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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

What's Behind the Chaos at Trump Rallies?; 2016 Presidential Race on the Local Levels; Journalists Become the News at Trump Events; Weighting Privacy Versus Newsworthiness Aired 11a -12p ET

Aired March 13, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN 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 really get made.

In this hour, we have a preview of super survival Tuesday. Two top political reporters in Ohio and Florida are standing by for an on-the- ground reality check.

Plus, a special sit down with three foreign correspondents now covering the U.S. election. What are they telling their readers and viewers back home? Well, I'll give you a hint. Words like "crazy" are being used.

And later, the Erin Andrews peephole trial concludes and the Hulk Hogan trial against Gawker get started. We'll have an update on that later in the hour.

But, first, politics getting psychical and new fears about what might happen next.

Donald Trump's rallies have become stages. They're attracting all kinds of players, supporters, opponents and some people will just want to see the spectacle. In fact, it's starting again now.

Trump is about to speak in Bloomington, Illinois. You can see thousands are inside this airplane hanger and there are also protesters outside, perhaps a surprising sight on a rainy, chilly Sunday morning in Illinois. We're going to keep an eye on this throughout the hour as this goes on.

But as we look at the live pictures, let's take stock at troubling week. This week, we've seen one Trump rally attendee sucker punching a protester and allegations that Trump's campaign manager many have manhandled a reporter at another event.

It all sort of culminated on Friday in this chaos, including the arrest of a reporter there. We'll have an update on him in just a few minutes.

Now, Trump says Bernie Sanders supporters came to that event for a planned attack. On CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning, Trump defended himself against criticisms he's at fault. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should report it right because we've had no injuries at my events with thousands of people. You just don't report it that way. So, you know, do what you have to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: In fact, people have been injured, including police officers.

But Trump's not the only one complaining about Trump coverage. I have a lot of questions for our panel this morning. So, let's get to it.

Beginning with one of the best known journalists in the country, Carl Bernstein, a CNN political commentator, Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at "The Federalist", Doug Brinkley, a CNN presidential historian, author of the new book, "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Land of America", and Steven Brill, the founder of Court TV and Brill Journalism Enterprises.

Thank you all for being here.

Dough, let me start with you. Historical perspective please, have you seen situations like this in the past, in recent history?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we're a ruckus democracy. You know, I remember back as a historian, 1840, there used to be booze rallies. A man named Mr. Booze would pour free liquor and people would go crazy.

There's always this kind of moments of circus-like mayhem in presidential politics. But this really rings the 1960s bell to me. I mean, it brings, it's the idea of a racial tension of like a George Wallace populist candidacy emerging and starting to be taken seriously by the mainstream media.

STELTER: The headline on "Talking Points Memo", a left leaning site, this morning was "Someone will die." Could that be an over statement? Should the press be careful not to overstate what's happening, Steve?

STEVE BRILL, FOUNDER, COURT TV: I think it's possible someone will die. I was at some of the George Wallace rallies in Florida in 1972 working for another candidate at the time and these things feel and seem alike. So, I think it's possible. But I do think the press in some way is complicit --

STELTER: Complicit in what?

BRILL: Why the television cameras stay on a Donald Trump rally forever. It's like watching a car accident. You think something really bad might happen. You think he's going to say something outrageous, which, of course, always does happen. But now, the added element is you think something's going to happen in the crowd. STELTER: That's going to be violent or something, yes.

BRILL: It could be violent. It is definitely his fault in the sense that he encourages it for sure.

STELTER: Let's get into that in more detail in a little bit. Carl, I want to come to you. You're in Los Angeles this morning. You've been talking about this, talking about Trump for months as a neo-fascist. I want you to tell me why and how you view this current moment.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's a difficult term and the word "neo" meaning "new", has a lot to do with it, a new kind of fascist in our culture, dealing with an authoritarian, demagogic point of view, nativist, anti-immigrant, racism, bigotry that he appeals to, and I think we need to look at the past. And I'm not talking about Hitlerism and genocide, and I'm not making a direct parallel to Mussolini -- but a kind of American fascism that we haven't seen before, different than George Wallace who was merely a racist.

[11:05:04] This goes to authoritarianism. It goes to despotism. The desire for a strong man who doesn't trust the institutions of democracy and government.

And my point is that we now need on cable news to have a debate, a historical debate about what fascism was and is and how Donald Trump fits into that picture, because it is something very foreign to our political culture in terms of a major presidential candidate in the 20th, or 21st century. And that debate is going on in print, online, but it is not part of our debate on cable.

No interviewer as far as I know has asked Donald Trump, "What is fascism, Mr. Trump? How are you different from the fascist message?"

STELTER: Just to be clear, you are calling him a neo-fascist?

BERNSTEIN: I think he's a neo-fascist in the sense of his appeal and methodology that has to do with authoritarianism, nativism, incitement which we're seeing now. And again, I think it's a term I've never used it to describe a living American politician.

But I think you have to be very careful with this term and put it into some real connection that's not to say some of the things or many of the things he says about political correctness or anything else are true, that he doesn't have real ideas. I'm saying that we in the press need to look at this as a moment to look at history and how does Donald Trump have a debate about how he fits into the context of fascism or doesn't.

But a new American kind of fascism that does not deny the real anger and grievances that many, many Americans feel.

STELTER: Let me work, Mollie, into this conversation.

Mollie, "The Federalist", your website, a conservative news outlet that I read every day, I want to know what you think of what Carl said? Last night, you tweeted you think the media is in freak-out mode. Do you think something like this is part of the freak-out?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think one of the things that media should think about is how they've handled the situation and how they have made it so that they -- I mean, they were freaking out months ago and it made people tune out what they were saying.

It's not just how to media talked about Donald Trump, it's how the media have tended to talk about Republicans or conservatives going back decades, and they like to blame Republicans and conservatives for any type -- like how we saw with Sarah Palin when she was blamed for a shooting in Arizona, and people in turn tend to discredit what the media is saying because they use such overheated rhetoric in general.

So, now, we have a situation where we do have a demagogue, where we do have someone who's engaged in some pretty scary rhetoric and how he talks about things at his protests, but I think the media have discredited themselves in how they've treated one side of the argument leading up to this. And so, what's really important now is everyone should calm down, be accurate in how they report things, and yes, stop covering Donald Trump like a celebrity and start covering him like a politician. And this is something that will be hard for cable media to do.

STELTER: Well, this is where I get to the crux of the point about how his messages are being amplified. Last night, I think FOX News and MSNBC were showing Trump live when he talked about that man that rushed the stage. It was a very scary moment yesterday. I think we can cue up the clip.

A protester jumped the barricade, tried to rush the stage. Trump is claiming this person had ties to ISIS. Now, there's no evident of that at all. I hate even saying it, because I hate giving a -- I hate using the word on air because I don't want anybody at home to believe it.

But this is part of the challenge, it involves in fact checking Trump, if he says something on live that's false, that's there's no proof of, how forceful should the press be to cut him off or to correct it or to verify it?

Steven, let me go to you first on this.

BRILL: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, Carl Bernstein who's a good friend and was one of my idols I think is wrong about this. I think having a vague debate about neo-fascism not only insults the people who support Trump but doesn't do the kind of reporting that Carl is justly famous for.

The way to deal with Trump is to deal with the facts. When he says that, you know, X is happening and he's making it up, as you just pointed out, the press has an obligation to say that.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: But he's saying that amplified it further, some people might believe it, even though it was a hoax.

BRILL: I thought you will actually amplify it in a pretty good way.

But the press has an obligation to be fair to its readers and its viewers, not to the people it's covering.

STELTER: Interesting.

BRILL: And what I mean is, if I say that right now, it happens to be snowing outside when in fact it is, you know, sunny and 60 degrees --

STELTER: Right.

BRILL: -- you can't give false equivalency to that argument.

[11:10:00] You can't put my side of the story on and your side of the story about what the weather is.

STELTER: This is where I think --

BRILL: When Trump says he's got 98 percent approval from Trump University.

STELTER: Right.

BRILL: When he says his water accompany still exists, when he says that guy had a tie to ISIS --

STELTER: Right.

BRILL: -- he's making stuff up. And the way to deal with a demagogue is to cut through and do real reporting relentlessly about how he's deceiving the very people who were showing up at those rallies.

STELTER: But this is where Mollie makes an important point, because of distrust in the media, because trust has eroded, every website looks the same, right? So, a website that's like about this tie to ISIS, that has a video that's been doctored, it looks the same as "The New York Times" and CNN website. And some people are inclined to believe it.

Donald Trump this morning on "Meet the Press" was challenged intensely by Chuck Todd on this issue about ISIS. Chuck Todd challenging repeatedly said, "We had looked it up" and Trump's quote was, "All I know is what's on the Internet."

That's pretty scary for somebody like (INAUDIBLE) because all websites are not created equally.

(CROSSTALK)

BRILL: Ultimately, if we live in a democracy, we have to rely on the American people to cut through that. But the press gave this guy a free pass for months, with the only story was how well he's doing in the polls and how many people are showing up to his rallies. Not that he's making up things and not the Trump University was a scam, not that everything else is a scam.

And the obligation of the press is to call a spade a spade and not to give false equivalency to those arguments.

STELTER: Before I go to a break, let me go to Carl and have Carl respond to what Steve was saying.

BERNSTEIN: Well, I agree with Steve about what we need to be reporting on in terms of whether Trump's statements are truthful or not. My point about fascism is, is this is a teachable moment about history. We also need report about history so there's a context.

I think Mollie Hemingway wrote a piece or a tweet actually about the fact so few people in this country know what the issues were about why the civil war was fought.

STELTER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: I would say that, look, truth has an awful lot to do with what we're witnessing now. We need truth about what all of the candidates are saying. We need not just fact checking but real investigative reporting on all of the major candidates in both parties about their histories, and we need a context of what they are saying in their message and methodology that has to do with the history.

And you've got a terrific historian next to you there. And I'd be very interested in what Doug Brinkley has to say about the context of fascism and shouldn't we be looking at this candidacy in terms of what presidents exist and don't exist, and what authoritarian message, nativist, bigoted and recklessness with the facts that appeal to prejudices and ignorance, as well as to sometimes appeal to good sense.

STELTER: Let's hold that thought because let's all bring you all back. This is so good, I want to keep it all going after a quick break here.

Also coming up a little later in the hour, we heard Donald Trump earlier this week say that Islam hates us. So, we have a young Muslim American journalist standing by to respond.

That and much more. Stay tuned.

(COMMECIAL BREAK)

[11:17:14] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

We're looking live at a Trump rally in Bloomington, Illinois. He's expected to speak any minute.

As we look at these live pictures, we're going to keep an eye on this as the hour goes on. Early this morning, Trump was speaking about the protest, the violence of some of his events. He said that he's looking into how to pay for the legal bills of the protesters who sucker -- of the Trump supporter who sucker punched a protester earlier this week. Now, that offer to pay the legal bills suggested to many people, I saw

a lot of reactions online to this. That Trump is encouraging in some way this kind violence. It's a far cry from the mid-2000s when Republican politicians were confronted by anti-war protesters respectfully acknowledging their descent, not offering to pay for legal bills if any hit them.

Let's bring the panel back in here, Carl Bernstein, Mollie Hemingway, Steven Brill, Doug Brinkley.

Thank you all for sticking around.

Before the break, Carl, you were making a point for Doug to comment on about the historical roots here.

Doug, do you want to pick that up?

BRINKLEY: Yes. Fascism is a real strain in the United States in the 1930s. At Madison Square Garden, you had a fascist rally and it wasn't just Charles Lindberg --

STELTER: Define it for us briefly, in case viewers don't have a good definition of the word.

BRINKLEY: A kind of hard right authoritarian belief that you need somebody that's going to be ironclad leader. It has an appeal to people like Hitler during the 1930s. You had Father Coughlin calling for this. We've had this on right wing talk radio, some of kind radio fascism.

But you are seeing that coming with Trump, but it's something more. You're getting Jerry Springer and Morton Downey Jr. attitude. It's spectacle.

People watching this rally today want to see somebody ejected. They want to see the -- the circus is in town. People tune in almost to watch the sort of mayhem play --

STELTER: But do we have an option not to run these pictures, Steve? I mean, last night, for example, CNN went to tape at 8:00 and the other networks went ahead and ran the Trump rally. I do wonder if some viewers gravitated to the rally because of what Doug is saying.

BRILL: But you have a problem coming up in four or five minutes, which is your control room and Jeff Zucker, your boss, have struggled with the problem that a ton of your audience when he starts talking is going to stay, wow, you let him talk. And, you know, why don't these guys, you know, stop talking about? And sometimes, you haven't done that very admirably, that balance.

STELTER: But is the answer that he is the front runner. We should let him speak. What's the argument against letting him speak?

BRILL: Well, letting him speak live all the time as opposed to letting a Governor Kasich speak or Secretary Clinton speak is an issue. You saw me grin when you mentioned that Trump had offered to pay the legal bills --

STELTER: Right, right.

BRILL: -- and the people involved in that.

STELTER: Yes?

BRILL: The reason I grinned was Trump was notorious in saying his own legal bills all across the country. There are law firms who probably laughed at that. So, if he offers to pay the legal bills of that person, that's another fact that the press might want to check.

[11:20:03] STELTER: To this issue of Trump having airtime, having freer time, Mollie, let me ask you something -- do you think Trump should be allowed to call into shows? A lot of his interviews, he does in the phone. This morning, he was on camera. But often times he calls in.

CBS This Morning' has a policy against him calling in. Those are the exceptions to the rule.

What do you think?

HEMINGWAY: I think this is a very tricky issue because the reason people are allowing Trump to call in is because people are actually enjoying this show. And it's good for everybody's bottom line.

But I think the way we talk about these issues, we can take advantage of the situation, we clearly have more than enough time to cover Trump, let's use some of that time to talk about issues much better.

And even, right now, we're talking all about Donald Trump. Mostly why this protest thing is happening is because of another group. And we're not talking about that group at all.

There were organized protests --

STELTER: Are you talking about MoveOn.org?

HEMINGWAY: Yes, they are people who attempted to shut down political speech. Now, that is authoritarianism of a different stripe and we're all focused on one side of the issue.

And there had been good reporters talking about how the protests have changed the nature of the Donald Trump rallies and how he's sort of incorporated a routine for dealing with protesters. Byron York wrote about this at "The Washington Examiner" back in December. I mean, it's been going on for quiet sometime.

But we need to look at both sides. It's very interesting Bernie Sanders supporters are protesting Trump and not Hillary. That they do overtly say they're trying to shut down speech. That is also something that's disconcerting. There's no need to pick one side is good and what side is bad. Both of these sides have scary things people should be thinking about in terms of political speech. STELTER: To the founder of "America Lawyer" magazine, Steven Brill,

is it a violation of Trump's First Amendment rights to have these protesters shutting him down?

BRILL: Well, the government is not shutting him down. That's what the First Amendment is about.

STELTER: The First Amendment is about not letting the government infringe on my speaking rights. Not of the private --

BRILL: In terms of what's fair and what's unethical, I think and I want to say this very narrowly because this does not excuse Mr. Trump from inciting violence, it doesn't excuse everything else he's doing in this campaign.

I do think that if Trump supporters by the dozens or hundreds planted themselves at a Hillary Clinton rally or Bernie Sanders rally --

STELTER: Right.

BRILL: -- and stood up and disrupted it and that was the intent, that the press could cover that differently.

STELTER: I think you're right and I fear that that's where we're going.

BRILL: I think Trump has a point.

STELTER: I fear that's where we're going with Trump saying maybe Sanders rally should be disrupted.

Let me go to Carl on one other point here because as we're talking about all of this, I do wonder if some viewers at home hear this as a bunch of media elitists talking down to the voters? You know, to put this perspective here, we talked on the program before about how the folks in the media, the folks on screen here tend to make more money than the average American. They tend to live in big cities or not as often between the coasts, although, Doug Brinkley lives in Austin and Mollie is out in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this morning.

Is there some truth to the idea that there are two Americas? We're seeing that very vividly through this continuing story of Trump's rise, and that we need to be sensitive to the idea that media elitists can barely even be respected or heard by some of the voters at home?

BERNSTEIN: Well, one, I think we could bring in more people in the media from elsewhere in the country to the discussion.

STELTER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: More importantly, this question of protesting, these protesters are wrong to try and shut down a legitimate political exercise. Protest it, hold up sign outside, that's one thing. Get your point of view across.

But the idea of shutting down speech is anathema and it's wrong -- even though Trump is inciting in his words. There has to be restraint on the part of the protesters. But part of the problem that we have here is the methodology of incitement. Some of this is purposeful in Donald Trump's words.

And we now have an intersection of celebrity culture with -- at this intersection of celebrity culture and neo-fascism. It is unique, it is dangerous and we need to be covering the phenomenon itself, as well as testing each and every one of these candidates -- their past, their records, what they're saying, and no more free air time that we give to one candidate and we don't give to the others.

That's how this candidacy has been so powerful because of free air time. It's never happened before in all of the cable networks have done it and we've got to ask yourselves some serious questions also about these rallies to Steve's point.

You know, have a video camera there. We don't have to be live. If something happens, you can break in live.

But the expectation is you're absolutely right about. We don't need to be covering something with the expectation that somebody's going to throw a punch. That's not really real news.

[11:25:01] If it happens, we'll be there.

STELTER: It actually reminds me a bit of the coverage of Baltimore, coverage of Ferguson, coverage of locations where there may or may not be unrest. And yet, at the same time, I do see some cable channels taking some -- showing some restraints, sometimes not showing him live as an example last night.

We could talk all morning long, but I've got to leave it there. Thank you, everybody, for joining me this morning.

Coming up after the break, we'll continue this conversation looking ahead to Super Tuesday. Two of the smartest political reporters in Florida and Ohio will join for an on-the-ground look, what's really going on there leading up to these make-or-break primaries.

Stay tuned. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

That's a live peek inside the auditorium for the next CNN town hall. It's Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders announcing questions tonight at 8:00 p.m.

Now, the candidates have been all over cable TV. Last week, we saw two Democratic debates, each averaging about 6 million viewers. And one GOP debate with double the audience, 12 million viewers.

[11:30:05]

What does that tell you? This week is the true Super Tuesday, or, as John King called it earlier this morning, survival Tuesday, because Marco Rubio and John Kasich need to win their respective home states of Florida and Ohio in order to have any chance of stopping Trump from being crowned the GOP nominee.

At least, that's the national media narrative. So, what's really happening on the local level?

Let's bring in two of the top political reporters in Florida and Ohio, Adam Smith, the political editor of "The Tampa Bay Times," and Henry Gomez, the chief political reporter for Cleveland.com and "The Plain Dealer."

Let me start with you, Adam.

Is that narrative correct, that this is their last chance, that Tuesday is make or break?

ADAM SMITH, "THE TAMPA BAY TIMES": Yes, absolutely.

I think for Marco Rubio, Florida is a must-win state in the general election. Marco Rubio, if he can't win Florida, it's hard to make the case that he's going to be the strongest general election candidate, which is at the heart of his argument.

STELTER: And yet it doesn't look close at all in your state, does it?

SMITH: There's so many polls. There are an absurd number of polls.

But, basically, the best-case scenario for Rubio is he's down six. Worst-case, he's down 23 or so.

STELTER: Now, what we're seeing, Henry, in Ohio is a much closer race, a new poll this morning showing Kasich ahead?

HENRY GOMEZ, "THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER": Yes, that's correct, Brian.

John Kasich is about six points up on Donald Trump in this latest poll. But the polls have been a little bit all over the place here too. I have seen polls that show Trump up six. I have seen polls that show John Kasich up six. The interesting thing is, you would much rather be in John Kasich's position on Tuesday than Marco Rubio's.

Marco Rubio and his campaign have in fact encouraged their Ohio supporters to vote for John Kasich in Ohio as a means to stopping Donald Trump here.

STELTER: Right.

We talked about the polls.

Adam, I'm curious your take on how much stock you put into the polls, because last week, before the primary in Michigan, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said if Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary in Michigan, it would be "among the great poll errors in primary history." Well, sure enough, Sanders did win and there was a lot of embarrassment perhaps among the pollsters or the people that focus on polls. How much stock do you put in them when you're writing your stories there?

SMITH: I try to put in less and less.

We certainly took notice of what happened in Michigan. I think there's a little better history of polling and more reliable polls in Florida. But, still, there's so many. There's about 10 polls a week, some of which are brand new and inexperienced and don't have much track record.

But, yes, if the average of 10 polls suggests Rubio's down 17 percent, that's pretty grim for Marco Rubio.

STELTER: Right.

Henry, let me ask you about the situation in Ohio with TV ads. Are you finding that TV adds are just as overwhelming and saturating the markets as they have been in past elections or has Donald Trump's strategy of using free media changed the game?

GOMEZ: Well, it's wall-to-wall TV adds.

This morning, as I watching local news, I don't think I saw a nonpolitical ad among them. And Donald Trump has been on air here as well in Ohio. He's spending over $1 million on TV, which might not seem a lot for him, but he's not only doing earned media. He's doing paid media here.

And the voters are being inundated from Kasich, from Trump, from Hillary and from Bernie.

STELTER: This of course benefits local TV stations that get the bulk of these TV ad buys every four years. And even though Trump has said he's not spending much on ads, it's interesting he is spending some money on those ads.

Before I go, we have been talking earlier in the morning about these Trump rallies, about the intense environment of them. Have either of you found that?

Adam, to you first. Have you found that a Trump rally feels different than other candidates' rallies?

SMITH: Oh, it is night and day. It is absolutely night and day, and really on both sides, hearing some of your prior people on there.

People are interrupting or disrupting every two minutes. It's constant. There's that element, but also just the charge and the vibe. Not at all meaning to denigrate the people that are there, but it does feel more like a mob than a rally in many cases.

STELTER: I imagine it must be very hard for Trump on stage trying to get his speech out being interrupted all the time. Henry, have you found the same thing in Ohio?

GOMEZ: Yes, the Trump rallies here, they are kind of a major event.

One thing the Trump does is he turns his crowd against the media. He will get the supporters to turn around toward the media pen and start booing or jeering them. He always complains that the media doesn't show the large crowds at his rallies.

And of course all I see on Twitter are people tweeting out pictures of these large crowds. And there are reporters that are tweeting out the photos. It's become a bit of a mob mentality at some of these Trump events, not to the point where I or my colleagues have ever felt in danger, but he's clearly using the media as a foil and using them to get his supporters to buy into what he's selling even more.

STELTER: Last night, he referred to lying and thieving reporters. Not sure what the reporters are stealing, but I thought that was an interesting comment.

Adam, Henry, thank you both for being here.

GOMEZ: Thank you.

[11:35:05]

STELTER: A quick reminder here. That final town hall before Tuesday's primaries starts at 8:00 p.m. here on CNN.

You're going to want to see what we have got next, a special sit-down with three foreign correspondents for their view on covering the election, including this observation from one of them. Donald Trump's campaign strategy may soon be copied by candidates around the world.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: Time for a global view, literally.

Take a look at some of these overseas newspaper and magazine covers.

"The Economist" says "Really?" with Donald Trump in an Uncle Same hat. And France's "Liberation" calls Donald Trump an American nightmare.

Of course, we can access all this online nowadays. All media is local, but also global.

Is the race being portrayed as a comedy or a tragedy in other countries?

For that, let's bring in three top foreign correspondents, all of whom have covered conflict zones in the Middle East and are now covering the candidates in this U.S. presidential primary.

Ruth Sherlock with "The Daily Telegraph," Laura Haim with Canal Plus, and Kim Ghattas with the BBC.

[11:40:05]

Ruth, let me start with you.

Ruth, what word or what sentence do you use to describe to your audience at home what the heck is happening in this amazing election?

RUTH SHERLOCK, "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH": Well, I mean, I'm not sure I would use this sentence, but I think audiences at home do see this as somewhat of -- entertaining is what I would have to say.

STELTER: Entertaining, yes.

Kim, what about you?

KIM GHATTAS, BBC: Bare-knuckle brawl about the most important job in the world, because for a lot of our viewers and readers around the world, the question they ask us, really, and that they have on their mind is, what does this mean for us? Everybody around the world is, of course, watching this election with a lot of interest, some bewilderment, and in some cases a bit of anxiety.

STELTER: And, Laura, what about you? What about for your audience in France?

LAURA HAIM, CANAL PLUS: In France, we think it's completely crazy, historically crazy.

That's what we do each day. And we're trying to describe what's happening and to understand what is happening at this moment in America, because it's crazy, but it's also very serious. People in France and in Europe are very concerned about this American presidential election.

STELTER: Let me drill down on the word that Ruth chose, entertaining.

I wonder, Ruth, has it been entertaining for you personally. Has this been fun to cover?

SHERLOCK: It has been.

It's also been incredibly shocking. I only arrived in the U.S. a few months ago. And at that time, people in England expected that this would be a battle between the two dynasties, a fight between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

STELTER: Yes.

SHERLOCK: And here we are at the Florida primary, and the guy who I had been told, everybody, we all thought was a television show entertainer is now looking like he could be the front-runner and potentially the next president of the United States.

STELTER: Kim, is it different to be covering elections than it was, say, 10 years ago, because of the rise of the Internet and the idea that everybody can read everything from every country of the world?

GHATTAS: Yes, I think it has changed tremendously.

I didn't cover elections 10 years ago. I was based in the Middle East. I was covering that region. So, in a way, the sort of -- the combat support that we're watching unfold here in the presidential election is something that we're more familiar with in the Middle East. Of course, this is here a very vibrant democracy.

STELTER: Ruth, you covered the Arab Spring, many other types of stories. Do you find it disorienting that this Republican campaign is really about petty insults in many ways?

SHERLOCK: It is quiet astonishing that Donald Trump managed to make a reference to his appendage in a presidential debate for the most -- position -- the most powerful position in arguably the most powerful country in the world.

And that does sometimes -- you sometimes stop and are just kind of left slightly astounded. You think, did he actually just say that?

STELTER: I don't know. Is it that unusual?

Laura, do you see any parallels between the situation here in the U.S. and France politics?

HAIM: I think what's happening in the U.S. is going to have huge consequences on the French life, in the political system.

We know, for instance, that next year, there is a French presidential election. And some people are already watching very closely the new way Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are coming and catching. For instance, what is happening with the press conference with Donald Trump, instead of doing a meeting, give probably some idea to some French politicians.

They're watching very closely the way those candidates in the United States are doing a new form of campaigning.

STELTER: Kim, before I let you go, you have covered authoritarian regimes in the past.

Do you, when you hear rhetoric and television coverage that describes Trump as an authoritarian figure, as a strong man, even comparisons to Hitler this week, does that ring differently to you as someone who has actually covered the Middle East before?

GHATTAS: Look, we have had our fair share of authoritarian rulers in the Middle East. And the region is paying the consequences with -- you know, with a very high cost.

There are no -- there is no way to compare continents and countries. We're in a vibrant democracy. Yes, there are issues of access, but it doesn't compare at all.

What it does do is raise concern about potential issues down the road when it comes to access to press conferences for even American reporters. But there are no fair comparisons to be made here. You can do them tongue in cheek about Ted Cruz bringing up God quite a bit on his campaign trail. A lot of politicians in the Middle East do that repeatedly.

When I watch the debates between Republican candidates, there's a lot of insult-hurling. There's a lot of unintelligible screaming going on. it reminds me of fights that Lebanese politicians have on stage. The only difference is that, by the end of it, in Lebanon, they're starting to throw chairs at each other.

[11:45:07]

And, luckily, that's not what we're seeing in the United States. I think this is a great democracy. People are watching from around the world. They want to know how the results of this election are going to impact their lives. And that's the question that resonates with all of them. What does this mean for us?

STELTER: It's a great optimistic point for us to end on.

Thank you. All three of you, thank you for being here.

SHERLOCK: Thank you.

HAIM: Thanks, Brian.

GHATTAS: Thanks for having us.

STELTER: And up next here on the program, something you will see nowhere else on TV today, a Muslim-American reporter recounting her experiences at a political rally.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: Back with more RELIABLE SOURCES now.

Journalists have found themselves becoming the story at Trump events in recent days. This morning, Sopan Deb is getting back to work. He's the CBS reporter who was arrested at Trump's chaotic rally in Chicago. He's now out, getting back to work later today.

[11:50:05]

And Michelle Fields, you see her here, is hiring an attorney. She's the Breitbart reporter who was roughed up by someone, possibly Trump's campaign manager, at a press conference earlier in the week. The campaign denied that the campaign manager was involved, suggested she made it all up.

Now, the NAACP president, Cornell Brooks, tweeted out our CNN Money news story about Deb's arrest this morning.

And he asked this: "If an Indian member of the press is at risk, how safe are other people of color?" He used the hashtag #Trumprally there.

Now, I don't want to overstate what is happening here. Most journalists are not being manhandled, not being mistreated at Trump events or at any other campaign events. But there is a strain of intolerance that sometimes shows up amongst some people at these rallies.

Joining me now is Heba Said, a Muslim American journalist from Texas.

Thank you for being here this morning.

HEBA SAID, MUSLIM AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: I was hoping to speak with you, because you have made the point that this tinderbox of anger that we're seeing across the country is not new entirely.

In 2014, you wrote something I want to put up on screen. It's a recounting of your experience trying to cover a Texas GOP state rally. You wrote that people referred to you as "you people" or "you Muslims." "Some looked at me and frowned or shook their heads as I walked through the halls."

I want to know how you think that relates to what you're seeing now on the campaign trail in 2016.

SAID: Well, I think what happened to me in 2014 at the Texas GOP convention directly predicated what we're seeing now.

I think it was something, I think, that -- I think that what we're seeing now with the GOP party, the level of intolerance, I think it's something that has built up over time. And I think it could have been prevented, had there been some steps to make reform within the party.

STELTER: But you say GOP as a whole. You really think that the entire GOP is intolerant, or are you painting with too broad of a brush?

SAID: I wouldn't say that I'm painting with too broad a brush. I would say that not all people in the GOP have a level of intolerance.

But what we have seen in the past few years is a party shift, where there's been increasing intolerance, with more of the representatives of the GOP being more outspokenly intolerant. I don't, however, think that the party is inherently intolerant, because that would be generalizing.

STELTER: Do you find that a lack of diversity in media, in television, or in other newsrooms has contributed to maybe a lack of understanding about what's going on in the country?

And I ask that because I know you're a young broadcast journalist, and maybe trying to break into the business, also pursuing a law degree.

SAID: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's something that I, from the very beginning, whenever I

started out in journalism, something I began talking about within my own newsroom when I was a student at U.T. Arlington.

And it's something that I have been very vocal about is, like, there is a very steep lack of diversity whenever it comes to specifically broadcast journalism, because what we're not -- we're not seeing America really. We're not seeing how diverse this country is.

And we're not seeing as many different groups of people. Like, right now, I know of two veiled Muslim women who are in broadcast journalism. And I feel like it's not necessarily due to a lack of acceptance, but I think that it's really important that Muslim Americans really get out there and, like, really show their presence in the media because we are, you know, an integral part of the fabric that makes America what it is today.

And in order for that to be properly represented, we need to be out there in the media. We need to be showing what the average Muslim American really looks like.

STELTER: Thank you so much for being here and saying that this morning.

I was in your state earlier in the week in Austin for South by Southwest. And you certainly see the diversity of new media when you're at a conference like that. It needs to be reflected across the media landscape.

We touched on that in last week's show, and I'm glad we could mention it today as well.

Thank you so much for being here.

SAID: OK. Thank you.

STELTER: Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES: The Erin Andrews trial ends. The Hulk Hogan trial begins.

Erin Andrews had a big win in court against her stalker and against the hotel where she was staying. I'll fill you in on what happened and what it might mean for the Hulk Hogan trial next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:31]

STELTER: Before we go this morning, a question about newsworthiness.

This week, FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews won a major court case alleging invasion of privacy against a stalker who taped a nude video of her in 2008 and against the hotel where she was staying at the time.

A Nashville court awarded her $55 million. The case really highlighted the safety concerns that female sports reporters and others who travel for work sometimes face.

I don't think anyone would argue that a sportscaster getting dressed in her hotel room is newsworthy. But what about a wrestler legend getting it on with his best friend's wife in his friend's bedroom?

This one is more complicated. Gawker is the Web site that posted a portion of a Hulk Hogan sex tape, claiming it was newsworthy because Hogan has talked so openly about his sexual exploits in interviews and on radio shows. Hogan is suing for $100 million. You can see him here in court. He says it was a blatant violation of his privacy.

The trial got started this week. And it's been bruising for Gawker so far. Now, looking back a little bit, this is what Gawker founder Nick Denton told me last summer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK DENTON, FOUNDER, GAWKER MEDIA: I am glad that decisions that are taken on publishing, taken at the time, and I'm glad that we only really look at whether the story is both true and interesting.

This story was true and interesting and we would absolutely publish it again in a heartbeat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Now, to that point, Gawker says this is a case about press freedom, about the First Amendment.

And Denton will take the stand this week. So, don't miss CNN media reporter Tom Kludt's daily coverage the trial at CNNMoney.com/media.

You can also sign up for our newsletter there, our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter.

And I will see you back this time next week on TV for another edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.