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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Clinton, Sanders Battle Over New York Debate Date; Was This Really Trump's Worst Week?; Media Power Couple's Critique of Election; Does Lack of Sleep Drive Donald Trump's Gaffes?; Trump Through NYC Tabloids. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired April 3, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:11] 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, about news and pop culture really get made.
This hour, does Donald Trump need more sleep? Arianna thinks so and she's here to tell me why.
Plus, TV legends Maury Povich and Connie Chung, they are here to compare this election to all the others they've covered.
And President Obama critiquing campaign coverage and saying media company profits to be reinvested into hard-hitting journalism. We'll take a closer look at what he said.
First, this morning, can we really trust the changing media narratives about the five presidential candidates that are still standing? Because this is, according to conventional wisdom, Donald Trump's worst week ever. But haven't we heard something like that before?
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, breaking news this morning in the debate over debates, about the Clinton campaign telling the Sanders campaign to stop playing games. Hillary Clinton telling Chuck Todd that she's confident they will find a date for a debate before the New York primary. Bernie Sanders telling Jake Tapper the same thing. But rejecting at least two of the three days that Clinton has proposed.
So, will there be another Democratic debate and does it matter before the primary? Before we have to check on all this, let me bring in two reliable sources, ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd, and CNN political commentator Errol Louis.
Thank you both for being here.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Brian.
STELTER: Errol, what is this argument about? The Clinton campaign is -- well, first of all, Sanders campaign that said months ago, they wanted to have a debate before the New York primary. It felt so far away months ago. But now, it's here. LOUIS: Well, that's right. In fact, Bernie Sanders said specifically
he wanted a debate in New York City, in Brooklyn if possible. And so, this is now a reality. Now, it's going to matter in a way that it didn't before.
But the reality is with two weeks to go before the primary, there are a lot of logistical things that have to be worked out. And I know there's a lot of political gamesmanship and there's going to be a lot of discussion about it.
But the reality is, these folks have fundraisers. They have rallies. They have fairly important business, some of which is not happening in New York. That was scheduled a while ago. And so, it's not so easy to pick a date if you only have 14 to choose between.
STELTER: There were three dates that were offered by the Clinton campaign. These are made public yesterday. One is tomorrow, it's the night before the Wisconsin primary and the night of the NAACP championships and that doesn't make much sense, according to Bernie Sanders.
The second date was April 14th. That one might still be in the mix. And then, April 15th there was a "Good Morning America" debate proposed. ABC confirmed to me that both candidates were given the invitation. Sander said this morning, he thinks that makes no sense.
So, I guess April 14th is now the date that's on the table.
LOUIS: Yes, that could be.
STELTER: And that could be a CNN/New York 1 debate.
Just full disclosure here, the other jobs at New York 1.
STELTER: So, there is a proposal on the table maybe for a debate that night. What can you tell us about that?
LOUIS: Well, I can tell you very little, but I'm not part of the team that's doing that discussion. And some of it is logistics and some of it like you said, is logistics involving three campaigns, as well as -- two campaigns, as well as the DNC. They have a role in all this, because they're the official spots. So, you bring in other news organizations, you try and find a venue. It gets very complicated very quickly.
STELTER: So, what I wonder is -- does it matter, Matthew, if these two candidates debate, because on the GOP side, there are no debates in the foreseeable future between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.
DOWD: Yes, there's candidate forums that are available for the RNC --
STELTER: Town hall is the new debate. DOWD: -- for the GOP election event. I actually think it matters to each of them. Each of them wants a debate for different reasons. Bernie Sanders wants a debate to keep any momentum t going in the aftermath of what he expects to be a Wisconsin victory. I think Hillary Clinton wants a debate in order to stem the tide of all the victories that he's had.
And she's done very well at all the debates in the course of this. I think a debate will happen. It would be much better if it was on "Good Morning America" and ABC. So --
STELTER: We can hash it out right here.
DOWD: I actually think it would be a unique thing actually to have it on in the morning and have to do a debate in the morning. I don't --
STELTER: Sanders said on CNN even a couple of hours ago that he wouldn't as big of an audience on -- actually, he said, it's kind of weird. He said it to George Stephanopoulos on ABC "This Week" that he didn't think it would get a big enough audience on "GMA", which was kind of insulting.
The reality is, "GMA" gets 5 million viewers every morning. The recent debates have gotten about that many viewers.
DOWD: There must be some other reason. It's not an audience problem, because it would get a huge audience, as all the debates have in the course of this. A debate will happen because they both want it to happen. It's just machinations as Errol said, it's just machinations in the background until they force it.
STELTER: Let me get both of your takes on something I thought was really interesting this week. It came from Dave Wasserman of "The Cook Political Report". We can share his tweet on the screen. He's suggested about Bernie Sanders coverage.
"If anything, the media has been too generous to Bernie and too desperate to keep the Democratic race close in face of overwhelming evidence of the contrary. This is something we every four years, the media likes a close horse race. Do you think it's true that perhaps the media is asserting that Sanders has a better chance than he actually does to get the nomination?
LOUIS: You can find any individual journalist who might really sort of, you know, want some kind of a horse race to happen.
[11:05:02] But the reality is, although Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead, there are some scenarios and not all of them are completely farfetched, in which Bernie Sanders could close the gap, in which Bernie Sanders could turn the race around, and which Bernier Sanders could become the nominee. So, you know, it's not I think untoward for us to sort of point out to
people like, yes, there's a scenario. And when people put in their percentages, especially, if you believe those percentages are attainable or farfetched, then you can make up your own mind, I think viewers can make up with their own mind, about whether or not this is still a close race.
DOWD: To me, it's not shocking the media overplays anything, right? You know, we have breaking news 17 times a day on whatever the topic happens to be and we do -- that's what we do in the media. We like conflict. We like contests.
I actually think -- I disagree with this. I actually think Bernie Sanders, because of Donald Trump and the phenomenon that exists here has been under-covered. Here's a guy, 74-year-old socialist, Democratic socialist from Vermont taking on the entire establishment wing of the party. Hillary Clinton, going on for her, all the money she had behind her, and he was 60 points behind.
It is a -- I think the media needs to cover it not necessarily as a delegate per delegate, but what does it mean for the Democratic Party and what does it mean for Hillary Clinton and what does it say?
STELTER: Are you saying that because you have Republican leanings and you rather see Sanders as a nominee?
DOWD: I have no Republican leanings. I'm an independent, done work on both sides of the aisle. I actually think Bernie Sanders is the stronger general election candidate. I don't think he's going to likely get the nomination --
STELTER: What an amazing thing to say. A year ago, we would have laughed at that idea.
DOWD: Well, I think the two people -- the strongest possible candidates for each side are not likely to get the nomination in the course of this general election. But I think he gets the second largest crowds of anybody, he gets crowds larger than Hillary Clinton. He has younger voters all energized.
He's raised -- I don't know what the total at this point, $150 million, $160 million through small donations. It is the thing that needs covered. And I think but for Donald Trump, we'd be focused on it more.
STELTER: Speaking of the big crowds, that's one of the reasons he's hesitant about this March, about this April 14th debate date because he has a big rally that he might have planned that night. He probably wants that grand image of a big rally in New York City, filling a park or filling an arena, which he's done time and time again.
Let's turn to the GOP side, because I mentioned at the top of the show, the dominant narrative this weekend is that this was Donald Trump's worst week ever.
Now, consider this, we've never seen this before in modern American presidential politics: Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski charged with misdemeanor battery this week for allegedly manhandling a former Breitbart news reporter Michelle Fields a few weeks ago. Now, the Trump campaign says he's innocent and Trump implausibly suggested that she was a threat to him, that her pen could have been a bomb which it couldn't have.
But later in the week, his flip-flops about abortion were downright embarrassing. Loads of TV commentators agreed that the candidate might be in real trouble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is probably starting the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is going to be really the beginning of the end of Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night was the beginning of the end of Donald Trump bubble.
DOWD: The beginning of the end of Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is the week we're going to look back on and say, maybe this was the beginning of the end of Trump '16.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
STELTER: Actually, those were all clips from last summer and last fall. Maybe some premature predictions back then. Let's cue up what was said this week on TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This for Donald Trump has probably been one of the worst weeks yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, Donald Trump has had a terrible week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This obviously was a bad week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the billionaire front runner's worst weeks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a lot of commentary this has been the worst week in your campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have often predicted the political demise of Donald Trump. This time I might be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, gentlemen, I'm being playful here, of course. We all know how the predictions have turned out to be wrong time and time again.
But, Matthew, since I included you in one of those montages, do you think this is Trump's worst week ever? If so, why?
DOWD: Well, I've learned to never say worst, best or ever, because I think most of the time it's never, it never, if I used it, it doesn't work out very well. I think it was a bad week.
But I think if you look at the data in the course of this week, I think one thing you've seen for sure is Donald Trump has not lost support in the course of this very bad week and the course of this. He's polling the same numbers in Wisconsin. He's polling the same numbers nationally.
What I think it's done to Donald Trump, there is a cumulative effect. And this week I think added much more weight to the cumulative effect, which is it's capped Donald Trump's ability to rise, and get higher numbers and unify the Republican Party. It's made that almost impossible for him to unify the Republican Party, and it's made him close to unelectable in a general election when you look at that.
Obviously, anything could happen. So, I think right now, he's still on a path, he's the likely Republican nominee. He's still polling well in all the states. You know, he's probably going to lose Wisconsin, but it has capped him.
STELTER: So, you're saying the cable newsers are not going too far with this pretty negative coverage, negative tone towards Trump's campaign. Errol, do you agree?
LOUIS: It was a terrible week for him. I don't see how you could get around that. And I think it was terrible in a way that's not happened for him before, which is somewhat newsworthy, which is somewhat newsworthy, which is that the problems came out of his own mouth in a way you didn't have to have his opponents or pundits or anybody else say this man isn't ready for some of these big issues.
[11:10:04] You could just look at the screen and see him, you know, under questioning from Chris Matthews trying to make it up as he went on, and it was clear that this 43-year debate over abortion was something he hadn't really thought through all that well.
STELTER: Most recently last night, an interview with "The Washington Post", published last night. Trump predicted a massive recession, but then also said he intends to eliminate the national debt in eight years. Essentially, every economist would say that's impossible.
And "The Washington Post", and credit goes to "The Post" for making that pretty clear in its story as saying, this is not something that's rational. And yet, there's so many of these quotes, and I wonder, Matthew, if the effect is sort of mitigated because he says so much, he gave so much many interviews, he says so many things that are, whether they're fact-check right or wrong or not, they sort of overwhelm the media's nervous system, the media's ability to check it all.
DOWD: Well, I think, when you have an emotional connection with voters, a rational argument is not going to break that emotional hold. So, I don't think any of these rational arguments will ever take Donald Trump's voters away from him in the course of this.
I think I agree with Errol. I think what this shows is Donald Trump's worst enemy is Donald Trump. Donald Trump has not been brought down by the establishment. Donald --
STELTER: Even though the slogan in the campaign office is "let Trump be Trump"?
DOWD: Well, I think there is as any person that they have -- he has great strengths, he has great flaws. And I think this week was a revelatory thing in his great flaws in the course of this that he voluntarily did himself.
STELTER: We're going to talk more about the aggressive interviews this week. Was it a turning point? Coming up.
Errol, Matthew, thank you for being here.
DOWD: Great to be here.
LOUIS: Thank you.
STELTER: A reminder here, we mention the next primary, that's the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday night, both the Republicans and Democrats go in the polls and all day coverage will be here on CNN on Tuesday.
Coming up next here on the program, two television legends Connie Chung and Maury Povich, they say this election is driving them crazy. So, hear from the media power couple, hear their media critique coming up.
And later in the hour, what you have to know about Donald Trump's tabloid past in the 1980s that explains his present day media mastery.
Stay with me.
[11:15:41] STELTER: Judging by my e-mail inbox, a lot of you think that the press has not pressed Donald Trump enough. But this week, there's been a shift in the wind. Just listen to the way these interviewers changed Trump again and again and again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't start it.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But, sir, with all do respect, that's the argument of a 5-year-old.
TRUMP: I didn't start it. No, it's not.
COOPER: The argument of a 5-year-old is he started --
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: You're hearing, a guy running for president of the United States talk of may be using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS ANCHOR: Do you think it's murder, abortion?
TRUMP: I have my opinions on it but I'd rather not comment on it.
DICKERSON: But you don't disagree with that proposition that it's murder?
TRUMP: What proposition?
DICKERSON: That abortion is murder.
TRUMP: No, I don't disagree with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, my next two guests were thrilled to see that. They're husband and wife with a unique view of television and news. Connie Chung who worked at every major U.S. network, including CNN and who tangled with Trump in this interview back in 1990. And Maury Povich, who isn't just the host of "Maury", he's also the owner of a local newspaper, a thriving journalist in Kalispell, Montana.
Maury and Connie join me now here in New York.
Connie, you were smiling looking at that video of Trump.
STELTER: What happened to that interview 25 years ago?
CONNIE CHUNG, TV JOURNALIST: Oh my God. Well, I was peppering him with questions and, you know, he wasn't running for anything. It was just that he was being --
MAURY POVICH, TV HOST, "THE MAURY SHOW": Donald.
CHUNG: Yes, exactly.
CHUNG: And I was giving him a hard time. So, apparently, later, he did an interview with someone and he used the exact same words he did regarding Megyn Kelly.
CHUNG: She's stupid. She's -- you know, incompetent or, you know, she didn't know what she was doing.
STELTER: So, you're saying Megyn Kelly is not his first one woman journalists target.
CHUNG: By no means. And it was remarkable, when I pulled it up because someone told me, actually, it was on Andy Cohen's "Watch What Happens Live", they pulled it up. And they showed what he said about me afterward and I've never seen it.
It was remarkable. It was as if he was talking about Megyn Kelly. So, I was just fascinated that he hadn't come up with other adjectives for a woman journalist, you know? They were identical.
STELTER: So, it was your follow-ups that perhaps insulted him or caught him off guard?
CHUNG: I hope so.
STELTER: Both of you were very happy to see these interviews, right? Anderson Cooper, Chris Matthews, John Dickerson, we seen it in "The Washington Post" and "New York Times", and even on Wisconsin radio, really tough questioning of Trump now.
POVICH: Yes. And, by the way, my concern is not just Trump. I mean, obviously, there was blood in the water and it's easily -- when there's blood in the water, that's when journalists easily strike.
CHUNG: Well, they're salivating. They're all salivating when we see the stains, let's say.
POVICH: But, you know, all -- you know, all candidates have to be tested and they have to be tested by the media and quiet frankly, I think it's public service because that's the way it's going to be if they win the election. They're going to be pressed all the time.
STELTER: Do you think there wasn't enough of it in the summer and the fall. There's two arguments here. One argument is, there was always aggressive questioning. It didn't matter. But the other argument is, it's gotten a lot tougher.
POVICH: Well, I'll give you one, for instance, which should have never happened and finally, I think the media has overcome it and it's the phone interview.
STELTER: Oh, the call-ins?
POVICH: The call-ins.
STELTER: Why do you have a problem with the call-ins?
POVICH: Well, I have a problem with the call-ins -- first of all, you're not face to face. Secondly, you're sitting in your home or in your office, you might be in your bath robe. OK, how do I get free media today?
STELTER: Oh, come on, you don't think Donald Trump is in his bath robe, do you?
POVICH: Well, whatever.
And he -- you know, how do I get free TV today? Oh, I'll make a call because if I'm on the phone, all the ratings will pop.
CHUNG: You know, what my problem with follow ups, particularly at the debates was that there were no opportunities for follow ups, or if there were, I didn't hear them. And I'd scream at the TV and say, ask that, ask this -- that's what is driving me a little insane.
I mean -- but people like Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews have been great, and John Dickerson, they've been asking follow ups, but it's very hard with politicians who just roll right over and try and ignore the question and don't answer it. But that's their normal M.O.
[11:20:00] So you just have to overcome it and keep pressing. I want so much to jump into the TV and ask --
CHUNG: -- and answer that question.
POVICH: Yes, but at times--
STELTER: Do you have a question in mind or a topic that you think he needs to be probed about?
CHUNG: No, no. They all need to be just followed up. In other words, if you hear an answer and you didn't, they are --
POVICH: But at times they did though, Connie. At times they did. They showed some graphs sometimes when he said, when a particular candidate --
STELTER: At the FOX News debate.
POVICH: Yes, the FOX News debate.
POVICH: I mean, they brought up various graphs to show that --
STELTER: I've noticed a shift in the wind is some of the questions about the horse race, some about the polls, we're hearing fewer of those now and more policy questions.
CHUNG: Which is what it always should be.
But, you know, what I would love to see at the end -- I mean, during debates, have you ever seen the "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser?
CHUNG: At the end of the program, they have a guy whose fact-checking and anything they say that's wrong, he goes, "Well", and he shouts out what is actually accurate.
STELTER: That's what I call the Twitter feed, because I screwed up in the last block and misspoke and thankfully, viewers hold you accountable, right? CHUNG: Of course, and they should.
STELTER: But it would be even better on TV, I think.
CHUNG: Would it be great at the debates, anybody who says something inaccurate, of which there are a lot of things, that you'd have a fact-checker go "wrong".
POVICH: By the way, the only other thing I would say about the press which I would like to see a little differently is -- I don't like the word "contested convention". This is the history of political process in this country. The democratic popular vote doesn't win when it comes to nominating a presidential candidate and you go to the convention, and if you don't have the magic number, there's a lot of trading going on, bargaining going on and this is -- believe it or not -- the American political way.
And somehow, I think the press is given the attitude that, well, something's wrong, undemocratic, if you have a contested election.
STELTER: You're saying something's very right.
POVICH: It is.
STELTER: Let me ask you one more thing though about the phone-ins, because this has been something that's been debated for months now in newsrooms like this one.
What do you think the difference is between the TV call in and a radio interview? Why is it any different and why is it wrong for the networks to have Trump or Hillary Clinton or others call in? That's what they would do on radio.
POVICH: That's a good point. If I had a radio interview, I want to be there. I want to be able to see the face. I want to be able to see the expressions. I want -- you know, we all take a look at people and say as they're answering a question, is he really telling the truth here or not?
We all make that decision as to whether we believe somebody and we want to believe them -- we want to be able to see them in person to make that judgment?
STELTER: You must have found that on your daytime show.
POVICH: Well, yes.
STELTER: The camera exposes --
STELTER: The camera exposes a certain (INAUDIBLE)
POVICH: Oh, absolutely. And thank you very much for -- we're having our 3,000th episode of "The Maury Show", by the way, next month. Thank you very much.
But, yes, I mean -- and by the way, some of the debates kind of seem like my show at times.
STELTER: You think so?
STELTER: Let me ask you about that, because I think there's a false equivalency. When I hear the press say that this campaign is a circus, that this campaign is in the gutter. Isn't that sort of unfair to the Democratic side of the aisle and unfair to John Kasich on the GOP side?
POVICH: And unfair to my show.
POVICH: No. I think, in a way -- in a way it is. But that's why people were watching all those debates. Think about the jump in ratings with those debates and because people were waiting for all this to happen. And, you know, whether it be Trump or Cruz or at times, Rubio, they gave it to them.
CHUNG: Well, you know what, though, I am so jealous of all the political reporters who are out there every single day, watching the circus, and going to the circus saying who else? I mean, why wouldn't you want to go to the circus, and you can throw peanuts at them, which you're allowed to do.
STELTER: Oh, boy.
CHUNG: And you can -- but you can't throw eggs, and you can sit there and eat popcorn and just have a ball all day long. And, listen to (INAUDIBLE) watch the monkeys perform. I mean, it doesn't get better than that. No?
STELTER: Except when, except when you have preference --
CHUNG: It's the country at stake.
STELTER: -- for substantive dialogue.
CHUNG: Or the country is at stake.
STELTER: Herein lies the rub.
CHUNG: Exactly. And then, and my -- I mean, I go to sleep and I can't go to sleep because I'm worried about the country and the animals.
POVICH: You're worked up that much?
STELTER: Well, before --
CHUNG: I am. POVICH: OK.
CHUNG: Well, I can sleep later.
STELTER: I like when a husband and wife interviews each other.
Before I let you go, I have to ask about the fact that you are also a media owner now yourself.
STELTER: A lot of people didn't know this until "The Columbia Journalism Review" wrote this story, and actually says, you might have the best newsroom in all of Montana. So, your paper, you brought it here with us, "The Flathead Beacon".
CHUNG: Oh, yes.
STELTER: It's a weekly paper almost 10 years old.
[11:25:00] And, Connie, you told me before the show this is a tribute to Maury's father.
CHUNG: Yes, it's the most wonderful thing. His father whose name was Shirley Povich, yes, Shirley. His mother's name was George. No, I'm kidding, Ethel.
Shirley Povich was a legendary journalist for "The Washington Post" for 75 years. Maury really worships him and I do, too. He's just -- he's an erudite, wonderful man and he's an incredible writer.
Maury grew up in the newspaper world, because of "The Washington Post".
POVICH: And we have a home in Montana. And nine years ago, I thought the community, the Flathead Valley in northwest Montana, their Glacier National Park, one of another option in terms of journalism, and we started "The Flathead Beacon".
CHUNG: He did.
POVICH: It's headed by this young editor Kellyn Brown who was --
CHUNG: He's great.
POVICH: -- a terrific editor who came from Bozeman, Montana. He was -- he went to the Montana School of Journalism, University of Montana. He brought all these young kids. It's unbelievable enterprising journalism.
CHUNG: And it's award-winning. Every -- you know, in newspaper work, a different state judges your state's newspaper. POVICH: Yes.
CHUNG: Newspapers and issues awards based on what they read to the submissions. Best state --
POVICH: That's six times.
CHUNG: Six times.
POVICH: Best state weekly. Best website four times. And you have to by the way --
CHUNG: Editorial, investigative reporting --
POVICH: -- for anybody who wants -- you got to be hyper-local, you have to be -- you have your own original stories. We have -- in community, we have 25,000 in circulation. It's a pre-newspaper.
STELTER: And I thought the insight you share with me is that then you also design websites for the advertisers.
POVICH: Correct. You can't do it on print alone.
STELTER: Not just a print newspaper.
POVICH: The revenue won't afford the fact that you can only do it on print alone. We build websites. We handle social media for companies. We do branding for companies.
And so, it's a whole division of the paper.
STELTER: Maybe a lesson for other local paper owners.
And I have a full story on CNNMoney.com all about the paper.
Connie, Maury, thank you both for being here.
POVICH: Oh, it's great to be with you.
CHUNG: And go to the website. The website is great.
POVICH: Connie, Connie, don't hawk the paper --
CHUNG: I know. It's really good.
STELTER: FrontheadBeacon.com is the URL.
CHUNG: Good writers, good articles.
STELTER: I hope you all come back soon actually.
POVICH: Thanks so much.
CHUNG: OK, thank you. POVICH: Coming up here in a moment: can lack of sleep explain Donald Trump? Ariana Huffington has just written a book on the importance of sleep. She'll join me next to talk about.
And later, President Obama, he was condescending. He was scorning, he was lecturing journalists. At least, that's what FOX News told me. The truth about his message for the media, next.
STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
We are witnessing one of the most volatile, unpredictable, riveting elections of our lifetimes. But are you exhausted trying to keep up with it at all? Or maybe you feel like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, I'm not a big sleeper, like, three hours, four hours. I toss, I turn, I think, I -- I want to find out what's going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Hey, Trump likes to brag that he only sleeps four hours a night.
But in next week's issue of "New York" magazine, out tomorrow morning, Gabriel Sherman spends time with Trump and writes that -- quote -- "People who know him say they have never seen him so tired." He suggests that his ill-advised comments about punishing abortion- seekers seem like they might have been a function of sheer exhaustion as well.
Well, I have got the perfect guest to ask about that, Arianna Huffington, one of the most influential women in media, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post and the author of the new book "The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time."
Arianna, I slept nine hours last night in preparation for this interview.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, CO-FOUNDER, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: I'm serious.
STELTER: I want to ask you about this idea. You have written about it on The Huffington Post.
But first to your coverage of Trump. You all started out by covering him as entertainment, putting him in the entertainment section. Wasn't that a foolhardy move, given that he's now the GOP front- runner?
HUFFINGTON: Not at all.
We think that he's a little bit like Kim Jong-un. You know, he's both a buffoon and he's dangerous. So, we started covering him as a buffoon, until the day when he proposed that we ban 1.6 billion Muslims from entering the United States. From that point on, we started covering him as a clear and present danger, with an editor's note at the end of each story.
STELTER: And we will put that on the screen, so people can read it.
In the editor's note, you call him a racist, among other things. How can you possibly defend having an editor's note on stories about this candidate?
HUFFINGTON: Well, we defend it by wanting to remind our readers every day that this man is escalating violence at his rallies. He's proposing to ban an entire religion. He's making misogynistic comments. And he's the only presidential candidate ever who believes that Barack Obama was not born in this country.
These are, like, extreme statements. And, unfortunately, the media are mainstreaming them.
STELTER: What do you mean by that?
HUFFINGTON: What I mean is that the media are -- by not challenging these statements again and again and again, are allowing them to become part of the conversation, to become part of the mainstream. We're getting used to these absurdities, as Van Jones said.
And look at the Bob Woodward interview in "The Washington Post."
STELTER: Which came out last night.
HUFFINGTON: Yes, 96-minute interviews. And not once did he ask Donald Trump about the fact that he's a birther, about the fact that he's advocating violence at his rallies.
STELTER: Well, aren't there so many topics to be asking about? I'm glad they're asking about other issues.
HUFFINGTON: But these topics are rather important.
If you're a birther, it's a little bit like a candidate who believes that the Earth is flat. It's something that is absolutely, unequivocally false.
STELTER: But isn't that why he should never have been assigned to the entertainment category? Kim Jong-un is not covered in the entertainment category. HUFFINGTON: The point about Donald Trump is that we wanted to signal to our reporters and to our readers that cannot cover him in a conventional way.
STELTER: And you're perhaps suggesting then that too many other media outlets are covering him in a conventional way?
HUFFINGTON: Well, up until last week.
Last week was wonderful, because, as you showed, you had Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews really challenging him, and really pointing out that he's actually like a sleep-deprived 5-year-old who has not taken his nap, and, therefore, is rather cranky and irritable.
The only problem is that this 5-year-old sleep-deprived baby may actually have his little fingers on the nuclear button.
STELTER: Now, you worked in a lot of insults into one line there.
You guys have a history, right? Have you all spoken at all since he's entered the race?
HUFFINGTON: No. We have no history. That's ridiculous.
STELTER: Oh, he's insulted you on Twitter many times. And you all have seen each other at parties many times in New York over the years.
HUFFINGTON: Yes, that's irrelevant.
Donald Trump has the potential of destroying this country. That is really what is at stake here. And the media need to wake up and start covering him like that.
STELTER: You're saying that, when he's treated like every other candidate, that we're falling down on the job?
HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, absolutely, falling down on the job, especially when there are -- including on his wearing like a badge of honor his sleep deprivation.
You have reporters who respond, oh, you have so much energy.
No, it's a little bit like a candidate saying, you know, I'm perpetually drunk. You wouldn't just be impressed by that. You would question his judgment. And every day, we have more and more examples of his lack of judgment.
STELTER: But doesn't this underscore that The Huffington Post is mainly a point of view organization, not a news organization, by taking this stance against Trump?
HUFFINGTON: Brian, I think it would be absolutely a dereliction of duty for a media organization not to have a point of view on Donald Trump. (CROSSTALK)
STELTER: ... how conservative Verizon, your owner now, feels about this liberal stance at The Huffington Post?
HUFFINGTON: Our editorial independence is guaranteed, as you reported when the Verizon deal was made. And I have never heard one word from Verizon about how we should be covering Trump.
STELTER: Of course, the reason I'm asking about that is, I'm wondering if maybe there will be a spinoff, if maybe you will be leaving the Verizon corporation.
HUFFINGTON: There's nothing like that on the horizon.
STELTER: So, let me ask you about the concept of your book, because there's a headline on the Huffington Post Web site that I thought was very apropos about this. The writer was suggesting that perhaps sleep deprivation can explain Donald Trump's behavior.
Why is it that you are saying that sleep is so important, even though perhaps Trump is not getting enough of it?
HUFFINGTON: Well, I have an entire chapter on the science, the recent scientific findings that show that, contrary to our believes that, when we sleep, our brain is inactive, that's the time of frenetic activity, when all the toxins that accumulate during the day are cleared out.
If that doesn't happen, our cognitive functions are dramatically degraded. And we see that happening with Trump again and again. We see the lack of judgment, the false memories, the inability to process information.
But we also saw it with Rubio. When Rubio was exhausted, you saw what happened at the disastrous debate that kind of derailed his campaign.
STELTER: When Christie challenged him.
HUFFINGTON: And, in 2012, we now have actually the evidence of what happened to Rick Perry, when he botched his answers, and he was shortly after diagnosed with sleep apnea.
STELTER: Why is it that, of all the topics in the world that you can write about, that you decided to devote a whole book about sleep?
HUFFINGTON: Because I feel that we need to change our culture around sleep.
We have convinced the world that exercise and nutrition are important, but the third leg of the stool is sleep.
STELTER: Even though you have so many staffers working so hard down on Broadway? You really encourage them to take enough naps?
HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. We have nap rooms. We encourage people to disconnect and unplug from their technology after-hours and come back to work recharged, because that's when we are most creative and most productive.
STELTER: I do wonder if some of your staffers, some of your would-be employees are interested in coming over to The Huffington Post because of those nap rooms. Quite an interesting...
HUFFINGTON: It definitely improves retention and recruitment.
STELTER: Does it?
Arianna, great to see you.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: Thank you for being here.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
STELTER: Coming up next on the program: a different way of looking at the Donald Trump phenomenon, through the eyes of New York City's tabloids.
They are loud. They're brash. They're desperate to make a splash. And in the '80s and '90s, Trump was their hometown cover boy. Let's look at how that relationship shaped the way he handles the media today right after the break.
STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.
Here's something we have to keep in mind when covering Donald Trump. He has a long history with the media. And I'm not talking about "The Apprentice" on NBC in the 2000s.
Donald Trump was front-page fodder for the tabloids here in New York City back in the 1980s and the 1990s. And back then, as long as Trump generated headlines, any news was good news. Now that Trump is the GOP front-runner, not much actually seems to have changed.
Here's a thesis for you. Tell me if you agree. Trump benefits and seems most comfortable when the media is treating him like a tabloid story. He's less comfortable when being asked about topics like abortion, or about the national debt or about nuclear weapons.
That's when headlines come out that he doesn't like to see.
My next guest says the tabloids here in New York was actually basic training for the candidate. Larry Hackett is the former managing editor of "People" magazine and a
former reporter with "The New York Daily News."
Larry, great to see you.
LARRY HACKETT, FORMER EDITOR IN CHIEF, "PEOPLE": Good to be here.
STELTER: Any fun stories from your past at "The Daily News" about what it was like to cover Trump, because word is, he was always seeking out tabloid attention?
HACKETT: I was a very young lifestyle reporter writing a story about the psychological impact of his divorce with Ivana Trump.
I called some shrinks. And then at the last minute, I thought, let me call his office and see what happens, having no expectation that he would take part in this. His secretary got on the phone and said he was busy. I left my number. Five, 10 seconds later, he called back and said, "Larry, Donald Trump."
And I had a conversation with Donald Trump about the psychological impact on others of his divorce. That tells you all you need to know about the way Donald Trump was.
He worked the New York City tabloids. He was an operating system for the New York City tabloids back in the '80s and '90s. It was his basic training. It was exhibition baseball. He knew how to work them, how to take part in them.
STELTER: Work them, meaning create storylines that were too good to resist?
HACKETT: He was irresistible. He was wealthy, he was good-looking, he had an incredible personal life. He got divorced.
Look at all these photographs and then "People" magazine and other magazines took part in this. What took place then was the creation of the Trump persona. That begat "The Apprentice," which begat this presidential campaign.
He formed this. This was chiseled back in the '80s. And it worked for him. He knew how to use it. He got very well-trained on it and that's how we ended up where we are now.
STELTER: Which is perhaps why he says yes to so many interviews again now in this presidential campaign.
STELTER: He knows the value of those interviewers.
HACKETT: There was no reporter at a New York City newspaper who didn't get a call back from Donald Trump in the '80s and '90s. He knew how to work that. He knew that there was a symbiotic relationship.
He knew he made headlines and he knew it made him famous and it got -- both sides got what they wanted.
STELTER: And that's fundamentally either the argument in favor or against coverage of Trump. Right? There's a symbiotic relationship.
STELTER: And that makes some people happy and some people very frustrated.
HACKETT: That's right.
Look, I remember being at "The Daily News" and Pete Hamill, when he was editor, once after a meeting threw up his hands and said, I want a moratorium on Donald Trump.
HACKETT: And all the city editors looked kind of squeamish and thought, I'm not sure that's a good idea, because this guy get headlines and sells newspapers.
STELTER: What year was that, do you think?
HACKETT: That was 1997.
STELTER: I had a producer here say that to me in 2014. It was way before he actually entered the race. But it was Trump once again flirting with politics and we just thought this has happened so many times. Let's not take it seriously this time.
HACKETT: Listen, the issue back then was, you were talking mostly about his personal life and abortions and his divorces and his girlfriends. Right? We were not talking about affairs of state or abortion or nuclear weapons.
So, the New York City tabloids love a good headline, and in many ways, despite what people think, they're not terribly judgmental. They think the readers will make the judgment. They don't tell them what to think.
We all thought that on many levels Trump was ridiculous. We assumed the public did too. He was certainly entertaining and polarizing. But, again, the issues were not as high-stakes as they are now.
STELTER: Ivana Trump, one of his ex-wives, is on the cover of "The New York Post" on this morning. The headline is "Best Ex I Ever Had." It's her interview all about how much she supports his candidacy.
HACKETT: Well, and there's a New York City tabloid falling back to type, right? It worked in the 1980s. Maybe it will work again.
STELTER: Right. I do wonder if he benefits more when he's on tabloid terrain. And I
don't mean tabloid in a derogatory sense, but this morning in "The New York Times" he admits to Maureen Dowd that he regrets that retweet, an image of Heidi Cruz that was insulting.
Of course he's saying that weeks after the fact. He generated a lot of attention from that retweet, very much a tabloid-friendly story.
HACKETT: Right. It is a very tabloid-friendly story.
I tend to think what happened last week with Anderson and Chris Matthews and others, he will not make that mistake again. He will not put himself in a situation where he has to answer...
HACKETT: I just don't think so.
I think what those guys did last week, which was great, was they kind of adopted tabloidy tactics. They called him out on it. It was a different vernacular. It wasn't the kind of ordinary, very formal questioning of a presidential candidate. They were tough. They were almost kind of street-fighting with him. And it didn't work out for him in that venue.
He will do that on the telephone. But do I see him sitting down one on one with a Katie Couric or someone like that? It might be tough.
STELTER: I do know the Trump campaign has many invitations, many town hall invitations, I'm told. We will see if he accepts them.
Larry, great to see you.
HACKETT: And good to see you.
STELTER: Thanks for being here.
HACKETT: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: Up next on RELIABLE SOURCES: The president critiques the press. He's doing my job for an evening. And is the messenger or the message, is that what's sticking in a lot of reporters craws?
We're going to talk about it and get to the bottom of it right after this.
STELTER: President Obama is not the best person to deliver a sustained critique of today's news media.
His administration has stymied journalists' attempt to gain access to government documents. His Justice Department has pursued leakers and whistle-blowers. And his own P.R. team has adapted to this entertaining, hyperactive age by booking the president on with Jimmy Fallon on late-night shows and on YouTube series.
So, no, he is not the best messenger. But that does not automatically discredit his message. In his final year in office, the president wanted to speak at length about the press' role in America.
So, this week, he attended the annual Toner Prize dinner and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And let's face it.
In today's unprecedented change in your industry, the job has gotten tougher. Even as the appetite for information and data flowing through the Internet is voracious, we've seen newsrooms closed. The bottom line has shrunk. The news cycle has as well.
And all too often, there is enormous pressure on journalists to fill the void and feed the beast with instant commentary and Twitter rumors, and celebrity gossip, and softer stories. And then we fail to understand our world or understand one another as well as we should. That has consequences for our lives and for the life of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Consequences for the country.
He's drawing a straight line from your media diet to our democracy.
Obama said media companies must not dumb down the news in search of profits. And he seemed to critique Donald Trump coverage very specifically.
A White House aid tells me this next passage is something that was very important to the president, something he very much wanted to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more. The electorate would be better served if that happened. It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can't keep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Many journalists are digging deeper every day, are demanding more.
And, no, Obama is not the best messenger on this. But if I had said the exact same words, wouldn't you find yourself nodding your head in agreement? Journalism is not just about handing over the microphone. It's about what you do the mic. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
STELTER: And finally this morning: If you like the FX series "The People vs. O.J. Simpson," you are going to love our weekly podcast.
It's called "Toobin Talking O.J." Jeffrey Toobin separates O.J. fact from fiction every week leading up to the finale this Tuesday. You can download it at CNNMoney.com/media.
I'm all out of time today.