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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Trump Versus the Media. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 6, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for a special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
STELTER (voice-over): The love/hate relationship that's at a breaking point. Donald Trump and the media.
At first, they doubted him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's kind of a comic book figure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Donald Trump is ill-equipped, he'll fade away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's real concern that this becomes a circus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make the Republican Party look like a clown car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump will never be president.
STELTER: Then they came under attack. Trump going after reporters, naming names, and taking no prisoner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the right to ask the question --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Go back to Univision.
He stood up and started ranting and raving like a mad man.
STELTER: No comment too brazen.
TRUMP: You know, you can see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.
STELTER: No insult too low.
TRUMP: You've got to see this guy, I don't know what I said. I don't remember.
STELTER: Even FOX News didn't know how to deal with Trump.
TRUMP: Well, I don't think I've been treated fairly on FOX News.
STELTER: With his sharp tongue and sharper tweets, he owns the airways, even hosting SNL.
TRUMP: They're not bad.
STELTER: And getting special treatment giving morning show interviews over the phone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Donald.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald, thank you for being with us.
TRUMP: Thank you.
STELTER: Sometimes he acts like he hates the media. He says they're dishonest and many are biased.
TRUMP: I mean, they really do distort. They are terrible people. Not all of them, but many of them.
STELTER: Yet he uses big media platforms to spread that very message especially the megaphone of TV news.
TRUMP: Let me tell you, the people don't trust you, and the people don't trust the media.
STELTER: And the media loves and hates him right back as ratings and page news soar with every appearance.
TRUMP: I go on your show, you'll get the highest ratings you had in years.
I'm always in the front page of "The New York Times" now.
STELTER: First, it was the summer of Trump. Then, the fall of Trump. At this point, it's almost winter.
But now, a possible turning point, reporters getting more vocal, crying foul. A chill has come over the press corps. Are his Trumpisms finally catching up to him or is all this fact checking pointless?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're running for president of the United States. Your words matter. Truthfulness matters.
TRUMP: You have a very good memory, Chuck. I'll tell you, I have a very good memory.
STELTER: The irony of this saga, Trump is of the media. He's an insider, a tabloid cover boy in the '90s, a reality show ring leader in the 2000s.
TRUMP: You're fired. You're fired. You're fired. You're all fired. All four are fired.
STELTER: And now the star of the fall's biggest show, the primary debates.
Trump knows how the media machine works, but does the media know how the Trump machine works?
TRUMP: Beautiful. Unbelievable.
STELTER: Is it enough to get him the nomination?
Today, a special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES: Trump Versus the Media. We're deconstructing the complex relationship between the news and the megastar candidate it created.
STELTER: There is no doubt the Donald Trump show is the political story of the year and the media story of the year too. It hasn't always been a happy story for the press corp.
So, we're going to spend this hour looking in-depth at all things Trump -- how did we get here, what did we learn and what are we still missing?
We will talk with Trump's campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson back from last week, plus reporters who cover Trump every day, reporters who try to fact check him, and a former cable news executive.
Now, keep in mind, as we talk here, according to the latest CNN/ORC national poll, Trump is 20 points ahead of his closest rival, with 36 percent support. That's two months before the voting actually begins.
Let's begin with the perfect panel of experts: Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics, Rick Wilson, a Republican strategists who's been very critical of Trump, and McKay Coppins, senior political writer for "BuzzFeed".
Rick, let me start with you and let me show you a tweet from CNN's Jake Tapper, anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION" here next hour. He called it pundit fail, talking about Trump the last five months, Trump's rise will be ephemeral like Cain and Bachmann. Some controversy will finally cause him to fall and he has a ceiling. He as a ceiling in the polls.
Well, it would seem to me over the past few months, all of those predictions have been proven false. Some of those have come from people like you, Rick.
So, I want to know from you today --
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure.
STELTER: -- where do you think Trump versus the media stands? Have we gotten this story wrong for the past five and a half months?
WILSON: Brian, the media need to admit to itself tht they are in the dynamic with Trump, where the outrage and spectacle. And the first time we talked about this way back in July --
STELTER: Yes. WILSON: -- I talked about the spectacle of Donald Trump was a perfect glove fit for the media. But the spectacle has reached the point now where it's become a monetized factor in the media's calculus in their decision-making. And so, you know, the brilliance of Roger Ailes is he knows good TV.
[11:05:01] Why do you think Donald Trump is on Sean Hannity's show 17 times a day? Why do you think Donald Trump is constantly booked on anything that'll take him?
Because he drives views, he drives clicks. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's a guy that is positioned to be a great president of the United States, but it does mean he's someone who's going to constantly gain that attention. And he knows the more he shows his ass and the bigger a fool he makes of himself, the more you guys are going to just shovel it down because the Trump show is great television.
STELTER: Well, there you go. Like Trump using curse words, the way he has on the campaign trail. I see McKay Coppins with me here in New York chuckling a little bit.
McKay, tell me why. I don't think Trump is covered simply because he's a ratings magnet. That's one factor. But there are many other factors. As you write in your new book, "The Wilderness", all about the post-2012 situation with the GOP. We've never seen a candidate like Trump before.
MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED: Well, first of all, he is the front-runner by a long shot in the Republican presidential field. So, that's one reason.
Yes, we haven't seen a candidate like Trump. And one of the things I talk about in the book is that it's a remarkable journey he's taken from winter of 2013-2014 when the media was treating him, myself included, treating like a joke to now he's this front-runner.
And one of the things that's happened and changed in the Republican Party and the media is that this entire right wing counter- establishment has built up especially of conservative media ecosystem that incentivizes the stuff he says.
STELTER: That's really important point. The echo chamber is louder than ever.
COPPINS: Louder than ever, better funded than ever, more listened than ever. It doesn't matter if we -- how much "The New York Times" or "Washington Post" fact checks Donald Trump, every time they do, it only strengthens him and reaffirms this idea that Trump is fighting the establishment and he's the outsider and the media scared of him and trying to take him down.
STELTER: We're going to talk later this hour with Glenn Kessler, one of those fact checkers.
But let me bring in Dylan out in Los Angeles. I want to show a headline from Vox.com. It's one of the headlines
that inspired this hour. It says the media is rising up against Donald Trump now. David Roberts says one of the reasons why he says the media is rising up is because Trump is because Trump strengthens our traditional role as gate keepers, that fact-checking seems irrelevant when it comes to Trump.
Dylan, do you buy that argument that the media is riding up against Trump because he threatens us?
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: No, I think there's some of that. I think more than anything the media is raising the white flag, right? I mean, all the conventional wisdom about how presidential campaigns should work has been flouted by Donald Trump, right?
There's certain rules that apply. You shouldn't be offending major constituencies. The things you say should have some sort of basis in reality. If they don't, you should be punished for them.
We have gone through time and time again the things Donald Trump has said that should be disqualifying, should have kicked him from his front-runner status, if not out of race entirely. Donald Trump is playing by different rules, and the media doesn't know what to do about it because we're playing a game of, you know, like rational thought, and he's playing a game where he's appealing to voters' emotions and it's working.
COPPINS: I think that's a really important point. I mean, the thing is that Donald Trump's root, the kind of core support that he has is in kind of a deluded, almost fever swamp where there's not -- I mean, there's not a lot of basis in reality for the birther conspiracy theories that he used to lay the political groundwork --
STELTER: But that sounds awfully dismissive of a big part of the GOP base. Can you respond (ph)?
COPPINS: Well, I said the roots, right? I think the roots of a lot of what he says are in the fever swamps, but what's been amazing is how he's leveraged that base of support that was a pretty tiny fringe of the Republican Party to then leverage that to then this massive support within that party, and that's what the GOP is trying to figure out.
STELTER: Rick, I heard you jumping in there.
WILSON: Yes, the real question is this is the long brewing split inside the Republican Party between whether you're a limited government constitutionalist conservative or whether you're going to go out and chase demons like the birther conspiracy and whether you're going to run out to the fringes.
And now for the first time, as mentioned earlier, there is an echo chamber on the right that has become this sort of fun house mirror version of what they always criticize the left wing media. They're all about a narrative. They're all about victimization. They're all about the elites, the establishment, the media, the rich are all out to get us. And so, Trump is speaking to that group.
And look, it is a part of the Republican base, but you have to remember, and we could go through the CNN/ORC poll because about half of the 400 samples wasn't Republicans, they were independent Republicans, we're not going to qualify to vote in the Republican primary. However, he's got a base of support that's in a bound somewhere between 20 percent and 24 percent. It's been there for a while. It seems to be pretty sticky.
But once the other candidates in field start to shake out, you are going to see people who have trouble with Trump. You do see people inside the Republican Party. You look at Republican women. They have a significant problem with Trump. They're 52 percent of the voting base in the party.
[11:10:00] There are a lot of things about this thing --
COPPINS: Evangelicals, too.
WILSON: -- that had been -- yes, evangelical for certain. I mean, John Stemberger, a friend of mine who is a prominent evangelical, just finished something that I heard today, it was sort of ticktack through this with evangelicals, and they were things that I never even heard about it.
But it raised -- it's going to raise a lot of questions because this is a guy -- you know, he was raised in the Manhattan media bubble. He's not an evangelical conservative. He's not a pro-lifer.
And so, there are going to be people who will keep talking about these things and keep looking at them. And they do make decisions that are less emotional motivated and we also know that a lot of the Trump voter base right now in the booth scoring system, they're ones and twos, they're not fours and fives. They're not the most high propensity voters out there. Some are, but a lot aren't.
So, we don't know how many of these people yet are -- go ahead.
STELTER: I'm sorry. You mentioned the polls, the most recent CNN/ORC poll. And I wanted to go back in time a little bit because it's important to have perspective about where we are in the race. This was 2011. This time in the 2012 race. Newt Gingrich leading the polls.
And let's go back even further in time if we can. 2007, I believe it was Rudy Giuliani leading the polls at the time. John McCain, of course, eventually winning the nomination.
STELTER: The difference this time, let me go to you on this, Dylan, the difference this time is that Trump's been winning the whole time. We haven't seen that time of rise and fall in 2007 and 2011. BYERS: Right. I mean, every single week we have a moment where
someone comes and says what Rick is saying, which is, yes, the poll numbers are fine, but they're going to go down. Something about this isn't going to stick. This isn't going to work.
We're not seeing that this time. If you had asked me, and I think if you had asked many members of the media two months ago -- is Donald Trump be the nominee, like many of those people in the clips you played, I think a lot of us would have said no. It's not going to happen.
Now, you know, he's had this staying power. He's had this momentum and it's looking more and more like he could be the nominee. I think to Rick, I think you're overlooking and perhaps over-thinking the degree to which voters just want hope and change, and I think Donald Trump is actually running a hope and change campaign.
He's telling people --
WILSON: But, Dylan, I think, I actually think --
BYERS: Things are going to get better.
WILSON: No, but Dylan, he's not. This is a guy with actually a very dark message. This is a guy who actually a very grim message. It's I'm the one strong man who can save the disaster of the country -- I mean, I get that that's his one selling proposition. But there's not a lot of prospective, optimistic belief in America in the Trump message. It's only the belief in Trump-isma. I mean, this is a guy who --
BYERS: Trump has done a phenomenal job of putting things in a web, us versus them dichotomy.
WILSON: Oh, I don't dispute that.
BYERS: If you're part of that group of Americans who feel disenfranchised and feel like they can't trust the media, they can't trust government, that has a lot of appeal. And as long as he says things are going to get better, he doesn't have to explain how they're going to get better. I mean, you look at --
COPPINS: Well, and the media is part of the them. That's one of the important things here.
The mainstream media, the political press that covers Trump, and this is why Trump gets so much oxygen out of us. He uses us as one of his enemies. And so, every time we write a negative story about him, it helps him.
I mean, I think it's worth pointing out that his last SEC filing I think said that the Trump campaign spent a total of like $2 million, which is basically nothing compared to his competitors. I've said this before, at some point, we in the press have to ask ourselves, are we unwittingly running Trump's campaign for him by constantly covering him? Because no matter what we write, every headline that comes out ends up strengthening his message.
STELTER: I have to go to break in a moment. McKay, before you go, I have to ask you about something that you wrote about last year, your trip with Trump. Tell us about why he sent you a $10,000 bill for a flight.
COPPINS: Well, so, in a way I wrote this profile of Trump. I ended up going to his house in Florida by accident, spending two days with him. I wrote a profile but he didn't like.
One of the stories that I tell on the book that I think is kind of remarkable is, how Trump went to war with me in a very personal way, and I think that that matters.
STELTER: He also used media surrogates like Breitbart. So, did you pay the $10,000 bill?
COPPINS: "BuzzFeed" got a $10,000 dollar bill for my flight. I don't want to say whether we paid it or not. But even at one point got a message from an opposition researcher who said that he had been recruited for project to take me down, to look into my personal life and try to dig up dirt. This was amid kind of the fall out of this Trump story.
STELTER: So, it's the media as combatant in the Trump campaign.
Let me just ask all three of you, yes or no question before we go -- TIME's Person of the Year being named on Wednesday.
Rick, to you first. Do you think Trump will be man of the year, person of the year?
WILSON: Given the current media dynamic, it's almost certain.
BYERS: Yes, without a doubt. I'm going to Vegas, and I'm putting all my money on it.
COPPINS: He has a better chance at that of becoming president, I would say. Yes.
STELTER: OK, that's three for three. Thank you all for being here.
COPPINS: Thank you.
[11:15:00] STELTER: Coming up next here, legendary talk show host Montel Williams, he calls Trump a carnival barker but says he will be the GOP nominee. So, is that on us? Did the media create him?
STELTER: Some say Donald Trump is a demagogue. Others say he's a genius. His one of a kind campaign this wild primary season has former talk show host Montel Williams, a self-described conservative, questioning whether America's best days are behind us.
Now, Montel knows how modern media works better than anyone. Everyone remembers his former talk show. So, you've got to hear what he told me about Trump.
STELTER: Montel, thanks so much for joining me.
MONTEL WILLIAMS, FORMER TV TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you so much for having me, Brian.
STELTER: Do you think Donald Trump is a creation of the media? You know, one of the top items on his resume is "The Apprentice". No other presidential candidate can claim a reality show as part of his preparation for the presidency.
WILLIAMS: I think, we have to remember is rather than thinking Trump created this, we remember created him. Go back to 2000. It's right now, 2015 to maybe 2016. In 2000, there were only four or five reality shows.
Jump start to 2013-14, there are over 350 of them and they are all conflict driven. We have women in our society punching other women in face. Women who are socialites turning over table, people spitting in people's faces. Everything is a conflict.
[11:20:00] And then you have Donald Trump put people in charity situations in conflict situations. And people applaud that and watch that. Why would he not tap into the base that's literally we created for him over 15 years.
I'm sorry. Donald Trump is here to stay. He's part of the American fabric. It is now the way America wants to receive its information. Everybody was all, I think, aghast or puzzled when they look at the news and see him up by 20 points. Do not be puzzled. He will be the Republican nominee. And then you'll have to figure out whether America accepts his same platform.
STELTER: You said he's a carnival barker and a punk, you're now saying he'll be the nominee.
WILLIAMS: You have to remember, even when I said after that, go back and watch me on Don Lemon, I said on Don Lemon, the first we -- everybody else has been discounting him, I've said every step along the way, he is in this to the end.
STELTER: Were you surprised by the reaction a couple of weeks ago when Donald Trump was quoted, talking about possibly registering Muslims? He said his comments were taken out of context and he wasn't really understood.
But were you surprised by the reaction to it, by the fact that not every one of his rivals all came out and condemned him about it?
WILLIAMS: I was shocked at his comment and then by Ben Carson's comment referring to people as if they are some sort of wild animals. I mean, look, we can make our points about our concerns without having to be so divisive. There are Muslim Americans who have worn our uniforms and who taken bullets for this country.
There are Korean, Asian, every nationality on the sun. That's why we are who we are. So, to condemn an entire race I think is absolutely ignorant.
STELTER: And let me ask you because you are so prolific on social media, about Donald Trump's use of Twitter and Facebook, because we've seen very unusual, very controversial retweets. Here's one of them from a couple of weeks ago. This was completely inaccurate, referring to crime statistics from a made up agency. This was very racially charged, because it was implying that blacks kill many more whites than, in fact, is the reality.
When you saw a retweet like this, knowing how proficient you are on social media, what did you make of it? Did you think he should have deleted it or apologize for it?
WILLIAMS: I wish he would have handled it the way he claims that it went out by somebody else --
WILLIAMS: -- who did it in his name. I wish he would have handled it differently.
But at the end of the day, I think what I was really proud about or happy about is that that was like the turning point, Brian, for yourself and, not for you, but for a lot of your peers out here reporting this every day. I've seen a tenor change in the way the questions have been asked and the way this has been reported. So, you know, I was really happy that everybody kind of paid attention and jumped on it immediately to say, you know, pants on fire, this is really outrageous and egregious lie, which we now seem to be doing almost every other day and it doesn't seem to matter. So --
STELTER: And I think you're right about that. There was a change. There has been more fact checking. There has been more aggressive coverage in recent weeks and it's because some of the things he's either retweeted or said at rallies or said in interviews are very clearly untrue and thus pretty easy to fact check.
WILLIAMS: And so, but I think there is that double edged sword because I get it. In some ways, I feel for you guys. People are trying to actually report on the news and also make a point. One of the problems that you have is if you make too big of a point in one direction, then, oh, no, the media is doing nothing but attacking Donald and you are falling in some trap of being that media that's just trying to destroy America.
I think -- I would hope that more of you just like yourself and others, continue to do what you've been doing for the last couple of days, and that's really show America that this should be about truth and you're going to go after the truth to make sure you report it.
STELTER: We were talking about twitter and trump has shown social media prowess. Will the history books call him the first social media president? We contacted folks at Facebook and they say that in the last 30 days, 16 million on Facebook just in the U.S. have liked or posted or shared content about Trump , more than 69 million total. That's more than any Republican candidate and also many more than Hillary Clinton, because 8 million sharing content about Hillary 34 million times.
Just this week, we saw Trump start Periscoping, start Facebook, live video streaming, he's going to continue to use social media effectively.
Now, up next, what's behind the staggering social media numbers and what is it the media still doesn't get about Trump? Well, his campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson will join me next.
[11:25:01] She's standing by.
And still to come, we'll also talk with one of the nation's top fact checkers about what it's like to cover the candidate who shatters all the rules.
Stay with us.
STELTER: Now, I think it's safe to say Donald Trump does not have a high opinion of us in the press. Here is just a taste from a speech in Iowa yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And, you know, they all want us to do badly because the press is unbelievably dishonest. Unbelievably, most of it, there's some good ones but most of it. Unbelievably, I could tell you. Oh, I think I'll write a book about them when this whole thing is finished. This will be a book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: It's funny to hear him say that because my campaign sources say dozens of people have reached out to the campaign wanting access for books, some for non-fiction books, some for coffee table books.
Well, in those books, whether those people get access or not, Katrina Pierson will be a main character. It's her job to work with us in the dishonest media.
She's the Trump campaign's national spokesperson.
Good morning. Thank you for being here.
KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Good morning, Brian. Great to see you.
STELTER: Let me play the media. OK?
Explain to me why people like me don't understand Donald Trump. What is it the media doesn't get?
PIERSON: Well, first, this is just human beings.
You -- not every interesting person is universally liked, number one. Number two, you have the media sort of upset and actually whining now because Donald Trump isn't playing by their rules. And these rules don't apply to Democrats. That's the problem people have with the media.
STELTER: What's an example? What's an example of that?
PIERSON: An example, I will give you a couple. I will give you a couple of examples, Brian, because we didn't see coverage on CNN wall to wall recently when the administration came out and said they wanted to add biometrics to the vetting process for refugees, because, guess what, that's going to be in a database.
But we did hear for two weeks that Donald Trump wants a database for these Muslim refugees. And it was insanity. We don't hear back-to- back coverage on CNN about Hillary Clinton lying to the American public knowing that we had a terrorist attack in Benghazi and she blamed an American citizen who made a video.
But yet we spend weeks on talking about a head count when Muslims celebrated 9/11. So, I think that goes to show the dishonesty in media.
STELTER: I do think hundreds of hours have been spent covering Benghazi.
You said Muslims celebrated 9/11. Don't you mean a very small number, according to media reports, maybe a handful?
PIERSON: No, I mean radical Muslims celebrating 9/11 in America. And let me talk about just last night from that video...
STELTER: How many? PIERSON: ... that you were talking about in Iowa. Let's continue
with the dishonesty, because MSNBC said that Donald Trump abruptly left the stage from his event in North Carolina, when, in fact, the full video is out there on YouTube.
He talked for about an hour, took questions and answers from the audience members, and then continued to shake hands and sign books and shirts and hats and everything afterwards. So, that's just completely dishonesty in the media.
STELTER: I did see that, last night, Trump said that Katy Tur, the NBC correspondent who was there, should be fired.
I can't remember another campaign, another candidate that would call for a reporter to be fired. Did you agree with that call?
PIERSON: Well, you know what I agree with? I agree with there's dishonesty in the media. And if it's your job to report the news and not make it up, and you're not doing your job, you should be fired.
STELTER: Well, what do you view the job of the press to be? Do you believe we should be fact-checking the comments that Mr. Trump makes?
PIERSON: I think the press should be reporting both sides of the stories. When was the last time you fact-checked Barack Obama, because we haven't seen that lately?
So, I think, as long as you're doing it fair, it's considered journalism.
STELTER: That happens all the time.
PIERSON: So, hold on, Brian.
STELTER: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
PIERSON: So, are you telling me that you fact-check global warming as the cause of radical Islamic terrorists? You fact-check that?
STELTER: I wouldn't say it so vaguely. I would add a lot more caveats to that sentence, but, yes, there is some evidence of that. There are some studies.
PIERSON: Did you fact-check gun control, the California gun control laws? Did you fact-check that south -- that California gun control laws would have prevented a terrorist attack? Did you fact-check that?
STELTER: I'm with you. If you're calling for more fact-checking, I'm with you on that. I think we do need more fact-checking.
But let me ask you. We were talking about the CNN poll, 36 percent support for Mr. Trump. Do you think media and political elites are disconnected from that support, since our poll showed that he's supercharged by non-college-educated voters?
Most journalists who are writing stories, who are on television do have college degrees. So, I do -- I wonder if you think that is part of the disconnect between the press and the Trump campaign.
PIERSON: No, I think the disconnect are those -- because many of us have college degrees too, by the way.
The disconnect come from those elitists who think that they know better than everyone else, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who want to just play this Jedi mind trick and tell everyone what is best for them and that they have everything under control.
But the reason why it's not resonating is because, just like your previous guest had on, like Rick Wilson, a GOP consultant who makes millions of dollars off the GOP and suddenly sees the gravy train drying up, because you don't get it.
And the echo chamber is also not the answer, simply because most conservatives are not watching CNN. The problem we have here is that people are starting to see through the media bias. People know for a fact that the answer to keeping Americans safe is not to disarm them. That's what the media and the elites don't understand.
STELTER: Well, let me play a portion of Mr. Trump's interview on Bill O'Reilly's show a few days ago. I thought this was striking. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR")
BILL O'REILLY, FOX HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Sometimes, when you're up there, you get overly excited. And you're speaking extemporaneously, and then you say things, as anybody would, because the crowd is cheering and everyone is going wild, that you don't know to be true, but you believe to be true. But you don't know it.
TRUMP: I would love to read speeches off of a teleprompter. But you know what? You don't get the same excitement. You don't get the same feeling. And I haven't made very many mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I'm partially using a teleprompter here, partially not. I do love that Trump avoids prompters.
But what I hear in that exchange is that Trump would rather be exciting than be careful with the truth. Is that fair?
PIERSON: No, I don't think that is fair, simply because, when he is talking, he is telling people what he thinks, believes and feels.
It's not like -- like -- just like with the whole 9/11 thing, he wasn't reading an intelligence report and then lying about it, like the current commander in chief and Hillary Clinton do. So, he's speaking from the heart.
And Americans appreciate that. They don't want these Ivy League people that go around and pay thousands of dollars to be told what they want to hear. They want to hear somebody that's real and true. And the simple fact that Mr. Trump has been around for so long, he knows what he's talking about, he means it, and people want someone that is going to go out there and be real with the American public for a change.
STELTER: But, if you expect honesty from the press, shouldn't we expect honesty from Mr. Trump, when there are things that are factually inaccurate that he says?
He did say thousands cheered on 9/11 in New Jersey, and that's not true.
PIERSON: Well, can you prove that it's not true?
STELTER: Yes, I can prove that it's not true, because there's absolutely no documentation, there's no video, there's no photos, there's no police reports, there's no crime reports. There's no proof.
PIERSON: There are no police reports? There are no police reports? There are no reports at all, Brian? Are you sure about that?
Maybe you should fact-check that, and then we will talk about that next time.
STELTER: I would like to see them, the same way that Donald Trump repeated his calls for...
PIERSON: Former FBI -- former FBI agent confirmed, former New York police commissioner that there were reports.
STELTER: One random news report.
PIERSON: That was not random news report.
You had the AP. You had "The New York Post." Come on. Seriously? This is why the people don't trust the media, because the information is out there for wide range. It's out there, Brian. That's why people don't trust the media.
STELTER: But the media is the ones that are -- these random stories you are mentioning, like the FBI agent, that's a media report. That came from a local TV station.
Now, it doesn't really prove anything. It's just one person's claim. But it was a media report. Would you acknowledge that the media has played a role in Trump's success?
PIERSON: Well, there are reports, are there not reports? I'm confused now. Are there reports?
STELTER: There's a couple of news stories that you all have used to back up a claim that is not true.
PIERSON: Now there's a couple, not just one. But you just said one. Now you say a couple. How many is it?
STELTER: You know, I don't have the exact number. It might be four. It might be five. It doesn't matter...
PIERSON: OK. The's what I thought, OK.
STELTER: ... because there's no evidence in any report that there were thousands that were cheering.
PIERSON: Oh, it matters, it matters. No, it definitely matters.
STELTER: Do you think that -- well, let me -- let me pivot, because I don't want to go down a rabbit hole when we can't agree on the facts.
PIERSON: Good. Let's go.
STELTER: I do wonder if you agree -- in a sense, the theme of this hour is about Trump and the media -- whether you would agree that the press has played a role in boosting Trump's campaign, through constant coverage. Would you acknowledge we're part of the success?
PIERSON: Well, I think the media's definitely gone out of their way to cover everything that Trump says, mainly to make him look very negative, which is why it's backfired so much.
But that's with any campaign. But the difference here is, in previous presidential cycles, you have had the establishment effectively spend millions of dollars of attack ads to sort of tear down a candidate.
And that's not working either. So, I really wouldn't give the media all the credit here.
STELTER: The last question I have for you is this one. It's something that really worries me, when I hear Mr. Trump calling the press unbelievably dishonest, when I hear him calling for a reporter to be fired.
He's eroding trust in the press. Now, he's not alone. Other Democratic candidates, other Republican candidates do that too.
PIERSON: I don't think Mr. Trump is doing that.
STELTER: But he is helping to erode trust in the press. The fourth estate, of course, is the press.
So, don't you think that might contribute to America being less great? STELTER: Absolutely not.
Polls before Trump showed that a lot of people distrust the media for all sorts of reasons.
STELTER: Of course, but he is increasing that distrust.
PIERSON: Well, the media probably should be a little bit more honest if that's the case.
I just gave you several examples of how the media has skewed their reporting with regards to Mr. Trump. But it's not just Mr. Trump. It's Republicans in the past. If you look at the media coverage, even from the election of Barack Obama, they have essentially been covering him, not fact-checking anything Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama says.
People can now take a look around and realize they have not been told the truth, and the media has not been reporting accurately on practically everything this president has done.
STELTER: I think we can agree more fact-checking is a good thing.
STELTER: Katrina Pierson, thank you for being here.
PIERSON: Thank you. Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: And up next, "The Washington Post"'s popular fact-checking columnist, he will be here with me to tell me about the challenge of checking Trump's comments.
STELTER: It is a full-time job trying to keep up with everything Donald Trump says, especially when his statements seem to either skirt the truth or miss it altogether.
This morning on CBS's "Face the Nation," we caught what sounds like another big exaggeration about 9/11. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
TRUMP: They put their families on airplanes a couple of days before, sent them back to Saudi Arabia, for the most part.
Those wives knew exactly what was going to happen. And those wives went home to watch their husbands knock down the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and wherever the third plane was going, except we had some very, very brave passengers, wherever that third plane was going. Those wives knew exactly what was happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Is that the truth or a Trumpism?
Well, some of the hijackers were in relationships, but many were not. And this morning, we can find no corroborating evidence that hijackers' wives flew to south -- flew to Saudi Arabia right before the attack.
Now, joining me now for more on this, Glenn Kessler, "The Washington Post"'s fact-checker columnist.
Glenn, I want to talk to you broadly about what it's like to fact- check Trump.
But, first, do you have any evidence for this idea that the hijackers' wives all left the country right before the attack?
GLENN KESSLER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, not at all.
Clearly, Donald Trump didn't read the 9/11 Commission report, which shows that -- that indicates few married relationships among the hijackers. One had a girlfriend that he communicated with. And she was shocked afterwards to find out what had happened.
So, there's absolutely no evidence to support that statement.
STELTER: He said it on FOX News this week as well.
Let me ask you about what is different when it comes to Donald Trump. Every candidate makes misleading statements, but, for you, covering Trump is different. Why?
KESSLER: Well, for one thing, he continues to double down on every misstatement he makes.
So, for instance, in the last campaign cycle, Mitt Romney used to go around and say that Americans were the only citizens on Earth who put their hands on their hearts during this -- the playing of the national anthem. After I showed that was wrong, he just stopped saying it.
Other candidates might slightly adjust their statements in response to fact-checks. But what Donald Trump does is, he actually insists that he is right, and then goes on to say that, because people are tweeting at him that he's right, of course he's right, even when there's no factual basis for any of his statements.
STELTER: So, using the tweets to reinforce him.
So, for you, you're not trying to change his behavior. You're trying to make sure the viewers and the voters know the truth. Is that true?
KESSLER: That's right.
Fact-checks are not written to change political -- politicians' behavior. Fact-checks are intended to inform voters. And they can do with that information what they wish. In the case of Trump, it's actually not that great of fun fact-checking him.
KESSLER: No, a good fact-check -- well, a good fact-check is like a mystery story, where you spend a lot of time to try to unravel how the politician had, you know, concocted this particular statistic in a way that was misleading.
With Trump, the statements he makes are often so absurd, that you can instantly find out that -- why it's wrong and how it's wrong.
KESSLER: And, you know, it's -- it's not that interesting, frankly.
STELTER: I'm surprised to hear you say that.
But thank you for -- for joining us this morning, Glenn. Good to see you.
KESSLER: You're welcome.
STELTER: Up next on our special report: Mediaite founder Dan Abrams with surprising words for the press about covering Trump.
STELTER: Donald Trump is a story for the ages.
He's a great storyteller about himself, and his story keeps changing. For all of these reasons and more, he commands hours and hours of coverage, including this one.
But we have to note the imbalance, because it really is astounding. Look at this. From the NBC, ABC and CBS nightly newscasts all year long, Trump has received 234 minutes of coverage. That's four times as much as Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. Marco Rubio is barely visible on the screen with 22 minutes, Ted Cruz just seven minutes overall.
And that data comes from Andrew Tyndall, who tracks all three newscasts.
Let's talk about this with someone who has unique insight, Dan Abrams. He's a former general manager of MSNBC, the founder of the great Web site Mediaite, and ABC's chief legal affairs anchor. Dan, when you see that data, it makes perfect sense on one level,
right, because he is a one-of-a-kind story.
DAN ABRAMS, FOUNDER, MEDIAITE: He's much more interesting than any of the other candidates. He says things that are more interesting.
And, as a result, it's not that surprising. But, look, we have to start in the media treating Donald Trump as the Republican front- runner.
A lot of the media don't want to do that.
STELTER: You think still he doesn't get that kind of fair treatment?
ABRAMS: I still think that a lot of them still want to treat him like a clown, like a reality show guy.
The bottom line is, he is the Republican front-runner. As of today, he is the likely candidate to be running against what we expect to be Hillary Clinton in the general election.
I know that a lot in the media don't want to accept that. They want to put him on the entertainment page on Huffington Post. They don't want to take him seriously. The bottom line is, he has to be taken seriously now as the front-runner for the Republican nomination.
STELTER: Do you chalk the dismissive treatment from some in the press up to media bias or is it something else?
ABRAMS: It's both. It's both.
It's both a bias against what he is saying, and then there's also the fact that he's making certain things up. And the media hates it when you go and you fact-check it, right, and you say, this guy said this, and it turns out it's not true, and no one cares.
STELTER: It's very difficult speaking to someone -- speaking to someone like Katrina Pierson, who is bringing her own facts to the table, literally.
ABRAMS: Well, what she -- what she did to you is, she's turning it on you, right?
You're saying to her, it is a -- it is -- there is absolutely no proof that there was thousands of Muslims cheering after 9/11. And she says, well, what proof do you have?
What do you mean what proof? What proof do I have that there are no aliens out there? It's not -- it not the media's job to prove that there are aliens. It's the media's job to go and fact-check. You said -- not we -- you said there are thousands of Muslims out there.
OK. It's our job now to see if there's any evidence out there. There is no evidence out there that it happened. And, as a result, the media can say, it's not true, and we're going to keep saying it's not true until you, who said it, come to us and show that we're wrong. STELTER: Of course, some people on Twitter say I shouldn't even bring
someone like Katrina Pierson on the program.
I disagree. I think we have got to be listening to Trump supporters and his spokespeople. In fact, I think we need to hear more from Trump supporters. One of the things I think we have been missing in the media coverage is the voices of ordinary voters.
ABRAMS: But -- I think that is true, but I think the one thing the media needs to do better is not just fact-check, but then, once the check has been done, to not say, well, on the one side and on the other side, and on the one hand and on the other hand.
ABRAMS: The bottom line is, once it's clear there's no evidence to support it, the media has to say that. It can't say, but on the other hand, the Trump campaign claims it.
The bottom line is, if it's not true, it's not true. If there's no evidence, there's no evidence. And it's the media's responsibility to say that when they're -- when they're talking about some of the outrageous comments that Trump makes.
It's the media's obligation to not make that two-sided.
STELTER: Of course, at the same time we're talking about this, we all have to keep in mind the media benefits enormously from Trump.
Here's a tweet from earlier in the week from Donald Trump to Chuck Todd. He says, "Congratulations, Chuck," for the high ratings on "Meet the Press" the week that Trump was on.
There's clearly a beneficial relationship here, even though there is also an antagonist relationship.
ABRAMS: No question. Look, Chuck was tough on him, right? I mean, you played it earlier in the show.
STELTER: And John Dickerson was on "Face the Nation" today.
But Trump recognizes -- and he is right -- that when he's on, the ratings are up. Why? Because he's interesting television, which also makes him an interesting candidate.
STELTER: For Mediaite, the highest-trafficked articles are still Trump when it comes to the candidates?
ABRAMS: Well, yes, Trump is great for Mediaite.
Look, there's a separation between Trump as a media business, right? I own a media business in Mediaite. It's great for the business when we cover Trump.
But a lot of the reporters get annoyed about it, because they say, wait a second, a lot of what he's saying isn't true, so why do we cover the guy so much?
And I think it's a fair debate to have in newsrooms, which is to say, yes, we as a business will love it, but the reporters are saying, yes, but, as a principle, how do we allow ourselves to cover him so much?
STELTER: Dan, thanks so much for being here.
ABRAMS: Good to be here.
STELTER: Good to see you.
STELTER: And we will be right back with more RELIABLE SOURCES.
STELTER: Thanks for watching our special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
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