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How to Cover a "Say Anything" President?; The Death of the White House Daily Press Briefing?; Trump's Crusade Against the Media; Facebook Under Pressure to Flag Fake News. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[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.

Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S., and live all around on CNN International.

This hour, D.C.'s new political odd couple, President Trump and the press -- with Trump aides rethinking daily White House briefings. Outgoing Press Secretary Josh Earnest and the head of the White House correspondence association are both here with reaction.

Plus, an exclusive interview with former State Department official Richard Stengel, about Russian hacking and the rise of disinformation.

But let's begin with divided America -- divided about the facts. Journalists are wrestling with how exactly to respond when President- elect Trump, the next leader of the free world, says and tweet things that are just false. Here is something that he's been saying for months, including on Thursday at a rally in Pennsylvania.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We have to be a rich nation again. We have to be a safe nation. The murder rate in the United States is the largest that has been in 45 years. Nobody knows that. They don't tell you that.

Do you guys ever say? No, they don't say that. They don't want to hear it.



STELTER: Listen to those boos. Trump making it sound sinister, like the press is refusing to tell you about a terrible crime wave.

But the reason we and the press don't report it because it's not true. The murder rate is thankfully at near 45-year lows.

Now, it is correct to say, here's a data from Vox, that there has been an increase in the murder rate recently, between 2014 and 2015, it did tick up, percentage-wise. But it's an increase from this relatively low level, much lower than in the '80s and '90s, for example.

Now, Trump got this wrong so many times in the campaign. What was interesting about last night, at the rally most recently out of Mobile, Alabama, was he got it right at first and then got it wrong again. Listen to this.


TRUMP: The murder rate has experienced its largest increase in our country in 45 years. Think of it. The murder rate. More people are being murdered than in 45 years.

And the press never tells you that. Do they ever write that? No.


STELTER: So, he got it right at first, but then said more people are being murdered in 45 years, which is completely untrue. All of this raises a real problem for journalists. How do you cover a "say anything" president?

Joining me now, Angie Drobnic Holan, the editor of PolitiFact, Jane Hall, a journalism and media studies professor at American University, and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker".

Angie, I'm so interested in this one specific example of a falsehood. It's important I think to drill down and just find one we can talk about that's very specific. I know he's keeping you very busy at PolitiFact.

What do you believe that journalists should be doing, trying to get the facts out there when Trump repeats like this again and again?

ANGIE DROBNIC HOLAN, EDITOR, POLITIFACT: Well, this is something we've noted him doing through most of the 2016. I would say, by now, we're somewhat used to it. And the approach that we take is we write our reports, we focus on correcting misinformation.

So, when we are fact-checking something, we focus on what's wrong and we say why it's wrong. We can note that he said it right a few seconds ago, but this other thing is wrong. And the other thing that we focus on is the overall impression that an average viewer would get. And I think in this case, the average impression they get is that crime rates are worse than they have been in 45 years and that's not right.

STELTER: What do you recommend, Jane, to your students at American University, what do you recommend to journalists watching this program wrestling with this problem? On the one hand, it's simple, right? You correct them every time we say something wrong.

On the other hand, it's actually quite difficult. It's hard to do in copy or when you are writing a story, it's hard to do on television when he's live.

What do you recommend?

JANE HALL, JOURNALISM AND MEDIA STUDIES PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I have former students who are covering Donald Trump. I think they have done some very good work.

So, this is real to me. And I am certainly calling out reporters and calling them scum and all of that is also real.

I think what you have to do and what journalists have to do is put the facts in the story. For example, his cabinet appointments, to say, the man that he wants to run the EPA is the man that's been suing the EPA. And you let the reader decide. I mean, that is the biggest chest nut of reporting. But it is true.

I do think the one thing that journalists need to think not doing is retweeting his every tweet. We are not supposed to be a tweet deck for Donald Trump and I think sometimes, people get into the idea that they have to contradict immediately of what he said that's not true and there is values to that. But I think sometimes we need to point out not to necessarily retweet and talk about on every talk show what he just said, because that plays totally into his hands.

[11:05:05] The thing that I think we may want to say sometimes is that we are doing this job because we are to be a force for the American people. He has so demonized the press that I think that is a very dangerous thing to do. We need to point out the facts, but we also need to point out, hey, we are there for you and not just because we want to go watch Donald Trump to have dinner with Mitt Romney. We are there to do a job for the American people.

Someone, he's been very successful at saying something other than that.

STELTER: I was going to pull up a tweet next but I'll skip that for now. I mean, Jeffrey Toobin, we are talking about this dynamic here. Ultimately, it's about alternate realities. People accept the alternate reality, not caring if Trump gets these facts wrong.

Do we in the media will come across as too high and mighty sometimes, talking about this issue?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think we are widely disliked. I think that's something that really, you know, is very much part of the story. You know, it is no coincidence that Donald Trump gets cheers when he points to the press as he did it virtually every campaign rally.

You know, I am a lowly reporter and I don't know how to persuade people that we are not as horrible as what Donald Trump says he is. All we can do is keep telling the truth. And if people don't like, you know, ultimately, that's going to do -- you know, we are a business and people are not going to read us. They're not going to watch us.

STELTER: Well, viewing as a former prosecutor, is he prosecuting a case against the press essentially?

TOOBIN: You know, I don't think so. Donald Trump is a politician who's trying to get elected and he found a vehicle to do it. In one way, he ran that vehicle with attacks on the press, which turns out very popular on his base.

Also, I don't think we should over state the problem. I mean, people who attend Donald Trump's rallies are not United States of America. Hillary Clinton got 2.5 million votes than he did. People are still watching the news. People are still reading the news in one form or another.

So, it is not the entire country that has turned against the news media, but there is no doubt that we have problem with a very significant group of people.

STELTER: A problem in terms of trust. But, Angie was suggesting that when some repeats something enough times, like for example, the murder rates at 45-year high, that a lot of folks to believe it's true. It's not a problem in credibility for the press, that's the problem in the communicator, in case, President-elect Trump.

TOOBIN: Well, and all we can do when he says that is say that it's not true. You know, it is not our job I think to insist that people believe us. I mean, you know, we are not in a contest. We're not running against Donald Trump. All we can do is tell the truth.

You know, when he says thousands of people were cheering -- Muslims were cheering after 9/11 in New Jersey, you know, we said it was false. It continues to be false. But if people believe it, you know, we can't grab them by the collar and say, don't do that. We can only use the tools of our disposal.

STELTER: Trump, of course, communicating emotionally. Let me show you a reason, I was thinking about this issue this week. Trump's been communicating emotionally throughout the campaign and now throughout the transition. Journalists are trained not to communicate emotionally, to keep our emotions. And so, his emotionally messages do resonate.

I was on a program earlier this week with "A.P's" Lisa Lerer who suggested this president-elect is just fundamentally different. We have to rethink how we write and cover and talk about him. Here's what she said and I want to hear you react.


LISA LERER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: You know, the presumption has been always that the president is always telling the truth and you fact- check it. You make sure. But you're working from a place of truth. And I think, as you know, someone who's covering this White House, people who are covering from this White House, you just cannot work from that place anymore.

Even today, he tweeted something that was just factually inaccurate. So, that does change how you approach this presidency, you know, from reporting it out.


STELTER: So, Jane, your reaction that. Is something fundamentally different now?

HALL: Well, I think something is fundamentally different, at least as far as he has been until he takes the oath of office and we can't assume he's going to be any different. So, I think it's very awkward for journalists, as Jeffrey was saying. We're not used to saying he's a liar. We're not used to saying that about any politicians.

And I think it puts us in a very awkward position, because his supporters will say, oh, yes, of course, that's the liberal media.

I think one of the things that really is new is how much access is he going to have? That I think is the only card that the media can play, which is we need to have a press briefings. We need to have a press poll, because this man has already taken the tack that he has the right to respond in real-time to something he thinks is unfair. That to me is even scarier actually because we have never seen that before. That is unprecedented.


STELTER: Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: I think that's, you know, that's an important point, is that, you know, these press briefings, they're not for the benefit of the press, by and large.

[11:10:01] It's for the benefit of the White House. The White House gets its message out every day. The White House wants to do that and Donald Trump cannot do that entirely through tweets.

Yes, it is true that the White House's press corps likes to ask pertinent questions sometimes. But it is mostly the White House press secretary getting out message of the day. So, I actually don't think there is much chance that the briefing is going to go away, at least in any significant way.

STELTER: And more on that in just a moment.

Talking about access, Donald Trump, like other politicians, provides access when it is in his interest. Here's a headline from the "Politico" website over the weekend, a pretty shocking story, saying that Jared Kushner, Trump's son in law, told a group of business executives, quote -- not a quote here but paraphrasing. We struck a deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.

Now, Sinclair is one of the biggest owners of local TV stations in the U.S., owns many stations in important states. What the story is saying is that Sinclair struck a deal with Trump to have interviews with the candidate, without commentary, without fact-checking.

I want to get your assessment of this story, how much this matter. Because Sinclair says, hey, we offered the same deal to Hillary Clinton and I have seen the e-mails from Sinclair executives to Clinton's campaign, asking for interviews and being turned down.

HALL: Well, you know, I think it's a complicated question. Sinclair has a huge penetration of stations as you said. And, you know, if Hillary Clinton did not take up on that, bad on Hillary Clinton. I think that, you know -- I think it's a complicated story. People have said that Hillary Clinton did not provide the same access. You know, I think Donald Trump benefited greatly from the media which is one of the great ironies of him now attacking the media, as you say.

STELTER: This moment, right now. Right.

And, Jeffrey Toobin, one more point, one more story to show on screen. Your column for "The New Yorker", your piece on "The New Yorker" this week all about the Hulk Hogan-Gawker trial. Of course, Hulk Hogan winning, Gawker losing and going to bankruptcy.

You suggested, you wrote here in piece, "Hulk Hogan's smashing legal victory earlier this year shows us that publishing the truth may no longer be enough." Briefly, why does this matter in the Trump age? What does signal for future lawsuits against the press?

TOOBIN: Well, that case to summarize was about Gawker running a sex tape. Hulk Hogan having sex with his best friend's wife and he filed a lawsuit charging a violation of his privacy, not libel but privacy. And, basically, what a court had to decide was, is that information newsworthy and not whether it was in good taste or bad taste or true or false newsworthy.

And once we get in the business of allowing juries and judges to pick what's newsworthy, that gives a lot of leeway that traditionally had not been in the province of the court, and when you operate in an environment where the press is not seen as respectively newspaper editors as they used to be maybe in the '40s or '50s. But now, as you know, the wild world of the Internet, like, Gawker, juries don't like it and they push Gawker out of business with $150 million reward.

STELTER: All this distrust of the media is actually hurting the media, hurting newsrooms when they have to go to court.

TOOBIN: Right. And, you know, Gawker running a sex tape is not where the press wants to fly its First Amendment flag. It was a very debatable proposition in the first place.

But when you consider who Hulk Hogan was and how he's been talking about his sex life and the size of his penis on television, on radio --


TOOBIN: -- whereas in that, that a guy like that could force an established business like Gawker out of business with a lawsuit, that really does raise questions about letting jurors decide what's newsworthy in an age when people don't like the news media.

STELTER: And Hogan's lawyer, he's also now Melania Trump's lawyer.


TOOBIN: It is very much one ecosystem. The lawsuit was financed by Peter Thiel, the tech entrepreneur who was one of Trump's biggest supporters. So, the overlap is considerable.

STELTER: Jeffrey, thank you very much. Jane, thank you very much.

Angie, please stick around. I want to ask you about "PolitiFact's" lie of year. So, let's do that later this hour.

Coming up here next, talking about press access at the White House. Hear from Josh Earnest, the outgoing press secretary, in an exclusive interview with me right after the break.


[11:17:34] STELTER: Part of President-elect Donald Trump's appeal is that he's rethinking political norms, sometimes shattering them altogether. So, how will it affect the White House interacts with the press?

In an interview this week, Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that major changes could be in store for a Washington tradition, the daily White House press briefing.

Now, I happened to be in the press briefing room the day that Priebus said this, and the concern was palpable both among White House correspondents and among Obama aides.

I had a chance to ask the outgoing White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest about it and here's what he told me.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think as an American, I'm concerned about that, because I do think that this -- the inner action that takes place in here for a daily bases is one that's good for our democracy. It's instrumental to holding people in power accountable for their actions, accountable for their statements and accountable for their promises.

STELTER: You know, in this room, you've got "BuzzFeed" and you've got "Breitbart" these days. You've got a lot of new outlets, some of them like Breitbart, very much right wing outlets.


STELTER: Do you expect the Trump administration to block certain news outlets from being in this room, outlets they don't like?

EARNEST: Yes. I hope not.

STELTER: You would complain about FOX News from time to time. Could you have booted FOX News in this room? EARNEST: That would have been entirely inconsistent with the spirit

of this room. This is a -- you know, you raised Breitbart as an example. It's not unusual for me to call on the Breitbart reporter who attends the White House briefing. And the gentlemen who typically represents them here on a daily basis is somebody who is respectful of that process, ask tough questions and gets answers from the White House press secretary.

You know, the same is true of FOX, a news organization that I call on everyday. So, there is a spirit in this room about, if you feel so confident, as confident as I do about the virtue and the positions and about the powers and strength and persuasiveness of the arguments that we have to make, then you should be ready to make that argument to all comers. And, certainly, this administration has demonstrated the courage to do that. We'll see if the next administration does.

STELTER: What should be rethought? You know, if you could start from scratch today --


STELTER: -- what would you change about your role and about the White House press shop as it communicates to the public?

EARNEST: I guess this would be one thing that I would say to journalists as they sort of consider the transition that lies ahead of them. It's a -- I think that there are a lot of -- what's worth protecting in this room is this symbolic accountability and transparency that's demanded here, and that's worth protecting and defending.

[11:20:08] STELTER: That's what should be preserved no matter what.

EARNEST: Yes. But it doesn't mean that nothing should change, right? That this focusing on the core principle and the core objectives, even if they're symbolic, I think it can be a useful guide to journalists as they navigate what could be a bumpy transition, as they encounter administration that seems, at least it's sending some signals that they're prepared to buck tradition.

I think it's important to acknowledge that it's -- we're not just trying to protect traditions for tradition sake. That doing something because that's the way we've always done and it's not a good reason to keep doing it. A reason to keep -- to observe these practices is because of how critical of the exchanges that take place in here every day are to the success of our democracy and the success of free and independent media holding those in power accountable.


STELTER: We'll have more from Josh Earnest on next week's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Let's go behind the scenes on this now with the president of the White House Correspondents Association, Jeff Mason. He's also the White House correspondent for "Reuters", and he's in Denver with us this morning.

Jeff, thanks for being here.


STELTER: Josh Earnest saying he's concerned about what changes of the Trump administration is thinking about. Are you concerned about the future of the daily briefing?

MASON: You know, at this point, we're just going to wait and see what the Trump team does when they get to the White House. We have gotten assurances from Trump media staff that they will respect the traditions of the White House press corps, but then you also have things like the interview that Mr. Reince Priebus gave this week or last week rather.

So, it's a little bit of a wait-and-see approach. My concern and our concern in general is that the press core has an opportunity to provide robust coverage of the new president, and to have a level of access that is commiserate to the job that we have to do as the fourth estate.

STELTER: Have you asked for medians with any of Trump's communication aides to talk about this?


STELTER: And what's happened?

MASON: We've been in telephone conversation and we've been in e-mail contact. We haven't had as much contact as we would like, but we are in talks with them and expect to have even more.

STELTER: How should I interpret that? Basically what you're saying is, no, they have not been willing to meet in person?

MASON: I think you should interpret that as we'd like to have more in person meetings than we've had so far. And I think part of that is also going back to what I said about a wait-and-see approach. I think the Trump transition team is still putting together its press team and that --

STELTER: Right, we don't know who the press secretary it is going to be yet. It looks like Sean Spicer, but we don't know for sure.

MASON: Exactly.

STELTER: But here's why I'm asking.

Reince Priebus was wrong in his interview with Hugh Hewett when he said that the briefing room seats are assigned and that that's new. That the Obama administration started having assignments of seats. In fact, it's the association that choices who sits where, right?

MASON: That's right, and the story of that dates back to the 1980s. In fact, the seating in the White House briefing room has been assigned since 1981 when those seats were installed. The White House Correspondents Association gradually assumed responsibilities for assigning those seats on the request of both Republicans and Democratic administration who are sensitive to --

STELTER: Yes. I mean, it sounds --

MASON: -- to the appearance of playing favorite.

STELTER: I'm sorry.

I was going to say, it sounds like a small thing like who really cares. But I think the reason why it matters is if Reince Priebus has the wrong information about how the briefing room works, how the press shop works, they might be making decisions without consulting with you, without understanding the facts.

MASON: Right. And I know that there are people in the Trump team who are aware that the White House Correspondents Association currently does those seat assignments. And I haven't had a chance to speak to Mr. Priebus, but I do know that there are people in his team who are aware of the current situation.

And I'm optimistic, Brian, that once they have a team in place and once we have a chance to talk about some of these traditions, that it will become clear to them that it's not just about traditions. It's about best practices for dealing with the media and for insuring both that we can report the news and that the White House has a chance to generate or get out its message and the news that it wants.

STELTER: Jeff, thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate it.

MASON: My pleasure.

STELTER: By the way, 144 days since Donald Trump held a full-fledge press conference, he was going to have that conference on Thursday, postponed it until January.

And as I said, we have a special report this week. This time next week on the Obama years and the press. Hear more from Josh Earnest and other Obama aides, as well as veteran White House correspondents this time next week on RELIABLE SOURCES.

Ahead here this morning, did you know the United States government has a state-run media organization? Yes, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. How will it be used in the Trump's White House? Stay tuned.


[11:28:37] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

If you thought the possibility of Trump TV was over now that President-elect Trump is on the way to the White House, think again? One of the little known entities President Trump will have at his disposal about a month from now is a state-owned media operations. A major source of information to get out U.S. news across the world, including Voice for America and Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East broadcast networks.

In recent days, in "Washington Post" and elsewhere, there is big concern that a tool like this could be used as propaganda in the hands of someone like Trump, due in part to recent legislation that changes the Broadcasting Board of Governors. This is complicated, so we want talk to the best person who understands it, and that is Richard Stengel, a former editor of "TIME" magazine, most recently former undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department.

Richard, great to see you.


STELTER: So, you've been out of state for a couple of weeks, and you were on the board of what's called the Broadcasting Board of Governors.


STELTER: Tell our viewers what is that board do.

STENGEL: Brian, being able to talk about the BBG is an unprecedented thing. So, I'm so glad to have --

STELTER: How much money a year? Is it like --

STENGEL: It has $750 million budget. It's a Cold War --

STELTER: OK. So, taxpayers' money --

STENGEL: Taxpayers --

STELTER: -- that's being paid for what?

STENGEL: It's an independent broadcasting entity. It started during the Cold War when there was a scarcity of information, when we had to combat Russian disinformation. Sound familiar? Of course, it does sound familiar.


And now it is tied to the State Department, but it can't be manipulated by the White House or the State Department. It is an independent agency. It's Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia.

And this legislation that you mentioned is actually supported by the State Department and supported by the White House, because it creates an empowered CEO who is Senate-confirmed. In fact, there is fantastic CEO there right now John Lansing, who we put in. And this is one of the real weapons in the arsenal of the administration, and they can use it, use it to combat disinformation.


STELTER: You're saying it's independent, but also that it's a weapon in the arsenal?

STENGEL: Well, it is part of the American arsenal.

It is not CNN. It is also not a propaganda engine. In fact, one of the great challenges for it is, in this era of disinformation, what do you put out there? You don't put out propaganda. We don't do that as Americans. And we don't just do investigative journalism, although it does it.

There is some fact-based system of information that will refute those lies that are out. That should be the engine of BBG.

STELTER: So, reading "The Washington Post," reading Politico, there are these suggestions that somehow Voice of America could become more of an explicit propaganda arm.

Tara Palmeri in Politico bringing up this idea of Trump TV, that President Trump could use the Voice of America and these other outlets in order to even pump propaganda into the United States.

STENGEL: Well, first of all, there is a firewall between the government and BBG.

STELTER: But isn't that board being eliminated?

STENGEL: No, the board is becoming a board of advisers. We're really getting into the weeds now.

Part of the problems at BBG was that the board actually ran it. This legislation creates a CEO. It creates a board of advisers, and basically it now will run like a more modern media operation.

STELTER: These stories, for example, in "The Washington Post" were suggesting this could be very dangerous. You are saying, no, the opposite?

STENGEL: Anything can be very dangerous.

I think, again, it is still protected, It still has the firewall. The legislation is by Chairman Royce, who really understands the power of this. So, it is not going to turn into an engine of the new president.

STELTER: What do you look at zooming out here? We look at what Russia has. Russia Today is their cable channel all around the world, Sputnik News, one of their Web sites.

STENGEL: Yes. STELTER: These are powerful news outlets that seem to share the

Russian point of view. Many call them propaganda.

Is the U.S. competing effectively in this kind of global information landscape?

STENGEL: This is this global disinformation war that is out there.

STELTER: Disinformation war?

STENGEL: Disinformation war.

And it is put out by states sponsors. Russia is the single biggest and most maligned actor in terms of putting out disinformation all along and overt means, R.T., Sputnik.

You had president-elect Trump quoting Sputnik and R.T. stories during the campaign. We started to see this after the illegal annexation of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine, because what the Russians did following the fall of Berlin Wall is they set up television stations in the Russian periphery. They felt threatened.

They felt threatened by NATO. They felt threatened by our soft power, which is the thing that helped the Berlin Wall fall down. In fact, one of the problems of the U.S. is that we basically kind of washed our hands of it after the Berlin Wall fell down. And the Russians started beefing up and creating these television stations throughout the periphery that did news, information, sports and entertainment.

And it had this pernicious, dark view of the West and their newscasts, and it pollutes that whole information system in Central Europe.

STELTER: Sounds like you are advocating for increased spending by the U.S. government to combat this.

STENGEL: And there is increased spending for next year for BBG. Again, it is not propaganda. It is not just journalism. It is actually fact-based information that people can see.

People do want to hear from the U.S. government.

STELTER: The "Washington Post" opinion piece on this suggested that perhaps the Obama administration and the State Department you were a part of supported these changes, creating a more powerful CEO, because you were expecting Hillary Clinton to win, not Donald Trump, that maybe this has fallen into different hands.


STENGEL: ... expecting Mrs. Clinton to win.

I think the point is every new president has these kinds of things at his or her prerogative. And, in fact, it is separate from the White House. It does have this firewall. But I think, again, it has a great CEO in John Lansing. They will change and adapt. They're becoming more digital. And they will create this new kind of environment, which is very positive.

STELTER: Interesting for us to even have increased awareness of the fact that the United States does provide news reporting all around the world through Voice of America.


It reaches hundreds of millions of people. It's in dozens and dozens of languages. And, as you mentioned, Brian, the Russians basically saw the effectiveness of this and put out their own services. But I would argue they're creating disinformation.

You are talking about fake news. They're the largest disseminator and purveyor of fake news in the world. So many of these stories that pollute the American information environment comes from these Russian sources or Russian-supported Web sites.

And part of the problem is, I would say we don't have just a fake news problem. What we have is a media literacy problem. We don't -- Americans don't understand the difference between actually fact-based news and these strange stories that are filled with propaganda.


STELTER: I'm with you on media literacy.

Richard, it's great to see you. Pleasure to talk with you.

STENGEL: Great to see you, Brian. Thank you.

STELTER: Thank you very much.

Up next here, movements like the never Trump idea and the alt-right have split the Republican Party. We see conservative media fracturing as well, even as Donald Trump calls for unity. What is the future of the conservative media? Will extreme somehow be the new normal?

We are going to talk to one of the CEOs, one of the biggest media companies in the U.S., right after this.


STELTER: Here is a stat to keep in mind, as we talk about the relationship between the press and you all watching, the public.

This is from Pew just a couple of months ago showing the majority of Americans, 70 percent, saying they have a negative view of the national news media. This is a study of views of major institutions. Only 22 percent say they have a positive view of the national news media.

Now, there are a lot of reasons for that. We could talk about that all day long. One of them is what conservative media outlets say about the mainstream media. And of course some of it is due to the failings of big newsrooms.

My next guest says Donald Trump is going to turn the press into a whipping boy.

Christopher Ruddy is the president and the CEO of the conservative news site Newsmax. He's here we me in New York.


Chris, he has already done that pretty effectively, hasn't he, turned the press into a whipping boy?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: Well, it seemed like they wanted to play that role, because we talked about fake news earlier in your show, where folks have -- that's been the talk of all the news media.

What about biassed news? I think that had a much bigger impact in this election. And there's a general feeling. Jeffrey Toobin said earlier people feel the media are responsible. You guys had a responsibility to give fair and balanced news.

And I think anybody that looked at this objectively, they were talking about issues the American public did not call -- Trump's Twitter, Trump's "Hollywood Access." The voters in Ohio and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, they were worried about jobs and trade.

And Donald Trump to his credit was in those states talking about those issues. You guys missed the story.

STELTER: That's looking backwards.

Donald Trump keeps looking backwards. Everyone seems to be talking about the election like it was yesterday. It's like the election never ends. I would ask you if you have seen bias in recent days, recent weeks since the election.

RUDDY: Well, I think looking back, which is very important -- and the election was just a very short period and the president is not even inaugurated.


RUDDY: Biased in what sense?

I think the media continues to be somewhat critical of him. And I don't think they're necessarily giving him a complete fair shake.

STELTER: In what way?

RUDDY: This whole discussion, all we have heard is issues about the Electoral College and fake news and Russian hacking and e-mail.

I can prove to you that none of those had an impact on the election.


RUDDY: OK. Look at the numbers across.

Hillary Clinton outperformed Obama in state after state all over. She outperformed in California. She won that by 30 points. She outperformed in Republican Arizona. She outperformed Obama in the state of Texas.

Trump only won Texas by nine points. Romney won it by 16. Why did Hillary lose? She ran a terrible campaign in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. She barely showed up in some of these states.

STELTER: You are a conservative media CEO who used to be in touch with the Clintons. Have you talked to them since Election Day?

RUDDY: I have not, no.


But Donald Trump, you have.

Do you have a sense that he means what he says when he calls the press dishonest? Or is he doing it for show?

RUDDY: I think he means what he says.

I think he was surprised, because he used to have very good relations with the press, as you know. This is a guy who is probably the most prepared for the communications jobs as president. He's the most media-savvy guy. He will outstrip Reagan. He will outstrip and outperform John Kennedy in this...

STELTER: Does it matter to you that some of what he says is just plain false?

RUDDY: In terms of fake news?

STELTER: No, in terms of -- we talked about on his hour, he talks about the murder rate being at a 45-year high, when it is not.

Does it matter to the Newsmax audience when he makes stuff up?

RUDDY: Brian, you know you could go through every presidential candidate, every president and find errors in their facts.

STELTER: Not to the degree of Donald Trump.

RUDDY: Well, that's your -- that's a subjective judgment.


STELTER: It's a judgment shared by many journalists who were baffled by how often Donald Trump makes misstatements.

RUDDY: There is a perception in this country that crime is growing and rising.

STELTER: Shouldn't we correct the misperception?

RUDDY: Well, I think that's fine. That's the role. And I think a free press -- there's a lot of -- everybody talks about fake news. Read Thomas Jefferson's second inaugural. If you're at home, Google it, OK? He talks about how bad and evil the press is. And he says they were guilty of falsity and defamation, large talk of his discussion in that speech.

At the end of the moment, he says, the public judgment is the best safeguard. And the public will make a decision. And you will be a player in that. I will be a player.

STELTER: Give me a preview for Newsmax.

What happens with Newsmax in a Trump administration? You got a cable channel you're trying to grow, trying to make into more of a FOX News rival. You told me you are going to hire more reporters in Washington. What does the next four years look like for that news outlet?

RUDDY: I think it is a tremendous opportunity, because Donald is raising questions about the mainstream media.

And I think FOX has been of one the better actors in all of this, OK giving a more balanced approach. And I think Newsmax has a tremendous opportunity. Last month, we had two million people watch on smartphones and smart TVs Newsmax TV. That's up from zero two years ago.

They watched on average a half-hour. This is a huge increase. Anybody can go to their smartphone right now and download Newsmax TV's free app and watch us any time and any place in the world. No other channel has that.

And I think this is going to be a huge phenomena that we are going to ride a wave on for the next several years.

STELTER: So if Donald Trump is the Twitter president, you're trying to take advantage of this smartphone age of media.

RUDDY: We are and it is working. And people, they are tuning off the old media and they're going to new media like Newsmax, which is good for us.

STELTER: I would like to think they are consuming all of it. But we will see. The data will bear that out in the months to come, how much trust has been lost in mainstream newsrooms.


RUDDY: Look, I think there's been a perpetual problem with the press. This is not a new one, that there's a feeling -- I remember when I first covered the Clintons back in '92 in the period.

The Pew study showed that 89 percent of the people voted for Bill Clinton of the press corps in Washington voted for Bill Clinton. That's not representative of the rest of the country. And I think this time probably 90-plus percent voted for Hillary Clinton in this election against Donald Trump. And I think we saw it the next day.

Everybody could not believe, even though the polls showed in all the battleground states, Trump...

STELTER: Well, Trump also seem surprised. And that is what makes this so interesting now. He says he did not expect to win.


RUDDY: But, again, I think a really important role that we have is get that information.

Newsmax is going to be tough on Trump when we think he's going off the rails on policy issues and things, but we will be supportive of him on -- and I think people are ecstatic so far. I think even you have to admit, he has surprised people by the picks he's picking, very highly qualified individuals. And he seems to have a clear concept of where he wants to take the country in the next few years.

STELTER: Chris, great to see you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

RUDDY: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Up next here after the break, talking about fake news and the idea that Facebook is trying out, warning labels on stories that are made up. Is that actually going to work? Can it be effective? We are going to talk to one of those people who is helping make those warning labels right after the break.



STELTER: Look at your Facebook news need today. You may see a warning label attached to totally made-up stories.

Here's an example of what Facebook calls a flag on a fake story about a recount in Florida that is not really happening. It says disputed by ABC News.

Why? Because Facebook has been under intense pressure to do something about the proliferation of fake, bogus stories on its social network. ABC is a partner and so is PolitiFact.

Let me bring back Angie Holan, the editor, the top editor of PolitiFact. She joins me again in Washington.

Angie, there has been a lot of blowback already to this Facebook experiment. Some on the right are very skeptical, even mocking this. Why is it a worthwhile idea? Why are you helping Facebook try to fact-check these fake stories?

HOLAN: Go to Facebook, and they are going about their day looking to connect with friends and family. And then they see these headlines that are super dramatic and they wonder if they're right or not. And when they're wrong, sometimes they are really wrong. They're entirely made up.

It is not trying to censor anything. It is just trying to flag these reports that are fabricated out of thin air.

STELTER: And are you finding so far that it's working well with Facebook? Is there an example of a story you all have helped correct, for example?

HOLAN: So far, so good.

One of the reports that we did and published, the Web site that put out the fake news got back to us and said, oh, we're sorry. We're taking our report down.

STELTER: Really? We're sorry? So it's working.

HOLAN: Yes. Yes. It's early.

And Facebook has said they want to be careful. They want to test this. They want to iterate and see if they can make it work better. It's early days. But nobody here wants to censor anything. We just want to give people accurate, credible information.

STELTER: You said the lie of the year was fake news in your essay this week identifying the lie of the year. That's a pretty big statement.

And yet "The Federalist"'s Mollie Hemingway said this week one of the biggest problems with Facebook's anti-fake news effort is you. She said PolitiFact is a joke.

Why is there all of this blowback or controversy on the right about the neutrality of PolitiFact?

HOLAN: We have been getting these complaints from the conservatives, parts of the conservative media for many years now.

So I'm not entirely surprised by this. I think there is the mentality that anyone who is not conservative must be liberal, whereas we see ourselves as independent. So, when we fact-check things that, you know, one side or the other doesn't like, they tend not to argue with our reports. Instead, they attack us.

And we have been around long enough. We can take it. We just want to keep putting out our reports. And I ask people if they hear that we're biassed, please read our reports and see for yourself if you agree or disagree. We present all of our evidence. We list all of our sources. Our goal is to give good information and we see ourselves as independent journalists.

STELTER: Angie Holan, thank you so much for sticking around with us this morning. Great to see you.

HOLAN: Thanks.

STELTER: Up next, how these protests in Warsaw, Poland, are directly related to what's happening here at home.

We will be right back.



STELTER: Now a final thought.

Western democracies generally don't go after the news media by shutting down printing presses or turning off Internet access.

No, governments chip away piece by piece with words and actions, until reporters don't have the freedom or the relevance they had before.

U.S. journalists have never seen a president-elect like Donald Trump before, a president-elect who takes every opportunity to tell his voters that the media is terrible, awful, dishonest. He said dishonest at least seven times just last night.

This is what I mean by chipping away. His words are chipping away at the power and legitimacy of the press.

Now, the fourth estate, despite all its faults and flaws, is a check on government. And we should be honest about this. Trump is far from the first official to fight back.

The Obama administration repeatedly, aggressively investigated leaks. James Risen knows that firsthand. He's a "New York Times" reporter who faced jail time for protecting a source. And he will be here on next week's RELIABLE SOURCES to discuss that.

There are many ways to chip away at the fourth estate, which takes us to Poland. A political crisis has enveloped the country in the past few days. And the spark, according to freelance journalist Matthew Day in Warsaw, was the conservative ruling party's plan to limit media access to the Polish Parliament.

That's right. These protesters took to the streets partly to defend their local reporters' ability to question and challenge lawmakers. These protesters recognized that press freedom is their freedom.

Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, was quoted as saying that, without media access, democracy becomes dictatorship.

And that's the point. Press freedom is your freedom. These concerns are not just for professional journalists, not just for the people in control rooms here, not just for the people who edit your local paper. This is about you.

If you share links on Facebook or tweet on Twitter or chat on Snapchat, you are part of the media now valuing freedom of expression. And if your view of President Obama has soured or improved over the years, you have benefited from constant press access and coverage of the White House.

And if you think journalists are all corrupt, then, by all means, pick up a pen -- actually, pick up a keyboard or phone, and start reporting, not just opining, but reporting. Don't let government devalue and delegitimize journalism, because press freedom is your freedom.

And that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. Thanks for being here this morning. Thanks for tuning in.

We will see you online seven days a week at, and see you right back here next week.