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Is Colorado Shooting An Act of Terror?; Is Donald Trump the Post-Truth Candidate?; Movie "Concussion" Highlights NFL's CTE Problem; Chicago Outraged Over Video Showing Police Killing of Teen. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 29, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter, and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. It's our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how news and pop culture get made.

In this hour, it's Donald Trump versus "The New York Times". Trump denies mocking the reporter Serge Kovaleski and he's now demanding an apology. I have an update the paper and it is not an apology.

Plus, a look inside the NFL's PR battle with ads now nearing for the film "Concussion" on the news that football star Frank Gifford suffered from PTE.

And later, let me introduce you to the determine reporter who fought the city of Chicago and won. He won this, the release of this video of a police shooting from last year.

But, first, think back five days to all the news coverage of the terror threat looming over the Thanksgiving holiday. One of the headlines almost made me laugh. It sums up the Thanksgiving travel by saying "cheap gas but fears of terrorism."

There has been a heightened state of alert ever since the attacks in Paris more than two weeks ago. But here in the U.S., the holiday came and went without any acts of terrorism -- or did it?

We all watched on Friday as a lone gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Three people were shot to death, including 44-year-old police officer Garrett Swasey. Nine others were injured.

So, is this alleged killer a terrorist? A federal law enforcement source told CNN overnight that the suspect spoke of "baby parts" after surrendering.

But the investigation is continuing, and I'm noticing a whole lot of caution on the part of the press. In fact, some critics say there's a double standard here, that journalists would not be so restrained if the shooter was Muslim.

So, let's examine with NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, and David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun". And, David, let me start with you first there in Washington. Did you sense a bias on the part of the press in the coverage in the past two days?

DAVID ZURAWIK, THE BALTIMORE SUN: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think -- what I sense, Brian, was the same thing you did, which was the caution that it approach this with.

And I'll tell you what, if you listen to the other Sunday morning shows today, the mayor of Colorado Springs still is not calling it an act of terrorism. He says it looks like it. The chair of the House Homeland Security Committee isn't calling it domestic terrorism yet.

I think it's a good thing that we approach this with some caution, finally. Look, what --

STELTER: They question whether that caution would exist if the person were a Muslim or had a Muslim sounding-name even. Would the same caution have existed?


ZURAWIK: What about -- yes, what about Ft. Hood in 2009. We are still -- they are still arguing in Congress and the Pentagon and the administration about whether it was workplace violence or domestic terrorism. And there were some evidence there that might.

So, I don't think you can make that. I think that's kind of a kneejerk thing that we like to do to ourselves in the media. For once, I think the media is behaving the way it should on domestic terrorism. We are relying, in some ways, if you look at the definition which we get from the Justice Department and the FBI, it says an act to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to influence government policy.

Well, the quote about "baby parts" leads us in that direction. I agree. But I think, honest, Brian, you know, I can't believe that we want to beat ourselves up for being cautious on this thing for once.

STELTER: Hmm, that's interesting.

Well, you all have seen it, and, David Folkenflik, you've seen the comments online from people who say the media is mistreating the story.

Let me show one of them on camera from Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. He's been on the show before. He's a commentator and reporter. He says, "If we can differentiate between Christians and the white terrorist who attacked Planned Parenthood, why can't we different between Muslims and ISIS?"

Do you think this whole media critics, we've heard from many of them on Twitter have some point at least?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, NPR: We're a nation of media critics and I think they do have some point. I think that people I think are too flip in assigning a clear motivation of people on the basis of what they look like or what their descent is or what their heritage is, what the belief system is.

I think it's worth -- I hate to agree with David Zurawik, but it's good being a bit careful on this stuff. It means instead of saying we should leap to do it in this case on basis of scant fragments, something like the phrase "baby parts" which seemingly suggests something strongly, but we don't know yet what really all is behind this.

STELTER: Friday night, you know, flipping around on cable news, MSNBC went to tape at 8:00, FOX News on tape at 8:00, I just found myself thinking, there would have been all night live coverage if this shooter had been identified as a terrorist early on. We heard this morning, Ben Carson on "STATE OF THE UNION" coming up in a few minutes, he does not use the word domestic terrorism when asked about this by Brianna Keilar, but Planned Parenthood has called this domestic terrorism. The governor of Colorado has.

If it had been labeled that more early, would we have seen more extensive media coverage?

FOLKENFLIK: I think we would have been. I also think we would have seen more coverage if it played out a bit earlier in the day or particularly earlier in the week.

[11:05:02] STELTER: You're bringing up points about the kind of practical nature of news coverage.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think you would have seen a lot of ideological coverage on some of your competitor channels in the primetime programming if it had been clear exactly during a weekday what had been going on on some of the bigger names.

STELTER: And not a holiday.

FOLKENFLIK: You know, a Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC. You would seen more ideologically charged things.

What you're seeing online, I think, in terms of the reaction to it is often that people are bringing their own belief systems to what they're saying play out and they are bringing their own frustrations, sometimes quite valid. Their own disappointment with how the media portray things. In this case, it's a white suspect. It's hard not to believe he didn't commit these things. But we've got to see it play out.

You talk about Ft. Hood, you know, even in court, it's being argued how to designate him, even though he has submitted more recently I believe this year, request to be allowed to join I.S., you know? And that he's declaring his ideological affiliation.

You think back to the Atlanta bombings in the Olympics in '96, you know, we thought it was Richard Jewel. That did turn out to be the case of a domestic terrorist, but a different person, Eric Randolph.

In that case, there was plenty of time to get to the label. We can play it out. We can let the reporting take place first.

STELTER: David Zurawik, let me show a headline that captures what David Folkenflik is describing, this idea that people bring their own views to the stories.

This is from It's a website with a pro-life point of view that shares news stories and analysis. This is what's on their homepage right now, it says, the shooter never talked about abortion.

So, they're relying on information from other news sources from yesterday. The story has evolved since then, of course. We've heard these quotes from a federal law enforcement source referring to baby parts. That's the phrase that this killer -- this alleged killer apparently used.

David Zurawik, I wonder if you think this is an example of a story where if you want to believe one version, you can seek out your sources, if you want to believe another version, you can seek out a liberal or leftwing sources.

ZURAWIK: Brian, you can do it on every story in American life today. We're so polarized and so ideologically driven that even when the facts don't support it, people will cherry pick or skew the facts to fit their argument, especially on as issue as contentious as this.

So, sure, they can do it. And, Brian, you know, I hate -- it is part of the media ecosystem, absolutely. And it does influence opinion.

But I hope -- and by the way, I hate to agree with David Folkenflik. I'm kidding, David. But, see, lightning didn't hit you when you agreed with me.

But I really think some of the stuff that's out there like that, we can find extreme examples in any case. I don't -- what I'm talking about, Brian, is the mainstream media handling it.

And I totally agree with David, if it had been earlier in the day this shooting and there had been any ammunition, you would have seen that ideological pairing on other kinds of channels on the Web. I don't think, I have to be honest, I don't think I've seen it on CNN.

STELTER: David Folkenflik, David Zurawik, thank you both for being here.

Before we go, I want to share one quote that I thought summed up the week, the entire week. It's from "The Washington Post". It's from Callum Borchers, we can put on the screen. He was writing this about Donald Trump, but applies to this case, too.

He said these days, "There's almost always an alternative version of events out there for supporters to embrace." I think that's a theme throughout our show this morning. We're talking about, whether it's about Planned Parenthood shooting or about Trump or about other topics.

So, let's turn to Donald Trump -- Donald Trump versus fact checkers. But the more he attacks the media, the more he dominates the polls. So, are we leaving in a post-truth world? Trump's spokeswoman is here for an exclusive interview right after this.


[11:12:11] STELTER: Let's talk about Donald Trump and the truth. This week, NBC News called him the post-truth candidate. And every professional fact-checker is in agreement when Trump was wrong when he said he watched, quote, "thousands" of people in New Jersey, quote, "cheering" when the towers fell on 9/11.

But Trump is standing by his story again this morning in an interview on NBC. As proof, among other things, he's quoted this story from "The Washington Post" from seven days after 9/11, which says that in Jersey City, New Jersey, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate style parties on roof tops.

Now, these allegations were never proven. You can imagine what a giant story they would have been if they were proven. But that allegation became exhibit A in Trump's defense.

So, people like me reached out to the reporter who wrote the story, Serge Kovaleski. He's now at "The New York Times". And what he said is that he didn't recall anyone saying there were hundreds or thousands of people celebrating. If they had been celebrating, he would have written about it.

Kovaleski thought he was fact-checking Trump but Trump thought Kovaleski was grossly attacking him. So, Trump attacked back.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now the poor guy, you got to see this guy. Ah, I don't know what I said. Ah, I don't remember. He's going like I don't remember. Maybe that's what I said.


STELTER: Here is where it gets complicated -- Kovaleski suffers from a condition that impairs joint function in his arms and hands. "The New York Times" said it was outraged that Trump was mocking the reporter's appearance. Now, Trump is on the warpath. Here is what he said yesterday about this.


TRUMP: I would never mock a person that has difficulty. I would never do that. I'm telling you.

The problem is he's using what he's got to such a horrible degree. I think it's disgraceful. And I think "The New York Times", frankly, should give me an apology. I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: We're going to tackle this broader issue of the challenge of fact-checking Trump. But, first, let's bring in Katrina person, national spokesperson for the Trump campaign.

Katrina, good morning.


STELTER: Do you think it helps Donald Trump, helps your candidate, to be talking about this issue for over a week now? It was more than a week that he first brought up these discredited claims of massive cheering going on on 9/11.

PIERSON: Well, no, I don't think it hurts the claim at all, particularly, it's the media that's someone keeping this issue going. If you really look at it, you had retired FBI agent, Jim Burkett, come out and say, you know what, we did have calls of people saying there was cheering. I think the real question --

STELTER: It doesn't matter if it wasn't checked out and proven, though.

PIERSON: No, it does matter. But the question is, did he or did he not see it? And what CNN and a lot of the media is doing today is trying to tell people that they didn't see what they saw or hear what they heard. And that in and of itself is being discussed today.

Did it happen? So many people have said yes. But the question is here, Brian, is why is the media going out of its way at this point to deny that there are radical American Muslims in this country today?

[11:15:10] Because, obviously, they have shifted over to this false attack on the reporter.

STELTER: Who is denying that? Who have you heard denying that and why bring up sleeper cells of that convocation --


PIERSON: Before this happened, "The Washington Post" article, the whole fact-checking incident, everyone was saying it did not happen. Absolutely, this never happened, Trump is lying, when in fact, these other articles, including an "A.P." article came out saying otherwise.

STELTER: But at very best --

PIERSON: So many people from Jersey came to his defense.

STELTER: At very best, your candidate is grossly exaggerating. If there had been thousand celebrating, it would have been an international news story. It would be all over YouTube. We'd be playing the video right now. We wouldn't have stopped talking about it after 9/11.

Can we all agree that if thousands of people have celebrated in New Jersey, camera crews and photographers would have flocked to the city (ph)?

PIERSON: But that's not the question. It's not the question if there were 10,000, or thousands of thousands.

STELTER: He did say thousands, though.

PIERSON: The question is, were there or were there not Muslims in America cheering the World Trade -- and I will point you to Anderson Cooper --

STELTER: So, I guess we're asking two different questions, right?

PIERSON: -- who ran an entire hour special on radicalized Muslims in this country who continue to celebrate 9/11. So, did it happen or did it not? That's the question.

STELTER: So, I guess we're asking two different questions. We're bringing up two different topics. You're asking one question, I'm asking another based on his words. He said thousands, so that's why I was focused on the word "thousands".

PIERSON: But no, that's not what you're focused on before. Before the question was, did it or did it not happen? And now that it's come out that, yes, it probably happened --

STELTER: That thousands that it (INAUDIBLE), that's a fact.

PIERSON: -- now we're talking about thousands. Do you see what I'm saying here? Do you see how the media has changed its mind on what matters?

STELTER: I don't. We have to agree to disagree on this topic.


STELTER: To me, it matters that thousands never cheered on 9/11. To me, it would have been a huge story if they had. We all would have been covering it on CNN and elsewhere. And there's no video or photographic proof.

I guess, to me, it feels like it hurts the Trump campaign to be talking about this. He was on "Meet the Press" a couple of hours ago talking about this again.

But perhaps for your audience, for Trump's supporters, this is actually a good thing for Mr. Trump because it raises the prospect of the media of being against him. Would you agree?

PIERSON: Well, I mean, obviously, the media is against him. Like I said before, the reports were that never happen. That was the situation, when in fact it did happen. Hundreds of people have come forward saying they saw and heard the exact same thing. So, yes, people that support Mr. Trump will stand by him.

STELTER: But it's not about whether they believe, it's about evidence, right? We have to find photos or video in order to have evidence of it. And there's just simply no evidence.

PIERSON: But that was the whole purpose of the reporter backtracking his own story. That was the whole purpose he backtracked his own story.

STELTER: Well, let me read a statement from "The New York Times" that has just come in about that. I want to make that clear from "The New York Times". This came in a few minutes ago from a spokeswoman for the paper.

She says that "the facts speak for themselves. Mr. Kovaleski did not back away from his story. But merely said his reporting did not support Mr. Trump claiming that thousands were celebrating."

I wonder, as someone who represents Mr. Trump and supports Mr. --


PIERSON: Right. That's the story now. You're absolutely right. That's the story now.

STELTER: I wonder, as someone who supports Mr. Trump, if you wish he hadn't done that arm movement the way he had, by seemingly Mr. Kovaleski, even if he says he wasn't, by doing that, it created a days-long news cycle that couldn't have been good for your candidate.

PIERSON: Well, first of all, Mr. Trump is always animated. You could look at any of his speeches.

STELTER: That's true.

PIERSON: He's always doing those things. This reporter doesn't speak like that nor does he move like that. How is that mocking?

STELTER: It's something that, I know Mr. Kovaleski, I worked with him at "The New York Times", you know, I know, kind of distant basis, I knew of him, I knew him briefly, but to me when I saw Trump doing that, I saw Serge Kovaleski. I saw what Trump was trying to do with that hand gesture. To me, it was very clear.

And lots of his colleagues currently at the time, it's very clear.

PIERSON: Here's the thing, Brian, here's the thing, if you don't --

STELTER: That's why "The Times" this morning is once again saying it's outrageous.

PIERSON: Well, right. Brian, here's the thing, if you don't like Mr. Trump, then, yes, you're going to side with that part of the story. If you do, you know it wasn't intentional.

But more importantly, Mr. Trump and his family have contributed millions upon millions of dollars to the Eric Trump Foundation, through the Trump Hotels collection, to the Trump Organization in and of itself for disabled people. And that's also why you had a disabled reporter come to Mr. Trump's defense on Twitter saying that this is 100 percent absolutely false.

STELTER: That is two different topics, though, right? His support for the disabled community is separate from whether he mocked a reporter.

PIERSON: But he would never do that. He has so much respect and care and compassion. So, why would he do that intentionally?

STELTER: I don't know the answer.

PIERSON: And there's proof for that. Millions of dollars of proof and hours spent otherwise.

STELTER: Now, "The Times" does not apologizing, clearly. Is Mr. Trump going to continue this series of criticisms against "The Times"? Does he view -- it's positive for him to be battling "The Times"?

PIERSON: I think Mr. Trump is going to continue to be Mr. Trump. If "The Times" continues to attack him and write negative articles that are false about him, he'll continue to respond in kind.

STELTER: Do you find it's difficult for do you be a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump given these controversies seem endless?

PIERSON: No, not at all. I mean, if you are an American in this country, you see that the American families are the ones that are always put at the bottom of the list when it comes to the concerns of their government.

[11:20:02] So, I'm honored to be able to speak out for Mr. Trump and defend him in these times because he's the only one running that's not beholden to corporate America or other special interests.

STELTER: Do you think expect he'll continue to push for an apology from "The Times"? Is that something he's going to continue to campaign about?

PIERSON: He probably won't continue to push for an apology, but if they keep attacking him, he most likely will. I mean, this is the thing that people like about Mr. Trump. If he feels wronged, he's going to say otherwise and he's going to demand an apology.

If they don't apologize, that's on them. They're the ones that had the reporter backtrack his own story.

STELTER: He didn't backtrack. He just clarified when Trump used it as evidence.

PIERSON: That's backtracking. If you have to clarify, you're backtracking.

STELTER: Let me ask you about one more thing before I have to go and that is, this move with the press at some of Trump's rallies to have them put in pens. Now, Mr. Trump is not the only candidate, not only the campaign where we see the press restricted in various ways.


STELTER: But there was a tweet earlier in the week from NBC's Katy Tur, she wrote that the Trump campaign is now requiring media to have bathroom escorts at this rallies while leaving the press pen. It does feel a little strange to have bathroom escorts. I understand other candidates have done it in the past.

But is this something that says something about the Trump campaign? Are you all wary of having the press in that pen right there actually talked to Trump supporters?

PIERSON: Absolutely not. But as you just said, this is not the first campaign that's ever done this. This is nothing new.

We're dealing with crowds of tens of thousands. So, it's really more for the public and the reporters. I mean, there's nothing strange about this.

And Mr. Trump has always been accessible to the media. He's the only one that does town halls on a constant basis at these rallies and always have access to the supporters. So, this is nothing new. Again, another controversy trying to be rushed up by the media.

STELTER: By the media, you say.

PIERSON: That's right.

STELTER: Well, Katrina Pierson, thank you for being here on one of the mainstream media outlets.

PIERSON: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: I appreciate your time.

PIERSON: Thank you.

STELTER: Amid all this, the media is facing scrutiny actually for not challenging Trump enough, right? So, you heard one point of view about the media attacking Trump, according to Katrina Pierson. Well, other people say the media, here's a headline from "Vox", "The media has now idea how to deal with Donald Trump's constant lying."

Some people saying we sacrifice accuracy in order to preserve access to Trump and continue to get ratings from him. Still, other people say fact checking Trump doesn't matter any way because many voters don't even trust the fact checkers.

To talk about that, Katrina Vanden Heuvel joins me. She's the editor and publisher of "The Nation" magazine.

And, Katrina, you have to forgive me if I sometimes get a little flustered, to me, there are very basic facts on a story about 9/11. I guess I trust the media enough to know that if thousands were cheering in New Jersey after 9/11, that the media would have been there and swarmed it because it would have been such a stunning, horrific story it would have been widely covered. There's no photo or evidence or video to prove it.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION: So, let's step back -- this country, this nation has survived demagogues and bullies before. But we are living in a moment when we have a candidate who has made lies foundation of his campaign.

STELTER: You really think he's made lies of the foundation?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I do. I think lies calculated, not random lies, lies calculated to exploit people's fear and hatred and prejudice.

STELTER: But the word "lies" --

VANDEN HEUVEL: That said, though, but that said -- I think the media needs to call a lie a lie.

STELTER: I was going to ask about that.

VANDEN HEUVEL: There's too much politeness. This is a moment of wrenching economic, culture change. This is a moment when the media should learn, the nation understands we're not living in a post-truth environment for the first time. Trump didn't start it.

Let's go back ten years perhaps to the run-up to the Iraq war when the media suspended scrutiny and skepticism and too polite to call out Dick Cheney who went on "Meet the Press", as Donald Trump went on "Meet the Press" this morning and lied about how many Syrian refugees this administration wants to the bring to this country. And the consequences of that were war.

I don't know what the consequences of Donald Trump's continual lying will be.

STELTER: See, I'm wary of the word "lying" because I don't know what's in his mind. I don't know what's in any candidate's mind when they say something that's not true.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But facts are facts. So, I think, like Casey Stengel, look it up. There are things you can look up.

Now, for sure, there's reason people in this country distrust government or the media. I would argument, I have problems with the media. It's not the alleged liberal media bias. It's a corporatized media system rigged versus the public interest, which has a bias towards sensationalism, which minimizes consequential issues often, false balance.

So, I think with Donald Trump, we saw this past summer, Brian, a summer of free air time for this guy, why? I'd say one reason, also, ratings.

STELTER: Was it free air time? Is it ratings? Or is it that it's hard to in real-time challenge someone?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I also, you know, I think if you're the host of the morning show, or a Sunday show, look at George Stephanopoulos. I've been on his show before, and I think he tried to hold Bush for inaccuracies, lies about millions or thousands cheering on 9/11.

What should George have done? I would argue, he would just continue to hold Bush -- Trump accountable. Hold him accountable, say that you're lying because -- by the way, that might lead to good ratings.

[11:25:03] But as you well know, Trump might not come back to ABC. So, that hurts the ratings.

So, you know, we're sitting at CNN. It's part of a huge corporation, Time Warner. Time Warner, Comcast, they have business that hurts the ratings. The system leads to a politeness which I don't think in these times we can afford.

STELTER: Well, you say that about CNN, I have sat here and said Trump's not telling the truth about 9/11.

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I know. I don't think just --


STELTER: Let me see if we can cue up in the control room a clip from this morning. This is from "Meet the Press" this morning. Like you're meeting, Stephanopoulos was interviewing Trump this time last week.


STELTER: This morning, it was Chuck Todd. And if we can, let's take a look at how Chuck Todd handled Trump.


TRUMP (via telephone): I've had hundreds of people call in and tweet in on Twitter saying that they saw it, and I was 100 percent right.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Just because something repeats something doesn't make it true. And I guess that's actually -- that seems worse --

TRUMP: I got hundreds. I don't mean -- I don't mean I had two calls, Chuck.


STELTER: Now, my sense is that Chuck Todd was trying pretty hard to challenge Trump and Trump was giving no space there.


But he did say something -- Chuck said something very important. When someone challenges you and you just double down, there's an art form called the big lie, which we've seen in other countries and other moments, which is very corrosive for a democracy.

I do think we're at a critical moment for the media. I think journalist can look it up. There is -- you don't just say because Trump has supporters who believe in an alternative reality. Reality must be constructed with facts. And I believe that.

At "The Nation", we have fact-checkers, we also have our values. But we have facts. We begin with that. As Senator Patrick Moynihan --

STELTER: Even though you're a liberal magazine, you're based on facts, you're saying.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Absolutely. People have a right to their own opinions but not to their own facts. We're seeing that blurred now. So, I think --

STELTER: Is that still true? Isn't that the question? Is that still true at the moment where --

VANDEN HEUVEL: But I think it's incumbent upon the media, whether and again, "The Nation" is independent. I think what I just said about the problems with the media, I think someone on the other side of the aisle could say.

I think we're at a point in this country where silence is complicity. If you're not calling people out for inaccuracies, you call it lies, I think you're feeding increasing corrosion of our democracy. People will become more cynical. People will tune out.

The media has a role to play. I may be old fashioned but I think we need intelligent coverage. We also need to put it in history and perspective because as I said, "The Nation" understands this is not first time we've had a post-truth environment. Joe McCarthy we covered, Iran Contra, Reagan, George W. Bush, Gulf of Tonkin, LBJ.

So, there are issues that demand tough, tough reporting. And the structural changes in our media haven't helped. The closures of newspapers, the decimation of newspaper teams. There's a movie out there now called "Spotlight", which is about what it takes of a major newspaper to investigate corruption and abuse in the Catholic Church.


VANDEN HEUVEL: That's what needs to be done with candidates who are betraying the trust lies.

STELTER: I don't think you're old fashioned to say that. But I do think journalists are sometimes wondering right now on this moment, does our fact-checking matter when we see Trump doing well in the polls? The flip side of that argument would be, for every three -- if he has three out of 10 Republican voters, that means seven of 10 don't agree with him.

VANDEN HEUVEL: That is exactly right.

STELTER: And there's everybody else in the country that may not agree with him. So --

VANDEN HEUVEL: And there's an abilities to persuade and move away from the basis instincts of a candidate like that. I agree with you. They'll get one-third, one quarter. Now, the fact he's continued I think has led people to suddenly wake up and have these conversations.

STELTER: I think the fact checking will continue.


STELTER: Even as voters aren't paying attention to it.

Great to see you.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you. Thank you.

STELTER: Thank you for being here.

Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES: is this the movie the NFL doesn't want you to see? It's called "Concussion" starring Will Smith. It's about the NFL's handling of brain-related injuries. We're going to talk about the new ads running for the movie and whether the networks were uncomfortable airing them, right after this.



STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.

If you were watching football on Thanksgiving Day, maybe you noticed the same thing I did, really jarring ads for "Concussion." It's a movie coming out on Christmas Day about the doctor who discovered the disease CTE in former football players. CTE is caused by repetitive brain trauma.

The movie trailer is absolutely chilling.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I found a disease that no one has ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Repetitive head trauma chokes the brain.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The NFL does not want to talk to you. You have turned on the lights and gave their biggest boogeyman man.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.


STELTER: Now, at the same time as the marketing for this movie is ramping up, we learned this week that signs of CTE were found in the brain of NFL legend Frank Gifford.

When he died earlier this year, his family donated his brain to science partly because they suspected he had been suffering from the disease.

"USA Today" columnist and CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan says the timing of Gifford news is significant.

And she joins me now from Washington.

Christine, let me ask you first about these ads. They are playing during NFL games. There was some speculation in recent months that maybe the networks, which have billion-dollar deals with the NFL, would decline to air the ads. Remember that Dan Rather movie a few weeks ago. CBS would not air ads for it.

So, are you surprised the networks are showing ads for "Concussion" right in the middle of football games?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And it is jarring, isn't it?

And I am surprised, but I'm also glad, because anything I think that has sparked the national conversation on an important issue for so many kids in sports and adults of course as well, I think that is a good thing. Obviously, you and I are not on the business side of our business, so that's left to those folks with the -- on the editorial side.

But -- so I'm not making those decisions, but I'm glad that they have hey decided to make that choice.


STELTER: You know, I thought that part of the calculation was, if they didn't show the ads, if they had declined to air the ads, it would have been a big controversy, it would have given the movie even more attention.

Do you have a sense as to what the NFL is doing as it kind of anticipates this movie coming out in theaters in a month?

BRENNAN: Do I think what, that the NFL is -- I'm sorry. Your question was?

STELTER: Do you have any sense of what the NFL is planning in terms of a P.R. strategy when this movie does come out?

BRENNAN: Well, it is smart for everyone to not block it. You're right, because had those commercials been blocked, as we know, then the news would have hit the roof already.

I have no sense of what the NFL is doing, other than doing what it keeps doing, which is have the most popular sport in the United States, by far. And it is our national pastime. And here we just had Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday of nothing but football. And people love it.

It is such an -- to me, this whole juxtaposition of this important story about concussions and this continuing drumbeat with Frank Gifford, and, yet, Brian, we love our football more than we ever have. Isn't that fascinating?

STELTER: Ratings absolutely at all-time highs.

Christine, thank you for being here this morning. Appreciate it.

BRENNAN: Brian, thank you very much.

STELTER: Coming up, the protests in Chicago this weekend after the release of a very hard-to-watch police shooting video.

And in a Sunday morning exclusive, hear from the reporter who pried the video loose from Chicago officials.

That's next.



STELTER: Outrage is the emotion that many citizens in Chicago are feeling right now, with some calling for the resignation of city officials after the release of this police dash-cam video.

It shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by an officer who has now been charged with murder. The shooting happened in 2014. And here is how it was initially covered in "The Chicago Tribune." The headline says "Cops, boy, 17, fatally shot by officer after refusing to drop knife."

So, it relies entirely on the police point of view. But the video disputes much of what was originally reported. This is a case that demonstrates why hardworking journalists are so important, especially on a local level.

And let's show you why.

Joining me now from Chicago, Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist who fought for the video's release, and Jim Warren, the chief media correspondent for the Poynter Institute, the former managing editor for "The Chicago Tribune."

So, Jim, set the story up for you -- for us all. You say the local media in Chicago really blew this. You say essentially they were producing bulletin board reporting. What went wrong in the initial days after the shooting?

JIM WARREN, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, POYNTER INSTITUTE: Well, for me, the central point here, Brian, is less the video in some ways than the collective failure of journalism to do the sort of tough on-the- ground digging to pierce the official narrative in matters like this.

If you think, even after Ferguson, Missouri, even after the Eric Garner case on Staten Island, we're too inclined to simply regurgitate the police blotter. Yes, we have fewer resources than we used to, but there's sort of a lack of intrepid reporting that plays out.

And even this morning, my alma mater "The Chicago Tribune," one of the better regional papers in the country, has a long, righteous story calling for an independent investigation of all the failures here. Not once does it step back and say, hey, what was our role here? What was our failure in something that is really encapsulated many days, many even many nights, when a reporter gets to the scene of a shooting, probably unavoidably late.

The witnesses are gone. There's the tendency to simply accept the official police narrative, and no real tendency to accept possible alternatives. I think it's a tendency one sees, all forms of journalism, Washington, D.C., covering the private sector, covering, to the extent we do, the nonprofit sector. And that is simply often being shills for established powers.

So, one knocks on wood in this case, Brian, that one had a couple of folks who were just a little bit more inquisitive than us in the mainstream media.

STELTER: And that does bring us to Brandon.

Let me bring you in here. And tell us, why did you decide to FOIA for these videos? So, FOIA is the Freedom of Information Act. It's a way to try to get material from government. You decided to do that after many other media outlets didn't. Why?

BRANDON SMITH, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Well, because the other outlets didn't pursue it any further when they were denied.

The -- crucially, the FOIA statute says that there are a few exemptions where the public body doesn't have to give you the information if it falls into one of these. But in this case, the judge ruled that they couldn't use this particular exemption. They were claiming it was an active investigation against the officer.

And, in particular, the judge said you didn't -- in the ruling, the judge said the city did not demonstrate that the investigation was going to be harmed if they released this video. And...

STELTER: So, this was -- this was all about follow-up, right? This was about you following up repeatedly.

And have you gotten everything you want? Are you now submitting more requests for more information? What else do you still want to know?

SMITH: There are all kinds of things that are still yet to be known in the case.

The video record is incomplete. The police car that had the most clear shot of what happened is -- has no video publicly available. And then the audio of the -- on the tapes, there are five tapes released, the audio is kind of circumspect. It's very faint or missing.

And one more video starts halfway through. So, we're looking for the audio. And we're also looking for police statements. My attorney and I in our suit, which is still ongoing, we're looking for statements made by all the police officers on the scene. STELTER: So, Jim, I have to get up to a hard break here, but I guess

the takeaway is, do not take no for an answer when you're a journalist.


SMITH: Right. I mean, it's a tough lesson.


WARREN: Yes. I wish we were all a little bit more intrepid.


You can have a huge amount of sympathy for police and the absolutely un -- huge burdens we place on them, to be psychiatrists, to be social workers. We ask too much of them.

STELTER: That's right.

WARREN: But, at the same time, not so receptive to the official accounts of what happens when they are directly involved in cases like this.

STELTER: Jim Warren, Brandon Smith, thank you both for being here this morning.

WARREN: My pleasure.

STELTER: Coming up next here, all the news, all the analysis you need is in palm of your hands these days, which raises an uncomfortable question. Do I even need to be here?

Two experts will help us explore the brave new mobile world of journalism right after this.


STELTER: How many minutes a day do you spend here, spend on your cell phone? Or should I ask how many hours?


Every media company wants a piece of your mobile screen. And that's the subject of our "NewTube" episode this week, our continuing series inside the digital revolution.

I went out to California to visit the headquarters of YouTube, the largest online video site on the planet, where mobile viewership is growing very quickly, but mobile revenues are not keeping up.

This is the essential challenge for every media company you ever see out there, how to keep people looking at ads and paying for news and entertainment, but on this new screen on your phone. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STELTER (voice-over): Anywhere, everywhere and always, that's the promise of mobile video. Quite simply, it's anything you want on a smartphone or a tablet.

But the implications are enormous. More eyeballs on more videos means more opportunity for media companies to sell ads, but your smartphone's smaller screen means less room for those ads. It also means the videos themselves are changing.

This video is horizontal, but Snapchat is promoting vertical. Storytellers are thinking about how to make things pocket-size and short enough to be viewed on the fly. The new medium is mobile. And this little screen is going to be big.

When it comes to online video, nothing competes with YouTube. There's 300 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute. But being big makes it harder to change. And, right now, the biggest name in online video has its sights set on the smallest screen.

ELISE STRACHAN, YOUTUBE CREATOR: I can only make so many cakes in a day, but I can make that cake and I can put it on YouTube, and its reach is endless.

STELTER: Elise Strachan is a YouTube creator. Over the past four years, her baking videos have earned her over two million subscribers. And like the rest of YouTube, half of her views come from mobile screens.

STRACHAN: You're in these people's bedrooms. You know, you're on the train with them. You're at school, when they're probably not supposed to be looking at their phones.


STRACHAN: But you're going everywhere with them.

STELTER: That kind of intimacy with viewers is something new for media makers. And it could pay off big time. Mobile revenue for YouTube is up 100 percent year over year. And global business head Robert Kyncl doesn't see it slowing down.

ROBERT KYNCL, CHIEF BUSINESS OFFICER, YOUTUBE: Mobile consumption has been incredible and it's growing twice the rate of anything else.

STELTER (on camera): You mean desktop is growing at one pace and mobile is growing twice as fast?

KYNCL: Yes, twice as fast, yes.

STELTER: Twice as fast.

(voice-over): It's not just that mobile is outpacing desktop. Kyncl says mobile will replace it.

KYNCL: Mobile will matter. It will be the discovery device. It will be the transmission device. STELTER (on camera): The first screen.

KYNCL: It will be the first screen. That's exactly right.

STELTER: Who wins in this mobile digital world?

KYNCL: I think people who innovate the fastest.

Somehow, online video now has become part of every person's life every single day. And we need to make sure that we keep up with the growth.


STELTER: So, as the whole world moves to mobile, companies like Apple are coming up with new ways to consume the news.

And the truth is, it has some journalists worried, because apps like the Apple's new News app -- if you have an iPhone, it's on your app -- or on your phone right now -- these app gives tech companies more power, more control, and maybe leave news organizations with less control.

So, in a rare sit-down interview, I sat down with Apple's senior vice president, Eddy Cue, and I asked him about Apple's new app and how it maybe could revolutionize the way we all read the news.


STELTER: I think maybe one of the most important things you have done in the past few months that hasn't gotten as much attention is this Apple News app.

I'm opening up the app here on the new iPad Pro. And I'm wondering, when I see a personalized news feed, does that move us further into this world of polarized, siloed news, where I'm only seeing the stories that I agree with? Or do you try with your algorithms to actually make me see stories that I might disagree with?

EDDY CUE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, APPLE: When you pick up a newspaper and you used to read it, there's a serendipity of discovering articles that you really love.

STELTER: Yes. That's what I really miss. That's what I miss about the Internet.

CUE: That's right. And that's what we're trying to do and for you.

STELTER: When I'm looking at an article from "The Wall Street Journal" or The Huffington Post, are the ads that I'm seeing actually paying those journalists?

CUE: We have two choices for anybody who is providing content or news. They can control the ads. They keep 100 percent of the revenue.

STELTER: So, how do you benefit then? CUE: We benefit by creating a great application on our devices.

STELTER: So, if the news outlet doesn't sell the ad itself, they can also make money through you?

CUE: They can also come through us, and we will sell the ads for them. And in those cases, they keep 70 percent.

STELTER: This idea of a news app has provoked some anxiety in newsrooms, because it gets to the idea that the Apples and the Facebooks and the Googles of the world have more and more control over the distribution of news.

CUE: Well, in the case of Apple, it's really simple. We're not trying to get into the economics of it.

As I told you, you keep 100 percent of it. What we're trying to do is to build the platform for the news organizations to leverage.

STELTER: I wonder if this is especially significant for local newspapers.

CUE: Absolutely. Those are not organizations that have the skill sets or the financial means to go and create applications and market those.

This gives them a good opportunity to focus on what they do really well, which is the journalism part, and let us handle the technology piece of building the apps and distributing it.

STELTER: The town where I grew up recently had the paper shut down. They recently laid off their journalists.


And it makes me think about whether a new news organization could be created for that town and then distribute through Apple News and through these other new forms of distributed journalism.

CUE: I absolutely believe in that.

It was one of our main goals when we were building Apple News. We thought of things from even church newsletters to a stamp club. And a lot of those organizations today still print.

STELTER: There must be times where you read the news and you see a story about Apple that's wrong. You see a rumor about Apple that's crazy.

It's interesting to hear you talk about how much you appreciate journalism, given that Apple is so severely scrutinized in the press.

CUE: Well, we appreciate great journalism, more than rumors certainly.

But, again, journalism is very, very important. And we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.


STELTER: And we will be right back in just a moment.


STELTER: Let's get to Washington. "STATE OF THE UNION" starts right now.