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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
WSJ: Feds Interview Ex-Fox Execs, On-Air Talent; Will Fox Scandals Sink Murdoch Deal in U.K.?; How Trump-Murdoch Ties May Influence Fox Probe; Late Night Hosts Take on Politics; How Did Media Cover the Passage of the AHCA in the House?; Fox News' Lack of Follow- Up in Alleged Rape Case. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 7, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:05] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.
Ahead this hour, lawyers and reporters standing by for a special look at the widening federal probe into FOX News and what it could mean for the network's future.
Plus, the biggest news in Washington this week -- did viewers and readers really know what was in the GOP's health care bill?
And later, late night takes on politics. We're going to get to the bottom of those sensational headlines claiming the FCC is investigating Stephen Colbert.
But, first, as you know by now, Roger Ailes is gone from FOX News. Bill O'Reilly is gone from FOX News and this week, a third figure left the network. That's Ailes' longtime right hand man, co-president, Bill Shine.
Fox says it has cleaned house amid the sexual harassment scandal, it has diversified the leadership ranks. It has reformed its HR office.
But the wildcard now is this Justice Department investigation of the network's practices back during the Ailes era. There were big new leaks about the probe this week, including this "Wall Street Journal" story reporting that prosecutors have, quote, interviewed network executives and on-air talent asking about sexual harassment settlements.
To begin, let's go straight to the reporter who broke this news, Joe Flint. He's in L.A., he's a media reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."
So, Joe, you're reporting people who have been brought in, some subpoenaed, speaking with investigators, prosecutors, and even a grand jury. What's the most important new information you learned this week?
JOE FLINT, WALL STREET JOURNAL MEDIA REPORTER: Well, just to correct. We didn't report about a grand jury. I cannot say that a grand jury has been summoned yet to this case, but some former on-air talent, off-air talent.
Former senior executive, Brian Lewis, the head of corporate communications for a long time, a top Roger Ailes aide, was subpoenaed. Laurie Luhn, who was a top booker at the show and whose own story heard -- she told her story of harassment, of course, in New York magazine several months ago, and she interviewed with prosecutors back in January. And Julie Roginsky, who recently filed a claim against Mr. Ailes and FOX News, has also met with prosecutors.
STELTER: There are other news outlets that said there is a grand jury that's been empanelled. You're saying that your reporting doesn't back that up right now?
FLINT: I cannot sit here and tell you right now, a grand jury has been empanelled, one way or the other.
STELTER: Now, what do you think is a sense of the time line here? Do you have any sense of how much longer this cloud is going to hover over Fox?
FLINT: No. And with these sorts of investigations it's hard to say. They're interviewing on a wide range of issues. But as we said in our story, you can't necessarily look at everything they're asking and all the information they're being told, and try to connect the dots here because they're gathering facts, and ultimately these are financial securities, and fraud prosecutors.
So, they're really, as we understand it, looking to determine whether there was something done here that may have misled shareholders or not given shareholders the full story about settlements of suits. And to make a case that these settlements were material interest to a huge company like 21st Century Fox is, of course, a very high bar.
STELTER: Is there the potential of somebody's going to end up in jail as a result of this?
FLINT: I certainly wouldn't want to go out on that sort of limb. It's kind of hard to tell with the information that the prosecutors are receiving whether they're more interested in Fox News and 21st Century Fox, or Roger Ailes, the former chief executive.
STELTER: Or Roger Ailes as an individual, right.
FLINT: Certainly, yes.
STELTER: All this, though, coming from leaks. You and I are dealing with the same problem, which is the government doesn't talk about its investigations when they're happening. All of this comes from anonymous sources, either people who are being interviewed by prosecutors or by government officials. Basically, we're sort of in the dark about this, only with what
information we should be getting from anonymous sources.
FLINT: Right, which is why we have to be very careful because some anonymous sources we know have agendas, and we need to sort of try to keep in mind as best we can as journalists to separate fact from fiction, and also just separate what -- when an anonymous source speculates on what the prosecutors might be going after we have to remember that's their speculation. We don't -- we don't really know that. We're not in the head of the prosecutors.
STELTER: I'm going to try to go on the limb one more time, Joe.
Do you think some of your sources are leaking to you because they want to make sure the whole country knows about this investigation, in case President Trump's Justice Department decides not to go forward with a prosecution of Trump's favorite network?
FLINT: Well, there are certainly plenty of national platforms to talk to, including "The New York Times" and the very one you work at. So, I don't necessarily think anyone's coming specifically to "The Wall Street Journal" for that purpose. And I can tell you, inside the paper, there's a high bar for our stories. Just as high for FOX News as any company we cover and everything is vetted and thoroughly reviewed --
[11:05:00] STELTER: Yes.
FLINT: -- and all that --
STELTER: You're kind of alluding to the fact that Rupert Murdoch owns both FOX News and your newspaper. I guess I'm wondering if it's ever awkward to be having to cover the Murdoch family while at a Murdoch paper.
FLINT: It can be a little awkward. But there's a few things that I would like to clear up. I do not have a Rupert Murdoch bat phone on my desk.
FLINT: I don't hear from him. Last week, we were playing catch-up on a different story about Fox and their pursuit of some TV stations owned by "Tribune". So, clearly --
STELTER: Meaning you didn't get the scoop? Meaning somebody else, your rival, got the scoop. Yes.
FLINT: Exactly. No one at 21st Century Fox does "The Wall Street Journal" any favors. That I can tell you. And inside the paper, I can tell you, all our stories get scrutiny and natural given the common ownership of FOX News and "The Wall Street Journal". There's a little extra scrutiny paid there, as there should be.
STELTER: It's definitely a delicate situation but when I read your story, it seems you guys are going in-depth on this, even though there's common ownership.
So, Joe, I appreciate you being here. Thank you very much.
FLINT: All right. Thank you.
STELTER: Let me turn now to two of the attorneys who have been representing some of the accusers in this case, some of the women who come forward accusing people at Fox of sexual harassment and other matters. These lawyers are about to weigh in on the matter themselves.
Both Douglas Wigdor and Lisa Bloom will be speaking in front of the British media regulator Ofcom this week. Why is that important? Because Ofcom will decide whether 21st Century Fox is fit and proper to purchase the part of the media giant Sky that they don't already own. The Murdochs have been wanting to buy the rest of Sky for a long time and the decision has to come down sometime between now and June.
So, let me bring in Doug and Lisa. Doug is here with me in New York.
So, Doug, let me start with you. You're representing 20 current or former Fox employees, some who are accusing the company of racial discrimination, others of sexual harassment. Is that right?
DOUGLAS WIGDOR, REPRESENTS 20 CURRENT AND FORMER FOX NEWS EMPLOYEES: That's right. And I think it's important to go to Great Britain, because I remember back in 2011, I represented the maid in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault rape case. I went to France to inform the French public about who their next president could be.
And now, we're on the precip of a big acquisition that 21st Century Fox might acquire sky and I have a great affinity and appreciation for the English people. I'm admitted to their courts -- her majesty's courts of England and Wales. My wife is English. We met at Oxford.
And I think the British people have a right to know about the 20 people that I represent who have been discriminated against based on their race, who have been harassed against based on their gender. They have a right to know about Monica Douglas, a cancer survivor who was called by Judy Slater a racist. She was called a one-boob girl, a cancer girl.
STELTER: Slater was the comptroller of Fox News. She was fired within two weeks of the company saying they learned of this.
WIGDOR: Well, that's part of the cover-up. And the British public has the right to know about the cover-up.
WIGDOR: Yes. So, Fox News said that within a couple of weeks of learning about Judy Slater's abhorrent behavior they fired her.
The problem is, we have clients who go back to 2008 who notified Dianne Brandi, the chief law enforcement officer, about Judy Slater's conduct not only in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and Dianne Brandi and Denise Collins, the head of HR, did nothing about Judy Slater because they thought she knew too much. She knew too much about Ailes. She knew too much about O'Reilly. She knew too much about all of the different things that were going on there.
And so, that is part of the cover-up. And they eventually walked that story back. They said, if you look at their second statement, their second statement said that they fired Judy Slater after being notified by her lawyers. Now, I don't see why it should require a lawyer's letter to fire somebody. They were on notice years and years prior.
STELTER: So, what's the status of racial discrimination suit?
WIGDOR: Well, we have filed for a class action status. That's going to make its way through the Bronx Supreme Court system. We're confident that a Bronx judge will ultimately certify as a class.
And, you know, Fox has done everything they can to try and put blocks up. They hired a law firm that likes to sue victims, preemptive litigation.
And they can't get away from the facts here, which is that even in our gender cases, we represent someone who went to -- for an interview with Roger Ailes. She was asked, this is Lidia Hojick (ph). She was asked to turn around. He said he liked what he saw. He called her boyfriend to ask about how she was in bed, and ask how whether she put out.
We have racist race claims about Judy Slater where people walked in to say good night and she's put up her hands and say, don't shoot, mocking the Black Lives Movement Matter.
We have people -- we have Judy Slater saying that the black employees were raising health care premiums. That asking questions about one woman who had three children whether they were all fathered by the same person. The list just goes on and on and on.
STELTER: So, you'll be bringing this to London this week, telling the regulators about this.
Let me ask Lisa about that.
But also, Lisa, you're flying to London, as well. When will you be speaking to the regulators? What will you be sharing?
[11:10:00] LISA BLOOM, REPRESENTS MULTIPLE BILL O'REILLY ACCUSERS: Right after the show, I'm going to the airport, Brian, and I will be speaking to them tomorrow with my client, Wendy Walsh. The very brave woman who came out publicly and helped us to topple O'Reilly.
You know, the question I think for the British regulators is, is money the most important thing? Is money the only thing that matters?
Because clearly what Fox News paying tens of millions of dollars to silence women over the years. They had enough money to continue to flout the law. They didn't mind when Bill O'Reilly sexually harassed Andrea Mackris in 2004, calling her on the phone. Reportedly, she had tapes of him, you know, in the middle of a sex act while he's calling her on the phone. That was OK. They kept Bill O'Reilly and they drove her out.
In 2011, when another woman had similar tapes, they kept Bill O'Reilly. They drove her out.
Over and over again, they did that both with Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and other men, because they had enough money to do it. And I think the good people of the U.K. value women's rights and women's quality. I think they value the equal rights of people of color and they have the right to know about this.
You know, I don't just represent people in court in sexual harassment cases, although I've done that for 30 years. I like to look at the bigger picture. My clients want more. They want justice. They want some accountability. And I think there should be consequences for a giant company like this that's continued to flout the law against discrimination and harassment against women and people of color.
STELTER: And Fox is going to say, we have fixed that. We know there were problems with Ailes, he's gone.
So, why do you say this is still an issue actively for the regulators to know about, Lisa?
BLOOM: Well, they can't say they fixed it when every week, there's a new lawsuit that's filed against them, when there are new claims that are coming to light.
BLOOM: I mean, you really need a very elaborate spread sheet to keep up with all of this. They can't say they fixed it when they keep the executives in place who were the enablers, who covered up, who drove women out. This isn't just people having endured --
STELTER: You say enablers, but they would reject a lot of that, for the record here.
WIGDOR: Can I just add? I mean, just last week, we filed a new claim on behalf of Jessica Golloher, who is a radio correspondent in the Middle East. And one of the main parts of the claims is that she e- mailed, pursuant to their new regime, she e-mailed Paul Weiss to report --
STELTER: The law firm that's been investigating harassment for Fox.
WIGDOR: Correct. And who self-proclaims that they're neutral and independent, she e-mailed them, and within 24 hours, she was notified of her termination. A blatant act of retaliation.
STELTER: So, you're saying you still have new people coming forward. Are you looking into others who have come forward to your office who also want to sue?
WIGDOR: We are. We -- every day, we get contacted by people of color at Fox, and women of Fox who have been either discriminated based on their race or gender. In the coming days, in the coming weeks, we will filing new actions and bringing forth new actions. That I can guarantee you.
STELTER: Is this a vendetta against Fox News? Because I think to some people, this comes across as a witch-hunt at this point against the network.
WIGDOR: Well -- no, I can tell you, I'm a lifelong Republican. So, I find that to be offensive. What I'm doing -- I'm advocating based on the rights of my client, who want equality in the workplace. This has nothing to do with Fox.
I have a separate race claim against "The New York Times". So, I don't buy that.
STELTER: Lisa, final word to you.
STELTER: Is this becoming personal?
BLOOM: I would say the same thing. You know, I stand for women's rights. When Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment, of lying under oath about it, I spoke out against him. I've gone against every network, every major company in America.
When they violate women's rights and the rights of people of color, that's when I come in. That's what I'm interested in. It's not about politics. It's about protecting our rights to equality in the workplace.
STELTER: Lisa, Doug, thank you both for being here.
WIGDOR: Thank you.
STELTER: Ofcom will make its decision between now and mid-June.
Up next here, it's the hug that's making some people shudder. It goes way beyond getting favorable coverage at Fox. What impact will the friendship between President Trump and Rupert Murdoch have on this broadening federal investigation of FOX News?
[11:17:46] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
Let me ask you: Does this look inappropriate to you? Let's pull up the pictures from last Thursday night. While President Trump's Justice Department is investigating Fox News, here's Trump embracing the man in charge of FOX News, Rupert Murdoch. The two men sang each other's praises at a gala dinner here in New York on Thursday with Murdoch introducing Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT MURDOCH, IN CHARGE OF FOX NEWS: The commander-in-chief, and the president of the United States, my friend, Donald J. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: This special relationship goes back decades, when Murdoch's "New York Post" was boosting Trump's celebrity status back in the 1980s, all the way up to 2010s, when Trump raised his political profile by calling in to Fox News every week.
Murdoch was sharply critical of Trump during the GOP primary. Remember this in 2015. He said Trump was embarrassing the whole country. And then he urged Mike Bloomberg to run against him.
But as Trump proved to have staying power, Murdoch fell in line and now, Murdoch is a key adviser to the president. According to "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman, the president speaks to Murdoch almost every day, quote, and Murdoch speaks with Jared Kushner as well.
Murdoch is the one of the people who urges the president to stay focused on the economy narrowly and foreign policy more broadly.
Talking about all this and potential conflicts of interest, joining me now, David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun", and David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR. Folkenflik is the author of "Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires".
Zurawik, when there's a federal investigation of a network, and the network's head honcho is hanging out with the president, does it look inappropriate? Is it inappropriate?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Brian, it totally looks inappropriate. This is the style, though, of both of those men -- in your face.
You know, I saw that and I was so angry when I saw it and I thought, you know, Donald Trump, this is what you ran on. The world was not going to be run with winks and nods and secret handshakes by the 1 percent. You were going to stand up for people. And here you are, hugging this guy and saying all these wonderful things about each other at this event.
This is exactly -- I was so upset. But you know what? You know what cheered me? Seeing Wigdor and Bloom because those lawyers are not going to let him off. And we can't let him off.
Listen, I think he will try to do any influence he can, and Trump is so vulnerable because he has no friends in the media.
[11:20:08] Anybody who reports honestly is reporting what a disappointment he is and how erratic his behavior is. So, he's got to be nice to Murdoch in a way.
They are going to try to influence this thing. The only thing that can keep it honest are those attorneys and the press, us, talking about it right now, saying -- pay attention. This is dangerous. These guys are going to try to game the system, rig the stack the deck and rig this outcome.
STELTER: It's reminiscent a little bit of Bill Clinton on the tarmac with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. That was a huge controversy for good reason.
STELTER: And then you look at this and wonder if there's something a little bit similar.
So, Folkenflik, you wrote a couple months ago that Murdoch and Trump have an alliance of mutual interests. That's how you describe it. Is it just transactional for the two of them?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I don't think Rupert Murdoch, you know, as you pointed out in your direction, Donald Trump is not Murdoch's chosen candidate. In fact he was about, you know, 16 or 17 candidates deep into who Murdoch might have wanted. But Murdoch is very pragmatic.
Look, what you're seeing there -- David's captured some of the rhetorical contradictions in here. But what you're seeing here is -- Murdoch is an 86-year-old chief executive who doesn't have a lot of new tricks. But he's got a trick that he performs awfully well.
STELTER: What's that?
FOLKENFLIK: If you look at him in Australia, if you look at him in Great Britain, he's always managed to forge extremely close ties with prime ministers, with the top person in charge. And why? Because it's helped him. It's helped him win regulatory decisions. It's helped him get off the hook in trouble in these countries. It's helped him get great coups financially from government.
In this instance, you have Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump unified by common interests. It's helped propel Fox's ratings. But right now, you've got that federal inquiry here in the southern district of New York and that is a huge deal. I mean, that's basically --
STELTER: Is it? Are we making too big a deal of the idea of federal investigation?
FOLKENFLIK: I don't think you are at all. If you talk to lawyers who know this stuff, they would say that normal circumstances, this would be about eight or nine out of ten in terms of -- in terms of legal peril and concern for a corporation trying to deal with questions of culture that may stray into felonious criminal behavior.
The wild card, of course, is that we don't know who Donald Trump is going to appoint to be the new U.S. attorney for the southern district. And we don't know how this Justice Department will act when it involves an ally of the president.
Do you really want to take on such an important and influential player in American politics, and particularly American Republican politics?
STELTER: All right. Well, let's play devil's advocate. Zurawik, is this getting a little bit conspiratorial? Everyone wondering what's going to happen, with Trump's Justice Department deciding what to do with Trump's favorite network?
ZURAWIK: Brian, I don't think conspiratorial. I think we're being too hard on ourselves. I think we should continue to be skeptical.
Look, we have a history. Lyndon Johnson owned TV stations. That's how he made his fortune in Texas. And by manipulating FCC licensing so that only he had stations in those areas.
Look, people feel will play this system if they can. And I'll tell you what, speaking of David, and his understanding of Rupert Murdoch, think back to that 2011 hacking scandal when he was in huge trouble in Great Britain, and he went in to that hearing and he was like, oh, I'm an old man, I can't hear your questions, I'm weak. It was the -- it was pure cabaret. It was pure theater.
He will do anything he can to get out of this kind of trouble. And I think this trouble he is in now with FOX News is almost as bad as the hacking stuff. The hacking was so reprehensible because it involved hacking into the phone of a dead girl, hacking into soldiers who -- the phones of soldiers who were killed. This is of the same caliber as Wigdor and Bloom and these attorneys pile up what happened at that place, starting to bring it out.
STELTER: The other David, what do you think?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I've got to say, I mean, it seems to me that this is really a two-front war that he's fighting. He's fighting, in some ways, a three-front war. He's fighting the question of the federal inquiry and they're starting to promise full cooperation with the Justice Department in a way that had not been in some ways the stance that you've been hearing, that Paul Weiss is going to present their full findings about the culture for women --
STELTER: The investigator for Fox. Right.
FOLKENFLIK: -- and what they've been learning about women making accusations that had not been promised in the early goings.
They've got the federal inquiry, of course. They've got the lawsuits that we just heard about on this show and they've got the question, as you pointed out, of whether they'll be able to accomplish this $14 billion takeover of Sky Broadcasting which would be, you know, a major coup particularly for James Murdoch, Rupert's son, but that he's wanted back in the fold for decades.
So, this is -- this is something where Murdoch is trying to do a full- court press in two different countries where they have such major stakes, such major holdings. And, you know, they've got a lot of mess. This is not resolved at FOX News. The culture is not significantly enough change that people inside -- the women I talk to inside FOX News are not convinced that they can trust the leadership there at the network yet.
STELTER: All right. The two Davids -- please stick around.
[11:25:01] More after the break here. Our reality checks about overreactions on the left and the right coming up.
Plus, the one study that has President Trump beating his predecessor. I'll be right back.
STELTER: Hey, welcome back.
President Trump won the election six months ago tomorrow. Can you believe it has been six months? On cable, it feels like we're still debating the election.
But think about it, by some measures, America is even more polarized than it was six months ago. And we are seeing that on television, especially on late-night TV, with late show host Stephen Colbert making headlines for this latest Trump jab.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": You attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, there was a version of that that was also bleeped on the show. We bleeped more of it. But it was partially bleeped when it aired.
A couple days later, amid a conservative outcry, Colbert said: Hey, I have got jokes, while Trump has the launch codes. This is a fair fight.
But he also admitted he would have changed a few of his cruder words.
Now, that bit sparked complaints to the Federal Communications Commission and the Twitter hashtag #FireColbert.
Meanwhile, on another channel, over on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel took a more subtle jab at the president this week while talking about what happened with his newborn. And then he pivoted to the new health care bill. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": If your baby is going to die, and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make.
I think that's something that, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, some conservatives say late-night's out of line. Some liberals say they're acting like snowflakes and on and on.
To break down the late-night commotion, let's bring back David Zurawik and David Folkenflik.
Zurawik, you're our TV critic. You have been doing this for a long time. Is there any reason to think that CBS might actually take action against Stephen Colbert? Because when you watch some of the coverage on FOX, like, they're itching to see Colbert fired.
ZURAWIK: I would be shocked. I can't imagine CBS taking any action against him.
You know, maybe publicly, they don't want to praise him, but I will praise him as a media critic. This is the conversation of democracy. Jimmy Kimmel, too. I'm so glad Kimmel said what he did. And I'm even glad that some people said, oh, it's going to interfere with the debate in the House, as if they're geniuses in our House of Representatives these days debating anything more important than this conversation.
What he said was powerful. Look, I'm not thrilled with Colbert's final -- the thing that was bleeped. That -- that bothered me, because -- not about what he said of Putin or Trump. I don't care about that. But some folks felt, at least indirectly, he may have denigrated a group of people by the way he did it.
And I think he apologized for that. I saw his apology. I'm not one to judge whether it was enough or not. But this is exactly what late- night comedians should be doing. It's part of the same conversation, Brian, that we are having right now. And God bless them.
And, in some ways, they can go further sometimes than legacy journalists at least can go. I remember, during 2008, we couldn't, I didn't feel, even in my blog, that I could really say how ludicrous and insane it was to have Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate.
But, late-night, "Saturday Night Live" and other places, could do that. They opened the door to that.
The one thing I will say is, this is good now, but it was bad, I think, when late-night comedians genuflected before Barack Obama the way they did, especially Jon Stewart, for example, selling that Iran deal, letting Obama come on his show and endorsing Obama's Iran deal, which we are finding out more and more was not such a good idea. If they're going to be like this, they should be more sort of balanced
in their approach with all government officials when they do it. But God bless them for what's happening now.
Look, Trump does outrageous stuff. He does erratic stuff. He does scary stuff. And he's in your face about it. Good. I'm glad that people like this can come back at him every night for millions of Americans.
STELTER: You said Trump is doing scary stuff.
Is the issue here, Folkenflik, that this entire country is trying to figure out how to talk about this unusual president, and that includes comedians and that includes journalists six months after Election Day?
FOLKENFLIK: Oh, sure.
I think that's very much the case. And you have also got to take two things into account. First off, there's a richness to the criticism of Colbert from advocates or fans of Donald Trump, given the number of astonishingly offensive things that the president has said over the years, and even over the course of this campaign, particularly about, say, women even, people in public life.
The second thing that you have got to think about is, they are wrestling with this. What Colbert was trying to do was show -- in some ways, he was defending his CBS colleague John Dickerson, who Trump had sort of essentially dismissed from the Oval Office...
FOLKENFLIK: ... during part of their series of interviews last weekend.
And Colbert said: You know what? Let me show you what an insult actually sounds like. Let me show you what it is.
And he did one topping after another.
FOLKENFLIK: Now, look, it led to our scene, beeping on this show the word holster, something I have never seen before.
But it was in the context of an extremely offensive thing that he was trying to say, if you want me to be outrageous about a guy who is outrageous, let me show you how that will look.
STELTER: Let me show you.
Let's look at the data from George Mason University, guys, that it's a study of just -- a brand-new study showing that Trump is breaking a record. There's more jokes about him on late-night than there were during Obama or Bush's or Clinton's first year.
Zurawik, is this appropriate? Does this make sense that there's more Trump jokes?
ZURAWIK: Well, Brian, I want to be kind about that study.
ZURAWIK: You know, there's so many variables, how many shows were on, how many comedians were doing this, what the different venues were when they first started doing it. It's kind of a -- quasi-academic is probably the nicest thing we can say about that study.
And it's also a duh kind of study, because it says there's more jokes about Trump than anybody else. Of course there are. Trump begs it. I mean, he almost begs you to come at him in late-night TV.
You know, when you say a ship is going to North -- or a flotilla is going to North Korea, and it's actually going in the other direction, how could a comedian not go after that at night?
ZURAWIK: Trump begs it.
So, I don't -- you know, I will accept the premise in that study that there's more folks about Trump than anybody else. But I don't read anything ideological into it. And I think, if we really bore down on it in a systematic, scholarly fashion, we would blow the study up on several fronts.
STELTER: But let's talk about the tendency to overreact sometimes.
I saw this happen on the left and the right on social media this weekend.
First, on the left, there were these stories, maybe first from "The Hill" -- let's put the headline up from "The Hill" newspaper. It says, "FCC to Investigate and Take Appropriate Action About Colbert's Trump Rant."
Now, this sounds ominous, right, except that the FCC always reviews every complaint it receives. You can complain to the FCC about this program. But the government almost never takes action.
So, Folkenflik, what is this really about? Is there anything unusual here?
FOLKENFLIK: You know, there isn't, in the sense that you're absolutely right. Somebody complained somewhere. There's something in a file, and the FCC reviews it.
People are calling it an investigation, as though it's going to involve subpoenas. That's not what this entails. It's a much more bureaucratic review.
The one little grace note, I will say, that was added was that the chairman, Chairman Pai of the FCC, made himself available in a radio interview and then on FOX Business Network to talk about it.
FOLKENFLIK: Now, he talked about it in fairly mundane, even-tempered terms.
And what he said was absolutely, literally true: We have got to look at this. We will review the complaint. We will see if something is needed. It will be a fine, something of that nature.
But the very fact of him addressing it is throwing some red meat to Trump fans.
STELTER: Hmm, making them feel they're being heard.
FOLKENFLIK: Making them feel that they're being heard and stoking this a little bit as an issue for those partisans.
Republicans chairmen or chairwomen of the FCC are much more likely to make noises about regulating offensive comment on the air. Democratic chairmen, chairwomen are much more likely to make noises about regulating ownership of who controls the airwaves. That's really what was going on there with Pai.
STELTER: The FCC is not going to be fining CBS over this.
FOLKENFLIK: I think it's very unlikely. It was beeped. It's late at night.
STELTER: Late at night.
FOLKENFLIK: It's part of a satire show.
STELTER: But I understand Trump critics want to be vigilant. Just in this case...
FOLKENFLIK: And I also understand some people may have been offended by that. And then they can absorb that and decide how they want to think about Stephen Colbert in the light.
FOLKENFLIK: There's also the remarkable thing of a remote control, and they can use it. And that's really going to be the solution in that instance.
STELTER: So, now to the right, it was just one overreaction I'm going to ask you about, Zurawik.
STELTER: Here's "The Washington Examiner" saying -- quote -- "CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC has banned an ad that Trump's reelection campaign wanted to air."
So, this site just straight up reprinted the campaign's entire press release.
STELTER: But nobody actually banned this ad. Instead, the networks asked the campaign to make one change because the ad incorrectly labeled real news anchors as fake news.
The networks are, for the record, well within their rights to reject ads that have false information. So, to me, this was a stunt by Trump's reelection campaign.
But, Zurawik, does this show how Trump is running basically a permanent campaign against the media?
ZURAWIK: I think yes, absolutely. That's part of it.
And, look, our job is to give citizens information that they can make good decisions about their life with, reliable information.
CNN and everybody else who didn't run this ad is keeping faith with that principle. Donald Trump's administration is the opposite, with its alternative facts. There is no grounding for this.
Brian, one last thing I want to say about that FCC talk. Part of it is on us, the people who report in the media. I think the three of us have the same standards. But there's people out there writing about media who don't know what the FCC does. There's people who will hype any story in the world for page views and call it a probe and heads will roll and all this other stuff.
And they misinform the public. So, I'm so glad that you took a -- you're absolutely right. Somebody in Idaho's weatherman says, ooh, it's going to be darn cold tomorrow, and somebody said, oh, he said darn. I got to fine -- they have got to look at that if they get a letter or a call at the FCC.
STELTER: That's right. They do.
ZURAWIK: That's the way it works, yes.
STELTER: But they won't take action.
And, listen, I slip up sometimes, too, but we have all got to try to have as high a standard as possible, so folks don't overreact to the stories we're publishing.
David, David, thank you both for being here. Appreciate it.
Up next here -- well, actually, first a reminder. In our nightly newsletter, we are going to have more on all of this, RELIABLESOURCES.co. You can sign up right now. It comes out tonight and every night of the week, RELIABLESOURCES.com.
After the break here, the big political story of the week, the health care debate. How good of a job did we do explaining the bill?
I will talk with an expert after this.
STELTER: As the American Health Care Act narrowly passed in the House this week, the headline on CNN.com said, "At Last A Victory for Trump."
The White House created the visual of a victory with this Rose Garden rally. These pictures spoke thousands of words. And on top of the pictures, I heard commentators on TV saying it. Well, it was a short- term victory for Trump, but that nobody knows what the long-term impact will be.
So, what do we know, and how well was this covered?
Joining me now is Jonathan Cohn, a senior national correspondent for The Huffington Post, one of the nation's top health care reporters.
So, Jonathan, have you actually read the bill? One of the big questions this week was, did these lawmakers actually read the legislation?
JONATHAN COHN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Right.
So, I did read the bill.
STELTER: All right.
COHN: And I will tell you, I did read the bill.
And it's very -- you know, it's got a lot of legislative language. If you have ever actually gone line by line through a piece of legislation, it's very hard to follow.
What I think the real question should be, and when we say, did they read the bill, do they understand the bill? Have they gone through it? Do they understand how it works?
COHN: And do they understand its impact?
And, you know, that, I think, is the real question right now, because it was rushed through so quickly. How can -- and, you know, how can they actually understand even what this bill going to do
STELTER: And we didn't have a Congressional Budget Office score on the final version of the bill. Paul Ryan and his allies are on television today saying, hey, we had two CBO scores earlier in the process. On ABC this morning, Ryan said, this is a bogus attack from the left.
Is it a bogus attack from the left to point out that we don't know exactly what the impact of this bill will be?
COHN: So, first of all, if it's a bogus attack from the left, they should tell that to Republicans who have made that argument also. It's coming from Republicans, from conservative commentators.
It's not a bogus attack. Look, I mean, this to me is exactly an example of what is happening right now. The bill was -- you know, there was an original version of the bill. The Congressional Budget Office did an analysis of it. And then they did a second analysis of it when it was changed.
Well, then the bill -- it got quiet for awhile. And then, at the very last minute, they made a bunch of new changes to the bill, and then they voted on it within 24 hours. Well, we don't know what those new changes would do exactly.
STELTER: So, do you feel kind of lost as a journalist trying to cover this?
COHN: You know, it is a little bit difficult.
And I think this is part of why they are rushing. You know, this stuff is complicated, like President Trump said. When you are introducing provisions and you have a day to analyze them, it is really hard to keep up. It is really hard to really digest.
And you do your best, you call the experts, you call liberals, you call conservatives. Those of us who have been doing this for awhile, we at least have the benefit of -- we have some familiarity with the subject.
But, you know, when they are moving this quickly, when they have having votes on language that hasn't even been posted for 24 hours, when they're asking Congress to vote on something without a formal analysis of the Congressional Budget Office, it's hard to talk about this with precision.
And that really does make the job of a journalist difficult and makes the job of a journalist difficult because, if we can't figure it out and explain it well, then the public doesn't know. And the public doesn't know what is being debated. And that's a real disservice.
STELTER: Yes, we're working for you guys who are watching this program.
A lot of the claims that circulated on the Web in recent days, things like that rape, pregnancy and just being a mom would become preexisting conditions under the Republican plan, is this an example of misinformation on the left?
COHN: No, I wouldn't call that misinformation on the left. Like everything else, there's nuance here. The reality is this. The
Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which has got its pluses and minuses, things people like, things that people don't like, but one of its ironclad guarantees is that every insurance policy will include an essential health -- set of health benefits and that you cannot be denied coverage for preexisting conditions.
Now, back before the Affordable Care Act existed, you could be denied coverage for a preexisting condition, and there were not those requirements on plans. And, in fact, it was very common. If you were one of these people buying coverage on your own, it was really hard to find a policy that would cover maternity care.
And if you were pregnant, an insurance company wouldn't cover it. This bill would allow states to restore that. It would be up to the states. And some states would, maybe some states wouldn't. But that is in the bill. That is not a fact that should be in dispute.
STELTER: You're illustrating right now why this is so difficult. I fear the misinformation and confusion has won the day and we have got a lot of work to do in the weeks and months to come explaining this as it moves through the Senate and maybe heads towards the president's desk.
Jonathan, thanks so much for being here.
COHN: Thanks for having me.
STELTER: Up next: what conservative news outlets are really not telling their viewers about an important update on an alleged rape case in Maryland. Some outlets said the mainstream media was ignoring this. So, we will fill you in right after the break.
STELTER: Shouting the allegation, and when it doesn't add up, whispering the updates, and all you at home remember is the shouting.
This is one of the worst tendencies of media, the lack of follow-up. And right now, we are seeing it in action on FOX News.
You may remember that FOX shouted about an alleged rape back in March. The incident happened at Rockville High School in Montgomery County, Maryland. That's the school district where I grew up, so I paid close attention to the coverage.
Two Rockville students were arrested and charged as adults with first- degree rape. The victim, a female student, said it happened in a school bathroom. It was a horrifying local story, a story FOX and other conservative outlets focused on because the two male students were immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally.
This is one of a dozen stories about the case on Breitbart. I counted dozens and dozens of segments on FOX News back in March. Listen to the way these FOX hosts covered the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Coming up next, we're going to back to Rockville, Maryland, outside Washington. The major news networks ignored the violent rape allegedly committed there last week by an illegal alien.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Over the years, we have highlighted families who have been victimized by criminal illegal aliens.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: FOX News covered the story extensively, as I said, last night. But ABC, NBC, CBS did not cover it on their nightly news broadcasts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Bill O'Reilly there. He was outraged that the rest of the news media wasn't shouting like he was.
But maybe NBC and ABC and CBS were right to be cautious. Here is what happened on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I commend the state's attorney's office for doing the correct thing and dropping the rape charges, because, obviously, this young girl was not raped, as we stated from the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: A big development there, dropping the charges.
After days and days of loud coverage tilted against the two immigrants, FOX quietly reported the update. There were three short mentions on Friday evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Maryland state prosecutors say, after reviewing video and speaking to witnesses, the facts do not support a rape charge. But both defendants still may face child pornography charges. The case gained international attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: And let's pause the clip right there. Wallace says the case gained international attention, but he doesn't say how. The answer is his network.
Too much of the coverage of this story omitted the conservative media's role in making it a national story.
[11:55:01] For example, when asked about it a White House press briefing, Sean
Spicer talked at length about how disgusting the crime was, never bothering to use the word alleged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: On Friday, ABC's Cecilia Vega followed up at the briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS: This White House has been -- was vocal on this case. From this podium, Sean Spicer said that a big part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this.
Did this White House unfairly jump to conclusions in this case?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged the question.
But the answer is yes. Yes. The coverage of this case deserves introspection. Let's recognize this happens with other stories too, shouting first, whispering later. Let's try to get our levels right.
That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But tune in online, RELIABLESOURCES.com.