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How Will Steve Bannon Reshape Trump's Campaign?; Trump Supporters See Bias in Polls; Louisiana Flooding Coverage; John McLaughlin Remembered. Aired 11a-Noon ET

Aired August 21, 2016 - 11:00   ET


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

Ahead this hour, can you trust the polls you hear about on every single newscast? With some Trump supporters dismissing his decline, the "Prince of Polls", Nate Silver, is here to explain how it all really works.

Plus, press shy Hillary Clinton? We're going to go on the campaign trail to find out why she hasn't held a full-blown press conference since last year.

And later, the flooding in Louisiana, being called potentially the worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy. Did the national media under-cover this story?

But first, we could call it a political merger, Trumpbart. This week, GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway became the new face of Donald Trump's campaign, appearing all across TV. But it's Steve Bannon who may be the inner voice of the campaign.

Until Tuesday, he was the executive chairman of far right website Breitbart. On Wednesday, he became the Trump campaign's CEO. Now, Bannon doesn't have campaign experience, but he has a lot of media experience.

He's a man who loves a fight. He's been building up Breitbart to become a FOX News competitor. And now that he's aligned with Trump, his appointment seems likely to shape the rest of the election season.

The Hillary Clinton campaign is already bracing for a scorched-earth strategy.

So, let's get insight on this from two experts all about Breitbart, who know Bannon. First, Kurt Bardella, the former spokesperson for Breitbart, who resigned earlier this. He's the president and CEO of Endeavor Strategies.

And Ken Stern, a former CEO of NPR, who wrote this exclusive profile of Bannon for's The Hive website.

So, Ken, you interviewed Bannon for your profile. You're working on a book all about conservative media and the Republican Party. When you see this coverage of Bannon this week, did we get right? Did we accurately portray him as a street fighter who will do whatever it takes to help Trump get to the White House?

KEN STERN, WRITER, VF HIVE: Yes, I think that's a fair characterization of Steve Bannon. I mean, he's a fascinating character, came from a working class family in Richmond, made it up through the ranks of Goldman Sachs, got rich investment banking, and has now built into a very powerful media organization. And he's done largely through that street fighting ethic, to being a provocateur by tropes and stories that really get his audience going in very vitriolic ways.

STELTER: Let's get some detail about that. Kurt, I know you have strong feelings about Breitbart. You resigned. You were disgusted by how they treated Michelle Fields earlier this year when Fields said she was assaulted by then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

How would you describe to viewers of our program who don't see the site everyday?

KURT BARDELLA, FORMER SPOKESMAN, BREITBART: I think you look at it as de facto super PAC and really for the last year, year and a half in the Republican primary, they have been the rapid response arm of the Trump campaign. Any time --

STELTER: Rapid response arm of the Trump campaign. Let's underscore that. You're saying it's even further to the right than FOX News?

BARDELLA: Oh my gosh. It's not even -- they make FOX News look like MSNBC. I think that any time there was a controversy, something that Trump may have said that was generating headlines, Breitbart was the first destination that you could go do at the time to see in real time what the Trump line of thinking was. It was the most sympathetic voice for Trump and anyone in the mainstream media would in any way characterize or attack or question Trump's tactics, they were the place that you could go for that sympathetic for Trump.

STELER: I would have loved to have Breitbart's editor on the program this morning. We did invite him and he declined. Bannon for his part is doing any interviews yet.

But, Ken, since you know him, you were the former CEO of NPR, does it disturb you to have as Kurt's describing, a rapid response arm for the Trump campaign, that is a popular right wing website? Is it inappropriate to have that kind of merger happening?

STERN: So, look, that merger happened, it is Trumpbart as people have known it. I don't think of Breitbart as a news organization. It's a media organization. But mostly, it's a political movement and it's a political movement that is largely aimed at taking over the Republican Party.

So, I think a lot about what's going on is -- you know, they're not -- they're a competitor of FOX News, but they hate FOX News. They hate the Republican establishment. That's really what this is about. So, it's a political movement, and it's the alignment of two political

figures, Trump and Bannon to try to permanently tie (ph) that political movement in a meaningful way.

STELTER: Kurt, do you agree?

BARDELLA: That's spot on. I think a lot of what you're seeing a result of things that happened years ago, after the rise of Sarah Palin in the '08 campaign, the far right really didn't have any place to go. We saw that manifest itself in the Tea Party movement in 2010 that resulted in Republicans taking back the House.

[11:05:03] But then there was a string of electoral failures as they tried to make on bigger Republican figures like Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Chris McDaniel race in Missouri, in Kansas, Louisiana.

And after those failures, this group of people, they didn't have a place to go that was centralized nor a political figure to unite behind. Enter Breitbart, enter Donald Trump, and for the first time, they have this opportunity to congregate in one place, on one platform at and then a figure to unite behind and put their energy behind and organize for the first time in Donald Trump.

STELTER: You're such a critic of this site. I want you to say one nice thing about Breitbart.

BARDELLA: What they do in terms of rapid response in real time and motivating their audience, and playing to their audience's passion, you can't deny the success they have. And Steve Bannon has himself has gone from this Breitbart entity what many considered an outlier, not part of any mainstream, not part of any political force, to becoming the number one guy for the would-be president of the United States. That's impressive under any standard.

STELTER: We've got Bannon, we've got Conway, and let's talk about the other advisors surrounding Trump, because it's not pretty clear that Roger Ailes, the ousted FOX News CEO, is also in Trump's inner circle.

This morning on "STATE OF THE UNION", Dana Bash asked Conway about this, let me play her comment first. Take a look.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Is Roger Ailes actively advising Donald Trump at this point?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: He obviously has no formal or informal role in the campaign, but Mr. Trump speaks to many different people. Roger Ailes is a genius when it comes to television and when it comes to communicating with people, but so is Donald Trump.


STELTER: Let me decode that for our viewers. She's threading a needle here, saying that Ailes is advising Trump, the man, but not advising the Donald Trump campaign.

Ken, do you think it's a problem for the Trump campaign to have Ailes' name keep coming up, given the controversy involving the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes?

STERN: I would say that's probably the least of the challenges for the Trump campaign. I mean, what Trump is doing I think now is surrounding himself with people who have an instinctively and practiced knowledge about how to connect with a certain part of the American public.

Roger Ailes obviously knows how, Steve Bannon knows how. They are good, they're probably the best there are advising on how to connect with his audience. It may be expanding a little bit, but it's really not -- I think it's about how can Trump be Trump in the most effective way. I think he felt like he lost that thread, now he's bringing back people who can help be himself in last 90 days, which I think is going to be wild ride.

STELTER: So, let's think about what may happen after November. There's been a lot of speculation, and I've been part of it this week, talking about whether Trump actually wants to launch a media company, if he loses the election, something like Trump TV. Let me play for both of you what Trump said earlier this week in Charlotte, South Carolina. You know, he continues to critique the media.

But I heard him changed a little bit this week. He's not just saying we're all feeling, that we're all disgusting, he's actually talking about systematic media critique about what's not being covered. Let's watch it and then talk about it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The establishment media doesn't cover what really matters in this country, or what's really going on in people's lives. Just imagine if the media spent time and lots of time investigating the poverty and joblessness of the inner cities. Just think about how much different things would be if the media in this country sent their cameras to our border, to our closing factories, or to our failing schools.


STELTER: Donald Trump, assignment editor. Now, I would say some of that is being covered, but, Kurt, I wonder when you hear from Donald Trump -- is he basically suggesting what his pitch would be for a media company after the election if he loses, that this is what his channel would be all about?

BARDELLA: There is no doubt that there is a broader plan at play to extend the Trump brand and a conversation that they're initiating right now beyond the November election.

STELTER: Do you really think there's no doubt? Because I think Trump supporters would say, are you guys crazy? This is a conspiracy theory. BARDELLA: I think that they're vastly underestimating the type of people that he surrounded himself and why he's actually done so. When you have a person who up until a week ago was running a major audience-driven media entity in Breitbart in Steve Bannon, when you know he's obviously having regularly conversations with Roger Ailes who helped build FOX News, there's not doubt that you don't bring people like that into your orbit versus traditional campaign personnel who know how to run national campaigns, get out the vote, broadening your base.

Look what he's doing and look at his messaging. He's talking -- he's making the case every day of when he loses this election, it will be because the media had it out for him and we need an alternative to make sure this never happens again. It's writing itself.

STELTER: Ken, last word to you. You've been a media executive for a long time. What does Trump need to know? What do his allies need to know if they do want to launch a media company?

[11:10:02] STERN: So, I guess I'll disagree a bit with that narrative.


STERN: I think Kurt is 100 percent right. This is about extending the Trump brand past November, but I don't think it's about necessarily launching a new media organization. The media organization that is the critique that Donald Trump just described as been around since Andrew Breitbart. That's what -- that was a critique of Andrew Breitbart and that's what Steve Bannon is growing to a very large effective news organization, or media organization, political organization. That already exists.

I think this is about extending the Trump and the populist brand so it's not a transitional brand like the Tea Party or the Dave Brats of the world. It is about, in my mind, what happens next after November in terms of the future of the Republican Party. Can the alt-right become the right? And I think that's the nature of the conversation.

BARDELLA: A little context. One thing that I know that Steve has been interested in for a long time, is looking to extend the Breitbart platform into a TV median, to compete with FOX News. So, that's a little bit of what I was talking about.

STELTER: It's going to be interesting, to try to see if they can launch a channel. Again, if Trump loses, will he try to launch a channel? It's very hard in this environment to start a new television channel. But if anybody can do it, it's going to be Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.

BARDELLA: Thanks, Brian.

STERN: Yes. Thank you, Brian. STELTER: Up next, says who? The polls? Yes, we're going there. The "Prince of Polls" Nate Silver is here to talk about Trump supporters' skepticism in some of the national polls you see. We're going to get into the facts with this in a moment.


[11:15:42] STELTER: All polls are not created equal. Just like you can find news that you agree with online, you can also find polls that you agree with. But that actually might do a disservice to you and to your colleagues, anyone who share the polls with on Facebook, et cetera.

This week, we saw some signs of possible poll denialism. Listen to how Trump campaign special counsel Michael Cohen reacted to the mention of Trump trailing in the polls by CNN's Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: You guys are down. And it makes sense that there would --


KEILAR: Polls.

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: Most of them, all of them?

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: Polls, I just told you, I answered your question.

COHEN: OK, which polls?

KEILAR: All of them.


STELTER: Now, "says who?" became a meme, of course. Like Cohen told me he was also misconstrued, but he also said in that segment that he did not care about the polls.

What's interesting about his skepticism is that it's become a theme, a talking point among some Trump supporters. Not all of them, but some of them.

We've heard it on FOX News this week, on websites as well, but not all Republicans and not all FOX Newsers so quickly dismissed the data.

Look at what FOX News co-host and former White House press Dana Perino said. She was fighting back against the idea that polls don't matter.


DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS CO-HOST: It's a real disservice to --


PERINO: -- his supporters to lie to them that the camp -- that the polls don't matter. You cannot take 12,000 people at a rallies that are your definitive supporters. They are going to show up at the campaign and then say the polls are wrong.


STELTER: I got to tell you, I was tearing at the TV when I heard Perino talking about this. She actually doubled down on her defense after receiving some backlash online. Listen to what she told Bill O'Reilly.


PERINO: Even the candidate and his supporters starting to tell the voters, that the polls are rigged, that's not true. That the crowd size matters more than the polls, that's not true.


STELTER: Are we basically in a "pick your own poll" environment? It kind of reminds me those choose your own adventure books. Is it a good thing?

Joining me to discuss this is Nate Silver, the founder and editor-in- chief of FiveThirtyEight.

Nate, great to see you.


STELTER: You and I both remember unskewed polls in 2012. It was a movement on the right among some Mitt Romney supporters who say the polls wrong and Romney was actually going to win.

Are you seeing a return to this unskewed polls idea in 2016?

SILVER: Yes. And it started early. I mean, that mostly took place in September and October, quite late in the campaign. Here we're in August, there's time for things to turn around. People watching the Olympics are not paying as much attention to politics.


SILVER: But you are already seeing various forms of -- everything from cherry-picking which is always some of to outright denialism.

STELTER: And to those denialists, what do say?

SILVER: So, look at the lesson of 2012, which is not only did Romney not meet his polls, he actually underperformed his polls. By the way, in 2014, we heard from Democrats who love arguments about how, oh, you're under-counting minority voters and young voters. It turned out they didn't really show up in great numbers and Democrats lost in the 2014 midterms by more than the polls suggested.

So, generally, when you're the one explaining about the polls, first off, you're complaining, you're not revising your strategy. But second of all, historically, that's a really bearish indicator, that somehow deep down you recognize that the race has gotten away from you.

STELTER: Let's stay on camera two for a second. I put up this Drudge just now. We can put this full screen. The headline on the Drudge Report this morning, media shock, Donald Trump back in lead?

Now, let's try to explain what this is about. This is a "Los Angeles Times"/USC poll. We're going to briefly put it up on screen, but I want to be careful of this, because CNN doesn't normally report this poll. This is actually a tracking poll. It's very different from other polls, why?

SILVER: Well, it's an online poll, and they have the same group of people they survey again and again -- which is a different strategy.

Again, I don't have any problems with "The L.A. Times" poll. It does some things that are creative.

But there are dozens of polls being released every week, just this morning for example poll showing Trump down six points in Ohio, if he's down six points in Ohio, he's probably not ahead two points nationally. And looking at polling averages, they gravitated toward having a 6-point or a 7-point or an 8-point lead for Clinton. You can find some polls that show Trump ahead by a point, you can find some showing Clinton up by double digits, both in swing states and nationally. That's a beauty of taking a polling average and again I'm not --

STELTER: That's the premise of your website, FiveThirtyEight.


STELTER: To take them altogether.

[11:20:00] Let me ask about the "L.A. Times" poll, why do you not have a problem with it? Some people have said, the way the questions are worded is misleading or could be giving you different results. Some people say the sampling size is an issue. Are they right?

SILVER: So, for one thing, we mostly use polls by comparing the trends within individual polls. So, Trump can be up two in "The L.A. Times" polls, because it tends to always have good numbers for Trump. It wouldn't be as mean as much as it trumps up to in the ABC News poll or CNN poll, which is more consistent with the national trend.


I think it is worth nothing, though, CNN and other news outlets, we do have standards for these things, right? SILVER: Sure.

STELTER: And for example, CNN doesn't report online only polls, they come from people who are going to opt in, because if you're motivated to take a poll online, it means you're probably more motivated than the average voter.

SILVER: And the online polls are a little bit better for Trump. If you look at those polls, they aren't like "The L.A. Time", but they might suggest that he's done by four or five or six points, whereas the traditional telephone polls have him down by eight, or nine, or 10 points. The other ones that produce really ugly results for Trump than Colorado, Virginia and states like that.

STELTER: Do you subscribe to this theory that some Trump supporters have suggested that Trump -- people might not want to admit to a person who calls them on the phone that they support Trump, but on an online, anonymous poll, they will acknowledge their support for him?

SILVER: I mean, it could be. In general, I tend to trust telephone polls more. But you do have examples like Brexit, for example, where the online bombs did a lot better job in predicting the Brexit vote than the traditional polls. But you can also look toward the primaries. In the primaries, the poll pegged Trump about right. In fact a little bit high in some states like Iowa for example.

The flip side of this, by the way, is that it is hard to reach minority voters on the phone, hard to reach younger voters on the phone, you can find various ways to adjust for that. But there have been in presidential years sometimes undercounting of Democrats instead of Republicans.

STELTER: So you're saying if there's a hidden Trump vote, there could be a hidden Clinton vote as well?

SILVER: If on Election Day, the polling average says Clinton plus four, for example, Trump could win. It could be Trump plus one. It also be Clinton plus eight, you know?

STELTER: So, we need to remember that these -- there's a margin of error in every poll?

SILVER: There's both margin of error based on taking a limited sample, but also the fact that sometimes the polls do not peg or turnout right. For example, something last minute that can shift. But it goes in both directions. So, I think Trump can win this election, our models do too. I also think it could be worse for Trump, too, where Clinton wins by double digits, in the margin we haven't seen for a long time.

STELTER: You were a famous Trump skeptic in the primaries. You have admitted you were wrong in some ways. What have you done to reset your opinion of Trump for the fall?

SILVER: I mean, in some ways, the great strategy in the primary was just taking the polls at face value and not trying to over-think them. So, if you do that, you say, look, he's down by six or seven or eight points right now. You can debate whether it's six or eight. I'm not sure if that matters or not.

But taking the polls at face value and not expecting some miracle pivot, not expecting some news that greatly shakes things up. So, you know, ironically the Trump campaign looks so smart by touting the polls in the primaries and now, they're denying the very same data points that made frankly a lot of people like me look foolish back in the spring.

STELTER: Bottom line is that when we see Trump supporters and Trump spokespeople this morning promoting, say, an "L.A. Times" poll, they are cherry-picking and journalists should be sensitive about cherry- picking.

SILVER: And I think that's one thing that the influence of sites like FiveThirtyEight and Real Clear Politics has helped with is that people do know that you have a polling average, it takes six or seven or eight polls usually to see real changes in the race.

By the way, I do think the race has tightened by a point or two, that's what our model says anyway. But there's a lot of work the Trump campaign still has to do. Fortunately, they have a fair amount of time and if they want to have a shot at beating Clinton, then instead of where the polls are, making changes to get -- they need to look at the race differently is more in line with what they need to do.

STELTER: Keep your eyes wide open. Don't just pick what you want to see.

Nate, great to see you.

SILVER: Thank you.

STELTER: Great advice. Thank you very much.

Up next here, Hillary Clinton avoiding the press, is that just a Trump talking point or is it a real issue for journalists? We're going to go on the trail with a reporter covering her campaign to get the real answer, right after this.


[11:28:09] STELTER: Welcome back.

If Donald Trump has a love-hate relationship with the press, she definitely does, you can argue that journalists have a lot a love-hate relationship with Hillary Clinton. No, Clinton does not revoke news outlets media credentials, the way the Trump campaign does, or personally attacked reporters as crooked and discussing in the lowest form of humanity, she says the right things about the value of journalism. But she does represent another problem for the press, it's her lack of accessibility.

Right now, no one wants a spotlight on Clinton and her lack of accessibly more than Trump and his surrogates.


KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Hillary Clinton avoids doing press conferences, because she doesn't want to answer the questions.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I know her people and her supporters are protecting her by not letting her talk to the press. I'm happy to talk to you, but apparently, she doesn't respect you the way we do. She won't even give you a press conference.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What you're seeing is Hillary Clinton has continued to refuse to have a press conference in almost one full year. Donald Trump continuously calls into TV shows, continually does Sunday shows.

TRUMP: She is so protected, they are so protecting her. She hasn't had a news conference in like 250 days.


STELTER: I know that sounds hard to believe, right, but it is true. Look at "The Washington Post" headline calls, it ridiculous that Clinton has not had a press conference since last December.

Now, there's some debate about what a press conference is and all of that, we'll get into that. But we want to get into Clinton's press strategy and the questions of access here. We did reach out to the campaign for a spokesperson, and they declined to come on the program this morning.

So, I reached out to the campaign reporter instead, someone who has experience covering the Clinton campaign. And so, let's go to that person now.

Tamara Keith, a White House correspondent who's also covering the presidential race for NPR.

Good morning. Great to see you.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Good morning. Glad to be with you.

STELTER: The last press conference was in December, full-fledged press conference. Why does that matter?

KEITH: Yes. So, it's up to 260 days on the counter that "The Washington Post" has set up.


Why does it matter? She has been available in interviews. She has done what you would call like a gaggle or a scrum in an ice cream shop or something like that, where she takes five or six questions, usually on the news of the day. What would be really useful with a press conference is that press

conferences sort of build on themselves. Think about a presidential press conference. You ask -- somebody asks the first question, and, typically, all politicians, the first answer is the answer they want to give.

You then look for imprecision in their language or the thing that they're leaving out. And the next person sort of burrows in on that, and the next person after that, and the next person after that, if there is a particular issue that you're trying to get information on.

So, with a press conference, you can pull out more information, or you can -- or it will be more clear that the candidate simply isn't answering. So...


STELTER: So, that's the journalistic reason. Right?


STELTER: There's obviously political strategy here about why she's not giving a press conference. She's trying to sit on her lead, right?

KEITH: Absolutely. I mean, why would she give a press conference, from a purely strategic standpoint? A press conference...

STELTER: Right, from a purely strategic standpoint, but, journalistically and for the public discourse, we're pretty -- I'm not trying to advocate here -- but we're right to demand press conferences, aren't we?

KEITH: I want a press conference, absolutely.


KEITH: The Clinton campaign has its own podcast now, where Hillary Clinton can talk directly to her voters. She isn't the first person who invented this. President Obama had fewer press conferences than President Bush did, who had fewer press conferences than President Clinton did.

As they have found ways to go around us, they don't need to use us to get their information out in the same way, and they simply -- there -- from a strategic standpoint for the Clinton campaign, there isn't a lot of upside in doing the press conference, which is really unfortunate, because I think the public would benefit from us being to ask more sustained questions on policy.

STELTER: The response we get from the Clinton campaign -- you have gotten it, I have gotten it -- is that she answers questions all the time, that she -- she's done 375 interviews. This is Brian Fallon, e- mailed to this morning.

That isn't exactly what it sounds like, though, right -- 375 interviews, some of those are very short, with local reporters. They're not what we would perceive to be a very accessible interview, right?

KEITH: Well, or, for instance, I did get to do an interview with her. It was the day that President Obama announced his endorsement of her. I was told I had three minutes for the interview.

So when you have three minutes for an interview, and there's news, you tend to ask mostly about the news, and you don't get to get into in- depth policy questions about how exactly she would change TPP to make it acceptable.

STELTER: Well, I don't think I would even count that as an interview, to be perfectly honestly you.

The one time I got Trump on the phone, I had 15 minutes at least. So, I had some time with him.

Let me ask you, though, about this other point of view from the Clinton campaign. It's that she recently had an event with the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. They call it a press conference. They say this was a press event where did she take questions from journalists.

Was this a press conference? We're seeing it on screen now.

KEITH: She did take questions from journalists, but it was a very -- it was not a standard press conference-type environment. It felt to me more like a panel or something like that. It did not have the feel of an extended press conference.

STELTER: Journalists are always going agitate for more questions. But I do think it's worth explaining to the viewers why we agitate for it, right, because there are a lot of topics that we would like to get her on the record about.

One is her health, because there have been these conspiracy theories floating around lately. They started kind of in the fever swamps of the right wing. They have now made it onto FOX News and into Trump aides' mouths.

Let me tell you what Rudy Giuliani said on "FOX News Sunday" and then have you respond.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Fails to point out several signs of illness by her. What you got to do is go online.


QUESTION: Her campaign and a number of people defending her saying there's nothing factual to the claims about her health and that that is speculation at best.

GIULIANI: So, go online and put down Hillary Clinton illness, and take a look at the videos for yourself.


STELTER: I'm pretty worried about him just saying just go online and Google it. There's a lot of false articles online, a lot of false information about Clinton's health.

But, that said, from the Clinton beat reporter perspective, have you tried to ask about her health and have you perceived any issues at all with her health?

KEITH: I have not tried to ask about her health. We have not had an opportunity to do that.

STELTER: Haven't had the chance.

KEITH: They have put out a statement from her doctor, obviously.

And I have been there following Hillary Clinton around. I honestly don't quite know how she does it, because my health is suffering following her. It's grueling. It's a grueling schedule.

STELTER: Your health is suffering following her? You mean just because it's so many hours of so many days in a row?

KEITH: I don't go to the gym anymore. I don't get enough sleep.


This is my dream job, absolutely, but she's up there giving speeches. All I'm doing is writing stories.

STELTER: Trump keeps saying she sleeps a lot.

But to be clear, this weekend, she's out doing fund-raisers. She's not on vacation exactly, right?

KEITH: She's raising a lot of money this weekend.

We will find out exactly how much when the final reports come out. But she stacks up the fund-raisers.

STELTER: So, what I'm hearing you saying is, we don't have any concrete evidence of some sort of secret illness, as has been claimed by these conspiracy theorists?

KEITH: There's nothing that I have seen. And I have been pretty close to the candidate. I just -- I have seen stools, but Tim Kaine sits on them too.

STELTER: I'm sitting on a stool right now.

KEITH: So am I.

STELTER: And if cameras followed me around every day, they would find some embarrassing stuff that could be taken out of context on the Internet. That's my problem with these theories.

Tamara, thanks for being here. Good to see you.

KEITH: Good to see you.

STELTER: I'm glad the cameras don't follow me around every day.

Right after the break here, we're going to a look at what's happened in Louisiana, the flooding that began last weekend, the recovery that continues this weekend. Has it been undercovered by network and cable news? A close look after the break.



STELTER: These days, it seems like almost all news coverage is about the presidential election and everything else gets squeezed out.

When Baton Rouge and other parts of Louisiana were inundated by a historic flood this time last week, many wondered, why weren't more national reporters there? Was there a real undercovered situation here?

If you ask local residents, the answer is yes. Here's one of the headlines from one of the local news outlets: "National Media Fiddle as Louisiana Drowns."

One resident said there was scant national media coverage of the floods.

And even some veteran journalists have taken the press to task. Here's what Dan Rather wrote on Facebook earlier this week. He said: "If residents of Louisiana are watching TV news, they must be feeling woefully forgotten. If these floods were happening in New York City or Washington, D.C., or even San Francisco, you think the coverage be different?"

The implied answer is yes.

Now, there were moments that got a lot of attention, this video, this dramatic rescue video from the flooding which was widely covered. I saw reporters there this time last weekend, and reporters still there today.

But the flooding in and around Baton Rouge is now the worst natural disaster to hit the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy by some estimates. Did the national media somehow in some ways drop the ball here while covering this event, and if so, why?

Eric Holthaus, one of my favorite meteorologists to follow on Twitter, he writes about weather and climate change and serves as the host of the climate-focused podcast "Warm Regards."

Eric, good to see you.


STELTER: What's the realty check here about the initial coverage of the flood this time last week? Did the press fall down on the job?

HOLTHAUS: Yes, I think absolutely.

This time last week, we were hearing about this on Twitter mostly. And I think that this is the sort of disaster that we're going to start seeing more of. And that's what worries me really. That's what the underlying story here is that's missed, I think even still today, is that we have sort of an anonymous storm hitting a relatively anonymous place that's been hit by a lot of disasters.

There's a lot of fatigue in the media about Louisiana flooding. All at the same time...


STELTER: Yes. I want to get to the climate change part in just a moment.

But let me ask about the no-name storm. I think that was a big part of this. Sandy, Katrina, we know these storms because they are named by the National Hurricane Center. This was different because it was a flood. Floods don't have names. That was a factor, wasn't it?


Even, flooding is a larger killer on average than tornadoes and hurricanes in the U.S. on an annual average. And when was the last time you saw TV cut in for a flood warning or something like that?

We had the National Weather Service there in Louisiana was on the storm religiously. They were using dire language and words that I had not heard very often. Catastrophic flooding was imminent.

And it felt like -- a little bit like meteorologists were just sort of screaming into the ether, hoping for coverage because when you have when...


HOLTHAUS: When you're seeing a bullseye of rain over a certain place for a couple of days in the forecast, and then it starts happening, it's like, we -- I mean, this is -- we had high water rescues.

We had, you know, people being lifted out off the roof from helicopters. And this is exactly the sort of thing that you would expect the networks and the national media to cover. And there just wasn't.


STELTER: And to be clear, I want to point out two things.

One is that not -- even though it is horrible, what has happened there was not Katrina level in terms of injuries or deaths.


STELTER: Also, there were reporters there, CNN, many other media outlets there. But it wasn't the kind of lead story, wall-to-wall, the way it might have been in a non-election year.

To me, the fact that this is an election year was a big factor. The other fact, was it just, though, about flooding? I remember Irene, Hurricane Irene years ago. I covered it in North Carolina. It made landfall. But the real story was in Vermont, the flooding in Vermont.

Is it that flooding is just harder to cover? It happens more slowly? What's the difference between, say, a flood and a hurricane from a coverage perspective?

HOLTHAUS: Yes, it's a slow-onset disaster, just like a drought is.

And we get a lot of California drought coverage, but not -- again, not nearly as much as there should be. Drought is among the costliest natural disaster in the U.S. on average per year. And it's just -- it doesn't make necessarily for -- if you have missed that moment where you have those tremendously heart-wrenching flash flood water rescues like you showed, once you miss those clips, then there's not a whole lot to cover, except for people clearing out their houses of all their belongings and all their kids' art work and everything.


It's a gut-wrenching tragedy, but it's not as sexy as a tornado.

STELTER: Interesting.

And then it affects the number of donations, et cetera, et cetera. And, of course, as you pointed out, it's not got to be connected to climate change. It's got to be pointed out that there is evidence that these are happening more often due to climate change and they're more extreme due to climate change.

And if we're not there in the early stages, it harder to cover that later.

Eric, great to see you. Thank you for being here.

HOLTHAUS: Yes. Thanks.

STELTER: And right after the break, a comment on all the coverage this week of the Trump shakeup and why it wasn't called that right away.

We will be right back.


STELTER: Mental gymnastics, it's not a new Olympic sport, but it could be. [11:50:01]

The latest shakeup at the top of the Trump campaign has me questioning the very purpose of all the candidate surrogates you see on TV. Supporters of both Clinton and Trump do somersaults on the air sometimes.

And this week, it was really obvious and even painful to watch on the Trump side when Trump promoted Kellyanne Conway and hired Steve Bannon, marginalizing Paul Manafort. The press rightly called it a shakeup, but his paid spokesperson denied, denied, denied.


QUESTION: You know that campaigns don't typically shake things up when they are winning this close to the election. What is going on behind the things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a shakeup. It's an expansion.

QUESTION: No one believes that.


QUESTION: No one believes that.


STELTER: Now, I appreciated the pushback there.

Let me ask you, what's the last refuge for a campaign rep? I would say it's media bias. Trump attorney Michael Cohen sought shelter there when questioned by Brianna Keilar. Watch this.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This change, this shakeup, is this a sign that Donald Trump...

MICHAEL COHEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: First of all, I have got to -- I have got to stop you for one second, because there's no shakeup. I mean, look at the words that you use and you blast at the bottom of your banner, shakeup, overhaul, dramatic, desperate measures. There are no desperate measures.

So, if Hillary Clinton brought somebody in, are you going to use the terms "overhaul," "desperate measures"?

KEILAR: No, no. Yes, we would.

COHEN: You have not done it once.


COHEN: Not one person of the 900 people that work for her campaign, not one has left, not one was promoted or demoted? KEILAR: No, at the top, actually, we have not seen that. And I will

tell you, Michael, that if that happened, we would cover it like that. And right now...

COHEN: You would never hear about it.

KEILAR: I mean, I disagree with you. I -- personally, I covered the Clinton campaign. I would be all over that. That would be a huge story. All of the banners that you see right here would be up on the television as well.


STELTER: I have to applaud the interviewers we saw there.

In both cases, they were being advocates for the viewer as home by applying skepticism and calling out B.S.

Look, it's the job of the campaign spokesperson to be the advocate for the campaign. And Trump has strong advocates. But I can understand why you, watching at home, might feel like these interviews have limited value. You might even call them useless.

These guests spin and spin and spin, when our jobs as journalists is to end spin, to unwind, to separate fact from fantasy.

But I do see some values in these campaign aide interviews actually. Let me show you why.

This is Conway on FOX News on Wednesday morning right after the shakeup happened spinning, spinning.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We feel really good about expanding this team. I know some are calling it a shakeup. And it really is not. It doesn't feel that way.

QUESTION: Define for us then why this change was necessary?

CONWAY: Because it's the busy homestretch to Election Day.

And I think Paul Manafort, as the chairman, and Rick Gates as deputy have done a phenomenal job in building out this campaign over the last maybe five or six months to put it in a place that is competitive going into the fall. So, I look forward to continuing to work with both of them.


STELTER: "I look forward to continuing to work with them." Hmm.

Now flash-forward two days later, Friday. Once Manafort resigned, Conway was asked about it on Rita Cosby's radio show.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) RITA COSBY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Was there turmoil? What was the reason he left? Did he resign? Was he moved out?

CONWAY: He was asked and he indeed tended his resignation today. And Mr. Trump accepted his resignation and wished him well and thanked him for his service. I think it's as simple as that. The last couple weeks have been very rough for the campaign.


STELTER: Ah, a very rough couple of weeks. Now, that comment at the end of the week seemed like an honest answer.

The value of these interviews is really in the compare and contrast, in the ability to hold the campaign accountable for what it said before and what it is saying now.

If the answers are bogus or illogical, well, that is informative.

But the interviewers need to make sure we are pointing it out. Make sure that the viewers, you all at home, see what's happening. We need to be the advocate for you.

When we come back here on RELIABLE SOURCES: remembering the man who helped redefine Sunday morning TV as we know it.



STELTER: Finally this morning, remembering the man who changed the way we talk about politics on television.

John McLaughlin died on Tuesday at the age of 89. Back in 1982, the legendary conservative talk show host gave us "The McLaughlin Group," establishing the format for countless programs that followed.


JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: My New Year's resolution is to keep "The McLaughlin Group" a spin-free zone, where the latest party issue talking points and line of the day are banished. In their place, you will find honest analysis, divergent views, and independent thinking.


STELTER: It was the first time a political talk show had such a blunt, aggressive moderator at the helm surrounded by a panel of journalists that debated the biggest issues of the day in an entertaining way.

It became must-see TV. It was combative and entertaining, but it was also funny and thought-provoking.

McLaughlin was an original. I don't think there was anyone who could fill the role he left behind. And I think he knew that too. One of his senior producers recently told "Variety" that a few years

ago, an offer was made to buy the program. But John declined, asking his producer, "What would be so wrong if, when I finish up, I just turn the lights out?"

Today, "The McLaughlin Group" will honor his wishes. Once the credits roll on today's final episode, the lights will go dark on the political talk show for good.

And though TV's longest-serving host won't be there for a final sign- off, it seems fitting that he should have the last word.


MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.