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Houston Mayor Gives Update On Catastrophic Flooding; Texas Residents Trapped By Catastrophic Flooding. Aired 11-12p ET
Aired August 27, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON: Let me remind people between now until the storm has clearly passed. Please, do not get on the road.
Do not get on the road. Even if there is a law today. Don't assume that this storm is over. And the last one we all should have learned from
yesterday, rain that morning, it stopped for several hours, it started again just before evening time. We had more rain last night from 7:30 all
the way up then we had -- then the first part of the day.
And it became very difficult to get out there to try to rescue people so a lot of were calling because they got stranded. The best way to keep from
being stranded is to stay off the streets, to stay home. And I'm going to encourage people unless water is just coming into your home and it's just
totally unsafe, I'm going to encourage to stay at home. Now, if you're getting water, OK, but it's not life-threatening, I know no one wants water
in their home, but if you're getting water and it's not life-threatening I'm going to ask that you simply stay put, do not get on the roadway, do
not try to go someplace if you don't know how to get there, just stay put, that's what I would ask you to do.
We need you to help us because what is -- what is happening now is that there are lot of calls coming into 91 -- 911 and many of them are not life-
threatening. There are calls where -- you know, I understand the inconvenience but they're not life-threatening. At the same time there are
many calls that are coming in that are life-threatening and our first respond is need to attend them.
STELTER: I'm Brian Stelter and you're watching special CNN live coverage of tropical storm Harvey. We've been listening to a press conference from
the mayor of Houston. This is one of the biggest rainmakers Texas has ever seen and this is just the second day essentially of a multiday crisis.
Houston is the fourth biggest city in the United States and right now it is under a flashflood emergency.
The National Weather Service in South Texas is using unprecedented language saying here that catastrophic flooding in the Houston metro area is
expected to worsen and could become historic. Millions of people throughout South Texas from Houston down to Galveston and many points in
between are being urge to shelter in place because the folks who are not doing that you can see here are stock in some of the flashflood waters.
We're getting pictures in, we're getting statements from local authorities bringing all of that to you in the next few minutes here. People are
trapped in some places in or around Houston, rivers are still on the rise and we heard the mayor just now say the flooding has occurred all over. He
says more resources are coming in to try to deal with this, but keep in mind that it's still raining, in some cases it's still raining very heavily
and this will continue for many hours and days to come, so the mayor is saying 40 more boats are coming in to assist.
We know the U.S. coast guard has at least five helicopters up in the air, they are also asking for more resources. And a media note here, one of the
television stations in Houston, the CBS affiliate KHOU has had to evacuate. You can see this video from (INAUDIBLE) earlier this morning at KHOU, flood
waters from the nearby bayou have come over into this station. Now, KHOU has dealt with flood waters before but not to this extent. The station has
now had to evacuate.
We will try to show you the live picture from KHOU as we get them in. Essentially what's happened is one reporter in the field has taken over
while the rest of the staff actually evacuates this building and moves to higher ground. We are seeing other evacuations in Houston as well in many
parts of the city, many parts of the metro area. I keep in mind, many millions of people live in and around Houston and we are seeing flooding to
the north and especially to the south, neighborhoods like Pasadena, Dear Park, La Port out to the -- out to the Gulf, further south to League City
to Dickinson, reports of people trapped in their homes and all of these parts of South Texas.
We're also seeing that in the southwest parts of the Houston metro area, neighborhood that are also inundated. There are reports of people move
into their attics. Local officials have said, don't do that unless you have an axe. Better to go on your roof and wait for help there. We're
getting more pictures in and more video in. Let's begin with Rosa Flores, CNN's correspondent in Houston right now who has had multiple times to move
to higher ground. Rosa, where are you? What do you see now?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're the historic part of Downtown Houston and Brian, earlier today we were doing our live shots from
that intersection where you see that red traffic light and right now you can see that it is completely submerged in water. We were actually
standing and parked right next to the railing that next to this building, that house, The Spaghetti Warehouse and as you can see now it's a raging
river moving towards the Gulf of Mexico and a pretty good clip.
[11:05:08] Now, I want to pan the camera over a little bit so you can see how this water is testing the infrastructure. Take a look at the cracks
that are on the side of this building, it appears to be buckling. We've been monitoring this for the past hour, so it hasn't opened much wider than
it is right now as you see it, but initially we could definitely see those gaps widening. Now, what you're looking at right now is actually a parking
lot underneath all of this water then it -- it's a hill that rolls down to the banks of Buffalo Bayou, but right now all you see is a raging river.
Yesterday, Brian, we were actually doing live shots at the bottom of those trees, now I can only show you the treetops, that's how much water has
inundated here. Now, normally, you would see Buffalo Bayou rolling through, waving through entering Downtown Houston, there is a running path,
people are usually running, walking their dogs, not the case right now. There is just so much water and it's still raining, it's still pounding.
You were mentoring -- mentioning HOU, I work for that station before joining CNN. It's just by Allen Parkway. Buffalo Bayou which is this
bayou that you see behind me except that it's completely overflowed now flows through that area, through Allen Parkway where that station is and,
you know, I'm glad that our colleagues there are taking shelter, going to higher ground, but you can see, Brian how this water has turned into raging
rivers. The streets in downtown like you said turned into raging rivers in these particular areas. If look closely you can see the street signs are
submerged in water, that's how much water has accumulated and of course the concern is that there is still more rain coming. Brian?
STELTER: Possibly a couple of more feed of rain. Briefly, Rosa, what is the beeping sound on the background? Are those car alarms or something?
FLORES: You know, we've been hearing -- I believe it's an alarm for a building that's over here to my right. I wish could walk over and run and
show you but we've been hearing these alarms as these buildings are being submerged by water, because like I was mentioning, this is literally
probably about, I would say maybe 25, 30 feet below, or deep I should say. It's a parking lot that kind of rolls down and there's a hill that rolls
down into the banks of Buffalo Bayou that right now of course you can't see because of just the monumentous amount of water that has accumulated here
and it is rushing towards.
It appears like towards the Gulf of Mexico which what it's supposed to do, Brian but of course right now the infrastructure here being tested. There
are bayous that (INAUDIBLE) through the city that serve as a drainage for the city and normally, it does work, but when you have a combination of
continuous rain and this water not stopping from all over the city, coming through these bayous that (INAUDIBLE) through Downtown Houston you can see
that the infrastructure is being tested and right now tested. It's a difficult test to path because there are -- it's just so much water
accumulated already. The ground, is saturated and we're getting more water right now. Brian?
STELTER: Rosa, thank you very much, we'll try to stay with your pictures while we bring in the managing editor for the Houston Chronicle, Vernon
Loeb. Vernon, I've been by your (INAUDIBLE) before, are you on high enough ground there at the Chronicle? And how are you all trying to cover the
VERNON LOEB, MANAGING EDITOR, HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Yes, we're on the fourth floor, so we got a ways to go before we're in jeopardy but I'm looking out
our windows and I can see the highway exit roads are rapidly disappearing underwater. It's almost nobody on the highways. Our parking lots pretty
much gone and it's raining really hard.
STELTER: We were just showing the cover of this morning's Chronicle basically caught up into the destruction on the quotes. This cover
focusing on Rockport and other communities that were -- that were mostly affected by the winds when Hurricane Harvey came ashore Friday night, but
now, here are the big story is flooding. And this was forecast, you all have days to prepare so I wonder what you're doing in the news
underprepared. You staffers are -- that are spending the night, spending the next few days there.
LOEB: You know, we have the entire editorial staff activated. Most people cannot get into the newsroom, we've got a scale include in the newsroom.
Every -- most everybody else is editing from home or from wherever they are, directing their kids. I got one editor in (INAUDIBLE) Mexico in a
Starbucks directing her team and I told her, you can do as much from Tahoe since you can from Houston right now, so, you know, open up your laptop and
[11:10:05] STELTER: And Vernon, how is this compared to other floods, the (INAUDIBLE) flood there, other recent floods in Houston?
LOEB: This has gone way beyond the two one in a hundred year floods we've had in the last four years and as I say this is nowhere near completed.
It's raining really hard. The skies are really dark and, you know, they're forecasting for four days of rain. So where this goes I have no idea.
STELTER: Vernon, thank you very much for calling in. Let's check on the radar. Let's go to Allison Chinchar in the CNN Weather Center who can show
us why this is happening. Allison, this heavy spans of rain just still sitting on Houston right now?
ALISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLIGIST: Well, yes and no, Brian. So the first round is starting to exit out and you can see that here. Follow the purple
color and you see it kind of around Houston and it begins to push off to the east but then you notice it's starting to what we call backfill,
meaning more rain and it's coming back into those areas where the original cluster of rain has begun to exit. And that's where the problem lies
because some of these areas just keep getting rain over the same spots over and over again in addition to the flooding threat.
We also still have tornado warnings active at this very moment and a tornado watch that's in effect for regions of both Louisiana and Texas
through the afternoon hours today. That's going to be something people are still going to have to deal wind. So keep that in mind, if you get a break
in the rain, you want to go outside or maybe the rain starts to lighten up per se, please still be careful if you go outside because there could be
other severe storms in the general vicinity looking at some of the rainfall totals that have already occurred. Dayton, Texas over 27 inches of rain.
We're looking at Dixie Farm area, 26 inches of rain.
This is just a few of the areas that have already picked up over 20 inches of rain. The one sort of good news is that we are going to finally start
to see this thing move, not so much in the short-term but in the long-term. This is where we expect it to be by Friday. Technically that's still in
Texas, but at least we're going to start to see movement. The concerning part is what it does in the short-term because as of now it actually looks
like it's going to back out over open water before making another landfall back over areas of Houston.
The question is, when it goes back out over open water, does it have the ability to intensify any before coming back? That is the big question that
we have right now. In the short-term here is what we expect the radar to look like as we go through the day. So again notice, more yellows,
oranges, and red indicating those torrential down course over the same spot namely Houston, Lake Charles, Galveston, even Alexandria, Louisiana looking
at incredibly heavy rain to come down.
Some areas further west, we've talking about Corpus Christi and Victoria that it had a slight low today. The rain is going to come back in your
area. And overall, Brian, the key thing to note is we've talked about all the areas that had already 20 inches of rain. We are still forecasting in
additional up to 20 inches of rain that has yet to fall. So that's going to be the big concern going forward for a lot of these folks. Brian, we've
been talking about these other people, you hear the warning, this is potentially a historic storm, things like that. You have to keep in mind,
this is not over and we're not anywhere near over for at least the next three to five days.
STELTER: And we have to be sensitive about comparisons of Katrina because of the deaths of Katrina were due to the man-made disaster of (INAUDIBLE)
being tapped and being broken into pieces, but the similar to Katrina that I see so far, Allison are the number of people that are having to leave
their homes in that one TV station or to be evacuated. The last time I saw that happen in an emergency was during Hurricane Katrina. Do you think
there are any other similarities, anything else we should be aware of or any first differences?
CHINCHAR: Well, the first thing...
CHINCHAR: Yes, the first thing that comes to mind to me, the people on their roofs, the people where their homes are still flooded, the only place
they can go is the roof of their home. I remember seeing helicopter video of Katrina, you just see house after house people just sitting there
waving, hoping to be rescued, you're starting to see stuff like that and now out in similar areas around Houston. Again, the big difference with
this surge post such a huge factor with Katrina. I think the bigger concern for Houston is the marathon if you will call it that where this
storm is literally going to sit for seven days and dump rain. That's going to be a big concern for Houston.
STELTER: And we don't have the big pictures right now because there's not choppers up in the air, news choppers but there are people on their roofs
right now in South Texas trying to be rescued. Allison, thank you very much for the update, we've heard from the Houston mayor just a few minutes
ago, Sylvester Turner saying, there's been more than 2,000 calls for rescues but it's actually a lot more than that, it's just that 911 has been
The Mayor of Houston saying, only call 911 if your life is in immediate danger. There is also a several emergency warning from the National
Weather Service saying, people escaping flood waters, do not go to the attic. As Allison was saying you're supposed to go to your roof. I guess
you might not be able to escape the attic if the attic begins the flood. Again, citizens being urged to call 911 and stay on the line until someone
answers, but this is a major emergency in south Texas there are people stranded as we speak and unfortunately, we'll continue worsen as the rain
continues to pour.
[11:20:27] Up next here on CNN Reliable Sources and the week's biggest media stories, taking a break here and when we come back, President Trump
calling journalists and say people who don't like our country. Some of those journalists now brave in the flood waters in Texas. We'll talk about
his tweets whether the press is properly balancing all of the things he is tweeting about. And later, Steve Bannon back at the helm of Breitbart
News. What can we discern from the headlines on Breitbart? What's Bannon using as right wing echo chamber for? We'll be right back here on CNN.
STELTER: Hey, welcome back to Reliable Sources, we're staying on top of the rescue efforts underway in Houston and throughout South Texas. We will
continue to follow that throughout the hour and all day here on CNN. President Trump also tweeting about the situation in Texas for tropical
storm Harvey, repeatedly posting about it on Twitter in the past few hours. In one of his messages he said, "I will be going to Texas as soon as that
trip can be made without causing disruption
The focus must be life and safety." But the president's focus seems to be divided. If you look at what else he has been posting about, what else
he's been sharing he is also, well, promoting Sheriff David Clarke's book. Clarke, regular on Fox News perhaps a fan -- definitely a fan of the
president and also the president also a fan of his. Trump also talked about his Wednesday event to promote tax reform that is holding in
He wrote, "I won there by lot in 2016 (INAUDIBLE) is supposed to big tax cuts. Republicans are going to win." he says in Missouri. Now, the
president is also tweeting about NAFTA and the wall, here is the tweet saying, "With Mexico being one of the highest crime Nations in the world,
we must have the wall. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other." Now, we've seen the president repeatedly almost hijacking the news cycle in
recent days with most notably on Friday evening.
Think back to the newest dumps as they were described on Friday evening. As Category 4 Hurricane Harvey was literally making landfall near Rockport,
Texas. You can think about the announcement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's pardon but also Sebastian Gorka's resignation/firing (INAUDIBLE) would happen but
it seems like a firing, that happened on Friday night. The president also issued the -- a directive about his transgender ban effect in the military.
A lot of news on Friday evening as this Hurricane was bearing down. So how should the press balance all these news stories, how should we react when
the president is tweeting so many things at once? Let's try to talk through it with an expert of panel of decision makers. I'm joined right
now by Lydia Polgreen, the editor in chief of HuffPost. Joanne Lipman, she's the editor in chief of USA Today, and the chief content officer for -
- I'm blanking on the name, remind me.
JOANNE LIPMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, USA TODAY: Gannett.
STELTER: Gannett. Gannett, of course. Running all the papers in the Gannett Empire and joining us remotely as Jeff Greenfield, long-time
political analyst, veteran of CBS, CNN, and other networks. Great to have you all here. I wonder first for you, Joan, you're directing the coverage
in so many newsrooms including in Corpus Christi which is dealing with the aftermath of Harvey. When you have President Trump tweeting about so many
topics do you think journalists are the ones heading the agenda or is the president increasingly setting the agenda, maybe too much?
LIPMAN: So the job for us as journalist obviously is to report on the news and to separate what is news from what is just chatter, right? So with USA
Today Network, that's USA Today is the flagship and we have a 109 local news organizations like the Detroit Free Press and the Cincinnati Inquirer
and the Arizona Republic. So what we're able to do is to really focus on the news where it counts.
So for example on Friday Night Corpus Christi which we own was all over leading our coverage of the hurricane, we own the Arizona Republic which
has had a long relationship with Sheriff Apaio and was actually with him on Friday and able to report on that. And so, we're able to sort of shoes the
news that actually count and it really it our job as journalist not to get distracted by shiny objects and really to focus on what's important.
SHELTER: Is that, Lydia what the president's tweets are sometimes, shiny objects?
LYDIA POLGREEN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, HUFFPOST: You know, earlier today on Fox News Sunday, Rex Tillerson said that effectively the president speaks only
for himself, that he doesn't speak for the country. And when I heard that -- when I saw that clip a penny dropped for me because I think about the
events of the past couple of weeks where you had a president essentially declined to show and kind of moral leadership in the wake of
Charlottesville. A president who is tweeting about this storm as if it was a reality show that was unfolding. Wow, exclamation point.
STELTER: Do you think that's what he is doing?
POLGREEN: I mean, his tweets seemed totally completely outside of what you would expect from a president dealing with a disaster. Now, look, you
know, during Katrina we had someone who ran the Arabian Horse Association running FEMA, Michael Brown, that, you know, Brock Long, the current FEMA
Director is I think a very well-respected and highly qualified professional running FEMA, but I think it seems to me that the president is not really
defining the news cycle, he's just outside of it.
[11:25:06] What's actually happening, he is not really speaking to. And you heard his own secretary of state essentially saying that he doesn't
speak for the country.
STELTER: All right. That was in the context of Charlottesville and the aftermath of Charlottesville. Does the president speak about race on
behalf of the entire country? And then the quote was, "The president speaks for himself." So do you say that's a pretty big story that
Tillerson commenting on the president not representing the United States?
POLGREEN: I think it's a huge story and I think that it's a reflection of the fact that the president has in many ways abdicated leadership. I mean,
moral leadership is a key part of the presidency and he has essentially said and he -- and his quote was, I'm not going to put anybody on a moral
plane. What is the presidency if not that?
STELTER: Jeff, some journalists are going to be guilty of, you know, the situation where they had -- they criticize the president no matter what.
You know, no matter what he does journalist can't be satisfied, that's what the president said two weeks ago, almost two weeks ago when he was, you
know, being lambasted for his response to Charlottesville, now, he is tweeting all lot about the hurricane, he is also posting about NAFTA and
about David Clarke's book and about all these other matters. Is this a situation where journalists maybe are going to be too critical of the
president at a moment where it's not simply appropriate?
JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: I would put it in a broader context which in a way is almost like Groundhog Day because ewe keep saying the
same thing again and again. This is simply not normal. We wouldn't be talking about any other president's tweets because no other president
would've been tweeting in the middle of a natural disaster like what's going on down in Texas. I do think that there are among some of Trump's
biggest critics on the instinct to say he is wrong, but part of that comes from the Fed that every time you look up there's a head-snapping event.
I mean, the idea of tweeting about how much you want to stay by in the middle of this, you know, natural disaster, it wouldn't been unthinkable
with any other president and it's in that context that I also think the point about distraction is important. I think one of the things I would
fall particularly the cable night works with is that every time Trump makes news and it is news. It's another way of not focusing on what is going on
in the country and the kinds of changes this administration is making from the courts to consumer protection to the environment.
I think those stories persistently have been undercovered because it's so much more interesting to focus on the really bizarre way that Trump is
handling the presidency.
STELTER: Joanne, Lydia, Jeff, please all stick around. Quick break here because I want to ask all about the president's -- one of his worst media
attacks yet. We haven't heard language like this from any past president. (INAUDIBLE) journalist sick people who don't like our country. Reactions
from the panel right after this.
[11:32:15] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: So much has happened in the past week, President Trump announcing a more troops to
Afghanistan, honing a primetime speech about it. But then the next, he went Phoenix and held that unforgettable rally with poisonous words about
the news media. Look, we've heard him attack the press at every rally, this was hate as president, but the words of this rally were the harshest
yet. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, REPUBLICAN:The are sick people, these are really, really dishonest people, and they're bad people,
and I really think they don't like our country, I really be that. If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further
than the fake news and crooked media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Back with me now, Joanne Lipmanthe editor-in-chiefUSA Today and the chief content officer for Gannett. And Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief
of Huffpost, and longtime political analyst, Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, I don't think of these words as poison, meaning like they're like a slow
acting poison, a gradual hurting the country by causing more and more distrust for the media. We all know distrust has been very high for a long
time, but it's getting even worst, do you agree with me that it's kind of poison when the president talks this way?
JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it is quite deliberate tactic and one that he's been using for the time he ran for president. And that
is to inoculate his supporters against believing whatever is said about Donald Trump in the mainstream press. And the idea is -- and he said it in
so many words, whatever you hear from those source, you're at CNN or the New York Times, or ABC, don't believe it. And I don't think it takes a
(INAUDIBLE) little mind to understand the strategy.
So the next time of news outlet comes out with a story that puts Donald Trump in a very bad light, I think the idea is his core supporters will
have been taught to say, fake news, don't believe it. The idea that the press doesn't love our country, you know, I don't know how many reporters
have died covering wars, trying to bring stories to the attention of the people, you can say that the press is elitist, you can say that we make a
lot of mistakes, you can say that we're biased. But the idea that where sick people who don't love our country, is at a level that exceeds anything
I could remember in discourse with the President of the United States running close to it.
JOANNE LIPMAN, THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEFUSA TODAY: Yeah, I've kind of point out the deep irony here, right? So, just hours after he made those remarks, we
had a hurricane category four making landfall in Corpus Christy, Texas, where we own the Corpus Christy Caller-Times.
LIPMAN: Our reporters, everything single person in that news room while the rest of the city's being evacuated and to higher ground.
LIPMAN: Was going into danger to cover danger, to cover it, to bring this to the rest of world. They're leading coverage.
STELTER:And once your team had to go into an inside room, away from the windows on a fear the windows will be shattered?
LIPMAN: They did, they -- their homes were all at risk, they stayed.
STELTER: But President Trump's not talking about them, right? He's talking about me, he's talking you, he's talking about the leaders in
newsrooms, of the anchors on CNN that he doesn't like.
LIPMAN: The point is, I think there's just a deep irony and to think that reporters who are the ones who put themselves in danger's way are the ones
who are at fault here somehow. I mean, we also own the paper in Guam which is 14 minutes away from nuclear destruction, what happened when North Korea
made that threat, this small newspaper in Guam, every single person there was activated, standing out across that island, they weren't running away.
STELTER: Lydia, how close -- left in your own reputation, we are about to go on a bus tour to listen to the whole of the country. Now, are you
trying to change that?
LYDIA POLGREEN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF HUFFPOST: Change to a less leading reputation?
STELTER: Yes, trying to -- trying to gain trust by trying to appeal to the mass of the country?
POLGREEN: I would say that we have a progressive reputation and I think that left and right or frankly not very useful descriptors, meaning what?
STELTER: Here's why I bring it up, let me -- let me show that recent (INAUDIBLE) this just came out a few days ago, and the data is remarkable
in the -- and the division we see in the county, if you ask people to choose between Trump and the media, which is a obviously a false choice,
but if you ask them, who do you trust, Trump or the media? Most Americans say the news media. But if you look at democrats versus the republicans,
you see these dramatic split. The vast majority of republicans trust in Trump, the vast majority of democrats trust in the news media. That's why
I bring up the left right division?
POLGREEN: No, I thin -- I think that's fair, I actually that -- I think that Joanne's point, it's kind of ironic that in a moment of disaster like
this that you have reporters from -- it's not Sean Hannity, it's not Breitbart that's out there covering, you know, the destruction Houston and
Corpus Christy, or in Guam for that matter. It's actually their colleagues of the local Fox News affiliates who are actually in harm's way doing the
For us at Huffpost, I think that we have a really, really big task ahead of us which is essentially to try and reengage with the country in a
fundamentally different than the national news media has in the past. And the reason that we're doing this bus stories that we feel that by
partnering with local news organizations that are on the ground, in places all around the country, that we can restart this conversation about our
identity, who we are as Americans, what are our values.
And I think there's a really big conversation happening about that right now, and that's -- and that's what we're -- that's our goal. We're not
going to parachute into these locations, we're actually working with local journalist in order to get the real story of what's happening.
STELTER: This theme of the president versus of the media, the most interesting column I read this week, Jeff Greenfield, was by Rich Lowry, he
wrote this for Politico, he said, for most republicans, what matters most of Donald Trump is that he's demonstrated, resolve against the enemy -- not
the Islamic State or the Taliban, but the media. The media has become for the right what the Soviet Union was during the Cold War -- a common,
unifying adversary of overwhelming importance. You covered the Cold War on Television, do you -- do you subscribe to that analogy?
GREENFIELD: Yeah, it -- he -- it -- he may be overstating, but not that much, particularly as it relates to the way that the president and his
supporters are framing this argument. Look, the idea that the -- that the mainstream press kills liberal, in terms of the beliefs of the people who
practice it, I think that's true, I think the question is -- and it's been true for a very long time, and it's silly not to -- not to acknowledge
that, the point is, does that mean that the coverage Donald Trump is getting is necessarily biased.
When you put down the facts about his business relationships about the dissembling, if not outright line, the delusional way that he approaches
reality, the incredible narcissism, is that a product of bring left because some of the most conservative people in America believe that. Take a look
at the New York Times up News of the Week today, so the point is, yes, Trump now is saying because of the press, you know the presses is liberal,
don't believe anything they say no matter how factual it is because they are your enemy. And that, if he can keep that message in the forefront of
his most intense supporters, that's that they see means to hold onto as his popularity continues to decline.
STELTER: And Jeff, the questions we brought up here on CNN in the past few days about the president's mental fitness, about his fitness for office?
Have journalist gone too far? I'm one of them, to be honest, I mean, have we gone too far?
GREENFIELD: I would be very hesitant as a journalist to weigh in on the mental state of anybody, I'm not a psychologist and the people who write
about it. What I do think you can do is judge his record, his words, his deeds, and compare that to what your sense of reality is and say that this
is a president whose relationship to reality is casual at best.
[11:40:07] STELTER: Jeff Greenfield, Lydia Polgreen, Joanne Lipman, thank you all for being here. After the break, Steve Bannon, we know he's been
ousted from the White House, but now he's back at Breitbart. So how's this like tone changing, and how much does Breitbart really matter? We'll talk
about it with the former spokesman for this sight, right after this.
STELTER: And we're back here on Reliable Sources. Continuing to monitor the effects of tropical storm Harvey along the coast portions of Houston,
now it's current scene dramatic flooding and we'll have continuous updates. Talking about the biggest media stories now, Steve Bannon has been back at
Breitbart for a week, so what is this like actually telling its readers, we look to the headlines form Monday through Friday to see whether Bannon's
really going to war against the people he thinks are standing the way of realizing Trump's campaign promises.
And the answer looks like yes. Here's a few examples, the site has targeted Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Jared Kushner, and Gary Cowan, and the
site also spoke up about Trump's Afghanistan speech, calling the troops are the footrope that makes Trump's America first base unhappy. Now, Bannon,
in a new interview told the economist late in the week, that the harder Trump pushes, the more we will be there for him.
What does that mean? And how important is Breitbart really? We're joined out by Kurt Bardella, he's a political commentator who served as the former
spokesman for Breitbart News, and David Zurawik, media critic for Baltimore Sun. Kurt, there's word that Sebastian Gorka who seems to have been forced
out of the White House on Friday is going to rejoin Breitbart. That's what he said on Breitbart's radio show yesterday. Now, at this time, last year,
I think he was a writer or a columnist for the site, what's the significance of Gorka now possibly returning to Breitbart?
KURT BARDELLA,CONSULTANT AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Yes. He was the national security editor is what they called them over at Breitbart,
and like Bannon left to join the Trump White House and also like Bannon after being fired is going to rejoined Breitbart. And the part of it is,
where else was this guy going to go?
[11:45:01] ]BARDELLA: His credentials are questionable at best, the responsibilities he had on the White House were undetermined other than him
going on TV acting as a -- as a -- as a pundit really for the White House.
So, it's not surprising at all, I think what Steve is doing is just kind of getting, like, the old gang back together, hoping lightning strikes twice
and they can just as impactful as they were perceived to be during the 2016 election as they are right now. I think in a lot of ways what you're
seeing also is Steve trying to recalibrate the relationship with Trump, when Steve was with Breitbart and the Trump relationship began, their
dynamic was more of a peer.
Trump saw Steve as a media enterprise who has been very successful, Trump was obviously a candidate, when Steve moved into the White House, he then
became an employee of Trump, a subordinate. And I think that in a lot of ways, while Steve still viewed Donald as the same person, Trump viewed him
as an employee. Now, that he's out of the White House, Steve is going to recalibrate that relationship and realign it, so that it is more peer-to-
STELTER: I see. That's interesting. I wonder, let me ask both of you this, David, first to you, do we make too much of Breitbart's power? I ask
this because of this traffic stats we can put onscreen, Breitbart previously bragged about this data from Alexa, I think it was ranked number
45 earlier this year. And Breitbart's now ranked 60 in the most recent Alexa Stats, and you can see on screen that CNN, New York and Washington
Post, New York Times, all big news outlets, they ranked a lot higher than Breitbart does in the most recent data. Do you think Zurawik, that we make
too much out of Bannon's power and Breitbart's power?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC FOR BALTIMORE SUN: You know, I think, Brian, in some ways that we totally do that, and, I mean, thanks for those
statistics, because they're better than mine, but, I mean, but I knew they were around 60 and the Times, New York Times is around 30. You know, we
don't spend time obsessing about what Marty Baron is thinking, or deemed OK, maybe because we assumed they're doing journalism's work.
They're going to cover the stories that matter. I think we do and a part of it is this, we sometimes create these scary media and political figures
on the right, we did it with Karl Rove to some extent, though he's a Svengali who's going to manipulate all these things. And I really think
we're over stating Bannon's importance. Now, it's not that he's not very important, you know, he told the economist this week, I'm going to light up
members of congress I think was the language used in terms of defending Donald Trump.
And then yesterday we see a headliner today that says Paul Ryan's throws in with Leftist in criticizing President Trump's pardon of Sheriff Joe. It's
a great headline for Breitbart, but throwing in with Leftist is a, you know, trying to really throw a hard punch on Ryan with this. And that's
what he is doing, so he's telling -- so he has influence. But, Brian, this whole thing about somebody, and here's the other part of this that worries
me, here's somebody who is saying we're weaponizing our platform. We call our site Breitbart news, but we're a weapon, we're a killing machine, that
STELTER: That goes infinite.
ZURAWIK: That goes against everything I believe about journalism. And so in one sense, he's important because of what he says, but I think he is not
that important in terms of their widespread influence. We over estimate I think his influence to some extent. Right now, especially.
STELTER: Kurt, your reaction? Yes. Kurt, your reaction?
BARDELLA: Yes, they're really two sides of this coin, there is one the audience side. I always felt that Breitbart was never going to be more
read and broadly appealing then on the day that President Trump was inaugurated. That was only going to be downhill from there, because their
lines in their editorial been only appeals to a very specific segment of the population, the so called quote unquote, "Outright Universe," anybody
else who voted Trump because of other reasons. Whether or not liking Hilary Clinton, not liking Congress, just wanting to have, you know, kind
of that protest vote, they're not initially going to aligned with supporting the KKK.
BARDELLA: So their audience had nowhere to go but down. However.
STELTER: Now, I don't know who said -- I don't know who's actually supporting the KKK, but I hear your point, but audience that the site's
more powerful for its DC readers perhaps?
BARDELLA: Well, and that's the thing, it's about -- it's an influence play, if Donald Trump is reading Breitbart and supports Breitbart, and
retweets things that come from Breitbart, regurgitates stories that come from Breitbart, then it's incredibly impactful because it's a -- it's a
window into what's shaping President Trump's policies are rhetoric and that's very impactful.
STELTER: I see. I -- Kurt, David, I don't have time. But thank you very much both for being here.
BARDELLA: Thanks, Brian.
ZURAWIK: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: After this, quick update on the storm, we're continuing to monitor the flooding in Houston and we'll take it there live in just a
[11:53:58] STELTER: Back now here on CNN, we're continuing coverage of the flooding Houston and throughout South Texas. The quick update here before
we get to the top of the hour and State of the Union with Jake Tapper. There are ongoing rescues throughout Houston and throughout the metro area.
And also, all the way down toward Galveston, we are seeing reports of people having to leave their homes, some people on their roofs hoping to be
We know the US Coast Guard has five helicopters in the air conducting search and rescue missions, they're trying to bring in more resources, the
Houston Mayor is trying to bring in more boats right now, and in some cases, we've seen local residence on their own vehicles, their own boats
trying to help neighbors. These pictures extraordinary from the areas in and around Houston and it will continue to flood because the rain is
continuing to pour in many areas.
Tropical storm Harvey will be sitting over this area for days to come. Quick note about the TV station I told you about earlier, KHOU, great CBS
affiliate down there in Houston, they've evacuated this building, their newsroom evacuated as the result of the floodwaters that have poured in.
[11:55:03] STELTER: The station's seen clogs before, but nothing like this. KHOU now off the air according to one of its news directors, he's
posting on Twitter that their staffs, their reporters have taken cover -- they have been taking off the air at least temporarily due to the emergency
there. We will continue to bring the latest from Houston, from South Texas, all day long and in the coming days here on CNN. Stay tuned after
the break for the State of the Union with Jake Tapper.
[12:00:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.