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Trump Marks 100 Days with Anti-Media Rally; Priebus Says White House Looking at Changing Libel Laws. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired April 30, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

We are live in Washington today with a packed program.

One of the most powerful people in journalism, "New York Times" editor Dean Baquet is standing by to join us.

Plus, I'll have fresh reporting on the expanding federal probe into FOX News, as outsiders wonder, is there a major management shakeup in the works?

First, President Trump playing "attack the messenger" again, lobbying an insult to the Washington press corps from 121 miles away.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's rate the media's 100 days. They are a disgrace.

Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are fake news.

Take the totally failing "New York Times". They write nasty editorials and op-eds.

The Washington media is part of the problem.

I think we would all agree the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade.


STELTER: Those boos are meaningful because the boos mean Trump's venomous talk is really resonating with his fans.

But let's face it, Trump's anti-media attacks are not really news. They're the opposite of new. They're a copy and paste from the campaign.

What is new this morning is Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, saying changes to the libel laws are on the table. Now, the president has repeatedly talked about this and tweeted about this, saying he wants to make easier to sue news outlets. Moments ago, ABC's Jon Karl asked Priebus about it on "This Week."


JON KARL, ABC NEWS: That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment. Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it's something we've looked at and how that gets executed and whether that goes anywhere is a different story. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news.


STELTER: Saturday night was all about the exercise of First Amendment rights, both Trump's and the media's. I'm wearing a pin that every person at the dinner received, a First Amendment pin. But that was last night. Now, it's Sunday morning and there's a new chill in the air.

Joining me now, Carl Bernstein, journalist, author and CNN political commentator who spoke at the dinner last night. Next to him, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief with "The Chicago-Sun Times." Jason Miller, former Trump campaign aide, now a CNN political commentator. And Tara Palmeri, White House correspondent for "Politico".

Thanks, everybody, for being here.

We want to talk about the dinner, the jokes, the serious comments from the president. But, Karl, first, on this new comment from Reince Priebus. Do you think it's significant that he's out there saying, yes, we are looking at whether we can seek to change libel laws?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is part of an attitude, regardless of whether they're really going to seek such a change. And the attitude was expressed in Trump's speech last night, which is the most venomous speech by an American president that I have heard in more than 50 years of reporting -- venomous towards the press, venomous towards legitimate political opponents, and it was a road map of a venomous state of mind that ought to concern all Americans of goodwill, particularly Republicans.

Attacking the press -- first of all, let's look at how Trump got to be president. A lot of the institutions that he's attacking are the reason he's president of the United States, not to mention cable news and the "New York Times" which gave him great attention that he loved when he was a candidate for president.

He doesn't like opposition. He is an authoritarian. He doesn't understand the Constitution of the United States. And what is news is partly that Republicans who have talked to him, we need to do the reporting talking to Republicans who will tell you, tell us as reporters, we have a president of the United States that does not understand the Constitution of the United States, who is ignorant of our history, and who, in fact, is somebody we are deeply concerned about his state of how he is temperamentally approaching the presidency and whether he is temperamentally fit to be president.

That's a real story.


STELTER: -- mental health there?

BERNSTEIN: I'm not going to get into defining things.

STELTER: But you also said he's an authoritarian. What has he done that's authoritarian so far?

BERNSTEIN: What he's done as an authoritarian is used the bully pulpit of the presidency to whip up anti-democratic lower case strategies for dealing with free principles of this country that go back for centuries and trying to undermine them through an authoritarian view of policy, of how we look at our population, at how we look at our immigrants, how we look at the press and the First Amendment.

[11:05:01] You can go through chapter and verse of what this candidate's positions were in terms of traditional American democratic lower case values and what he has done and said as president. He has indeed shifted his positions in terms of real politics on many issues that his base might disagree with because he's been facing reality in the capitol of the United States politically in some ways.

Donald Trump remains the same person he has been through his whole adult life. That's the story.

STELTER: You've heated up a pretty cold studio already, Carl, talking about an authoritarian. I know you disagree, Jason.

I just wonder, Lynn, you're covering the White House in Washington every day. Do you see that as well as someone on this beat every day?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, I see that the constant stream of misinformation that comes out, whether in a speech last night on details small and large, that's the issue and that's the challenge for journalists, is to figure out a way to effectively tell people what's going on in a way that is so persuasive and airtight that we make the case. This isn't -- we're at a point where we're not even talking about whether or not you like the policy, if it's good or bad policy there.

Even last night in Trump's speech, he said incorrectly, everyone who's at that Washington dinner is hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities. Well, the real story is --


SWEET: The story is how celebrities didn't come to the dinner.

BERNSTEIN: That's right.

SWEET: And if people in the audience even kind of used their common sense which you're always allowed to do, gee, how could he know who's at the dinner if he isn't there. Now, I know I'm being literal, Jason, and you can scold me on that, but do take me seriously that when there is misinformation, whether or not it's -- I mean, I agree with every -- with the points that Carl was making about this, but as somebody who has to figure this out every day, that to me is the first challenge. What is misinformation and let's just set the record straight and move on from there.

BERNSTEIN: My point is not as a partisan or anything of kind. As a journalist, the things I'm talking about are the real underlying story that we need to be looking at and the kinds of things that Bob Woodward and I talked about last night.

STELTER: Last night. Let's play that sound bite from last night, Bob Woodward, also the head of the White House Correspondents Association, Jeff Mason, who were talking about the responsibility and the rights of a free press. Here's that clip from last night.


BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Mr. President, the media is not fake news.


JEFF MASON, REUTERS: We are not failing news organizations, and we are not the enemy of the American people.



STELTER: And that much is obvious. But let me flip the screen around, Jason, does it mean the president's winning, that we've got some of the top journalists in the country standing up and saying, hey, we're not the enemies, that they're using his rhetoric and his language?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that is a masterful stroke by the president to go and have the rally last night, and I think the media really played into this whole cultural divide that we're seeing and the fact that I think too many in the mainstream media just don't understand and can't digest what happened last fall with the election. I think too many in that room last night still fundamentally look at Trump supporters as if they're a bunch of rubes and they can't understand how the --


STELTER: -- not true and we're all in the room together.

MILLER: Brian, you got to let me finish up. You got to let me finish up.

The president, I think, is absolutely right to criticize the media whose coverage of him so far is 89 percent of it has been negative. You see story after story. STELTER: You're citing a Media Research Center study, which is a

conservative group, only looking at the three nightly newscasts from their own conservative view.


MILLER: Although I do have to give the media credit --

STELTER: The president got that wrong last night. He screwed up of that stat.

MILLER: I got to say that they've improved because it was at 91 percent during the campaign, so at least the media --


STELTER: I got (INAUDIBLE) conservative group. He gets up there, he misstates the stat.

MILLER: But, Brian, you got to understand, there's a broader cultural pushback and the fact that the media last night was standing there criticizing the president -- look, I love satire and I like breaking people's chops. I like funny things as well but you could tell last night there were a couple funny lines but it was so personal and such a twisting of the --

STELTER: You mean from the comedian.

MILLER: Yes, but you could tell just under the breaths of a number of people who were speaking last night, just how much hate and contempt there was towards the president and that's --


STELTER: Well, Carl spoke --


BERNSTEIN: I wish this president well. He is the duly elected president of the United States and he deserves the respect as the duly elected president of the United States. That doesn't mean he deserves not to be called on a lie. He has lied as no president of the United States in my lifetime has day in and day out.

It is our job to look as I said in that address to the correspondents last night, follow the money, yes, but follow the lies as well.

MILLER: And I think --

BERNSTEIN: This is -- let me just finish here, Jason. Your point about being -- the whole idea that the media is opposed to this president, the media, quote, it seems to me is engaged in what I called last night the best obtainable version of the truth.

[11:10:09] We are struggling to cover factually, contextually with nuance who this president is, who this individual is, who his family is, who his business relationships are with, what his policies are, and how those working with him are doing. Foreign policy, domestic policy.

MILLER: Carl, it pains the media to give the president any credit for the work that he's done.

BERNSTEIN: Nonsense. You are utter nonsense.

MILLER: This is not nonsense, Carl.


STELTER: Let me get to Tara.

You're sitting here quietly. You're a "Politico" White House correspondent. Do you feel that you're the opposition to the president?

TARA PALMERI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: I think that we are the watch dogs. We are the fact checkers. We are the people holding him to account.

STELTER: Does it pain you to give him credit?

PALMERI: No, it doesn't. Actually, I think that his push in the past week to try to make it seem like there was a lot of action ahead of his 100 days was actually masterful marketing. He got us talking about NAFTA. He got us talking about his tax reform plan, even if it meant that his staff was scrambling all weekend to come up with a plan.

He was able to change the conversation. He is a masterful marketer. I will give him that. But we also do need to hold him to account. That's our job as journalists.

STELTER: So, what do we do to bridge this divide then, Lynn, if a lot of folks do feel, as Jason feels, that the press hates the president and has contempt for him? You're saying, no, that's not true, we're trying to do our jobs. How do we bridge that?

SWEET: Well, I would think for the moment that's a big question.


SWEET: Even if we don't have the answer, it doesn't mean that day to day we do what we're supposed to do, which is to report and give out the facts. Jason, if you were a reporter and you heard something that wasn't true and you know it from a variety of ways, either a document or fact or interview, what would you do?

MILLER: Absolutely --

SWEET: What would you do?

MILLER: Look, it's absolutely the job of the press to go in --

SWEET: What would you do? I'm curious. Would you write a story, say something?

MILLER: When the press reports accurately on the facts and pushes back, even if I don't like it, don't disagree with it, that's your job.

SWEET: Just answer the question. I'm just curious.


SWEET: What -- you're the reporter -- bear with me. If you're reporting, maybe I would get an insight from you. What would you do, you're covering Mayor Brian right now. He says something that's not true and he's the mayor of a big city. You're the city hall reporter, what would you do?

MILLER: I would say call him out but get your facts right.

BERNSTEIN: We get them right.


BERNSTEIN: Let's take a look at the president's address to Congress and the coverage of it which declared him in the mainstream media pretty much one of the great presidential addresses of all time, might have gone a little overboard. The -- we have been, seems to me, gone looking for good things to say about this president.

SWEET: Right.

STELTER: That's interesting.

BERNSTEIN: The opposite --


MILLER: I would disagree with you guys on that.

BERNSTEIN: Why don't you go look at some of the clips of the coverage of his address to Congress and then come back to me and tell me that's not the case.

MILLER: A story from anonymous sources popped just a few hours later to go on and step all over the president's great speech.

BERNSTEIN: Let's talk about this. You did this the last time we were together about anonymous sources. You have been an anonymous source for most of your practicing life. Come on, Jason. Cut this stuff out.

Anonymous sources are the basis of most truthful reporting that has gone on on investigative basis about presidents of the United States, Republican and Democrat, for the last 50 years. Again, it's based on anonymous sources because people like yourself, when you are an anonymous source, do not want to be quoted by name when you are trying to tell us your version of the truth. And I accept that it's your version of the truth and I accept you as an anonymous source. But let's not hide from being one if you are going to call out

anonymous sources. I'm going to say, Jason, tell us your life is an anonymous source.

MILLER: I push back on that and say if the facts are accurate, but when it's innuendo and rumor that's being pushed out there, I think that's completely ridiculous. I mean, look, this goes back to my initial point about the cultural divide and the fundamental misunderstanding of the press --

BERNSTEIN: I agree about the cultural divide.

MILLER: And it really has. And so, when you saw the rally last night in Harrisburg and went back and watched it later in the evening and saw the president talking about the efforts to protect steel jobs and aluminum jobs, I mean, there's a reason why the president only lost union households 51 to 43.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. He connected with those people.

MILLER: Right. And he's --


BERNSTEIN: Hillary Clinton did not connect with those people and recognize in a way that Hillary Clinton did not that these people are hurting.


BERNSTEIN: And he ran a brilliant campaign.

STELTER: I don't want to litigate the election but to me the lead story of that rally, Jason, was "The Snake". The president reading this poem, clearly -- let's not mince words.

[11:15:01] He was reinforcing fear of immigrants, refugees and potential terrorists. That's a story he told on the campaign trail, but now, he's telling it as president.

I'm going to take the privilege of the host to take a break here, bring every back after a quick break talking about Trump's interviews this week and much more. So, stay tuned. We'll be right back.


STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Do you ever feel like every single day is a replay of Election Day, like this country is reliving November 8th on an endless loop? This week felt a bit like the campaign season again. Trump packed in nine interviews, you can see him here, sitting down with eight different media outlets, spanning print, digital, cable TV, network TV, including his last interview of the week today airing on CBS with John Dickerson.

Trump's PR tour, of course, created a flurry of newsworthy headlines.

Back with me now to talk about it, Carl Bernstein, Lynn Sweet, Tara Palmeri and Jason Miller.

Tara, you were saying before the break you get a lot of feedback from the White House about your stories. "Politico" hasn't had an interview with the president in a while. I don't think since inauguration day, right?

[11:20:00] PALMERI: We did have an interview, some of our journalists were able to go in with the president to talk about how the team was getting along. But --

STELTER: Do you find him to be accessible overall?

PALMERI: He's definitely a very accessible president. You can tell that the past week, he's been motivated by the news coverage of 100 days prior to the -- he's -- you know, what he said that he doesn't care, but he is very much driven by the press. And he's decided to make these last-minute impulsive moves so that the press is kept chasing after him.

He planned to announce at the rally yesterday that he was pulling out of NAFTA. That would have been the biggest story of the day. He's very masterful when it comes to manipulating the press.

But from what I've heard internally from sources who are obviously willing to help us, they are happy to give us the real story, some people inside of the administration, but they say that sometimes the tone is condescending and that's something to think about. And I think it goes back to what we talk about --

STELTER: Condescending in your stories you mean, it comes across as condescending?

PALMERI: Right. I mean, it's a new administration. A lot of times we sometimes -- we try to provide balance and show, well, during the first 100 days of the Obama administration, there was also a level of chaos and during the Bush administration and Clinton liked to do things that are similar to Trump. He had a similar personality in some ways.

So, we're trying to provide that perspective, but of course we look at the feedback and what they have to say. He says it's a well-oiled machine. I think you can tell from the press that it's organized chaos as they say. And what we're trying to show you inside and we're getting feedback as well.

STELTER: I think that feedback, the word condescending is interesting because tone also came up at the correspondent's dinner last night. Bob Woodward, your colleague, Carl, was saying that we've got to get our tone right when talking about this president. Have we missed the mark sometimes in the first 100 days?

BERNSTEIN: Yes, we have, because I think, as I said as well, our tone ought to be reportorial, and the reporting should speak for itself and what we do especially is to try and determine what is news. I think one of the principle differences that the Trump White House has with us is they don't like our determination of what is news.

But I would say that particularly given his speech last night which was not just about the press, that what is news is that we have a president of the United States that is not attempting to bring the country together but rather keeps playing to his base. And the fact of we are covering his Russian connections or un-connections, we'll find out which and what extends to what, his conflicts of interest and his family's egregious conflicts of interest, which if the Clintons have them, would be calls for impeachment by now, by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The fact that we think these are important elements of the news are why we are under attack in part by the president of the United States. That there seems to be -- look, we have, as Jason has said, a huge cultural divide in this country. We have almost a state of civic civil war in this country because of the deep divisions in the country politically and socially that have been exacerbated by this past election campaign.

But the president, the real story now in that speech last night, is the president of the United States did nothing to bring the country together. He is going to his base time and time again, whipping the flames, rather than saying, how can we unify? That's news.

STELTER: Jason, do you think that's true? Is civic civil war that we're in, do you think?

MILLER: I think that's a little bit too strong. But, obviously, there's a cultural divide.

But here I think is part of the reason where I disagree with you is no longer is it a Republican versus Democrat. I think one of the things and I said this yesterday was that President Reagan really revolutionized a party whereas President Trump has revolutionized a political system. And so, it's no longer purely on these ideological lines.

The way that he's fighting for trade and trying to do something about these trade imbalances, these are impacting folks across party lines. And so, when you talk about speaking to the base, that's not an ideological base. That's really these forgotten men and women that he talked about in his inaugural address.

BERNSTEIN: He talked about much more than that. Look, when he talks about trade and jobs, he sounds like Bernie Sanders. There's no question about that. But that's different than the venom that is coming from the mouth of the president and the mind of the president of the United States.

MILLER: Carl, I don't think it's fair. I don't think --

STELTER: Let me get to Tara.

PALMERI: I just think it's very obvious that President Trump needs a straw man. He cannot actually continue without someone. He doesn't have Clinton anymore and he needs the press. And the Democratic Party is even too weak to even attack.

STELTER: He needs the press.


BERNSTEIN: I said last night, let me get this in here. Last night I said that President Nixon tried to make the conduct of the press, the issue in Watergate, rather than the conduct of the president and his men. We are seeing that again, that it is very disappointing for all Americans, I would hope, to see a president make the conduct of the press the issue in American life instead of real important existing policy, fact, et cetera.

MILLER: But that's what -- but see, that's the whole thing. That's what people around the country see.


[11:25:00] MILLER: Many people around the country see.

SWEET: Can I just say one thing?

BERNSTEIN: Many people do.

MILLER: The way they see him fighting for jobs, the way they see him standing up on the world stage, whether it be Syria or North Korea, that's my whole point, is that's people outside of this New York and Washington corridor, outside of the 24/7 cable news cycle, they see a president who's standing up for them. That's the thing that I don't think the press corps sees.


STELTER: -- I say one day of missile strikes.

SWEET: The way to get the story you want -- and I say this to everyone who's listening who does -- and I'm watching twitter comments here.


STELTER: Fill us in.

SWEET: No, no, but the point is, you want to get the story, do something, get a vote, not just sign executive orders. Have a sustained riff on tax policy. We know -- you know, managing messaging is not new. We just went through eight years of Obama. They just did it a little more artfully and didn't leave as many fingerprints.

STELTER: Let me take this back to the media actually, because, Lynn, you and I were talking earlier this week about the president's interview blitz.

SWEET: Yes. STELTER: Were there missed opportunities in these interviews? Let me show you an example from FOX News, Martha MacCallum, over -- Friday night talking with the president. Notice how the president is talking about taxes and then she changes the subject.


TRUMP: I'm going to end up paying more than I pay right now in taxes, all right? I will pay more than I pay right now. The reason I'm going to pay more is because I lose all the deductions. I predict I will probably pay more than I'm paying right now.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS HOST: So, your life pretty much changed completely after Election Day. How would you say the presidency has changed you?


STELTER: That was -- that was news right there. There's the president saying he's going to pay more. There's no reason to believe that's correct according to the "A.P.'s" fact check and others. Lynn, have there been missed opportunities here, reporters not following up in these interviews?

SWEET: Absolutely. The reporters who get these interviews have important historic opportunities. Now, I'm not saying every question has to be a hard-driven policy question, even if you want to go on the feature end about -- we always crave information about the president.

Jason, what does Trump do when he goes to the White House at night and he's alone? Does he do this, does he do that? What is he -- there's life-style things, policy things, too. When a man says -- who's made taxes, not releasing of his taxes, kind of a rallying cry for the base --


SWEET: Let me spit this out, okay. When somebody says, yeah, I'd pay more, how you, the presidency has changed, that's a good question, can you just take a moment and say, oh, right, you say you're going to pay more, Mr. President, more than what? What do you mean? What kind of deductions do you think you get the most benefit from?

Or, you know, it is -- do you really use carried -- and this is a business reporter. Has the carried interest provision really benefitted you? I can think of the zillion reasons --

STELTER: Reporters are always going to have more questions, though, right?

SWEET: Right. But can we just say maybe one.


SWEET: Here's why we could criticize. She had none.

STELTER: Tara, last word.

PALMERI: I was just going to say that he tells the story better probably than anyone else but he tells a very simple story and there are a lot of holes in it and it's our job to find the holes. But, unfortunately, because his base, he tells these simple stories, basically about a parable or a children's book to explain a story last night and I think that's why he can connect with people and as a press, we have to be better at telling our stories more compelling and we need to be able to show the holes in a way that is simple and can be understood by every day people.

MILLER: Those who are concerned about border security and terrorism, the images that we see on TV, they heard that parable and they knew exactly what he was speaking to about keeping them safe. They loved it. And again, that goes to the --

PALMERI: But we have to show the other side of the parable.

STELTER: Or (ph) in this country.

We could go on for hours, I'm sure we will, but we're going to take a quick break. Thank you all for being here.

We have the editor of the "New York Times" standing by responding to Trump's latest salvo against that paper. Stay tuned. He'll be with us in just a moment.



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

Let's cue up one of the sound bites from President Trump's rally in Pennsylvania last night. He was picking on one of his favorite targets, "The New York Times."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're incompetent, dishonest people who, after an election, had to apologize because they covered it, us, me, but all of us, they covered it so badly that they felt they were forced to apologize because their predictions were so bad.


STELTER: That is not true, but don't take it from me.

Dean Baquet is here. He's the executive editor of "The New York Times."

Full disclosure, I used to work at "The Times."

Dean, we have been through this before, though.


STELTER: The president has repeatedly said that "The Times" apologized. Where is he getting it from? And how do you -- how can you can be sure, how can you tell our viewers it is not true?

BAQUET: Well, first off, I would say I think that, in his grade for the first 100 days, that speech will not earn him the award for uplifting the American debate or discussion. That's for sure.

Look, it's made up. We didn't apologize. Our coverage was tough, aggressive. It still is tough and aggressive.

But he's making that up. He does that sometimes. I mean, I respect his right to disagree with us, but we're not failing. We're doing quite well. We're doing better financially right now than we have in a long time. And his portrait of us is just not accurate.

STELTER: This morning, his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said the administration is -- quote -- "looking" at ways to loosen the libel laws. Didn't commit to anything, but kept the door open to the possibility.

BAQUET: Right. Yes.

STELTER: He has threatened to sue your newspaper before.


STELTER: So what do you make of what Priebus said today?

BAQUET: I think what Priebus said and I think what the president is doing right now, to be frank, in regards to the media is dangerous.

I think that he is portraying the media as his enemy. I think he is making the media sort of the punching bag. And I think it illustrates perhaps not understanding the role of the media. We're supposed to be tough. We're supposed to ask him hard questions. I'm not sure he gets that.


And I think, the more he beats us up, to be frank, I think that's bad for the country. I think it's bad for the free flow of information and criticism, including criticism of him.

And I also would -- I would also point out...

STELTER: Sometimes, people say, oh, it's not so bad. People are signing up for "The New York Times" in record numbers. You all are actually benefiting.

But you're saying, forget about that. It's not good for the country when this happens.

BAQUET: Yes. And , look, I'm taking the long view. And the long view is, the press

has a very powerful role in a democracy. It's to ask hard questions. It's to question decisions to go to war. It's to question the president's taxes. It's ask hard questions about him.

And I think, when he does this sort of game of making our questions less legitimate and less significant and less important, he's doing something that's dangerous for other presidents and other press. And I think it's troublesome.

STELTER: Hmm. Interesting.

Now, how do you try to then convince the majority of Trump voters, who stand with the president and not the media...


STELTER: All these polls that show media distrust at all-time highs among his base?

BAQUET: Again, I take the long view.

Our job is to cover the country fairly, to try to understand what happened three months ago in the presidential election, to listen to people, to try to air all sides.

And my own personal view is that whatever tensions there are right now, over the long haul, the press is going to be in good shape. And over the long haul, people want us to do our jobs, and people on the left and the right in the end want us to do our jobs.

STELTER: Now, originally, before the president's rally last night, we wanted to hear -- because you're running a new ad campaign.


STELTER: Let me play one of the new ads, featuring reporter Mark Mazzetti, and then ask you about it.


MARK MAZZETTI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Secrecy in government is not something that came around this year. We have seen secrecy grow across the years over several administrations of two different parties.

As tiring and as frustrating as it can be, it's become more essential for journalists to provide accountability and transparency that we are seeing less and less of in government.

I'm Mark Mazzetti, journalist for "The New York Times."


STELTER: "The Times" spending millions this year on these ads.


STELTER: What is the goal?

BAQUET: First off, that ad could have run under any president.

That ad is about the role of the press, which is to ask tough questions of government, to file Freedom of Information Act requests, to dig deep and to go deep into the biggest, most fundamental decisions governments make.

What we're trying to do is, while we have a president who is essentially beating up the press, we're reminding people of the historic role of the press.

And that ad, to me, hearkens not only to our coverage of the NSA, but even the Pentagon Papers. It's a reminder of what we do under all presidents.

STELTER: And that all governments try to keep a lot of secrets.

BAQUET: That's right.

STELTER: Our job is to try to -- try to figure out why and what those secrets are.

BAQUET: That's right. That's right.

STELTER: Let me ask you about this weekend's controversy. I'm sure you have seen this.

BAQUET: Mm-hmm.

STELTER: Your ads are designed to gain subscribers.

But some folks on Twitter are saying they're canceling their subscriptions because of Bret Stephens, the new "New York Times" op-ed columnist.


STELTER: Here's his column from over the weekend, the headline here about climate change.

He came over from "The Journal," a conservative anti-Trump columnist. Now he's at "The Times," and there's all this backlash.

What should people know about Stephens and why he was hired?

BAQUET: I will say two things.

First off, just to remind people, there's a separation between the news side, which I run, and the opinion side, which James Bennet runs. So, Bret doesn't work for me.

But let me say something else. "The New York Times" has a history of trying to bring in different voices. People forget we hired William Safire, who was Richard Nixon's speechwriter.

And -- and didn't we learn from this past election that our goal should be to understand different views? Didn't we learn from this past election that our goal should be to surface true debates about the biggest issues?

And is there anything worse than to squash those kinds of debates? Bret, even though he doesn't work for me, is a fine writer who is surfacing important issues. And I think our job as journalists is to surface those issues.

From my end, I have 10 people devoted to climate change. We have done the most aggressive work on climate change there is. We have traveled all over the world to show the effects of climate change.

STELTER: But you don't think he undercuts your own reporters?

BAQUET: I don't. I don't. I don't at all.

First off, he lives on the other side of the house. But, secondly, don't we want to surface all ideas? Don't we want -- have we -- have we gotten to the point as a country when -- where, when someone has a well-written, cogent position that people disagree with, they want to ball up the paper and throw it away?

I think that's a mistake. I think we should hear what Bret has to say.

STELTER: Seems like some in your own newsroom, though, have been subtweeting, complaining about his hiring.


Is it a problem for you inside the newsroom?

BAQUET: No. I think people inside the newsroom can express different opinions about decisions we make inside the newsroom.

What I would say to my colleagues in the newsroom is, I wish they were a little more gracious to a new colleague, even though he doesn't work in the newsroom.

STELTER: All right.

Dean Baquet, thank you very much for being here.

BAQUET: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next: Are the Murdochs looking to replace the top management of FOX News? New reporting and two top media reporters are here right after the break.


STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. There's one recent headline that perfectly sums up the current

situation at FOX News Channel. This is from Hal Boedeker down in Orlando. He says, "FOX News, good ratings, bad news."

That's right, FOX, of course, still riding high in the daily ratings race, its new Bill O'Reilly-less lineup still number one. But it continues to be overwhelming by a federal probe of the network.


We learned this week a second organization is involved, not just the Justice Department, but the postal inspectors as well. They look into things like wire fraud and mail fraud. There are inquiries and interviews about possible misconduct by the friends of Roger. These are the people that were consultants to FOX News head Roger Ailes.

Then there's FOX co-president Bill Shine. He helped take over when Ailes was ousted last summer. Now there's reports he might be the next one on the chopping block. He's named in several lawsuits involving Ailes and involving the culture at FOX.

As Dylan Byers wrote this week, he may be the man who knew too much, also did too little.

What is next for FOX News and for the Murdochs' empire? There's talk, as you can see from "The Hollywood Reporter," about possibly replacing Shine.

Let's talk now with two reporters who have been covering this very carefully, the aforementioned Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics, and Erik Wemple, media reporter for "The Washington Post."

Dylan, tell us about what you were saying about Bill Shine there, that he was Ailes' top, most trusted deputy, that he knew a lot of what was going on inside the company. Is that were you were getting at?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, absolutely, like Roger Ailes, like Bill O'Reilly, there from the inception, there since 1996, very much part of the lifeblood of that company, the right-hand man to Roger Ailes.

STELTER: Of course no one accusing him of harassment, no one accusing him of that kind of behavior.

BYERS: No one accusing him of harassment, but like you said, he is named in many of the allegations, named in some of the lawsuits.

And so the question is, how are you the right-hand man to Roger Ailes and then the co-president of the network and not be aware of some of the stuff that has allegedly gone on in terms of sexual harassment, in terms of racial discrimination?

I mean, let's pull back for a second and just use common logic. It is impossible to think that he could be there for 21 years and not be privy to some of this stuff, especially when you remember that FOX News itself was involved in some of the settlements that were paid to Bill O'Reilly's accusers.


BYERS: And just that raises the question, how serious are the Murdochs about cleaning house at FOX News? Is it going to be a drip, drip, drip, where once every nine months, we lose a CEO, we lose our top-rated prime-time host?

Who are we going to lose in the next six to nine months? Or do you come in and do you clean house and do you make a real substantive change to that network? That is what the Murdochs are wrestling with right now.

STELTER: And two big things happened this week. One, Rupert Murdoch took Bill Shine and the other co-president out to lunch very publicly. There were photographs that happened to be there.

And then at the end of the week "The Hollywood Reporter"'s Marisa Guthrie said the Murdochs are quietly looking perhaps for a replacement for Bill Shine, a new CEO.

BYERS: And there's the tension, by the way, between Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch. And that's really what this is all about.

STELTER: Between father and son.

BYERS: Father and son. Is it Rupert's company or is it James' company?

And right now it remains Rupert's company. In fact, we learned over this weekend he made many of the programming decisions to replace who was going to be replaced. James is trying to assert himself, but he's limited.

STELTER: You know what it reminds me of, Erik? It reminds me of President Trump and his children, in some cases, Ivanka Trump getting credit for trying to moderate her father. Maybe the same thing happening here with the Murdochs.


And I think all of us back in July of last year wondered, well, why the hell? You're getting rid of Roger Ailes, and yet you keep in place his -- you know, his right-hand man. And then now we're back here, you know, 10 months later, nine months later, and they're trying -- oh, maybe we got a problem here. Well, maybe.

I mean, this is not really very sophisticated management. If you have a rotten, corrupt network, which FOX is, and you have these problems, then you probably wanted to clean house once, not twice.

STELTER: You're convinced it's corrupt?

WEMPLE: I am. I'm very convinced.

As I wrote this week, I think we have seen the corruption on the airwaves over the years with the distortions, particularly on the opinion side. I think the news side is just basically a conservative news organization. And stripped of the opinion people like FOX and news, which is a clown show.


STELTER: You mean "FOX & Friends."


WEMPLE: "FOX & Friends," the morning show.

If they were serious about FOX News being a news network, they would get rid of that program. If FOX News were on CNN, you guys would probably resign from CNN. Let's face it.


STELTER: You and your "FOX & Friends" critique knows no bounds.

WEMPLE: But the point is, but the point is, if they had wanted to start in a new direction after Roger Ailes, they had a chance last July.

STELTER: Well, and a chance again just now, Tucker Carlson taking over at 8:00, "The Five" at 9:00.

Dylan, the numbers very strong for FOX, had a good week in the ratings.

BYERS: Very strong.

STELTER: Bill O'Reilly, meanwhile, he is on the Web doing a podcast. Has he essentially disappeared?

BYERS: Yes, look, I think a podcast is not the same thing as a FOX News prime-time show.

I also -- I'm dubious about these reports that somehow the old gang is going to get back together and start a new network. I don't know if either -- they have got a ton a money paid to them despite the sexual harassment charges. I don't know if they want to get together about starting a new network.

What I will say about the FOX News programming now, you look at that first night, when Tucker Carlson is on 8:00 p.m., and they got "The Five," everything about the programming there was designed to tell viewers, don't worry. We are still the home for conservative thought and opinion. We are still pro-Trump. We're not going anywhere.


It's Rupert Murdoch basically saying, one article in "The New York Times" and a bunch of advocacy groups and advertiser flight was not enough to change who we are.

WEMPLE: And I think it should also be noted that those programs, the -- FOX is an Ailes brainchild.

And I do think that one problem is that they might be out of ideas.

BYERS: Well, it's ideas and it's talent.


STELTER: They're going to appreciate that challenge you just gave them.


STELTER: Erik, Dylan, thanks very much. Great to see you guys.

BYERS: Thanks.

STELTER: After the break here, just how many fibs and falsehoods and misleading statements did Trump and his top aides make in their first 100 days?

We will have the answer right after a break.



STELTER: Finally today, 100 days in and questions about credibility continue to hover over the White House like a dark cloud.

From my perspective as a media reporter, that is the biggest story of this young presidency, the dishonesty. says Trump continues to be the king of whoppers. "The New York Times"' fact-checkers found -- quote -- "at least one false or misleading claim a day," except on days when he went golfing.

And BuzzFeed found pretty much the same thing, saying, "Trump's falsehoods come with an unprecedented frequency, scale and lack of shame. They are a defining feature of his tenure and have helped create a crisis of credibility."

As we've said here before, when someone lies over and over again, the story is not what they said. It's why they're lying and what the consequences are.

NBC's Chuck Todd honed in on this on Friday and said, let's face it, we have been conditioned to discount the president's words already.

To me, that's the biggest story of the next 100 days, whether we will see a more honest and trustworthy White House.

That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but we will see you right back here next week.