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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Trump Picks Fight with "Hamilton" Cast and SNL; Challenges of Press Access in Covering Trump; The Dangers of Fake News; Fate of "The New York Observer"; Bill O'Reilly Feuds with Fellow Fox Anchor Megyn Kelly; Remembering Gwen Ifill. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired November 20, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:05] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made. A special welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and all around the world on CNN International.
Ahead this hour, will President-elect Donald Trump respect First Amendment rights? And will he provide the same level of press access as past presidents have? We will have fresh reporting and experts standing by to discuss it.
Plus, the plague of fake news and it really is a plague. I have some thoughts to share about how to separate fact from fiction.
And later, FOX News star Megyn Kelly speaking out about alleged sexual harassment by Roger Ailes and exposing a growing rift between her and Bill O'Reilly. What does it say about the future of FOX News?
But, first, journalists standing by for more appointments by President-elect Trump as he continues to hold meetings with possible cabinet choices. Today on the agenda, New York Governor Chris Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- sorry, I meant New Jersey there. And, of course, Robert Johnson, the founder of BET. Also intriguingly, according to "Politico", Ari Emanuel, the super agent, also meeting with Trump today.
And the president-elect is doing all this publicly, at his resort in New Jersey, putting on a show for the cameras.
But even as his administration starts to take shape, Trump cannot resist lashing out on Twitter. His latest targets, the cast of "Hamilton" after the cast had a message for Vice President-elect Mike Pence during Friday night's program.
Trump tweeted on Saturday and again this morning. Here's his most recent message, saying, "The cast and producers of 'Hamilton' which I hear is highly overrated should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior." I'm speechless.
And then he turned his sights on "SNL" after Alec Baldwin played Trump as someone who is a little or a lot in over his head. Trump tweeted, "I watched parts of 'SNL' last night. It is a totally one-sided biased show, nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?"
We'll get into what he means by equal time a little later.
The big question now is, is President-elect Trump going to continue to make the media a real issue or is this all just a big distraction? Would he rather have people talking about his tweets than the various controversies he is facing and his conflicts of interest involving his businesses?
Joining me now to discuss all of this, Charles Blow, CNN political commentator and columnist for "The New York Times," Salena Zito, CNN contributor and national political reporter, and Ben Shapiro, editor- in-chief of the dailywire.com.
Welcome to all three of you.
Charles, do you believe this a strategy by President-elect Trump, does he purposely post these sorts of things, get people all riled up in order to distract people from real controversies?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I just think it's a compulsion he really -- I mean, he is -- he is consumed. What you will have to remember is this is a guy from Queens who wanted to be in New York City, his whole kind of social orbit is the New York City orbit, right? So, that's why he's still kind of positions himself in New York City media. That's why he attacks "The New York Times," that's why he attacks "SNL," that's why he is attacking a Broadway show.
"The New York Times" put together an amazing list of all the people he had attacked. Take a look at that list and see how many of those personalities are people who are right here in New York City. It's almost as if he's not completely moved into the realm of being president of the entire United States, he's still obsessed about New York City, and in that includes New York City media.
STELTER: Well, Salena, you have been talking about this, actually asked them "Hamilton" this weekend. Do voters where you are in Pennsylvania and Ohio, do they care about this "Hamilton" controversy?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I went out into Youngstown, Ohio, yesterday and talked to a number of voters, and I specifically talked to Democrats who voted for Clinton and asked them how they felt about it. And while they had no problem with the speech that was given afterwards, they did have a problem with the booing. They thought it was disrespectful and they think that more respect should have been shown to him as a guy just going to see a play.
STELTER: So booing by the audience members when Pence walked into the room.
STELTER: Let me bring up, of course, Trump's famous Twitter feed here, and let's pull up one of his tweets from yesterday about this. We can put it on screen, one of his first comments about this controversy. He said the following, he said, "Our wonderful future VP Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of 'Hamilton', cameras blazing." And then he said, "This should not happen." He is not talking about the booing there, he's talking about the cast members' message.
STELTER: Ben, I read something like that, Donald Trump saying, "This should not happen", and I think that has a chilling effect for artistic expression. After all, these performers were up on stage, they were performing art, even when they were speaking to the vice president-elect. Do you agree?
[11:05:01] BEN SHAPIRO, EDITOR IN CHIEF, DAILYWIRE.COM: I mean, it isn't my favorite thing.
STELTER: Sorry, Ben. Go ahead.
SHAPIRO: It isn't my favorite thing. I would recommend that conservatives who look at President-elect Trump doing this and saying, well, it seems OK to me, just imagine if the shoe were on the other foot for a second, and it were Barack Obama lecturing NASCAR fans if he got booed at some sort of NASCAR event. You know, it doesn't seem totally appropriate for the president-elect to the United States to be doing this.
On the other hand, you know, I would recommend that the media sort of take a second look at how much focus they put on things like this because the fact is if you're going to turn it up to 11 on a "Hamilton" tweet, yes, this is going to be a long president for all of you.
STELTER: Is that what you think happened on Saturday and again today? We've turned it up to 11?
SHAPIRO: Yes, I think that you guys have been -- I think the mainstream media has been at 11 since the election and I think that that means that there is no place to turn it from there. I mean, this is sort of the problem in the 2016 election. I think there are a lot of aspersions cast to Mitt Romney and then when he came back in 2016 and cast the same aspersion at Donald Trump who was a very different candidate, a lot of people just tuned it out.
I really think that your -- that the media is in danger of blowing it's credibility if they're going to be so exuberant about covering every aspects of Trump's foibles, because there are going to be things he does that are actually probably not very good and you're going to want people to pay attention to it. If you pay the same amount of attention to a "Hamilton" tweet that you do, for example, something I think is significantly more troubling, President-elect Trump meeting with business partners from India while he is the president-elect, you know, that seems something where you ought to be putting more focus if you're going to actually point out problems here.
STELTER: Charles, do you agree?
BLOW: I think -- no, I think you have to just constantly call out everything.
STELTER: But doesn't that raise -- Ben is saying, you raise the volume to 11 at all times.
BLOW: Yes, I am so personally offended by so much of what he does, you know, you make a really strong point about, you know, artistic expression and allowing that to live and breathe and not try to put your thumb on the scale of that as the president of the United States. That's a real point. That is not a small thing, right?
And as a person who lives here in New York City, who goes to Broadway, who has gone to see "Hamilton" and it is not overrated, it is actually a great show --
STELTER: I do think Donald Trump needs to go and see "Hamilton", by the way. I'm serous here.
BLOW: I think he needs to see it. Absolutely.
STELTER: I think he needs to go and see "Hamilton".
BLOW: But I think there is a real need for all of us to put constant pressure on this man to make him live up to the ideals of the presidency itself. And, you know, I am, you know, obviously an opinion journalist, I'm not a straight news reporter and they have a different mission, a straight news reporter.
But people like me there is a real -- the country needs us right now to put pressure on him because we have to make him be the president. He is going to be president for four years and he has to conform to that in some way. He can't do things like this and not have it called out. It just can't happen.
STELTER: So, Salena, let me ask you do you buy that? I mean, one of the reasons why you are here with us, one of CNN's newest contributors, is you had a much better understanding of what was going on in voters' minds during the election season. You were speaking with voters in the Rust Belt on a daily basis. I'm really thankful CNN has brought on board as a contributor, because we need to hear much more from voices outside D.C. and New York and the Acela corridor.
So, let me ask you, do you think -- do you think folks out there outside the New York/D.C. bubble do believe that they need journalists right now? Do they believe in what we think here on CNN?
ZITO: Well, I think that -- and thank you for that nice introduction. But I do think that that's important and that was sort of missed in this election cycle. That they didn't think that people -- not just were talking to them, because plenty of reporters went into events in Ohio, in Pennsylvania and Michigan, but being there and living there and listening to them, I think that was the most important component that we need to learn from this election is listening to everyone, and I think this is a good start.
STELTER: Well, they want to be heard, but do those voters, do ordinary voters who probably haven't seen "Hamilton", do they care about journalists trying to stand up and be more adversarial in this moment, and hold the president-elect accountable or does all of that come across as media bias?
ZITO: Well, it's not just media bias. I think when you look at Trump's most recent tweets, it's not just really about media, but it's about pop culture and culture's perception of America outside of New York City, right? So, they like that tension.
I think that even though -- and back to your thing about standing up to Trump. We -- I think viewers and voters always expect reporters even if they don't like what we do, to challenge the status quo and to challenge power because our job is to bring them the news and have them understand what is happening.
[11:10:01] STELTER: To challenge power indeed.
Well, Salena, thank you for being here. Charles, Ben, please stick around. We're going to take a quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES.
When we come back, we're talking about Trump ditching the press pool, how accessible is he being with journalists?
We have new information from the head of the White House Correspondents Association right after this quick break.
STELTER: A rocky start -- Donald Trump's relationship with the press as president-elect is off to a rocky start. The White House Correspondents Association issued a warning after he ditched the press pool to go out to dinner earlier this week. The association said, "It isn't acceptable for the next president of the U.S. to travel without a regular pool to record his movement and inform the public about his whereabouts."
In another rebuke to the press, Trump denied access to his meeting with the Japanese prime minister later in the week. There was a photo taken. It was a handout photo, which means it's basically a visual press release. Most major news outlets worked together and agreed not to show the photo as a form of protest. That's why you didn't see it in the news coverage. These kinds of choices are made by news outlets in order to take a stand.
We also heard from 15 different journalism advocacy groups this week all urging the president-elect to not only provide a press pool but also take other steps towards transparency.
So, let's talk about this rocky start, whether there's any reason to think it might get better.
Rejoining me here, Charles Blow and Ben Shapiro. And let me bring in Ann Compton, former White House correspondent for ABC News. [11:15:02] Ann, thank you for being here.
You, of course, were on Air Force One, you were one of the pool reporters on 9/11, traveling with President George W. Bush, informing the nation that he was safe and that he was moving about the country trying to return to Washington. As we look at some of the video from that fateful day can you tell us, Ann, in a nutshell why does the press pool matter? Why should you and I and everyone watching care?
ANN COMPTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well, you're absolutely right, there is a reason why for the last half century or more, every president, Republican and Democrat, have welcomed the presence of a travel pool, a rotating group of print reporters, broadcast journalists and photographers, a small group which can cover him in more intimate settings and pool that information with the rest of the White House press corps.
And on that morning of September 11th, 2001, when a crisis struck, the reporters who were in the room could then turn and assure the rest of the nation that the president was safe, that the president was acting. And it's the same reason why the president has to be president wherever he is -- whether it's a restaurant or a school room or Air Force One. That's why he also has a military doctor and a communications van full of equipment where he can reach out and be president wherever he is.
STELTER: I don't care what kind of steak he orders but I do care that he's safe.
But, Ann, you say this is actually the least of the media's problems with regard to a Trump presidency?
COMPTON: Absolutely. The press pool is important and every president has used one, but the biggest question goes back to what you just talked about with a photo-op with the president -- with the prime minister from Japan. Access to the president has to be in person by the reporters covering the White House covering the president or president elect where he is.
In advance, the Trump Organization was told that if they just handed out a photo taken by the Trump staff or by the Japanese, that the American media won't use it. If it's an event which should be open to press coverage, then the media is not going to use the photographs, not going to any more than they would take a written printout of the president or president-elect and simply read it on the air. That's a handout, that's not news coverage.
STELTER: I was asking the head of the White House Correspondents Association Jeff Mason for an update this morning. We can put on screen what he said to me.
He said, "There is no real update. We are encouraged that there has been some pool access this weekend, including some limited to the president-elect, but we are discouraged that we still do not have a full protective pool. We will to continue to push for that." So, Ben, we have seen some access this weekend, President-elect Donald Trump greeting visitors to his golf resort. Do you think this is a positive sign, something we should actually be acknowledging and thanking him for? Or this is the kind of bare minimum, the bare minimum acceptable standard for access to the president?
SHAPIRO: Well, look, I think the expectation that he's going to make himself available to the press is a good one and I hope that he does do that, especially after he becomes president, I think there may be some different standards for president-elect than president, but Ann would know that better than I would.
But beyond that, you know, the fact is that the press access for the last eight years has been quite terrible and many members of the press have complained about this. I mean, the White House was releasing its own photos and tapes of events and not really allowing the press to cover it in the way that the press wanted to cover it for years. The DOJ was targeting people at the "A.P."
I mean, there has been a lot of problems between the White House and the press long predating Donald Trump. That's not an excuse for Trump to do the right thing here, but it is worth putting it in context.
STELTER: Ann, is that true? How bad was it in the Obama administration versus, say, the Bush or the Clinton administration?
COMPTON: Well, I don't think President Obama has a perfect record on this. Very often in meetings that he holds within the White House conducting the office of president, the White House will offer us a still photograph or put their own video on the whitehouse.gov website -- the kind of meetings which traditionally with his predecessors a press pool would always come in and get some video in person watching the president rather than being handed material.
That's the new media age. We've given the tools of journalism including Twitter to the presidents and to the candidates.
STELTER: Speaking of Twitter, we heard from the president as I mentioned earlier this morning on talking about "SNL," saying "SNL" was unfunny.
Charles, he also said that maybe there should be equal time for us. Now, that could mean a lot of things. I interpreted his use of the words equal time to refer to the FCC rules mandating equal time.
STELTER: So, number one, Trump was on "SNL." He hosted last year. NBC stations actually have to offer his GOP primary rivals equal time. They had to offer them basically free commercials in order to make up for the fact that Trump hosted "SNL."
Equal time rules are only in effect during the election.
STELTER: They're not in effect the rest of the time.
STELTER: What do you make of his reference to equal time? Is he willfully misunderstanding what it means?
BLOW: Of course, he -- I mean, of course, he is. He doesn't -- he doesn't get that. Also, it's Twitter, right, so you can be -- I don't know what time it is, often he tweets in the middle of the night, he might have gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and tweets.
[11:20:04] I don't know.
But I think that it's Twitter, you could make a mistake on Twitter. The bigger question that I think all of us need to ask a whether or not he's really ready to be president of the United States in the sense of, is he really open to this 24/7 public scrutiny and work?
STELTER: And the press pool relates to that as well.
BLOW: The press pool relates to that. The idea that you will be under scrutiny all the time, that you will have to live in the fishbowl. I'm not sure that that is part -- that he wanted that part of it. That he definitely wanted to win and he won. But what comes along with that is the scrutiny, what comes along with that is always being around.
You know, I had read reports of him saying that he might even want to come back to New York to Trump Towers on the weekends.
BLOW: You have to commit to the job. This is not -- this is not a part-time job.
STELTER: So, Ann, what do you recommend? As a veteran journalist, what do you recommend journalists do to try to hold Trump to the same standards past presidents have been held to?
COMPTON: We keep talking about it, we keep putting the news on the air. And to the presidential staff and the presidential transition staff, make the point that this is a two-way street. That the president works for the American people and that kind of transparency, the kind of accessibility to get his views across to the American people so that they understand and understand why it is he's doing what he did, we keep doing our job every single day 24/7.
STELTER: We're talking about outsiders, the press pool with outsiders that track the president.
But, Ben, I'm also seeing media insiders in a Trump presidency. Let me put on the screen a few examples of this.
"The New York Times" says "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough has been giving Trump advice. We saw "Hollywood Reporter" columnist Michael Wolff visiting Steve Bannon earlier this week. Jeannine Pirro of FOX News also visiting Trump Tower. Piers Morgan on the phone with Trump earlier this week. Mike Huckabee of FOX there for a meeting.
And, of course, we know Sean Hannity and Trump have a long-term relationship. That was Trump's favorite show to go on during the primaries and during the general election.
Ben, what do you make of this list? Is it surprising at all that the President-elect Trump is gong to have these kind of favored journalists? I will add one more, by the way, FOX host Eric Bolling in contention for a Commerce Department job according to "Politico."
SHAPIRO: I mean, how about the fact that Steve Bannon who is the former CEO of Breitbart is the chief strategist for the White House. Obviously, there's a pretty cozy relationship between Trump and some members of the right wing media -- again, not unprecedented. President Obama drew staffers from the left wing media as well, I think for people to take that out of context is a little bit foolish. But obviously --
STELTER: You would say left wing media, I wouldn't call "TIME" Magazine left wing, but Jeff Carney did come over from "TIME" to become the White House press secretary.
SHAPIRO: Some of us would. But, you know, there you have it.
But the bottom line is that the reality is I think that some of the issues that we've been discussing there, there will be a bit of a disconnect between the media and the rest of the United States because the way the people read media stories is that they read them as binaries with good guys and bad guys.
And so, when you have Trump attacking "Hamilton" or you have Trump attcking "SNL," a lot of people across the country, they just -- instead of looking at what's appropriate for president to do, they go, OK, so someone attacked "SNL," who cares? Somebody attacked "Hamilton", do I really care about that? Is that something that matters to me?
And while a lot of folks in the media and people who watch the presidency, we say, this is not a great thing when he's attacking private citizens.
And again, if President Obama had done the same thing and he did do the same thing many times, we complained about it very loudly, I think there is a likelihood that a lot of people will say this is not big deal, why should we focus on a Broadway show and a spat between the president-elect of the United States and some actors.
STELTER: Easy to just dismiss it and move on I suppose.
Well, Ann, Charles, Ben, thank you very much all for being here.
COMPTON: Thank you.
STELTER: Coming up next, fake news -- something we've talked about a cent weeks and recent months. It seems to be becoming a partisan issue. But regardless of your politics, there's one casualty that affects all of us and I will explain when we come back.
[11:28:20] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
I've been thinking a lot about confusion and who it helps. Fake news websites set out to confuse people, but they're only one symptom of a bigger broader disease, a break down in trust, a break down in a shared set of facts.
This had been happening well before Donald Trump entered the presidential race, but it is now accelerating. We are entering a terrible new age of information warfare. And it brings to mind that old adage, "The first casualty of war is the truth."
This war so to speak is playing out right on your smartphone, right on your Facebook news feed, where made up stories spread to millions of people.
Here are a few recent examples. The Pope endorsing Trump, fake. Megyn Kelly fired for becoming Hillary Clinton, fake. Clinton committed -- Clinton linked to crimes committed by Anthony Weiner also fake. But that one was treated by retired General Michael Flynn, Trump's pick for national security advisor.
This is the kind of B.S. that Facebook and Twitter and Google have to grapple with, but we have to grapple with it ourselves individually. Those stories I just mentioned are all pretty easily disproven, they are the most basic pure form of fake news. And when I say fake news, I mean stories designed to trick people into believing lies -- deception 101.
Now, I have a hard time believing any creator of any fake news website, but one of them Paul Horner spoke with the "Washington Post" this week and look at what he said. Quote, "I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His campaign manager posted my story about a protesting getting paid $3,500 as fact. I made that up."
Horner went on to say, "I thought they would fact check it and would make them look worse. But Trump supporters -- they just keep running with it. They never fact-check anything."
Now, to be clear, fake news infects the left and the right. I have seen Clinton supporters sharing fake links this week with election- related conspiracy theories.
But the evidence indicates that this is more of a problem on the right, among some, not all, but some Trump supporters.
Further research is needed to understand why online lies are so appealing to some voters. But I would suggest to you that it starts at the top.
After all, Trump himself frequently misled voters during this campaign. And he has been personally fooled by fictional stories. Remember when he said, "All I know is what's on the Internet"?
This was in March after a protester rushed the stage at one of his rallies. The Secret Service thankfully intervened, but Trump then asserted the protester had ties to ISIS.
Watch how Chuck Todd tried to correct him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You praised the Secret Service, but then you said the man had ties to ISIS. That turned out to be a hoax. Did you go over the top there on that? Where did you get evidence?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: No. No. No. No.
He was -- he was if you look on the Internet, if you look at clips where he's dragging an American flag...
TODD: Which turned out to be a hoax. Somebody made that up, sir.
TRUMP: Excuse me. He had -- he had -- talk -- well, I don't know what they made up. All I can do is play what is there.
And, supposedly there was chatter about ISIS. Now, I don't know. What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the Internet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, the contrast between the next president and the sitting president could not be more extreme.
President Obama is deeply concerned about people believing just everything they read on the Internet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we are not serious about facts and what's true and what's not, and particularly in an age of social media, where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: We do have problems.
I think everybody feels it right now. One of the problems is that fake news Web sites are so easy to set up and so profitable for the creators. Every time we click and share, they make more money, but we are worse off. So, Facebook and Google are now trying to choke off the ads that show
up on these sites, trying to make them less profitable. But that is a losing battle. These fake news sites are always going to exist. In fact, they're probably going to get better at blending in and looking real.
The same goes for hyperpartisan blogs and Facebook pages that only tell people what they want to hear, that celebrate their side and demonize the other side.
You know, on this program, we used to talk about red news, blue news, but we are now way beyond just red news and blue news. We are in an environment where some people are choosing to be colorblind.
Media literacy is part of the solution here. As a society, we need to help each other distinguish between reliable and bogus stories. The more media-literate you are, the less likely you will be tricked by propaganda.
And that's what it is, propaganda. Journalism is also a big part of the solution. As an industry, we have to redouble our efforts to restore our credibility.
But, to tell you the truth, these are not satisfying or complete answers to the problem. I don't have complete answers. I know a lot of us are going to be gathering around Thanksgiving tables in a few days unable to see eye to eye about basic facts.
In this age of information warfare, every person can just pull out their smartphone and pull up a story that tells them they are right and their loved one is wrong.
How does this end? With no one trusting anything? There's more fact- checking than ever, but fewer people trusting the facts. Are we moving more into an authoritarian media climate, more like Russia or China?
I don't know. I feel so empty and, frankly, so pessimistic about this.
But I know that people in power all around the world benefit from confusion. They benefit from this confusion. So, we must be vigilant as journalists and as Facebook users and as family members at Thanksgiving.
Refuse to be confused.
Now, that's all for that essay this week. I have got to tell you, I don't have the answers, as I said, but I'm trying to figure it out. And I appreciate your feedback.
So, send me a tweet, send me a Facebook message, @BrianStelter on both sites.
And up next here: Will Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, put his news outlet, "The Observer," into a blind trust if he takes a White House role?
We're going to ask the paper's top editor when we come back.
STELTER: Donald Trump ran an anti-media campaign during the election year, but there's one media figure he's pretty fond of, his son-in- law, Jared Kushner, publisher of "The New York Observer" newspaper.
He has often been at Trump's side during the campaign and now during the transition. According to "The New York Times," Kushner has spoken to a lawyer about the possibility of joining the new administration. It's a story made for the headlines and the outcome is anyone's guess.
So, what could it mean for Kushner and for his newspaper?
Joining me now, the editor in chief, Ken Kurson,.
Great to see you, Ken.
KEN KURSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE NEW YORK OBSERVER": Thanks for having me, Brian.
STELTER: So, "The Observer" just ended its print editions. You're going to be online only. Is that related at all to Kushner's role owning the paper and possibly working with his father-in-law?
KURSON: No, it has nothing to do with that.
It has to do the fact that we have multiplied our digital readership by about seven times at the same time our print and everyone else's is cratering. So, it's totally related to how people consume news.
STELTER: What about the ownership of the paper? If Kushner is to join the administration in some form, will he give up his ownership of the organization? Do we have any sense of that?
KURSON: You know, Jared will behave ethically and appropriately, as he always does.
He has got a law degree. He is a smart guy. He is not going to put his reputation or anything he owns in jeopardy. I'm not an expert on the laws about nepotism, but I know they're pretty strict, at least as far as the White House goes. And if he takes an official position, I'm sure he will put the proper amount of insulation.
I will say that I have worked at a lot of different places. Despite all the attacks you see in the media, Jared has his finger on the scale of what "The Observer" covers a lot less than just about any publisher I have ever worked for.
STELTER: You are saying he is not involved in the editorial? KURSON: He is not involved in the day-to-day at all. I mean, we talk every day, and he is as obsessed with politics as I am, so, of course, I hear his opinion, but he does not -- we have run very tough stuff on...
STELTER: There has been stories about Kushner wanting certain articles either written or not written.
KURSON: Yes, what -- who wouldn't? Everybody has opinions about what the media should cover. And even editors he has had who have been, you know, less favorable than I am to his world view have said he's done a pretty good job of leaving them alone.
But we have run stories that have been very tough on his father-in- law. And we have -- unlike most places, we also have run stories that have been tough on his father-in-law's competitors. I think that's why people get the wrong idea about "The Observer."
STELTER: So, you all talk every day. I'm curious what you and Kushner think about the coverage of the transition, the first almost two weeks of president-elect Trump. What's your interpretation?
KURSON: Well, I won't speak for Jared.
But I will tell you that I think transitions are always times of enormous controlled chaos. And it seems like it's going just about the way it has for the last couple of transitions. I have followed politics closely my entire journalism career. And there's always bumps in the road as names get floated, and sometimes you float someone's name to see how the press will react and to see how the public will react. It seems like it's going on apace.
STELTER: The headlines about infighting, you don't buy it?
KURSON: I don't buy it. I think it's nonsense.
And I think that the obsession with how Donald Trump does everything, including where he gets dinner, is comic, quite frankly.
STELTER: So, you're against having a press pool to go to dinner with him?
KURSON: I don't think it's -- I'm not against the press pool going. I'm against it dominating a cycle for two news days if he decides not to have them go with him.
I'm not against them going. A press pool should go wherever he allows them to go. But this idea that you can't have a private meal with your family is just -- it's ludicrous.
STELTER: Journalists never sit at the table, though. They are outside. You know that. They wait outside.
KURSON: I do. I do. STELTER: You told me off camera you think the coverage of Trump's
campaign was a disgrace.
KURSON: Yes. I think it's an embarrassment.
STELTER: Can you tell me why?
KURSON: I think it's embarrassed our profession.
And I think it's been ridiculous. And I am, quite frankly, shocked that there haven't been resignations and firings and stuff. I was...
STELTER: Resignations and firings of whom?
KURSON: Of different journalists who have just been wrong over and over and over. And then they can continue to do their job after having been wrong about the election and...
STELTER: Wrong about what?
KURSON: ... there is no consequences. There's accountability.
Wrong about not only what was happening. So, just about everybody missed that Donald Trump was going to win this election, but also wrong about why it was happening, including, inexplicably, after Brexit, which was a test run for this election. It showed enormous amounts of discontent with the ordinary people who feel ignored, in that case by London elites, in the case of America, by coastal cultural elites.
This "Hamilton" thing is a good example. Now, I'm willing to go on record and disagree strongly with Donald Trump. "Hamilton" is not overrated.
KURSON: It's amazing.
But that idea of cultural elite lecturing the vice president-elect is exactly what America is disgusted by.
I would say we are a divided country, and things like "Hamilton" just show the divide really, really vividly, don't they?
KURSON: Yes, but the play...
STELTER: But you are at "The New York Observer."
KURSON: But the play itself, the play "Hamilton" itself, the musical itself, is about the emergence of a two-party system, about being able to have differences of a point of view, hopefully without shooting each other in Weehawken. STELTER: Hopefully without that.
Ken, good to see.
KURSON: Good to see you. Thank you.
STELTER: Thank you very much for being here.
The point about soul-searching, or lack thereof, it's really interesting.
Up next here: What made Bill O'Reilly decide to publicly go after his FOX News colleague Megyn Kelly? Two experts standing by. Stay tuned.
STELTER: While out promoting her new book this week, FOX's Megyn Kelly spoke publicly for the first time about alleged harassment by ex-FOX News boss Roger Ailes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Not only was there legitimate professional advice, but there were grossly inappropriate comments. This was specific comments about my body, how he wanted to see me. And it grew more severe over time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Ailes has denied her allegations.
Kelly's candor did not sit well with one of her colleagues, Bill O'Reilly. He was out this week promoting his own new book, a children's book, and when he was asked on CBS about Kelly's allegations and the issue of harassment, his demeanor quickly changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": I want to be to very candid here. I'm not that interested in this.
O'REILLY: No. I mean, it's over...
QUESTION: In sexual harassment? You're not interested in sexual harassment?
O'REILLY: I'm not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad. OK? I'm not interested in making my network look bad at all. That doesn't interest me one bit. (END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Does that mean Kelly is?
In a stroke of luck for CBS, Megyn Kelly was on the very same show the next day, and she said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I am very proud of the fact that I discussed this with Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch before I wrote this chapter in my book. And we were all on the same page that this was an important chapter to include.
And I am proud of them that they feel as I do, which is sunlight is the best disinfectant.
QUESTION: So, you don't believe you're making the company look bad, as Bill O'Reilly alleged?
KELLY: I believe that Roger Ailes made the company look bad.
STELTER: Now that the cold war between Kevin and O'Reilly is hot again, let's bring in Sarah Ellison, contributing editor for "Vanity Fair" who has written extensively on Ailes, and Marisa Guthrie, media reporter for "The Hollywood Reporter" who interviewed Kelly this week for the magazine's cover story.
Sarah, what is going on here between Kelly and O'Reilly?
SARAH ELLISON, "VANITY FAIR": Well, I think that is really bursting into public view.
And Kelly is definitely -- Megyn Kelly has come out with her story. And Bill O'Reilly is sort of shushing her, telling her that is enough. You're unearthing this ugly chapter that everybody at FOX wanted to get through.
But the optics of it are really bad, right, because here is Bill O'Reilly, who is not the perfect messenger for this. He had his own sexual harassment scandal, mini-scandal, where he had to settle with a former employee.
And so whether or not he is just defending the honor of FOX News and he wants this all to sort of be over, it doesn't look great coming from him, where he's trying to sort of quiet a woman who is coming forward with her story that has been OKed by his bosses. This is just sort of extending the chapter for FOX News, but it actually -- the optics are really, pretty bad.
STELTER: Do you get the sense, Marisa, that Kelly wants to be out talking about this? Or did she feel like she had to, she had to address it at some point because she had been reported to have spoken with investigators over the summer about the alleged harassment.
MARISA GUTHRIE, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": What she told me when I spoke to her is, she didn't ask to be outed, but once she was, that she felt she did have a responsibility to come forward.
And she was working behind the scenes before she was outed to make sure other women knew that she was talking to investigators. So, I do think that she did want to be an example for other women, because she does have stature and power and visibility.
And Sarah is right. I mean, she -- people who are criticizing her for talking about this are actually proving her point that sexual harassment is a problem and that it needs to be talked about. It's still happening in 2016, and you can't push it under the rug anymore.
STELTER: O'Reilly says this is over. But it's actually not over. There's still one pending lawsuit. And this week, Gretchen Carlson spoke on TV for the first time. She was the one who sued that triggered this investigation, and Ailes' resignation.
Were there any takeaways, any lessons learned from Carlson's interview on "20/20"?
ELLISON: Well, I think that what Gretchen was able to do is -- we can't underplay the role that she's had in this.
She's really sort of the -- many women would say that she is the hero who like took the hit, came out and talked about this very aggressive case of sexual harassment.
And I think that the takeaway, though, unfortunately, what I have learned from the Gretchen Carlson case is that, if you don't have tapes, you're going to have a lot of doubters if you come out with a story of sexual harassment. And that's not exactly what I wanted to learn from it, but that's in fact what I did learn from it.
STELTER: Have we seen that this week, people doubting Kelly's story?
GUTHRIE: Well, I think that most of it is just sort of the pushback and the blowback. Like, don't talk about that anymore. I think -- but, when Gretchen first filed, there were a lot of doubters.
STELTER: True. True.
And then it became more clear that she have tapes of some sort. Ailes has denied, of course, all of this. And FOX is still rolling along pretty strongly without him. Isn't one of the takeaways that four or five months later, FOX News has not really missed a beat without Roger Ailes?
GUTHRIE: Well, that's true, that's true.
And they have had an unprecedented election. And Megyn Kelly has played a role in the election 2016, with all of her history with Donald Trump, which is also detailed in the book.
STELTER: And, of course, her deal is up with FOX in seven or eight months.
What was your sense whether she is going to stay at FOX or not?
GUTHRIE: She said she wasn't -- they wanted her to make a decision before the election. She wasn't ready.
GUTHRIE: They said -- she said they wanted her to make a decision before she goes on her book tour. She hasn't.
At this point, she talked about it a lot publicly. And I think maybe that was not entirely prudent. And she's really keeping her cards close to the vest now.
I don't know that the economic realities of TV news right now would give her a lot of options if she's really looking for that $20 million-plus salary.
STELTER: Yes. What you mean by that is other networks might not be willing to pay $20 million for anybody, Megyn Kelly or anybody else.
STELTER: Sarah, what's your sense of the behind-the-scenes talks?
ELLISON: Well, in general, everybody would love to hire Megyn Kelly, but they would love to hire her at the price that they can afford.
And I think that what is interesting about this is that FOX News is always a little bit -- there's always infighting. It's always a tough crowd. But it's becoming less and less hospitable for her, where you have somebody like O'Reilly coming forward.
I think his statement actually reflected some resentment of some larger resentment inside FOX News about how much attention Megyn is bringing to this issue, not the issue of sexual harassment, but just kind of like dredging up the entire Ailes story again.
STELTER: And to be getting so much attention.
ELLISON: Getting so much attention.
Some of it is just envy. But then I also think that there's this question of, where can she go? And I know that she did receive one other approach from a network after her book came out, because they felt like there was some more vulnerability for her to stay at FOX News.
STELTER: So, you're saying new interest from other networks?
ELLISON: A little new interest, yes.
STELTER: A little tidbit right there. Sarah, great to see you.
ELLISON: Thank you.
STELTER: Thank you very much.
Marisa, thank you very much.
When we come back here: remembering Gwen Ifill and the indelible mark she made on journalism.
STELTER: Gwen Ifill, a journalism pioneer and role model for so many, passed away this week.
So, today, she has the last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GWEN IFILL, CO-ANCHOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": As long as I remember that there's someone on the other side of the piece of equipment, the camera, who is watching me with expectations, and it can shape what they do next, I just take what I do seriously every single day.
I don't believe in objectivity. I believe in fairness. People don't ask white males whether they can be objective covering white males.
Read, read, read, and write, write, write. The key is to always have one more question in your back pocket. If you run out of questions, then maybe you have the story. But you should always be searching for more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)