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Is the Press Secretly Rooting for Trump's Impeachment?; Is the Country as Divided as the Media Suggests?; Megyn Kelly's Controversial Alex Jones Interview; Interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar About the Media and Congress; Showtime to Air Four-Part Series on Putin. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 18, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:05] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Happy Father's Day, and welcome to our viewers in the United States and all 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're asking big questions today about a divided nation, only briefly united in the aftermath of the shooting at congressional baseball practice. In an era of extreme rhetoric, should media figures be doing some soul-searching?

Plus, were some senators this week trying to restrict press access in the Capitol? I'll ask Senator Amy Klobuchar.

And later in the hour, two big interviews raising questions about responsible interviewing. Oliver Stone joins me to discuss his sit- downs with Vladimir Putin and we'll break down the controversy surrounding Megyn Kelly's interview with Alex Jones.

But, first, watching the news, reading the web, leaves me with so many more questions than answers. Is "The Washington Post" right? Is President Trump really under investigation for possible obstruction?

What's Robert Mueller finding? Who's he hiring? Is he being fair? Is Trump thinking about firing Mueller? What would happen after that?

Why did the president tweet, I am being investigated? Is lawyer Jay Sekulow telling the truth, saying Trump was just reacting to news coverage? And if so, why is Trump deriding fake news if he believes the news? More importantly, who should you believe?

Is it true that the president is yelling at TV sets in the White House? Why is he still watching so much TV anyway? Isn't he busy?

And where are the tapes? Wait, are there tapes? Why hasn't he cleared that up? What is the president hiding?

Why are White House briefings getting shorter and more limited? Why hasn't Trump given any interviews for five weeks? Why aren't his aides all over TV defending him?

Are you as confused as I am? The news cycle can be bewildering but I think it's useful sometimes to watch what the president is watching. We know he loves Sean Hannity's show on FOX News. He even retweeted a promo of the show on Friday. And Hannity's message night after night is that the media, the American media is trying to overthrow the president.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The media has become completely unhinged. They're suffering from Trump derangement syndrome. The truth does not matter to people that call themselves journalists.

They want President Trump to fail and they want him out. They want him gone. They want him out of office. They want him impeached.

They hate FOX News. They hate talk radio. As a matter of fact, they hate any conservative who supports this president and supports his policies. And that's why I call it media fascism.


STELTER: Is Sean Hannity right? Is the press secretly rooting for impeachment proceedings against President Trump?

Let's talk about it. Joining me now, Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and a proud father of five.

Matt, happy Father's Day.


STELTER: Thanks. I'm going to need some advice from you for raising girls.

I'm also joined --

SCHLAPP: Let me tell you, I've got five girls, and today I have two dance recitals. So I'm hoping I slip in a beer at some point during the day.

STELTER: Well, this segment is going to be easy compared to all that.

Let me bring in two more guests with you in Washington, Kaitlin Collins who was up until this week a White House correspondent for "The Daily Caller". As of tomorrow, she'll be covering the White House for us here at CNN.

Congrats, Kaitlin.

And also with us, Alex Conant, former communications director for Senator Marco Rubio, and partner at Firehouse Strategies.

So, I've got all of you with me here to discuss this issue. Matt, to you first. Do you perceive that journalists, reporters,

commentators, are trying to get this president impeached?

SCHLAPP: Well, I was on Sean's show on Friday. I think there's real truth to what he says.

Look, I think when we say words or terms like "the media," obviously, media is very diverse. I think it's very fair to say that the overwhelming percentage of people who are reporters in this country tend to contribute to liberal causes and vote for liberal candidates. I think that's undisputed.

I think there's a lot of kind of post-election malaise by reporters who felt like they gave Donald Trump a free pass during the primaries and they're trying to overcompensate for this coverage. And I think it is further dividing them from the viewers, even though everyone's numbers are up all over the dial, because so many people are engaged to listening about politics because of all of this tumult in the Trump presidency.

But there's no question that there is a massive bias that Trump faces every day.

STELTER: Kaitlin, what do you perceive at the White House among your fellow reporters. Are journalists thinking they're going to see an impeachment?

KAITLIN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY CALLER: I think hoping for an impeachment and watching for an impeachment are two very different things. I think reporters have scrutinized the president's actions, the way he fired James Comey, the fact that he said it was because of the Russia investigation. The fact that James Comey said he asked him to shut down the investigation into Mike Flynn.

So, think reporters are watching the president's actions and reporting on what he's doing, but I don't think anyone is secretly rooting for the president of the United States to be impeached.

[11:05:03] I don't see why it's being turned around on reporters. This is an investigation that has gone on nearly a year now and was about Russian interference in the election, but because of the president's actions, he's made this about himself.

STELTER: Journalists are focused on these investigations. What you hear from commentators on the right is that journalists are too obsessed with these Russia issues, Alex. Is there truth to that? Is there a point there?

ALEX CONANT, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, I actually agree with what both Matt and Kaitlan said. Look, to Matt's point, there is no doubt that there is a liberal bias in much of American media. Most reporters are left of center.

But I think there's an even bigger bias towards covering conflict, towards covering crisis. And there's no bigger conflict or crisis than the impeachment of a president and a scandal. And so, in a week like this where the president did do some good things, like the Cuba policy, which my former boss, Marco Rubio, worked on, that's totally overshadowed by the ongoing investigation, by his tweets about the investigation, because that is such -- the bias is towards that sort of conflict and that society of scandal.

So, as long as there's a whiff of scandal in the White House, that's what the media is going to cover.

STELTER: But wasn't that true during the Clinton presidency as well?

CONANT: Well, I would argue that the Clinton administration handled the coverage around the scandal better than the Trump administration, which to the extent the Trump administration seems to have any sort of strategy, it's to let the president tweet out whatever he wants, but don't let anybody else say anything at all, try to cover up all the facts. You know, they're not being transparent. They're not answering questions directly.

As you pointed out, the president hasn't done a press conference in months, hasn't given an interview in weeks. Maybe that's the opposite of what the Clinton team did, which was very transparent, very forward-leaning on the Starr investigation in the '90s.

STELTER: So, Alex, Matt, you're both describing bias. I just saw a tweet from a viewer Danny who says, reporting on Trump's negative behavior is not biased coverage. Ignoring the negative behavior would be biased coverage.

But what do you make of the idea that, yes, the coverage may have a negative tone, that's because this presidency is struggling and dysfunctional?

SCHLAPP: Well, look, I worked for a Republican president, the last Republican president who it's just so strange how these Republican presidents seem to have a scandal around firing people they're legally allowed to fire.

Judge Gonzalez when he was attorney general had the same problem with U.S. attorneys. We get wrapped around the axle on doing things we're allowed to do. Bill Clinton fires every U.S. attorney in the country, no scandal. Bill Clinton fires an FBI director, no scandal. It's a strange thing.

And, look, I do think that the way President Trump handles these questions is new, is different. We didn't have Twitter in the Bush years. He's actually very out there and commenting on all types of things. There's a lot of Republicans who actually want him to comment and be engaged less.

I think the good news in all this, and I disagree with Alex, is that he has a very good team, including a very good comms team around him, as he faces the questions around what the special counsel is doing. I think he needs to listen to them. I think he's got top-notch talent there, and I think that he needs to just keep plodding away at his agenda like he did in Miami. Alex is right. It doesn't get as much national coverage. But if you

look at the Miami coverage and South Florida coverage, it was fantastic and it was upholding a campaign pledge. He needs to keep doing that.

STELTER: He's not going to gain any support in the approval rating polls, though, with something like a Cuba policy, is he?

SCHLAPP: Yes, he is, absolutely.


SCHLAPP: Because it's two things. Yes, number one, it reconnects people to why they wanted a change agent in the White House. And it also reminds people -- remember, he has a very diverse coalition. And South Florida, as Alex knows, is much more diverse than people realize.

And the fact that he is connecting to these folks is very important. Also, we're talking about policy, we're talking about human rights, we're talking about free and fair elections. Those are the type of things any president should want to embrace.

STELTER: Kaitlan, when you're at the White House covering this beat everyday, do you find reporters increasingly asking about the president's emotional state, about why he feels he has to post these tweets at all times? That's another one of the critiques you get from the Hannitys is that journalists think this president is crazy.

COLLINS: Well, reporters are looking at the president's tweets and are reporting on them because we've never had access to the president's emotional state like we do with Donald Trump. We've never had a president who got on Twitter every morning and told us exactly what he was feeling about the news. And Donald Trump does that.

That was the problem for his lawyer, Jay Sekulow this morning. Donald Trump tweeted this week, I am under investigation. And Jay Sekulow said this morning this is not what he meant.

So, it's a problem for his communications team and his lawyers to have to go on television and explain what he means in tweets and saying that we shouldn't take the president literally.

STELTER: Alex, where do you come down on this? I think journalists do have some biases, if you want to call them bias. One is toward competent governance. One is toward decency in civic engagement.

[11:10:01] Some of the coverage that I think you get complaints about from the right is because journalists are trying to promote those basic inherent American values. And when the president is railing against the fake news media on Twitter calling us a witch hunt, I think that's the way journalists react the way they do. Do you think I'm off on that?

CONANT: No, I think you have a valid point. Look, the media loves bipartisanship. You know, whenever there's a big bipartisan gathering on the Hill, the media applauds it.

But that's not really what they want to cover. That's not really what they want to talk about. They want to talk about conflict, they want to talk about fighting, they want to talk about Republicans attacking Republicans, Democrats attacking Democrats.

I can tell you, I've worked for a lot of Republican members of Congress. The easiest way for a Republican member of Congress to get on TV is to go attack a Republican -- is to attack Republican leadership or the president, President Trump. So, that, I think, is what the media really wants to talk about on a day-to-day basis.

And it's a real challenge of governing, because when you do have moments where you bring people together and do bipartisan things, it's really -- it can be really hard to get -- to have that get attention that, you know, a big fight would get. And so, it's a challenge not just for the president but members of Congress as well.

STELTER: Fascinating. Matt, Kaitlan, Alex, that you all very much for being here.

CONANT: Thank you.

SCHLAPP: Thanks, Brian

STELTER: Up next here, powerful images of congressional leaders giving joint interviews in the wake of the shooting in Virginia this week. Is our country really as divided as it sounds on TV? We'll get into that right after this.


[11:15:31] STELTER: Welcome back.

Is America actually more united than hyperbolic newscasts and talk shows suggest or is America even more divided? There was a lot of talk about unity on Wednesday after a man targeted Republican lawmakers during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. As you know, he shot and injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others. Scalise is now said to be in serious condition.

But shortly after those calls for unity, the interviews of congressional leaders on CNN, we heard a lot more of the same kind of partisanship and polarization on talk radio and social media, people blaming the other side for what had happened.

Let's get into it now with Sally Kohn. She's a liberal CNN commentator and columnist for "The Daily Beast". And Steve Deace, he's in Iowa. He's a columnist for "Conservative Review" and a radio host.

Thank you both for being here.



BRIAN: Steve, I was inspired to talk about this because of something you wrote a few days ago. Spell it out for our viewers, your point about rhetoric and the consequences of rhetoric.

DEACE: Well, I think what's happened here, Brian, is we are creating a black market -- to borrow a phrase from the criminal enterprises. We're creating a black market on political discourse and debate because we sort of have a prohibition on the real stuff. Too much of what's on cable news, frankly, is pro-wrestling.

I've been told that when I'm prescreened to be on certain shows, we're actually looking for sides and not opinions, you know? So, someone has got to be the heel, someone has got to be the hero. I think we need more of what you guys did a few months with Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, debating the issue of health care substantively, taking questions from the audience.

I think we need to de-escalate making it personal, and I actually think we need to escalate more the ideological debate. I think the more we debate this ideologically and substantively, we make it about ideas and not about people, the more we will de-escalate the rhetoric, and stop incentivizing lunacy and evil that can manifest themselves in any value system or in any tribe.

STELTER: Isn't this one of those easier said than done, though, that there are business incentives for extreme left, extreme right wing talk?

DEACE: Well, I think there's a business incentive for an extreme everything talk. I mean, when I get off of here, I am sure, because this happens everywhere I go. I can't tell you, I've never made an appearance -- for example, on MSNBC where I was not told immediately, because I have certain belief systems as a conservative, I'm not entitled to rights.

We do this equally on both sides. We could sit here and play gotcha and race to the bottom on both sides.

I think we in the media, and I say we, not the media, because like I don't work in it, I work in it. I think we in the media, Brian, I think we need to try something different. And that is, instead of saying we're going to provide the lowest common denominator because that's what gets ratings or clicks, we should ask ourselves, you know what, do people ask for Cheez-it's at Vendo-land because we don't give them steak, we don't give real food?

Why don't we try giving them real food? Who knows? They might actually like it.

STELER: Here's what I wonder. Sally, let me ask you about this. It's an interesting sound bite from Kellyanne Conway a couple of days ago on FOX. She said this, saying that half the country -- half of Twitter would celebrate if she were shot. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: If I were shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement. This is the world we live in now.


STELTER: First of all, do you think that's true, that half of Twitter would celebrate someone's, you know, injury?

KOHN: I mean from the bottom of my heart and soul, I hope it's not true.

STELTER: I don't think it's true.

KOHN: Look, I think it is interesting and meaningful how when moments like what happened at the congressional baseball practice happen that people on all sides of the aisle come together and say, whoa, this is too far, this is too much.

Now, the question is, and I think this is to Kellyanne's point, why don't we do that before? Why don't we do that before shots are fired or before we cross the line? Why don't we realize, and I agree with Steve entirely, we have a hate problem in our country. We have a problem of dehumanizing, attacking, otherizing the other side far too much.

We can argue, we can disagree, we can do so in a civil way without demeaning and debasing our opponents. When it goes too far, we suddenly all go, whoa, wait a second. Why didn't that happen before in our minds?

I was really struck this week that Ted Nugent, of all people, said, and this is, by the way, to Ted's credit, I'm -- not a sense (ph) that I'd ever say, but to his credit, he said the hateful rhetoric has gone too far.

STELTER: He in the past had made comments about Obama.

[11:20:00] KOHN: This is a guy who said, you know, Hillary can suck on his machine gun and Obama is a, you know, a subhuman mongrel and suddenly he's worried about incivility of his rhetoric --

STELTER: Is that just because his party is winning right now?

KOHN: Or because someone from his party got hurt. I actually don't care why he's doing it, I'm glad he's doing it.

But it raises the question of what wasn't triggered in your mind when you were saying the sort of things that now that the consequences play out, you go, whoa. And I think that applies to musicians and certainly to those of us in the media and those of us who create a media environment that actually gives points and credit --


KOHN: -- the more angry, the more hateful, the more extreme your rhetoric is. That's a problem.

STELTER: There's that on the one hand. On the other hand, I -- the reason why I wonder that Kellyanne is really right that half the country would celebrate, I don't think we're as divided necessarily as it sometimes sounds on Facebook and Twitter. You see the worst of the worst hate on social media and sometimes on radio and TV shows.

I think if you got those folks in a real room in real life, it might not be so awful. And you've been interviewing, haven't you, you've been interviewing your trolls in real life?

KOHN: I am. So, I'm working on a book, stay tuned, spring 2018. And I have been interviewing a bunch of my Twitter trolls who are an interesting and decorous lot.

STELTER: In person?

KOHN: Mostly on the phone.

STELTER: But are they friendlier?

KOHN: They are friendlier in person, yes.


KOHN: So, that was the big shocker to me was people who -- you know, first of all, it was a surprise actually that there aren't that many bots, they're actually real people. And people who are saying things to me that I probably can't repeat on cable news, in person or over the phone are quite lovely and quite real and quite genuine.

So, it's interesting, it's not just, right? I think we get a particular slice of reality on Twitter and social media that people maybe go on there to say the most acrimonious or hateful things. But even those people in real life aren't that way. Of course the problem is, is Twitter is also real life. Social media is real life. This -- what we're doing here is real life.

And when we are hostile and aggressive and uncivil, it actually encourages people to then repeat that in face-to-face communications and, obviously, in hand-to-hand communications as well in ways that are really destructive.

STELTER: Let's take a look at what other CNN host Michael Smerconish said about yesterday. Steve, take a look and then I want to hear you react.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Media personalities who are rewarded for bombast, not substance. Their livelihoods depend on fomenting division, not diplomacy. So, don't go looking to them to lead. While we seek to rein in the extremists, we must be careful not to stymie legitimate inquiry and debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: Steve, he's saying a lot of what you were saying earlier. Do you think there really is soul searching going on among some of your colleagues in the radio business or in the commentary business?

DEACE: I hope so. I think maybe we don't truly understand how close we came as a culture to a point of no return. I mean, I think we almost had an Archduke Ferdinand Fort Sumter moment. I think we don't have any idea the Pandora's box that might have opened if Congressman Scalise's security detail was not there.

STELTER: You mean if multiple -- you mean if multiple senators or congressmen have been killed?

DEACE: Yes, if we had been pulling body bags out of there instead. I can't even imagine where we would go next.

But here's where maybe I might disagree with Michael Smerconish. I think bombast is OK. I think passion is good. But to what end?

Is it to just personally dehumanize and attack people or -- I'm sure if Sally and I sat down and did a world view test, we'd come out with results that are diametrically opposite and then we're like -- I've got to defeat that other piece in the arena of ideas and that's OK. There's nothing with that.

It's when it's become I hate you because of what you believe, or you're not Sally to me, you're some anti-American leftist.

KOHN: That's right.

DEACE: Or you're not Steve to me, you're some racist, misogynist homophobe, that's when it goes way, way too far, especially, Brian, and I want to make this point, too -- neither one of these political parties is worth us destroying each other over them. Neither one of them is worth it.

KOHN: That's for darn sure.

But, Steve, I also think -- it's fair to say, look, he's right. You know, you're exactly right, Steve. We can have heated conversations without attacking, demeaning, dehumanizing each other. We need to do that more. We need to do it more face to face and online. We need to think about people reading the things we write.

Think about our kids reading them, think about our kids repeating them, that's critical. And I also think, yes, Steve, and I probably disagree on a lot of things very, very passionately. Airing those in a substantive way is important.

There's probably about 80 percent, 85 percent of things we agree on. We don't spend a lot of time talking about those things because, of course -- and it's that nexus that is where we are as a media. We focus on the animosity and the acrimony, the disagreement and the dehumanization. That's what gets ratings.

That's as much the media's fault as it is our fault. That's also the stuff we click on, we turn on, we tune into, and we have to all be held accountable for doing something better.

[11:25:03] STELTER: Less crossfire, more cease-fire is what I hear from both of you.

Sally, Steve, thank you both.

Steve, happy Father's Day.

DEACE: Same to you. And do that princess thing at the Disneyworld castle with your daughter, Brian. I highly recommend it.

STELTER: I'm getting lots of advice today. Thank you.

KOHN: I agree.

STELTER: When we come back here on RELIABLE SOURCES, a current example of this issue of extremist rhetoric. It's Alex Jones being interviewed by NBC's Megyn Kelly. Yes, this is Alex Jones, even though he's wearing a mask, wearing paint. We're going to talk about the case for and against interviewing him right after this.



STELTER: Radio and Web host Alex Jones promotes conspiracy theories and foments hatred of media. He's been called a freak show and downright dangerous. So, should he be interviewed on a big network like NBC, and, if so, how?

Megyn Kelly taped an interview with Jones last week. And it's set to air on her NBC News magazine in just a few hours.

This is part of a preview from the network.


MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS: When you say parents faked their children's death, people get very angry.

ALEX JONES, HOST, "THE ALEX JONES SHOW": Yes. Well, that's -- oh, I know. But they don't get angry about the half-million dead Iraqis from the sanctions, or they don't get angry about the illegals pouring in.

KELLY: That's a dodge.

JONES: No, no, it's not a dodge. The media never covers all the evil wars it's promoted, all the big things.

KELLY: That doesn't excuse what you did and said about Newtown, and you know it.

JONES: Oh, but here's the difference. I looked at all the angles of Newtown, and I made my statements long before the media even picked up on it. (END VIDEO CLIP)


Some advertisers have told NBC they don't want to be anywhere near this show tonight. We know some families of the Sandy Hook victims have written letters to NBC, including from lawyers, saying, please don't air this.

And we know the NBC station in Connecticut near Newtown will not be airing the show.

Now, to make matters worse, Jones released part of his conversations with Kelly. He apparently was recording everything. At one point in the audio, Kelly promises to go easy and this won't be a gotcha piece, she's not out to get him.

So, has NBC gone about this all wrong?

Let's ask Charlie Warzel, a senior writer at BuzzFeed News who's been studying and writing about Jones for years, and Mo Ryan, a television critic at "Variety."

Mo, you say this segment should not air on NBC. Why?

MO RYAN, TV CRITIC, "VARIETY": Well, I think that covering people like Alex Jones is important. I should make that clear at the outset.

I think that the rise of these people who foment hate and spew lies is important to our culture. It's obviously tapping into something that's happening in America.

I just think the context in which this coverage takes place is really important. And if you were to tell me that NBC were doing an hour- long white paper, so to speak, or an hour-long documentary on of rise of this kind of disinformation media empires, I would say ,that's great. We should definitely take a hard look at that and what has brought it about and what has made it such a really scary part of the media landscape.

These are really important things to cover. And some people are doing a great job of getting out there and covering it.

I don't think giving Alex Jones 15 or 16 minutes to simply spin his views and to spin his media image is the way in which to attack this. And as I wrote the other day, Megyn Kelly has not proven herself to be the kind of dogged interviewer that would be able to make a meal of this. I just don't see it.

STELTER: That's interesting, that maybe she is not the right person to be in this position interviewing this conspiracy theorist.

Charlie, what do you say on that?

CHARLIE WARZEL, SENIOR WRITER, BUZZFEED NEWS: I think that, you know, there's a good case to be made that that's true, especially from what we have seen in the lead-up to all of this.


WARZEL: But I think that there's this sort of dangerous argument right now that there should be people on a list that can't be given a platform.

And I think that that is part of sort of an old media argument that sort of...


STELTER: Cover your ears, don't hear it, don't listen.

WARZEL: And suggests that the media are gatekeepers and sort of have to vet who people can see.

And I think that ignores the fact that Alex Jones has a huge platform and he is very influential. And there's this whole thing happening online and over his terrestrial radio stations that I -- we need to talk about as a country and normal people need to know about.

STELTER: That's exactly what Kelly and her boss, NBC News chairman Andy Lack, said to me a few days ago. They said, hey, terrorists and child molesters and serial killers have been interviewed on television. What's different about this, about this hate-monger, this conspiracy theorist?

I wonder if what is different, Charlie, is that the country feels very anxious right now, obviously very divided, as we have been talking about, and Alex Jones is a virus. There's maybe a fear of spreading that virus more fully on a big network like the National Broadcasting Company.

WARZEL: And I think that's sort of where Mo and I are kind of agreeing on our arguments, which is that there's a way to interview him, and there's a way to be just, you know, very intense and to really take him to task and to go at...

STELTER: And, hey, we don't know. We haven't seen the full interview yet.

WARZEL: Exactly.

STELTER: I suspect that if there had been that moment, that stunning moment, that NBC would have released it as a preview, but we don't know. We have to see the full interview.

WARZEL: Precisely.

And I think that, you know -- that part of the reason why they haven't sort of pushed back as much is maybe because that doesn't exist. And a lot of that leaked audio that Alex Jones has played on his Web site, Infowars, sort of suggests that this was going to be maybe a bit of a humanizing piece.

STELTER: At one point, she talked about people wanting to come away understanding him as a dad.

Now, this is embarrassing, obviously, for her that Alex Jones was taping the whole thing. I think NBC should have expected that. If you're going to go into a guy's office, and he's at war with you, and you don't think you're at war with him, he's going to win the war.


This is a guy who says CNN is ISIS. This is a guy who espouses sick hate against the media.

So I wonder, Mo, if there's an argument to be made that, you know, you have to be better prepared if you're going to go into an interview situation like that.

RYAN: I absolutely do.

I think that, you know, in court, they would call it something like a hostile witness. And the thing of it is, I agree with Charlie that this is a really important rise that we need to understand, but part of the rise, part -- many people in the media landscape now portray themselves as victims.

And, of course, that's been something in culture forever, for people to sort of stand up and say, everyone is after me, everyone is out to get me, and to blow up their profile that way.

But Alex Jones has been incredibly savvy about how he does this. And here's who wins by this interview airing. And, of course, at this point, NBC can't back out. It's too late for that.

But Alex Jones wanted more people to know who he is. Alex Jones wanted more attention from people who might pay for certain products that he sells. He is going to get what he wants out of this. He's going to also get to portray himself as the victim of these mainstream media sharks who were going after him and trying to discredit him.

So, really, honestly, from a P.R. standpoint, he has played the game brilliantly, NBC much less so. I think that the photo that was released of them, you know, her wearing sunglasses and hanging out...

STELTER: Right. Jones posted a picture of them hanging out, right.

Yes, I mean, I'm out of time here, but, Charlie, you have called this...

RYAN: It's just the whole framing of it.

STELTER: Yes. Sorry to interrupt you, Mo.

I was just going to say that this term, what do you call it, Charlie, the pro-Trump upside-down media?


STELTER: That's the term you have coined to me. We have to figure out ways to understand that universe, the Alex Jones universe. It's all in maybe how you do it.

Mo, Charlie, thank you very much for being here.

WARZEL: Thank you.

RYAN: Thanks.

STELTER: Up next, we're talking about a really interesting controversy in the halls of Congress this week. Some reporters were told they couldn't tape interviews anymore with senators in the hallways. Is this an example of restrictions on press access?

I will ask Senator Amy Klobuchar right after this.



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

You know, there was an interesting situation in the halls of Congress on Tuesday. Some reporters were told they weren't allowed to record anymore while trying to interview senators. Now, this was in the halls of Congress, where reporters have been working for years.

So, it was quickly reversed, but not before a Twitter eruption, reporters expressing concern about the matter, and some senators, including Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, speaking up, saying they were going to get to the bottom of it.

Now, at the moment, the rules are the same. Reporters are still allowed to do those interviews in the halls of Congress, but it created some concern, given Trump's anti-media attacks and a general climate of hostility toward the press.

Earlier, I asked Senator Amy Klobuchar about what happened and, going forward, if this is another example of restrictions on the media.


STELTER: Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, thank you, Brian. It's great to be on.

STELTER: Where did this come from, this issue of possible restrictions in the Senate hallways?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, it just literally came out of the blue.

For me, I found out about it from the reporters on Twitter. And from what I understand, a number of reporters were told that they couldn't use their TV cameras in the halls of the Senate office buildings, which is something that is very routine and common practice, unless they got permission from the Republican majority staff on the Rules Committee, of which I am the ranking Democrat, as well as the senator who would be interviewed.

And so, for me, I found out about it like a lot of the public did and a lot of the reporters did, without being consulted.

STELTER: Are some of your Republican colleagues afraid of questions?

KLOBUCHAR: I have no idea.

I'm not going to ascribe motives to them. What I do know was happening that day was that Attorney General Sessions was testifying. We know that there were a lot of questions about the expanding Russian investigation. We know that there were a lot of rumors about the health care bill being drafted behind closed doors.

And, suddenly, this happened. When I found out about it, I immediately called Senator Shelby, who's the chairman of the Rules Committee, and he assured me on the phone right away that he wouldn't make such a move without consulting me, which I appreciated.

Then, the policy was reversed and changed and things went back to normal, or abnormal, as we may say. But they went back to normal.


STELTER: Was this a one-off, or are you concerned more could be happening?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I hope not.

I think it was most likely -- he said that it was a staff inquiry and some kind of a misunderstanding, and I will take him at his word. But it was a really odd development. And I think what really got people concerned, the reporters there, including CNN reporters, what got them concerned is that there has, of course, been pushback at reporters at White House briefings and the president calling reporters names.

I am the daughter of a reporter, a longtime reporter, my dad. He's now 89. But, for years, he wrote for the AP. And then he wrote for the local Minneapolis paper about anything he wanted as a columnist and before that as a general reporter and then for a while in sports.

And so I believe that reporters have a job to do, and we are not always pleased about what they do, but you have to get to the bottom of things. And we need to have shared facts. And the only way we do that is with an independent media.

STELTER: There was a recent headline in McClatchy saying that some GOP candidates in the midterms are planning on making this an anti- media referendum. And, essentially, they will run against the press in 2018.

Of course, you're up for reelection next year as well. Do you expect the GOP to be doing that? Do you expect your rivals to be running against the media? KLOBUCHAR: You know, I don't know that. I know a lot of my

Republican colleagues, like Lindsey Graham or John McCain, who routinely -- Rand Paul -- they routinely talk to the media.

So I don't I don't think that will be a caucus strategy. And I know it has not been easy on a lot of the Republicans the past few months because of the unexpected nature of President Trump's announcements, but that is the world that we live in.

And I can't think of a more important time to be in the United States Senate. And unlike what the president has said, that it's a witch- hunt, I see it as a truth hunt when is comes to some of the investigations that are going on right now.

STELTER: Are the president's tweets distracting reporters from the health care overhaul? Is it being overshadowed by the Russia investigation and by the president's tweets about it?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I think that is going to be up to the media and actually up to some of us that work in government.


Our job is to make sure that our citizens know if something really big is happening. So, I will tell you right now something really big could happen if the Republicans choose to draft a bill behind closed doors with no input from, not just Democrats, but a lot of Republicans, like Susan Collins, who have publicly said that these hearings -- there should be hearings and things shouldn't be done behind closed doors.

The president, as direct as he is, when he said behind closed doors that that House bill was mean and that that got out, I thought that was pretty interesting. He didn't need a focus group, he didn't need a poll, but he came up with a word that probably best described it, mean.

And what we don't want to have in the Senate is son of mean or mean two without any input from those of us in the United States Senate that would like to make some changes that would be good for the American people.

STELTER: I rarely hear a Democrat saying President Trump was right about something.

KLOBUCHAR: There you go. I thought he picked a very apt word. And he does have a way with words, as we know. And this point, he got it right.

STELTER: Senator, thanks so much for being here.

KLOBUCHAR: It's great to be on. Thank you.


STELTER: We also asked Senator Shelby to come on the program today, since he's chairman of the Rules Committee, but he did not respond.

Well, for now, the status quo remains in effect in the hallways.

Up next here, Oliver Stone feeling the heat for his gentle, gentle treatment of Vladimir Putin. You're going to want to see what he told me right after this.



STELTER: Welcome back.

Russian President Vladimir Putin rarely grants interviews to Western media, so it was a big deal when Oliver Stone revealed that he had taped a dozen sit-downs with Putin for a four-part series on Showtime.

Now, many critics had a lot to say about the series, and many critical words, including CBS' Stephen Colbert.

So, I sat down with Oliver Stone and asked him about the reactions.

I don't think we have it for you quite yet. We will take a quick break here, get it fixed, and show it to you in just a moment.



STELTER: Now, as promised, Oliver Stone.


STELTER: Why do you think he doesn't grant more interviews to Western media?

OLIVER STONE, FILMMAKER: Well, he hasn't been well-treated in the West. I think you know that.

Most -- you know, often, when you read an article about Russia, they put the adjective or the adverb before he -- "Putin, trying to divide the alliance, said, "Putin, with his surly manner, did."

There's a tendency to package him, pre-criticize him. So, I think he's lost some of that spirit. I think he really wants to communicate. And I think you see it in the film. He repeats the need for dialogue to overcome these problems. And there are significant problems.

STELTER: Did you feel you needed to confront the Russian president about the allegations made by the U.S.?

STONE: Well, confront is a -- I'm asking him.

And, listen, I can't change his mind. I can show his mind. I can show the American people, allow them to hear it. Even if it's a denial and they don't want to hear that, they should, because he speaks in a certain way. And...

STELTER: So, even if he's lying, you're saying we can -- we can learn from the way that he lies?

STONE: Exactly. Well, yes, if you want to put it in those terms, absolutely. If you want to be a homicide policeman, yes, you can say, look at body language, yes.

And that's what I'm saying. You know, let him speak.

STELTER: I think many people are intrigued by your seeming sympathy for him, people here in...

STONE: Curiosity.

STELTER: Curiosity, not -- not sympathy?

STONE: I have been in Russia. The 1980s, I interviewed the dissidents who were fighting against the regime under the Brezhnev regime. I went back in the '90s. I got to know Gorbachev.

I -- I didn't see the sad, the sick side, the downside of the '90s, but -- with Yeltsin, but I returned with -- the Snowden story brought me to Moscow.

So, I have been there with different moods and feelings. And meeting Putin was a big step for me in trying to understand this demonized state. We have made it -- we have demonized Russia to a place where it's almost impossible to talk. Trump has been boxed in by this investigation. And it's a shame, because we need to talk.

STELTER: So, that is what you would like to see as an outcome from your series?

STONE: I would like to see detente of some kind or understanding.

STELTER: How do you feel about the Stephen Colberts, the other interviewers who have really questioned your interest in Putin, suggested maybe you're even producing propaganda for him?

STONE: Well, you can think that, but, unless you see the four hours, you don't understand it. And I -- Mr. Colbert did not see any of it when he made those comments.

STELTER: And he did admit that on the air, that he hadn't seen it yet.

STONE: Yes. Yes, so, I mean, what are we talking about? I don't even know why I'm there.

STELTER: So, you don't think interviewers should be -- should be doing interviews until they have actually seen the show?

STONE: They have not seen it, yes.


STELTER: What about the connections between your son and Russia Today? Some have pointed out that your son either does now or used to work for Russia Today.

What is that relationship?

STONE: He has been working for R.T. since six, seven years -- five, six years, way before this project was born.

I -- my son, I'm very proud of him. He's working there. He's also working in the film business. He's very interested in ideas. He does interviews with very good people who -- I don't sense any -- there's no connection there. He's not an agent, a Russian agent, or something like that.

STELTER: But it doesn't show bias, perhaps, on your part?

STONE: I make up my own mind before my son. I think my son has got his own ideas. He doesn't listen to me. That's for sure.

STELTER: Some American government officials have said Russia Today is a propaganda arm for Putin.

STONE: Well, if you watch, actually watch R.T., I think you would find a lot of interesting stuff. Their correspondents go into battle.

They see -- they get great footage. They actually do a lot of work. And I think they have been maligned by that investigation. You know, I think it's very, very helpful to understand both sides.


STELTER: Interesting.

Stone's Putin interviews are on demand now, if you want to watch, on Showtime.

That's all for this TV edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. Sign up for our newsletter at

And we will see you next week.