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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Trump's Alternate Reality on Puerto Rico Coverage; Trump: Tillerson "Wasting His Time" On North Korea. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired October 1, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:11] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. 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.
There's breaking news right now: President Trump calling out his own secretary of state. We'll get into that.
Plus, the latest in the NFL with players from the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins standing but some also kneeling at the game in London the this morning. We'll have the latest on NFL versus Trump.
There are also new developments on a number of other fronts, including the Russia investigations. New details in recent days about Twitter and Facebook and how those platforms were used by Russian hackers trying to influence American voters. We'll dive into that in detail with two special guests.
Plus later, a look at Pentagon media coverage. Is the Pentagon cracking down on access to the Defense Department? A former spokesman for the Pentagon will join me live.
But first, President Trump and what is really his alternate reality about Hurricane Maria.
Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico 11 days ago. The island is still without power. Communications are still scarce. People are still struggling there. This is a slow-motion crisis. And all the evidence suggests that both federal and local government responses were flawed and inadequate.
But Trump and his media allies are swearing that the response has been great and they are blaming the San Juan mayor and the Puerto Ricans who, quote, want everything to be done for them. The president calls for unity in one tweet but then he attacks the media in the next tweet.
Fake news. The fake news slur is back. He's used it eight times so far this weekend, claiming that journalists are disparaging first responders.
At one point he explicitly said, quote: To the people of Puerto Rico, do not believe the fake news.
Do not believe your eyes. That's what the U.S. president is basically saying. His aides are all over TV and social media promoting the government's relief efforts. Pro-Trump media outlets are echoing this alternate reality, claiming things are going great.
But here's the thing -- news outlets that are actually reporting on the ground, that have actually dispatched correspondents, are telling a very different and much more nuanced story. That's why I say Trump has an alternate reality right now about Puerto Rico, but we've got to remain committed to the ground truth. So let's go there.
First to Leyla Santiago, CNN correspondent who was there for the landfall of Maria, and has been there ever since.
Leyla, you were born on the island. You are able to get back to your hometown a couple days ago. I want to ask you about that. But, first, the most recent comment from the president on Twitter, he's saying all the buildings on the island have been inspected. Do we know if that's true?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was news to governor or it appeared to be anyway, when he was asked about that very statement in which Trump says things are going great, on Twitter, every single building, all buildings have been suspected. That appeared to be news to Governor Rossello when he was asked about that this morning. He actually said that's not the case. He doesn't know of such inspections.
And he went on to say, Brian, that he actually, the government here, hasn't been able to reach all of the parts of Puerto Rico because there are so many parts that are very, very remote, very difficult to get to. The first challenge was getting through floods and the debris on the road. Now that much of that has become accessible -- by the way, many of the neighbors, the communities, the Puerto Rican themselves, now that much of that has been cleared, they still haven't been able to reach much of the island.
Let me quickly go over some of the numbers. The cell phone towers, only about 11 percent of them have been restored. When it comes to power, only about 5 percent of the power here has been restored.
So, you know, terrific job? I would say the Puerto Ricans and their community have certainly proven to do so in certain parts of the island in which the first responders have not been able to get to.
STELTER: What's been the hardest piece of this for you as a reporter? Is it the communications difficulties?
SANTIAGO: Right. Communications -- you know, on a personal level, I'm from here and it's hard to watch such devastation and such destruction, but as a reporter, communication, I mean, that's what we do for a living and it's been so difficult not only to reach people but also to reach government officials.
How do you hold them accountable when you can't even reach them? How do you get an idea of what actually is happening on an island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens when you can't reach all the mayors, when you can't get to some of the towns because of the communication? [11:05:02] And even so, in talking to the Puerto Ricans, yesterday,
when we were talking to people trying to get reaction to President Trump's tweets, many of them had not even seen the tweets because their cell phones aren't working. They're not aware of what's happening. They're relying on word of mouth or for us to show them pictures to bring in, you know, the headlines so that they can see from our tools because communication is just such a barrier right now, not just for first responders, for the government, but to carry out journalism.
STELTER: Leyla, stick around. I want to continue this conversation and broaden it out about the coverage of the past 11 days.
I found myself wondering what's the correlation between the news media's attention and the president's attention. And I know in some ways, this is a chicken and egg scenario.
But, well, look, when Maria made landfall, Leyla was there, all the major networks were there, but you can see in this chart, that we made from the television news archive data, that the coverage on cable was not as high as wall-to-wall as it was for Harvey, which is in yellow, or Irma in red. There was a kind of relative media calm right after the storm. People like Leyla and CBS' David Begnaud continued to report.
But you can see here in this other chart that coverage tapered off for a few days, and there wasn't really a spike until Monday. You can see CNN and MSNBC talked about Maria more often on air than FOX. Now, as the crisis worsened, the coverage increased. News crews alerted the rest of the country to the desperation of the citizens on the island. And according to "The Washington Post," the coverage captured Trump's attention too.
So, let's get into the correlation here if there is one with Tara Palmeri. She's a former White House correspondent for "Politico" reportedly about to join ABC, but nothing is official yet. And, Edwin Melendez is the director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
Tara, to you first, do you see a correlation, the more television coverage there is of this crisis, the more the president's tweeting about it?
TARA PALMERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Absolutely. The president consumes television all day long. He hates being criticized. And he has a very standard pattern. When someone criticizes him, he punches back twice as hard regardless of if that person is criticizing is a victim.
And it doesn't -- you know, there's nothing humane about going after someone who is struggling with a humanitarian process and a crisis. So, essentially, we're seeing a typical true pattern for Donald Trump. He's also touting the fact to his base, Puerto Rico feels very far away. And it could come off as a political issue in some ways because, you know, a large -- basically it's a largely Democratic island. And, you know, they may not have family in Puerto Rico, they may not be communicating with them about what's going on on the ground so, it's a no-loss situation for Trump, who's really just feeding red meat to his base right now on Twitter.
STELTER: Edwin, let me ask you about last night's "SNL," in case you didn't see. Here was the cold open, the writers of "SNL" came up with a very quick response to this San Juan mayor versus President Trump situation. Let's watch this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: We want to help people, we have to take care of America first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait. You d know we're a U.S. territory, don't you?
BALDWIN: I mean, I do, but not many people know that, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That's a joke, Edwin, but does it sum up how people really feel?
EDWIN MELENDEZ, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR PUERTO RICAN STUDIES: Well, sometimes a joke is the best way to approach reality and to come across with, you know, a reality check for the media and everybody else. But I think that there is a lot of truth in the joke that they made.
STELTER: What about your view of the coverage of the past 11 days?
MELENDEZ: Well, the reality is that it was a little bit slow prior to it. There were very few outlets that had actually coverage on the ground. And then right after when it was clear the devastation and impact of the hurricane, very few others were able to send crews down there. So --
STELTER: So, there were difficulties in actually being able to report the story.
MELENDEZ: Yes, because the airport was closed, you know landing by site. So, there were a lot of difficulties.
And shortly as the transportation was restored and communications were not restored -- remember, there were no cell phones -- so the whole thing was very difficult to catch up. Thank you to all the ones that have gone down, because the coverage of this is going to make a big difference in how we move forward.
STELTER: Informing people about it.
STELTER: Tara, let me show you a sound bite from President Trump at that Alabama rally two Fridays ago. This was a couple days after the landfall -- actually, I'm not sure we have it, but two days after the landfall of Hurricane Maria, he's in Alabama at the rally, he acknowledges Puerto Rico and Florida and Texas and he says, when one part of America hurts, we all hurt.
And I found myself wondering looking back at it at this morning, where is that President Trump today?
PALMERI: You know, his mood, his whims, for President Trump, he's a very personal president and he hasn't shown that he has -- that he's putting his political will behind Puerto Rico the same way he did with Florida and Houston, because, frankly, it's not politically beneficial for him to really, you know, get behind Puerto Rico.
[11:10:09] Instead, he spends the entire weekend creating a faux controversy around the NFL. And that topic ends up dominating the newspaper coverage, you know, the television coverage, and in a way he's basically diverting everyone's attention to a faux controversy when there's actually a real crisis on the ground. And when it became apparent that this was a real crisis, now, he's starting to face -- you know, he's facing the real situation and the accountability of journalism is how that has come to light.
STELTER: And there's this optics issue, I kind of hate the word "optics", but the president used it on Friday about Tom Price, saying he didn't like the optics of Tom Price's flying private jets. But then the president's back at his personal golf course in New Jersey this weekend and the optics of that I think deserves scrutiny.
PALMERI: Exactly, especially for a president who spent a -- for a person who spent a big part of his life not in public service and who actually criticized the president before him for, you know, golfing during tragedy and during crisis. And it's amazing how --
STELTER: Oh, I forgot about that. That's right. Yes.
PALMERI: Right, and one journalist pulled up a tweet that Trump put out in 2011 criticizing Obama for golfing during a crisis situation as well. And it's like there's a tweet for every moment in his presidency.
STELTER: So let's look ahead, Leyla, you're there in San Juan right now. You've been going out to other parts of the island. What story do you most want to tell now? What are we not maybe seeing right now in the coverage?
SANTIAGO: Excuse me, Brian.
You know, it's just the need for medical attention. I went to my hometown. Excuse me. And I was able to see my family, and that's the relief I needed on a personal level, to hug people and say, I'm glad to see you're OK, I'm glad to hear you, because, again, cell phones are down.
So many people in the U.S. right now are contacting me via social media to say please check on my grandfather or my aunt or my brother, my sister, they're elderly, we haven't heard from them. And that's because, again, cell phone towers are a problem. But in my hometown, Brian, when I was there, I found out the hospital
was down. There's no hospital. And so, when I went to shelter, the shelter has people living in classrooms. The generator had been out for six days. And living in those classrooms, you had people with cancer, HIV, with diabetes, children with asthma.
You know, it's just a nightmare -- nightmare just doesn't seem to be enough. I haven't been able to find the words.
So, moving forward, you know, how to do we move forward on an island where the help may be arriving, the president may think we're doing a terrific job, in the meantime, you have cancer patients in a classroom, in the mountains, in a town called Corozal, with no power, no medical attention, no food, the refrigerator went out when -- the generator went out, and so, help is not arriving. And when the government says it is hard to get to some of those areas, that's why we went in on a chopper to see for ourselves what can we -- what do we see when we arrive, when we figure out how to get there when the government doesn't?
And what we found in so many of those places, we were the first to get there. They haven't seen the help. They haven't seen or felt any of this help supposedly being done and is a terrific job.
STELTER: And this is why it's no time for fake news slurs from the president of the United States. Thank you to the panel.
When we come back, some breaking news about the president. Just when you thought you couldn't be shocked by a Trump tweet. He says Rex Tillerson is wasting his time trying to negotiate with North Korea. The breaking details right after this.
[11:18:13] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
"SNL" is pack, and that means Alec Baldwin is back, playing President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Well, trust me, it may seem like what's coming out of my mouth is b-a-n-a-n-a-s, but it's all part of the plan. The more chaos I cause, the less people can focus. They're all getting so tired, so tired. Let me show you. How long ago did I declare war on North Korea and the rocket man?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four months.
BALDWIN: Wrong. It was last Friday. See, I'm bending time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I'm bending time, he says. And there is truth to that joke. Don't you feel it? So much Trump-centered news happens every day that you might have forgotten his embarrassing loss in an Alabama race last Tuesday when the Steve Bannon and Breitbart-backed candidate Roy Moore beat Trump's pick Luther Strange. Trump quickly deleted some of his tweets promoting Strange.
That same day, the GOP's latest health care reform effort collapsed again. Trump blamed it on an unspecified GOP senator who was stuck in the hospital unable to vote. I guess he made this up because there was no hospitalized senator.
Now, it's true that Thad Cochran was recuperating at home after a medical procedure, but he was ready to fly to D.C. to vote anytime.
Anyway, the most embarrassing story of all was probably Friday's resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price. Price's exit followed impressive reporting by "Politico" about all the private flights Price took on the taxpayer dime.
So, how's that for a refresher on the week?
Let's talk about it with Seth Mandel, an op-ed editor for "The New York post," and his wife, Bethany Mandel, a senior contributor at "The Federalist". A husband and wife duo here.
As if to prove our point about the overwhelming amount of Trump news, we've got some new tweets in the past couple minutes from the president. Let's put them on screen because they are shocking by any standard.
[11:20:01] The president says: I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man, meaning the leader of North Korea. The president added: Save your energy Rex. We'll do what has to be done!
I don't know what to say. So, Bethany, tell me what to make of this.
BETHANY MANDEL, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE FEDERALIST: I think that I -- it's going to be really hard for me to be scared by any Trump tweets anymore. It's sort of -- it's all so crazy that -- I mean, the week being so hard to recap, it's kind of what he wants it to be like. He wants it to be so hard to follow that people just stop following it.
STELTER: You think it's intentional.
B. MANDEL: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I mean, the news cycle is going so quickly that people are tuning to out because it's too much to process.
STELTER: Seth, do you think it's intentional also?
SETH MANDEL, OP-ED EDITOR, NEW YORK POST: I'm not really sure anymore. I think that he -- one thing that happens with Trump is that he is a 24/7 guy and he comes from the entertainment world. And so, he doesn't have -- he doesn't take weekends off. So -- and he also doesn't like to not be the focus of the news cycle.
So, he seeks to capture the news cycle even when it's Saturday, even when it's Sunday. So, I -- B. MANDEL: Even when it's not about him.
S. MANDEL: Right. I think that's something he did during the campaign. You know, Hillary Clinton would have -- there would be a bad story about -- negative story about Hillary Clinton in "The Times" or somewhere and you think she'd be reeling far day or the two, but he would swoop in with a tweet and take -- he has to -- Trump abhors a vacuum, basically, is how to put it.
So, I think some of this is, yes, getting the attention, but also he seems to want to be playing some form of good cop/bad cop. I asked on Twitter a few moments ago what people thought he was doing and that was the number-one response, but this isn't exactly how you play good cop/bad cop.
B. MANDEL: Or they're just not talking. That's another possibility that's sort of scary. That --
STELTER: That may be Tillerson and Trump are only communicating via Trump's Twitter feed.
B. MANDEL: Yes, why not?
STELTER: That's interesting.
Now, what about this idea that the president saying -- what we learned yesterday was essentially that Tillerson says he has a direct line of communication with Pyongyang. That was a big deal.
So, now, we have the president dismissing that. Does that seem threatening to you?
B. MANDEL: I mean, everything is threatening when you have a mad man. And I'm not just talk about Trump. They're both mad men and where -- it's all brinksmanship. So, you know, I don't believe a lot that comes out of the White House and about the White House, so --
STELTER: Wait, you're a conservative writer. You don't believe most of what you hear from the White House?
B. MANDEL: And about the White House. I think we don't know a lot of what's going on and there's a lot of news stories that are out that might not necessarily be true and probably aren't true, and one of them is I don't think we have a direct line to Pyongyang or we would have known what was happening with Otto Warmbier before he got off the plane in a comatose state near death.
STELTER: But the State Department says we do have it. So, maybe that's dysfunction in the government?
B. MANDEL: Or they're lying.
STELTER: Or they're lying. OK, let's put his tweets back on the screen. I want to underscore how
extraordinary this is to see the president calling out of his secretary of state. He's saying here that Rex is wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man. When I look at this, Seth, I wonder, are we at the point where folks on TV should be questioning the president's stability?
S. MANDEL: Well, I think he may want them to question his stability. But again, I think he's playing the game wrong. It harkens back to mad man theory, which was the idea that usually associated with Richard Nixon that he wanted communist states to think that he would overreact to provocations and that something that they would think was irrational. He wanted them to know he didn't think was irrational.
STELTER: I see.
S. MANDEL: That was something that a way Nixon tried to do it.
And the other one is Eisenhower. Eisenhower is famous for saying, take a hard line and bluff. But one reason that people believed that Eisenhower would -- believed he wasn't bluffing is he would pull back the troops from say Korea or somewhere else and then the threat of unleashing a nuke would come out, so it would look like he was taking his people out of harm's way and then threatening to fire or something like that. But most of all, they knew Eisenhower, they knew Ike had -- he had just defeated them, he had just basically conquered Europe more or less.
B. MANDEL: Yes.
S. MANDEL: And he -- he was a guy who was not to be trifled with and I think people understood that.
B. MANDEL: I think that the scary thing about Trump is we wouldn't necessarily have those troop movements because he doesn't have the experience as commander-in-chief or as a politician or as someone who's worked in government. So, he might not necessarily play those cards before he just drops the bomb. So, that's sort of the scary -- I mean, one of the thousands of scary things about a potential nuclear war started on Twitter.
STELTER: And now, we're talking about North Korea instead of -- I was going to bring up Jared Kushner's revelation about his private e-mail use --
B. MANDEL: Convenient, right?
STELTER: -- and all these other stories that broke during the week.
[11:25:02] Real quick, we bonded because we both have young children. Is your home a Trump-free zone, guys?
B. MANDEL: Yes.
STELTER: You try not to talk about politics at all?
B. MANDEL: We use euphemisms.
STELTER: Like what?
B. MANDEL: So, Trump, I don't even think we really say his name. The kids know we got a lot of mail from President Trump when he was running and I was annoyed at the volume of mail, but I don't think that they know he's the president. I don't -- they're not -- there's no tension in the house about it.
STELTER: So the parents can worry about North Korea.
B. MANDEL: Yes, yes.
S. MANDEL: They're annoyed -- they're mad at Trump because of the mail. My almost 4-year-old daughter told me sometime during the campaign, she saw a picture of Trump and said, oh, that's Donald Trump. We don't like him because he sends us a lot of mail. That's about the extent of it.
STELTER: I haven't heard that reason. I've heard a lot of others.
Bethany, Seth, thanks for being here.
S. MANDEL: Thank you.
STELTER: After the break here, breaking news about the NFL, the latest on the anthem controversy. Has it spun so far off the original purpose that we're forgetting the reasons why athletes were take a knee in the first place? We'll talk about that right after the break.
[11:30:33] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: All week long President Trump reinforced his view that NFL players should stand during the national anthem. During today's game in London, most of the players, the Saints and the Dolphins, did stand, but three Dolphins players kneeled on the sidelines.
A source familiar with the matter tells me that many of the players who kneeled last week in protest of Trump's comments about the league will stand this week or at least planning to stand at today's games. But they'll be standing out of respect for our country and military, not out of respect for Trump. That's a quote from an NFL source.
Now by covering these protests on television or in some cases by not showing the kneelers on television, is the media losing the thread on how this protest began in the first place, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee this time last year to protest social injustice and racism?
Let's talk about it with Wesley Lowery. He's a national reporter for "The Washington Post" and a CNN contributor. And Jason Gay, he's a sports columnist for the "Wall Street Journal."
Leslie, have journalists kind of lost the plot here, the players lost the plot?
WESLEY LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I'm not sure the players necessarily have lost the plot but I do think there's been space here where the owners as well as the league by and large with the assistance of the president have been able to pivot this to a conversation that's no longer about what things Colin Kaepernick was talking about. Right? So we've seen conversations about unity and team and sports and the kind of -- the language we use very often when frankly it has nothing do with what Colin Kaepernick was talking about or many of the players who kneeled in response.
Now I think for those of us in the media, this becomes difficult because you have to cover this at various levels. There is a real and important angle to be covered talking about the First Amendment and the president of the United States calling for a private corporation to fire its employees for political speech. That's real, right?
The president of the United States said in tweets it's real, we have to talk and write about this. That said, I do think it's our responsibility, it's incumbent upon us, to continue having conversations, continue doing journalism about issues of racial disparity and policing, issues within the criminal justice system.
You know, there was a great piece today in the Minnesota "Star Tribune" about police officers convicted of major crimes who are still working in Minnesota. They found 140 of them. Unfortunately, we're having a segment about the president and his tweets and not about that type of work. And that's no fault of yours, we have to cover that, but I think it's important that we continue having conversations about the core issues here, which are police and government accountability.
STELTER: And it seems to me some of the players are trying to find ways to make statements even if they're standing during the anthem. We saw the Saints kneeling before the anthem today, for example.
Do you agree, Jason, here in New York with me, that there's a First Amendment issue involved here?
JASON GAY, SPORTS COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I don't think there's necessarily a First Amendment issue literally with regard to the NFL. It is a private corporation. They do have restrictions that they can choose to do but they have --
STELTER: And employers can restrict employees' speech.
GAY: They have not done that, and I certainly think that broadly speaking when you consider the cultural impact of the NFL, they're fully, you know, allowed to go out and do this. And we've seen them not restricted at all.
I think the -- what Wesley is talking about here is very true that what we've seen in the last week is the issue getting corrupted. You know, you've seen this now, this protest version where players come out, they kneel, we saw with the Dallas Cowboys, they knelt with their owner, Jerry Jones. There's this message of unity which his very apart from what Kaepernick was talking about when he began his protest more than a year ago. So this issue has migrated quite a bit.
STELTER: What about what President Trump said about the Nielsen ratings? He said a couple of times this year that the NFL ratings are way down implying that that's because of the anthem protest. Is that true?
GAY: I don't think it's entirely true at all. I think that there's a huge cultural force happening here which people cutting the cord, people moving away from pay cable television for many, many years. You know, even if you didn't watch ESPN you were paying for it so I think a lot of people are cutting that cord. That's what's really contributing to the declines.
And Brian, there are mirroring declines happening across the dial like Nickelodeon or any other kind of number channels. Like what accounts for that? There's not any sort of controversy similar to this.
STELTER: Yes. A lot of broadcast dramas and comedies that premiered this week saw ratings declines versus the prior year. There's systemic issues happening about on viewership as more people watch on demand instead of live. So for the president to say the ratings are down massively are weigh down, to me he's misleading folks.
GAY: Well, he's looking at the issue in isolation and probably with a little bit of self-servingness, too.
STELTER: Wesley, what do you expect later today and tomorrow with regards to all the football games coming up? Does this remain a huge national news story for the foreseeable future?
[11:35:03] LOWERY: Well, you know, I think one of the things that's going to help determine that is whether or not the president continues tweeting. You know, I think it seems very --
STELTER: Do we give him too much power, Wes? His tweets controlling coverage like that?
LOWERY: He is the president of the United States. I don't know -- you know, I would love to say that yes, we should ignore, you know, what he's tweeting or what he's saying, but -- but I think we also have to take him seriously. You know, he is the most powerful person in the world. When he's throwing off missives, whether it'd be about Rex Tillerson and North Korea or whether it'd be about NFL players, I think we have to take it seriously.
You know, I think -- and we have to because history is going to. Right? History is not going to say oh well, this was just that week where the president was, you know, angry tweeting about Colin Kaepernick. This is going to be about the time the president of the United States wielded his power, you know -- in backlash to political speech he didn't like.
Right? There is actually some weight to these things and even though we get them so often, it's so frequent that we start to lose that, this is real. You know, this week we had -- the president of the United States attacked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and last I checked I don't know if they've even spoken to each other, right? So this is a mayor in the midst of a crisis, not necessarily getting a phone call but getting beat up on Twitter by the president.
This is real. And history is going to remember this. And so I think that we have to cover these stories. You know, to go back to your original question, I think we're very likely see players continuing to demonstrate and protest. Will it be at the level that we saw last week with these kind of unity celebrations? No. But that's probably a good thing.
STELTER: Wes, Jason, thank you both for being here. Sorry I'm out of time. I've got a big story up next talking about Facebook, Russia, and fake news.
What we heard from Mark Zuckerberg this week, how it lines up with what Facebook is doing, trying to crack down on foreign meddling. We'll have all the details right after this.
STELTER: Facebook claims the company is working hard to figure out how to stop what happened last year when Russian hackers were able to buy ads on a platform, targeting American voters with a variety of messages.
[11:40:05] But I don't think we can rely just on Facebook or for that matter on lawmakers who are regulators to try to get them under control. I view this partly as media literacy and tech literacy problem. All of us as voters or citizens have to recognize that those ads in the corner of the screen, they're targeted to us on an individual basis, and they could be coming from foreign actors, meddlers, people trying to influence you even about who you're going to vote for.
Lots to talk about here with Julia Angwin, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, now senior reporter at ProPublica, and Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics.
Dylan, you've broken a lot of news in the past week about Facebook and Twitter, these companies trying to come to grips with how their platforms were misused by these Russian hackers. What do you think is most important now looking forward in this story?
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, look, first and foremost, you know, the big take-away I've had from our reporting over the course of the last week is understanding how to think about this. Russian meddling is so much bigger than the 2016 campaign. It's really a question about Russians trying to wage an information war in our society, trying to pit us against one another, sow political discord, and they have taken advantage of social media networks like Facebook, like Twitter.
We're likely to see they've used Google as well. Google of course is conducting its own internal investigation to see what it can present to Congress. They're using these platforms to try to divide us so when we reported earlier this week that there was a black activist account that was really backed by Russians, when we reported that there were Black Lives Matter ads that were targeted to the cities of Baltimore and Ferguson but were actually coming from Russia, the point here is to try and sow discord, pit Americans against one another, make democracy look weak in the eyes of Americans, make democracy look weak in the eyes of pro-democracy activists back in Russia.
And, you know, thinking about how we go forward, you bring up the point of media literacy, so often when I talk to the folks who have been researching this for a very long time they always talk about the question of media literacy. How do we teach Americans to be able to recognize real news versus fake news? Not what the president says is real news versus fake news but actual real news first fake news because this problem is so big, what Facebook and Twitter have shown so far is the tip of the tip of the iceberg so it's really -- the onus is going to be on citizens to understand how to read and consume news in the years ahead.
STELTER: You brought up fake news. Let's define it since the president has exploited and re-appropriated the term.
Fake news, Julia, meaning stories that are made up designed to deceive you, the classic example from the election being the Pope has endorsed Donald Trump. Now do we have any sense that some of these stories, these made-up stories from the election, were linked to Russia? Because we know that some of them were written by Americans just trying to make a quick buck.
JULIA ANGWIN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Right. And I actually would say the issue is bigger than the Russian story. I mean, Russian meddling is one part of it. But the truth is this platform that we have, this micro-targeting, means that anyone can spread lies and misinformation.
ANGWIN: And for instance, politicians could say one thing to one group of people and another to another. Different competing campaign promises, right?
STELTER: They already are doing that, aren't they?
ANGWIN: We're trying -- I'm doing a project to try to find out if they are. But I think this platform is perfectly designed for information warfare, right? And so everyone is trying to wage information warfare. And I think we have to figure out whether there are more structural ways than just trying to tell people to think critically because we're all subject to being manipulated. You know, we wouldn't ask people to, like, figure out how to assemble their car. Right? We would have regulations about the safety and --
STELTER: Yes, I hear your point. Yes. You're saying it's not just about literacy.
ANGWIN: Yes, I don't think literacy is enough and in fact I think literacy is really just an artifact of the fact that people have used information warfare to start trusting our institutions and so we're at a point where people don't trust anything and so we need to rebuild that trust in a different way.
STELTER: Dylan, are we going to see these Facebook ads, these ads we've heard about that were targeted? You heard one example involving Black Lives Matter messaging. But are we actually going the see these ads for ourselves?
BYERS: You know, that is the big unknown, and Facebook doesn't want to show these ads, it has no intention of showing these ads to the public or at least it hasn't so far. It is handing them over to Congress soon, we understand. I think once Congress has its hands on them it would like to at least give the impression that it's sort of studying those in a vault outside of the public eye so that it can do due diligence in the same way Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating these ads outside of the public eye.
Brian, you and I both know the way this works. Things tend to leak out. Things have a way of leaking out into the media and I think that's what's going to happen here.
[11:45:02] I just want to touch really quickly on, you know, this point about media literacy and about the name of your show, RELIABLE SOURCES. Who -- you know, we talk so often about a crisis of leadership in American politics or even in the world, who -- the media needs people who can come forward and establish a common narrative the way there used to be a common narrative in the middle of the 20th century. Figures in the media were so authoritative that they crossed partisan lines and that they sort of penetrate through this fractured media landscape that we have that ranges from the far left to the far right.
STELTER: Julia, are there any of those figures left?
ANGWIN: Well, I mean, you, Brian, are obviously the first candidate for that. I think the way we get people to trust these days, things are much more transparent. You know, I'm a big advocate of putting out all my data that I use for analysis.
ANGWIN: And the story, publishing oftentimes the computer code we used for an analysis so -
ANGWIN: -- as transparent as we can be. I think that we bolster our credibility.
STELTER: Julia, great to see you. Thank you for being here.
STELTER: Best of luck with the new project.
Dylan, thank you so much. We know there's more to come in the coming days on the Twitter, the Facebook front, and also on Google. All of these questions about interference. Up next here, an exclusive with Colonel Steve Warren, a longtime
military spokesman, who was just let go last month. What happened? Stay tuned.
[11:50:47] STELTER: Reckless, irresponsible, breathtaking, those are some of the early reactions I've seen to the new statements from President Trump, made just in the past hour on Twitter about North Korea.
Let's go ahead and put those on screen. Quote, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of State, that he's wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy, Rex. We'll do what has to be done."
Joining me now for reaction to this, retired U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren. He was a top spokesman at the Pentagon until recently. And we'll get into that in a moment.
But first, your reaction to what the president is saying on Twitter?
STEVEN WARREN, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY MATTIS: Well, Brian, what a way to run foreign policy. What a way to run international affairs. To send some instructions to your secretary of Defense via Twitter. I think maybe pick up the telephone and call the secretary of State might be a better way to go about passing out your guidance on how to deal with this rogue nuclear nation.
STELTER: Is this also an implicit critique of the secretary of Defense, James Mattis, given that Mattis, I believe, has also been talking about -- he has been talking about diplomacy leading the way?
WARREN: Well, I think what you see is Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson really providing the stability, the thoughtfulness, kind of the sober reasonableness that we need right now.
This is a nuclear crisis, Brian. And it's something that requires a high level of diplomacy, extraordinary -- sophisticated operations to get us through this legitimate nuclear crisis that we see here. And I think we see the -- we see the secretary of Defense, the secretary of State working very closely. We see them having together decided that diplomacy should lead this because the alternative is far worse and we see them trying to move this into the right place.
STELTER: Originally we had booked you on the program today to talk about Pentagon press access because there have been some new restrictions on journalist there. Tell me what's happened.
WARREN: Well, it's difficult to really call them restrictions. What we've seen and there has been some reporting in sort of the inside the beltway press that's talked about less access. So this is reporters complaining that they haven't been able to get the secretary of Defense to stand behind the podium and deliver press conferences. This is reporters noting that there have been fewer reporters invited on the secretary of Defense's international trips that he takes around the world.
And so the press are a little bit concerned that their access to senior policymakers, to general officers is being restricted. Whether or not it is kind of still remains to be seen. I think it needs to shake out a little bit more. But what we have to understand here, I think, is that, you know, the secretary of Defense is in a very tight spot. He's walking a very tightrope. On one hand, his boss, the president, has declared that the press is the enemy of the people. And so for him to speak to the press and to engage heavily with the press, theoretically makes him colluding with that enemy.
Yet on the other hand, Brian, I think Secretary Mattis --
STELTER: Wow. What a sad statement.
WARREN: Yes. But on the other hand I think Secretary Mattis understands, you know, the Pentagon is responsible for more than half a trillion dollars every year. There's two million American sons and daughters who are in harm's way. Every day whether it's in war or war-in-training, they're in harm's way. And I think the secretary understands he's responsible for all that and has a responsibility, really an obligation to explain to those mothers and fathers, to explain to those taxpayers, you know, what that blood and treasure is being used for, or how we're taking care of them.
WARREN: So he's got a really tough -- he's got a tough thing to balance there.
STELTER: Agreed. Thanks for being here. Please come back soon. We'll make more time.
But before we go, I want to mention the deaths of two legends. The magazine industry is saying good-bye to two titans this week. First, Hugh Hefner. Of course his controversial, famous magazine "Playboy" set off a cultural revolution.
[11:55:07] What you might not know about Hefner is that he championed the First Amendment and gave a platform to some of the country's most celebrated writers.
Also new this morning, we've learned that Si Newhouse has died. He was the chairman emeritus of Conde Nast, the publisher of magazines like the "New Yorker," "Vogue" and "Vanity Fair."
We'll have the latest on Newhouse's death. Reflections from the magazine world in tonight's RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter, you can sign up at ReliableSources.com. And we'll see you right back here on television this time next week.