn't easy to have a Web site. It was complicated. It was hard.

STELTER: There were all these fans that were reading my Web site because they were as fascinated by your books as I was.

And I wonder what it was like for you, from your perspective. What did it mean to have all these fan Web sites? What did it mean to have 12-year-olds like me e-mailing you, trying to get information about the next books?


STINE: It was really exciting. It was great.

And -- but the thing -- is this is -- actually, this is true. I used to go -- you're a 12-year-old kid. And I used to go to your Web site every day to find out what was happening with "Goosebumps." (LAUGHTER)

STELTER: Oh, I don't know about that.

STINE: No, it's true. You were such an aggressive 12-year-old.


STINE: I mean, you would call Steven Spielberg and say, what's happening with the "Goosebumps" DVD game? And you would call "Scholastic." And you interviewed my son.

STELTER: I did at one point find "Goosebumps." I think I probably scared you all a little bit.


STINE: Then I finally met you, and I thought, why? Why did I worry all these years?

STELTER: What do you think it is that you know about children, about young readers that other authors, that other publishers don't?

STINE: Well, I actually like kids. And I think that makes me different from some children's authors.

You know, and I'm very careful never to talk down to kids. I think kids are really smart. And I think that makes a difference in the books.


STELTER: What an experience to meet your icon.

Now, up next, we're going inside the world of virtual reality. You got to see this right after the break.



STELTER: Through this headset, I could watch history being made.

Last Tuesday's debate was the first news event ever live-streamed in virtual reality. It could be the next big thing in the evolution of media. At least, that's what Palmer Luckey believes. He's the 23- year-old godfather of V.R. He founded Oculus, a company Facebook bought last year for $2 billion.

So when I visited him at Facebook headquarters recently, we talked about the technology and its implications for journalism.


STELTER: How do you describe virtual reality?

PALMER LUCKEY, FOUNDER, OCULUS V.R.: I would think of it like a pair of virtual ski goggles.

Normal ski goggles, you put them on and you can see the world around you through these goggles. With the Rift, you plug it into a P.C. that is rendering a virtual world, put the headset on, and now it's like you're looking around inside of a virtual world.


STELTER: Like I'm actually on the ski slope.

LUCKEY: Or anything else that you can imagine.

And that's really the magic of virtual reality, is that you can be anywhere and do anything right from inside your home and actually trick your subconscious into believing that you're in these virtual scenes.

STELTER: Let me see if I understand what you're saying.

My wife had baseball tickets for tonight. But she's all the way back in New York, so I can't go. Are you saying that tonight I could, in the future, put on that headset and actually be at the game with her virtually?

LUCKEY: Precisely.

And perhaps she's not at the game at all. Perhaps you are not -- neither of you are at the game, but, virtually, you feel like you're both in the best seats at the game.

STELTER: So we're both in the baseball stadium virtually?

LUCKEY: And not just in the baseball stadium, but potentially in the best seats in the baseball stadium. Unlike the real world, you can cram 1,000 people into the same virtual viewing point in virtual reality.

STELTER: But for Oculus, is gaming sort of the gateway drug, so to speak, and then there are so many other applications of V.R. after that?

LUCKEY: The thing about gaming is that it's kind of been building up to virtual reality the whole time.

For decades, games have been getting more realistic, higher frame rate, better graphics. And virtual reality's the obvious next step. People with the technology and the tools and the talent right now to create those virtual worlds in the games industry. That's why you're seeing so many games at the start of V.R.

STELTER: Before founding Oculus, you were studying journalism in school. How do you think V.R. could apply to the journalism would?

LUCKEY: I think one of the biggest issues we have right now with news is that it's often hard to draw your own conclusions and to have all of the relevant information. Right now, most ideas are communicated through photos, or videos or

texts. And it's very easy to tell different stories depending on how you frame the video, whether that second -- whether that photo is taken one second or the next second.

And I think that virtual reality and these type of full-scene captures, where you can capture what is actually going on, have the potential to present events to people as they actually occur, so that they can see the entire frame, everything going on behind the photographer, in front of the photographer, everything that is really happening in a much more accurate way.

STELTER: I guess up until now, all journalism's been in 2-D, two dimensions. Right? The cameras that are shooting this interview, you're only seeing what's in front of the cameras. You're not seeing what is inside the cameras.

LUCKEY: Right.

STELTER: That's what V.R. could change.

LUCKEY: Well, absolutely.

And I think that that really does change the way that you can perceive things. If you're talking about a war zone, if you're talking about a political debate, if you're talking about some kind of rally, knowing what is actually happening in that scene, as opposed to what a person is able to capture or the story they want to capture through the frame of a camera.

I think the outlets are going to have to be really responsible with this new technology, though, virtual reality, if used irresponsibly, does have the potential to, I guess, create false equivalency between something that actually happened and something that didn't happen.

STELTER: What you're saying is that there's a whole new set of media ethics questions that come with V.R.

LUCKEY: Yes. Media ethics are incredibly important. And it's going to be important for people to understand that just because something looks real in virtual reality doesn't necessarily mean it actually is real.

You shouldn't assume it's real unless they are telling you this is unaltered, real, actual captured footage, and we haven't done anything. Without that assurance, you don't want to fall into the trap of seeing something in V.R. and, because you feel like you're in the scene, saying this is how it actually happened.


STELTER: Taking the headset off for now.

We're out of time.