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Top Takeaways from Nevada and South Carolina; The Secret of Trump's Media Success; Press Coverage of the 2016 "Outsiders"; The Cable News Wars. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 21, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter, and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES -- our weekly look at the story behind the story of how news and pop culture get made.

Today, we start with the question: do the weekend's primaries and caucuses change everything or just cement something that's been true for months? Because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton still appear to be frontrunners for their respected party's nominations.

And that is what Trump told CNN's Jake Tapper this morning.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's going to be between Hillary and myself. They say it will be the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States elections. And I want to tell you that's a great compliment to the country because we have such a low voter turnout compared to a lot of other countries. So, I think it will be the greatest voter turnout in history.


STELTER: Greatest in history, he says. Well, this election is historic, that is for sure. It seems some Trump skeptics are working through the five stages of grief with some now approaching.

Meanwhile, some Trump believers including his proponents in the press are saying, "I told you say." So, this hour, we're going to look at this.

Plus, overhyped, overdramatized polls, this week's town hall duel. Rupert Murdoch telling Trump to calm down. And the Clinton campaign expectations game.

But let's start by assessing the coverage of the South Carolina and Nevada results with an all-star panel: Frank Sesno, former CNN D.C. bureau chief, now the director the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, Juana Summers, the politics editor for "Mashable", and political analyst Jeff Greenfield, a columnist, a columnist for "The Daily Beast" and "Politico".

Jeff, let me start with you. Let's do a quick round robin here.

What was your headline, you big takeaway from last night?

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Apart from the fact that admirably the press did not try to tease out who came in second or third in South Carolina based on about 45 people, I think there's been a sudden shift from the argument that we're about to see a long possibly even contested convention maybe in both parties --


GREENFIELD: -- to the idea that after three primaries and caucuses, we almost certainly now know who the nominees are. And while I understand that, I do think if I can quote Rupert Murdoch to Trump, that once again this is the case of a press in the backseat of a car leaving the parent's home on the way to vacation saying, are we there yet?

We've got a slate of primaries, March 1st, March 8th, March 15th. By then, we may well know. I would still argue based on three small states, we don't know yet. And it would be a really good thing for the press, all of us not to assume we know what's going to happen based on this.

STELTER: To that point, Frank, is there a structural bias exist in the media wants a longer campaign, maybe trying to encourage a longer campaign?

FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL OF MEDIA & PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GWU: Oh, everybody in the media loves a good story and political reporters love a good story and this has been nothing if not a good story.

But I would say my headline from last night, it's real now. It is the headlines on the Trump side is Trump's real now.


SESNO: So, the coverage changes and the focus changes, a lot of longer campaign, more battle. I don't know. I don't think we can predict but I think there is a degree of momentum if not an inevitably now that's going to have to be recognized and dealt with.

STELTER: And, Juana, what about you? Running one of the biggest news sites out there, the politics editor for "Mashable". What was your headline from last night?

JUANA SUMMERS, POLITICS EDITOR, MASHABLE: This is now Donald Trump's Republican Party. You saw the fall of Jeb Bush, the man who had the money, who had the family name collapse, who had the three decades old infrastructure collapse under the weight, essentially, of a billionaire businessman and a reality TV host.

I think there's been a stakeout where people have been saying, you know, Donald Trump is not real. At some point, the bubble is going to burst. He's going to go away. There's going to be an establishment lane. But the fact of the matter is, Donald Trump is in the establishment name. He'll likely pick up yet another primary contest win and there's just no ignoring him any longer.

STELTER: Trump not longer the apprentice.

Let me show something that David Gergen said here on CNN late last night. He was talking about how coverage of Trump might change now. Here's what he said.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the media is now going to start because they take it so much more seriously after South Carolina and they're going to try to bet what exactly has his business career been like?


STELTER: I have to wonder, Jeff, though, that's just dreaming. After all, Trump has been covered for decades. We seemed to know everything about him. Is there really going to be a change in the tenor of the coverage? Can the press be any tougher?

GREENFIELD: That's exactly the right question. I think the questions about Donald Trump, the four bankruptcies, the sometimes casual relationship between what he asserts in fact has been out there for several months since it became clear he was not a joke and it hasn't mattered.

One of the things we're going to test is yes, press is going to vet tougher.

[11:05:04] And we've seen cases where somebody emerges in the press and asks tough questions. I'm thinking particularly of Gary Hart back in 1984. But it seems that the laws of political gravity have been suspended if not repealed.

Trump supports, it's not that they haven't heard about this. They haven't believed anything said about Trump in the media is not true or they don't care. They're a 10, 12, 15 things Trump has done in the last X months that validates any other candidate.

That to me may be the most interesting question. Yes, the press does what it's suppose to do. Question is, will it matter?


SESNO: If I may, Brian, I think that's really the key, because I do think the press is going to change. I think the coverage has to change. He is now not only the man with momentum but he's the man who quite likely is going to take the nomination. And that always changes the dynamics.

So, let me take an example today. He was doing an interview earlier today and it was recorded last night, but it was aired on the "STATE OF THE UNION". And he quoted this line he's been using about his crowds about "I'm not going to let people die in the streets", talking about his health care.


SESNO: Well, the question is -- and he wants to repeal Obamacare.

All right. What are you going to replace it with? How are you going to pull the coalitions together? Where is the money going to come from? How are the people who are now covered going to be covered in the future?

The focus is going to change because we're actually seeing this thing get real. All right. What are your real answers? Now, whether the public cares, as Jeff said, is really all together different. But the dynamic must change within the media.

STELTER: Juana, what stories will you be assigning to this point about focusing more on Trump?

SUMMERS: The fact of the matter is there's little meat on the bones when it comes to Donald Trump. He has a lot of really great lines. They played nicely on Twitter. His supporters eat it up. There's not a lot of substance there.

We don't know what Donald Trump would do on health care, other than building a big, apparently beautiful wall that Mexico is going to pay for, we don't know what he's going to do on immigration. All of these things are very (INAUDIBLE)

Every time that someone takes the front runner status they should expect to get more scrutiny. It's our job to be more critical of them. But I think what we're going to find is that beyond the cheap one-liners, there's not a whole lot of substance there.

It's our duty to get away and chip away and make Donald Trump answer these questions, because you can talk your way into the White House. But once you're in the Situation Room, I'm not saying building a big wall is going to pay out that way.

GREENFIELD: The question --

STELTER: Jeff, do you think it's advantageous that here we are talking for seven minutes about the GOP and not about Hillary Clinton winning in Nevada last night? That there continues to be a real spotlight on the GOP race and we're seeing a historic voter turnout on the GOP side, not so much on the Democratic side? As you point out on Twitter, we don't know exactly how many voted in Nevada yesterday at the caucuses.

GREENFIELD: Yes, well, the first thing, anyone that uses a caucus where they don't tell you about the raw votes is basically cheating the public. It was in Iowa. It's also in Nevada.

But to your point, I think the headline out of the Democratic caucuses may be three-fold. One, Clinton's strength with the African American community, she won 3-1 if you believe the entrance polls. Second, there was, I think, a misleading entrance poll that showed Bernie Sanders winning among Latinos. If you look at the heavily Latino precincts, she won. So, there may be something there.

The most important part is turnout was down over a third in Nevada over what it was in 2008. And Bernie Sanders' entire argument is it's kind of the mirror image of Ted Cruz's "My argument, my philosophy, we'll bring out millions of voters that usually don't vote."

And one of the huge tests I think we have to look at as we get to March 1st and the so-called SEC primary is Bernie Sanders message going to result in a huge increased turnout of low, usually low participation voters, because if not, then what we have seen in Nevada is the start of the end of the Democratic nomination process. If he can't do that, you know, I usually don't say things like this. But I think if he can't do that, that nomination race is basically done.

STELTER: You were talking about the entrance polls and I wanted to bring up polls as well, these are the different kind of polls. These are the primary polls connected before the voting happened, but I wanted to put on screen the South Carolina polls. This is a CNN poll of polls actually that combines all the different version of the polls out in the field.

These were the most reliable ones out there, and yet, in the days before the voting, it had Cruz at 21 percent and Rubio at 15 percent. Now, let's put the results on the screen and we, of course, know how close it was. Barely a hair's breathe between them. Trump more than 10 points ahead.

Frank, I know it's easy to sit here and say we should rely less on polls. It's harder to say, what should be done instead? But what do you suggest? What is the alternative to this kind of obsession with the polling data that turns out in many cases not to be on the mark?

SESNO: Well, a lot of the polling data is on the mark, and as you point out, this one certainly was not. First thing that has to happen is people need to say when they're talking about the polls, but you know the event hasn't happened and that people will actually show up, some unexpected things could happen.

[11:10:05] STELTER: Right.

SESNO: So, it's important to make polls a tool not a crutch. That's the first thing.

Second thing is it's time for the media and in particular cable television media to say, OK, we can do the horse race over here and that's fun and that's a good reality show and what people care about and it's what we're in the middle of, because it's politics.

But we better also start looking at what these people are actually saying and what they stand for, so that polls reflect the information that people have, not just the horse race that they're getting.

STELTER: There was a poll, I think the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC/Marist poll of South Carolina, a few days before the voting. It had Trump winning by only five points. There was a big change.

You know, these created narratives, and it's so hard to breakout of a narrative and talk about what's happening or wait until actual results are in. But I think that's what people at home yearn for.

Any last thoughts on that, Juana, as someone who's writing these stories every day?

SUMMERS: Absolutely. So, we've taken an approach of not over-relying on these polls. I'm constantly telling my reporters that, yes, the polls are great, but let's go to the ground and talk to people. I know I was speaking to someone not long ago who stop using the term frontrunner in stories because it's kind of insulting to decide who the frontrunner of the party is back in January, before voters have ever gone to the polls.

So, I think polls can be an interesting tool to inform your decisions, but that's why the folks at "Mashable", the folks at CNN, all of the imbeds on the ground, what they're doing on the ground is important because you hear a very different story if you actually go out and talk to real people instead of armchair quarterbacking the race.

STELTER: Jeff, Frank, Juana --

GREENFIELD: Here's Kevin, here's Kevin -- I'm sorry.

STELTER: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

GREENFIELD: Just quick line from Kevin Nealon. Kevin Nealon on "Saturday Night Live" ten years ago. At a recent poll 55 percent of Americans say if the elections were held today, they'd be really surprised. Keep that in mind.


STELTER: Perfect phrase to end on. Thank you.

Jeff, Frank, Juana, thank you all for being here.

SESNO: Thanks.

SUMMER: Thank you.

STELTER: Plenty more ahead on what last night means for both parties and for the press. Coming up, we have former "Meet the Press" host David Gregory. Also, Amy Goodman, the co-host of Democracy Now.

Up next, the secret of Trump's media success. We'll talk with Trump's confidant, Roger Stone.

Later in the hour, dueling town halls on cable news this week and Joe Scarborough taking CNN and other media writers to task. One of his targets is standing by.

Stay tuned.


[11:15:56] STELTER: Let's take stock of the week in Trump and bear with me. This is going to take a minute.

Since last Sunday, Donald Trump has challenged the pope, calling one of the pontiff's comments disgraceful. He wants to question President Obama's faith as well. He doubled down the suggestion that former President Bush lied about WMD in Iraq. He also called Iraq the Harvard of terrorism.

He asserted Jeb Bush switched from glasses to contacts because he wanted to look cool. He also called for a boycott against Apple. He said he would be a neutral guy while negotiating with Israelis and Palestinians. He criticized Speaker of House Paul Ryan's plans for entitlement cuts and he renewed his never-ending battle with FOX News.

Now, all of this back and forth can be dizzying.


TRUMP: I'm a very good Christian because the pope said something to the effect that maybe Donald Trump isn't Christian, OK? And he's questioning my faith. A religious leader, to question a person's faith is disgraceful.

I don't like fighting with the pope actually. I don't think this is a fight. I think he said something much softer than originally reported by the media.

You know, Jeb Bush said Donald Trump is a gifted, gifted politician. My wife said, I thought he's your enemy, why is he saying that? I said because he's stupid. I don't know.

I'm only kidding, Jeb. I didn't mean that. You're a very nice guy.


STELTER: It is almost too much to keep up with it, and maybe that's the point. The message of his campaign isn't what he says, it's how much he says and how strongly he says it.

With Trump winning the second primary this weekend, let me bring in Roger Stone, a former political adviser to Donald Trump, who also advised the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in the past.

Roger, I wanted to know how it felt for you to see Trump win in South Carolina last night given that you have advised him over the years and you have been rooting for him to run for president well before you thought anyone else would.

ROGER STONE, FORMER POLITICAL ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Yes, I am so proud of Donald Trump today and I think he's on his way to the nomination and on his way to the White House. It's just, it was huge. Just huge.

STELTER: Do you, when you see a win like that, do you say to yourself that this strategy is working of fighting and showing strength at all cost? When I read that list of all the different stories, it's almost too much for the press to keep up with.

STONE: Actually, I don't think that's true. Elitists like to make fun of Trump because he was a reality TV star. But Trump understands that politics is about being entertaining. The worst thing you can do in politics other than being wrong is to be boring.

Trump is never boring and if you look at that list of things you went through, every one of them tracks back to one of Trump's four major themes. So, first of all, Trump didn't criticize the pope, the pope criticized Trump, and it had to do with the correlation of immigration. His criticism of Obama for not attending Justice Scalia's funeral, saying, well, maybe the president would have gone if it was a mosque -- tracks back to Trump's criticism of radical Islam. His criticism of Jeb tracks back to the failed foreign policy, immigration policy, trade policy of 30 years of Trump Republicanism -- pardon me, of Bush Republicanism.

So, Trump is -- everything he says tracks back to one of these major themes.

STELTER: So, some people hear madness. You're saying method to the madness.

STONE: Well, there's no madness at all. Trump understands the free media like no one else. So, Ted Cruz spent --

STELTER: But that it's strategic. That it's not accidental.

Let me ask you about one of these examples. I was troubled by this. It's an example, a missed statement on the campaign trail. This is Donald Trump telling what I think is an urban legend about a famous general from the past. Let's play the clip and talk about it.


[11:20:00] TRUMP: You know, I read a story. It's a terrible story. But I'll tell you -- should I tell you or should I not?

He took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pig's blood. You heard that, right? He took 50 bullets and he dipped them in pig's blood and he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those people, and the 50th person he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened.

And for 25 years, there wasn't a problem.


STELTER: Now, this is a myth. It's an urban legend that's made their rounds in the Internet for more than 10 years. It's an email forward that get sent around.

I have to ask you, Roger, shouldn't Donald Trump have someone working with him, the one you used to work with him, someone by his side who cautions him against repeating myths, misstatements, urban legends on the campaign trail?

STONE: Whether it's accurate or whether it's apocryphal is really beyond the point. The point, of course, is he's making is that Trump is more realistic about the dangers of radical Islam than, say, our current president. Within the context of the Republican Party, that was a major plus.

STELTER: I understand, but --

STONE: Everything that has happened to Trump over the last week, he has benefitted from.

STELTER: To say that it's beyond the point --

STONE: By the way, is this egregious? Is this any less egregious than the president saying, if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan? It's part and parcel of body politics.

STELTER: There's not a lot of nuance involving health care. There's not a lot of nuance involving something that was a myth that was made that never happened, that was then repeated by the GOP frontrunner.

I guess I just wonder if it was going to hurt Mr. Trump down the line to be spinning these stories that are pretty easily debunked.

STONE: There's certainly no evidence of it today. I frankly think -- here's the point: Trump is unscripted. He's not talking from a speech written by someone else. He's not making his speech based on polling or focus groups, or words put in his mouth.

He speaks from the heart. And that's what voters are identifying with. That's exactly why he is doing so well. There's something phony about Donald Trump. He's the real deal.

STELTER: I think I agree with you why his message resonates and one of the reasons why I'm glued to his speeches and rallies is because he's unscripted and because he's unpredictable.

When you said in the beginning that the politics is entertainment and he recognizes that, I just have to wonder if we're better off with the democracy where politics is entertainment or whether it's actually not entertainment, whether it is boring. I know that's not for either of us to judge.

But does it ever make you a little uncomfortable that the extreme politics is entertainment?

STONE: Brian, it's not possible. Since the invention of television, it changed the game. And without it, neither one of us would have work.

STELTER: You're saying it's the TV box's fault that it's become entertainment?

STONE: What I'm saying is that the mass coverage of our politics and the fact that voters find cold policy boring means that you have to make your positions and you're standing interesting to the voters. This probably wasn't true before the invention of television, when we operated through hand bills and newspapers. But it's just a reality of how we communicate today.

STELTER: I appreciate your insights this morning. Roger, thank you for being here.

STONE: Glad to be here.

STELTER: Only five Republican candidates remain in the race for the Republican nomination and all five will be on one stage debating this Thursday night. Wolf Blitzer will moderate the GOP debate in Houston, Texas, right here on CNN.

I still think it's been a while since there's been a debate. It's been a full week, you know?

Come up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, David Gregory, he has spent years covering campaigns, the White House, and, of course, moderating NBC's "Meet the Press". He'll join me with his take on last night's results right after this quick break.


[11:28:14] STELTER: Welcome back.

There's been so much coverage of the weekend's winners in South Carolina and Nevada. But let's talk about the loser, perhaps the biggest loser of last night, Jeb Bush. After dropping out of the race, he's waking up to headlines like these, "The end of the Bush dynasty." From "The Guardian" here, "Ding, dong the dynasty is dead."

Because we, writers and hosts, like to get ahead of ourselves sometimes, don't we? I remember when talking heads were imagining what a Clinton/Bush general election matchup would look like.

So, let's analyze the race in real time, not getting ahead of ourselves, with someone who knows the Bush family well, David Gregory. He covered the George W. Bush administration for NBC. He has moderated NBC's "Meet the Press" and he recently wrote a book about faith and naming Bush 43 as one of his aspirations.

David joins me now from Washington.

I want today start with Jeb Bush because -- well, there was so much expectations and predictions that he would be the candidates to beat in this race. What did we not understand, we collectively in the media, say two years ago, when talking about Jeb Bush possibly running?

DAVID GREGORY, FORMER MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Well, I think a couple of things, Brian. One, Jeb Bush proved not to be a very good candidate, not a very good retail campaigner, not someone who was able to read the moment and adjust. Not someone who was able to take on Donald Trump very effectively. It took time for him to kind of build up to taking on, and then frankly to little effect.

You think about the race and how it was shaping up and the first part of 2015. This was supposed to be a Clinton/Bush contest.


GREGORY: And then Donald Trump jumped into the race and everything change.

STELTER: It's almost as if we can set up the whole season as before Trump and after Trump. After Trump, everything did change.

Does it speak to something in the part of the country that there's a sort of PTSD about Bush 43's administration and his legacy that people still have strong memories of the disappointing parts of his administration and that do you think that saddled Jeb all along?


GREGORY: I think that is part of what is a kind of ferment and malaise within the Republican Party that goes back a long time.

And I do think that there is a real kind of reordering going on in the party after the years of George W. Bush. I think people don't remember as much that it was under President Bush that TARP happened, that the bailout at the banks happened. That was the beginning of the Tea Party sentiment in this country.

It was a sense of betrayal that a lot of voters felt toward Republicans. And we were talking earlier today about the exit polls down in South Carolina.


GREGORY: Fifty-three percent of Republicans feel betrayed by the Republican Party.

You have Republicans who are angry at Republicans for not doing more, for not delivering, for not standing up to Barack Obama. And the Iraq War is certainly part of that, a lot of angst and anxiety and disaffection with Bush policies in Iraq.

But it's that sense of kind of the conservative voter, many of whom feel left behind by the culture, left behind by the politics, and, frankly, left behind by their own party.

STELTER: One more point about Jeb Bush before we move on.

I think, by some statistics, by some measurement, he and his allies spent $80 million in TV ads for what appears to be very little at the end of the day. Is there going to be more discussion about the effectiveness of television advertising? Of course, local TV stations depend on these political campaign adds. But with Trump winning and doing so well without really buying ads at all, do you wonder if those conversations will be more -- more intense now?

GREGORY: I think they will be intense.

I think you can't -- advertising alone, at least in this cycle, can't make up for this kind of phenomenon we're seeing. I keep saying that so many of us who are looking at the race who have been covering politics a long time are working off an antiquated textbook.

The rules are being changed real time. And Donald Trump is doing that. If you look at just this week, he takes on the pope, he defends the health care mandate, he takes on George W. Bush in the state where his own candidacy was rescued back in 2000, calls him a liar, criticizes him on terrorism, all of the things -- even defends his views about Planned Parenthood, and he still wins among evangelical voters in South Carolina.

So, the rules are different. I think the fact that Jeb went after Marco Rubio as much as he did certainly didn't help his cause. But I think there was something larger.

Look, Jeb Bush was the ultimate establishment candidate in an anti- establishment year. I think that's kind of where it starts and ends for him.

STELTER: Of course, Hillary Clinton also often described as the establishment candidate.


STELTER: She was able to eke out a win yesterday in Nevada.

Do you at some point sort of scratch your head and wonder about the expectations games that are played here? Because I saw spin on Twitter last night saying she actually lost to state, even though she won, because it was a close race, because Bernie Sanders had a good showing in Nevada.


STELTER: How should we really think about these narratives, David?

GREGORY: You know, I think we just should be careful.

I think enough of us have been burned over the years with either creating or buying into these accelerated narratives. And I thought what you said a few minutes ago was smart, which is, let's just be patient about these narratives. We can look at different models, but we have to look at these things real time.

I really -- Dan Balz of "The Washington Post" said something often that I think David Broder said to him, which is that elections are about voters. Voters are determining which way these things are going. I do think, for Hillary Clinton, a win there yesterday was really big, because a loss would have been so much bigger.

And now she goes into a place of such strength in South Carolina. And I think she's starting to expose Sanders as a very narrow candidate with more limited appeal. He will, of course, test that proposition on March 1. And if he does well on Super Tuesday, maybe we will rethink that. But that's where we appear to be, at least today.

STELTER: I wonder if she benefits, I wonder if her campaign benefits from it being eclipsed by the Republican side, by this civil war that is going on, it seems, on the Republican side.

Maybe that's a benefit for her to sort of be, I don't want to say entirely in the shadows, but certainly not as much oxygen or airtime is expended talking about the Democrats right now as the Republicans.

GREGORY: Well, I do think she benefits somewhat, because I think she's not proven to be the most effective campaigner.

Her campaign knows that, knows of her limitations. They don't necessarily think that is going to get a whole lot better. But I think there's going to be different kinds of arguments that are made.

You know, the fact that there's a Supreme Court vacancy after Justice Scalia has died just heightens the stakes of this election. Who is going to be the next president? Who can control the direction of the court?

And, also, if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, there's a lot of moderates and independents, as well as Democrats, who are going to be highly energized in this country. Donald Trump says that turnout would be higher than ever in history. He doesn't know that, because he can't know whether Republicans who are so afraid of his candidacy are actually going to show up to vote.

So, I do agree with you. I think, at some point, there's some benefit to her being overshadowed by the Republicans.

STELTER: David Gregory, thank you for being here this morning. Hope to see you soon.

GREGORY: Yes, my pleasure. Thanks.

STELTER: Thank you.

Up next here on the program: the rise of the outsider candidate. We're talking about Donald Trump as an example of that. What has the press gotten right and wrong in this campaign?

Well, who better to discuss that than "Democracy Now" co-host Amy Goodman?

She's up right after the break.



STELTER: Outsider, it might be the word of the year when talking about this election. It's constantly used to describe both Donald Trump and also in a different way Bernie Sanders. Now, certainly, neither man is your typical presidential candidate and they have found their own way of tapping into voter frustration and voter anger.

Of course, you have to wonder if that will be enough, and whether these outsiders can win their respective party's nominations. Certainly, the results last night have different answers to that question.

Well, let's talk about this with the woman who is, in some ways, seen as the face of the people on public media, perhaps an outsider herself, Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of "Democracy Now." It's an independent and ad-free daily news program that just celebrated its 20th anniversary, which will be marked with a new book called "Democracy Now: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America."

Amy, do you think of yourself as an outsider in the media?


AMY GOODMAN, HOST, "DEMOCRACY NOW": Certainly, because the media is so commercial. It is so driven by corporate interests.

And it's so important, though, that people recognize there's a whole independent media world out there. I mean, "Democracy Now," we started on eight, nine community radio stations 20 years ago. And now we're on 1,400, public radio, television, public access, community college stations.

STELTER: Do you cover a campaign like Donald Trump's differently because you don't feel any commercial pressures?

GOODMAN: First of all, we do not emphasize the polls.

I would love the media -- there to be a month without polls. What is the value of these polls? And I know you were just talking about this. But if I'm making a decision about a candidate, I want to weigh their record. Do I care what you think or my neighbor thinks or the person next to me?

I want to make an independent decision. This obsession with polls, the amount of money that goes into polls, the amount of times polls get it wrong and yet determine the way people go, instead, pour that energy, investigation and money into people's records, whether they're a businessman like Trump, or they're politicians like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Look at their records. What they have done? Compare their rhetoric to what they have done throughout their life. These people are not blank slates.


STELTER: I would say there is value, though, in knowing what proportion of the electorate believes Donald Trump's message is a valuable one.


GOODMAN: Well, you find that out with an election. You find it out with the primary and the caucus.

And what you just said, the word proportion of, yes, that is what important, instead, flashing all day -- people just should count the times that every network flashes the polls. Are we telling people what to think?

We need to really get into their records and continually talk about -- for example, Donald Trump. You cannot avoid what he has said. Now, he is not a politician, but he has a long corporate business record that must be investigated.

STELTER: Right. Right.

GOODMAN: You have the kind of -- calling women fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals.

STELTER: What Megyn Kelly brought up back in August.


This is very important. Calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and just in the last few days, of course, the chant, "Build that wall, build that wall," the shudder this must send through not just people outside the country, the idea of fortifying America, but about people inside the country.

STELTER: But hasn't that received significant, maybe even saturation coverage?

GOODMAN: The way Muslim parents must feel when their children hear that Muslims must be barred from America.

Let's hear more Muslims in the media. I mean, it's not just about pundits talking how someone must feel. But it's going to the grassroots and looking at targets. The other day, you had a really interview with Bob Schieffer. And he said, you know, Donald Trump sort of voices what you want to tell your boss.

I don't think it's what you want to tell your boss, you know, what angry people want to say. I think it's the opposite. I think it's -- he uses the bully pulpit to bully the most defenseless and powerless people in our society.

And I think all religions, and even if you're an atheist, that there's something terribly wrong with going after the most powerless. That's easy. And it's wrong.

STELTER: You're talking about Donald Trump.

Let me flip it over to Bernie Sanders...


STELTER: ... and ask you whether you think it's fair that we use these two candidates and we talk about them in the same sentences...


STELTER: ... that we describe anger that exists from the bases of both of these candidates?

GOODMAN: Well, there's clearly a -- we are at a critical tipping point in the way people feel, the disappearing middle class, the fact that people feel so threatened.

Now, you can target different causes. Donald Trump chooses to say it's the people who have the least that are hurting you. What Bernie Sanders says is...

STELTER: And you're saying Bernie targets the people who have the most.

GOODMAN: Yes. I mean, just look at the study. Sixty-two people in the world -- two-thirds of them, like 42, whatever, are American -- have more wealth than 3.5 billion people in the world.

STELTER: Is it striking to you that Sanders has made this a mainstream media issue that's talked about quite a lot now?

GOODMAN: It is -- it's very, very important.

STELTER: Let me ask you...

GOODMAN: I mean, there's no question that he has deeply impacted Hillary Clinton's campaign and touched a nerve in America, if nothing else, that so many people are revved up in this election cycle. Young people are getting involved, that they can make a difference. This is enormous.

STELTER: It's also changed the tone of her campaign in some ways.

Let me ask you about what happened last night. I'm getting some tweets about this, people commenting on this. Now, this is a story in Nevada. It hasn't been confirmed. But it's about Dolores Huerta, an icon in the United Farm Workers movement -- you know her well -- who is a Hillary Clinton supporter.

She alleged -- it's been alleged in a tweet she offered to translate to some people who were caucusing and that Bernie supporters chanted, "English only."


She says: "We have fought too long and too hard to be silenced in that way."

Now, the Bernie campaign -- the press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign is saying: "This campaign is about bringing people together, not dividing them."

So, they are kind of sidestepping the issue, but emphasizing unity and diversity in their response.

Is this significant at all? I see people on Twitter saying this should be getting covered more this morning.

GOODMAN: I have tremendous respect for Dolores Huerta, one of the founders of the farm workers movement. She says she went up on the stage to help translate, was wearing an "I Am With Hillary" T-shirt, and that people shouted "English only."

America Ferrera said the same thing, the actress.


GOODMAN: But then Susan Sarandon and Gaby Hoffmann, two others who were there, said this actually wasn't the case, that it was the moderator, because they couldn't find someone who was impartial, not just one of the candidates' representatives or the others speaking Spanish. It was the moderator, who was neutral, saying "English only," and that it wasn't being chanted.

I have great respect for all of these women. I don't know what happened. But what counts is what the candidates, the message they send out. And if something like this happens, do they encourage it or do they say, this is wrong?

That's when I think of someone like Donald Trump. When an African- American, a protester at one of his rallies was roughed up, and he was asked about it, I don't think he's then responsible, but then he says on FOX in the days that followed he should have been roughed up, that's terrifying, when you hear him say that people should be beat up at his rallies...

STELTER: Terrifying.

GOODMAN: ... if they disagree with him.

STELTER: Van Jones said on CNN last night that people are getting used to -- quote -- "absurdity."

Now, Van Jones, no Donald Trump fan, but he's suggesting that months and months and months of Trump coverage is making people start to think what's normal from him, starting to think it's normal, when, in fact, it's actually abnormal to have something like that happen at a Donald Trump rally.

There's been other Trump rallies where I think Trump has been much more subdued and encouraged people to be respectful, but certainly perhaps -- sorry, go ahead.

GOODMAN: Well, I just wanted to say, in talking about how the media covers these different candidates, it's astounding that Bernie Sanders is where he is today.

Look at that Tyndall center report that was found, in 2015, in the months leading up to December...

STELTER: Right. Right.

GOODMAN: ... you had 234 total network minutes, like almost four hours, CBS, NBC, ABC, covering Trump.


GOODMAN: That's four hours. And how much got coverage -- Sanders got 10 minutes.


GOODMAN: On ABC "World News Tonight" in that year, Sanders got 20 seconds. Trump got like 81 minutes.

STELTER: It was minute.

GOODMAN: To think -- Trump doesn't even have to go out on the road. He's piped into everyone's home. That's not the way the media should be.


STELTER: After the New Hampshire primary, though, for the first time, it was Sanders on top. Sanders had his most covered weekend yet after the primary, when he won there.

Amy, great to see you. Thank you for being here in person.

GOODMAN: Thank you so much for having me on.

STELTER: Good to see you.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders will be facing off one final time before South Carolina votes on the Democratic side. That's at a CNN Democratic town hall Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. in Columbia, South Carolina.

Coming up here next on RELIABLE SOURCES, we're talking about these dueling town halls on cable news just the other day. We will get into that with Erik Wemple, who is standing by in Washington, in just a moment.



STELTER: The campaign trail wars have nothing on the cable news wars.

The latest example, dueling town halls, CNN airing a town hall with three GOP candidates, while MSNBC set up an hour-long town hall with Donald Trump moderated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

Now, Scarborough was criticized for some of the questions in his town hall. Let me show you one of the examples here. This is from Erik Wemple of "The Washington Post."

He said that MSNBC and "Morning Joe" hosts let Trump slide, let Trump skate, excuse me, on bigotry and racism.

Well, Erik Wemple of "The Washington Post" joins me now in Washington.

Erik, I you want you to respond to Scarborough, because, as you and I both know, he's been the subject of media coverage, including here at CNN, describing a -- maybe a cozy relationship with Donald Trump. He's been defending himself and dismissing those criticisms.

Let's take a look at what he said about you on his show the other day.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: "The Washington Post," actually after our town hall meeting the other night, when I peppered him with so many questions that I was actually attacked for interrupting too much, actually said, how dare they hold a town hall meeting where they don't ask him tough questions?

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: So, I hope "The Washington Post"...

SCARBOROUGH: It's a bunch of nonsense. We ask tougher questions than our competitors ask, who have the media writers, and people have the audacity to ask, are we too close to Donald Trump? The answer is, no, we're not.


STELTER: So, he says he's being tough on Trump. You said he let Trump skate.


I think that there is one of these great Washington situations where both sides can sort of claim, hey, look at this question, look at that question.

My point here, Brian, is sort of a larger one. And that is, if you allow Donald Trump, if you engage him only on, let's say, Social Security, Iraq, and the issues, and how he's going to unite the Republican Party, you're essentially giving him a pass.

You're allowing him into the polite company of a presidential election, where I think that there's a bigger issue here, and that is that he has compiled this record of offenses and outrages of a racist and sexist and bigoted nature. And I think that, if you have an hour to spend with him, and you don't talk about any of that -- a lot of it came in 2015.

And I think the media -- some media people have moved on. But I think that Donald Trump has never apologized for any of his outrages. He's never made amends. He's never adequately explained any of it. And I don't think that it's the media's role to sort of let that go by the wayside. I think it's the media's role to keep bringing that up. Now, The

Huffington Post has this footer that they attach to every story on Donald Trump where they recite all his various outrages and they link to supporting documentation.

You can disagree or agree with that approach.

STELTER: But a lot of people think that's just grandstanding.

But let me ask about one other issue with Scarborough. Speaking to The Daily Beast this week, he criticized me and my colleague Dylan Byers. He suggested that CNN really can't cover its competitors, that we should be disqualified, is what he's suggesting.


CNN shot back, saying his comments were peculiar -- can't pronounce it today -- but peculiar and disturbing. Where do you stand on this, Erik, on this issue of Scarborough saying that we shouldn't really even be talking about him, we can't possibly be fair?

WEMPLE: I think that's nonsense.

I think media criticism and media reporting in this country has matured to a point where I think people who consume it understand that there are built-in conflicts. We all report on each other. I report on other newspapers. I report on other outlets all the time.

STELTER: Yes, I do...

WEMPLE: And I'm critical of them.

I think the test is in the substance of the report. And I think that, with respect to CNN's reporting, by and large, especially the part about Scarborough hanging out with Trump, and so on and so forth, I think it's been fine. And he is...

STELTER: Unfortunately, I'm up against a hard block.

But I did want to share Joe's point of view here. He says -- he says that we're being unfair to him. I'm certainly trying to be fair to him.

And I think you are too, Mr. Wemple. Thank you for being here this morning.

WEMPLE: Thank you.

STELTER: We will be right back in just a moment.