Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

How Trump is Dividing the Murdoch Empire; Exclusive: Michelle Fields Speaks Out; Interview with "Dean of Moderators" Jim Lehrer; Top Reporter Resigns from "New York Observer"; The Role of Social Media in the Election; Tension High in Democratic Primary. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 17, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:06] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter, and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This week from the Newseum, the museum of news and journalism here in Washington, D.C.

We're going to show you some of the coolest artifacts here at the museum and also a brand new CNN exhibit about the social election, with new data about the real state of the presidential race.

And ahead this hour, former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields speaking out about Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. An exclusive interview about the battery charge and the media backlash against her.

Plus, the dean of debate moderators, the anchor of the PBS NewsHour for nearly four decades, Jim Lehrer, is here, sharing what he would ask the candidates this time.

And we're going inside the Trump family's newspaper. One reporter quitting "The New York Observer" this week saying he's deeply troubled by the family tie. Hear his story later this hour.

But, up first, Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump, and the divide in conservative media on full display in Murdoch world. Is media mogul Rupert Murdoch warming up to Trump? And if so, what are the consequences of that?

You probably heard that this week, Megyn Kelly, one of Trump's famous foes, slipped into Trump Tower for an hour long meeting, just the two of them, leaving everyone else wondering if these were peace talks. Now, Kelly wants Trump to stop attacking her and wants something else too, a big prime time sit-down interview.

Now, as of this morning, I'm told, there's no commitment from Trump. But Kelly has time. She has a primetime special on the FOX broadcasting network exactly one month from today. So, we'll see what happens.

But the conservative media split over Trump is real. In fact, you can even hear it in this next clip. This is from the day of the meeting with Kelly. This is when fellow FOX News host Sean Hannity brought it up to Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You met with Megyn Kelly today. How did that go?

(BOOS)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, she called last week and they set up a meeting. They said, "Could we come up?" I said, "Would you come to Trump Tower?", because I didn't any confusion. And she did and she was very, very nice and we had a meeting and she was very nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Megyn Kelly being booed on FOX. These are strange times we're living in.

Now, Trump did calm the audience down and he said the interview might happen. So, we'll see.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Murdoch's house, this week, "The New York Post" endorsed Trump for president. That's a big change from last summer when the paper said Trump was toast and printed this "Don Voyage" cover.

Now, another Murdoch owned paper, 'The Wall Street Journal" has been more skeptical of Trump and continues to be. But he did have an op-ed in the paper this week.

So, what is this divide tell us about the media ecosystem?

Joining me here at the Newseum, three experts. Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Michael Oreskes is head of news at NPR. And Jane Hall, an associate professor of communications at American University.

Thank you all for being here with us.

Frank, let's start with that video of Trump and Hannity. You said the body language and behavior is really noteworthy and reveals something about FOX.

FRANK SESNO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It reveals something about FOX, it reveals something about Trump.

First of all, there he is again -- yet again playing the media like a fiddle. Boos comes up, he hangs back, he doesn't say, no, no, stop, he doesn't put his hand up. He doesn't say anything. He lets that play because he continues to dominate the media narrative.

On the other hand, Hannity, he doesn't say, stop, that's my colleague either. Answer the question please.

So, this kind of very strange and tension filled relationship between Trump as media maestro and using the media as a foil continues even when it's conservative media.

STELTER: Jane, you used to work at FOX. You were a contributor to their media criticism show for many years. What do you think is going on with Megyn Kelly at that network?

JANE HALL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF COMMUNICATION, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think Megyn Kelly is considering leaving FOX News and I think she wants to make the leap. Potentially, she may also say and she's under her contract, she's not supposed to be talking to other people, but she wants -- she's indicated on "Charlie Rose" that she might be interested in a different kind of program.

She, I think from what I know of her, she has not been happy about being attacked by Trump and yet she now wants to do a Barbara Walters type special.

STELTER: Right.

HALL: I think you do see the split. Hannity has been unrelenting in his support. She has been quoted as saying she was upset with Bill O'Reilly for not coming to her defense.

STELTER: Right.

HALL: I actually think FOX has probably suffered for defending Megyn Kelly.

STELTER: Oh, that's very interesting.

HALL: As a journalist, I think with their base, they have lost some oxygen.

STELTER: There's such a complicated dynamic here because Megyn Kelly benefits tremendously from Bill O'Reilly. Thanks to him, she has the best lead in cable news, 500,000 viewers, just in the demo every night. And yet, at the same time, she had said she wishes O'Reilly would speak up in her defense. So, there's something there at play.

It seems to me she's doing genuine soul-searching about what she wants to do next. She's giving this interview and saying she might leave FOX, really kind of thinking out loud about what she might do.

[11:05:02] HALL: Well, I think so too. You know, having mean her when I was on FOX, I mean, she is a journalist and she has always been somebody who was interested in the story. I mean, even when she was attacked vociferously by him, I think she has tried not to react in kind. And so, you know, she -- and yet at the same time, she -- I would assume she's savvy enough to know an interview with him would be quiet an interview on FOX.

STELTER: And, of course, if she gets the interview and it happens months from now on FOX broadcasting network and it gets a huge rating, it would help her leverage in her negotiations about whether she stayed to FOX or not. So, keep that in mind this goes along.

Michael, tell us why Murdoch matters, why his endorsements matter, why his vote matters. Because this week, our CNN media reporter Tom Kludt reported that Murdoch and Trump have been talking. They've had some meetings. They've had some phone calls.

It seems like Murdoch has been warming up to Trump and that is matter -- that is significant because of what Murdoch owns, right?

MICHAEL ORESKES, NPR HEAD OF NEWS: Yes, although how much it matters depends a little bit on how much Mr. Murdoch decides to mobilize all of his assets together, which he might or not might decide to do.

One of the great things about this situation, the framers, when they wrote the First Amendment, envisioned the cacophony of voices. Now, we have a cacophony of voices just within Murdoch's empire.

STELTER: Right, right.

ORESKES: So, it's really working in that sense.

STELTER: Let me show a tweet on screen from Bill Kristol, the editor of "The Weekly Standard", famous conservative commentator, formerly actually on FOX. He said this about Murdoch, "I said I owe a lot to Rupert Murdoch. But the normalization of Trump by FOX and 'The New York Post' and 'The Wall Street Journal' is a disservice to his legacy and the country he loves."

Now, that to me in 140 characters is the divide in conservative media writ large.

Kristol, of course, vehemently anti-Trump and he feels that people like Murdoch have normalized Trump.

SESNO: And this is why Megyn Kelly's role is so important and Jane and I disagree with you a little bit. I think Megyn Kelly may want to stay at FOX.

HALL: She wants to have both options.

SESNO: I'm watching her and I'm watching this thing play out and I feel like I'm watching the news version of "House of Cards", OK?

STELTER: Tell us about that.

SESNO: Well, she goes on with "Colbert", for example, and very coyly reminds the audience that when she's on the air --

STELTER: At 9:00.

SESNO: At 9:00, the person before her, O'Reilly, the person after her, Hannity, those are both taped shows, but she's live and that makes it a little bit better. Her numbers are doing very, very well in the demographics. She's been on for about a year now and she's really brought a new life and presence and credibility to FOX.

And this also provides interesting --

(CROSSTALK) HALL: I didn't mean to say that I think she's going to leave. I think she is pursuing publicly and she's answering honestly.

SESNO: Or angling to leave. And this is why I'm watching this. Oh, here's Claire Underwood. She's at work. It's pretty good.

HALL: You know, but it's so interesting what you said. I mean, Charles Krauthammer is on with Bill O'Reilly and O'Reilly says, "What gives about this?" Krauthammer has said, anybody who is a true conservative is not in favor of Donald Trump. Now you see people thinking that maybe Trump is going to do well and so, is he malleable, you know? And you got -- as you say, there's a split between people who think it's a disservice to the country for Murdoch to back him and people who say, well, we can influence him.

ORESKES: There's another split here that Frank touched, which is I think -- in a way, the most important to us as journalist.

STELTER: Yes.

ORESKES: By mentioning credibility, you touch on it. There's a split between journalism and political advocacy. Megyn Kelly is a journalist. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

She's quite a good journalist and she represents -- she recognized that her role is not to endorse or favor or advocate for a candidate. It's to press them journalistically. Other players across in FOX and frankly across the cable TV spectrum aren't really acting journalistically. They're acting as decision makers, as advocates, as people who can influence the election.

STELTER: Hannity is giving Trump a friendly outlet.

ORESKES: Yes, that's not a journalistic role.

SESNO: And this is what's really interesting about this, this is the challenge for FOX. There is a legitimate and real and serious, as you saw from that tweet, discussion debate within conservatism about where this party and this movement is going to go. And so, how FOX chooses to join that debate and pursue that debate is also a marker for them.

STELTER: That's the story, isn't it? I'm curious to see how Kelly if at all changes her tone about Trump in the next month, as she's seeking this interview, because one of the questions I think we all wonder, and we all ask as we watch these interviews of Trump on any channel is, how much are these interviewers trying to treat Trump in a way that's gentle in order to get him to come back.

Now, I think Hannity is an example of that. Hannity has had him on many, many times and is a very soft interviewer because that's what an advocacy show. Interviewers on CNN and NBC and elsewhere had been much tougher on Trump. So, we'll see with Kelly, what her tone is.

Let's turn to another interesting development, in the Trump media strategy, because this is the second Sunday that he's not appeared on any Sunday morning shows. We're sort of noticing what's not happening here.

So, Frank, why do you think he's choosing not to be on any of the shows for a second week in a row?

SESNO: They're not so much fun anymore. He's getting hammered.

There have been at least try distinct narratives, media narratives I think in the Trump trajectory. First, he was a novelty. Oh, have him on, it's fun. You know, he'll say anything.

Next, he's the insurgent. She's taking people on and takes a different form.

[11:10:02] And now, in really since -- some ways since Super Tuesday, he's real, he doesn't know what he's talking about, he contradicts himself, he makes mistakes, and that's when the journalist and the anchors go at him hard. And when they go at him hard and force him to make mistakes like he did with Chris Matthews, it's embarrassing and Donald Trump doesn't like to be embarrassed.

So, he's finding these rules, whether in state conventions or in media, actually sometimes apply to him.

STELTER: Maybe running out the clock before the New York primary as well. We should point out, Michael, NPR, your organization, hasn't had an interview with Trump. You all talk about this on the air this week. He's chosen not to be interviewed by public radio, even though all the other candidates have.

Do you have a theory on why?

ORESKES: I don't really know -- so, to be clear.

STELTER: You want publicly to perhaps persuade him. Tell us.

ORESKES: You know, he's more than welcome to come on NPR. We would be delighted to interview under the same terms we've interviewed every other candidate, including Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz and several of the other Republicans before they drop out. We won't make any special rules for him but we will let him come on and be interviewed by one of our political hosts, as anyone else would be.

STELTER: It's good to notice what he's not doing, when he does do so much press, Jane.

HALL: You know, I think regarding the Sunday shows , you know, he -- maybe he's getting advice that he may be trying to retool and maybe he's going to have surrogates out there. You know, maybe he's trying to figure out how to win the delegates. He, clearly, I think is trying -- if he's smart, he's trying to figure out how to play the delegate game that Cruz already knows how to play. So, I don't see what he has to gain if I were advising him right before the primary.

STELTER: By the way --

HALL: So, I would probably tell him to stay off. STELTER: With two days until the primary, he's out in State Island in New York this morning, and we can show a live picture I think of an event where he's going to be having later in the hour. We're not actually sure if he's going to take questions or not. So, to this point, I'm not sure if he's going to answer questions from journalists at that point.

Frank, Jane, Michael, please stick around. We want to have you back later in the hour here.

Coming up next, talking about Trump and press conferences, this video is played on a loop. It's Trump campaign manager's grabbing a reporter's arm after a Trump press conference. Now, the campaign manager is not apologizing and she is considering a defamation suit against them.

Michelle Fields, the reporter, is here after an exclusive interview, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:02] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

In a moment, Michelle Fields will join me for an exclusive interview. But first, let me remind you why she is a household name. Six weeks ago, Fields attended a Trump press conference for her employer, the Trump friendly website, Breitbart News.

Afterwards, she approached Trump and tried to ask a question. And that's when Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her arm. She didn't say anything about this right away, but her boyfriend tweeted about it that night, calling Lewandowski a thug.

This incident became politicized. At first, Lewandowski denied touching her. Trump said he thought Fields made it up. His campaign called her an attention seeker.

Then after all of that, she went to the police, asking for an investigation and the authorities used the security cameras in Trump's building to confirm that Lewandowski did touch her. Police said there was probable cause to charge Lewandowski with misdemeanor battery. This week, however, local prosecutors dropped the charge. They said the campaign manager might have been protecting Trump from the reporter.

Keep in mind here, Fields no longer works for Breitbart. She resigned, saying that she did not -- the website did not do enough to support her. Now, some Trump fans say he attacked her viciously.

Now, members of the media have doubts about her story as well. This is what Mika Brzezinski said earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: I think women have a responsibility to make sure --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't comment.

(CROSSTALK)

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, that we bring to the table valuable credibility and that we don't -- I think something really -- something that is sort of hard to talk about happened here. And I'm not going to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to get --

BRZEZINSKI: -- push it forward and lead to any more problems, but this was a joke from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Well, Michelle Fields is joining me now here in Washington for her first TV interview since the charges were dropped.

Michelle, I want to ask you about Mike Brzezinski's comment, the idea this was a joke. Was this a joke to you?

MICHELLE FIELDS, FORMER REPORTER, BREITBART: Well, I do think that this shouldn't been such a huge story. If I had just received an apology as I was told I was going to receive, which is why I was quite the first two days.

This wouldn't have been such a huge story. The reason why it's such a huge story is because Corey lied. Donald Trump lied. They defamed me. And they went on this huge smear campaign against me.

And I think it sheds light on the character of the campaign and I think a lot of people were surprised by their blatant lies about me. That's why it became a huge story. It's the defamation, not so much the arm -- the grabbing of the arm.

STELTER: So, you're saying the grabbing of the arm is not the big story. The big story is what happened after.

FIELDS: No.

STELTER: Let me ask you about the incident, though, so we have the details right. According to the prosecutor this week, you went around sort of trying to get access to Trump suggests you were working your way around the area the press was supposed to be in.

Do you feel you did anything wrong trying to get access to the candidate that night?

FIELDS: You know, I think the prosecutors decision, the way that they handled this entire situation was very unprofessional. The idea for --

STELTER: But were you wrong to be trying to get to Trump that night?

FIELDS: Of course, not. No. They create this like bubble -- STELTER: And then they say that you brushed him first.

FIELDS: -- which is Katy Tur from NBC, who is an embed for the Donald Trump campaign, even said that this bubble thing is ridiculous. And I went and violated Donald Trump's bubble.

And then, you know, the prosecutor went and got information. They didn't even go to get an independent source and said their independent source was a source, an expert that the Corey camp gave to them. I mean, the entire situation just seems a little sketchy.

STELTER: So, you feel it did -- it was not handled fairly by the prosecutors' office.

FIELDS: Well, I just don't agree with obviously their decision. You know, they talked about how, oh, Trump is lifting his arm. Therefore, I must have touched him.

[11:20:00] I didn't touch Trump. I didn't grab him. The reason why he was lifting his arm was because he was getting a pen out of his jacket.

And, you know, I think a lot of it is just really weird. You look at the prosecutors and his wife's social media. They are at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's resort all of the time.

You look at the prosecutor's wife owns a PR firm. You look at the PR firm's website and she talks about why you should work with her PR firm because she has lots of great working relationships, and the first picture is her and Donald Trump and Melania and Donald -- and her and Melania Trump.

You know, I can't speak for anyone else, but if I was a prosecutor and my wife was trying to monetize her relationship with Donald Trump and it's right there on her website, and I'm partying all the time at Mar- a-Lago, I would recuse myself from the situation in the case.

STELTER: I hear what you're saying, but I want to go back to the night of this incident, because afterwards, you said that you were jolted, quote, grabbed tightly by the arm. Quote, "I almost fell to the ground but was able to maintain my balance, but I was shaken."

People want to know if you somehow exaggerated that story by suggesting you almost fell to the ground.

FIELDS: Well, after this had all happened, I was told to write something up of what -- of what happened.

STELTER: Did you overstate it?

FIELDS: That's what I felt. You know, I walked up to him with a cell phone, pen and notebook in my hand. And I was going up to him and felt someone pull me back.

I'm in high heels. I'm not expecting anyone to yank me. That is how I felt. And if you listen to the audio, that was my reaction right afterwards.

Ben Terris who --

STELTER: You felt you were pulled to the ground. The video doesn't show that.

FIELDS: I -- no, no, I wasn't pulled -- I never said I was pulled and I hit the ground. I said I was yanked towards -- like towards the ground, that's what I felt. And if you hear the audio, that was Ben Terris reaction as well, who the prosecutors also did not interview.

STELTER: OK. Let me ask you then about the next step. The other criticism I've read about the situation is that, you went to the press before going to the police. That you spoke out about it before going to the police and asking for an investigation. Why is that?

FIELDS: Well, I never wanted to go to the police. That was not -- I did not want to blow this up. I was told I was going to get an apology. I never heard from Corey.

STELTER: Let's talk about not hearing from Corey. Let me play a sound bite of what Corey Lewandowski said on CNN's "NEW DAY" about that the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, DONALD TRUMP'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That evening after I read her boyfriend's Twitter account saying that something had occurred, I made a phone call to Michelle and never heard back. And to this day, I've never heard back from Michelle.

So, it's not that we didn't try and reach out to get to the bottom of it. It seems to be that she wanted to inject herself into making it a story and now I'm glad the story is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: He says the phone log show that he made a call that night. Did you receive a call?

FIELDS: I did not hear from him, no. I did not get a call from my knowledge.

STELTER: He did not leave a message?

FIELDS: There was no voice mail, there was no text, there was no e- mail following up to try to communicate.

STELTER: If he had apologized that night, you're saying we wouldn't be talking about this at all today?

FIELDS: Of course, that's why I stayed quiet in the beginning, because I was told from my editor that I was going to receive an apology. So, I didn't want this to blow up.

I didn't do interviews. I was getting tons of requests. I stayed quiet, because I didn't want this to become a story.

The only reason I went to the police is because Donald Trump was saying I was making it up, he was questioning the bruises. Katrina Pierson, the spokesperson for Donald Trump, was going on TV and saying, well, if this really happened, why didn't she go to police? She should go to the police if this really happened and was saying that this didn't happen.

So, I felt they forced me to. I had no choice. I had to go get my bruises documented, show the police that, yes, in fact, this did happen. They were saying that I put make up on my arm, that they weren't real bruises. I had to bring someone objected into the situation to take down the facts.

STELTER: Will you file a defamation suit now against Lewandowski or the Trump campaign?

FIELDS: I'm not going to rule it out. Do I think that they defamed me? Absolutely.

Corey said that he hadn't met me. He had never touched me. We know that that's a lie.

Donald Trump after this happened, he said that the Secret Service told him nothing happened. Weeks later, Donald Trump says that the Secret Service said that I was grabbing at him.

STELTER: There were certainly contradictions in the Trump's reaction to this.

FIELDS: And I think there's a reason why. I think they were trying to defame me and I think it shows malice.

STELTER: You quit Breitbart. You said the site didn't support you effectively. What will you do next?

FIELDS: You know, I'm taking it day by day. This has been crazy. It has not been a fun experience. I had to move out of my apartment because FOX News accidentally published my address. And now, we're dealing with --

STELTER: This was a court document that they uploaded to the website.

FIELDS: Yes, and they didn't redact my information.

STELTER: So, you're not even living in your own home now.

FIELDS: No, I had to leave. And the D.C. police have been incredible and working on hopefully getting some of these very serious threats handled.

STELTER: You know, I was watching HBO's documentary not documentary -- HBO's movie confirmation about the Anita Hill case last night. There's a quote in it. Kerry Washington played Anita Hill. She says, "When someone comes toward, the victim tends to become the villain."

Do you feel that's what happened to you?

FIELDS: I think that the Trump campaign tried to paint me as a villain. But I think there's a lot of smart people in America that see right through this and they see that they defamed me. And they're noticing this -- in the conservative movement, I think, it's also becoming apparent that there are people who are providing favorable coverage to Trump in order to maintain access and kind of helping him.

[11:25:11] And there are others who realize the truth of Trump and realize the truth about the situation and are trying to shed light on it.

STELTER: Does that mean you think you'd be blacklisted by a Trump White House?

(LAUGHTER)

FIELDS: I certainly I would not be invited, I don't think so. I would at least like an apology from the Trump campaign before I would even consider going to a Trump White House. But --

STELTER: And I've heard Trump supporters say, you should apologize to Lewandowski, for dragging him through this. What do you say to them?

FIELDS: It's laughable. He grabbed me. He denied it. He defamed me.

And if anything, he should provide an apology. But, you know, this is a man, as "Politico" reported, threatened to blow up the car of his former boss. I don't think I'm going to get an apology anytime soon, but it would be nice.

STELTER: Michelle, thank you for being here.

FIELDS: Thank you.

STELTER: Thank you.

When we come back here in RELIABLE SOURCES, live at the Newseum in Washington D.C. who better to talk to about this, in the shrine of news than one of the most influential journalist of our lifetimes. Jim Lehrer will join me right after the break.

And later this hour, wouldn't you like to cover politics at a newspaper owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law. Hear from one reporter who decided he couldn't do it anymore, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:35]

STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES, live from the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Jim Lehrer

The walls of this museum show the history of media, including this image of my next guest, Jim Lehrer.

He's a journalism legend dubbed the dean of presidential debate moderators for moderating 12 of them over the years. He led the "PBS NewsHour" for nearly 40 years. And, lately, he's expressed frustration and concern about the state of our media and civil discourse.

He's here this morning to tell me why.

Jim, thank you so much for being on this morning.

JIM LEHRER, FORMER HOST, "THE NEWSHOUR": Delighted to be here, Brian. Thank you.

STELTER: You know, you have watched a lot of the primary season debates. And I'm curious for your reaction to them. You know, a lot has been made of the crowd, of the audience.

This week at CNN's Democratic debate, even though the audience members were told no booing, there was a lot of hooting and hollering and booing. What do you think about that dynamic? Should there be audiences at these debates?

LEHRER: I think it's all right for the audiences to be there, but they should shut up. They should not be allowed to participate. They should not be part of the debate.

The debate should be among the candidates. And if you have -- if you allow reaction from the audience, that becomes a part of the debate itself. And that's not what the debate should be about. In the fall debates, the general election debates, there's absolute silence from the audience.

And that's enforced by the moderators, et cetera, et cetera. And that's the way it ought to be, frankly, in the primary debates.

STELTER: Yes, I was at the one in Brooklyn. And the D.C. bureau chief, Sam Feist, came up beforehand and he told the audience, let's have the debate on the stage, not in the audience.

But then, of course, some of the supporters were not heeding that request.

LEHRER: Sure.

STELTER: What do you think are the most important questions that need to be asked in the fall debates? Because, as for now, there are no more primary debates scheduled. That one on Thursday might have been it.

What do you think are the most important topics that need to be put to either Clinton or Trump or Sanders or whoever is on that stage in the fall?

LEHRER: Well, there's -- it's impossible at this point to be specific about what the questions should be. But it would -- it's not impossible to say the kinds of questions.

They should all be about what the difference is between candidate A and candidate B on the things that matter. What would you do, Billy Bob, if you are elected president, compared with what he would do or she would do, Sammy Sue, or whatever?

In other words, it should be about the differences over issues, over what they would do as president of the United States. And by the time you get to the fall debates, all the other issues, all the other things, all the periphery things, should be off the table, and having been disposed of.

And what will remain is -- remember, these debates are for the audience. They are for the people who are going to make the decision, going to vote. And what they want to know is why I should vote for this person, rather than that person. And anything that affects that should -- is fair game, obviously.

STELTER: When you say things on the periphery should be disposed of by then, what are you talking about, some of the sideshow stories of this election?

LEHRER: Sideshow stories. Exactly right.

STELTER: Like what?

LEHRER: Well, the one that you -- some of the things that you just talked about that are sideshow now that are not going to be part of the fall debate, unless...

STELTER: You don't think so?

LEHRER: Well, there could be.

STELTER: I think a lot of people have said, oh, this election is like nothing we have ever seen before because of the Donald Trump influence on the election.

But you have seen a lot of elections. Is this new -- is what he's brought to politics, whether you call it a crassness or a bluntness, is it really new in politics?

LEHRER: It's new. The coarseness of language is certainly new. The rudeness between and among the candidates is certainly rude.

There's always been a little bit of rudeness. There's always been a little bit of coarseness. This particular round of primary -- primary discourses, whether they were in debates or whether they were in interviews or town halls or whatever, has been even more so.

They are adversarial operations. So, there is going to be -- and you want differences. It's about differences. But how you express the differences -- in our democratic society, one of the underpinnings of our democratic society is civil discourse, civil disagreement.

I disagree with what you say. I disagree with what you stand for, Brian, but you're an OK human being, and I don't hate you for that, and I don't disparage you, and I don't insult you.

And, unfortunately, that line has been drawn, has been -- has been not only -- the line was drawn, but the line has been passed over and...

STELTER: It's been erased.

LEHRER: It's been erased.

(LAUGHTER)

LEHRER: It's been erased. Right.

[11:35:05]

STELTER: So, what do you wish were different in this election cycle? A lot of journalists watch this program. What do you wish they were doing differently?

LEHRER: Well, the -- here's the problem, as I see it.

And keep in mind that my view is no different than -- is no more special than anybody else's. But when you're covering the coarseness of a campaign, in other words, some of the nasty things that people say about one another, that eats up time that would have otherwise gone to covering the differences in what to do about ISIS, the difference what to do about the wage disparities in this country, the unemployment, all the issues that -- health care, all the things that really matter to people.

And you -- even if you have got a 24-hour, 24/7 news network, you -- even then, you can't cover everything. And if so much of the time is devoted to these other things, then those issues get lost in the shuffle, because there's just not enough time.

STELTER: So, what news do you seek out? What -- what programs do you watch? What do you read?

LEHRER: Oh, I watch the "PBS NewsHour" first and...

STELTER: I thought you would say that.

(LAUGHTER)

LEHRER: ... first and foremost.

And I follow -- I follow the daily newspapers. And I watch CNN a lot, and I watch MSNBC a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: A well-rounded news diet, huh?

LEHRER: Yes, yes -- then coverage.

This election -- these elections have changed. And there are so many events, not only debates, but town halls and interviews and all kinds of things. There's a lot of stuff to watch. And I don't watch all of it, but I am very interested.

And, as I have -- I have been involved professionally in all this for years. But I'm still, as a -- even though I'm not anymore, I'm still interested in all of it. So, I follow all of it.

And -- but I'm interested in -- I'm interested in the difference in the way these -- there's -- the on-the-other-hand part of my problem with what's going on is that you do get a feel for these people as individuals. And that is also part of the debate process.

Even whether you're talking about something lousy, a lousy subject or an irrelevant subject, you do find out something about these people. And that's part of the judgment. And that's true in a very -- they could be talking about nuclear proliferation for 30 minutes or an hour, and you could also learn about the personality of the person, and even though you're talking about a serious subject.

And that is relevant...

STELTER: It sure is.

LEHRER: ... because people want to know if they can see this person as president of the United States and all the qualities.

STELTER: Can you see all five of them as president?

LEHRER: All the five of the current candidates?

STELTER: Yes.

LEHRER: I can -- I could imagine them as president of the United States.

I can imagine anybody as president of the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

LEHRER: So, that's not a big deal.

STELTER: Fair enough.

Jim, great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.

LEHRER: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Appreciate it.

Coming up next here: Donald Trump says the media is dishonest and disgusting. So, did you know members of his own family are actually in the newspaper business? We will see what it's like to work there right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:21] STELTER: Welcome back. We are live here from the Newseum in

Washington, D.C., where the front pages from all 50 states are aligned out line.

This week, "The New York Observer" made headlines after it endorsed Donald Trump for president. The reason why that is notable is because the newspaper is owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The editorial included this caveat: "Donald Trump is the father-in-law of 'The Observer''s publisher. That is not a reason to endorse him. But giving millions of disillusioned Americans a renewed sense of purpose and opportunity is a reason."

Now, the day after that endorsement was published, one of the paper's top political reporters announced he was resigning.

His name is Ross Barkan. And he joins me now from New York.

So, Ross, you were the national political reporter there. You're leaving in two weeks. Why did you decide to resign from "The Observer"?

ROSS BARKAN, "THE NEW YORK OBSERVER": Well, Brian, it was a confluence of factors.

One factor obviously was the endorsement. I expected our newspaper, given our deep ties, or assumed, naively, that we would perhaps remain neutral. I was blindsided by the endorsement. But really a bigger issue which maybe got lost in the shuffle a bit was the fact that it was reported that our editor in chief had a role advising Donald Trump before he delivered a speech in front of the AIPAC conference last month.

And for me...

STELTER: Right, that he was looking at the draft of the speech.

And he has said he will not do that again. "The Observer" has said that the staff is free to report on Trump. Do you not believe that the handcuffs are off, and that you all are allowed to cover Trump like any other candidate?

BARKAN: I would like to believe that I am, and I want to believe the organization.

I have a lot of respect for the organization. I just felt my position was becoming untenable. And it was time for me to go. I think "The Observer" probably still can cover national politics and do it well. But given what had happened, for me personally, a line had been crossed, and I thought it was time for myself to depart.

STELTER: Do you expect other staffers to leave as well, other political reporters and editors?

BARKAN: I don't want to speak for them. It will be their personal decision. I know it's been a trying month, a trying few months at "The

Observer." At the same time, that's their decision, and I will let them announce it when they're good and ready.

STELTER: It sure is a complex ethical question. You don't have a next job lined up, do you? So, this has been tough for you personally, hasn't it?

BARKAN: It's been a little difficult.

Certainly, I don't have a job lined up right now. There's been a little interest, but nothing -- nothing set in stone. And I don't know where I'm going next. So, financially, sure, it's not the best thing.

At the same time, I have gotten a lot of support from this. So, I can't say it's been horrendous. It's been a very interesting few days. I will put it that way.

STELTER: I bet it has, if nothing else, a reminder to pay attention to who owns the media you're reading and watching.

[11:45:10]

Ross, thank you so much for being here.

BARKAN: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: Up next on RELIABLE SOURCES, we're here at the Newseum.

We're going to look at who is winning the social media election right behind me on this wall, fascinating data, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:49:30]

STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES at the Newseum, where CNN has a brand-new exhibit here called Like, Share, Elect.

It's all about the social media election. And the screens behind me show all the social media chatter about the candidates. Now, the biggest spikes are for Donald Trump. He's harnessed Twitter and Facebook to get out the vote, but also to get reporters talking about him, to get in the news and stay in the news.

But Josh Ginsberg, the CEO of a company called Zignal Labs that crunches all this data, says Trump is actually not the only candidate who is standing out online.

[11:50:01]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH GINSBERG, CEO, ZIGNAL LABS: There's no question that Donald Trump is the leader when it comes to social media, especially in terms of volume.

But Bernie Sanders actually gives him a run for his money at certain points. You will see with our data behind us here Donald Trump is at 35 percent of share of voice this week and Bernie Sanders is at 30 percent. So, he's catching up.

STELTER: So, that means that people are talking about Sanders pretty much as much as they're talking about Trump?

GINSBERG: Yes.

And this is actually a big change we have seen. Last summer, we were seeing Trump with upwards of 60 percent of the share of voice, and now he's down to 35 percent, especially as Bernie Sanders' mentions go up.

STELTER: There's a screen here at the exhibit that shows emojis about the candidates. And you pointed out to me the emojis about Bernie Sanders are different. How so?

GINSBERG: Well, they have a big flame in the middle of them.

So, the larger the emoji, the more it's being talked about.

STELTER: And that's feel the Bern, of course?

GINSBERG: That's the feel the Bern.

And for Donald Trump, it's a big train because everyone who is talking about getting on the Trump train there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: I thought that was very interesting over there, that observation about emojis.

I didn't even know what they were until a couple of years ago. And now these little symbols can be used as campaign slogans.

But a concept like using the fire emoji to support Sanders is not something the campaign comes up with. It's something his supporters do organically. I think that's why it's so important.

Now, there's another set of screens here at the exhibit that provide a sort of reality check to all the campaign coverage we consume every day. Nowadays, there are companies that predict the results of elections. And one of those firms, Pivit, says the Democrats have so many structural advantages this year that the Democratic nominee is the overwhelming favorite to be president.

Here is how Pivit co-founder Jason Finch explained it to me.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: So, your data contradicts a lot of what we think we know about politics. According to the Pivit data, Hillary Clinton has more than a 70 percent of being the next president. JASON FINCH, CEO, PIVIT: Right.

STELTER: Donald Trump has a much, much smaller chance. Why is that? Where does this data come from?

FINCH: The data, we look at a lot of polling data. We look at other prediction markets, betting markets.

And, you know, one of the main sources of our data is our users. We have 150,000 users who are continually giving us feedback on our own odds.

STELTER: Let's look at your predictions for the fall. You show Hillary Clinton with a -- let's find it there -- 73 percent chance to be the next president.

FINCH: Right.

STELTER: Where is Donald Trump on this list?

FINCH: He's down here in the Republican...

STELTER: So, a 14 percent chance to be the next president?

FINCH: Yes. Right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: What he's saying is, forget the horse race, or at least be really skeptical when you hear about it.

We will be right back with our panel from the Newseum right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:56:43]

STELTER: Welcome back.

We have talked a lot about the GOP this hour, but a lot of the tension this week came from the Democratic race after that very contentious debate in Brooklyn on the eve of the New York primary coming up this Tuesday.

Let's bring back our all-star panel for some final thoughts, American University's Jane Hall, NPR's Michael Oreskes, and George Washington University's Frank Sesno.

We have zoomed in on New York and the Northeast here on our magic walls.

Michael, are some of us guilty of overstating the importance of this because it's happening in the medic capital of the world, where so many journalists live?

ORESKES: Well, possibly.

On the other hand, it's New York. And there's nothing like campaigning in New York. It is just different from the rest of the country. So, for example, here we have a Texas conservative campaigning in the most Democratic district in the country, in the Bronx, because there are a handful of Republicans he can get to vote for him.

And, of course, we have a former New York senator who is actually from Illinois and a Vermont senator who is actually from Brooklyn. There's no other place that creates situations like that.

STELTER: That's right. I remember, last summer, I heard a presentation where some political director said we could see competitive primaries all the way through the spring. And I thought no way. April, May, we're not going to be talking about primaries in the spring.

But we are. This is a good thing for the press in terms of a story to cover.

SESNO: Well, it's a great story to cover, but it's also a real story.

On the Democratic side, for example, you have two people, Clinton and Sanders, both with some kind of roots, or pretended roots, in New York, and Sanders is coming off of seven wins in a row. Can he gain traction here? Can he bump her off? Can he eclipse her presumed huge victory?

This is a big question. And the issues in New York, whether it's race and policing in the city, or Upstate and agriculture, those actually resonate, if anybody is paying attention to issues, which they should be.

STELTER: Talking about Paying attention to issues, Jane, do you think endorsements have mattered in the past weeks and months?

We saw "The New York Post" endorse Trump and we saw "The New York Daily News," in a big way, endorse Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. There's been some other endorsements as well. Have they mattered? Do they matter?

HALL: I think, in New York, one of the appeals is, you have these newspapers.

STELTER: These great papers.

HALL: And I think these newspaper endorsements may matter. And, clearly, the two of them fighting it out -- I will say when they said that Trump had made rookie mistakes, I thought this is a man who planned his campaign, says he is his own adviser.

STELTER: This is "The New York Post" saying that, yes.

HALL: Yes, the "New York Post" editorial. These things matter, because the media write about the tabloid endorsements. I think they may matter to voters in New York. I don't know that they matter anywhere else.

STELTER: Right, because all this season, we have wondered, do these old-fashioned endorsements actually have any influence? But maybe New York is the one market where they do.

ORESKES: Well, and, of course, the other interesting thing is, this is the place that has had a relationship with Donald Trump since the beginning of time.

Donald Trump has been talking in New York about running for president for basically 30 years.

SESNO: And New York still is Ellis Island of politics, I think. Things do ripple out from New York.

STELTER: It's interesting.

SESNO: And we will be watching very closely to see what happens with the internals, what these numbers are, and how the media report the narrative coming out of New York.

STELTER: Right, coming out of New York.

SESNO: That's going to be interesting.

STELTER: Frank, Michael, Jane, thank you all for being here with us here on this special show at the Newseum.

HALL: Thank you.

SESNO: Thank you.

STELTER: We're wrapping up here on TV. But sign up for our newsletter, CNNMoney.com/media. It's our nightly newsletter, an e- mailed version of RELIABLE SOURCES for you, with all the day's media news.

I will see you next week.