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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Is Media to Blame for Political Polarization?; War of Words Between Trump & Washington Post; Media Frenzy Over Dem Disarray; Is Trump Overexposed or His Own Best Spokesman?; Megyn Kelly's So-Called Comeback; Remembering Morley Safer. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 22, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.
[11:00:16] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how news and pop culture really get made.
This hour, Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump making peace, but critics wanted war. We're going to analyze what happened between the two of them.
Plus, the battle of the billionaires. Trump called out by Amazon founder and "Washington Post" owner Jeff Bezos. "Post" editor Marty Baron is here.
Later, you've got to check out what former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says about Trump's communication style and the journalists who are downright horrified by it.
But first, this question: at a time when this country feels so divided, so conflicted, so polarized, how much blame should be laid at the feet of the media?
We might be able to tell the whole story of this presidential election year through a single graphic, this one. This is from this morning's "Washington Post"/ABC poll, and it's getting a lot of attention. Look at the favorable ratings for Clinton and Trump. But more importantly, look at the unfavorables -- 57 percent of Americans, according to this poll, finding both of the likely nominees to be unfavorable.
"The Post" says that never in the history of "The Post"/ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump. Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates.
Now, some of this is obviously due to mudslinging and trash-talking and truly wounded candidates, but it's not all about them. It's partly about us, the public. It's about our distrust of institutions. It's about our tendency more and more to spend time online with people only who agree with us. It's about our ability to find stories that feed into our beliefs about how evil the other side is.
So, I want to ask this question: How much responsibility do news outlets have to try to change this?
Let's bring in John Avlon, CNN political analyst and "Daily Beast" editor in chief; Jane Hall, professor at American University; and Carl Bernstein, CNN political commentator and one half of the famed Woodward-Bernstein pair.
Thank you, all, for being here.
John, let me start with you with this brand new poll. It's the latest in a series of polls that show the same thing -- historically, negative ratings. What do you think the media's blame is when it comes to these polls?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, the media has a lot to blame for the current atmosphere of polarization and hyper-partisanship. This has been going on for decades, though. It's bigger than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is just the apotheosis of the ugly.
STELTER: So, it's just getting worse and worse and worse.
AVLON: Absolutely. Look, we've had demagogues run for office before. We haven't had them necessarily capture a major party nomination.
But what's different in this environment of hyper-partisanship is the rise of partisan media over a long period of time. That's contributed to distrust in institutions, distrust in media, and further enflamed the divisions. Americans no longer assuming goodwill on the part of folks they disagree with. Media and partisan media in particular has a lot to answer for in this.
STELTER: So, we see these poll rankings. And, Jane, let me go to you on this. At the same time, the evidence is that people hate these candidates, a lot of people. We all seem to be watching this election. People seem obsess it.
Is it that we're hate watching this election the same way I hate watch reality shows? What do you think is going on here?
JANE HALL, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, I think several things are going on. I agree, you know, FOX News has been after Hillary Clinton, and the latest will be that she's going to take away your guns, which is what Trump said.
There has been a very negative, very polarized atmosphere in Congress as well as in the media, and hand in hand, they've created, I think, an atmosphere of polarization. Trump is going after Hillary.
Hillary -- you know, the media have fatigue about Hillary Clinton. I think there's, you know, asking -- polling continuously about whether she's trustworthy has added to the feeling that she's untrustworthy. That's almost like push-polling.
Carl, let me ask you about the historical perspective on all of this. Do you think things are at a sort of -- I would say right now a valley, a new low in terms of people's confidence in politicians, and that's what we're seeing in these negative rankings for these candidates?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's much deeper than that, and it has to do with the two individuals particularly and their lives and their actions. More importantly, what we're seeing is here is the worst reporting, I think, of a political campaign of the past 50 years, while, meanwhile, especially in television, we have the best analysis and debate.
But in terms of real original reporting about these candidates, it's been atrocious, particularly in the three networks and on cable television because it's been virtually nonexistent in terms of going deep. We've had no documentaries about any of the candidates. And the election primaries are over.
[11:05:01] STELTER: But don't the negatives for each of these candidates show that people are well-informed about them and that's why they don't like Trump and like Clinton?
HALL: I don't think -- excuse me, go ahead.
STELTER: Sorry, Carl, go ahead and let's get in, Jane.
BERNSTEIN: No, I don't -- look, we've had polarization in our politicians going on 35 years now. What we now have had are two candidates who are hugely well-known, plus Bernie Sanders who's not that well-known. And at the same time, on television we have not delved deeply into their lives, the arc of their lives, the arc of their business dealings, their foundation dealings, et cetera, et cetera.
We're operating in a daily news cycle vacuum 24/7 without context. It's been abdication of responsibility. There had been a Hillary documentary --
STELTER: Let me --
BERNSTEIN: -- that was going to be done, and Hillary people were able to shut it down with the producers of the documentary because they didn't want it done. We need to create our own agenda and do the reporting.
STELTER: It does bring up press access, if we're going to get into.
John, do you think this is an election where it's the lesser of two evils? I've heard some people say that. Bernie Sanders has brought it up recently.
But to me, on the one side, we have a historic female nominee of a major party. She's on the cusp of that. It would be a huge moment in November. On the flipside, a candidate who's inspired millions of people, Donald Trump, that felt disenfranchised. Is this a lesser of two evils, really? AVLON: There are always folks in every election who say it's a lesser
of two evils choice. I think here you do have two candidates who've been known in different capacities for 20, 25 years.
AVLON: If you said to someone 20 years ago that, you know, in 2016, the election was going to be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a lot of people would want to opt out of the American future if that was the case.
STELTER: Even back then, huh?
AVLON: Even back then.
But I do think, you know, that -- you know, Carl's point about a lack of investigative reporting on these two candidates I don't think is credible. You know, there has been a lot of deep reporting on these folks. The problem is we have the collective attention of a firefly right now because of the rise of social media.
STELTER: So, you're saying it's the audience's fault?
AVLON: I think, look, we're all in this together. No one can point blame at one segment and say, you know, these are the angels, these are the devils, because we have real time data at all times. But the speed of the cycle, which increased, has made us not have enough collective memory and context.
It is our job in the media to make the important stories interesting. To do that deep diving, there's been a lot. But in an environment where folks are so polarized because of the media diet, they can effectively ignore critical things said about their candidate and say the people saying those aren't being objective, they are being evil and untrustworthy.
STELTER: Let's discuss how we should cover these polls, for example, if we have the attention span of a firefly. Let's show the four most recent polls from the major networks.
There's a CBS and "New York Times" poll here, with Clinton ahead by six points. Then, we got a FOX poll that showed Trump ahead earlier this week,. This morning, NBC News out with a new poll that shows Clinton ahead by three points. And then there's an ABC poll we mentioned earlier, also out this morning, showing Trump ahead by two points.
Jane, what's the context we need to be including in the reporting of this? For one thing, Trump is the nominee, it looks like. He's getting a bump right now. While Sanders is a drag on Clinton.
What are the other contextual points we need to keep in mind?
HALL: Well, I think people, you know, might point out that Bernie Sanders has higher favorables than unfavorables. You know, Sanders was largely ignored going in. I think, you know, he is right to say he came from nowhere, and he's got 10 million votes compared to 13 million for Hillary Clinton.
I think all these polls are a snapshot, and people do need to fight against Sanders for the nomination, and the Republican Party is beginning to coalesce around him. So, you know, there's a tremendous reliance on snap polls. I think the post today, "The Washington Post"/ABC poll is a very serious poll because it really gets to unhappiness with both nominees and then what are the reasons for that?
And the economic argument that Trump and Sanders both have been making really resonates with a large significant number of American people. I think that should also be pointed out in our reporting.
A lot of people think this is a rigged system. I don't think that has been reported nearly as much as it should be. It's showing up in the polls, but it's not really been reported.
STELTER: Enough explaining about it. I would add one more point about the polls. The prediction markets, they show Clinton with a clear advantage over Trump. The prediction markets believe Clinton will win. But there has been a slight downtick. She's not as much in the lead as she was before.
We're going to have, what, 5 1/2 more months of these polls. So, we've got to keep al of it in perspective. Carl, John, Jane, please stick around. I want to ask you more about the Democratic race later this hour.
Also up next here, one of the most influential editors in the country, Marty Baron of "The Washington Post." The paper and its owner Jeff Bezos, are they target of Trump's? But is Trump also a target of "The Post"? I'm going to ask Baron right after the break.
[11:13:38] STELTER: There is a war of words going on between Donald Trump and the owner of "The Washington Post," Jeff Bezos, also the founder of Amazon. It heated up again this week. Bezos firing back at Trump, who's been questioning Bezos' ownership of the paper and kind of in a way threatening Amazon, accusing it of dodging taxes.
So, at a "Post" conference this week, executive editor Marty Baron asked Bezos about Trump's tactics. Here's what Bezos said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF BEZOS, OWNER OF "THE WASHINGTON POST": My view is that's not an appropriate way for a presidential candidate to behave.
Some people would say that this is just very tactical to immunize against the media and that none of this would happen. I still think from a cultural norms point of view, it's not the right kind of thing to do. It erodes our free speech norms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, that's Bezos' take. I want to hear from Marty Baron on this as well. He's joining me now from "The Post" newsroom in Washington.
Good morning. How are you?
MARTY BARON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good morning. How are you?
STELTER: I was curious. When you hear your boss, the owner of the paper, talking tough about Trump, does it make it harder for you and your colleagues, your reporters, to cover Trump fairly?
BARON: Well, our intention is to cover the candidates as we would even without something like this. We were covering Donald Trump and covering Hillary Clinton thoroughly before this sort of battle of words, and we intend to continue doing that in a fair, honest, and honorable and accurate way.
[11:15:03] STELTER: Don't you think there's at least a perception problem for "The Post", though, when the owner of the paper out there is saying that what Trump is saying is inappropriate for a presidential candidate?
BARON: Well, he was just asked to respond to what Donald Trump had already said. I think he has the right to respond, and that doesn't change our coverage in any way. Of course, we have to cover a presidential candidate. We're going to do that.
STELTER: There's been a lot of attention about the fact you have assigned reportedly 20 reporters to the Trump beat. You're working on a book about the candidate.
How many reporters do you have covering Clinton versus Trump?
BARON: Well, let's back up a bit. I mean, we don't have 20 reporters assigned to cover Trump on a regular basis. We decided to do a book, a publisher decided to publish it. We have to get it done quickly. It's coming out in August. We only started a couple months ago.
So, in order to get it done quickly, we have to assign a large team of reporters to do it because we want to be thorough about it. And we're certainly giving Donald Trump plenty of opportunity to address the kinds of things that are addressed in the book itself.
And so, many of those reporters are already back to their original assignments. They're not actually working on Donald Trump anymore. They were only on this book for a limited period of time.
So, we don't have 20 people permanently assigned to covering Donald Trump. We have our regular political team assigned to covering both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and we plan to cover both of them thoroughly.
STELTER: Will there be a tough investigative reporting about Clinton, the same way we have seen about Trump? For example, you had a great report a couple days ago about the fundraising Trump said he was doing for veterans and how there were fewer dollars raised and Trump said there were back in the winter. Will we be seeing the equivalent of that about Clinton?
BARON: Well, of course, you will. We've already done that.
We were at the forefront of coverage about questions raised about the foundation. We did that early last year, and we did many stories on that.
We've been very aggressive at looking at the whole e-mail controversy. We've done a lot of fact checkers about the statements that she has made, calling into question the voracity of those statements. We've looked at special employment arrangements for some of her closest aides and friends who were working within the state department.
So, we've done it already, and we'll continue doing that kind of work.
STELTER: Let me show you something the Committee to Protect Journalists said this week. It stood to me and I want to get your assessment as an editor. This is from one of the research associates at the organization.
She said that it's important to take Trump's insults against journalists seriously. I think we can put up part of the quote on screen. It says that "politicians have a right to criticize the media, and they cannot be held responsible for the existence of online trolls. But when they incite supporters to insult or threaten journalists whether intentionally or by accident, the impact on press freedom is real.
We've all heard about how Trump will talk about dishonest journalists. There will be booing and they'll be criticism of the press that's in the pen there.
Do you agree with the CPJ assessment that Trump, he could be a threat to press freedoms because of the way he vilifies journalists?
BARON: Well, I'm concerned when any candidate calls journalists scum and disgusting. I don't think there's any place for that. I think we need to show respect both for the candidates, and I think the candidates should show respect for journalists who were just doing their jobs.
I worry when those kinds of statements are made. I think that people should have respect for the role that journalists play in our democracy, and I think that includes the candidates themselves.
STELTER: Is that what makes this election kind of difficult? There's two candidates here who appear to be the nominees of the party. Clinton very close to securing the nomination. Only one of the two candidates is openly hostile toward journalists at rallies, calling reporters disgusting and scum and all the rest.
Does it make it difficult to provide an equivalency because there's not an equivalency between the two candidates? One is very different from the other on this topic? BARON: No, I really don't think so. The fact is the Clinton campaign
hasn't bee terribly friendly to journalists either. There's been a lot of friction between Hillary Clinton and the journalists who are covering her.
So, that's par for the course when you're covering a campaign. We intend to cover the candidates in an equal way with equal sense of accountability.
STELTER: Marty, thank you for being here this morning. Great to see you.
BARON: Pleasure. Thank you.
STELTER: Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, is there really a civil war brewing among Democrats, or is the media drumming up a new storyline? Now, we're going to bring back Carl Bernstein and the rest of the panel right after this break.
And later this hour, Megyn Kelly versus Trevor Noah. An interesting spat erupting after Megyn's critically (INAUDIBLE) Trump interview. We'll get into that later this hour.
[11:23:45] STELTER: Thanks to an ugly scene in Nevada last weekend, a chaotic Democratic Convention that left Bernie Sanders' supporters feeling the system was rigged -- thanks to that, there's a new media narrative about the race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: The tables have turned, as the primary season nears its end as Democrats divide.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: The Democratic Party is fraying at the seams.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The real civil war is actually going on, on the Democratic side.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN: Democrats seem to be growing farther apart.
BOB BECKEL, CNN: Now, all the sudden, the Democrats are the ones with disarray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, can Hillary stop the Bern at this point?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Boy, it is a convenient narrative, but is it maybe a little too convenient?
Let's bring back our all-star panel. CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein, the author of "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton", in Washington, American University media professor Jane Hall, and here in New York, "Daily Beast" editor-in-chief John Avlon.
Carl, we need a reality check here. Are political reporters and TV producers exaggerating this Dem civil war?
BERNSTEIN: Yes. We're hardly up to 1968 and Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies and bloods in the streets of Chicago. I think there's abundant evidence that the Democrats will coalesce around their nominee, presumably Hillary Clinton, maybe Bernie Sanders.
But we're missing a bigger story here. And that is Bernie Sanders still believes he has a path to the nomination.
[11:25:00] Very narrow, thread the needle, almost impossible, win California, have some fallout on the server story, which a lot of people think is coming, including some of the investigators, not an indictment of Hillary Clinton, but some news, perhaps leaked. And go into that convention having won California and convince the super delegates that he, as he's showing in the polls, is better running against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton.
It's a real long shot, but that's one of the reasons that the Clinton people are so upset and are pushing this narrative of, oh, Nevada is so irresponsible. Look, we have all gotten terrible, terrible online threats -- those in the media, those in politics. This is hardly a huge schism the way it's being played on the air.
STELTER: Yes, we heard from Obama aides in 2008 saying it was more intense than Obama and Clinton than it is now. But, Jane, maybe one of the differences is there's much more social media. There's actually pro-Bernie media that exists out there that is encouraging people to buy into this belief that what happened in Nevada was chaotic and that the system is rigged against him.
Do you think that that is a detriment here, that there are many more partisan options for people?
HALL: Well, you know, I think that the media narrative is reflecting a genuine concern on the part of the Clinton people. She needs to win the passion and the votes of young people, in particular, and he has created, I think, a movement that perhaps has even surprised him.
I interviewed him a year ago, and I said, are you trying to send a message? He said, hell, no. He didn't say, "hell, no," he said, "I'm in it to win it."
I told my friends that there were 200 students at American University who were ready to go to work for him.
So, I think he's maybe a person who may be even surprised by the social media. Although, he was early on social media, raised an enormous amount of money. She needs him to disavow the violence and say that is not what he wanted to do.
STELTER: When you're saying violence --
(CROSSTALK) HALL: Well, disavow the ruckus, the melee. But his people are saying that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been against him all along.
There is a genuine fight going on. I don't think the media are overplaying this. This could have very bad impacts for Hillary Clinton at the convention.
STELTER: I hear you, John. Go ahead, John.
AVLON: I'm just not buying this.
AVLON: No. I do think it's too convenient, the media narrative. There are deep, deep divides beneath the Republican Party, which is essentially in warlord status right now.
The Democrats do have increasing divisions on an increasingly activist left, which is insurgent, which Bernie Sanders represents, righteous anger about a rigged system. You see it in the rise of Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio, and other folks in the progressive populist left..
But the party will rally around Hillary Clinton. This poll today -- the poll we're talking about today about high negatives exists with a party that's still conducting a pretty contentious primary. And more importantly, you know, hating Hillary Clinton has been an industry on the far right for a quarter century.
That baggage exists. It is real. But whatever enthusiasm gap exists in Hillary Clinton among the Democratic Party will be erased when they focus on the real possibility of President Trump.
STELTER: Yes, I think this is something that the Democrats, liberals, Clinton supporters get so immensely frustrated with. They feel like Clinton does not get a fair shake from general, national media coverage because of these built-in biases.
Carl, do you subscribe to that, that journalists start out sort of assuming the worst about Hillary Clinton?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I think you can't generalize about journalists quote. I think you have to talk about real, experienced political reporters who are really capable, like at "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal," "The New York Times," some of the cable networks on a day-to-day basis.
But I think we must come back at the risk of being repetitive here. We are ahead of ourselves. We need to be seeing on television the three networks, the old networks and the cable network -- we need to be seeing in-depth reporting about the lives of all of these candidates who are still running, and we need to see it soon, because what we're doing is we're focusing on breaking news underlined without going back and seeing, well, what is the context of what we're reporting here? Who are these people? We think we know them. I don't think the voters do because the voters
haven't read the books that are out there that really tell us something about who these people are.
STELTER: Jane, the last word from you?
HALL: I think television -- I think television has given Donald Trump pretty much a pass. "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," they've done a lot about his business practices, his university.
It's really because entertainment -- you should pardon the expression -- is Trumping everything else. He calls in, says what he wants, he's gone, he's out of town, and he's never called on what he' done, what he's said. Entertainment is the ultimate value in this campaign, at least on a lot of television.
BERNSTEIN: It's also true of Bernie Sanders.
AVLON: It's not -- it's not -- it's...
BERNSTEIN: We have not done a lot of reporting on Bernie Sanders.
BERNSTEIN: ... what he has done.
STELTER: Let me get a final take from John.
AVLON: There's been plenty of reporting, but the self-segregation of people with regard to...
BERNSTEIN: On television.
AVLON: ... media insulates themselves.
So, you're right. There needs to be more aggressive -- holding them to account. But it's our job in the media, as well as people at home, to do basically two things right now.
We need to call B.S. and we need to make important stories interesting. If there's a shortfall, it's on us to ratchet up the accountability and reporting without fear or favor over the course of the next few months. That's on us.
STELTER: Carl Bernstein, John Avlon, Jane Hall, thank you all for being here.
And did you all at home notice how the Democratic segment turned into a conversation about Trump? It's funny how that always happens.
Coming up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES: Who needs surrogates to speak for you when you're Donald Trump? Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will join me to talk about how Trump has changed the political playbook on getting the message out and what it means for spokesman like him. Stay tuned.
STELTER: A plane tragically falls out of the sky over the Mediterranean. No one knows why, but everyone fears an act of terrorism.
The president receives briefings, but says nothing publicly. So, how would the people running to be president react?
We found out on Thursday. Donald Trump reacted right away, before many Americans had even learned of the plane going down. He tweeted at 6:30 a.m. Eastern, "Looks like yet another terrorist attack."
Hillary Clinton did not tweet. She had an interview with CNN scheduled for the afternoon, so she waited until then and said the incident does appear to be an act of terrorism.
Now, we still don't know what really happened, and both of their assessments could end up looking premature and irresponsible.
I would point out that the president still has not commented publicly. But Trump's instant response, more than Clinton's, gave the press something very fresh to talk about.
And in the campaign coverage, we have heard a lot about his use of social media and his saturation of the airwaves to great effect.
But I wanted to seek out someone with a one-of-a-kind perspective on this, a communications pro who represented the last Republican president.
Ari Fleischer, now, he was President George W. Bush's first press secretary from 2001 to 2003, and he now runs a P.R. and media strategy firm.
STELTER: Good morning, Ari. Thanks for joining me.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you. Great to be with you.
STELTER: I heard you say on "NEW DAY" on Friday that you think jobs like yours are irrelevant now, thanks to Donald Trump and his Twitter power and his television power.
I know you don't really believe that, though, right? You're just trying to flatter the Donald.
FLEISCHER: Well, believe me, that's the last thing I'm going to do.
You know, my point here is, it used to be that surrogates and spokespeople had a very prominent role in campaigns. Donald Trump has seized all the spokesman territory in an unusual way for a candidate, and certainly it would be unusual for a president. He does it himself.
He's overexposed, you could argue, but to great effect. It's been very effective for him.
STELTER: Overexposed. What would you be advising him to do differently?
FLEISCHER: I wouldn't advise him to do things differently. And that's the thing.
I'm aware enough that because it was done my way for decades doesn't mean it needs to always be done that way. Things change. And Donald Trump is probably on the front edge here of a major change in America.
What's driving everything, including communications, is American people are sick and tired of politicians. They have heard it all. They have seen it all. All the politicians look alike, sound alike, focus-group alike, and test the polls alike.
Along comes a guy like Donald Trump, who is flamboyant, who says rude things, who talks in a way that people are just not used to, and you know what? Enough people are warming to it because he's not a politician. It's working for him.
STELTER: But I heard people say in 2000 that people were tired of politicians, and then ex-Governor George W. Bush won. I heard people say it in 2008, and then ex-Senator Barack Obama won.
Haven't people always been, you know, tired of politicians?
FLEISCHER: You're making my point for me.
FLEISCHER: It's been a pot of boiling water, and this year it boiled over because it found a vessel in Donald Trump.
STELTER: Given your private sector work, working with athletes, working with corporations, have you given your clients any advice about what Trump has taught the rest of us about communications?
FLEISCHER: I actually have. And I do two things.
One is, I use Barack Obama's speeches to show clients about the art and the power of giving a powerful speech. Forget politics. He's a wonderful orator. And there's something to be taught from that. With Donald Trump, what I teach people is, name a motto in politics.
Name somebody's slogan. The only one people remember is make America great again. There's something about having a simple, easy-to- remember line that you use over and over again, and Donald Trump has proven to be a very adept marketer at that.
STELTER: Do you find yourself worrying about the tone, about the tenor of communications from Donald Trump? Say whatever we would about Bush or Obama. They wouldn't talk the way that Trump speaks.
For example, on Friday morning on "FOX & Friends," Trump suggested that the reason why Hillary Clinton might want Bill Clinton around at the White House as an economic adviser, as some sort of unofficial role, is to -- quote -- "So she can keep her eye on him."
That's the kind of thing you would never hear former President Bush or Obama say.
FLEISCHER: Yes, but it's also what makes Donald Trump so different. He's not a politician. So he says things like that.
And that reinforces actually his strength. I think, Brian, what happens is, everybody in politics focuses on the micro. He said that. In the narrow sense, I can't believe he could say that, while most of the American people say, thank goodness people talk like that.
And that's the difference in how he speaks. Now, for me, for my style, that's not my way. I haven't spoken like that. I didn't work for people who spoke like that.
I worry about it mostly when it comes to foreign policy, because when you speak for America before the world, it's important to be a bit more cognizant and respectful of others around the world. I think you can be America first, but still be respectful of others.
I would like to see him modulate his language when it comes to foreign policy to some degree, but that's my style. And I don't have to suggest that my style is better than Donald Trump's style. The American people will decide that.
STELTER: Earlier, you suggested we're on the cusp of a major change. In other words, you think Trump isn't the last candidate or the last person seeking higher office who will communicate in this way.
FLEISCHER: Brian, let me give you a warning right now about the future.
If Donald Trump wins, watch out in the Democratic Party what happens leading into 2018, '19, and leading into '20, when they have to let select somebody to run against him. Their outsider will become prominent.
Bernie Sanders has pushed the envelope so far this year. Elizabeth Warren will push the envelope. Look, who will be the Hollywood actor or actress who decides, if Donald Trump can do it, I can do it? Who will be the entertainer, the musician?
Donald Trump has broken the seal on the suggestion that you have to have been in elective office win the presidency or run for the presidency. The Democrats will have a similar problem if Donald Trump gets in, in 2016.
STELTER: So, what does that mean for journalists who cover these races? Because, certainly, right underneath the surface, many writers, many commentators are horrified by some of the things Trump says.
You can call that liberal bias, or you could just say that's a sense of decency, a sense of how politics are supposed to be done, how the campaigns are supposed to be played.
FLEISCHER: I would never call that decency. That's not what it is.
FLEISCHER: What it really is, is a Northeastern, look down your nose at other people who are different. That's what it is, Brian.
I can't tell you how many people in journalism and other places around the Northeast, where I live now, were absolutely aghast, cannot understand how anybody could possibly be for Donald Trump.
That is disdain for the voters. And I will never be like that. There's a lot about Donald Trump I don't like, and I will call him out on it, but I will never have disdain for the American people. That view that you just articulated is disdain for the American people.
STELTER: You have heard it, though, right? I'm not the only one that sensed that from any journalist?
FLEISCHER: Oh, yes, absolutely. It's rife in journalism. It's rife in journalism, because many journalists, the overwhelming majority of journalists, though they refuse to admit it, are biased.
They're socially and culturally liberal. And Donald Trump offends them. And they went into journalism to protect the little guy against the big and the powerful, to protect people against those who would offend.
So, it's intuitive and natural for them to be against Donald Trump, but it's bias.
STELTER: Overwhelming majority, huh?
FLEISCHER: And what I can't stand about it is the way they look down their nose at the people who could be for Donald Trump. That's what's wrong with journalism.
And that's why journalists missed the Donald Trump story, because they just couldn't believe anybody could be like that.
And one last point, Brian. Manhattan, 85-15 Democratic voting. It voted that way for Kerry. It voted that way for Obama, 85-15. Manhattan, where most journalists are from and many are taught, is one of the most narrow-minded, stereotypical places you could ever find.
STELTER: Ari Fleischer there wanting me to get out of Manhattan.
One more note from the interview. Fleischer told me that he's never met his counterpart on the Trump campaign, Hope Hicks, Trump's press secretary. I thought that was a revealing detail, showing just how much of an outsider Trump and the Trump campaign is.
Coming up here in a moment: Megyn Kelly, her much-anticipated special. Well, you're going to hear from two critics who thought it did not live up to the hype. We're going to explore why in detail right after this.
STELTER: This week was supposed to be a triumphant one for Megyn Kelly. Her long-awaited, highly anticipated interview with Donald Trump finally aired on Thursday.
But the prime-time special drew a modest 4.8 million viewers. That's actually pretty high by FOX broadcast network standards these days, but a lot of people in the industry were expecting a far higher number.
And as for the reactions, well, these were some of the reactions.
Erik Wemple of "The Washington Post" calling it a bankrupt interview. Mary McNamara of "The Los Angeles Times" said Kelly was way too easy on Trump. She called it an infomercial. And Jim Warren of Poynter called the whole thing a con.
Kelly fired back the next night. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: James Warren of Poynter.org, writing for "Vanity Fair," called it a "soft-as-a-grape session."
This is the same man who dismissed the entire Republican Party as -- quote -- "anti-female."
Erik Wemple of "The Washington Post" has made no secret of his hatred for Trump, calling him a bigot and a misogynist. Wemple wrote that I should dismember Donald Trump.
Today, Wemple is upset that I did not -- quote -- "get personal" about what Trump's behavior has done to my life, as if an interview about Trump should instead be about me.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: Well, you know, I got to bring in two of those critics now, two of the aforementioned critics, Mary McNamara, Pulitzer Prize- winning TV critic of "The Los Angeles Times," and Jim Warren, media writer for Poynter and "Vanity Fair."
Jim, have you called the whole Republican Party anti-female, the way Megyn Kelly alleged?
JIM WARREN, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, POYNTER INSTITUTE: No.
I offered her or anybody else out there who could find proof of that drinks on me, and it's been four or five days. I'm happy to buy someone Jack Daniels, maybe a decent bottle of champagne. But, no, nobody's come forward. They haven't found that.
STELTER: Why do you think she was so defensive the next night on her show? I mean, listen, it's normal on FOX to make this about liberal media bias. It's a tactic that works for the network.
But why else do you think she was so defensive about it?
WARREN: Well, it's kind of interesting, isn't it?
Mary would know better than I, but I certainly can't recall the people she aspires to be like, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, being so sensitive, even allergic to criticism.
I mean, you just can't subsume the news cycle to your own professional career goals. You can't be in the heat of the campaign in some ways, as you have alluded to, sort of central to some of issues of the campaign, and then say you're going to do some soft-focus interview.
This is not like Edward R. Morrow doing celebrity interview with like Marilyn Monroe. The context is very different, sort of more akin to maybe the Pentagon correspondent bashing Donald Rumsfeld for conduct of the Iraq War, then getting the interview and ask him only about his weekends in Taos, New Mexico, and horseback riding there.
Or I think, perhaps more relevant, as I mentioned, I think it's very much akin to George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin's relationship in the '70s. Steinbrenner, the Yankees manager, fired Martin five times. And after the first time, lo and behold, they appeared on a Miller Lite commercial together.
So, their animus was transformed into a mutual commercial benefit. And that's the -- and that's what strikes me as comparable here.
STELTER: Mary, if you agree, why do you think that is? You thought there was a missed opportunity in this interview, that there were a lot of soft questions.
And that was Kelly's intent. Right? She said from the beginning she was going to make this about Trump the person, not Trump the politician. But what did you think was missing and why? MARY MCNAMARA, TV CRITIC, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, she touted
this interview as nothing is off the table.
And yet, when the interview occurred, it felt like everything was off the table. She didn't talk to him -- she had this incredibly rare opportunity where she came out of those debates perceived as this very tough, willing to ask really hard questions, and so I think people anticipated that same level of toughness.
And, instead, we got very softball. When did you realize that you were going to be president? Have you ever been wounded?
And even when she addressing the issue of -- the event the occurred -- and people call it a feud. And I don't -- it was not a feud, because that assumes like sort of an equality between the two people.
STELTER: No. It was one-sided.
MCNAMARA: It was very one-sided.
MCNAMARA: She was doing her job as a moderator. She asked a very sensible question that's very important about how a presidential candidate has referred to women in the past. And he absolutely smeared her.
He went out of his way to try to get people to boycott her show. He retweeted hateful tweets about her, which is pretty much the same as tweeting that. So, when he got into, well, I never called you anything -- and she did call him on, well, you did retweets about me being a bimbo.
And he said, well, that's not the worst thing you have been called.
And you're like, OK, that's -- that's the level that a presidential candidate is -- that I'm not going to retweet things in which you're being called profane names? But she didn't press him on that. She seemed like very interested...
STELTER: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
MCNAMARA: Go ahead.
STELTER: Let me be a little bit of a practical or maybe a little bit of a cynic here. Do you think she was going relatively easy this time in order to get another interview later which will be tougher, which will be more confrontational?
I think that this was a question of she wanted to make sure that she had access to him in the future, because, of course, he boycotted the -- when she was proposed as a moderator for a second time, he was going to boycott.
MCNAMARA: So, it's like she wanted to make sure. She is the one who reached out to him. She's the one who smoothed over what -- and it wasn't a feud, but she smoothed over the situation.
And he made a big deal about how, oh, that was so big of you, because I would never reach out like that, and she didn't press him on that.
MCNAMARA: She didn't press him on the fact that someone who is a -- wants to be the president is not comfortable with diplomacy, which is a real problem.
STELTER: And then, at the end, she promoted her book coming out this November. She also got into a little bit of a tiff with Trevor Noah.
Trevor Noah had a segment about her. Then, the next morning, she responded on Twitter, calling him out in a gendered way, suggesting that -- she said: "I'm so grateful I have men like Trevor Noah to advise me on how to deal with gender attacks. I'm sure his life experience far better than mine on this."
Just another example of Kelly firing back at her critics.
In the 30 seconds I have left, Jim, you think any of this matters for her decisions about whether she will leave FOX next year? Her contract is up in a year. And everyone wonders, is she going to leave the network?
WARREN: Well, I think the publicity, by and large, only helps her, quite apart from the nattering folks Mary and I might be doing about her actual performance.
I think, as an act of branding, her career the last couple of years has been rather brilliant. I don't doubt that her agent will be fielding lots of offers from various networks for bigger positions, and then Roger Ailes and FOX will have a big decision to make about how he wants to reposition her perhaps on the FOX network.
WARREN: So, I think that, as far as that goes, this has been a big career boost for her, despite her suspension of her supposedly great news judgment here.
And, in the end, people -- she's got her name out. I went to the supermarket yesterday, and there on one of the checkout magazines is Megyn Kelly, her life, her marriage, her motherhood, her career.
STELTER: Yes. That is true.
WARREN: It's been rather impressive.
STELTER: Jim Warren, Mary McNamara, thank you both for joining me this morning.
And up next here, what we can all learn from Morley Safer.
STELTER: The news business mourned the loss of a legend this week, "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer.
As his colleague Steve Kroft put it, Morley and TV news grew up together.
And one of his parting words of wisdom airing last Sunday reminded us all of the power of our words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORLEY SAFER, CBS NEWS: What you're aiming at is people's ears more than their eyes. The impact is what you're saying, not so much what they're seeing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)