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Trump and GOP in Crisis; Should Moderators Fact Check?. Aired 11-Noon ET

Aired October 9, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter, and welcome to a very special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. We are live on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

We've brought the pep band out this morning with us playing the "Election Night in America" theme music. Tonight, it's the "Debate Night in America" theme music.

This is the site of the pivotal presidential debate just a few hours away. And right now, the stakes really couldn't be higher. Right now, Donald Trump and the GOP are in a state of crisis. And the expectations for the debate have changed dramatically as a result.

If the ready-made narrative was about a comeback performance for Trump after most people agreed he lost the first debate, well now, it's about survival. By now, you've heard the tape so let me take you behind the scenes about what is happening as we speak. It's a short walk away from here on the campus.

Remember, this is a town hall debate tonight, with questions from real voters so co-moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz just received the questions from the 40 voters who have been selected to participate tonight. Essentially, what happens is the people who are going to be on stage, these voters who have been selected by Gallup submitted their questions ahead of time. Now, Cooper and Raddatz are sorting through the questions, deciding who to call on and in what order.

But one thing is already certain. According to an ABC source I just spoke with, the moderators will begin the debate with a set of questions about the vulgar tape and the fallout from it. Now, this is obvious and important to report. Why? Because it is not Donald Trump who gets the first question.

According to a coin toss by the Commission on Presidential Debates, Hillary Clinton will ask the -- will be asked the first question and she'll have the first chance to speak at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight.

So, to discuss all of this and the most recent developments in this campaign and we've assembled of group of CNN political commentators to help me break down the debate. From the right, "The Daily Caller" senior contributor Matt Lewis and columnist and Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany. And from the left, Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen, and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Angela Rye.

Welcome to all for you. Thank you all for being here this morning.


STELTER: Let me start, Kayleigh, with Donald Trump tweet storm. In the past hour or so, he has posted half a dozen messages, messages of support he's receiving from his fans, and he's also calling out people he says are hypocrites, establishment types who are running away from him.

Do you think it's wise for him not to be in apology mode this morning, but for him to be on the offense on Twitter, supporting himself and criticizing his opponents?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's important that he'd be in apology mode that tonight. He's apologized twice. You know, that's good for me as a supporter, but it's important tonight, in fact, imperative, that he does what Mike Pence does and he shows his heart to the American people.

He expressed contrition and says, I'm a different person today, he explains that and moves to the issues, because focus group after focus group says that voters care about the issues, they want to hear where these candidates stand, they don't want the open borders that Hillary Clinton professed before a Brazilian bank and the WikiLeaks transcripts released, they want Donald Trump's vision of change. He wins on the issues. Hillary Clinton is running an issue-free campaign because that is when she loses.

STELTER: On her website, there are many more pages of issues and policy documents than there are in Trump side, I would point that out. Right behind us, we've got Trump supporters cheering.

So, Matt, let me ask you. We know there is a reaction to the vulgar, explicit tape on Friday. There's been an establishment Republican reaction. Do you believe Trump voters are still with him?



STELTER: Isn't that a divide between the media and between the voters.

LEWIS: Well, there is a clearly dichotomy between the Trump voters and the media. There is no doubt about that.

But look, I think the problem for Donald Trump is that he's got this 40 percent of the voters who I think are with him through thick or thin. He's losing this election. And so, to win he needs to add voters.

How does he add voters? The most likely getable voters for him are Republican college educated women who are not coming to Trump at the same rate that they came to John McCain and Mitt Romney. Therefore, I think this sort of stunts his ability to get those voters. So, it's a legitimate issue.

I would caution the media, though. Because the Trump strategy, I think, is to turn out larger numbers of working-class white men. There's 24 million non-college educated white men, who didn't vote for Romney -- they were eligible and they didn't. If Trump turns them out, then the polling that we have is flawed, and the media analysis is also flawed.

STELTER: Let's talk about the next 10, 11 hours here, Hilary, just reporting here that Cooper and Raddatz are now meeting and going over the questions. This all happens as sort of the bubble. There's very few who are involved. So, we don't know much more about what to expect.

But do you think that it matters that Clinton not Trump will be asked the first question and will have the opportunity to respond to this vulgar tape?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it does matter, because Hillary Clinton is going to set the tone for herself and for the rest of the evening, and I think she's going to come out of the box.

[11:05:02] Yes, she's going to reference the crassness of Donald Trump's words. She's going to reference how offended women of America are. But I know that she is also going to try and pivot to what it matters to the American people, what matters to voters. And she's going to try and tie those two things together, how women will care about this election and the stakes that women have.

But, you know --

STELTER: She'll try to set the tone, but isn't Trump already setting the tone this morning?


STELTER: Retweeting a Breitbart article about Juanita Broaddrick.

ROSEN: We have every single Trump surrogate and friend going on TV, talking about he is going to be contrite and how he feels terrible about this. And yet, what we have from him today is defiance, you know, aggression, yelling about hypocrisy, bringing up 25-year-old instances when he said that his 10-year-old instances shouldn't be raised so I don't think we should expect contrition from Donald Trump tonight.

But Hillary Clinton is going to make sure that contrition is not the standard. Contrition about this last tape is not going to be the standard by which she should be judged.

STELTER: It sounds to me like all of us here want this to be issues. Kayleigh, you're saying you want Trump to pivot to issues tonight. We would like to hear more about Clinton's policies tonight.

And yet, Angela, we know that is not what's going to happen. This seems this debate has to have a parental advisory notice on it.


STELTER: We've had conversations on television the last few days, that I'm depressed about. Why? Because children are in the room. And they are watching the election.

I remember the one word my parents tried to shield me from was the p- word when I was growing up. And now, there's an entire generation of kids who've heard that word, who have been exposed to all of this crass language in the last two days because of that Trump tape.


LEWIS: But character-- I would say character is an issue because we don't know -- but when President George W. Bush ran for president, he ran on a humble foreign policy, he ran talking about No Child Left Behind. And then, 9/11 happened. So, there is a few things that you can actually judge a potential president by.

SLELTER: But shouldn't elections be rated M for mature.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, let me jump in because this is the first time to let me speak in this segment. I just want to say very quickly that this is so much more than an election where the kids can't watch. This is an election where they have to watch and part of that, Brian, is because they are the commander-in-chief of the entire country, including kids.

And I would say to you, it is not about what happened in the last two days. It is about what has been said and displayed since he started Running for president last June. This is about what this man has said the duration of his professional career.

We had all of these examples before. We had this potential rape case of this 13-year-old girl that is now there is a hearing in December. We have all of this. And yet and still, they are continuing to try to blame the victim in Hillary Clinton for what her husband's past transgressions are.

This is not about Hillary, this is about Donald Trump having to face the music for everything he has said and done throughout his entire career in this election.

STELTER: And there's that side. There's also a crowd behind us chanting, what about Bill? And that is what they want the conversation to be.

By tweeting Breitbart article this morning and published an interview with Juanita Broaddrick this morning, she has alleged rape by Bill Clinton in the past. This interview is graphic and it's detailed. It's a video interview that's posted by Breitbart.

I do wonder if Breitbart and the Trump campaign could be coordinating given that Breitbart's boss is now the Trump campaign's boss. But beyond that, Kayleigh, I have to think about whether Trump is going to bring up these issues on stage tonight.

MCENANY: Look, I think these issues are relevant to the extent of Hillary Clinton's involvement, putting private investigators on women with viable sexual assault claims, but yet proclaiming herself as a warrior for sexual assault victims. That's hypocritical and it's relevant.

That being said, voters do not care about sexual back and forth between two candidates. Voters want to know how are going to better the economy when we have millions more people in poverty. ISIS is overrunning the Middle East, thanks to the Obama-Clinton administration. Voters want to know how you're going to better their lives, and I don't think a sexual back and forth on stage needs to happen.

STELTER: We're talking all weekend about a Trump tape. Do you feel that the media outlets are trying to take Trump down, trying to take him down by covering this tape so extensively?

MCENANY: Look, I think it deserves coverage but what I also think deserves coverage is WikiLeaks. You had Hillary Clinton say on to a Wall Street firm, hey, I have a public and a private position. Well, Hillary Clinton, tell us what your private positions are. That's relevant. Why is this not coming up?

STELTER: Has that been overshadowed because of the Trump tape?


LEWIS: Trump has been his own worst enemy, obviously. He is stepping on other story lines.

But I would say this, I think the media helped give us Donald Trump -- thanks a lot, guys, and I guess I'm one of those. And I think the media is taking him down.

This is the same liberal media that attacked Mitt Romney, an utterly decent man, I think we would all agree, for binders full of women, he was trying to hire women. That became a huge scandal. He was cast as a misogynist.

And I think that unfortunately a lot what we're seeing is a lot of the people who are sticking with Trump and defending the indefensible are doing so because they've seen year after year, the mainstream media basically tear down good, decent candidates and demonize them, and call them misogynist, call them racist.

[11:10:08] And now, they are feed. And they're going to stick --


STELTER: To be fair, media means many things. And one of the things it means is conservative media.

I wonder if some Trump supporters are living in an alternate reality with regards to the Clintons, reading stories only on Breitbart and even on fringier sites that are way down in the gutter and that's affecting how people are perceiving this election. A lot of the stories about the Clinton are actually not corroborated or have been challenged over the years.

ROSEN: And the desensitization also of these issues over the years I think have made the media now feel little less legitimate, for Trump supporters. But what you have here is a person with an actual on tape multiple times saying crass and racist and sexist things in a way that we have not had in the past, where we've had accusations, where we've had right-wing theories or a left wing theories.

But here you really have a man who has lived what he is being presented and I think that that is a big difference. So, I do think Hillary Clinton is going to raise character tonight as somebody who, it is not just about where -- you know, what you've done and what you've said, it is about how you make people feel. And what we want is a president who is going to make people feel better about who they are.

LEWIS: But the problem is if Mike Pence were the nominee, as decent of man as he is, as irenic as he is in the way he speaks, if Marco Rubio were the nominee, I think the media and the left certainly would be coming after trying to destroy them and calling them misogynist, calling them racist.

So, I think it's like the boy who cried wolf. I agree, Donald Trump is horrible. He is qualitative different than other Republicans. But I think that the media and the reason that you are seeing conservatives stick with Donald Trump through thick and thin is because of this -- this media bias.

STELTER: That's an important point.

RYE: Yes. And I guess the thing that I would have to say is, this isn't like Donald Trump appeared out of nowhere. This is the making of the Republican Party.

STELTER: This tape did come out of nowhere, though, and we're going to get into why did it suddenly appeared now. Do you think it was appropriate, Angela, for CNN to repeatedly broadcast the tape, with every single word, uncensored, except for the F word? You know, other channels decided to censor some of it, to bleep some of it, some newspapers, "The New York Times" decided to use all of the words and "Washington Post" bleeped some of the words. Do you think it was the right choice to air the entire thing?

RYE: So, it made me cringe but I think that we have to understand that you have a person who's running to be the commander-in-chief, that is making cringe-worthy comments day after day, whether on Twitter, whether in his home, whether with his friends, on air, this is someone who makes cringe-worthy comments every day.


STELTER: Kayleigh, I know you work for CNN as well. But was it appropriate to air this tape repeatedly like this? MCENANY: Look, I think it's a story. I think it deserved coverage.

Yes. And this is where the American people are forgiving.

If Donald Trump does not -- he owned this right away. He owned it, he apologized for it. If he does it again on that debate stage, the American people forgive, because guess what? Bill Clinton did some horrific actions in the Oval Office, not words, actions, and the American forgave him, despite his repeated denial, despite saying, oh, it depends on what the definition of is is and misleading the entire nation. The American people forgave, but you've got to ask for their forgiveness.

RYE: Trump also talked about actions. This is -- we didn't see it happen but he described things that he actually did. Grabbing people by the vagina is an action. So, he took that action and he was telling someone that is what he did. There are no actions --


MCENANY: There are no actions.

ROSEN: We're hearing a lot from people of color over the last couple of days about how, was it not acceptable to the GOP when Trump was racist against Mexicans? Was it acceptable to the GOP when he doesn't believe the Central Park Five?. All of a sudden now because it is white women that he is talking about, that now we have to have him -- call on him to step down.

What I think you are going to find from Hillary Clinton is this is a broad swath of unacceptable behavior. This is the president of the United States whose picture goes on the wall of every elementary school in America to say this is the person that you should admire, this is our president. And is that acceptable?

MCENANY: And we should vote in the person who is jeopardizing America's national security and lied about it repeatedly and still not accepted responsibility to this day. That's who we should have as president.

ROSEN: If you are talking about e-mails, there is nobody who has apologized more than Hillary Clinton.

MCENANY: And then she blames on Colin Powell. That's not an apology.


MCENANY: Blamed it on Colin Powell and blamed it on your aides. Apologies are accepting responsibility like what Donald --

ROSEN: You have no credibility on this point, Kayleigh --


ROSEN: She has apologized.

STELTER: What we've not heard from the Trump or Clinton is about the tape, about the vulgar language. That's what will be new tonight. That's why the debate will start with these questions and I think given that we are talking about words or actions, what has Trump done or not done, that's why Trump needs to be asked the questions.

The idea of asked about whether he is a predator, I don't think we would be here in this election 16 months ago.

If you could all stay with me, stick around. We're going to bring you back later in the hour.

But standing by, are the Debate Commission co-chairs, the people who run this debate tonight. Is there any chance Trump won't show up and what about the debate a week and a half from now?

[11:15:02] They'll join me right after the break.


STELTER: The university pep band joining us here in St. Louis, Missouri, for tonight's presidential debate, the second of three of them.

While CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz are the moderators, the debate itself is a production of the commission on presidential debates, which has run all of these events since 1988. And these two men I'm bringing in now are the co-chair of the commission, Frank Fahrenkopf, the former chairman of the RNC, and Mike McCurry, former press secretary for President Bill Clinton.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here this morning.



STELTER: Tell me, Frank, first of all, as a former chairman of the RNC, do you have a personal view about whether Donald Trump should step aside as other Republican leaders have called for in the last day.

FAHRENKOPF: No, I don't. We pretty much, when we started the debate commission way back when in 1988, Paul Kirk and I agreed and then Mike and I since, when we work on debate matters, we don't wear RNC or DNC hats, we wear USA hats.

[11:20:08] And so, no, I have no position and we just -- we are going to put on the debate tonight. That's our job, and we don't get involved in the side debate.

MCCURRY: And it is hard to deal with all of that with the festive news of the day.

STELTER: Sure, sure. I do wonder if there is a chance Trump will not be at the third debate. There is talk about Mike Pence taking over. Obviously, Trump has said he is in this no matter what. Do you know of the possibility, Frank? Does it matter?

FAHRENKOPF: Who knows? I have no idea. We take -- we like to say we take the campaign as it comes to us.


FAHRENKOPF: Whatever happens. And we have no idea -- you know, from what we understand, we're going to have three debates and one vice presidential debate. We prepared for that. And if something changes, we'll handle that when it comes.


MCCURRY: Brian, we have very clear criteria that we've had for over a year now of who gets invited to the debates and we have not extended invitations for the third debate yet. We'll do that several days before the October 19th debate.

STELTER: And the significance of that is if Gary Johnson were to get over 15 percent support in national polls, he would be invited. So far, he's not been able to reach that threshold.

MCCURRY: Any candidate who is otherwise qualified, according to our criteria and therefore, Jill Stein from the Green Party, Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party and obviously Trump and Clinton, if any of those four if they reach that 15 percent threshold, they will be extended an invitation.

STELTER: And take us behind the scenes about how debate moderators are chosen. This year, there are five moderators and this town hall debate is unusual because there are co-moderators. Why is that?

FAHRENKOPF: The hardest thing we really have to do. I mean, we've done so many from the standpoint of the production is fairly easy. I mean, we've got a great crew and they do a great job.

But picking the moderators is probably the most difficult thing we do. We want to make sure we have diversity among the moderators. We tried to find people by looking at their work product on television. We primarily have gone with electronic media, people who are used to working with this thing in their ear.

STELTER: Harder than it looks.

FAHRENKOPF: Harder than it looks. And people who have not taken sides and who have tried as much as possible to be down the middle and not be bias one way or another. And it's a very difficult thing. Mike and I spend a lot of time with our staff and so forth, trying to come up with the right people.

We're very proud of this team we've got.

STELTER: This is the first year a FOX News moderator is part of the mix, Chris Wallace coming up in the final debate.

Did Donald Trump insist on a FOX moderator? MCCURRY: No. And we don't listen to the candidates when we choose. We make those choices based on who we think will do the best job.

The other thing I add to what Frank said, we want the moderators to just basically get the campaigns and the candidates to engage each other and talk about the issues that are important to the American people. It's not about the moderators or about what they think, it's really about what the candidates want to talk about as they think about the future of our country and as they present some vision about where they are going to go. And you want moderators that will evoke that kind of question.

Chris Wallace would have been picked if he was on CNN. I think he's someone who is, you know, through the work that he's done, has demonstrated that he is that kind of moderator.

STELTER: There's been this vigorous debate about fact-checking. Chris Wallace has said he won't be a truth squad on stage. Lester Holt did step in and fact-check Donald Trump repeatedly during the first debate. Frank, do you think that's appropriate with moderators?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, we've spent a lot of time with the moderators and we're fortunate, you know, that we have a number of people who have been moderators in the past, Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer, et cetera, who spent time with them. We view, as Mike said, that the moderators is a facilitator and shouldn't be doing the fact-checking.

What ought to happen, if one candidate says something that's inconsistent with what said previously, it's up to the other candidate to correct them. Now, what happens if it's a serious matter --

STELTER: Are you saying Lester Holt was wrong?

FAHRENKOPF: No. I think he did a great job. He may -- on one instance, he said something that wasn't right, but I thought he did a great job, just like I thought Elaine Quijano did a great job in the vice presidential debate.

MCCURRY: And, Brian, I don't think he was stepped in very often on that. I think there were times when he was trying to move the debate along to the next subject and that's obviously the role the moderator plays, to kind of being to introduce the next subject.

And another thing that we've done here is rather than having a very highly structured format in these debates, we've opened it up so there are larger chunks of time so the candidates can talk to each other, and I hope they could talk to each other without constantly interrupting each other, but we are structuring this so that there's more of a dialogue between the candidates rather than back and forth with the moderator.

STELTER: Should there buzzers or ways to cut off mikes. You know, Tim Kaine was criticized for interrupting too much earlier this week.

FAHRENKOPF: You know, we've actually discussed that. But again, as Mike said, what we're trying to do is have a debate. We want the candidates to have interaction.

And if you cut off mikes, you don't know when is the right time to do it. So, we decided to let them go at it. The moderator has to do the best job they could to slow it down so that they can hear each other, but we want that interaction.

MCCURRY: At the end of the day, you learn something about the character and the personality of the person if they're, you know, behaving in a certain way on stage.

[11:25:01] So, that's part of the process of educating the public about who these folks are in the first place.

STELTER: Should the debates be held sooner given that early voting is becoming more prominent?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, we moved this one up. And you realize, we had one in September. So, we took advantage of that, and also realized that the conventions are earlier than they usually were.


FAHRENKOPF: But you're right. I think something like 40 percent of the American people have voted four years ago by Election Day. So, we tried to move it up closer but -- and we're going to look at it again between this and the next round.

STELTER: I'm coming up against a hard break. Mike, do you believe Clinton and Trump will shake hands on stage today? Hoping for a cordial conversation?

MCCURRY: It's hard to imagine that they won't, and it's hard to imagine that they won't treat each other with some measure of respect. But it's likely going to get hot as well.

STELTER: It feels like we are in the gutter and --

MCCURRY: Well, that is -- that is the dispiriting thing is when we move away from issues that we know the American people care about. They want to talk about immigration, the economy, national security, terrorism -- the issues that I think define what we want to think about as we think to the next president, what they're going to do for the country.

STELTER: Mike and Frank, thank you both for sharing time with us this morning.

FAHRENKOPF: Thanks. Great to be here.

STELER: Best of luck tonight.

And up ahead here on RELIABLE SOURCES, the back story, the story you haven't heard about Donald Trump and "The Apprentice" and how it relates to the tape tht was aired on Friday.

We'll be right back from Washington University in St. Louis. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, the site of tonight's second presidential debate. I'm Brian Stelter. This is RELIABLE SOURCES.

And we're talking about the media's role in this crazy campaign season.

If you define news as what is new, then Donald Trump's piggish views of some women are not news. Remember, his offensive comments were part of the very first question at the very first primary debate of the year.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.


Your Twitter account...



KELLY: No, it wasn't.


KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks.

You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.


STELTER: That was 14 months ago.

The difference now is that there is a tape, a surprise tape, letting people hear Trump in his own words. In this era of profound media distrust, hearing and seeing is persuasive. Raw material is persuasive. So, that is the difference this time.

And the news is not that Trump is just offending women. It is that he is describing predatory behavior, possibly actions, not just words. So how was the tape discovered by "Access Hollywood."

Well, the tale of this tape actually starts with an Associated Press story from last Monday describing Trump's alleged lewd and sexist behavior on the set of the reality show "The Apprentice."

Let me tell you the story from the very beginning.

Joining me now to help with that is the reporter who wrote it, Garance Burke.

I appreciate you so much for being here this morning. Thank you.


STELTER: So, you went and interviewed 20 people who worked on "The Apprentice" back in the 2000s, in the early 2010s. What they did they tell about Trump's behavior on the set of "The Apprentice"?

BURKE: So, one of the striking things about my reporting was hearing from nearly two dozen former cast and crew on "The Apprentice" who described situations on set in which Donald Trump used sexist language that they felt was really uncomfortable, including talking openly about which female contestants he wanted to have sex with.

Part of this was during the time in which he was married to his wife, Melania.

Also describing a camera operator who he took a fancy to, talking about her body, as well as ranking female contestants by the size of her breasts.

STELTER: Your story led "Access Hollywood" to dig up the tape from 2005, the now famous tape of Trump talking with Billy Bush. It was not broadcast by NBC before it was leaked to "The Washington Post." And then it was seen by the whole world.

Does it frustrate you at all that didn't have audio and video of these incidents on the set of "The Apprentice" and thus your story didn't have more of an impact earlier in the week?

BURKE: Well, you know, I would say, Brian, it has been very gratifying to see that the strength of AP's reporting really prompted others in the field to take action.

Of course, "Access Hollywood" has said that reading my story spurred them to go back to their own archives and take a look at what unedited footage they might have that would shed some new light on the candidate. So, I think that has been actually quite gratifying.

STELTER: And what sense do you have about whether the "Access" -- the "Apprentice" tapes are accessible?

Mark Burnett, the producer of "The Apprentice," its production company, has the tapes, presumably has lots of raw audio and video of Trump producing -- taping the show over the years.

Do you have a sense of whether that is accessible, whether any damaging videos might be coming out from there?

BURKE: Well, we have been very aggressive in seeking access to that footage and audio. Unfortunately, executive producer Mark Burnett's office doesn't return

phone calls. And when we have contacted NBC, they have either said variously that they don't have the footage or they don't know if they have the footage, and, even if they did, they would be legally prohibited from releasing it.

So, we are seeking anyone who has additional material to come forward and contact either me at or AP generally at


STELTER: I appreciate the plug. And I will plug your story as well. It is on And it is highly, highly worth reading.

Thank you so much for being here today.

BURKE: Thank you.

STELTER: That is how reporting works right there, right, trying to solicit information from sources.

Up next here: more on the Trump tape. We are going to pick it up from there, from that Associated Press story, talk about how NBC find it and then why "The Washington Post" scooped NBC.

All the details just now coming in -- right after the break.



STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES live from Saint Louis -- Saint Louis, Missouri, and Washington University in Saint Louis, where the debate will take place, the debate we have all been waiting for, in less than 10 hours from now.

Think about where we are and why this Trump tape, this vulgar tape, is now the top story. Think about how it happened.

Back in 2005, when Trump was caught on this tape when talking to Billy Bush, he was the star of NBC's "The Apprentice," a reality show that helped build him up in households all across America. And he was taping for "Access Hollywood," talking with Bush, getting ready to go on the set of an NBC soap opera to tape a cameo.

So, this was all about NBC. And after that Associated Press story came out on Monday about Trump's time behind the scenes at "The Apprentice," "Access Hollywood," an NBC Entertainment show, went looking in the archives for that Billy Bush-Donald Trump tape.

They found it. They prepared to cover it. They prepared to broadcast it. And they got NBC News involved as well. Both the news division and the entertainment side of the house were ready to report on this tape, but not until at least next week. According to sources at NBC, there were legal issues to deal with,

making sure the corporate lawyers were all on board. This was going to broadcast. They swear it was going to. But then it got leaked to "The Washington Post."

And "The Washington Post" received a copy of the tape on Friday and, within five hours, published a story with the tape that you have now seen on loop all across television.

So, NBC did not break its own news. And yet that news is now a huge part of this debate tonight.

Let's talk about it and the historical context of what is unfolding in this campaign with three experts, including Carole Simpson, who was herself a moderator of a debate town hall, also Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian and history professor at Rice University, and Jeff Greenfield, a political analyst who has been with CNN and other networks over the years.

I appreciate you all being here this morning to bring us context.

Jeff, do you believe there is a problem here for NBC, that Billy Bush, co-host of "The Today Show" has been caught on this tape joking around with Trump about women's genitalia, about how hot these women are in this explicit way? Is it a problem for NBC that Billy Bush works for "The Today Show"? And is it a problem for NBC that they didn't broadcast their own tape?

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, once you get a bunch of corporate lawyers in a room, speedy action is probably the last thing you would expect.

And I don't really have a strong feeling about whether NBC should have gone ahead with it. For me, the much bigger issue is why this tape produced the reaction it did, when a year's worth of other evidence didn't.

The question that I would have asked all of these Republicans now backing away from Trump is, what didn't you know and when didn't you know it?

So, to be candid with you, Brian, I don't find the internal debate within a corporation about whether they could release a tape and what the legal problems are to be at the center of the concern about this.

To me, it is -- it tells us something very significant about the media and also, by the way, about the new media that a -- quote -- "print outlet" like "The Washington Post" could show a video that the video purveyors didn't show.

There is a certain irony there. That may not be the answer to your question...

STELTER: Good point.

GREENFIELD: ... but I -- but, to me, we want to keep the focus on the extraordinary gap between what this tape produced, particularly among the Republican elites and officeholders, and what years' -- or years' worth of other evidence didn't.

STELTER: Carole, as someone who has moderated a town hall-style debate in the past, what do you do to challenge Clinton and Trump to address this issue, knowing that Clinton is going to speak first, is going to get the first question?

How do you bring this topic up, address it, but not let it devolve into something even more coarse than we have already heard?

CAROLE SIMPSON, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, these are going to be the people's questions that are there, the undecided voters. I don't know why they are undecided after all this time.

But it is going to be their questions. And this is the first time I have heard people talking about Trump and not the Red Sox. So, everybody has heard this, and everybody is talking about it.

And I think it is going to be the first question. I think the moderators are able to choose which person asks the first question. But I bet that first question is going to be about the tape.

STELTER: Right. Right.

When it comes up, when Trump responds, would you be concerned as a moderator about having to fact-check either of the candidates? Do you believe Cooper and Raddatz should be proactive in that way?

SIMPSON: I would be. And, probably, Mr. Fahrenkopf and McCurry would not be happy with me as a moderator.

But I just feel that, if you are a journalist, and you know the truth of something, and you hear one of the candidates state an untruth, I think it is an obligation of the moderator, who is representing the people, to correct that.


So, yes, I think they should fact-check.

STELTER: Doug Brinkley here with me at the debate site in Saint Louis, thinking about the historical context for what we're about to see, has there been a candidate who has come into a debate as wounded as Trump is coming in tonight?


And he's decimated right now. And I'm not sure what he can do. I mean, one of the problems is, he keeps talking about Bill Clinton every time he's in a jam. Well, he is not running against Bill Clinton. And by tying the two together causes some problems.

But, also, if he's going after the Clinton's sexcapades, going to name all those women, then do it, and do it hard. Take ads out, like Hillary Clinton is doing. This is a war going on right now. And Donald Trump seems to be of two minds all the time. And he's just getting pummelled in the press.

STELTER: Well, Trump supporters say the war is happening by the press, that the media is engaging in this.

Do you believe it is the media's fault, so to speak? I mean, how do you kind of apportion responsibility here?

BRINKLEY: The only media fault was, NBC should have had that tape running in the spring, when somebody in the Republican Party could have picked somebody else.

Why, as a major news organization, hoarding a tape like that -- you would think, once Trump tracked, NBC would be looking for whatever they have. They are putting all these resources and setting up camps like we are at right now around the country, and not listening to their own archives.

STELTER: And the claim is -- and the claim is, they didn't know about it. Why they didn't look is another question.


STELTER: Jeff Greenfield, what are you looking for tonight? I mean, the media expectations game here is crucial.

GREENFIELD: I don't mean to be superficial. The first thing I'm looking for is the handshake, whether it happens.

STELTER: Yes, me too.

GREENFIELD: And the reason I mention that is -- yes, because, in 1990, Ann Richards won the governorship in part because her opponent refused to shake hands at a debate.

On the other hand, that -- what we saw at the first debate, the smiles, the pat on the back that Donald Trump gave Clinton, I think -- I actually think, having been in rooms of debate prep, that they are devoting serious attention to just how formal that handshake should be, just how quickly she can disengage. I know it sounds trivial, but that kind of visual first impression is really significant.

And the second thing that I'm really, as a former debate preparer, really puzzled about is, what does Hillary Clinton say if Donald Trump goes full-bore after the accusations of Bill Clinton's predatory behavior, not affairs, but the Paula Jones-Juanita Broaddrick-Kathleen Willey issue?

What does she say? And I don't have an answer.

STELTER: It's an area that is going to need a lot of reporting to put facts vs. fiction into context.

I'm out -- I'm short on time, Carole, but I just want to ask you briefly, given that you have been in the room, you have been in debate prep, as a moderator, what advice do you have for Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz right now? SIMPSON: They have to see that the people's questions are answered.

And you know how Trump has the tendency to deflect and to change the subject and so on. And I think they have to get back to them and say, look, you have been asked by Mr. So and So about the tape. What -- we'd like you to answer his question.

So, I think they have to be very careful to see that they are getting their questions answered.

STELTER: The pressure is on both men and both women who will be on that stage.

Carole, Jeff, Doug, thank you all for being here this morning.

SIMPSON: Thanks.

STELTER: And coming up after a quick break, a look at the expectations, some insight from liberals and conservatives about how this debate is going to be portrayed.

I will be right back in just a moment.




STELTER: The band is back, and so are we. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

I want to bring back our panel for some final thoughts about the expectations for tonight's debate, because it really is an expectations-setting game under way.

Back with me, Hilary Rosen, Angela Rye, Kayleigh McEnany, and Matt Lewis.

Hilary, what do you believe? How should the bar be set? Before the first debate, there was conversations about having the bar set equally for both candidates. What do you expect for tonight?

ROSEN: Well, we're really now looking at a style vs. substance scoring.

And the Clinton campaign, rightly so, was unhappy that Mike Pence got so many big points for style, when, the next day, his substance was so badly -- was so fact-checked that he had misspoken so many times.

So, you're going to see the campaign this afternoon and this evening really talking about, you have got to score both of these things. It isn't just about who was warm and fuzzy, although Hillary Clinton has a lot of experience with town halls and can be very emotionally tactile with individuals. But you're going to see the campaign really be aggressive today in saying, no, no, no, Donald Trump has to be right on substance for him to succeed.

STELTER: That's on the Clinton side.

On the Trump side, I would think, Kayleigh, that there's a concern about -- there's going to be desire to declare Trump the winner, no matter what, just because he got to the stage tonight.

MCENANY: Yes, look, the expectations could not be higher for Trump.

And he has a hard task, because he has to apologize and show his heart, but he also has to do what Mike Pence did. Mike Pence succeeded in making Tim Kaine look small, because Tim Kaine, in response to legitimate questions about Syrian refugees, brought up taxes. That looks petty. Mike Pence drove it to the issues, and that's why he won that debate. That's what Trump needs to do.

STELTER: Matt, your expectations?

LEWIS: Well, here's the interesting thing. I think there are two interesting potential narratives that could come out of tonight.


One is, Donald Trump is done. He had a horrible first debate. He had this huge scandal. And then a town hall debate doesn't really favor him. I think he can't really emote.

So, you could have a narrative that says it's over, there's going to be a triage, Republicans should save the Senate, but write off Trump.

The other narrative is the comeback story. Interestingly, I think the media is rooting for the comeback story.

ROSEN: Because it's more interesting.

LEWIS: So, that could be a...


STELTER: Final word to Angela Rye.

Do you agree? Is the media rooting for a comeback story for Trump?

RYE: I don't think the media is rooting for a comeback story.

I think that some of us in the media are just eager to finally hear the truth, and for the truth to set us free. And by that, I mean free from Trump. Like, this is -- this thing needs to be over.

There wasn't just one scandal. There were three. There was Alicia Machado. There was this particular scandal. And there was the Central Park 5 story that was well-covered on CNN.

STELTER: There's a lot to ask about on both sides.

RYE: Yes.

STELTER: I appreciate the four of you being here.

We're out of time for this hour, but CNN's coverage continues all day and night long, debate night in America now nine hours away.

Stay tuned here.