Return to Transcripts main page


White House Shake Ups and Meltdowns: The Week in Review; Trump's Criticism of Sessions Has Right-Wing Media Divided; The Role of "FOX and Friends"; How to Report Policy Announced Over Tweets; Alisyn Camerota's New Book Tackles Equality in News. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 30, 2017 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.

[11:00:01] 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.

And lately, the news feels like one long disturbing episode of political survivor starring President Trump. Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus are out. But for now, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Robert Mueller are all still in.

And the consensus on Sunday's political talk shows is that nothing will change. Even with new chief of staff, John Kelly, nothing will change unless the president changes.

If nothing else, Trump is a reliable source of news. Consider all of the stories that could have been our lead this hour. We could have led with the fallout from all of his Twitter attacks against his own attorney general, or the Boy Scouts expressing regret for his uncomfortable speech at the jamboree earlier this week, or the government's lack of answers after Trump's surprise tweets saying transgender shoulders will no longer be allowed to serve in any capacity, or what about the condemnations from police departments after he appeared to publicly endorse police brutality the other day, or the story that will take up entire chapters of Trump history books. That's the week's worth of GOP failures to repeal Obamacare.

All of those could be the lead, but right now, the biggest media story is new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. This time last week, he was the most visible man, but now he's invisible, except in the tabloids. Through tweets and interviews, Scaramucci basically confirmed all of those reports citing anonymous sources that said he had conflicts with Reince Priebus. Think about it, his own words confirmed all the sources.

And that profane rant to the "New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza will go down in infamy.

So, right now, it seems Scaramucci is trying to keep a lower profile, not doing any television interviews this weekend. But the bigger question is, how will this week go down in history? Here to talk about it all of it: Richard Wolffe, columnist for "The

Guardian U.S.", April Ryan, a CNN political analyst and White House correspondent, and also Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks. She's the author of "The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Four Presidents and Race in America" now updated in paperback. And also with us, Douglas Brinkley, a CNN presidential historian and is history professor at Rich University.

Great to see you all.

April, first to the Scaramucci question. A week ago, he pledged to plug the leaks. Then he seemed to imply that Reince Priebus was a leaker. Here's what Wolf Blitzer asked Priebus just a couple of hours after Priebus lost his job.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Are you the leaker in the White House?

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That's ridiculous. Wolf, come on. Give me a break. I'm not going to get into his accusations.

BLITZER: Why not? Why not respond to him?

PRIEBUS: Because I'm not going to, because it doesn't honor the president. I'm going to honor the president every --


STELTER: Scaramucci's leak hunt seems to be continuing. April, has he succeeded in plugging all the leaks?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, not at all. The question is, is it leakers or whistleblowers?


RYAN: You know, many of us, and we know one thing for sure, that there's a friendly adversarial relationship with the press office and also with senior administration officials, and sometimes they leak to us to give us information to let us know what's going on on a particular story, or how it's being worked up. But Scaramucci is going to have a hard time trying to put and, quote, plug the leak, because so many people are leaking, I guess to include Scaramucci.

STELTER: You know, it seems like this was the week we learned how the new communications director communicates. In one case, that was very profane in an interview with "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza.

I wonder, Richard Wolffe, to you, if we had a sort of unintentionally revealing movement between Scaramucci and CNN's Chris Cuomo. There was a moment during that 30-minute long phone call with Cuomo where Scaramucci said, there's some people in this administration that think their job to protect America from this president.


STELTER: That gets to April's point about whistleblowers.

WOLFFE: Right.

STELTER: What do you think was most revealing about all these Scaramucci interviews and quotes and shocking comments?

WOLFFE: Well, that "NEW DAY" interview was by far the most insightful thing. Yes, the "New Yorker" interview was shocking and stunning, but what he explained about the worldview about the camps, the infighting was exceptional. You know, this is the kind of thing that happens, you know, at bars after hours inside Washington.

To have him spill his guts on TV like that was incredible and, you know, it's unworkable for anyone senior in the White House, to think you can show up to work the next day and think anyone's going to trust each other.

STELTER: And now, Scaramucci seems to be taking a lower profile. That makes sense, I suppose --

WOLFFE: For now.

STELTER: He says he trusted Lizza and he made a mistake and he won't do it again.

WOLFFE: Yes. Look, this is a guy whose first big act was to fire an assistant press secretary and he leaked the news of it himself. This guy is after leakers, but he didn't tell the guy directly, he just told everyone else, the news leaked out, and the guy quit of his own accord.


WOLFFE: It's not news management. It's not even man management.

STELTER: To your point about leaking -- so, one of these explanations from Scaramucci about the Lizza interview was, oh, I thought we were off the record.

[11:05:00] That was one theory from maybe why Scaramucci was talking this way. If he thought he was off the record, that would make him a leaker, right?

WOLFFE: Right. And, look, Ryan Lizza is an experienced reporter. It's very clear from the postgame discussion that went on that there was some parts of it that were off the record and the rest of it was most definitely on. This is how he speaks.

And like I said, look at the CNN interview. What he was saying without the Anglo-Saxon words was just as damaging if not more so. Whose interest is he serving apart from Scaramucci's?

STELTER: To our historian for some contexts here. Douglas Brinkley, I find myself reaching for words, trying to figure out how to put a week like his in context. The banners on screen say things like White House in crisis. Anchors say things like chaos, trying to express just how extraordinary the situation is.

Help us out, how do you convey what's going on with the Trump White House?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's an utter disarray. And you can't really compartmentalize everything because it's all morphed together as Donald Trump unfit for command in my opinion. I mean, you could go and look at "Godfather" movies and --

STELTER: You said he's unfit -- let me be clear, you said he's unfit for command?

BRINKLEY: I think so. I think when you have a White House communications director that uses the kind of foul language that he does against fellow employees of the federal government and makes threats the way that he did, and that's supposed to be your solution to the United States as a way they're going to communicate with the world, it means Donald Trump picked the wrong person to be his communication director. He has a White House that's leaking like crazy, as just mentioned. There are people ready to whistle-blow. He thinks you can govern by chaos and it's not working.

It is true. He has this 36 percent of the American public backing him. That means over 60 percent of Americans think that he's doing a miserable job and the rest of the world is laughing. We have a crisis in North Korea and we're playing these reality TV, big time wrestling games, because Donald Trump was weaned and raised on television, and it's becoming a TV episodic president, where every day, you've got to say something sensational to make sure your name is on the headlines.

We had a problem with Nixon. If (ph) any president, this is like it's Nixon. If you listen to the Nixon Watergate tapes, the secret tapes, and you hear Nixon ramble, it sounds like Donald Trump's tweets and it didn't turn out well for Nixon.

STELTER: I was just Googling to make sure I have the facts right, Doug. Back in December, you went down to Mar-a-Lago and met with then-President-elect Trump, didn't you?


STELTER: Did you think things were going to work out this way?

BRINKLEY: You never know. You know, I don't do how things are going to work out. If you're a historian, you try to deal with kind of just deal with real events. There was this moment of hope that he might try to unite the country and do infrastructure, be really the third rail candidate, which he is in ways, not really a Republican. Republicans don't like Donald Trump.

STELTER: And he's drifting more in that direction, as being an independent of some sort.

BRINKLEY: Yes, except he's going independent in a kind of revolutionary way. It's sort of the Trump movement. You're either with me or against me. The key to Donald Trump is just this kind of blind fierce loyalty, and that's what Franco expected in Spain. That's what Mussolini wanted to do in Italy.

I mean, these are kind of ways if you're asking people to march in lock step with you and we saw John McCain give the big thumbs down to Donald Trump. No, we're not all in lock step with you.

So, what do you have, six months of a dysfunctional White House, nothing has gotten done, the biggest thing Congress got done was keeping and strengthening sanctions with Russia. But it's a failed agenda so far, and we'll have to see whether he's able to kind of get in a new form of leadership going with a White House chief of staff, but it's been a wreck so far.

STELTER: And journalists love a come back story. They love a story about a new change, a new chapter. I'll go in record here and predict that that thumbs down is going to become a symbol for anti-Trump Republicans. This is gong to become a sort of meme of some sort.

But, April, you said something interesting on television the other night on "CNN TONIGHT". You said, what we saw from Scaramucci, what we've seen on the president's Twitter feed, it's just -- it's just dribs and drabs of what's really going on behind the scenes. Are you basically saying it's so much worse than we actually know?

RYAN: Oh, yes, it's much worse. I used to hear things about how Reince was trying to rein people in. You know, there are so many people who feel very comfortable about oh, I have walk-in privileges. Oh, I don't have to answer to Reince, even though really technically, they're under his umbrella.

Reince had a hard time reining people in. And traditionally how it would go before, you would have the chief of staff who would deal with the day to day operations, and everyone else, to include the domestic policy adviser, NSC, all of these people, senior advisors, would come under the chief of staff to figure out the nuances, if they had any disagreements would work it out. If they had any differences in policy, they would all this markup, and then the chief of staff would look at it and then present it to the president.

[11:10:03] What you have now is everybody just running to the president, I don't like him, I don't like her. Did you hear this, did you hear that? It's just a hot mess from what I'm hearing. It's nothing that we have seen before.

And it would be very interesting, Brian, to see how General Kelly brings in the -- reins in the step. I mean, we even heard Kellyanne told people, stop calling the president by his first name. I mean, it's so far gone that they feel like he's like just a friend.

This is the leader of the free world. The office of the presidency holds -- is basically sacred in politics. And people are treating like it's every day is common.

But it will be interesting to see how the general reins this is in and then also to see Scaramucci on this side. Typically under a traditional structure, Scaramucci would come up under the general. So, I want to see how that dynamic plays.

STELTER: Right. Richard Wolffe, last word to you on this topic. We were listening all the stories, all the news events that happened this week. Is there an element of distraction here? That's always a question about President Trump, when he replaces Priebus, when he tweets about transgender policy, is there designed, the distraction going on?

WOLFFE: So, people have suggested that's the case. But I actually think it's more of a sign of the president being distracted.

This isn't an intentional play. There's no rhyme or reason to it. He announces the transgender and the change of policy there and the Pentagon doesn't know about it.

So, if there was something planned about this distraction, then it's not clear who's doing the planning and why nobody else knows.

I think this is a distracted president. He's watching TV all day and there's a live commentary of what he feels about his coverage. That seems to be his driving force about what he's doing most in office. The rest of it is random play.

Scaramucci's meltdown came because of the public disclosure of his public disclosure forms. There is no intent here. There is just a reactive, scattershot approach.

Yes, it takes our attention. It's fascinating for us to watch, and it distracts completely from anything like an agenda.

STELTER: Or the future of the country.

WOLFFE: Exactly.

STELTER: Richard, great to see you. Thank you for being here.

WOLFFE: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: April, Doug, thank you so much as well.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

RYAN: Thanks.

STELTER: Up next here, what is it that President Trump did this week that even had Rush Limbaugh sounding critical. We'll show you right after the break.

And later this hour, talking with David Zurawik about the one, the only, the "FOX and Friends".

Much more ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:16:41] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

Are some pro-Trump media voices slowly leaving the dance floor? Well, some alt-right boosters are just side-stepping this week's disappointing stories. Other previously staunch Trump boosting commentators are showing a willingness to change their tune, especially when it comes to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

For example, Rush Limbaugh calling out the president for tweet shaming Sessions, calling Sessions a stand up guy.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's also kind of -- you know, a little bit discomforting, unseemly for Trump to go after such a loyal supporter this way, especially since when Sessions made it obvious he's not going to resign.


STELTER: There's a fascinating thing happening, these conservative media divisions. Just hours after the Senate failed to repeal Obamacare, conservative media voices, outlets like Drudge, Breitbart, and FOX News, they weren't pointing at Trump and said they were really blaming a handful of GOP holdouts. But there are issues where we're seeing divisions, we're seeing examples of prominent voices expressing concerns about the president.

So, talking about that, whether there really is a rift here, our two guests who come at this in different perspectives. Jennifer Rubin, a writer of "Right Turn" blog for the "Washington Post" and John Phillips, a CNN political commentator and talk radio host who joins us from Politicon in Pasadena.

John, you were there. You were going to be interviewing Scaramucci on stage, but then he withdrew. Is that right?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. Bigger name line, too. He decided to stay in Washington, D.C. at the last minute, which is unfortunate because I had a lot of really fantastic questions for him.

STELTER: I bet you did. One question I have for you, John, someone who I think of as a pro-Trump voice, someone who tries to channel supporters of the president. Are you sensing from your radio callers, from your columnists in the paper some discontent from your audience? Are you trying to channel that?

PHILLIPS: Well, I don't think there's any big surprise as to what he's doing on Twitter. I don't think that he's being inconsistent with how he behaved as a candidate. I didn't think once he became president, he'd start tweeting out pictures of kittens and potted plants.

Twitter is a Festivus airing of the grievances for Donald Trump. He's continuing to do so.

Now, I do believe you're on to something with Sessions because Sessions is not just some guy that he hired, he's not just some random political person that he filled a slot with. Sessions is a guy that was with him from day one, and not just providing an endorsement, also giving him street cred. If you care about immigration, if you're a hawk on immigration, Jeff Sessions came out and said, I've been fighting this battle for years and years and years, this guy is not a flake, this guy is the real deal. If you care about immigration reform, and you want to make sure that Trump's policies are enacted, you need Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice.

So, I think a lot of people who took that endorsement, and who took that stamp of approval are now looking at this and saying, wait a minute, if Sessions goes, does that mean that Trump is going to flip on immigration? Does that mean Trump is going to evolve on that particular subject?

I think Rush is right. He should stay away from Jeff Sessions.

STELTER: Since this was a profane week, Jennifer, referring to Scaramucci in particular, you argued in a column earlier this week that Trump supporters who look the other way are enabling him. Let's put part of your column on screen. You said the Trump administration is a clown show, but it's the evangelicals who supplied the tent, red noses and the floppy shoes.

[11:20:04] Each day presents a new insult to the office of presidency and the repudiation of civilized behavior.

I know John may disagree with you on that. But you're point here as a conservative is very critical of President Trump, is that there's a lot of blame to go around. When you write these columns, do you think -- is there a difference in the reaction than there was, say, five or six months ago? Are you finding more conservatives starting to agree with you?

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, RIGHT TURN BLOG, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think there's a very small segment of the conservative base that is becoming alarmed. It's not the majority. He still has most of those people right in his corner. But I think there is a small segment that is beginning to wonder, that not only is this going to have bad ramifications for their agenda. John mentioned immigration. But that this is a chaos show, that what they thought they were going to get, which was a disrupter, is actually someone who has disrupted himself, and that this is not what they imagined would happen, that, in fact, not -- this has not been a distraction, this has not been a way to tease the media, this is who he is and has backfired spectacularly.

So, I think there's real concern as to whether we're now seeing just a snowball rolling downhill, that poor General Kelly is not really going to be able to bring too much rigor to the process, because he can't bring any rigor to Donald Trump. So, I think what you see is the beginnings of real deep concern and worry. I think until this week, there were still hope that they could get health care done. I think are people now wondering whether they're even going to get tax reform done. There is just chaos right now.

STELTER: Here's perhaps another example of beginnings of concern. Let me read to you, John. This is from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board over the weekend. Remember, Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, a conservative leaning editorial board, saying the following, at the end of the column: Trump has a soft spot for military men, so perhaps he'll listen more to Mr. Kelly. He better because on the present course, his presidency is careening toward a historic reputation where names like Jimmy Carter and Nixon reside.

When you hear that, John, when you hear the Nixon comparisons come up from "The Journal" editorial board, how do you react?

PHILLIPS: Well, I would say there is a big difference between "The Wall Street Journal" and FOX News. "The Wall Street Journal" never warmed up to Donald Trump in ways that say "FOX and Friends" or Sean Hannity on FOX News did. So, I do certainly think that there is a distinction there.

Look, I think that health care reform is something that he's going to have to go back to. They're going to have to be able to push this thing through. I don't think it's been a disaster that has been described in "The Wall Street Journal". The fact that he got Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, the fact that illegal immigration is falling off a cliff, the fact that the stock market is high are at all good signs.

He does need a major legislative victory. I thought that that might come up with health care. He came up one vote short. He needs to go back and do some arm twisting, do some deal making and get that vote through.

STELTER: Jennifer, does this all come down to what John McCain said earlier in the week, that it is about radio hosts, TV hosts and bloggers who will support the president sort of at all costs, who won't show the shades of gray that I think John was just referring to, as long as there are those voices that are so loud and vitriolic that the president feels he has the support?

RUBIN: Well, I think this is a -- sort of enabling relationship.

STELTER: Yes, that's -- yes.

RUBIN: Yes, they support him, but then he feeds the beast. So, I don't want to let him off the hook and say, well, if it weren't for the people out there in media land, then he'd behave more sanely. I think it's really a co-dependent relationship and is bad for the country.

I do think however that at least for now, General Kelly is not going to be able to fix the main problem and that is the president's inability to say on point, on message, coherent, day to day press for the issues he wants.

And frankly, going back to health care, that's going to create a huge rift all over again with the Republican Senate. They want no part of this anymore. They see this is a failure, and they are dying to get on to things like the budget, the debt ceiling. And if they don't deal with those issues, we're going to have another explosion, another calamity come in September when he reach the end of the fiscal year.

STELTER: A preview of the reality show to come. Jennifer, John, thank you. John, enjoy the conference.

PHILLIPS: Thank you very much.

STELTER: Coming up next here, my essay about President Trump and "FOX and Friends". With great power comes great -- you know, the end of the line. We'll be right back.


[11:28:49] STELTER: I believe in power, but I believe that responsibility should go with power. That was Theodore Roosevelt 99 years go.

Today, I'm repurposing it, as a message to the folks at "FOX and Friends". Time and time again, the pro-Trump program's irresponsible segments have misled the president, and in turn, the president has misled the public. How? Through tweets about the show that trigger news coverage.

Just yesterday, for example, the president used "FOX and Friends", a tweet from the show actually, to make the case that, quote, Russia was against Trump in the 2016 election.

All right. Cue, James Comey, this was months before he was fired testifying on Capitol Hill.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him. I think all three we were confident in at least as early as December.


STELTER: OK, hurt her, help him. So, the president continues to side with his media cheerleaders over the U.S. intelligence community.

Here's another example of the FOX feedback loop. This is really amazing. Back on July 19th, "The New York Times" published a column by TV critic James Poniewozik. He called "FOX and Friends", quote, an interactive magic mirror for Donald J. Trump, like a children show that makes the kids like they're the star. Quote, President Trump is the show's subject, its programmer, its publics, and its virtual fourth host.


A few days later, "The Times" and FOX got into a battle over another inaccurate segment that caused another inaccurate statement.

Maybe that's why FOX took out this pricey full-page ad in "The Times," quoting the one positive sentence from the critical column.

Steve Doocy showed it off on TV. Watch.


STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: This program, the program you're watching, is, according to "The New York Times," the most powerful TV show in America.

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you know why Steve? Because we have the best viewers.



STELTER: One viewer in particular, this one, President Trump, who must have been watching, because he tweeted later in the hour: "Wow. The failing 'New York Times' called 'FOX & Friends' the most powerful TV show in America."

Now, if you buy into that premise, then surely you agree that "FOX & Friends," with great power, also has great responsibility.

At this moment in time, when the president and his aides are regular guests, as well as viewers, these conservative talk show hosts may or may not consider themselves reporters, but they have an obligation to be careful like reporters, to be correct, to be fair, if not balanced.

That's always true, but I think there's even more pressure right now, when we all know the president's watching. And to be fair, this is not just applicable to "FOX & Friends," or just to FOX. The president watches this channel and MSNBC as well.

I used to joke that there should be a prime-time show here that's designed as a daily briefing, like, good evening, Mr. President, here's what happened today.

It's not that funny. If you're communicating with the leader of the free world through this box, then you have power, and thus great responsibility.

My question is, do the hosts of "FOX & Friends" think about that when they wake up in the morning?

David Zurawik is with me now. He's the media critic for "The Baltimore Sun."

He's thought a lot about this.

David, what you see at FOX is sort of a deeper embrace of the president, amid his falling approval ratings. You think this is a risky strategy, though, for the network in the long-term?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": I do. This is especially true at "FOX & Friends" and "Hannity." And I will tell you what. The strategy, from a business standpoint, it kind of makes sense. We're going to be the channel for everybody who voted for Donald Trump and is sticking with him, because the more outrageous, the more erratic, the more strange this White House gets, the tougher the coverage on those channels that are doing real journalism is going to be.

So, if you want to keep believing that your vote was not a bad vote if voted for him, that's the channel to go to. But, absolutely, the way he seems headed, this is going to end not just in embarrassment, but infamy.

And if you're the channel that goes down with that boat, it's going to really hard to salvage anything for your brand. It's a very risky strategy by FOX. It's a cynical strategy.

And I'll tell you what, Brian. I couldn't agree more with your editorial.

But I'll tell you FOX is -- in 2014, I went after "FOX & Friends" because they smeared Elijah Cummings, the congressman from Baltimore, from Maryland, who was a ranking member on the committee investigating -- on the IRS committee. Remember the whole controversy about whether the IRS had targeted conservative groups?

On "FOX & Friends," on Election Day -- on Tax Day in 2014, they said explosive new revelation. And they essentially said that Cummings fingered this group to the IRS, urged the IRS to go after them, even though there was evidence that they had been investigating this Texas conservative group six months before.


ZURAWIK: And when I wrote about that and when I called FOX up, their response was, it's an opinion show. It's not part of our hard journalism lineup, which, what is that? Bret Baier and Shep Smith. That's all that is left of hard journalism, if you want to say that .

STELTER: They would add a few others, but I take your point.


But that's their excuse. That's their response to this.

And, Brian, it isn't. Even if you're not doing hard journalism, especially on a news channel, you have a tremendous responsibility, because all of the shows help set the parameters of conversation in America, the civic conversation of American life.

And when you are as reckless and, in some ways even I would say dishonest as these guys, you're dangerous. And now that you have Trump and them doing this Twitter dance and feeding each other, it's even more dangerous.

(CROSSTALK) STELTER: I like that, Twitter dance.


STELTER: Let me ask you about maybe some good news from the Trump White House this week.

The press briefings, they are back on camera. Scaramucci said, we're allowing the networks to turn the cameras back on.


This is a positive step, is it not?

ZURAWIK: Well, Brian, it is.

I mean, in a serious vein, I'm glad the cameras are back. The good news is, the cameras are back. The bad news is, they're going to be focused on Scaramucci doing his peacock, rooster dance and saying all this crazy stuff. That's the bad news.


STELTER: Well, we will see.


ZURAWIK: We saw one. We saw his first one. You know, that was...

STELTER: Do you think that "The New York Times" was right to print Scaramucci's profane words on the front page?

What did "The Sun" do? I know a lot of papers, they used the bleeps or whatever. They put the stars to X-out the words. But "The New York Times" went ahead and published the actual words.

ZURAWIK: In some ways, with "The Times," listen, I think we do have -- legacy publications have not conventions, but expectations. Our audience has expectations that we have to honor. I really do.

On the other hand, I think "The Times" in some way sees itself with this president in a unique position. They were the first to go out there and call him a liar on page one.

And, at first, I was like, hey, be careful as you do this. Let's talk about it more. I think they have made a decision. And seeing the excesses of this presidency, I'm not sure any longer -- I'm not going to mince my words. I don't disagree with them.

I'm glad they showed. It isn't even the vulgarity. It's the attempt to assault us almost with -- that the Scaramucci guy is, the way he uses words to assault people, to debase them, just like Trump. I'm glad that "The Times" showed America the face. And let them hear the voice of this.

And God bless Ryan Lizza for what he did on this one. STELTER: David Zurawik, never a word-mincer. Thank you for being



ZURAWIK: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: More on this in our nightly newsletter, all the biggest media news delivered to you inbox every night. You can sign up right now. Go to on your phone. Look for the sign-up button. And the newsletter will be in your inbox tonight.

Coming up next here: When major policy is announced by the government in 140 characters, what is the right way to report on it?

We're going to look at how Trump's transgender ban announcement was covered throughout the media.



STELTER: This week's removal of Reince Priebus from the chief of staff role and President Trump's plan to ban transgender individuals from the military have one thing in common. They were both announced via Twitter, his famous Twitter account.

Of course, the tweets about this transgender ban seem to catch the Pentagon by surprise, members of the military caught off-guard by the news, and right now, it's unclear how this will be implemented.

Here to talk about all this with me is Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is a CNN military analyst and former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army. He joins me now from Orlando.

General, great to see you.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good to see you, Brian. Good to be with you.

STELTER: What do we do in these situations as journalists? What is your view as a military expert when the president of the United States tweets something that involves the military, involves the Pentagon and no one seems to know what it means or how it's going to be implemented? How should journalists approach a story like this?

HERTLING: Well, I think we all have to take a step back and say, holy smokes.

And that's exactly what I did when I saw the Twitter feed. It's on an alert on my phone too from the president. It was about 8:55 in the morning. I was thinking to myself, the chairman has a problem today, because he's probably been at work for a couple of hours at that point. He get this Twitter announcement. It hasn't come through the chain of command. It's not how things are normally done in the military. There's usually a whole lot of collaboration and coordination before major policy issues are decided.

It didn't happen that way. His boss was on vacation. The secretary of defense was on leave. So I'm sure the chairman pulled in his public affairs officer and his lawyer very quickly and then called Secretary Mattis and said, have you seen this? What do you know about this?

It's not a good way to start the day. So, yes, it doesn't conform with the way the military normally does business, especially when you're dealing with people who are deployed all over the world in terms of the numbers of transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the force.

And it's an unfair way to do business, quite frankly, Brian. It's not a good way to do it.

STELTER: Yes, this is a story that needed a lot of reporting, needed a lot of detail. And that did happen within hours, a lot of the information to the audience.

Let me put on screen a Twitter post you shared this week. I love your Twitter account. One of your tweets, you said: "As I have said many times, we have not yet at a crisis under this president. We will, and character will be important in addressing that crisis."

Here's the question. I think a lot of Trump skeptics or Trump critics would say, this is the crisis. We are in crisis. The president is the crisis. Do you agree? What do you think of that?

HERTLING: I think that's partly true.

I think the chaos that is going on that many of your previous guests have already talked about is surrounding us today. What I'm talking about is potentially an existential crisis, an attack on our country, a major terrorist attack, some kind of foreign power doing something that we don't like, where people have to be pulled together very quickly and find a way to counter it.

And that's what I was talking about in terms of character, because, at this point, it doesn't matter what the politics are. It doesn't matter who's going to win or lose or gain or maintain. It has to do with, how do we defend the American republic, how do we defend the American people?

And you have to put all those other silly things aside. And you can't be talking about it in a Twitter account. That's what concerns me.

STELTER: It's also it's easy to cover palace intrigue. It's hard to cover character and ethics. It's a harder thing to get addressed on television, isn't it?

HERTLING: It is. And this is something -- all prior to the election, it was something

that I used to talk about in terms of transformational leadership. It has to do with character, your presence and your intellect, your knowledge of how to -- it's how you build trust. It's how you develop your subordinates into a team.

And it's the techniques you use to take action. And, in my view, many of those things are lacking in this administration. And yet many of the Trump supporters continue to say, oh, he's the greatest thing going.

But, frankly, you don't see the action, and the character is not in full view. Let's put it that way.

STELTER: Great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.

HERTLING: Pleasure, Brian. Thank you.

STELTER: After the break, CNN's Alisyn Camerota out with a new novel that seems ripped from the headlines. I will ask her what is fact and what is fiction right after this.



STELTER: Alisyn Camerota says not all news is created equally.

In real life, she is the co-anchor of "NEW DAY" here at CNN. Now she is also a novelist, the author of a brand-new book titled "Amanda Wakes Up."

The fictional Amanda is Amanda Gallo, a young reporter who lands a dream job as a co-host of a cable news morning called "Wake Up USA" on the Fair News Network, whose motto is true and equal.

Is this Camerota's way of revealing what it was like to work at FOX News? Well, sort of.

Here's what she told me about "Amanda Wakes Up."


STELTER: Your character in the book struggles with how exactly to be fair to all sides, whether there always is an equal balance in certain stories.

What's an example of that in sort of the real CNN or FOX world?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": I remember a day that my old boss Roger Ailes called me into his office, as was often the case, and he said that I had looked uncomfortable during a segment.


And the segment was about Sarah Palin and I think probably death panels, because that's what was happening in 2012 when I was writing some of this.

And he said, "You looked uncomfortable."

And I said, "Well, did I say?"

And he said: "It didn't matter. I had the sound down. You looked uncomfortable."

STELTER: Interesting.

CAMEROTA: And I said, "Well, maybe I was uncomfortable," because I was uncomfortable with some of that conversation and whether or not it was really fact-based.

And he said something that really stuck with me and that I have channeled since then, and that's been actually helpful. He said: "It's good for journalists to be uncomfortable with their subject matter sometimes. If you're always comfortable with the story that you're telling and the way you're telling it, maybe you're not doing it right."

And, you know, Roger Ailes...

STELTER: I think he was right about that.

CAMEROTA: I do, too.

And the funny thing about Roger is that he was -- let's be clear. He was not a journalist. He was a TV wizard. But that advice did stick with me.

And you see in the book, Amanda, the character, is uncomfortable often. And what that teaches her is that she sort of has to be open- minded. Why is she uncomfortable with some subject matter?

And so that was good advice, actually, from Roger Ailes, and I have tried to channel that. You know, there are stories that we have to get outside of our own echo chambers and hear the other side. And Amanda struggles with that, and I certainly have tried to do that.

STELTER: You have spoken with me in the past about Ailes' sexual harassment, about him harassing you and other colleagues.

And I don't see that come across in the book, in this fictional world of morning TV. But you did have a line I wanted to quote. Your character at one point says: "The crazy part about our show, 'Wake Up,' is sometimes it's really fun, and, sometimes, it's really toxic. That's quite a hybrid. It's almost like we should invent a new word for our brand of news that combines fun with toxic."

And the word your character suggests is foxic, which, again, made me think of FOX. I wondered if that's what it was like for you at "FOX & Friends." It was fun, but also toxic?

CAMEROTA: That passage you happen to have pulled, it was a real conversation that I had, I mean, not verbatim, but with a woman who is on the air, a dear friend of mine.

And she and I met for lunch, and I was frustrated one day during these years when I wrote it, because I did feel that way, that the show that I was on, there was a lot that was great about it. It was really spontaneous. Live TV at its best is spontaneous and fun and unpredictable and you never know what's going to happen.

But I also thought -- as I said, I wrote much of this during the 2012 election -- that it unnecessarily stoked outrage.

STELTER: Yes, just to tick people off, to make the viewers angry?

CAMEROTA: I guess, or that took a really myopic view of, say, President Obama or the current administration, only saw them one way through a sort of outrageous lens.

And I thought that there was a way to be a little bit more open-minded about seeing everything. And I still feel this way, by the way. Again, I channel that experience even today, and I always try to say, well, what would the other side say?

In fact, there's more than just two sides. Sometimes, there's many sides. And so any time you think that you have such, you know, righteous indignation about something, it wouldn't hurt to look at it from the other side.

STELTER: There are many totally fictional aspects of your book that are just you having fun writing a novel, but there are some elements about it that are very real.

Twitter, for example, all the attacks, you write about that your character's getting on Twitter. You recently quit the social network entirely. Why?

CAMEROTA: OK, another thing -- I'm glad you're bringing this up -- that I want to point out. Not everything in this book is real, but the two things that you fastened on are, the tweets and the Facebook posts.

STELTER: All the trolling that your character's getting, all the hate, the trash on Twitter.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that the character Amanda Gallo gets in here, those are real. I took those...

STELTER: The actual posts?

CAMEROTA: Those are actual posts.

STELTER: I didn't know that.

CAMEROTA: Those are real.

And the reason I wanted to put real posts in there is because they're so outrageous when you read it, you think that I'm ginning it up or you think that I made it up. And I want people to know that this is the kind of language and

vitriol that we actually get. So, in real life, I decided, enough is enough.

STELTER: So you're stronger than the fictional Amanda, who kept looking at all the nasty comments.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, it took me years. I mean, give her a break. She's only 29.


CAMEROTA: But, yes, at some point, enough is enough.

And, obviously, that's another theme in "Amanda Wakes Up," which is, what is the line? What is the line for all of us, for everyone in the workplace, for women in the workplace? When do you say, enough is enough?

STELTER: For journalists who read the book, what are you trying to tell them about journalism?


CAMEROTA: What I want people to understand is that not all news is created equal.

And we are in a climate where you do have to be careful of your news source. And there are still rules that apply to real journalism. And we abide by those rules. But not all Web sites and not all blogs and not even all TV stations do.

And there are rules, and I think that they are important. I think it's time for a refresher course for everybody. Amanda struggles with it, as you will see when you read the book, about what the rules should be.

And I'm happy to be a part of that conversation, because, you know, I'm proud of what we try to do here every day.

STELTER: And the book is called "Amanda Wakes Up." It's out this Tuesday, right?


STELTER: On sale now.

Thanks for watching today.

We will see you right back here next week.