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President Trump Suddenly Turns Press-Shy; Secretary of State Plans to Ditch Press on Asia Trip; What happens to FOX News Investigation Now?; Crowley in Denial about Plagiarism; Is Trump Media Literate?. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 12, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:04] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made.

In this hour, where in the world is the secretary of state? Dozens of top news outlets deeply concerned about the new secretary of state's inaccessibility. My panel set to weigh in.

And later, with the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara hearing Donald Trump's trademark phrase, "you're fired", what does this mean if anything for an ongoing probe of FOX News?

Also, during the campaign, you might remember, Trump said he got his military advice from watching the shows. Now as president, cable news has inspired many of his tweets. So, is the president media literate? And for that matter, are you? Am I?

But, first here, just halfway through President Trump's first 100 days in office, something has changed. Is the president becoming press shy?

Let's look at numbers. It's been 25 days since his last press conference. It's been 13 days since his last TV interview and three days since he used Twitter to take a swipe at the press.

But it's actually been longer than that. When you look at his tweets in terms of his tone and tenor attacking individual news outlets, he has changed his tune. So, this week, the White House seemed to be limiting his availability to the press, allowing photo ops but discouraging questions.

Is this all add up to a White House trying to contain and control the message or is it a shield from, you know, the tough questions be have about issues like, well, that claim about wiretapping?

Take a look at this from ABC's Jon Karl. He was trying to shout the President Trump at a meeting with some of the nation's top CEOs.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, press. Thank you, press. Thank you.


STELTER: So, you see what happens there. No response from President Trump. These photo ops are designed to show the president but not actually hear from him. So, it's important to know what the president is not talking about, what he's not doing, and right now, that's taking questions.


Let's discuss all of this with a super panel that we've assembled. In Washington with us, Lynn Sweet, columnist and Washington bureau chief of "The Chicago Sun Times", Kim Ghattas, correspondent for the BBC, "Baltimore Sun" media critic, David Zurawik, and here with me in New York, Steve Adler, the editor-in-chief for one of the world's biggest news organization, "Reuters".

Thanks everybody for being here.

KIM GHATTAS, BBC: Thanks for having us.


STELTER: Lynn, I'm curious, you're on this beat every day covering the White House every day, covering all things Washington. Have you noticed this sudden change in the president's accessibility?

SWEET: Yes, it has, both on his morning Twitter. Though the tweets he sent out last Saturday about the wiretapping, Brian, and my colleagues, were enough news to last us through this weekend. So, maybe he did want that to seep in and saturate the news cycles all the time.

But, yes, in the White House there's a difference when you don't have regular briefings. There's a difference when you don't have regular background briefings. You know, just think there's a big budget coming out.

He had the Department of Homeland Security briefing with the secretaries who didn't take -- the attorney general, the DHS secretary and the secretary of state without taking questions. So, this is not just about transparency and accessibility. It really is also about getting information out to the public who have a right to know about government policies.

STELTER: You say that, but I wonder, David Zurawik, if some viewers watch that Jon Karl exchange and think, gee, journalists are being rude trying to shout at the president. How do you interpret these exchanges?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, you know, when I saw that, I actually thought, oh, it's the Ronald Reagan playbook he's going through. What a change for him.

Well, look, you know, Brian, one of the things that surprises me about the coverage so far of Trump, is it's a constant friction. It's supposed to be that way. A push and pull and back and forth between the presidency and the White House. I mean, that's what makes the "Saturday Night Live" skit with the podium that moves such brilliant satire because that's really literally them butting heads and pushing back against one another.

But with Trump, the thing is that people have taken it to this extreme thing and almost gotten kind of hysterical about it every time they push back. Look, if I was him right now and I looked at this, I'd say, hey, look, every time we engage the press, we are attacked. We're shredded. Let's let the press go on its own for a while and see how they like it.

Why engage at that level if we're going to get pounded? I mean, that's a reasonable thing for him to say.

And, you know, this thing, Brian, when we say, oh, he's the worst war on the press ever. You know, I wrote on that last week. It's not the worst war in the press. He hasn't even done what Obama has done. It might be that, but not yet.

[11:05:00] So, if --


STELTER: You're talking about actions not words. We have not had a living president called the media the enemy of the American people before.

ZURAWIK: Well, actions are what matter, isn't it in this world? When somebody names a reporter an aider and abetter and co-conspirator as President Obama did in getting a subpoena in James Rosen, that's a lot worse. Or when they chased James -- when they threatened James Risen from "The New York Times" for six years with jail, that's a lot worse than calling him enemy of the people.

And, look, it is bad. It's awful. I wouldn't defend that or I wouldn't defend anything Trump does, but words are not actions like that, Brian.

STELTER: You reminded me of that nursery rhyme, stick and stones my break my bones, words will never hurt me.

Here's my worry about words, though. Let me show you a clip from one of the briefings this week. This is Sean Spicer getting the facts wrong, talking about FOX News and James Rosen. He was referring to the situation where Rosen's phone records were obtained by the Justice Department, something that was widely criticized by journalists at the time.

Here is how Spicer portrayed that incident?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've had, you know, your own network's correspondent, James Rosen, had his -- had his phones -- multiple phones tapped. What is -- you know, was that appropriate back then? I think there's a lot of concern out there about alleged leaks.


STELTER: So, he said the phones were tapped. They were not tapped.

ZURAWIK: They weren't, yes.

STELTER: Rosen has confirmed, actually, the records were obtained, but the phones were not tapped. That's the kind of casual inaccuracy, casual mistakes that I think frustrates a lot of journalists.

David, is that something that bothers you also?

ZURAWIK: Absolutely. Brian, you know, you can't do journalism without precision of language. And we all learn that when we get something a little wrong and our editors drag us into the glass offices and humiliate us for doing it and we're socialized.


ZURAWIK: Precise language, and it's important. Trump sets the tone of careless loose language. And it is particularly infuriating to us and dangerous really in many ways to democracy to not be careful with language especially for the president.

And that's exactly -- there's no excuse for what Spicer did. That's mentally careless. It's verbally careless. And he should know those facts. He should know that history if he's going to be a press secretary of the president of the United States.

SWEET: Also, since Rosen was very explicit in what happened that neither a wiretap, meaning a device on the phone to listen to was not put on his phone or his parent's phone. So, he -- that's quite a public statement.

So, if you want to give a benefit to the doubt to the White House, let's see if Sean Spicer corrects the record.


SWEET: And I think give him -- give him that. A little time to reflect.

I think sometimes in the heat of the moment, maybe he made a mistake.


SWEET: I think there's too many mistakes coming out and falsehoods out of multiple people in the Trump White House that creates the troublesome situation that we're in now. There's just too much. You know, everybody can make a mistake once or twice but we're -- you know, we're in a difficult period because of the number of misstatements that come out from multiplicity of people.

STELTER: Right, the pattern.

Let's take the 30,000-foot view and let me ask Steve Adler this -- Steve, running "Reuters", one of the biggest newsrooms on the planet, how are you encouraging your staffers to stay neutral, because I know that's a concern you have, that some journalists maybe are skidding outside those normal lines?

STEPHEN J. ADLER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REUTERS: Right. Look, neutrality is not false equivalency. And I think people sometimes criticize news organization for trying to be neutral, because they say that just means you're saying he said, she said.

What neutrality actually means is you're trying to get at the facts. You're trying to do it honestly. You're trying to put them in context.

So, for example, if there's evidence behind allegation and you're pursuing it hard, that's very different from an allegation where there's no evidence behind it. You don't have to treat them the same.

And so, what we're trying to do is each time something happens, really, we're trying to ask the question, is this important? Or is it just a stray sort of distraction that you really don't want to spend a lot of time on?

And I think one of the big problems now is that the media is getting caught up with distractions. Sometimes the distractions --

STELTER: Are we? How so?

ADLER: Well, sometimes distractions are intentionally set perhaps or unintentionally, I don't know, but -- by the White House. But if there's a tweet that isn't really relevant to policy or something that's really important and everybody goes chasing it, then they are losing concentration on stories that they're pursuing that are actually important stories.

So, what I encourage people to do, focus on news value. Focus on what matters to our customers, our readers, focus on what's actually going to matter in the world, and try not to get distracted by intramural battles by things that don't matter a whole lot, by things that, you know, six months from now, you're not going to care about, you're not going to think about.

STELTER: Maybe it's good news the president is not tweeting so much.

ADLER: Well, you know, one of the really interesting things right now is what we're seeing is really the effect of technology, because what's going to happen? If the administration going to decide that mainstream media is actually a very important way to communicate to the world and in fact, does carry some trust with it, does carry some validity, or is it going to decide that, you know, we can control the message by tweeting, by putting things out on our radio broadcast, by putting things out on our own website. [11:10:10] And I think we're seeing this all over the world. There's

real question -- and, by the way, it's true in the business world, too. It's a real question of whether executives are going to communicate largely through their own controlled means, which technology allows them to, or whether they're going to think there's some validity to be gained by working through mainstream media.

STELTER: But as they do what you're describing the former, as they go direct to the public, doesn't it create more pressure for journalists like you and I to fact check, to verify, to debunk what they're saying?

ADLER: That's always been our responsibility. It means our responsibility. Again, I think that this isn't as complicated as it sounds. We simply have to do really good, solid, professional journalism.

You have a profession. Our profession says you look for facts. You check the facts. You go back to the sources and you ask them for fair comment. You correct mistakes promptly when you make mistakes.


ADLER: This is what we do. This is what the profession of journalism is about. And I think, ultimately, the president and the administration will decide what's actually in their best interest and I think that's going to go back and forth a bit, particularly early on.

Ultimately, I do think mainstream journalism as it sometimes called in a derogatory manner meet just a couple of billion people around the world and people continue to consume it. They continue to watch it in great numbers and they're watching it because they actually do care what comes out on it.

And I think the administration and most administrations come around to understanding the sort of a symbiosis there, and they really do want to participate with media organizations.

STELTER: Great point about the audience levels.

Let me ask Kim about those 2 billion or people around the world that's consuming English language media, 7 billion and growing every day on the planet, you're covering Washington for the BBC, for viewers around the world. When you hear something like we did on Friday, Spicer saying, well, Trump thinks the former past jobs report could be phony but now the numbers are very real, how do you tell viewers around the world about those sorts of comments? What's been the reaction from your viewers around the world?

GHATTAS: I think it's always important to what Steve was saying is focus on facts and go back to, you know, the fact checking, the factual expose about what the story actually is and to always remember whether -- whatever organization you work for and, you know, I write also for "Foreign Policy" magazine. I've worked for other organizations in the Middle East, in the U.S. and I think it's always important to make sure that the call for access, the call for access to officials is put in the context of serving the public and serving the audience.

Otherwise, we risk making this about us. And very often, as Steve was pointing, the mainstream media term is being used in a derogatory way. We don't have great, positive ratings with the public in many ways. You look at confidence in the media and it is low overall in the U.S., even though subscriptions are up at "The New York Times," for example, et cetera. And there is a real eagerness to get access to good news.

So, I think it's important to go back to the basics, to go back to the facts, and to try to put it to officials that when we're asking for access, we're not just asking for it just for the sake of access, just but because it makes feel important as journalists, but because we have a service to render to our audiences to our public. I think there is an adjustment period as well under this administration. And I think they are finding their footing, that the news media is finding their footing.

And it's possible that this administration has come to the conclusion that it doesn't necessarily serve their interest or their narrative to give access to traditional media outlets, that they can sell their message to their constituency, to their public via other means. And they're not the first ones to come to that conclusion. If you look at Hillary Clinton during the campaign, for example, she also had this distance with traditional news outlets and traditional media, and she came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to serve her interest to engage with the media.

STELTER: I love your point about access. Even local officials in a small town, if they're not answering questions from the local reporter, they're ignoring their constituents, they're ignoring their citizens.

GHATTAS: And, Brian, I think that it's also important to keep in mind that access is important. And yes, we need as journalists for whichever organization we work for, we need access because it helps us tell the story, explain it to a broader audience. Get into the granular details.

But there are different ways of telling the story that don't involve sitting in the White House briefing room in Washington.


GHATTAS: And I think that is also the lesson from the coverage of 2016, that you can get access to other sides of the story. You can go outside of Washington and, of course, even now here in Washington, we see that even without access, there's some great investigative reporting that's being done by the big newspapers.

STELTER: Absolutely. Everybody, stand by.

[11:15:00] We're just getting started here.

Later this hour, my look at how Sean Hannity's disdain for journalism actually hurts his viewers.

And up next, America's top diplomat ditching the press. We'll talk about why it matters to you at home right after the break.


STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Earlier this week, a dozen of the nation's top news outlets co-signed a letter asking the State Department to allow the press to travel with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his upcoming trip to Asia. This has been normal for decades. Journalists sit on the plane and fly all around the world with secretary of state. But Tillerson is changing that plan.

On Friday when asked about it, here is what White House Press Sean Spicer said about the reasons. Take a look.


SPICER: Press is being invited to that trip. They're traveling commercially. There's a press logistics component to make sure that they can get everywhere that they're giving access to everything. An element of cost savings at this point that the secretary is trying to achieve. But at the end of the day, there's been a press component to every stop of the secretary's trip.


STELTER: Cost savings. Both my next guests say that's actually kind of bogus.

Joining me to explain why, Moira Whelan, she's a former deputy assistant secretary for digital strategy for the State Department under the Obama administration.

[11:20:05] And back with me, Kim Ghattas, a journalist who covered three secretaries of state both Democrat and Republican for the BBC. She's also the author of "The Secretary" about Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state.

Moira, you worked in the State Department. You took to Twitter over the weekend disagreeing with Spicer. Tell me why his answer doesn't add up.

MOIRA WHELAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DIGITAL STRATEGY, STATE DEPT.: Well, I think the most important thing that we have to realize is that as Kim was saying in the last segment, this isn't about Secretary Tillerson made to feel important. It is because it is important.

The traveling press corps is an important part of our diplomatic tool chest, and making sure the secretary's message gets out to the world is a critical component of power projection for the United States.

STELTER: How so? How is it part of the tool kit? WHELAN: Well, as our press travel especially to a place like China,

we haven't run into a challenge with communicating the American perspective and the American message. And you have journalists like Kim, like others who have gotten to know the secretary of state who often travel and get to know other members of the U.S. diplomatic corps and they come to understand the U.S. perspective.

And that make sure that in their coverage, we get a fair shake. If we leave that to state owned media like China, the United States perspective just simply isn't projected in the way it could be. And that's going to really impact how foreign publics look at what we're trying to say and what we're trying to do and can hinder U.S. foreign policy.

STELTER: So, Tillerson says he is taking a smaller plane. Journalists can catch up with him. They can fly commercial and will fly commercial to these various places and try to keep with him that way.

Kim, is that good enough?

GHATTAS: It gets very complicated to try to catch up with a secretary of state who is flying on his own plane, because, you know, when you're trying to catch up commercially, you know, the timings don't always work. It's not like trying to crisscross America where you can, you know, cover the campaign trial without necessarily being on the plane of the candidate. These are, you know, long distances with a lot of logistics involved.

And it's important to remember that we pay -- as journalists, we pay for those seats. And it's not cheap. So, perhaps taking a smaller plane does affect some cost saving, but when we're on a big plane and there is room usually for all of us -- and the past secretaries of state have taken up to 20, 23 journalists with them on these planes. We all pay for those seats.

But again, I think there's an adjustment period here. And I think that perhaps for someone like Rex Tillerson who comes from the corporate world, the oil business, where you really only talk to the media when there's a disaster at hand, when there's an oil spill or something, the idea that you should be accompanied by the media wherever you go is probably a very foreign concept. But as Moira was saying, it does help U.S. messaging.

Now, of course, we're not and I used to cover the State Department before, I don't anymore, but we're not on the plane to help the U.S. sell its message. We are again there to try to understand it and as Moira said, give American officials a fair shake in our comprehensive coverage of the story that helps our audiences understand what American officials are doing, what American foreign policy is about.

And I just want to make a point about the daily press briefings, because I think that a lot of people in Washington when it comes to that press briefing don't understand the importance of it. That's daily press briefing at the State Department. You know, these briefings are watched around the world. And as a

correspondent in Washington, you ask a question about South Korea or you ask a question about Lebanon, you will see that sound bite pop up that same evening, most of the times, in that country's evening news broadcast and the anchor will say, "Today in Washington, the State Department spokesperson said that they supported Lebanon's new government or they were pleased with developments in South Korea." And that is part of the messaging as well and that is a way for the United States to continue with its public diplomacy issuing support or warnings and so on. And that's what I think people in Washington often miss.

Again, it's not just about access for access because it pleases us as journalists. It's because it helps people everywhere understand the story better.

STELTER: I love the way you describe that. I mean, this kerfuffle about the plane is really one of dozen examples of secretary of state seemingly being invisible. He hasn't given an interview since taking on the job. There have not been daily briefings until this past week.

Moira, there's been a lot of talk about Obama aides, former Obama aides trying to undermine the new Trump administration. You're a former Obama aide. Are you complaining about this, because you're part of the deep state? I mean, is that what this is about or is it about something that's bipartisan or nonpartisan in nature?

WHELAN: I think you hit it on the head. I'm part of the national security apparatus of United States.

[11:25:01] And my first priority and those of my colleagues is always about advancing U.S. interest around the world.

And I think when we see the State Department going dark, we really are alarmed by just how much of the tool chest is not being used at a critical time for our country.

As Kim said, you know, when the secretary of state walks down as set of stairs on a tarmac, it's usually on the front page of the morning paper in whatever country he or she is visiting. And to not have that I think is a real loss.

It's true that the secretary of state, Tillerson, was a successful businessman often conducted his business in a very private way and adjusting is part of what he has to do. But this is part of the job. He is a public servant -- emphasis on the public.

STELTER: You have to wonder about how much of this is about the Trump administration wanting to control the message and not wanting Tillerson out there making his own foreign policy. But that's a debate for the foreign policy experts also.

Moira, Kim, thank you very much for being here.

WHELAN: Thanks so much.

GHATTAS: Thanks for having us.

STELTER: Up next, the big question in media circles this weekend. What happened to the investigation into FOX News now that the U.S. attorney who had been leading it has been fired by the president? We'll get into that right after the break.


[11:30:00] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

Is this just a coincidence?

One of President Trump's favorite TV talkers calls for a purge; then the next day, there's a mass dismissal. Take a look at this. This is a comment from FOX's Sean Hannity.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: Now for weeks we've been warning you about the deep state Obama holdover government bureaucrats, who are hell bent on destroying this president, President Trump. Tonight, it's time for the Trump administration to begin to purge these saboteurs before it's too late.


STELTER: That was Thursday night and the very next day President Trump's administration asked for the resignations of all but two of the U.S. attorneys across the country.

One of them was New York's Preet Bharara. Bharara was fired on Saturday after refusing to resign on Friday. This was newsworthy because just a few months ago, he was asked by Trump to stay in his post. Bharara has many investigations in the hopper, including this one, involving FOX News. His office is reportedly looking into whether FOX's parent company, 21st Century Fox, skirted the law when it paid settlements to people who charged FOX News boss Roger Ailes with sexual harassment.

Last summer Ailes resigned but the fallout continues. Just a few days ago, "The New York Times" broke the news of another settlement, this time involving a female FOX commentator and a male executive, who allegedly forced himself on her.

Joining me now to go through this complicated case is Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker." And let's bring back David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun."

Toobin, what are the chances of a coincidence like this?

Hannity calls for this on Thursday night and then we see what happens on Friday.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think the Justice Department saw Sean Hannity on Thursday and said, wow, what a good idea. I mean, this has been in the works for some time, this anger in the Trump administration at anyone who is not loyal to the new president.

So I think Hannity as usual was expressing a widely felt view within the Trump administration. But it wasn't that Jeff Sessions was sitting there at home and said, wow, good idea. I'm going to fire everybody on Friday. These are related but not cause and effect.

STELTER: They are thinking similar thoughts; they're bouncing off each other but not that --


TOOBIN: Exactly.

What about this investigation into FOX?

One of many investigations, I assume, that's been going on inside the U.S. attorney's office.

What happens now that Bharara's gone?

TOOBIN: Well, the way that U.S. attorneys' offices works is that there's really only one political appointee in the office. And everyone else, all the other 200-plus prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's here in Manhattan, are career, non-political people.

They will continue their investigations unless and until a new boss tells them to stop.

I mean, the real power of a U.S. attorney is not to control investigations day-to-day but to say, look, we're not pursuing X or we are pursuing Y. And I will not sign an indictment or I will sign an indictment.

The real question will be who comes in to replace him long-term and whether that person has a similarly aggressive attitude as Bharara did.

STELTER: Now you profiled Bharara for "The New Yorker."

What are you hearing about his possibility replacements?

Gabriel Sherman of "New York Magazine" tweeted this yesterday, he wrote "Shortlist to replace him (sic) includes Roger (sic) Ailes' onetime lawyer Marc Mukasey."

And then he of course said, "Wonder what happens to that Fox probe?" implying that Mukasey would put a stop to it.

Are you hearing that Mukasey --

TOOBIN: That's the name too. It's interesting; you know, he had been mentioned for the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, which is Brooklyn. But he -- Mukasey is a former Southern District assistant. His father, of course, Michael Mukasey was a judge in the Southern District and later attorney general under George W. Bush.

Mukasey is widely regarded as a good lawyer and a good prosecutor but he is also very closely aligned to the Republican Party.

So the question will be if he's named, will he have the independence to pursue cases, not just against FOX News?

Remember Bharara is -- if there were any investigations involving Trump Tower, which is in the Southern District of New York; all of Donald Trump's business interests were based in the Southern District of New York.

So Bharara, it's not FOX, there are --


TOOBIN: -- certainly Trump-related inquiries that Bharara at least knows something about if not running -- was not running himself. So it's very sensitive.

STELTER: Totally. And I don't want to get into irresponsible speculation. And I think it's a legitimate question.


TOOBIN: But we're on cable. That's what we do.

All right, no, I take it back.


TOOBIN: I take it back.

STELTER: -- I think it's one thing to ask this question. I think it's interesting there's this FOX probe going on. It has leaked out a month ago, so presumably it's still going on. But it's dangerous to go further down the road into this kind of theory about what will the next attorney do with this -- with this investigation.

I do wonder, David, for your take on this, it's been almost eight months -- it's been about eight months since Ailes resigned and yet word comes again this week of another settlement into this alleged assault claim.

Your take on what it means for FOX News to continue to have these settlements; A, that they're happening and, B, that they're being reported on.

DAVID ZURAWIK, TV CRITIC, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": Yes, you know, Brian -- and, on this show, we talked about it previously. And I said that I think this is an incredibly sick culture, that this is nasty, this is ugly. This is beyond sexism. This is sexual assault in some cases. And yes, cut off --


STELTER: -- yes.

ZURAWIK: -- yes, cut off the head. That's someplace to start. Get rid of Roger Ailes.

But, Brian, we said it on here, you cannot do the things, some of the things he is alleged to have done and other people who are now in management positions didn't know anything about it.

How do you make payments to somebody and nobody is signing those checks or nobody is doing the accounting?

No other big management heads rolled in that when they first -- when the Murdoch sons stepped in and acted like they were taking over. You can't undo a culture that has lasted this long overnight with one or two moves.

And I think that's what we saw this week. There are more problems there that haven't been looked at.

And I'll tell you what, this is really bad for FOX News because they do some good work and they serve a function with their point of view on cable; even as we have seen with Hannity, it can be incredibly political and propagandistic and crazy sometimes, lecturing the administration that they should have a purge of saboteurs.

Still, FOX is important to have. And they are tarnished their image so profoundly with this. They really needed to clean house. But I think what happened is they said, let's just get rid of Ailes and let's hold on to the ratings position we have.

All that matters is the numbers. If we go in and really start Roto- Rootering what's going on in this culture, we're going to really expose ourselves to some serious problems and we're going to lose some of our base.

So you know -- and I don't know if -- which one is the way to go but I know that we're seeing the culture is deeper. Look how long Ailes has been in position.

TOOBIN: But I mean, remember, who has been the focus of these sexual harassment cases besides Roger Ailes?

Bill O'Reilly, who is the most successful and profitable program on the air. They are not penalizing Bill for behavior that certainly would get someone fired, I think, here at CNN or at most companies.

And I think -- you know, you're saying, oh, it's going to cost FOX News. FOX News is riding a tremendous high now. They are doing great in the ratings.

Why do you think they would mess with that formula?

I don't think they are suffering at all. You know, people like us notice that there's a sick culture there but I don't think their viewers care very much.


STELTER: O'Reilly has denied those claims. And one more point about that attorney's investigation. FOX has said it's cooperating with it, for what's that worth.

Jeffrey, David, thank you very much for being here.

We'll have more on this in our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Quick plug here: all the biggest media stories delivered to your inbox. You can sign up at

Up next here, a totally different story but still involving FOX, two TV talking heads in denial about plagiarism.





STELTER: "If you have questions for Monica Crowley, you can go straight to hell."

Forgive me but I'm directly quoting Sean Hannity, who committed some pretty striking sins of omission this week. I'm sure you know Hannity but you may be less familiar with Crowley. Let's go to the tape.


HANNITY: Welcome back to Hannity. She is back, a good friend of the program, conservative commentator and author, writer, Monica Crowley.

Welcome back.

How are you?



STELTER: "Friend of the program" Crowley was a conservative commentator on FOX until December, when then-President-Elect Trump tapped her to be a deputy national security advisor. But Crowley never started the job.

In January, CNN discovered extensive plagiarism in her 2012 book. By extensive, this is what I mean. You can see here some of the at least 50 examples. Some of these examples were really blatant and inexcusable.

As if that wasn't enough, Politico and CNN found more plagiarism in her PhD dissertation from way back in 2000. Crowley gave up the Trump job a week later.

Now two months after all that, Crowley is back on TV. Hannity had that first interview with her.

So did he ask her about the plagiarism?



HANNITY: So you were going to go to the administration. You got viciously attacked. I wanted to give you a chance because you hadn't been out there publicly for personal and other reasons to respond to this.

CROWLEY: Well, look, what happened to me was a despicable, straight- up political hit job.


It's been debunked. My editor has completely supported me and backed me up.


STELTER: Which editor backed her up?

You know, you can't even find Crowley's book on Amazon anymore because the publisher yanked it from the digital shelves. There's no doubt she plagiarized. I mean you can see all the examples. We just showed them. And you can look them up yourself by Googling her name.


STELTER: But Crowley told Hannity that she is the real victim.


CROWLEY: In some ways I was something of the canary in the coal mine. The attack on me was a test. What happened to me, what happened to General Flynn, what has happened to Attorney General Sessions and others is all of a piece.

There is a very dangerous and very effective destabilization campaign underway against this president, his administration and his agenda.

I am not overstating this, having been a victim of this myself. They are out for blood.


STELTER: What Crowley called a campaign, a hit job, is what most of us call journalism. But Hannity does not recognize real journalism. He actively opposes real journalism. So rather than asking Crowley about why she plagiarized, he did the opposite.


HANNITY: I don't think you should answer any of these people's questions because they can go straight to hell. That's my -- you know how I deal with stuff. I don't care what anybody says.


STELTER: Real mature, Sean.

But Hannity never used the P word at all. He never explained why Crowley really lost her job. Instead he said that a mutual friend had debunked those unspoken charges.

And that wasn't true, either.

This kind of stuff hurts Hannity's viewers. By trying to rehab his friend's reputation on TV, by bringing her back on the set without honestly addressing what went wrong, Hannity's allowing for really low standards.

He should be encouraging high standards for conservative commentators, high ethical and moral standards to win the battle of ideas.

But no.

Let me show you another example. Hannity's so anti-journalism that he's been fanning this conspiracy theory that suggests Americans conducted cyber attacks and made it look like Russia's fault, all part of a plot to make Trump look bad. Here is how it played out on Wednesday's show.


HANNITY: In other words you're telling me this whole Russian story that the media has been running with for months and months and months, that it was our people that did it and they just put the fingerprints of the Russians on it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. The whole idea -- I don't have proof of it but I'm telling you this is what I've heard.


STELTER: Again, hurting his viewers. This anti-CIA idea came from a WikiLeaks press release. But the actual documents that WikiLeaks dumped on the Web don't support the claims.

Says who?

Says one of Hannity's corporate cousins, the Murdoch-owned "The Wall Street Journal." Google this story. You'll find it.

It's too bad Hannity didn't interview one of those real reporters. Maybe he would have learned something. Once again, a sin of omission.

We'll have more RELIABLE SOURCES right after this.




STELTER: Donald Trump may be the most media-savvy president ever.

But is he media literate?

And what does media literacy even mean?

Let me introduce you to someone who's opened my eyes on the subject, Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, she's the executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education and she's here with me in New York.

Michelle, good to see you.


STELTER: We were on a panel about this earlier in the week. We were talking about how the president tweets what he hears on FOX News, he tweets what he reads on Breitbart.

Is he, in a way, media illiterate?

LIPKIN: Well, I think you have to start with the definition of media literacy. So if you look at media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act, using all forms of media, the president actually does some of those things quite well, right.

He's communicating a lot, he's accessing technology. But where he and many Americans are lacking is the ability to analyze and evaluate.

STELTER: To know if it's true or not?

LIPKIN: Yes, and also to really understand the source and understand the -- all the things that go into making the media and who's telling the story. There's a lot of key questions that we need to be asking ourselves to truly be able to analyze and evaluate media.

STELTER: You're making it sound like many politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, probably fall down this media literacy challenge.

LIPKIN: Absolutely. I think it's not even just a political issue, right?

As a country, we are falling down a little bit on our media literacy because we're not teaching it enough, right. It's not a mandate in our education system to make our kids media literate. And therefore I don't -- I think we're doing a lot of people a disservice.

STELTER: And that's not just news, that's also about entertainment programming, it's about advertising. We're not teaching children how to perceive all the messages they're receiving. But about news, I've been thinking about media literacy and educating

myself when it comes to fake news. These stories that are out there on Facebook designed to deceive people.

Is media literacy -- is becoming more literate about news a solution to this fake news plague?

LIPKIN: Well, I think -- I do take issue with the conversation about fake news just because I think it limits the broader issue that we're dealing with because the conversation about fake news really makes it seem like the information landscape is about this is fiction or this is fact.

And it is much broader than that. It really lives in a gray area.

STELTER: It's a spectrum, you're saying?

LIPKIN: Absolutely. And so if we focus on the fake news, we're missing a lot of the conversation. And so I think it's really important for us to be able to have more nuanced conversation about it because we have to steer clear of believing everything we hear and see or not believing everything we hear and see.

Most of it is somewhere in between and media literacy is really going to help us see those in-between areas.

STELTER: You're an educator, you do this every day.

Your biggest piece of advice?

Your tip for President Trump or anybody watching?

LIPKIN: Well, I think it's really important that we have to ask questions about the media we're consuming and creating. We have to know what is the purpose of the message.

Who made the message, what values are they communicating, what's missing from the message?

And also how do different people interpret the message?

And we really need to be good at doing that with everything, including when we're looking at our feeds, including when we're watching shows, what we're consuming a film. We have to really be willing to think and to ask questions.

STELTER: When everybody's a source, what's reliable?

That's what it all comes down to.

LIPKIN: Yes. And we need to understand what the source is. I take issue with a lot of people that are like, well, I'm getting my news from Facebook.

[11:55:00] LIPKIN: The truth is, they're not getting their news from Facebook. They might be curating the news. But it might be an article from "The Times" or it might be an article from Breitbart.

And we need to recognize where those sources are coming from to be able to determine whether they're credible or not.

STELTER: Michelle, great to see you, thanks very much.

I really think newsrooms have to do more to invest in media literacy.

Now up next, more RELIABLE SOURCES. Stay with us.




STELTER: We're out of time here on TV but let me know what you thought of today's program. Look me up on Twitter, my handle is BrianStelter, same on Facebook. And remember our nightly newsletter, I'll send out tonight's edition probably around 10 o'clock. Stay tuned now for "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper.