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Trump Calls News Media "Opposition Party"; Influence of Breitbart News on Trump; Fact Vs Fiction in the Immigration Debate; Can Newsrooms Cover Refugee Ban and Protests Fairly?; Reporting in Authoritarian Climates; The Trump Twitter and Fox News Feedback Loop. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 29, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:06] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look of the story behind the story, of how the media world really works, how the news gets made.

Today, coverage of President Trump's travel ban and how it's already affecting reporters. Later, harrowing stories about just how bad it can get when leaders really crack down on the media. We will go live to Moscow about that.

Plus, an editor at large from Breitbart news is here.

But our lead story is the war. Yes, that's what President Trump calls it, his war with the media. Tensions are high and they're getting higher. While there were lots of photo ops this week, there was a lot of access to the president. It seems like Trump likes the pictures but not the words.

He started his morning today by attacking "The New York Times", complaining on Twitter. Here's what he wrote, "Somebody with aptitude and conviction should buy the fake news and failing 'New York Times', and either run it correctly or let it fold with dignity."

In a rare interview this week with "The New York Times," Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon said this about the press. He said, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated." He's talking about coverage of the campaign here and, thus, should, quote, "keep its mouth shut and listen for a while."

He added, and this is probably the key quote. "The media here is the opposition party." But the Democrats are actually the opposition party, but it's not just the president's senior advisor framing the relationship this way. It's also the president himself.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the media is the opposition party in many ways and I think that -- and I'm not talking about all media. I know people, like yourself, but I know people in the media that I have tremendous respect for. Respect them as much as anybody. So, I'm not talking about everybody. But a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, the total deceit and deception makes them certainly, partially the opposition party, absolutely.


STELTER: Meanwhile, Trump started to keep many promises this week, signing executive orders that will take time to implement. Reporters are going to have to keep following up to see what actually happens.

While he was doing all this, Trump managed to say dozens of false and misleading things during his first week in office. All politicians spin but Trump makes them look like amateurs.

Why did he complain about "The Times" today and also yesterday? Maybe it was this. Here on the front page a story all about his fabrications, saying there was a torrent of bogus claims that he made during his first days in office.

Joining me now to talk about all this, Brooke Gladstone, the co-host of WNYC's "On the Media", Stephen Adler, the editor-in-chief of "Reuters", and the new editor in chief of "The Huffington Post", Lydia Polgreen.

Lydia, congratulations on your new role, first of all. Let me ask you about this alleged war. If Trump says he's at war with the media, if he and his aides are calling us the opposition party, does that mean we automatically are at war with him?

LYDIA POLGREEN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HUFFINGTON POST: Absolutely not. And we're not the opposition party. It would be convenient for Trump to have the media as the opposition. But the media aren't the ones blocking to the airport to protest the Muslim ban. The media aren't the ones that filled the streets the day after the election.

This is ordinary Americans getting out there and saying what they believe. They're being joined by members of the actual opposition party, which is the Democratic Party.

And I think our job in all of this is to separate fact from fiction, to use the very best tools in our arsenal to tell the stories that matter and tell them with integrity and with honesty and basically ignore this effort to frame us as the enemy.

STELTER: Ignore it. We've heard that from a lot of journalists that Bannon and Trump are trying to bait us, that we cannot take the bait.

But Stephen Adler, here's my question. If one side says they're at war with you, and the other says no, we're not at war, doesn't that side lose?

STEPHEN J. ADLER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REUTERS: No, no, absolutely not. "Reuters", as you know, is a global organization. We're on the ground in 115 countries.

I can think of very few countries where the government says nice things about the press. And there's a reason for that. The reason is our job, we're at our best, is to try to get factual information to people so they -- frankly, they can make smarter decisions about what to do for their lives and their loved ones.

And inherently, the government is trying to spin the story in their favor. So, you just have a different interest. It doesn't make you the opposition. It means your interest is different. So, what do you do, you remember who your reader is, your customer is, and you go out there and try to give them what they need and you use whatever resources you can to get the information and you don't rely on hand outs and you don't worry so much about access. Just do good journalism.

But also, again, remember who the end user is. It's not us. We're not talking to each other. We're talking to people out there who actually need to know what's going on.

STELTER: Now, Brooke, you're not an editor, you don't have to worry about a newsroom full of writers. You're a critic. You're an observer in all of this.

So, do you agree with the view that this is not a war? We're not at war with any administration?


STELTER: Don't engage.

GLADSTONE: I mean, the fact is -- all through history, the entire media have always been against presidents. George Mason University did a study and found that in the first seven months of Reagan's campaign -- of Reagan's office, the first George Bush, Clinton, the second George Bush, Obama, all of the positive stories were about 30 percent of the total and, of course, even less for Obama on FOX.

STELTER: Conservatives are screaming at the TV saying Obama was given a free ride for eight years.

GLADSTONE: No, it's completely untrue, especially in the first seven months. They're particularly tough. The biggest free press advocate in our history, probably Thomas Jefferson, said you couldn't believe anything you read in a newspaper because when he became president, one of the earliest stories was about him and Sally Hemings, a slave, and all the children that he probably had with her.

It enraged him. He said, even so, you needed the press and it's agitation to keep the waters pure.

STELTER: The famous quote, I just pulled it up, "Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." That was Jefferson later on concluding how important journalism was.

But isn't it all easy to say, Lydia, it's easy to say that we should just do our jobs and everything is normal? Do you believe this is a normal time for journalism?

POLGREEN: This is not a normal presidency. So, I think this is not a normal time for journalism. I think we're going to be under unprecedented pressure and attack.

And I think that the only way to respond to that is by doing exactly what Stephen said -- continuing to serve the people who we are under the Constitution mandated to serve. The Constitution doesn't say the press has any special right. It really comes down to the ordinary person's right to have information and to have unfettered information and that's who we serve. That's our role in American democracy.

STELTER: So, maybe we need to reframe this. Rather than being on defense, people saying we're the opposition party, maybe this is about saying there seems to be war on information from this Trump White House?

POLGREEN: I think that's absolutely right.

STELTER: That's true, a war on information?

POLGREEN: I think there's clearly a war on information. There's a war on truth. There's on fact. And, you know --

GLADSTONE: Some say on reality itself.


STELTER: Stephen, do you agree? I mean, you're one of the biggest news organizations in the world, "Reuters". Do you sense something different right now versus Bush and Obama and other past presidents?

ADLER: Well, look, it's certainly different. Not to say Obama was especially good on access, because he wasn't, by the way.


ADLER: The press had a lot of issues with that.

STELTER: That's right.

ADLER: What I'd say is, you know, if it's war on information, that's not war we have to fight. Our job is to provide information and frankly taking handouts from an administration is not the best way to get information. So, in my view, it's the best time to be a journalist, right? It's challenging, it's exciting, it's interesting, it's hard to be a good journalist. It's really hard to be a great journalist. And in this environment, you have to be.

So, I'm thinking, though, you know, we cover Duterte, we cover Sisi and we cover Putin, you know, all around the world, we cover Erdogan. All the world, we face these challenges. And so, there is a playbook for that. I mean, the playbook is --

STELTER: And we're going to discuss that later this hour. Two journalists from those places dealing with this. Brooke, let me ask you about the CNN factor here. You've been a critic of CNN before on your program "On the Media", that's obviously good. We need the criticism. We need the feedback.

I wonder right now if what we're seeing from this administration, this effort to delegitimize CNN, in particular, stands out to you? Let me ask you what the Milwaukee mayor, David Clarke, said earlier this week. Sheriff Clark was trying to be interviewed by CNN's Jeremy Diamond. Sheriff Clarke, a regular on FOX News, here's what he wrote back to Jeremy Diamond, "Donald Trump has labeled CNN has fake news. When President Trump says CNN is OK again, then I might give you an interview."

What are we to make of this idea that it's not just Donald Trump's words, that people are taking actions as a result of Trump's words about CNN?

GLADSTONE: It's a problem. I have to say that we've been blacklisted by CNN, many times people won't come on our show because some things we have said. You know, you get by. You'd make due with what you have.

Maybe you don't need that interview. Maybe it isn't so much about access across the board. Reporters in the Washington press room, the briefing room, are saying they are getting unprecedented access to the president. But getting pre-fab statements that aren't true isn't going to advance the course of human knowledge.

STELTER: This goes back to the pictures versus the words. Yesterday, the press pool was brought to look through the Oval Office windows to see President Trump on the phone with foreign leaders, but, of course, we couldn't hear the conversations.

So, they are letting us see what the president is doing and he always is complaining about what we're reporting, though.

GLADSTONE: Sometimes, they even let them hear. It's absolutely true. They get to mill around, the reporters. They're just not getting anything valuable and probably, certainly, the best reporting will happen somewhere else.

[11:10:03] As has been widely reported people are leaking like sieves in this administration and --

STELTER: Yes, already. It's only, what, day nine or ten. And we're already seeing a lot of leaks.

GLADSTONE: There's plenty of story to be had.

STELTER: Let's pause the conversation here. You all are going to stick around for us, come back later in the hour.

But I want to take a quick break here and talk about Trump's cable news routine. It's been a daily routine for President Trump tuning into cable news. But only one news outlet really seems to have an open door to the White House, that could be "Breitbart". We're going to talk about this site's growing influence right after this break.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

"Breitbart News" used to be on the outside looking in, but now, it is very much on the inside of this White House, partly because former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon is President Trump's chief strategist and because of some other new hires. "Breitbart" immigration reporter and Paul Ryan critic Julia Hahn will join the White House under Bannon. And "Breitbart" national security editor and FOX News regular Sebastian Gorka will take a role likely at the National Security Council.

Breitbart is often criticized as a far right wing echo chamber. But I think it's important that we understand that's happening on that site. We shouldn't treat it like it's some sort of an exotic enterprise.

[11:15:03] Joining me now to discuss all this is Joel Pollak, the senior editor at large at "Breitbart" and was also the co-author of the new book, "How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution."

Joel, great to see you.


STELTER: I understand you're on the management side of "Breitbart" but I wanted to ask you about Breitbart's readership, about its audience. When you're writing for the site, who do you -- who do you picture as the "Breitbart" reader? But I feel like oftentimes Breitbart gets stereotyped and ostracized. And I want to get rid of that.

I want to know, who is your audience? Who are you writing for?

POLLAK: Well, I think we're a conservative news site. We also were founded on the principle of citizen journalism, that idea that ordinary Americans have a story to tell that's not being told by the mainstream media.

But if you listen to "Breitbart News" daily, five days a week, three hours every morning on SiriusXM, the Patriot Channel 125, it's a caller driven show and you get a real sense of the perspectives of our readers and our listeners. They drive the program. They provide a lot of feedback for us live on the air.

And these are people with different opinions. They have different opinions about presidential candidates during the primary election. These are people with different opinions about executive orders that have come out in the last week.

There's a wide variety of opinion among our readership and we also know that they hold us accountable. If we don't do our job, if we don't hold the administration accountable to President Trump's promises on the campaign trail, they're going to rebel against us and they're going to read other websites. So, we have a close relationship with our audience. I would suggest

to anyone interested and listen to the radio show every morning 6:00 to 9:00 Eastern.

STELTER: Is it fair to say you'll be holding him accountable from the right? There was an article this week saying that there was no executive order about immigration on day one, as had been promised.

POLLAK: That's right. You picked a great example of holding Trump accountable. We earlier also said that he had broken his first promise when he said he wasn't going to investigate or prosecute Hillary Clinton. That was a big theme on the campaign trail.

And so, "Breitbart" has focused on the promises he made on the campaign trail and much less these other sort of shiny bubble stories that the media has gone for about crowd sizes and whatnot. We have focused on the substantive issues of policy where President Trump is expected to deliver on his promises.

STELTER: Folks on Twitter are already telling me that I'm normalizing "Breitbart" by having you on this program. You don't see "Breitbart" editors on CNN very often. So, what I want know from you is what you learned in your reporting for your book about how Trump won.

How much of it was about sowing divisions, by attacking the media, by creating an "us versus them" narrative?

POLLAK: Well, I think the divisions had already been sown. I mean, keep in mind, this is all happening in the shadow of the Obama presidency where he barely even had a relationship with the leaders of the opposing party, and there was a constant antagonism -- Obama ran for re-election not just on a negative campaign but on a very divisive campaign, what people called the class war. So, the divisions were already there.

And then he media covered Trump in a particular way that sought to exacerbate those opinions in some cases. I think that certainly describing him early on as a kind of Nazi leader, which some outlets did, not just blogs and left wing sites, but mainstream network sites, some of the alphabet sites did as well, some of the major networks. And that just reinforced the relationship Trump had with his supporters.

And so, you know, being on the traveling press corps was sort of like playing the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters in each of these speeches, because there was such a distrust between the media and the audience that Trump could reinforce his relationship with voters by pointing out that the media had given them bad information or simply by mocking the media.

Of course, other times, certainly with individual journalists, he was able to develop a rapport and he at times praises journalists. He praised "The New York Times" last week. I mean, he does things to reward people when he feels that they've been fair and not just laudatory. Sometimes, he would even say a fair story is one that's critical of him, he's done that on several occasions as well. STELTER: What does it mean now going forward? For him to call the

media the opposition party, presumably he's not including "Breitbart" in that category. But when he says that in response to an interviewer, what does it mean for this relationship going forward?

POLLAK: Well, I think there's some journalists who revel in being the opposition party. I think it gives them relevance and I think they like it. I don't think it's the appropriate role necessarily for the media, although the media will always -- theoretically at least, be independent of the government and so, they'll oppose in that passive way any government simply by producing truth and producing facts.

But I think there are journalists who declare in advance on the campaign trial they were proud to be the opposing party. I mean, there was lots of discussions about how journalist had to drop the mask of objectivity and had to participate, it was their civic duty to stand up against this man.

That's just continued and I think that's a big mistake the media are making because there's lots of talk -- you know, I watched the earlier part of your show, lots of talk about the president versus the press. I hear very few journalists talking about their relationship with the public. What's the relationship of journalists to the reading or viewing audience? Are they reestablishing their trust with the people whom they are supposed to serve?

[11:20:01] At "Breitbart", we have a very close and daily feedback between our audience and the journalists who work on the site. I'm not sure that exists in other parts of the media, and that's something I think people could learn from us as well. You have to be independent but part of doing your job is also dealing with your audience and making sure you're providing them the information they need.

STELTER: If we're telling the truth, if we're citing statistics about crime for example, and there's an alternative reality on a site like Breitbart who presents a much scarier doomsday version of crime, how are we supposed to reestablish our trust with our audience if they're getting fed misinformation elsewhere?

POLLAK: I don't know what you're referring to. I do remember CNN editing George Zimmerman's 911 call in 2012 about Trayvon Martin --

STELTER: You're talking about NBC's "Today Show", not CNN.

POLLAK: NBC -- you're correct about the editing, that's correct. CNN did however say that they heard a racial epithet on the call. So, there was --


STELTER: So, you're going to take several years ago, reach out there and pull it out and say, screw the rest of the media, right?

POLLAK: Well, I have a concrete example. If you can give me a concrete example from Breitbart. Has CNN ever apologized for that? I mean, that was a very divisive thing that it did. It stoked racial tensions --


STELTER: I didn't even work here then.

But let me -- here is an example from Breitbart, that people always point to the black crime section of the site. The stories tagged the black crime. Those are oftentimes cited. When Bannon was hired at the White House, that was cited as an example of divisive coverage, of racially tinged coverage of "Breitbart".

POLLAK: There's no black crime section of the website. And I think that is something that has been completely overblown by critics of "Breitbart" who don't read "Breitbart" and don't understand what we do. There's probably more diversity in Breitbart --

STELTER: But it's there.

POLLAK: Excuse me, it's probably more diversity among "Breitbart" journalists and editors than there was in the entire traveling press corps that was covering the president. So, I reject that assertion categorically.

STELTER: By the way, I think that's an important point. I don't know if that's exactly true. It's very hard to measure, but certainly we need ideological diversity in all of these newsrooms. So, I'm with you on that.


POLLAK: I'm not just talking about ideological diversity. I mean, we have diversity of every kind. And I think also, it's very important -- you know, what the White House said this week about the media needing to listen is pretty much what you said the Sunday after the election, Brian.


POLLAK: You said, in very moving segment on this show, you said, the media needs to do some soul-searching, and yet, that afternoon you were calling us a white nationalist website which I thought was not only unfair but also defamatory. I mean, I think you need to take a step back. I think the media collectively needs to look at what it relationship is with the public and is it providing the right information for people to make their own decisions.

I think you enjoy an opposition role. I think that -- you know, I've watched your show. I read your Twitter feed. You enjoy that opposition role. You clearly have an opinion and more power to you.

But I think what readers want, whether it's from your show or from our website is simply information that allows them to make their own decisions. I think you provide that when you cover the media. We provide that when we cover the news. And people have a wide variety of media outlets to choose from. I don't think there's any danger to press freedom. As the "Reuters"

editor-in-chief said just now on your show, I think it's a very exciting time, perhaps the best time ever to be a journalist. And I think people should enjoy the opportunity.

STELTER: Agreement from our panel and with you on that, that this is an exciting time to be a journalist.

Joel, thank you for being here this morning. Best of luck with you.

POLLAK: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next here, the power of information and I would argue misinformation in the immigration ban debate. We'll be right back.


[11:27:32] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

Protests are planned today in more than a dozen cities across the country, mostly at airports, a follow up to what we saw last night. It's in opposition to two things, one, President Trump's temporary travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim majority countries, and two, his indefinite halt to Syrian refugee resettling.

The president seems to think there are severe threats to the country. Fact checkers and critics say he is severely overstating that. So, where is he getting his ideas? Where does the term Muslim ban come from?

The way I see it, this all comes back to media consumption and Trump's sources of information, what he's hearing, what he's reading, who he's talking with.

So, let's look back 14 months to the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. A few days later, on the campaign trail, Trump said this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.


STELTER: Someone wrote that statement for him and it was the genesis of the term "Muslim ban". In the weeks and months after the shooting, Trump repeatedly told an untrue story about San Bernardino. Here is it.


TRUMP: In their apartment or their house, in their place where they lived, they had bombs all over the apartment. HOST: Do you trust --

TRUMP: Excuse me. They had bombs on the floor. Many people saw this. Many, many people. Muslims living with them in the same area. They saw that house. They saw that.


STELTER: There's no proof that any of that happened. What happened was a couple of neighbors were interviewed on local TV afterward. They talked about unusual activity and deliveries of packages.

Some of this was unreliable second hand information, but in any case, they never mentioned bombs or anything on the floor. But some right wing websites jumped on it. Trump essentially received faulty information and reached faulty conclusions, and then he told the story over and over again stoking fear about Muslims.

Now, fast forward to Saturday. A senior Trump administration official held a conference call with reporters. This is pretty normal, to discuss the new restrictions.

According to CNN's Athena Jones, the official justified the ban by siting the San Bernardino attack but, quoting Jones here, "neither of the attackers in the shooting would have been affected by the new ban."

This is why fact-free debates are such a problem. Many conservative websites and some talk show hosts on FOX News are invested in a narrative about brown skin boogey man.


They imply that refugees are coming to America to kill and that the Obama administration left the door wide open.

That's B.S.

Log on to for yourself. Look for the page titled "Facts and Myths About Refugees."

Oh, wait, it's gone. You can see right there the State Department fact sheet was deleted a few days ago.

This is part of the changeover from Obama to Trump.

Here is what the page previously said -- quote -- "All refugees of all nationalities considered for a mission to the United States are subject to the highest level of security checks." The page went on to say, "Syrian refugees go through an enhanced level of review."

Now, to be fair here, every administration revises government Web sites, but the disappearance of a page like this, well, this is why so many people are concerned that the Trump administration is erasing documents and data, in some cases basic facts. The Web site is already full of misinformation about immigration, but the Web is also allowing people to respond with real information, allowing them to share their own stories, and even livestream the protests at the airports.

To talk more about this, let me bring back my panel of media experts, Brook Gladstone of WNYC's "On the Media," editor in chief at Reuters Stephen Adler, and Lydia Polgreen, the new editor in chief of The Huffington Post.

Stephen, your reaction to the coverage yesterday of the ban and of the subsequent protests? It seemed to happen very quickly.

ADLER: Yes, I think the coverage was quite good.

The first question you ask as an editor is, how newsworthy is it? And, obviously, it was very newsworthy. It was newsworthy to see what the ban was. It was newsworthy to see the demonstrations. It was newsworthy see how it affected individuals.

But it was also newsworthy to see how it played outside of media elites, outside of the big cities. And I think that's one of the place where is sometimes media falls short.

And to make a quick analogy to the inauguration...


ADLER: ... everybody in the media wrote about how dark and negative and basically unsuccessful the inauguration speech was.

And then a poll, I believe, came out and said that, by a 49-39 margin, the public approved and thought well of the inauguration speech. So, we have to look at how the public is seeing this ban, and not just look at the impact on people who are being blocked out. But they're both newsworthy.

Watching CNN, MSNBC and FOX last night, frankly, FOX gave it much less attention than CNN and MSNBC.

STELTER: That's right, a lot less protest coverage.

What about the idea here that reporters are failing to stay neutral? Brooke, I ask this because it is true about half the country in a recent poll supported this idea, this idea of a refugee ban.

I'm not seeing half of the guests on cable news expressing support for it. Are newsrooms failing to stay neutral on this? Is neutrality even possible?

GLADSTONE: I don't know that neutrality, any more than objectivity, is possible.

But fairness, of course, is always possible. And bringing a wide variety of views is also possible. I think the big problem is, with every opinion, there are assertions made, and those assertions need to be checked.

And so I think there should be more people coming on who support this ban, if that's, in fact, half the country or more. But they need be -- but the -- we all have to be working from the same information pool, and that's the confusion right now.

STELTER: I was speaking with a correspondent for a major network, a different network, this morning, Lydia, who said, you would be hard- pressed to find a single journalist who covers the Middle East who is not furious and embarrassed by what the Trump administration just did.

Now, that is the kind of journalistic feedback I'm getting privately. Is that an example of journalists knowing this subject more personally and more detailed, because, in some cases, they have worked with Iraqis or Iranians or Yemeni citizens, and thus know this story in a different way than the viewers do?

POLGREEN: I think that's absolutely right.

And I think that there's a strong -- you know, coming to the United States as an immigrant or a refugee is such a universal story.

And one of the things that I have seen is, reporters who work for me, reporters who work for "The New York Times" telling their own personal family stories about coming to the United States and finding refuge.

How can someone be neutral or dispassionate about that, when you have colleagues whose family members escaped the Holocaust or escaped oppression in Eastern Europe during the Cold War? So, I think it's a little bit unreasonable to think that journalists are not going to have skin in the game. This is something that is fundamental to our identity as Americans.


STELTER: Another example of that, alternative facts, this phrase from Kellyanne Conway last week. Now George Orwell's "1984" is a bestseller because of it, because of the idea of newspeak.

I wonder if that's another example, Stephen, of journalists taking a side, having skin in the game, because we're all pro-fact, aren't we?

ADLER: Well, I disagree slightly with Lydia on this one.

I think our professional discipline -- I'm hugely traditionalist on this. I totally admit that. I think our professional discipline is to have views, but to try to put them aside, so that we can report as clearly and accurately and fairly as possible.


And when we don't do that, then we forget that perhaps a majority of the population may support some of this stuff. And one of the things we're missing is the economic justification for Trump being elected in the first place. We weren't -- collectively, we weren't out there, and we weren't

really participating in their lived experience. And I think, even on an immigration story, we have to try to understand how immigration is affecting them.

So, I'm not saying I'm on one side of this or another. I'm just saying, we should be trying to put our opinions aside, so we can report fairly and accurately. And I don't say there is no room for advocacy journalism or opinion journalism, but, at least where Reuters stands, you would try to put your opinion aside.

POLGREEN: I think that's fair.

But I think you also -- I go back to what the editor from Breitbart said, which is this kind of connection with your audience and a deep understanding of who they are and where they stand.

And I think that one of the major failings of the press in this cycle has been this failure to listen, this failure of -- almost of empathy. And we have ended up in this place where we have a highly professionalized, highly elite, highly East Coast- and West Coast- concentrated media that's handing down on tablets from the mountain judgments about where our country is and what we're doing.

And I think that we have suffered for it, and we have become discredited as a result of it. And so I think that opening a new compact with our audiences, one that shows who we are and is listening with empathy to who they are and where they are is extremely important to move forward.

STELTER: Lydia, Stephen, Brooke, thank you all for being here this morning.

ADLER: Thank you.

STELTER: Great to see you.

Up next here right after a quick break, going live to Moscow, talking with the journalists who experience not just words from leaders that are critical of the media, but actions. What is it like to report in authoritarian climates? We will have that right after the break.



STELTER: Authoritarian, it's a loaded word, and its use has increased a lot in reference to President Trump's leadership style, especially because of the way he and his aides talk about the media.

Joel Simon, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me this about Steve Bannon's recent suggestion that the press should shut up.

Simon said -- quote -- "This kind of speech not only undermines the work of the media in this country, the United States. It emboldens autocratic leaders around the world. These leaders, like Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey, have consolidated power by marginalizing independent media. We can't allow that to happen in the United States."

Joining me now to discuss this are two journalists who are no strangers to these kinds of clashes with authoritarian governments.

Mahir Zeynalov is a Turkish analyst and journalist who faced deportation from the Turkish government after posting tweets against high-level officials and committing a crime by exceeding the limit of criticism. And Alexey Kovalev is a Moscow-based journalist who has reported on Putin and Russian politics for years.

Great to see you both. Thank you for being here.



STELTER: Mahir, first to you.

Do you see, in what President Trump says about the press, do you hear echoes of what authoritarian rulers say about the press? Is there any similarity here?

ZEYNALOV: Absolutely, Brian.

Whenever I look what President Trump and his team are doing here in the United States, I'm like, wait a second. I have seen this movie before. It's all familiar to us.

And I'm not talking about a country like Iran or China, where autocrats are crushing or strangulating the media. I'm talking about Turkey, a country that was somehow democratic a decade ago, with a somewhat independent media, and now turning into a state where there's at least one journalist is being put behind bars since last summer on average every day.

And if there's anyone who is saying that this cannot happen here in the United States, they are significantly underestimating how leaders, including in democratic countries, can undermine media freedom, and, with that, democracy.

STELTER: So, you're saying that, but we're not seeing newspapers shut down. We're not seeing journalists in jail. Is it not a big exaggeration to try to compare Trump to what we have seen in Turkey, for example?

ZEYNALOV: Well, obviously, we have very strong institutional mechanisms here. We have very strong and independent judiciary here in the United States.

But -- and we had in Turkey too. But this is how it starts. Populist leaders like President Trump and President Erdogan, press conferences, press briefings are the biggest tests. In that press conference, these are the venues that they cannot have monologues. They first relentlessly attack those critical reporters because they cannot avoid those uncomfortable questions.

And then they impose accreditation. And only a few years ago, it was unthinkable that we would see a lot of journalists being put in jail and also a lot of newspapers, including my own, being shut down.

And Erdogan, President Erdogan, has been exploiting fault lines within -- among the media outlets, because whenever they attack one media outlet, the others remain silent. And we didn't know that we were the next in line.

And then, the next day, the police stormed our newspaper, imprisoned our journalists. And we can see the exact same thing here in the United States in upcoming years, if the media is suffocated here, because we have strong institutional mechanisms in the United States because we have free media.

STELTER: Let me bring in Alexey.

I was just pulling up a column you wrote, Alexey, for "The Guardian." Here is part of what you said. I think we can put it on screen.

You said: "My message for covering President Trump's administration is this. Don't get distracted by what they say. Focus on what they don't say."

What do you mean by that?

ALEXEY KOVALEV, MOSCOW-BASED JOURNALIST: Well, you see, in Russia, in the Russian media industry, the problem that we're facing is not the fake news propaganda, as much as genuine news, but devoid of any content at all.


So, we have career politicians that , throughout their decade-long careers, do nothing else but suggest patently absurd and unpassable bills, with the sole purpose of staying in the headlines.

And it goes on and on for decades. And we have to cover this to stay afloat, because it brings traffic, and you need traffic to survive to attract advertisers.

And whenever Putin says something -- and his annual press conferences are actually enacting some of this -- these conferences last for four hours and attended by -- last year, it was 1,500 reporters. But whether you cover it or not, you will not become any wiser, because no major policy announcement gets made. And it's just a four-hour one- man show. And we're just extras in it.

But if you're a Moscow-based newsroom, you will have to cover it. And you will have to reroute all of your resources to covering Putin's press conferences, whether you like him or not. And that's what we have now in Russia. But one of the answers to

this, to this manipulation was extreme specialization, because we now have independent outlets who just removed and got rid of these dependence on the federal agenda, on all the chaff being thrown out to keep you on the back foot.

And we have highly specialized news outlets, yes...

STELTER: Interesting.

KOVALEV: ... covering only the core proceedings, yes.


STELTER: I have seen many differences here in the United States, but I understand why some are drawing similarities as well. So, it helps to hear both of your all's perspectives.

Mahir, Alexey, thank you both for being here today.

ZEYNALOV: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next here: Donald Trump's constant promotion of FOX News this week. How are his cable viewing habits affecting his policies?

Stay tuned.



STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

FOX News is one of the few outlets the new president doesn't criticize. Sometimes, he seems to live-tweet the channel's programming, the way I like to tweet along with award shows.

Right after this "O'Reilly Factor" segment on Chicago crime a few days ago, it looked as if Trump used O'Reilly's stats -- you see them on screen -- to write a tweet. It said: "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible carnage going on," and then he lists these numbers, "I will send in the feds."

Now, there's another example of Trump reacting to cable news on Twitter. Here it is from Thursday's "FOX & Friends." Watch this.


ABBY HUNTSMAN, FOX NEWS: Chelsea Manning sounding less grateful for former President Obama cutting nearly 25 years of off her sentence for leaking classified information. In a new article for "The Guardian," the disgraced former Army private is slamming Obama as a weak leader.


STELTER: Did you see the banner there, ungrateful traitor? Less than 15 minutes later, Trump wrote a tweet using the exact same

language. You can see it on the screen now, "ungrateful traitor Chelsea Manning." He even used the phrase weak leader, which Abby Huntsman said, even though the editorial didn't say weak leader.

This is a great example of Trump and the cable news-Twitter feedback loop.

Joining me now to discuss it is Matthew Garrahan, global media editor with "The Financial Times."

Matthew, you wrote this week all about the Murdochs, the men who run and own FOX News, and their relationship to Trump. First, though, on the idea of the cable news feedback loop, he watches a lot of CNN as well. He wakes up and reads "The New York Times" and then tweets about it.

What are we to make of a president who is consuming so much news, media coverage all the time?

MATTHEW GARRAHAN, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": Well, it's unprecedented. He takes all of his cues from FOX News.

As you know, he's pronouncing on Twitter minutes after FOX News report things. But the bigger issue here is the sort of proximity between FOX and Trump, and specifically Rupert Murdoch, who runs and controls FOX.

STELTER: Do you view FOX News as a pro-Trump network at this point?

GARRAHAN: Well, they will call me and shout at me if I say that, but I think the party line there is, we are news and we're opinion. And that's something that Rupert said and that James and Lachlan, Murdoch, his sons, have also said.

But you look at the opinion shows, the three-hour prime-time block at FOX News, is completely pro-Trump now, since Megyn Kelly left. Rupert personally selected Tucker Carlson. So, their opinion is very, very, very pro-Trump. And that's kind of hard to deny.

STELTER: Ratings through the roof for FOX right now, partly as a result of Trump's presidency.


STELTER: Talk to me about your impressions of the Murdochs. You spent a lot of time reporting on this story. What are their views of Trump? How does the father, the elder Murdoch, Rupert, vary from his sons, Lachlan and James?

GARRAHAN: Yes, you're right about ratings. Last year, they beat ESPN in prime-time for a news channel. Unheard of.

But there is this big ideological and political difference between Rupert and the sons. And the sons are taking over. They will be the future of the company. Rupert is very pro-Trump. James told friends -- and we reported this -- that he was appalled by his father's promotion of the Trump candidacy.

STELTER: Appalled? Wow.

GARRAHAN: Yes. And you kind of expect that, at some point, if Rupert is no longer around, and James is running FOX solo or with his brother by his side, that that will be a hard line for FOX News to continue to maintain.

STELTER: Then again, you have got a president promoting the channel, tweeting about it, telling people to watch it.

He said to ABC's David Muir, go to FOX, see how FOX covered one of my speeches, implying they got it right, you all got it wrong.

How would FOX possibly deviate if they have got the president of the United States promoting what they're doing?

GARRAHAN: I don't think they do deviate for now.


It's hard to -- it's working very well for them. But there is this disconnect between what you see on the ground with the protests yesterday. Their coverage was pretty scant. With the women's march a week ago, they kind of dipped in and out, where the other networks were covering it pretty wholeheartedly.

STELTER: When I'm feeling cynical, I call that disciplined. They are disciplined about their news coverage, right? They know what their viewers want and don't want.

GARRAHAN: Yes. And is that sustainable for four years? Is it sustainable when Rupert is no longer around and the CEO and the CEO's wife, Kathryn Murdoch, who is James Murdoch's wife, tweeting regularly about how appalled she is, how disappointed she is in what Trump is doing?

STELTER: That's the question, the long term?


STELTER: Matt, great to see you. Thank you for being here.

GARRAHAN: Thank you very much. Thanks a lot.

STELTER: We're out of time on TV, but we keep going on Join us there for a livestream with Matt Taibbi this Thursday at noon.

And I will see you back here next week.