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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Trump Team's Break with Reality; Is Media in a State of Emergency Over Trump?; Monitoring President Trump's Twitter Feed; Donald Trump's Relationship with Rupert Murdoch; NYT and Papers Battling to Stay in Business. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 12, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:07] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, of how the news gets made.

This hour, President Trump reportedly has a new TV in the presidential dining room. Are his media habits changing at all? Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy met with Trump this weekend. They talked about cable news, "The New York Times" and much more, and Ruddy has the details coming up.

Plus, columnist Andrew Sullivan breaking his silence, saying this is an emergency situation. A must-see interview coming up later this hour.

And we're going to get into the bromance between Rupert Murdoch and the president.

But first, with so much news coming from D.C. each day, it's easy to lose sight of the overarching story. And that is, at least, in my view, the Trump administration's relationship with reality. It's a fractured relationship right now.

Just take a look at this list. We made this in no particular order.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer referencing a terror attack in Atlanta three separate times. When reporters noticed, he said he meant Orlando.

Kellyanne Conway going on FOX News, urging viewers to buy Ivanka stuff. Spicer falsely saying CNN retracted something when it hadn't.

Trump himself falsely characterizing Chris Cuomo's interview on "NEW DAY" earlier this week. Sean Spicer talking about Yemen in ways that shock a lot of people. And it goes on and on here. I almost don't have time to run through the list and that was of Saturday. There are new developments this morning.

For example, Trump is praising one of his aides, Stephen Miller, Miller's performance on some of the Sunday shows. Miller doubled and tripled and quadrupled down the view that there's been massive voter fraud in this country, without providing even a shred of evidence of it. So, was this the worst week ever for the White House communications

team?

Here with me to discuss it, an all-star panel beginning with James Bennet, the editorial page editor for "The New York Times," and Sarah Westwood, the White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", in the briefings all the time.

So, Sarah, let me start with you. Your impression so far? What are you experiencing day to day with Spicer in the briefing room?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: The Trump administration and Spicer in particular, they seem to have the attitude the media is going to treat them unfairly no matter what. So, they're going to pay least attention to the optics of their decisions that a typical administration might.

This week, though, they're sort of seeing the limitations of that approach, particularly when it comes to the travel ban. Their hand got slapped on that because they proceeded with the understanding that the media was going to cover it negatively, anyway. So, they were just going to push it through as quickly as possible, and that's starting to affect their ability to deliver on their agenda.

STELTER: Let me bring in one more guest here, Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama, now a CNN political commentator.

Dan, you've been outspoken about this saying you don't think Spicer is going to last very long in his job. Why do you say that?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, all you have to do is read in the papers and hear about how Trump feels about him, how Steve Bannon feels about him. I've never seen in my life, Washington can be a tough town, but I've never seen anyone treated by their colleagues the way Sean Spicer has been.

And more importantly, because of the way he's performed in the first few weeks here, he's undermined himself, he's lost credibility, he sort of become a walking Internet meme. And that means he can't do his job in the way Trump needs him to do it. I think in the long term, either he's going to have to make a decision about what's best for himself, or Trump will make the decision for him.

STELTER: Are you part of the problem, though, Dan? You're coming from the left here saying that Spicer is being undermined. Aren't you undermining him?

PFEIFFER: Oh, yes, I mean, yes. I'm happy to do so. I mean is that when you read the stories about -- you hear White House aides saying Trump doesn't like him, he wasn't Trump's first choice, you read about him potentially interviewing other people. You know, there are people -- there's clearly a faction in the White House who would prefer he was not press secretary, and I think that's a real -- that makes it very hard for him to do his job.

STELTER: A lot of infighting. So, "SNL" for the second week in a row poked fun at Spicer. Actually, a lot more than that. It was harsh for a second week in a row. Melissa McCarthy back playing Spicer.

Here's some of either -- depending on how you feel, the highlights or the low lights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earlier this week, you said there was a terror attack in Atlanta?

MELISSA MCCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER: Yes, I said that wrong when I said it and then you wrote it, which makes you wrong because when I say something wrong, you guys should know what it is I'm meaning. Wrong or right, you are wrong. And then there's some light terrorism this week when Nordstrom's decided to stop selling Ivanka Trump's line of clothing and accessories. These are high, high quality products. In fact, I'm wearing one of her bangles right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mentally, though, are you okay?

MCCARTHY: Are you kidding me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Not sure what "SNL" will do next week.

Dan, let me ask you briefly since you've been in the White House working in one of these administrations, do these "SNL" impersonations matter?

[11:05:03] PFEIFFER: I -- look, I think everyone gets made fun off. Jon Stewart made a lot of fun of me once. You know, you hopefully can laugh about it.

Over the course of time, if an impression is created that undermines the capacity of one of those visible faces of the White House to be taken as a credible spokesperson, I think that's problematic. There is going to be a time in the not too distant future where we're not debating whether Nordstrom should have kept Ivanka Trump's products, but the White House press secretary is being sent out there to brief the country on a very serious issue, and if they are not taken seriously, that's problematic.

STELTER: Let me bring in James Bennet here in New York.

James, before you were the op-ed page boss, before you were editor for "The Atlantic", you were a White House correspondent for the "New York Times." What is your impression of how this White House, its communication issues, stack up against past presidents?

JAMES BENNET, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: One of the things that's just a amazing is the intensity of this. You know, I covered Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky impeachment struggle, and sort of peak Lewinsky, the White House press briefing room felt I think like it seems to feel every day in the first three weeks of this administration and how everybody is going to maintain this fever pitch in the next four years because it's really kind of mystifying question right now.

STELTER: That's interesting. Let me ask Sarah about that -- because, Sara, you're in these briefings. Are you experiencing issues with access, or are you finding that this White House is, contrary to some of the fears a month ago, still providing the same kind of access past administrations did?

WESTWOOD: I've never had trouble with access in this administration. I think particularly in regards to smaller outlets, they have been providing access, and they've been good about it.

And I think what's making the intensity seem so much more dramatic than in past administrations is because Spicer is tasked with picking every fight with the media. They don't let things lie. They want to fight on the Nordstrom front, they want to fight on Blumenthal's characterization of Gorsuch's comments, they want to fight on every little discrepancy that they see in media coverage, and that tends to make the White House seemed like it's always embattled and that's partially their own making.

STELTER: We did ask Sean Spicer to appear on this program this morning and he declined. I hope he will come on the program in a future week.

But this is not just about the press secretary, is it, James? This is about a much broader problem. When you've got the president making these statements, then the aides are just doing what he says.

BENNET: Yes, but Sarah, I think, is making a really important point there, that don't forget, one of the things that's surprising about this White House is they've shown so little interest in reaching beyond the base, really the minority base of voters that elected Donald Trump, and I think they think these battles with the press work for them, you know? And all the noise they're producing, all the furor in the briefing room contributes to the image they want to present, which is that he's doing a lot of stuff, that he's upsetting the status quo.

So I think they think, in a lot of ways, this is working for them.

STELTER: How worrisome is it to you to have a president that tweets that all negative polls are fake news?

BENNET: I mean, I -- look, it's terribly worrisome to me, I think to -- and should be to a lot of Americans, when the very idea of truth is under assault like this.

STELTER: And you feel like it is?

BENNET: Yes, I mean --

STELTER: The very idea of truth.

BENNET: Yes.

STELTER: Dan -- I heard Dan Pfeiffer laughing. Dan, what's your take on that? I don't want that tweet on the polls get lost because I think it's part of the foundation of the house. If the president neither doesn't believe his approval ratings, or says he doesn't believe his approval ratings, well, then, that's one of the checks on any president, and if that foundation is eroded, it could be a problem.

PFEIFFER: Right. I mean, I think James is right. This is very alarming. Look, I can't tell you whether Trump believes the things he says or he's just trying to paint a different picture, but when you have the president of the United States using his massive -- the massive bully pulpit whether from Twitter or television interviews to basically say things that are provably false on a regular basis, that is problematic.

And then you have the -- you now have this infrastructure on social media sites, these Breitbart, some of these new conservative athletes that have been set up to amplify some of those concerns, you know, we live in a world of alternative reality. If you have a significant portion of the country believing in an alternative, quote/unquote, "alternative set of facts", that's not good for democracy.

STELTER: So, how does it affect your reporting, your writing, Sarah, as someone covering this beat every single day, how does it affect you?

WESTWOOD: Well, when it comes to polls, I think Trump can be forgiven for not trusting polls as much in the past because he went through an experience where polls were regularly stuffed down his throat as a proof of why he was going to lost, and then he won.

There are plenty beefs to pick with Trump administration when it comes to twisting the facts. I don't know that their skepticism of polls is one of them. But, certainly, with the Trump administration sometimes, it's always good to check twice their facts, and I think that's also just a reflection of the fact that a lot of the people who are working in the administration right now have never been at this level before because Trump eschewed so much of the Republican establishment.

[11:10:10] And so, what you're seeing is just a lot of rookie mistakes.

STELTER: And one more note on this about that, let's put on screen one of your editorials from this week, James. In the "New York Times" yesterday, writing about Michael Flynn and what he said about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. You wrote, quote, "No one can believe what he says anymore."

Where do you see this story going? Because this morning on the morning talk shows, Stephen Miller, one of Trump's aides, basically would not say a word about this Flynn issue.

BENNET: Well, presumably, the question is going to have to address this question at some point in the coming days, because the vice president is now implicated in passing on the falsehood that Mike Flynn had originally committed in claiming that he had no conversations with the Russian ambassador after the election about sanctions. It was a very powerful piece of journalism in the "Washington Post" this week showing that -- revealing that there are taps showing that he, in fact, did have those conversations.

Mike Flynn was already a very divisive and unusual choice for this job because he's such -- it's kind of a consensus building position and his background really is as a hothead. He's already kind of a divisive force within this White House, and it's really surprising that the president hasn't already addressed this. I think he's going to have to.

STELTER: James, thanks very much for being here.

Sarah, Dan, thank you all as well. I appreciate it.

We mentioned "SNL" a minute ago. The ratings came in during this block. A six-year high.

And coming up next here, a Sunday morning exclusive about something that isn't really being talked about on television. A must-see interview with Andrew Sullivan who calls the president's behavior bonkers. That's right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:41] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

Jake Tapper's interview with Kellyanne Conway from last Tuesday is already being thought in journalism classes and for good reason. Tapper challenged Conway about the White House's disregard for the truth.

And he's not the only one. I sensed a new tone on the nightly news this week. Watch how Scott Pelley opened his broadcast on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS EVENING NEWS WITH SCOTT PELLEY: Today, President Trump told a U.S. audience that there have been terrorist attacks that no one knows about because the media choose not to report them. It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Divorced from reality. My next guest, Andrew Sullivan, a pioneering blogger, now a contributing editor for the "New York magazine" is taking it a step further, questioning Trump's mental health, with this provocative article, "The Madness of King Donald."

Your thesis is this is a national emergency. You used the word "emergency" in your column. Why? What's your case?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Because any liberal democracy, any constitutional democracy, relies upon something we call the objective truth. Now, some politicians fib and lie, in fact, almost all of them do to some extent, but they always do it in a way that pays some deference to reality.

And what I've discovered is that in the last three weeks, this president, rather like he did on the campaign trail, simply insists that black is white, that things that we can see with our own eyes, like the size of his inauguration crowd, are not exactly what we're seeing. And he's able to command his underlings to actually go out there and say things that are empirically untrue.

This is about politics or ideology, like there are some things that Trump believes in, for example, a more restrained America around the world, immigration controls, for example, that I'm sympathetic to. It's about the ability for the president to tell the truth and for us to believe it. And to have such an unstable figure incapable of accepting reality at the center of the world is an extremely dangerous thing. And I --

STELTER: You said unstable. In your column you said mentally unstable. Why do you think it's appropriate to be describing the president that way?

SULLIVAN: I'm not a shrink, and if I were, I wouldn't say this, anyway, because you can't diagnose someone. But I'm a human being, and I can tell if someone is saying things that we know not to be true and never corrects it.

For example, that the murder rate, which is a very solid statistic. You know, there are dead bodies we can count. When he says the murder rate is as high as it's been in 45 to 47 years, what are we supposed to do, Brian? I mean, what is anybody supposed to do? This is simply completely bonkers.

He's saying things that do not exist. When a president is saying things like that and doesn't correct himself, has no one correct him, we have fact checkers now every day of the week compiling lists and lists and lists of things he's saying that are empirically untrue, false.

Now, I don't know whether he knows they're false, but if he doesn't know they're false, then he needs to be informed. If he knows they're false and still saying it's true, then if he doesn't know, then he shouldn't be in that office.

STELTER: On the point about the murder rate, I remember the day he made that false statement this week. I talked with my editors at CNN, the head of standards at CNN. We reached the conclusion that that specifically was a lie and called it a lie because it's been corrected so many times, debunked so many times that by now, he must know the truth of the murder rate.

But you're taking it a couple of steps further by questioning his mental stability. And I wonder why you think that's not been said more often on television or in columns like your own. Do you feel like you're a bit alone on this issue? And if so, why?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think others are picking it up. But certainly if you're not on camera and not writing, people are talking about this all the time. I think sometimes you want to assume that there is a rationality at the center of our entire republic. That there is someone who can listen to reason, who see an empirical fact, who can distinguish between an opinion and a fact, between what he wants to be true and what is true.

And sometimes we don't want to say that in public. We can't.

[11:20:01] But look, we're journalists and we're trying to understand what's happening. And if we don't just simply say what's in front of our eyes, what use are we? I mean, how are we supposed to do this when someone keeps telling us untruths every day?

STELTER: Are you describing a failure of journalism, do you think, that it's not being addressed more publicly?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think the journalists have been doing a fantastic job in many ways of fact checking. But fact checking doesn't really capture the extent of what's going on. And I think many journalists, for good reasons, because we don't want to say something is not right here, have to conform to certain routines and procedures and norms that we've used -- that we used to use.

And, you know, all politicians, as I say, fib, they pass the truth. Bill Clinton is someone who used to fib all the time. But they always paid some reference to reality, and when it was pointed out, when a fact was pointed out, they would correct it.

He won't correct anything. In fact, I don't think of all the hundreds and hundreds of false statements he's made, he and his spokesman have not actually retracted a single one. And you ask yourself why.

STELTER: They might point to birtherism and say Trump did come out before Election Day and say President Obama was born in the U.S. That's the only example that comes to my mind of a statement that he corrected.

SULLIVAN: That's true, Brian. Only, as you saw, if you saw that press conference, it was incredibly reluctant, rushed and then immediately followed by another attack.

STELTER: Do you worry, though, that talking about this, about his psychology, you're calling him mentally unstable and delusional, do you worry that it further causes division in the country, makes it impossible for the people who voted for him to want to hear you out?

SULLIVAN: Of course, I do, and God knows, I wish I weren't here having to say this. No one wants to be here saying this.

I don't want to believe the president of the United States is just delusional or cannot accept reality -- of course, not. It pains me. It gives me great pain and concern and distress.

But at some point, being a writer or a journalist requires one to simply say what one is seeing in front of one's eyes. And sometimes, you have to say that in plain English.

STELTER: So, you don't see any alternative explanations for his behavior?

SULLIVAN: Well, I do think that his ego is involved, I do think that he wants to not seem as if he's gotten something wrong. He does want to say things that advance certain policies that he wants to propose, all of which is fine.

STELTER: The policy agenda.

SULLIVAN: All of which is fine.

But what I'm saying is if you continually do that and you never recognize reality, if you're still insisting, as he was as lately as last Friday, that there was massive voter fraud, that millions of people voted, all of whom voted for Hillary Clinton and didn't vote for him, were voting in the last election, that is simply, first of all, completely untrue. It's also deeply destructive of Democratic legitimacy, and it is, to put it frankly, a little bonkers.

STELTER: There's been a strain of reaction in television and conservative media circles that all of this media coverage of Trump, all this criticism of Trump, people suggesting he's unstable, it's all hysteria.

Take a look at this compilation from FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS, FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You read these hysterical headlines in the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got the mainstream media beating him up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought there was a lot of media hysteria over the Trump executive order on the refugees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, more of the same kind of hysterical handwringing that seems now to go on about everything that Donald Trump ever says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's opposed by the mainstream media.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

STELTER: Andrew, you calling this an emergency is going to have them saying you're being hysterical. Your reaction?

SULLIVAN: Yes, sure. Say that. I mean, I'm happy to be called hysterical if people want to call me that.

I'm just -- I would ask them instead, how do you explain the constant barrage of untruths, falsehoods and lies coming out of this person? How do you explain that?

And when you talk about hysteria, I'm not tweeting in the early hours of the morning in all caps. I'm not out of control in terms of tweeting every morning, noon and night about things that are not true, violating established norms of responsible behavior in the office of the president. If there is anybody who is actually exhibiting hysteria, panic and out-of-controlness, it's coming from the Oval Office, not from the rest of us.

Liberal democracy requires some consensus, some common facts, some common reality for us to have a really good fight over. We can -- we should have bare-knuckled fights, ideologically, politically, everything, but we have to relate it to reality at some point, our interpretation of reality.

And when the central figure in our political system is creating an entire world of unreality, how are we supposed to respond?

[11:25:08] And I think we have to respond. We have to respond by saying, excuse me, Mr. President, with all due respect, you keep telling us things that are not true. Can you please stop this?

And if you can't stop it, if you simply keep asserting the world is one way when it really isn't because everybody else can see it, then we have a serious problem at the very heart of our government. And denying that or tiptoeing around it or not saying it plainly is a failure of our duty as journalists, as writers and reporters to say and call it as we see it.

STELTER: Andrew Sullivan, thank you so much for being here this morning.

SULLIVAN: You're so welcome, Brian.

STELTER: When we come back, a very different view from someone who spent time with the president at Mar-a-Lago this weekend. You won't want to miss what Chris Ruddy has to say in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:08]

STELTER: Donald Trump's Twitter feed matters, not because it gives us on TV something to talk about, but because foreign leaders are all monitoring it, all paying very close attention, foreign leaders like Kim Jong-un.

On a weekend when the president faces his first real international test with North Korea, on a weekend when he's hosting the Japanese prime minister at Mar-a-Lago, on a weekend when he's supposedly working on his response to the Ninth Circuit, Trump is tweeting about all this.

Quote: "While he's on fake news CNN, Bernie Sanders was cut off for using the term fake news to describe the network. They said technical difficulties."

The videotape proves that Bernie Sanders made a joke about fake news while criticizing Trump. Sanders was not cut off for using the term. There was a technical glitch. You could tell on television. It was fixed and then the interview went on for nine minutes. But this is not about CNN. It's about what Trump is choosing to tweet

about. He saw that video clip of Sanders on "FOX & Friends," it seems like, because then he weighed in half-an-hour later.

We do know there's a pattern now that's pretty clear. The president begins his day by tuning into cable news, FOX, MSNBC, CNN and then reacting on Twitter. But he's also talking with his friends about his media consumption.

So, that's why I want to bring in Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, who was with the president on Friday night at Mar-a-Lago.

Chris, good to see you.

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: Brian, great to be on with you again.

STELTER: I know you were all talking about fake news, among other topics.

Why does the president call outlets like CNN fake news?

RUDDY: Well, look, if you just watched the last half-hour you have spent on this show calling him a pathological liar and then, beyond that, saying he's mentally crazy and unstable, I mean, is that really -- are you guys really connected to reality? I just -- I sort of almost have to wonder.

I personally think the president -- the president has been in a campaign mode since he got into office. He's been a showbiz guy for many years, very successful. I do think he needs to throttle back some of the Twitter messages.

And I think you are going to start seeing that over time. But people like him. One of the reasons he's been so successful is, he tells people what he -- what he thinks.

To believe, as Andrew claimed, that, because he got the murder statistic rate wrong, that therefore he's a pathological liar, and therefore he's mentally unstable, I really think that's over the top. And that's why millions and millions of people are turning off the big cable news networks, because they really do feel -- I don't know if it's fake news as much as it's biased news.

But this is a guy -- always remember this. He was 30 years old. He shows up in Manhattan. Within a few years, he's building some of the biggest buildings in the city, biggest hotels. He goes to Atlantic City, owns the biggest casinos.

He goes to the top of the real estate market. In his 50s, he becomes a TV star. He has 14 years with a hit show. Nobody has 14 years with a hit show. Two years ago, he decides he wants to run for president. He's now president.

This is a man, if he's crazy, he's crazy like a fox. So, I would not underestimate his abilities. And I do think we need to give him a little slack. He's the first non-politician as president. Give him six months. Let's then really come on.

You -- you -- we could pick apart -- I think Barack Obama is a good man, but we could sit here and pick apart all of his personality quirks. I think that would not be very conducive building consensus in this country.

STELTER: Andrew Sullivan is not the only person to raise issues, questions about the president's mental health.

Remember, his friend Howard Stern recently said: I don't think being president is going to be good for Donald Trump, because the president wants to be liked. And when you're the president, you know, you're the most hated person in the world. Look at what happened to President Obama or President Bush before that.

Do you have that same sense after talking with Trump on Friday?

RUDDY: Well, I think he is a little sensitive to the press criticism.

STELTER: I would be too.

RUDDY: Look, he's used to -- he's been in New York media circles for years. You can't get into a tougher arena than that.

He's been fighting a lot of big fights through the years. This is a guy that's battle-tested. I think the problem is not so much him. It's the White House -- the White House's showing not the -- the amount of order that we need to see.

I think there's a lot of weakness coming out of chief of staff. I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned, but he clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work. He doesn't have a really good system. He doesn't know how the communications flow.

I think Sean Spicer is doing a very good job under difficult circumstances. But I do think the president is not getting the backup he needs in the operation of the White House, and sometimes the pushback that he needs, which you would have with a stronger White House counsel -- White House chief of staff.

STELTER: You tweeted -- you tweeted that your discussion with the president was also about "The New York Times."

What came up about "The New York Times" and Maggie Haberman?

[11:35:00]

RUDDY: Well, I don't think it's any secret that the president's not a big fan of "The New York Times."

He knows that they lead the coverage a lot in stories about him and his family and the administration. And he sees a steady, steady flow of critical stories from a number of reporters there.

And I think he's -- he's a guy that's going to tell you what he thinks. And he's not so happy about the coverage. STELTER: Anything inaccurate, though? Anything inaccurate from those stories?

One of Maggie's stories was about how the president is having a hard time adjusting to life in the White House.

RUDDY: I didn't get that sense from him. He is telling me he really loves it. He loves the job.

I have never seen him probably more relaxed since than before he became -- he started getting into the election about two years ago. So, I think he's fitting in fine.

I think he's put a really good team in the Cabinet. They're just starting to get settled in. Remember, we're not even a month into this yet.

STELTER: For sure. But sure. But I think that's why people are shocked by how many misstatements he's made, right?

When he says on Twitter that all negative polls are fake news, Chris, he knows that's not true.

RUDDY: Well, maybe he's just having a little fun with you too.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: That's true. We have got to think about that.

RUDDY: You know, the last time I was on your show -- last time -- last time I was on your show, he called me on the phone and said he wasn't happy with some of your commentary.

So, he obviously watches these shows. And, you know, nobody has ever really held the press accountable for the things they do and the mistakes they do and the...

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Well, the president has my number. He can call any time through Hope Hicks or Sean Spicer. I'm sure I will hear from them afterwards.

But let me ask you one more thing. You mentioned cable news ratings. You said they were down.

The numbers are through the roof for all the big cable news channels right now. And, obviously, the president is watching. Do you think he should be watching less cable news? Would it help him to actually watch a little bit less?

RUDDY: I think he's extremely well-informed.

And I think he likes getting -- you know, he's probably the most accessible guy we have had in the presidency in modern times. And I think part of this also is, he likes to access a lot of information. He doesn't just watch cable news. He watches entertainment programs. He watches a lot of sports.

He's pretty eclectic in his interests. And I think it's good.

STELTER: What entertainment shows? Do you know?

RUDDY: Excuse me?

STELTER: Do you know which entertainment shows?

RUDDY: All I know is, he knows everything about the entertainment industry.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDDY: So, he follows a lot of those shows. I wouldn't know half these celebrities walking down the street. He does.

So, he keeps on top of that business, but also in finance and politics. And I think it's really good that he's tuning in and listens to different points of view.

The previous president supposedly didn't watch much and lived a little bit in a bubble. But nobody talks about that.

And, at the end of the day...

STELTER: Oh, we talked about it here at the time.

Don't do that thing where we say we didn't talk about it eight years ago. Come on. We always talk about that stuff when it happens.

RUDDY: Look, no matter what the president says, look what he does.

STELTER: OK.

RUDDY: Foreign policy, this is not a guy mentally unstable. He's reaffirmed NATO. He's issued caution to Iran. He's supported South Korea. He's reaffirmed the special relationship we have with Britain. He's reaffirmed the one China policy with China.

This is signs of a stable, sensible world leader. So, I think you're going to see more of that. He's not done anything out of the norm or anything bizarre in foreign policy. And that, I think, will be a sign of how he's going to behave on domestic policy.

And, really, he wants to be judged by his results. He's a business guy. If he makes the bottom line work for millions of Americans, he will be reelected and very popular.

STELTER: Chris, thanks for being here. Looking forward to seeing you in Miami tomorrow. Thanks very much.

RUDDY: Cool. I will see you.

STELTER: Coming up on the show this hour, right after the break, was it a coincidence that Trump only called on two reporters on Friday at that press conference and both were from outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch?

We're going to talk about that right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:51]

STELTER: At Friday's press conference, President Trump took only two questions. Now, that's not unusual at a presser with a foreign leader. Usually, two American journalists ask questions and then two from the other country.

But check out who Trump called on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will take a few questions, unless you don't want to ask any questions, if that's possible.

Maybe we will start -- where is Daniel Halper, "New York Post"?

Daniel?

OK, Blake Burman, FOX, Blake Burman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: The interesting thing is that both "The New York Post" and FOX Business are owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Trump and Murdoch talk regularly, according to my next guest. Murdoch also owns another paper, "The Wall Street Journal," where my sources say tensions have been coming to a head over the paper's Trump coverage.

Now there's a town hall scheduled for tomorrow with the editor in chief of "The Journal."

Let's take a closer look at the Murdoch-Trump nexus with Matthew Garrahan. He's the global media editor for "The Financial Times."

Matt, you had a couple of scoops this week. We will put one of them on screen involving Murdoch sitting in on an interview with Trump when one of his newspapers had a chance to interview the president-elect last month.

What can you tell us about this relationship?

MATTHEW GARRAHAN, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": It's close and it's been close. The two have been close for a very long time.

Rupert and Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, have been similarly close for several years, to the extent that Ivanka was a trustee of Rupert's two daughters Grace and Chloe Murdoch, daughters he had with his ex-wife Wendi Deng. And she was responsible for overseeing about $300 million worth of shares in two Murdoch companies, so close ties and quite a cozy relationship.

STELTER: Do you think it matters? Do you think it affects the news coverage on these outlets?

GARRAHAN: I'm sure if it does, but I think people should know. They need to know that a media baron who owns lots of outlets, who owns "The Wall Street Journal," "The New York Post," in the U.K. "The Times of London," which, as you said, did that interview, they need to know that there's this relationship, because without it, it's difficult the take seriously claims that there is this awful big mainstream media out there which is dead set against the president, when, at the same time, another sort of wing of the media, a big half of the media has these very, very close ties.

[11:45:04]

STELTER: That's an interesting point.

You're saying, when you say the president trashes the media, he's not talking about everybody.

GARRAHAN: He's not.

And, as you said, he called on those two Murdoch-owned outlets. When "The Times of London" got the first U.K. newspaper interview with the president, Rupert Murdoch sat in. It wasn't disclosed in the "Times"' story. They wrote 2,000 words about the interview.

Look, it's not unusual for newspaper proprietors to meet presidents. The proprietor of the "New York Times" sat in on the editorial board meeting with Donald Trump. But Rupert sat in at the back. It wasn't disclosed, and didn't pose for any of the selfies that were taken and nobody knew about it.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: You think he was hiding?

GARRAHAN: I was told sitting -- we had several sources saying he was sitting at the back listening in on what was being discussed.

STELTER: Another reason why this matters is because of "The Journal."

We can put one of our headlines from CNN Money earlier this week up on screen. One of the top deputy editor of "The Journal" left the paper this week for "The New York Times." We're told it's unrelated to the tensions within "The Journal" about Trump coverage.

But it comes at a time when Politico, CNN and other outlets are writing about this drama, that apparently there are some writers, some journalists at "The Journal" who are dissenting from all the Trump coverage, saying the coverage needs to be tougher, needs to be sharper.

Now, admittedly, you work for a competitor, "The F.T.," but what is your sense of this dynamic? GARRAHAN: I think there's certainly a sense of that.

I think there are several things going on. I think "The Journal," like all newspapers, is really having a hard time with advertising. It's having to cut costs. It's having to let a lot of people go, shrink the size of its editorial operation.

But it does have a right-leaning proprietor who is very -- who is close to the Trumps. And it does have a right-leaning editor, Jerry Baker. Now, these aren't new facts for anyone who works at "The Journal." Jerry Baker was a former colleague of mine at the "F.T."

He's always been fairly right of center. But I think there's a sense within the rank-and-file news gatherers and news operations that they could be taking a tougher line on the Trump administration.

STELTER: Yes, that's the concern I'm hearing about as well. It's not at all universal. But "The Journal" is a big place and there's a lot of writers who are not concerned.

But certainly the ones that are, are speaking up.

GARRAHAN: And, by the way, they are doing good Trump coverage.

You talk to people there, they are -- one person I spoke to said there are pockets of great stuff. And they are doing heavy-hitting reporting. But there's a sense that they should be taking a tougher line.

STELTER: Matt, thanks for taking us behind the scenes.

GARRAHAN: Thank you very much. Thank you.

STELTER: Good to see you.

And right after this break, "The Journal" not the only paper getting attention for its political coverage, an exclusive look inside "The New York Times" right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:43]

STELTER: Being a journalist is permission for lifetime learning.

That's what my mentor, David Carr, once said. Carr was the media columnist at "The New York Times" who died two years ago today.

And I will always remember how much he loved journalism. He loved to say, hey, this beats working. And that's true. But "The Times" and other papers face stiff challenges if they want to stay in business these days.

"Wired" magazine brings this up. This is the new issue. We're revealing it this morning. And the banner there says "The News in Crisis." The cover star is A.G. Sulzberger. He's the deputy publisher of the

paper. And he is one of the main subjects in the cover story titled "Keeping Up With the Times: How the Gray Lady Is Trying to Claw Its Way Into the Digital Age."

Joining me now is the author of that article, Gabriel Snyder, a contributor to "Wired."

Gabe, great to see you.

GABRIEL SNYDER, CONTRIBUTOR, "WIRED": Good to be here.

STELTER: Now, you spent a long time looking deep inside "The New York Times," analyzing how the heck it is trying to transition from the print age to the digital age.

Did you come away feeling more bullish about the future or the paper or a lot more concerned?

SNYDER: I think came away feeling more bullish.

I think that I went into it with a lot of skepticism that a lot of people have about the future of newspapers just as a business. "The New York Times" has lost a tremendous amount of revenue from their advertising business over the last decade.

And they have been slow to find ways to get that back. But they are showing one of the bright spots in the industry with the growth of their digital subscription business.

And so that quest for more digital subscription revenue is one of the main thing that is just transforming the organization. They recently published a 2020 report that said that, we are now a subscription- first entity.

STELTER: And we're seeing this across the country, more money from subscriptions, less from advertising.

SNYDER: Absolutely.

I think last year they made about $250 million, give or take, from subscribers, which is a tremendous amount of money. It's more money than most digital media organizations are bringing in, digital-first media organizations are bringing in, in entirety.

STELTER: Right.

Let me ask you this. Why is it worth a cover story in "Wired" magazine?

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: Why does it matter so much?

The president, President Trump, as recently as a few days ago, said "The New York Times" is failing, it's fake. SNYDER: Yes.

STELTER: It's one of his favorite targets, along with CNN.

SNYDER: Yes.

STELTER: Why do you think this is worthwhile in depth?

SNYDER: Well, I started this story before the election. And I think the election kind of really changed the stakes.

"The New York Times" is, along with other great journalistic institutions, sort of the bulwarks of truth and fact in our civil discourse. And the financial questions about how they're going to survive really are vital to understanding, how are we going to maintain the reporting apparatus that produces the kind of shared truth that we can have, that we can discuss?

You know, Donald Trump, on the first day after one of his early tweets after the election, he attacked "The New York Times" for reporting that he said something that he said on CNN. And there was tape of him saying that. And I think that a very early skirmish in this question of whether or not facts are going to count.

STELTER: Thirty seconds left.

Your takeaway from the deputy publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, now in line to take over for his father?

[11:55:04]

SNYDER: Yes.

That's the other really big thing in this piece, is that it was the first time that he's really given an interview of this length. And I think that he has been -- kind of understood his role as a change agent inside the organization to really be helping the digital staff find this new revenue.

That's been a huge cultural tension in that organization. You were there at some -- a while back and probably are familiar with it. And I think that starting with his overseeing the innovation report, and now with his appointment as the deputy publisher, it's really sort of established the priorities within the organization that digital is important.

STELTER: Gabe, great to see you. Thanks for being here.

We're out of time on TV. We will keep going online, on digital, RELIABLESOURCES.com. Our newsletter will be out later tonight.

And we will see you right back here next week.