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The Moore Allegations: Who Do You Believe?; Press Pushing Trump for Clarity on Russia Meddling; Trump's Pro Business Stance Stops Short at Time Warner Deal. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 12, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:02] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: This is Fareed Zakaria, back here on GPS. Thanks to all of the guests who joined on the show tonight. And thank you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

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

This hour, a Democratic sweep at the ballot box this week, including a surprise win by this man, Chris Hurst. I'll talk live with the news- anchor-turned-politician.

Plus, President Trump's dangerous disregard for Russia's election meddling. Expert analysis coming up.

And I'll also share my latest reporting about the pending AT&T/Time Warner deal.

But up first here, no story exemplifies our broken media environment more than Moore -- Roy Moore. The GOP candidate for an Alabama Senate seat stands accused of molestation and inappropriate behavior with teenagers. The story, of course, came out in "The Washington Post". And Moore's campaign completely called the story garbage and fake news.

You have seen the denials and attempts to change the subject. One of Moore's defenders invoked Mary and Joseph from the Bible in his defense.

So, how does a divide like this start? Well, it's multilayered. First, there is media consumption. If somebody doesn't actually read the original "Washington Post" story which was meticulously researched and fact-checked, then they don't have a full understanding of what's going on. And they may have questions that have actually already been answered. I've seen a lot of that in the coverage in the past few days.

And then there is media literacy which we talk about frequently here on this program. Part of that is about ignoring the Trumpian slur of fake news which Moore immediately used in his defense. But don't take my word for it. Here is what an Alabama reporter said on Anderson Cooper's program about these allegations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been rumors through the years and, you know, for a lot of Alabama political reporters, this is going to be the one that got away.


STELTER: Interesting to hear that. A reporter saying there had been rumors about this for years.

Now, "The Washington Post" says it stumbled upon these rumors and then actively worked to confirm and corroborate the accounts, ultimately finding 30 sources for the story.

But when I say something is broken, it also involves media responsibility. You know, something is broken when the Website "Breitbart" works to discredit "The Post" report before it even came out. That's what happened on Tuesday, Breitbart tried to preempt "The Post" story.

There is something broken when someone like Sean Hannity blasts the media for rushing to judgment and harkens back to Bill Clinton and talks about Hollywood without mentioning his own house, the scandals within Fox News. There is a lot of hypocrisy we've seen, but also some incredible reporting.

So, let's talk about it with political analyst Jeffrey Greenfield, "Baltimore Sun" media critic David Zurawik, Bethany Mendel, a senior contributor for "The Federalist", and Josh Moon, a columnist for "The Alabama Reporter".

Josh, you're in Montgomery this morning. What is the current feeling about how this "Washington Post" story has been -- has been received by the voters there?

JOSH MOON, COLUMNIST, ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER: I don't think much has changed. I think the people -- Roy Moore has a unique voting base here. And they have defended him for 40 years through a variety of different problems -- I mean, this is a guy who has gone on and on and embarrassed the state numerous times. And so, they have defended him. And so, defending him is a natural position for them and they're not going to believe this "Washington Post" story because it's the liberal media lying about their beloved leader here.

And so, I don't think much has changed.

STELTER: You don't actually think that yourself, right?

MOON: Oh, no, absolutely not. No. If you read that "Washington Post" story --

STELTER: So, if the story had been published in an Alabama newspaper, would people be more inclined to believe it?

MOON: Probably. But I don't know that even then. Given the -- given the state of mind of a lot of Roy Moore supporters, I don't necessarily think so. I think they believe him first and last.

STELTER: Take a look at the headlines in some of the Alabama newspapers from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We've compiled a collection of these to show how the story evolved over the past few days. First, it was about the allegations, you see here, Moore facing sex scandal. That's the headline. It was similar headlines in several other papers.

But by Sunday, this morning, folks are waking up seeing headlines about Moore defending himself, promising revelations about some of the accusers, saying that he is defiantly refuting the accusers. In other words, the story is not about what the women are saying. It's about how he's responding.

I wonder if that's the wrong way to be framing these stories.

MOON: Yes. Yes. Absolutely I think so. You know, there have been some headlines that have been pretty embarrassing for some of the state's newspapers that focused on his defense and his allegations against the victims, instead of what they have said.

[11:05:01] I mean, there's nothing that these ladies that would prove untrue, or there's no reason why shouldn't trust what they say.

STELTER: Yes, I wish there was more attention toward what the women are now saying, how are they standing by their stories. You know, one of the lawyers came out yesterday and said, Moore is defaming my client. He has to stop defaming here.

And yet, most of the focus is on Moore without evidence, saying he's going to come out with revelations against them.

Let's bring in the panel. Jeff Greenfield, you've watched these kinds of scandals evolved for many years, many decades. How do you think this one is being covered?

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this is a kind of -- I don't know if it's ultimate because who knows what will happen next one, but we're at yet another stage of very familiar and depressing pattern. Part of it is the increasing polarization that says the facts are dependent on who is offering them and who they hurt. And we see them on both sides of the political aisle.

And the second thing I think is that this is a kind of magnification of what the president has been telling his people, if you see things coming from "The Washington Post", CNN, ABC, whatever, it is by definition fake.

And if you are a Roy Moore supporter in Alabama, "The Washington Post" must be like ground zero of the place I will not believe, I do not care what they said, I don't care how meticulously they reported, "The Washington Post" is saying it. They're attacking a guy that I like. Therefore, by definition, it's got to be false.

STELTER: Yes, some of his defenders have already talked about the media than the actual molestation allegations. Bethany, let me ask you about his. I know that you've been public

with your own experience, being abused by your rabbi many years ago. That for you is -- we were talking about this before the program started -- is a reflection on how women don't come forward because they are desperate to be heard and --


STELTER: -- maybe somehow profit the way Sean Hannity has implied. Actually, women are reluctant to come forward about these circumstances.

MANDEL: Yes, yes, in my circumstance, I didn't want to come forward because now when you Google my name, Bethany Mandel, you can do that right now, the auto complete is Barry Freundel, the name of my rabbi. And no matter what I do, no matter what professional successes I have, that is going to be following me for the rest of my life. And it's --

STELTER: And that's how these women in Alabama must feel now as well.

MANDEL: Yes, yes. And I have a whole other public persona besides a victim of Barry Freundel.


MANDEL: This will be the only thing these women are ever known for. That's not something someone wants to sign up for.

So, the accusation that they are doing this for fame, you know, if I wanted to be a famous person in Alabama, I would make a funny YouTube video. I would write a great "Huffington Post" about -- I don't know, target clothes.

But that's not what they're going to be known for. They're going to be known for this.

STELTER: So, you're saying these explanations, they are hollow.

MANDEL: Yes, they're hollow and they're really absent an understanding of what it means to come forward as a victim. The exact thing that they feared coming forward was -- is now taking place. Their names are being smeared.


MANDEL: And this is going to be the thing that they're going to be known for.

And this is -- I mean, my oldest child is four. Eventually, I'll have to explain this to her. And people talk about it in front of my children as this is -- this is a normal conversation and I sort of have to say, you know, I don't really want to talk about being filmed naked in a bathroom in front my four-year-old.

But this is something that is going to follow their children, their grandchildren, and people are going to bring it up to them in the supermarket and at church. I mean, it happens to me and I'm a far less famous victim and a far less famous story. This is going to follow them for the rest of their lives. There's no upside for these women here.

STELTER: I imagine you wanted to throw something at the TV when you heard Sean Hannity, saying, don't these women sometimes do it for money. Aren't they trying to get paid? That was the theme of his Thursday night program.

MANDEL: Yes, and there was a funny tweet that made the rounds and sort of the make America great tweeter sphere, saying, you know, I heard a "Washington Post" reporter offered $1,000 and that dollar sign was actual at the end of the thousand, the number, which is --

STELTER: Which is the way you write Russian rubles.

MANDEL: Yes, correct.

STELTER: Just not saying it's a Russian troll, but there were some questions.

MANDEL: There were some questions.

STELTER: But that tweet, that was crazy. I'm glad you brought it up because it was so frustrating to me to see some of Moore's defenders pick up on this random tweet from a random unknown Twitter user and say hey, look, there's this allegation now that the women were paid. In fact, Roy Moore's own wife then shared that on Facebook in order to try to discredit "The Washington Post."

MANDEL: Yes, and $1,000 is not enough money for that, I'm sorry.

STELTER: That's a whole separate matter, you're right.

MANDEL: Yes, but it's a ridiculous accusation that for $1,000 they are completely, I mean, this is going to follow them for the rest of their lives. So, even the sort of excuse that they are throwing out, that they did it for $10,000 rings really low.

STELTER: So, David Zurawik, zooming out here to the other big stories of the week, Louis C.K., having to apologize in the wake of misconduct allegations against him in "The New York Times", Kevin Spacey in "The House of Cards" situation as well -- how does the Roy Moore scandal relate to this ongoing crisis in Hollywood and this ongoing conversation about sexual harassment in workplaces?

[11:10:03] DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: Well, Brian, I think it's part of this larger story of this cultural tidal wave. I mean, something like patriarchy doesn't end in a moment certainly. But there is a rolling back.

We saw it in the election this year. We see it in Bill Cosby. This is part of that same thing. Men thinking they have the right too invade the privacy and the lives and the bodies of other people, often women. This is a major, major moment and anybody who thinks that they can stand in the way of this cultural change I think is deluding themselves.

Brian, let me please say one thing about the Roy Moore case and the polarization and the layers you talked about of media. On Breitbart, there is a piece that says ABC affiliate in Alabama could not find one voter who believed post-reporting on Roy Moore. So I went to look at it.

It's an ABC affiliate, fine, that means nothing. They just carry some ABC program. It's a Sinclair-owned station. There is an echo chamber being created here.

And because it's a Sinclair-owned station in Alabama, it has the credibility of being local. Now, what it amounted to was four people being interviewed by a young reporter versus the 30 people who were interviewed on "The Washington Post". But it had that authority of the local people in Alabama saying --

STELTER: Interesting.

ZURAWIK: -- we don't believe anything in "The Washington Post".

That echo chamber is one of the big stories of this year, that right wing echo chamber. And it's at work on this story, Brian.

STELTER: Josh, Bethany, thank you for being here. Jeff, David, please stick around.

We have a lot more to get to after the breaking, including President Trump's tour throughout Asia while all the headlines back here in the United States are about one other country, Russia.

We'll be right back.


[11:15:56] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

Did something feel different about the news cycle this week? It was kind of weirdly calm, right? Maybe that's because while President Trump was on his high stakes trip in Asia, he stayed on script and his Twitter feed pretty much just promoted his trip. It was pretty calm.

But then this happened. Look at these brand new 280 character tweets. This was the real Trump coming out. Shocking tweets about Kim Jong-un and other topics and, of course, his troubling comments about Russia's attempts to interfere in last year's election.

Trump was asked on Air Force One if he trusts Vladimir Putin's denial of involvement and here's what he said to the press pool. There is no audio or video, but we have the transcripts. He said, every time Putin sees me, he says, I didn't do that and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.

Now, before leaving Vietnam, Trump held a news conference and I don't know maybe he was trying to clean up his off the cuff remarks. Let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership.


STELTER: So he eventually said what he could have said originally. Let's take about it with Jeffrey Greenfield. He's back with me. And here in New York, John Avlon, the editor in chief for "The Daily Beast" and a CNN political analyst.

Jeff, first, your reaction?

GREENFIELD: Well, here's what's so, I don't know, mind-boggling about this. There were a couple occasions on this trip where the press was unfair to Trump. The picture of him dumping the fish food into the pond, that was not a mistake. And he really didn't say that he thinks Japan should put more factories in the United States. It was kind of a garbled transcript.

But then you have something like this which is logically inconsistent. He cannot simultaneously believe that Putin believes he didn't do anything but that in fact his agencies say they did. Unless you believe that Russia was doing this behind Putin's back. It makes no sense.

And what's so confounding about trying to convey what Trump says and who he is that the very use of his language, which is to be polite confusing, sometimes makes it possible to assume the worst things about Trump and when you realize, gee, that was a mistake, you then see him doing something that says, well, yes, on the other hand, he really does say some really bizarre things. It must drive the people covering Trump on a daily basis completely crazy.

STELTER: John, does it drive your staff crazy?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean, look, this is an ultra marathon we're in and you got to find exhilaration in the challenges rather than exhaustion. But we also have to stay focused on the facts. And the fact is that Donald Trump sees himself as a tough guy truth-teller in every circumstance except when it comes to Vladimir Putin. And then he will contort himself in any manner of forms just to avoid direct confrontation or questioning the man's integrity.

On Veterans Day, as John McCain pointed out, you know, he made this statement. There is nothing America first about taking the word of a KGB colonel over our intelligence services, and trying to clean it up in back end and to saying, well, I sort of take our intelligence service's word, but I still believe his sincerity. It doesn't make any sense, it's contradictory to the best interests of the nation and the way Trump projects himself. So, that's why there's some rotten and (INAUDIBLE). STELTER: Well, it doesn't make sense unless you believe -- I mean, let's be honest about this, John, right?


STELTER: What do reporters talk about behind closed doors when they are in the newsrooms? They wonder if Russia has compromising information on the president. That's what's at the root of all this speculation.

AVLON: Well, look, again, Trump will criticize anyone about anything on the slightest drop of a dime except Vladimir Putin, who he has refused to take the opportunity to criticize over the course of campaign and even as the president, despite the overwhelming evidence and opinion of the intelligence services that Russia meddled in our election. There is no anger about that. Instead there is anger at the investigation. There's anger at the Democrats.

So, it doesn't make logical sense and it is something deeply troubling if you're taking American interest to the heart, if you're thinking really ironically about America first.

[11:20:02] STELTER: Another quote from that gaggle on Air Force One that's worth showing on screen, this is another comments from the president taking questions from reporters on Air Force One. He said this artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way of trying to have better relations with Russia, and that is a shame because people will die because of it.

Jeff Greenfield, these kinds of quotes, they almost sort of miss the media radar. They don't get a lot of attention when they happen, but isn't that a profoundly shocking thing for the president to say? People will die?

GREENFIELD: One of the things that actually Trump has benefited from is that on a daily if not hourly basis, there are things he says that you could never have imagined any other American president left, right, up or down of saying, and they kind of bleed into each other. And you sort of forget, oh, yes, 72 hours ago, he said this. But I think this comes down to a fundamental fact that the way the president argues is, if something is potentially harmful to me or my political interest or to my standing, it could not have happened. And therefore, my definition of reality is this whole Russia story is a Democratic plot and it's all about Hillary Clinton who, by the way, have I told you how many electoral votes I got against her.

This -- the people who covered Trump from back decades will tell you that the way he is behaving as president is totally consistent with the way has behaved since he first became a tabloid figure in the '80s.

AVLON: But that's why our job is more important than ever, because in the midst of sort of reality distortion field emanating from the Oval Office, facts do matter, staying focused on what actually happens, insisting that we impose perspective, i.e., presidential history, what is normal in the case of the responsibility of the president, against the Twitter tirades and the somewhat unhinged statements. That's really important.

We'll meet resistance and we'll meet fury and pushback for all sorts of partisan reason, but it's absolutely essential to not giving in to normalization.

STELTER: And one more challenge for the president is trying to keep up with the drip, drip, drip of Russia news. Let's put on screen just four of the dozens of headlines from this week about the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation and the congressional investigations.

John, how does your newsroom at "The Daily Beast" try to keep up with the daily drip, drip, drip?

AVLON: Well, we try to pick our angles. We've got a great team of reporters, you know, Betsy Woodruff, Spencer Ackerman really focused on the story. We think about it strategically as we come. We push into individual leads we've got and try not to say simply have the tail wag the dog and follow the pack.

Each news organization needs to have original angles it pursues and the cumulative effect is that we keep advancing the ball in this incredibly important story.

STELTER: Jeff, thanks for being here.

John Avlon, please stick around.

Up next, what we know and what we don't know about President Trump and the AT&T/Time Warner deal. And most importantly, why it matters to you.


[11:27:16] STELTER: Is the Trump administration trying to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner? And if so, why?

This story erupted a few days ago. And some Democratic lawmakers are now asking if Trump is meddling in the deal.

So, let's just go through what we know and what we don't know. We know that this is the media merger of the decade, with AT&T paying $85 billion to buy HBO, Warner Brothers, TNT, TBS and this channel, CNN.

The deal was struck more than a year ago. But it's still awaiting approval from the U.S. Justice Department. Up and until recently, AT&T executives thought approval was imminent. It was right around the corner.

But there's also been a cloud hanging over this deal all year long because of this --


STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: Time Warner owns the president's long time nemesis, CNN. He's been at war with CNN ever since they started reporting the things he says and does. Trump -- yes, not fair.


STELTER: Colbert is -- Colbert is joking, but the Trump factor is serious. Donald Trump invoked CNN and publicly vowed to block the deal shortly before Election Day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.


STELTER: Historically, the Republican Party has had a business- friendly, pro-merger reputation and Trump has certainly promoted his pro-business credentials this year. But Trump's Department of Justice is throwing up road blocks for AT&T. The department's antitrust lawyers are apparently concerned that the deal could harm consumers in the form of higher prices and fewer competitors.

Now, AT&T vehemently disagrees with that, and so do lots of outside experts. They are baffled by this out of the blue opposition from the government. So, that is why there's been speculation that this is really about Trump's dislike of CNN.

Let me show you the other reason why suspicions are so high. This is Makan Delrahim, the man who's now in charge of reviewing the deal at DOJ. This is him speaking when the deal was announced last year, saying he didn't see major antitrust problems.


MAKAN DELRAHIM, ANTITRUST DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Just the sheer size of it and the fact that it's media I think will get a lot of attention. However, I don't see this as a major antitrust problem.


STELTER: So all of this, these are all the ingredients for a media mystery. Delrahim now says he was taken out of context then, but he's either changed his mind and his colleagues have concluded this really is a bad deal for the American people, or politics are at play.

[11:30:02] On Wednesday, the "FT" pointed toward political interference, publishing this jaw dropper, quote, AT&T has been told by the U.S. Department of Justice that it needs to sell CNN to get the acquisition approved.

Does that make sense?

A DOJ source shot back and said, no, we didn't tell AT&T to sell CNN. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson offered to sell it.

But at a conference the next day, Stephenson denied that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDALL STEPHENSON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AT&T: First and foremost, irrespective of what you read yesterday, I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN, period. And likewise, I have never offered to sell CNN. There is absolutely no intention that we would ever sell CNN.


STELTER: So, here's what I think happened. I think Stevenson said to Delrahim in private what's it going to take. What's the price of getting this deal approved? Is the price that we have to sell CNN? I think Stevenson is trying to solve this mystery just like media reporters are. What are the reasons for the government's holdup?

Now, at that conference, I mentioned, I had a chance to ask Stevenson about the concerns that maybe it's Trump exerting influence.


STELTER: Do you have any reason to believe that there is a Trump factor?

STEPHENSON: I have no reason to believe that. I mean, look, my only -- my only interaction with anybody in the federal government on this deal, and I want to think before I say this definitively, has been with the Department of Justice. You know, I have no way of even answering the question to the positive or negative. I don't know. I kind -- based on my conversation with the DOJ, I'm doubtful. So I have no reason to suspect that.


STELTER: The next day in L.A., Delrahim was also asked, have you had any discussions about the merger with the White House or with Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Here's what he said.


DELRAHIM: No. I can't get anymore clearer than that. Despite what some people may say and like to inject politics into our review of the merger -- that's their right. I don't have the resources to fight those. I've got to keep my nose down and be a law enforcer and do what's good.


STELTER: So he denies interference and so does President Trump and the White House. But a cynic might say that Trump doesn't need to literally pick up the phone and abuse his power, because his Twitter provides more than enough guidance to his government. It's filled with criticism of CNN and gripes about Jeff Sessions.

It's logical to ask, what is holding up this AT&T/Time Warner deal?

I'm going to continue to report on this and as soon as I know, I'll share it with you.

We'll talk more about this deal a little later in the hour, but up next here, a story you may remember from a couple years ago. Two people gunned down on live TV. The former TV anchor whose girlfriend was murdered has been elected to the Virginia statehouse. Chris Hurst will join me right after this.


[11:37:10] STELTER: Today marks the one week anniversary of the sickening mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 people did. I think George Stephanopoulos conveyed on "GMA" what we all feel now.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: "Good Morning America," here we are again. Another week, another mass shooting in America. We have seen them in offices and schools. We see them in concerts and movie theaters, Walmarts and Starbucks. This time, the killer and his gun in a small church in a small town in Texas.


STELTER: It all feels so repetitive now. While the victims and survivors go through their stages of grieve, media seems to go through the predictable stages of coverage, racing to the scene, verifying the death toll, interviewing eyewitnesses, trying to figure out the background the killer, arguing about guns, covering the memorial services. And sometimes by then, there is another shooting to cover.

But each of these stories has lasting impacts.

Let me bring in Chris Hurst. He's a former anchor. He was a boyfriend of slain television reporter Alison Parker.

Chris, good to see you.

CHRIS HURST, DELEGATE ELECT, 12TH DISTRICT VIRGINIA: It's good to be back with you again, Brian.

STELTER: We talked 2 1/2 years ago when Alison was gunned down while reporting live on WDBJ, her cameraman also killed in that horrific attack.

You have channeled your grief into something positive. On Tuesday, you won a delegate seat there in Virginia. Tell me what that moment was like on Tuesday night that surprise victory against an opponent that was backed by the NRA actually?

HURST: Yes, and that cameraman's name is Adam Ward, too. I want to make sure all your viewers remember him, as well.

For me, on election night, it was actually more vindication and affirmation of what me and my campaign staff and this entire movement of grassroots support had been building for for nine months. And I actually felt very confident from the moment that I announced that I was going to run that we were going to be successful. And so we just had the desired outcome on Tuesday night.

And now, it's time to get to work. It's time to go and fulfill the promises made to the people of my district, the people of southwest Virginia. My home and to the commonwealth of Virginia.

STELTER: What have you learned about the press now that you're on the other side?

HURST: Well, I didn't think it would take me this long to not enjoy having to answer the same kinds of questions all the time from reporters and having to field the same exact questions all the time. And one of them is actually what has been said in some interviews that I've done since I won election, a surprise upset win against an NRA- backed opponent. You know, I never wanted my election to be about me or about Alison or about guns. We wanted to be about issues that are really important to the people of our district here, which is expanding Medicaid here in the commonwealth of Virginia.

[11:40:01] It looks like that's very possible, and now that we have a better balance of power in the commonwealth, about really investing in rural economic development and bringing back jobs to a heavy manufacturing base.

STELTER: Chris, you've already learned how to pivot to campaign issues. I respect that.


HURST: No, I mean it's true. We didn't do any mailers about firearms. We didn't do any television commercials about firearms. We didn't talk about it unless I was asked about it. And I have no on problem talking about firearm legislation because we have a long way to go here in the commonwealth --

STELTER: But you did not want to be a one issue candidate. I see what you're saying.

HURST: Right, right, because you're not a one issue journalist, you know? There are so many things that you've covered in your media beat over the years. And when I was the crime, court and public safety reporter, there were so many issues that I covered as well, and also too as an investigative reporter.

STELTER: Does it disturb you know when you see coverage of something like Sutherland Strings, you know, there's cameras there today because there's a memorial service. But then it seems we are losing our capacity to remember each of these horrible crimes?

HURST: Right, this is the time that I have really been frustrated with, with how the media covers gun violence in America, which is that it is only when mass shootings, demonstrative acts of violence occur, like what happened to Adam and Alison, that the media pays attention to gun violence in America. But gun violence every single day is most often men and women in our

cities, men and women of color who are murdered every single day, older white Americans who are more susceptible to suicide, they are the most at risk population to suicide, accidental firearms deaths among children because of unsecured, unlocked guns being made available to them, and women in particular who are susceptible to intimate partner violence. Those kinds shootings, those kinds of deaths are not covered nearly as often, as mass shooting. And mass shootings are phenomenon. They are distinct phenomenon.

We can look at better ways to protect people in the public, but it's a distinct psych psychological phenomenon and obviously, we can look at the tool and try and figure out better ways to better protect people when they are out in public from mass shootings. But it's a distinct psychological phenomenon.

You know, my girlfriends, my late girlfriend's killer was inspired by the killer at Virginia Tech. The killer at Umpqua Community College in Oregon a few months later was inspired by Alison and Adam's killer. They want to achieve a high score. They want the notoriety.

And I think it's really import to do things like what Karen Teves has done, her son Alex was killed at the Aurora movie theater shooting, to not give any notoriety to the shooters --


HURST: -- because it is very distinct from the other kind of gun violence that's happening every day, the overwhelming number of people who are dying from firearm related deaths that go uncovered by the media.

STELTER: Absolutely.

Chris, thank you for being here. Congratulations on your victory.

HURST: Thank you very much, Brian. Always good to be with you.

STELTER: When we come back here, what is negative partisanship and why is it such a problem? Avlon and Zurawik are back right after this.


[11:47:26] STELTER: Just how divided are the United States of America and how does that explain a lot of the media and politics story we cover? I'd like to address that now starting with some animated data from the Pew Research Center, which has been tracking political polarization for decades.

This is data from 1994, all the way until this year. You can see the two parties here, Democrats on the left in blue, Republicans on the right in red, and how the median Democrat and the median Republican shift further to the left and further to right as the years go on -- less and less middle ground between the two. We know that big portions of the American public have deeply negative views of the other party.

Let's look at this data from Pew which makes their point. Forty-five percent of Republicans see the Democrats as a threat to the nation's well-being and 41 percent of Democrats view their Republicans as a threat. So, what's the relationship between so-called negative partisanship, and our daily news consumption? Is there anything that journalist can help to do to try to bridge this divide?

Back with me now is John Avlon, the editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast" and a CNN political analyst, and David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun".

John, first to you, this concept of negative partisanship, how do we explain it, how do we boil down for the audience?

AVLON: Well, I -- over the past several decades, people have become obsessed with politics as a badge of identity, the way perhaps religion may have been. But increasingly as those coalitions are pretty frayed, what do libertarian Republicans and the religious right really have in common, for example? They focus on what they hate, what they oppose, that drumbeat that's hammered home by partisan media in particular and their politicians.

So, the only glue holding the coalition together is opposition, not proposition. And we see that played on out in election cycles as well. It's easier to rally people to come out against something than to stand for something, and that ends end up degrading our democracy.

STELTER: That's what I kept seeing with coverage of the Roy Moore scandal.


STELTER: The idea that folks are going to stand by Roy Moore, conservative commentators and some voters simply because they can't bear the thought of electing a Democrat.

AVLON: And this has been particularly epidemic in the Trump era, as you point out, right? It's Trump going after the media. So, I may not like Trump, but I like the people he is attacking. That's a form of glue.

STELTER: Right, right.

AVLON: FOX's obsession with talking about Hillary Clinton. The losing candidate usually is not talked about nine months into the another campaign, but it's the glue that holds together their otherwise fragile and fractious coalition, so we evidence of this all the time. It makes us dumber, it makes us meaner, it makes us more divided as a country.

STELTER: That's a really helpful way to think about it, negative partisanship is the glue that holds these things together.

AVLON: Yes. [11:50:00] STELTER: David Zurawik, what's your view on how this is --

how this comes through in news coverage? I mean, is it fair to say -- we do have a partisan media in this country, is it fair to say this is a problem on the left, but more of a problem on the right?

[ZURAWIK: I think it's absolutely more of a problem on the right. In two ways, one, to give you an example of it, I think it was Friday night with Laura Ingraham on FOX News. She didn't really want to defend Roy Moore straight up.

So, what she did is she found a clip from "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, where someone said, look, if the Republicans stand with Roy Moore, this is who they are in the next election cycle. They protect predators. They are the party of predators. And she's -- so that's like 30 seconds. And then she says, oh, you want to go there? Let's talk about two words, Bill Clinton.

And the next 30 minutes is Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and every sin that the right has ever had. I thought, wow, that was the way to get out of that one.

But there's something else deeper I think that feeds into what you and John were saying here, and it's the populism that -- the, quote, populism. Trump won by saying, look, there are these forces that are causing all the pain to you people out there who feel abused. I'm the only one who will stand up to those forces. Last night I heard -- I saw, Bannon said the same thing.

He said, you know what this Roy Moore is about -- he was speaking somewhere -- it's about tearing down Roy Moore and it's about tearing down anybody who will stand up and speak for you -- whether it's Trump, whether it's Breitbart, whether it's Moore. And, Brian, I heard almost the exact same words from Bill O'Reilly when he had a -- you could call it a rally but there were only 2,000 people in 14,000 arena in Baltimore last month where he said, you can't trust them, "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," CNN, "The Baltimore Sun", they lie. I tell you the truth. Pay attention to me.

And I thought, my God, these people -- and it's people on the right -- are exploiting the fissures in this society and are driving this. And they're media figures, media and political figures working together.


ZURAWIK: I'll tell you, sitting in that arena, it wasn't chilled, I don't want to overstate it, but I was sickened by what I heard from O'Reilly that night and I read it in "Breitbart" today on their coverage of Bannon's speech last night.

STELTER: Let me turn to one other topic, we're talking about earlier in the program, that's -- this AT&T/Time Warner deal. John, there were so many headlines this week, that there were pretty worrisome, you know, about a chilling effect, a chilling effect on the freedom of the press if the Trump administration is going to try to punish CNN by blocking this deal. What's your read on it? AVLON: I think it transparently is what it looks like. This is

partisan politics and personal grudges playing out on our economy through the regulatory apparatus. This is something we are more acquainted to seeing in banana republics than from a Republican president who allegedly wants to remove regulation. The president has gone after the media, called us the enemy of the people. He's gone after NBC, he talked about taking away licenses.

Now, his DOJ recently reverses itself on the antitrust implications of this merger because the president said in October of last year, my administration will not let this go deal through. At the same time, we got Sinclair going forward, reaching over 70 percent of American households.

STELTER: Yes, Sinclair is trying to buy tribune, which would give it more local stations. That's also under government review.

AVLON: Exactly, with explicit must run conservative commentary by former Trump aides, like Boris Epshteyn. So, this is -- this is sort of a nightmare scenario when it comes to partisan media and presidential power and personal peak. And this is something we've seen in other countries. We've got to call it out clearly.

STELTER: But to be clear, you believe -- I might suggest to you is a conspiracy theory that the president's interfering.

AVLON: I think what is at least likely as you get the Thomas a Becket/Bridgegate scenario where people are doing the bidding of what they believe the president would want, because the president has said it over and over, including at that speech in Gettysburg, in the closing weeks of the campaign.


AVLON: My administration will not let this go through.


AVLON: So, I don't tend to believe conspiracy theories. People aren't that organized. But people do anticipate what they think the boss man wants and they'll execute that order.

STELTER: Right. I see what you're seeing.

AVLON: So, David Zurawik, there's been denials from the White House and from the DOJ about this. I have about a minute left. What's your read on what's going on?

ZURAWIK: Brian, that's exactly it. Amen to what John said.

And I'll tell you something else, this Sinclair deal, they put themselves -- the Justice Department and FCC and Trump administration put themselves in a box. He's got this friendly media outlet, this giant, 233 stations -- consolidation of power as it's never been, unprecedented. And Ajit Pai, the head of the FCC, has been moving heaven and earth to

get Sinclair this approval. And where do they stop? They go after AT&T and CNN on this one. I think John is absolutely right. And if they block this, they're -- we need to scream holy hell when they approve Sinclair, if they try to get that thing through by the end of the year.

And Sinclair acts like it's a done deal by the end of the year, you know? They've had reassurances.


[11:55:01] ZURAWIK: Yes, yes.

STELTER: Right. John Avlon, David Zurawik, thank you so much for being here.

After the break, what does press freedom really mean? We'll be right back.


STELTER: Before we go here today, today, CNN opinion is launching a new series called "Free Press: What's At Stake" on Every day between now and December 1st, government officials, seasoned journalists and prominent historians will all explore the importance of the first amendment in an independent press.

I kicked off today with an essay about press freedom. Now, it's not just about journalists, not just for reporters, it's for all of you at home. Press freedom is really your freedom.

Check it out at and I'll see you back here next week.