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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

CNN: Cruz "Knowingly Misleads" Voters; SNL & ABC Tied in the Ratings Last Night; Polls Say Trump Not Hurt by Iowa Results; Interview with CBS Chairman Les Moonves. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired February 7, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:14] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES -- our look at the story behind the story of how news and pop culture get made.

And this morning, we're talking about television's power to influence the presidential election. Last night, a remarkable moment on two different channels. On the one side, a fiery GOP debate on ABC. On the other side, a warm and fuzzy "SNL" cameo by Bernie Sanders.

Later today, of course, it will all be eclipsed by an even bigger TV event, America's 50th Super Bowl. CBS has been planning its coverage since the day after the last Super Bowl. And coming up later this hour, I'll show you my exclusive interview with CBS chief Les Moonves from Super Bowl City in San Francisco.

The ratings just came in for the two events, the debate and SNL, and they actually tied. The two programs tying for the number one show of the night. We'll get into that.

But should start with something you rarely see, one of this country's leading news outlets calling B.S. literally when a candidate deeps saying something that's false. The news outlet in this case is CNN, and the story is about Ted Cruz. Cruz's rivals are accusing him of dirty tricks for telling Iowa caucus-goers that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.

This story starts at 7:41 p.m. Monday with a scoop from CNN reporter Chris Moody that Carson wasn't going straight from Iowa to New Hampshire like all the other candidates, but instead was going home to Florida. He tweeted that news and then he said this -- he said, "Ben Carson's campaign tells me he plans to stay in the race beyond Iowa no matter what the results are tonight."

Clearly, Carson was not dropping out, according to Moody's reporting. And he'll join me in just a moment from New Hampshire.

But, let's look at how Jake Tapper and Dana Bash analyzed this scoop on the air that day. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Ben Carson is going to go back to Florida, to his home, regardless of how he does tonight here in Iowa. He's going to go there for several days, and then afterwards, he's not going to go to South Carolina. He's not going to go to New Hampshire. He's going to come to Washington, D.C., and he's going to do that because the National Prayer Breakfast is on Thursday.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But it's very unusual.

BASH: Very unusual.

TAPER: To be announcing that you're going home to rest for a few days, not going on to the next site.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Very unusual, they said. And it certainly was. But they didn't say he was dropping out of the race.

Now, the story gets a little murky at this point. Cruz campaign aides spread word to their supporters in Iowa that Carson might be or actually was dropping out, maybe planning a big announcement -- even though CNN never said that.

Carson accused Cruz of dirty campaigning. Cruz then apologized to him but blamed CNN, which caused CNN anchors like Brooke Baldwin to call B.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: When Senator Cruz, with all due respect, tries to throw my network and CNN under the bus, let me stand up for my colleagues and my journalists here in terms of the CNN report that he keeps quoting. I'm going to call out B.S. if I hear B.S., and that is B.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I can tell you --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Now, under pressure, Cruz admitted that, quote, "CNN got it correct." But last night at the debate, he reverted to his previous position. He said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My political team saw CNN's report breaking news, and they forwarded that news to our volunteers. It was being covered on live television.

I regret that subsequently CNN reported on that -- they didn't correct that story until 9:15 that night. So, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15, that's what CNN was reporting. Subsequent to that initial report, Ben's campaign put out a statement saying that he was not suspending his campaign.

I wish that our campaign staff had forwarded that statement. They were unaware of it. I wish that they had. That's why I apologized.

DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Cruz, thank you.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In fact, the timeline indicates that that initial tweet from CNN was followed by another within one minute that clarified that I was not dropping out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: CNN tweets now the subject of a presidential debate.

Now, that comment from Cruz spurred this response from CNN, quote, "What Senator Cruz said tonight in the debate is categorically false. CNN never corrected its reporting because CNN never had anything to correct. The Cruz campaign's actions the night of the Iowa caucuses had nothing to too with CNN's reporting. The fact that Senator Cruz continues to knowingly mislead the voters about this is astonishing."

Joining me in New Hampshire this morning is Chris Moody, along with Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics. In Washington, GOP strategist Doug Heye, a former RNC communications director. And in Charlottesville, Virginia, Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

Larry, let me ask you. You're an independent voice, not a CNN person. What do you think happened here? Do you think Cruz is to blame, or is CNN to blame?

[11:05:01] LARRY SABATO, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Oh, there's no question about it. This isn't a close call. Cruz is to blame -- Cruz and his staff.

Now, look, everybody knows what he was doing. He was shifting the blame to CNN for a dirty trick. What was the reason for the dirty trick? To get some of those Carson voters in the Iowa caucuses to switch to Cruz. He was the second choice of many of the Carson voters. It's perfectly obvious.

So, why did Cruz revert to the explanation that he himself had admitted was false last night in the debate? Because he was at a Republican debate. If there's one thing we know from a whole series of Republican debates over three, four cycles, it's that if you want to get out of a tight spot, blame the media. The Republicans watching will almost always agree with you.

STELTER: Dylan, do you agree that's the Cruz campaign strategy here? And if so, is it going to be effective in New Hampshire?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Yes. No, that's absolutely the Cruz campaign strategy here. I think what's so baffling is how much they've sort of gone back and forth over this issue. And they've also seen that it's an issue that CNN is not sort of going to take sitting down.

I mean, when the Cruz campaign first tried to throw CNN under the bus, there was a very aggressive response from the network, pointing out the facts saying, no, that's just factually not true. Of course, ultimately, Ted Cruz relents and he says CNN got it right. And then, now, he goes back up on the debate stage and says it again.

The calculation is certainly that the majority of viewers watching ABC News at home, you know, Republican voters, are not going to be going to CNN to see the fact check and see whether or not that's true. But, of course, now, this is becoming such a story in its own right that it -- that it -- it feeds into this perception, you know, the one that Donald Trump has tried to pin on Ted Cruz for a long time that he's not a likeable guy, that he doesn't tell the truth.

And why he would want to feed into that perception when the facts aren't on your side is a campaign strategy that I -- I just can't understand.

STELTER: Doug, do you think this hurts Cruz?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, I do. If the battle was truly just between Ted Cruz and the media, Cruz would win. But it's really between Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. I was in Des Moines --

STELTER: Ah, interesting.

HEYE: -- on Monday night. And I saw Chris Moody's tweet. The conversation initially was, what is Ben Carson doing?

By the end of the night and the morning, the conversation was, what is -- what is Ted Cruz and his campaign doing? It hurts him because it knocks him off message. It knocks him with Ben Carson supporters.

But it also says, you know, anybody who's worked on campaigns can talk about the volunteer who knocks over opponents' signs. That's not serious. This is serious. And it looks to be with so many iterations of it to be coordinated.

And for Ted Cruz, his real challenge is he's past the point of where they can get out in front of this. They've got to get this behind them, and that won't be easy.

STELTER: Chris, let me ask you because you haven't actually talked about your reporting from that night before now. This information you reported exclusively, this actually came from the Carson campaign, didn't it?

CHRIS MOODY, CNN SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brian. Let me give you a tick-tock about what happened that night.

I was assigned to cover Carson's victory party in West Des Moines, in Iowa. His campaign, two sources told me on the record told me that instead of going straight to New Hampshire or straight to South Carolina as most candidates do, he's going to take just a short, brief rest. They described it as a deep breath, by going home to Florida, get his affairs in order, and head to Washington, D.C., for the National Prayer Breakfast. Then, after that, head to New Hampshire for the debate.

And so, I reported all of those things in order. He's going to Florida. He's -- then I said, he's not dropping out.

Ted Cruz's campaign cherry-picked part of that information, and not only sent messages to precinct captain on e-mail but also called and said he's suspending campaigning -- which is something I or no one else at CNN ever said. We also had a story on CNNPolitics.com that had all of that information.

So, either Ted Cruz's campaign just stopped reading, or -- as others have said, it was something that was misleading intentionally.

STELTER: I'm curious what it's been like for you, Chris, to see your reporting maybe twisted in this way. It must be a strange experience to be talked about on a presidential campaign stage.

MOODY: Well, certainly is. But the reporting stands on its own. I don't have to necessarily comment or extrapolate on it.

STELTER: Right.

MOODY: It is what it is, and it's truth. There's nothing more I really have to necessarily say to really defend it.

Now, here's the problem is that the facts were true, but as you know in politics, many times, people can extrapolate from that and draw wrong conclusions.

Ted Cruz's campaign drew that wrong conclusion, ignored the other half of the sentence basically, and then blamed me for their wrong conclusion, saying that I had reported what they were telling everyone else. It all got lost in the speed that is an election night.

STELTER: Yes.

MOODY: Obviously, that's unfortunate for everyone involved. But again, it was never reported on CNN television, digital, or social media that Ben Carson was dropping out.

[11:10:01] In fact, almost in the same breath, it was reported that he was staying in the race, the exact opposite.

STELTER: What was sort of intriguing to me by this whole story, Chris -- and, Doug, let me go to you on this, is that it does to me feel like Carson's only sort of half running. You know, I grew up in Maryland. I'm a Marylander like Carson is, very fond of him over the years.

But it doesn't seem to me like he is campaigning as aggressively as some of the others. So, there was a kernel of truth to the idea that he was going to go home and take a deep breath. And as Chris was saying, it was manipulated, maybe twisted by the Cruz campaign.

But isn't there something here, Doug, to the idea that Carson is not campaigning as aggressively as the others?

HEYE: Well, Carson's never campaigned in the same way that everybody else has. But it's still a rare -- a big mistake by a campaign that's made very few of them. I've been really impressed by the Cruz campaign.

But this is something they should have tamped down on day one, maybe day two. But we're now almost a week into this, and it's pretty clear we'll be talking about this for several more days, in part because of what Ted Cruz said last night. It's a big mistake by a campaign that's made very few.

STELTER: I want to show a couple of other fact-checkers, because you shouldn't take CNN's word for this, you should do your own research. Here's what "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" and "PolitiFact" all said. "The New York Times", wrote, "Don't blame CNN." "Washington Post", "PolitiFact", we'll show you the others, as well.

I do wonder, Larry, if the bottom line about there is about fact- checking -- about whether fact-checking is taken seriously by voters and news organizations, and how you feel that's going in this presidential election cycle.

SABATO: Brian, I think one of the most disturbing things about a very disturbing election cycle, for me, has been the growth of this idea that somehow we're in a post-factual era. Well, God help us if we're in a post-factual era.

It is incumbent upon media organizations like CNN, all the other networks, newspapers, blogs, to go after the candidates hard when they misrepresent the facts. Not just to print a box with a "PolitiFact" analysis, we love all "PolitiFact", I'm glad they're there. But you have to do what the candidates do -- be repetitious, repetitious, repetitious, bring it up, make them deal with it until they either take it back or just admit they were wrong.

STELTER: Real quickly, Dylan, do you think it's possible we'll see news outlets be more forceful in the way that CNN's statement was last night? Could we see more muscular fact-checking in the next few months?

I know a lot of viewers would like to see news outlets make clear, strong statements when there are misstatements made by candidates.

BYERS: Well, look, that's a great question. And the sort of fact- checking industry I would say has never been so strong. But, look, the point is exactly right -- It almost doesn't matter if a candidate doesn't pick up the ball and run with it.

CNN, "The New York Times," "PolitiFact", "Washington Post" fact checker, they can all go out there and they can all do the work, and believe me, they are doing very diligent work. But at a certain point, you know, these campaigns come down to a contest between candidates.

What you saw last night was Ted Cruz go after not a candidate but a news network, much the way that, you know, Donald Trump has been engaged in a war with FOX News of late. And when the news network gets sort of dragged into this and the mudslinging is going toward news network, then you see that really robust response. But, you know, when it comes to these bigger issues, the sort of

really important stuff that some of these candidates might be misleading their viewers about, about the economy, foreign policy, their past records, you know, at a certain point, there's only so much news organizations can do. Candidates really have to step up and sort of run with that ball and challenge their rivals on that, if we really want to see those things play out in the national media.

STELTER: Gentlemen, thank you all for being here this morning. We should mention to the viewers at home, we have invited a Cruz spokesperson on to CNN this morning, and they have declined to comment.

Coming up next, talking more about last night's debate and that big, weird mistake at the beginning of the debate. If you haven't seen this, we'll play the whole thing and talk about it. We'll talk about the huge ratings when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:35] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

I'm just looking at the ratings during the break for last night's debates. They were huge -- the highest debate of the year so far. I'll have more for you on CNN.com about that later this hour.

But, first, we have to talk about that intro. Let's pull back the curtain on how TV usually works. Debates are among the most rehearsed events in the news business. The networks practiced this stuff for days ahead of time.

So, last night when ABC flubbed the intro of the candidates, it was a pretty awkward moment for the network.

Let me bring in Matt Lewis, CNN commentator and CNN contributor of "The Daily Caller," author of the book "Too Dumb to Fail." Also, Ana Marie Cox, in New Hampshire this morning, the senior political correspondent with MTV News, and Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and president of Intrepid Media.

Guys, I want to talk about the substance of the debate. We have to play the intro first. Let's put it up in boxes. We'll do it like a football play and see what went wrong, because it started out OK. You see Chris Christie taking the stage. He heard the cue.

But, Matt, apparently Ben Carson did not hear the cue over the roar of the audience. What were you thinking when you saw this?

MATT LEWIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: It was bizarre. I was wondering, is there a protest? Is Ben Carson doing something to make a point about I don't know -- in other words --

STELTER: I thought it might be about Carly Fiorina not being on the stage.

LEWIS: Yes, yes. STELTER: You know, Fiorina made a big deal out of how she wasn't

invited. She didn't meet the ABC criteria. And when Carson was standing there awkwardly, I wondered --

LEWIS: There's a guy in the background telling him, go, go.

STELTER: Right, trying to get the person to go.

LEWIS: That should have been the "SNL" cold open.

STELTER: We'll actually show how "SNL" handled this in a minute.

Ana, when you were watching in New Hampshire, who did you feel sorry for?

ANA MARIE COX, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: What I was thinking about the intro? I mean, too me it was par for the course -- to me it was par for the course for the race I feel like.

STELTER: You think it's metaphor? Why?

COX: I do. I think it's a "mission accomplished" moment of the race, it's something we'll look back on and say, yeah, that was the race where everyone forgot to enter. Everyone was screwed occupy the entries.

And, of course, it was Carson who, you know, I thought maybe hadn't woken from his nap. Probably still groggy.

I do think we should note it was the roar of the crowd, you know, that made this happen. It was a very enthusiastic crowd. I mean, we can make fun of it, and it certainly looked awkward.

But to be fair, it had to do with how enthusiastic the crowd was and not any actual mix-up on anyone's part.

STELTER: Right. Right. And I felt somewhat bad for the moderator because there was only so much they could do to get the candidates' attention.

I think it was about the floor manager, the stage director there, who could have walked to Ben Carson, give him a gentle push to get him out on the stage.

[11:20:06] LEWIS: A final tap or something.

STELTER: Let's go ahead and play how "SNL" handled this because "SNL" turned around really quickly and three hours later, made fun of the whole thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans held a presidential debate in New Hampshire, and things got off to a real rocky start. Here's actual footage of Ben Carson's entrance where the one thing he forgot to do was enter. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Ben Carson --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man. Of all people you'd never expect Ben Carson to fall asleep at the wheel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: That was how the intro was handled.

Let's talk about the substance of the debate and start with the presence of Donald Trump because, Rick, we all know Trump skipped the FOX News debate a week earlier. The ratings were lower for that debate. They're higher for this debate. It indicates to me that Trump did have an impact on the debate last night.

I know that you're not a Trump fan. In fact, you're probably his biggest critic I've ever seen. But don't you think he had a good night on that stage?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Donald Trump had other people doing his work. What Donald Trump needs is for the mainstream conservative vote to be divided by three or four, five serious candidates. And so, he's able to sit there and basically stick with his stock answers which, of course, are nonsense on things like trade and everything else, and single-payer health care and everything else.

But he was able to stay out of the line of fire for the most part. He had one or two little testy exchanges with Jeb Bush. But, you know, the crowd chemistry for Donald last night in the room I think is what actually exists out there in the rest of the Republican field outside of the Trump supporter demo which, you know, he was roundly booed a number of times last night for a good reason.

The guy comes across, you know, in these things as somebody who is both -- unable to talk about substance of policy matters beyond his stock sort of Trump-isms and who, you know -- celebrity candidacy of Donald Trump is worn down, and folks are starting to look at do you need a serious person who can go out and post up in the field and know things and be able to articulate the conservative vision?

STELTER: We'll see on Tuesday, we'll see since he's leading in the polls.

Matt, I know that Rick isn't going to --

WILSON: Well, and I still -- by the way, Brian --

(CROSSTALK) STELTER: I'm sorry, let me go to Matt -- that's fair.

Let me go to Matt on this, because I actually sent an anti-Trump bias in the coverage after Iowa, his strong second-place finish. Did you sense that maybe there were some commentators that were so excited to call him a loser that there was actually a bias in the coverage?

LEWIS: Actually, I don't think so. I think that --

STELTER: No?

LEWIS: I think the bias is based not on an anti-Trump bias but a bias toward expectations. I mean, political commentators and pundits, fair or not, don't judge who won or lost as much as who exceeded or failed to meet expectations.

And the truth is, Donald Trump was expected to win Iowa. He comes in second place. Therefore, that becomes a loss.

Compare that to Marco Rubio who actually finished third place but was declared a winner.

STELTER: Speaking of the expectation game, Ana, do you think there's an expectation as a narrative being set up here by the press? Rubio was built up for a few days. Now he's being torn down for a performance. Don't we have to have a reality check here about how the narrative is constructed by the media and be sensitive to the reality of what's happening on the ground where you are in New Hampshire?

COX: I think that what happened on the stage is definitely something that the media was ready for some of what -- what happened with Rubio. He's already been portrayed by a lot of us as a fairly robotic candidate.

I am not sure how that's going to play out here. I think the people who like Rubio aren't fazed by what his -- by his stiffness. I think they see it as disciplined, and it certainly is in a way disciplined.

I think what the real weakness is, is not the fact that he kept repeating himself or played into that narrative, it's that what he kept repeating, which is this line about Obama and how -- it basically revealed his campaign to be a campaign against Obama. And that in his last ditch-effort is what he keeps defaulting to. And it shows the weakness of his general appeal.

WILSON: Ana --

STELTER: Rick, go ahead.

WILSON: Ana, I don't know if you've seen Barack Obama's numbers with Republicans lately. But the message Marco Rubio was given the chance to deliver four times is something that Republican-based voters absolutely believe in. They believe the guy is not --

COX: Yes. WILSON: they believe this guy is not incompetent but malicious. Marco Rubio was hitting a home run on that every time with Republican voters.

And that's why his donations flooded in three times more than any other debate. That's why this morning his crowds are standing room only. People lined up the door in the first rally this morning at 8:30. And this is a guy delivered a message four times.

The Acela media may love Chris Christie, but just patting him on the head for being the sweaty bully against Marco last night doesn't change the fact that the message Marco was delivering was dead on for Republican voters.

[11:25:02] STELTER: Rick, I'm actually more of an Amtrak Regional kind of guy --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: But I hear you.

I'm out of time, unfortunately. But I thank you all for being here. Appreciate it.

And up next, as we talk about expectations, we have to talk about polls. Are we at this point relying far too much on polling, and how much can we trust the data? The woman called the gold standard of pollsters who didn't get it right in Iowa this week will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: Polls, polls, polls, polls, polls, polls. Sometimes it feels like all we talk about are polls. The media is addicted to the horse race. And we're probably going to talk about new poll numbers in just a few minutes.

But, first, we have to look to last week when we were all so sure about these numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: According to the highly respected "Des Moines Register"/Bloomberg poll, Trump's debate snubbed did not hurt him in Iowa. Most Iowans didn't care.

Let's look first at the Republican results from this poll. Al these numbers show Trump leading Senator Ted Cruz with 28 percent support among likely caucus-goers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:30:08]

STELTER: Time for a little self-assessment here. Clearly, the numbers that I shared were not the actual results in Iowa. I want to talk about how we cover polls and how the polls are

conducted with the legendary Iowa pollster Ann Selzer. She joins me now from Des Moines.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: I hear you laughing when I say the word legendary. I know you don't...

J. ANN SELZER, PRESIDENT, SELZER & COMPANY: Yes.

STELTER: I know you don't sometimes like all the type for your work.

SELZER: Well, that's exactly right.

And I keep trying to say we need to just pierce this veil of infallibility. And I...

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: So, you want me to take the word legendary out of my script, Ann?

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: I will fix it.

SELZER: Well, I have been called the gold standard. I'm happy at silver standard.

STELTER: Silver standard.

I wanted to play the clip from RELIABLE SOURCES last week, because I want to ask you, how should I have introduced those numbers? What caveat should I have included? And then, of course, by extension, when other channels, other shows cover these numbers, how should we cover them?

SELZER: Well, the caucus in Iowa is the hardest polling job that there is.

And, in fact, I went back to look up the etymology of the word caucus, which I think comes from the Algonquin meaning impossible to poll. The way that the caucus is designed, it is it -- it introduces and encourages changes made at the very last moment, including in the caucus room, on caucus night.

So, we finished our polling in the field on Friday. Things happen over the weekend. Things happen on Monday. Things happen in the room on Monday night. So, I'm always talking about, you know, we release the numbers, and then we start trying to figure out, well, what if? What could happen that would change these numbers?

So, we're all too aware that things happen that change what things looked like Friday night.

STELTER: So the numbers you were showing last weekend were from that moment. And they changed by Monday.

Let's take a quick look at the latest CNN/WMUR poll in New Hampshire looking ahead to next Tuesday's primary; 33 percent of likely Republican voters would choose Donald Trump as their choice for nominee, a wide lead between Trump and Marco Rubio at 16 percent.

When we're covering the numbers, what should we be mentioning? Other than the margin of error, what sort of context should we be bringing around these numbers?

SELZER: Well, it would look like similar to our poll, which is, this is Donald Trump's to lose.

STELTER: Right.

SELZER: And the decisions that his campaign made about how they were going to work Iowa were not the way Iowa likes to be worked. They don't just want to fly in with an event. They want personal contact. They wanted repeated contact. They want people calling them on the phone to see if they're going to show up at caucus, all of those things that the Cruz campaign did, making tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of contacts, up to and including working the room on caucus night.

I have heard of caucuses where no representative was there from the Trump campaign to make a pitch, which is normal caucus procedure. So it was his to lose, and lose it, he did. I will just mention one other thing. I don't know how much more detail there is to the poll you're citing. We said as we looked at the poll numbers that if you didn't know the horse race, you would swear Ted Cruz was leading.

There was so much strength in every other way that we measure candidates' strength below the horse race numbers. If you have opportunity to take a look at that, that sometimes can give you a little bit of an indication.

STELTER: Bottom line, the -- are political polls reliable, is it getting harder and harder to get a reliable result from voters because of cell phones and other things?

SELZER: For many reasons. I used to say from cycle to cycle it's getting harder and harder. Then I started saying from year to year, it gets harder and harder.

STELTER: Wow.

SELZER: And now I would say, day to day, it gets harder. And in Iowa in particular, New Hampshire probably, too, it's an overpolled population.

STELTER: Interesting.

SELZER: There are dozens and dozens of polling operations that have decided that they want to be part of the game. And so that means the small group of people in Iowa -- you know, enough is enough sometimes, and they're done talking. STELTER: So, you think for the viewers at home, we should take all

the polls with maybe more grains of salt?

SELZER: Yes. Yes. Polls are not made of gold.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: That's good to hear, because we're going to hear a lot of them in the next 10 months.

Ann, thank you for being here. Good to see you.

SELZER: My pleasure.

STELTER: Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES: You are not seeing double, Bernie Sanders appearing with his comedic doppelganger, Larry David, on "Saturday Night Live." Will it have any impact on his campaign?

We will discuss that after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:29]

STELTER: Who could have imagined this a year ago, Bernie Sanders on "SNL"? Last night, he met his twin, Larry David.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hold on, hold on, wait a second!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: I am so sick of the 1 percent getting this preferential treatment.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: Enough is enough. We need to unite and work together if we're all going to get through this.

LARRY DAVID, ACTOR: Sounds like socialism to me.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Democratic socialism.

DAVID: What's the difference?

SANDERS: Huge difference.

(LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Will Bernie's big media moment matter? And how's his rival, Hillary Clinton, being treated by the press?

Joining me to talk about that, Rebecca Traister, writer at large for "New York" magazine and the author of the upcoming book "All the Single Ladies," and Harry Jaffe, "The Washingtonian" editor at large, the author of "Why Bernie Sanders Matters."

I have both your books here. I appreciate that for later in the day today.

I want to start with the Bernie Sanders "SNL" moment.

Harry, like I said in the intro, who could have imagined that a year ago? Sanders has received a national stage that for decades he never had the opportunity to be on.

HARRY JAFFE, "THE WASHINGTONIAN": I think he's shocked. I think he was shocked when he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1980.

He's thinking, wow, what a great moment, and he gets to create his movement, which is what Bernie Sanders is all about.

[11:40:01]

STELTER: Does it matter? Does him appearing on "SNL" matter, you think?

JAFFE: I think, to his audience, it certainly does. I think every time that he is getting any attention at all it makes the entire media establishment think, wow, he's still here, you know?

STELTER: And, of course, we see the original appearance by Larry David here from the fall, such brilliant casting.

We saw Hillary Clinton on "SNL" as well a few months ago. This has just become a required part of the show running for president, I guess, appearing on these late-night shows.

REBECCA TRAISTER, "NEW YORK": Absolutely. It makes you -- it shows you have a sense of humor. It shows you're relatable. Those are perhaps especially important for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, given their reputations.

STELTER: I'm curious to hear from both of you how feel the press is treating these candidates. Both of you are experts on this topic.

And, Rebecca, what I noticed in the coverage of Clinton on Monday night and Tuesday morning, when she won the Iowa caucus, just barely, but she won, was that it didn't seem to be treated with historical significance. This was a woman winning the Iowa caucuses for the first time. Never really gets covered that way with Hillary Clinton.

TRAISTER: Yes, this was deeply unsurprising to me, in part because, in 2008, a much bigger story, which is when she won New Hampshire, in the surprise sort of upset of Obama in January of 2008 -- it was actually the first time in history.

Shirley Chisholm had won a nonbinding preferential primary in New Jersey, with her competitors not on the ballet, so that's an asterisk. But Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire in 2008 was the first time in American history that a woman had won a contested presidential primary.

And in the day-after coverage, the, like, Clinton upsets Obama coverage that detailed her reported crying and everything, in both "The New York Times" and CNN, lots of the major coverage did not mention the fact that it was the first time in American history that a woman had won a primary.

STELTER: So, you're saying that if the press is slanted against Hillary, it's been a long time.

TRAISTER: Oh, yes.

Well, it's also -- it's sort of symptomatic of a larger media, social, cultural difficulty we have with sort of throwing our arms around women's progress with any sort of enthusiasm. It's something that the country's had a problem with for a long time.

So it didn't surprise me. There really was a horse race story in Iowa, right? It was an incredibly close photo finish. Yes, I wished that there had been more attention paid to the -- that she was the first woman to win Iowa. But it -- compared to what happened in 2008, it was a lesser infraction.

STELTER: I think one of the other interesting -- I don't know if I would call it bias or not, but one of the elements of this race on the Democratic side is that Sanders was, I think it's fair to say, undercovered for a while in the summer and the fall. I'm not sure that's true anymore, but there was not a lot of press attention for his campaign.

And that's something you have written about, Harry.

JAFFE: Well, it doesn't fit the narrative of the coronation of Hillary Clinton.

STELTER: The narrative supposed to be Hillary Clinton being coronated.

JAFFE: Who is this guy? When I started writing this book, all of my friends in the media said, well, why are you wasting your time? It's got a two-week shelf life.

You better get it done and published. And I think that a lot of the media and a lot of the political pundits in Washington just kind of want to get on with the Hillary Clinton against whomever.

TRAISTER: Yes, although I would also argue that the coronation and the inevitable storylines are also a setup to make for a good story when she falls.

There's no way -- in the United States, there is no coronation. There's no coronation. And there's certainly not inevitability if you're going to be...

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: You're saying the press likes a roller-coaster ride.

TRAISTER: Of course they do. Of course they do. They need stories to tell.

JAFFE: Even the recent coverage in "The New York Times," Bernie Sanders was an upstart candidate. I mean, is Trump not an upstart candidate? Ted Cruz isn't also an upstate candidate? Where did they come from?

STELTER: What I find interesting is that Sanders, by being on these stages, by being on "SNL," by being at these debates, he's giving voice to a population that didn't feel their message was being necessarily reported in the media, what Bernie would call the corporate media.

By doing so, you see more of his surrogates on TV now. You see more of his supporters writing columns. You're seeing more attention for his issues because he's doing so well.

But let's talk about the ratings for a moment, because even though there's a really interesting race here on the Democratic side, the ratings for MSNBC's debate were really underwhelming. There was a debate earlier this week, and you can see only 4.5 million viewers tuned in for that most recent debate.

Now, clearly, this was a late addition to the schedule. MSNBC did not have a lot of time to promote this. But that can't be the only thing going on here. I do wonder if there's for some reason less enthusiasm on the Democratic side, even though this was the first debate where there were only two candidates.

JAFFE: Well, you don't have Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a draw. You don't know what he's going to say. And when you have the Democrats, they're actually talking about policy. And that's not all that exciting all the time.

STELTER: How dare you say that substance is not as interesting as the horse race?

(LAUGHTER)

TRAISTER: Well, I have loved all the Democratic debates, because they have been so substantive, because they have been between such serious politicians.

And the thing about the ratings being bad last week, it is really confusing, because the very legitimate critique of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC was that they hid the debates in a holiday season on Saturday night.

And here was one, as the race as its tight -- one of its tightest points, its tightest point so far, on a weeknight, I don't know what happened with the ratings.

STELTER: Some people are going to look back and maybe wonder if MSNBC tilted away from liberal news at precisely the wrong time. Such an interesting moment for progressive politics.

JAFFE: Absolutely.

STELTER: And yet the channel has been downplaying that, except in prime time.

JAFFE: Absolutely.

STELTER: Harry, Rebecca, great to see you today. Thank you for being here.

TRAISTER: Great to see you. Thank you.

JAFFE: Thanks. Enjoyed it.

STELTER: A little bit of breaking news this morning about debates, CNN announcing a brand-new debate between Clinton and Sanders. It's going to be on March 6 in Flint, Michigan, here on CNN.

And there's one before that, actually later this week, a PBS debate being simulcast on CNN on Thursday night.

[11:45:08]

Now, coming up, quite a week for CBS chairman Les Moonves. That's his new title, chairman. And, tonight, his network airs the Super Bowl. I went out to San Francisco to interview him and I will show you what he told me after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: In media business news, a crowning moment this week for one of the most respected executives in the business, CBS CEO Les Moonves named chairman of the broadcasting giant, taking over for 92-year-old Sumner Redstone, whose health is in poor condition.

It is an achievement for Moonves personally. And the timing is really swell. It's just as CBS gears up for its biggest event of the year, the Super Bowl, also known this year as the Beyonce bowl with her halftime show.

Now, Moonves tells me the network that brought you both Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction and that infamous blackout in New Orleans is ready for anything this time.

[11:50:05]

I sat down with him this week in Super Bowl city in San Francisco with this addition of "Headliners."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Let me ask you about what I think is an eye-popping number, $5 million for a 30-second ad. Is that really the right number?

LES MOONVES, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, CBS CORPORATION: Certain spots, we're getting $5 million or more.

STELTER: Wow.

MOONVES: And it's worth it.

We get the biggest advertisers. There's no bigger event in America or in the world than the Super Bowl. Not only do the ads get seen by well over 100 million people on the air at CBS, but they're on the air for weeks and months at a time. And people look at them. And there's a certain prestige to being a Super Bowl advertiser.

So, we have the best of them with us this year. And we're very excited about it.

STELTER: So, this year, for the first time, you're streaming the same ads online as you're showing on TV. Why is that an important change?

MOONVES: Well, obviously, we're all in the middle of a revolution, where a lot more people are watching their television, being it sports, being it football, being it entertainment, being it news, online.

I would argue that the Super Bowl is probably, you know, the number one digital event, as well as the number one over-the-air event. So, getting the ads on digital, online at the same time makes perfect sense. And it's sort of where the business is going.

STELTER: I think some people look at the game, and they wonder, why haven't the controversies about concussions affected ratings or attendance in a way at all? I was going to say in a significant way, but, really, there hasn't been an impact at all.

Do you have any theory about why all of the concern about the health oft players hasn't affected the ratings?

MOONVES: I think people are genuinely concerned. And I think the issue is definitely on the table and people are paying a lot more attention to it.

I think the NFL is trying to do new things to make the game safer and better. It's still the greatest show in town. It's still the greatest show in town. And the fact that there are these controversies have not affected the ratings.

STELTER: Do you find it's ever difficult for your news division to have to cover the NFL, given these situations involving concussions and other controversies?

MOONVES: You know what? We really have a separation of church and state legitimately.

And, obviously, during the difficulties with Ray Rice a year ago and the concussion thing, our news division has been first-rate. And they have covered it. And they have done some very forthright stories, including a "60 Minutes" piece this year that included Roger Goodell and dealt with the discussion of the concussions.

STELTER: But Goodell doesn't ever call you up and try to pressure you to weaken that story?

MOONVES: Not once. Not once, not ever. Not once, not ever.

STELTER: And if he did, what would you say?

MOONVES: I don't know because it wouldn't happen. I trust the integrity of Roger. And he realizes that -- so, it's nothing that would ever happen.

STELTER: Do you think football, given all the questions about health and concussions, will be around in 50 years?

MOONVES: I can almost guarantee it.

STELTER: Yes?

MOONVES: As I said, as our world is changing rapidly, the numbers for football continue to go up. The number of packages continue to go up.

I think 50 years from now, there's going to be somebody else sitting in these two chairs talking about the 100th Super Bowl. You may still be here. I almost -- I won't be. And, you know, it is the greatest game in town. And it is America's sport.

STELTER: Why Colbert? Why Stephen Colbert as the postgame show? It's the first time a late-night comic has been in the postgame show of the Super Bowl.

MOONVES: Stephen is a new show. Late night is something that we invest in, that we think is going to last for two decades.

We felt the idea of promoting Stephen Colbert and James Corden was a wise decision. And we were the first ones to put on a reality show with "Survivor," and that worked out pretty well.

STELTER: There's been some worries about Colbert's ratings.

MOONVES: Guess what? There's been a lot of inaccuracies put out by the other networks about Colbert's rating. I'm very happy with...

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: They would never do that. What are you talking about?

MOONVES: They would never do that. Some of those guys should take a lie-detector test.

But we're pleased with his Colbert's ratings. We're pleased with Corden's ratings.

STELTER: There's been a lot of debate about so-called peak TV, where there's too many great TV shows to watch, that we're burdened by this problem. Do you agree?

MOONVES: That's like saying there are too many good restaurants. I would never say that.

STELTER: No?

MOONVES: No.

By the way, there's a lot of great TV. And I would say today there's more great television shows than in the history of television. There's obviously a lot more great shows. There's a lot more garbage, too. But having this variety from all these different networks is terrific.

STELTER: As someone who has been in the industry for decades, what excites you most and, maybe more importantly, what scares you most about the future of TV?

MOONVES: No. By the way, it's both the same answer.

STELTER: Is it?

MOONVES: Look, every day, there's something new going on. It's scary, but it's also the most exciting thing, that our business is changing rapidly.

And I think that we are going to be a major part of that change.

STELTER: Les, thanks so much.

MOONVES: Brian, pleasure.

STELTER: Great talking with you.

MOONVES: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: You can see more of my interview on CNNMoney.com.

We will be back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:59:10]

STELTER: When I was in San Francisco this week ahead of the Super Bowl, the city was crawling with reporters. And so I sought out one of my favorites, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, for a reality check about tonight's big game.

It set a ratings record last year, 114.4 million viewers. Can it possibly become even bigger this year?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SCHEFTER, ESPN: I think it will set a ratings record every single year.

STELTER: Every year.

SCHEFTER: Just because it just seems to get bigger and bigger every year.

I don't think that this matchup is more compelling than the Patriots and Seahawks or the Seahawks or Broncos or any recent Super Bowl matchup. It's just that it's another year. It's more exposure. It becomes more and more part of the national consciousness, to the point where it's what everybody in our country does on that Sunday. Everything shuts down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: It's true.

And we will have an update on the ratings this time tomorrow at CNNMoney.com/media.

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