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How to Cover A White House in Crisis; Did ABC News Go Far Enough?; The Consequences of Trump's Reckless Tweets. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired December 3, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:14] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

Right now, the news is overwhelming, confusing, and sometimes frightening. Four of President Trump's associates have now been charged by special counsel, Robert Mueller. Michael Flynn, as of Friday, has admitted to committing a crime while working in the White House.

Meantime, the president is attacking the FBI, and trying to discredit the Mueller probe. His media allies working overtime to help him. They're trying to help him cover up the disturbing connections that do exist between Trump world and Russia. Every single day, journalists are uncovering new links between the two.

Meantime, at home you're probably wondering if your taxes are going to go up or going to go down. Amid all the deceptive claims about the GOP tax bill.

Right now, the biggest challenge for newsrooms -- I can't say this loudly enough. The biggest challenge is to cut through the craziness and explain what's going on in clear, accurate language. We need to start with the basics. We need to exercise a lot of caution and precision, without shying away from the truth. We need to describe the crisis that we are seeing with our own eyes.

This moment calls for more explainers. More time lines. More summaries. More fact-checks. To help the audience, to help all of you at home.

We in the media need to write our stories, not to impress each other, but to inform you, to inform an increasingly worried public. And above all else, we need to protect our credibility at all costs.

Which brings me to the two big stories we're covering this hour. NBC firing Matt Lauer and ABC suspended Brian Ross.

These are two very different cases, to be sure. Lauer accused of sexual misconduct. Ross admitting to sloppy journalism. But both lead to a common result -- questions about the credibility and the accountability of the people who deliver us the news. Of course, Trump is exploiting both cases on Twitter. And we'll get

to Lauer and to Trump a little later.

But first to Ross -- the breaking news this weekend, ABC saying he made a serious error in his bombshell report about Michael Flynn was, quote, not fully vetted through our editorial standards process.

So what happened? Well, as the shock of Flynn's plea deal sank in on Friday, as the nation tried to figure out what was happening, Ross told viewers that Flynn is prepared to point the finger directly at Trump and testified that the president, before taking office, ordered him to make contact with the Russians. That was before Election Day.

The key here was that Flynn was going to say it all happened during the campaign, raising the prospect of ill lets. That report called the Dow Jones to drop 350 points at one point, although the market almost fully recovered later in the day.

No other news outlets were able to match Ross' bombshell reporting. We wondered why. And at 6:30 we found out. On the nightly news, Ross backtracked.


BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: A clarification tonight on something one of Flynn's confidantes told us and we reported earlier today. He said the president has asked Flynn to contact Russia during the campaign. He's not clarifying that, saying according to Flynn, candidate Trump asked him during the campaign to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other hot spots, and then after the election, the president-elect asked him -- told him to contact Russia on issues, including work together to fight ISIS, David.


STELTER: They call it a clarification, but it was a huge correction. Team Trump was outraged. One of the president's sons, Donald Trump Jr., retweeted me and predicted there would be no disciplinary action.

We can put his tweet on-screen here. He said because it was looking bad for Trump, nobody at ABC would be punished.

Well, in fact, on Saturday evening, ABC did suspend Ross, a four-week suspension, without pay.

Now, the question is whether he will return in January. Will he return to his job and what does that mean? What does all of this mean for the ongoing investigations into Trump and Russia?

Let's get into that now with our panel here in New York, political analyst, Jeff Greenfield and CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy. And in Washington, April Ryan, Washington correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks. She's also a CNN political analyst.

Oliver, you've been doing reporting on this all weekend.

Before we get into the details, Jeff, when we look at what's going on so far, we don't know what Flynn may say to Mueller. Isn't that the point, that this isn't exonerating for Trump, it's not incriminating -- we don't know yet what's going on.

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: That's what made this error so consequential. As you pointed out, if Trump had directed his team to reach out to Russia during the campaign, that is collusion. And that really undermines the notion this was a very conspiratorial operation.

[11:05:04] During the transition, so much less, you would expect the president-elect to reach out, maybe. The thing that baffles me about this is --


GREENFIELD: -- why would it take ABC news hours to correct this when every other media outlet was right?

Also, and I'm going to be very blunt about this. I'm sorry. This is not Brian Ross' first mistake in reporting breaking news inaccurately, linking Saddam to the anthrax attacks in 2001, linking the Aurora shooter to a Tea Party by using the wrong name.

ABC should have been on notice any time there is breaking news and special events, you run the risk of misreporting. Having anchored at CNN, a report about nerve gas in Laos that turned out to be unsupported, having to apologize -- mistakes are made.

The second point I would make, because this is exactly what Trump and his allies want to say, no matter what you hear on mainstream media, it's fake. They're doing it to hurt us. And this is like handing a sword to the people who want all media to be looked at in that regard.

STELTER: Do you think that's why they've suspended him? In the past, would there have been a suspension for this? He wasn't suspended after the Aurora mistake, for example.

GREENFIELD: I'm reluctant not only to predict the future, but to re- litigate the past. All I know is in the current environment, I think they had to.

STELTER: So, Oliver, you were -- early on this story, you noticed on on Friday, that his reporting wasn't on the Website. And that made you wonder what was going on.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Right, because if you have massive scoop that no other outlet has, you would be thinking they would be singing from mountaintops. But instead, it was missing completely from their online reports.

And so, I started asking ABC, you know, what's going on? Why is Ross' bombshell not online? And, you know, it took a few hours but eventually they got back to me and said they would do this clarification on "World News". And they eventually called it a correction and now say it's a serious error.

But to your point, I've heard from people inside ABC that after four weeks they're still not certain, you know, can he come back, and is he -- when you report something, is it going to be seen as credible from now on? There is a lot of uncertainty about that. And inside ABC too, when I was talking to people yesterday, they're very embarrass and had there is also frustration that he was allowed to go to air with this report.

STELTER: I think that we need to home in on -- the idea that he had a single source and wasn't approved through the vetting process. If you or I had that kind of information, we would have to talk to our editors, we'd have to talk to our bosses, before reporting it on the air. The fact he didn't do that, suggests maybe this was not just his fault, there may have been a structural problem.

DARCY: Right. It should have gone through some sort of vetting. It seems it didn't. And it's even particularly bad here, because his track record is not very good. He's had several high-profile mistakes, and he went to air with an explosive report that caused the market to tank, based on a single anonymous source that ended up being, you know, not correct.

STELTER: To your point about the president -- to your point about the stock market, the president weighed in this morning on Twitter. Let's put his tweet on screen. He says: People who lost money when the stock market went down 350 points based on the false and dishonest reporting of Brian Ross, he's been suspended, should consider hiring a lawyer and suing ABC for the damages his bad reporting has caused. Many millions of dollars.

April, you cover the president every day. Your reaction?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, the president has said things about hiring lawyers before, when it comes to those who are accusing him of sexual misconduct. He hasn't done that yet.

But this is -- this is a serious issue. And the stakes are very high. You know, we as reporters, we will make mistakes. We have. We continue to. And we will in the future.

But the stakes are so high, Brian. And right now, what's happening, I think, about how this administration pounces on one moment that is -- that's a faux pas. I think about early on in the administration when Sean Spicer was press secretary, just something that was small, but it blew up so big.

You remember the controversy about the Martin Luther King Jr. bust possibly not being in the office. People went berserk over it. And now, this has gone to another level.

Stakes are so high. The stakes are so high, and we have to really make sure all the I's are dotted and all of the T's are crossed, because this is a very serious situation. This Russia investigation issue has tentacles that reach far beyond this moment, and into the future. The president has been set, as it relates to Russia being involved in our election process.

But how does this play out in the future? We have to get it right. There's no room for error.

STELTER: And many journalists are every day. I mean, I think back to Thanksgiving, and when the "New York Times" broke the news that Flynn had stopped cooperating with Trump's team, the lawyers have stopped talking.

RYAN: Yes.

STELTER: That was a prelude to what we saw eight days later when he turned himself in court. So, there's a lot of fantastic reporting happening. But these errors, they do undermine the profession.

Jeff, can I go back to the idea that the president of the United States is suggesting people sue a news outlet?

[11:10:06] This is not normal.

GREENFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) you can see that five times a day, this is not normal.


GREENFIELD: Look, the president's understanding of the legal world is somewhat shaky. He also thinks he personally can rewrite the libel laws.

But I just want to make one very quick point. It goes back -- as long as I've been in this business, which is back to Thomas Edison -- when breaking news happens, when you are on the air, the editorial process is short-circuited.


GREENFIELD: Mistakes are going to multiply. I think back to the Reagan shooting, when we reported he hadn't been shot, that he was shot, that James Brady was dead. It is more important than ever in a story like a sudden breaking news that you be careful, and that you restrain yourself from saying, I just heard an amazing fact.


GREENFIELD: I can do that with some friends in a restaurant. If I do it on the air, I should be held accountable.

STELTER: And meanwhile, I'm watching Fox News this morning, Oliver, and the main take-away is Trump's pro-Trump shows, they're telling him don't worry about this, there's no real trouble for you in this Mueller investigation. Yes, maybe the investigation should end, because you are so innocent.

They're telling him, don't worry. You're winning the war on Christmas. There's a lot of positivity and counter-narrative.

DARCY: Right.

STELTER: I wonder if the seriousness of the actual Flynn news, not Ross' mistake, but the actual news has been papered over by conservative media.

DARCY: It seems it has. I mean, Fox did pretty good during the breaking news coverage, but --

STELTER: The actual journalists on Fox, the newscast covered it well. Yes.

DARCY: When it goes to the prime time lineup, it's just a total bubble. And a lot of Fox is opinion. You know, "Fox & Friends", the president's favorite show in the morning, an opinion show.

But one thing -- I want to go back to ABC here, I think it's important when journalists make mistakes that outlets are -- you know, transparent with their viewers and readers and they own it. And I'm wondering if ABC would have actually owned this, had we not started asking questions, because initially they called it a clarification and then they wanted to call it -- you know, went back and called it a correction.

But would ABC have owned this? There was not only a mistake made in the actual reporting, but how ABC was transparent with their viewers in revealing that mistake to their audience.

STELTER: Absolutely. Meanwhile, the president's tweet about ABC only one of 10 tweets he's posted today. So, Oliver, thank you. April and Jeff, stick around because after the break, we're going to talk about his relationship with Twitter, and how it is now causing real danger.


[11:16:47] STELTER: Do you feel it? The vibration of your phone? The push alert about a new Trump tweet?

Supporters love his unorthodox style on Twitter. But it sometimes leads to shocking, unpresidential statements. Of course, driving the news cycle and driving a lot of people a little bonkers.

So, it's time to reassess Trump and Twitter. Some of his tweets are so dangerous, they might be endangering himself. He's posted 10 times already today, including new attacks against James Comey.

But it's this one from Saturday that's the big story of the weekend. He said, quote: I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. What? He knew about Flynn lying to the FBI back in January?

Now, Comey says Trump told him to ease off on Flynn. So, all of this raises the specter that Trump just admitted to obstructing justice.

But -- but -- but -- Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, has jumped on the grenade. This is what Dowd has been telling news outlets. He says he drafted the tweet, which makes no sense. But it does raise the question about who is drafting the rest of the president's tweets?

Let's ask. Who decided to retweet these racist anti-Muslim videos? At least one of the videos is just plain fake. One of them is from more than three years ago in Egypt and one is yet to be verified.

The retweets brought backlash from the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, so Trump tweeted right back at his fellow head of state, only he didn't tweet back at her, because he tweeted at the wrong Theresa May. Then Trump fixed the error and told the U.K. prime minister to mind her own business. And so on and so on.

But the retweets also caused this.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: An unsettling headline this afternoon. Officials at the U.S. State Department were so concerned about the anti-Muslim videos that President Trump retweeted yesterday, they told the White House they were actually worried that the president's actions might spark a reprise of violent protests of U.S. embassies in the Middle East.


STELTER: Unsettling, to say the least. This is not the only example of troubling tweets recently. There was news out of Libya, a tweet where the president called CNN International fake news, led some in the Libyan media to question about people being sold at slave auctions in Libya.

Real reporting now being challenged, using the president's fake tweets about fake news.

Let's dive more deeply into this problem, if it is a problem. Back with me is Jeff Greenfield and in Washington, Brian Karem of Sentinel newspapers. He's a regular in the briefing room.

It's great to have you both here today.


STELTER: So, Jeff, let's talk through this Twitter issue. Do you think it's coming to a head, the president's tweets are becoming more troubling, a bigger problem for the country?

GREENFIELD: Yes. When you issue tweets where you're -- one of your oldest allies is saying it's dangerous and when the State Department is, sure.

I want to offer a potential theory. You know the movie "Gaslight?"


GREENFIELD: Charles Boyer tries to convince his wife she's going crazy by deliberately confusing her. I'm beginning to think that's what Trump is doing. I'm beginning to think the sheer range of these tweets in their distance from reality sometimes is all designed to make us run frantically from one tweet to the other in such a way we wind up losing all perspective, don't start covering the serious policy consequences of this regime, and wind up looking like completely fools, only because we are dealing with misinformation at such a level and with such indifference to the consequences that we lose perspective.

[11:20:25] I mean, I think everybody should go out and look at "Gaslight" again because it's --

STELTER: I was looking to see if it's streaming on Netflix. If I find out, I'll let you know as you watch.

Brian Karem, I heard you jump in and say -- beginning? You think it's been a problem for a while?

KAREM: Well, I call it Twitter litter. I mean, it's always been that way since he's come into office.

If you watch his -- when he tweets, it's always to obfuscate to get you to look somewhere else so you're not looking at what's really going on. And that's been kind of the hallmark of his whole Twitter campaign.

And I know people in the high officials in the White House who would love to get him to drop the Twitter and drop it and walk away. But they won't. It brings attention to him. It deflects from the issues that are at hand, and at the same time, gets us chasing our tails, which is what he loves, because he doesn't love us too much. He just loves the attention.

STELTER: I think the big important point about the racist videos he retweeted, is that the White House backed him up.

KAREM: That's scary.

STELTER: Can we listen to Sara Sanders? Let's take a look.

KAREM: Yes, that was --


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what he's done is elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat and that's extreme violence and extreme terrorism, something that we know to be very real and something the president feels strongly about talking about, and bringing up and making sure it is an issue every single day. That we're looking at the best ways to protect Americans.


STELTER: Brian, your reaction? KAREM: How do you tell me that you've elevated the level of

discussion in this country on a serious issue with a fake video on an issue that didn't occur? This -- if my children did this, I would punish them. This is such a bad lie, just to come forward with that statement is so disturbing on so many levels, and it's part and parcel of what we see every day.

But that in particular is disheartening, because to tell me that you've elevated the level of discussion on an important issue by using a fake video, where is logic in this universe? Please.

STELTER: All right. So for our viewers at home, you can rent "Gaslight" on Amazon video, a movie Jeff just mentioned.

Jeff, let's have what I always say is this uncomfortable conversation. I think it is deeply uncomfortable to talk about this. But I think we have to. Look at "The New York Daily News" this morning, a column calling the president a mad man, saying that he is truly unhinged.

I've been noticing a new theme I the coverage of the president this week, among Trump skeptics in the press, liberal columnists, places like that. Let's show, for example, Eugene Robinson's column in "The Washington Post."

These people are saying we have to talk about his health now before it's too late. Eugene Robinson saying: How long are we going to pretend that President Trump is fully rational? How long are we going to ignore the signs he's dangerously out of control?

And here is MSNBC's Joe Scarborough raising the same point.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: When are we supposed to say this? After the first nuclear missile goes? When is this the right time, to talk about a mentally unstable president in the White House, and a nuclear showdown with another unstable madman in North Korea?


STELTER: That's the question. I'm going to ask you, Jeff Greenfield. Is now the time?

GREENFIELD: Let me just make this point. What Eugene Robinson says, what Michelle Goldberg says, what "The New York Daily News" says, what Joe Scarborough says in terms of people still with Trump will have no impact at all.

And the question is, is there going to come a time when people who that base might listen to begin to raise this? And if they did that, would that base say, oh, you've just gone over to the other side.

I think Trump's biggest success has been to tell his people that when you hear stuff from any of those people, including, by the way, highly conservative columnists, who have never been with Trump, don't believe it, it's fake, believe me. And as long as Donald Trump can convince -- what looks like a

shrinking number of people, but still a third of the country. And as long as the Republican leaders in Congress find him the right person with which to get their policies done, I don't think that's going to matter. It's -- I don't know what it will take to move that group away from their position that Trump right, these guys wrong.

STELTER: Brian, let me hear you react to that "Daily News" piece I mentioned.

This morning's "New York Daily News" -- editorial from the editorial board that says, quote: After his latest spasm of deranged tweets, only those completely under his spell can deny what growing numbers of Americans have long suspected. The president of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad. He is by any honest layman's definition, mentally unwell, and viciously lashing out.

KAREM: Well --

[11:25:00] STELTER: It's been less than a year since he took office and this is what newspaper editorial boards are saying.

KAREM: Well, to Jeff's point, I think there's two things you have to look at, the appearance versus the reality. He would like his -- it goes further than what Jeff was saying.

He's not saying everything you hear is fake. He's saying, look, I'm doing this on purpose, relax. I've got -- there's a method to my madness. At least that's what the sources that I have inside the White House tell me. It's an actual method.

But at some point in time, method or madness, it's a legitimate question to ask. I don't know if I would take it to those extremes. But it is -- it is a question that has to be addressed with each additional tweet and as we march down this hall, where are we going?

I mean, it's -- the tweet about anti Muslim, that -- those three tweets particularly are very troublesome. And if you don't examine what's going on, if you don't take the time to legitimately and logically look at it, we may well pay a heavy price.

STELTER: And he's going to say the media is just out to get him.

KAREM: Yes, always.

STELTER: Jeff, thanks for being here. Brian, stick around.

Up next, words I never thought I'd be saying. Matt Lauer fired for sexual misconduct. The latest from our panel of media reporters, right after this.



STELTER: What started with Harvey Weinstein two months ago continued this week with Matt Lauer.

Although a very different case, Lauer's firing was the biggest tipping point moment yet, because "The Today Show" is beloved by millions of Americans. And when they woke up to this news, they were stunned. Lauer was the face of "Today" for 20 years.

But there were other names this week, too, many others dismissed from media companies due to harassment or other improper behavior.

Among them, a news editor at NPR, a senior producer at CNN's D.C. bureau, an executive producer of several superhero TV shows on the CW, and three staffers at VICE Media. There were also two household names, radio broadcaster Garrison Keillor and entrepreneur Russell Simmons.

Keillor fired from his Minnesota public radio job, Simmons saying he's handing his companies over to new leadership.

But let's go back to Lauer.

Men like Lauer shaped the culture for decades, shaped news coverage, and shaped our perceptions of politics. This has come up about Mark Halperin as well. Lauer's handling of interviews with candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are now being reexamined to see if his alleged behavior off-camera tainted how he dealt with the women he was interviewing and covering.

It's a complicated question. So we have some time now to talk about the ramifications of this.

Joining me now, Hadas Gold, CNN politics media and business reporter, and Sarah Ellison, special correspondent at "Vanity Fair," Marisa Guthrie, media reporter for "The Hollywood Reporter."

There's a lot of news that continues to develop about Lauer.

Marisa, what do we know about the internal review NBC is doing to try to find out about what happened and who might have known what?

MARISA GUTHRIE, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": They're undertaking, they have said, to staff at NBC News a thorough review.

And Noah Oppenheim at "Nightly News" meeting on Friday said that people who knew about this and didn't say anything would be dealt with very severely. This didn't go over that well with some people inside NBC News, because you would assume that, you know, leadership should have known about this or at least should have asked some questions about this that they obviously didn't ask.

STELTER: How similar, Sarah, is this to FOX News? I feel like we were asking some of the same questions about Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly at FOX.

SARAH ELLISON, "VANITY FAIR": Well, I think the dynamics are actually quite similar. The problem is, is that everybody knew. Nobody actually knew. But

what are you not really looking for? If you're running these companies, if you're running these divisions, and there are rumors, if you're not looking into those, you're sort of part of the problem.

But the ground has shifted in the past two months. There's no question.


I thought it was interesting. Part of the review, Hadas, is to look into H.R. and how to make it more -- how to make staffers more comfortable contacting H.R. and reporting misconduct by colleagues.

That is the same issue we heard at FOX, we heard at the Weinstein Company. We've heard over and over and over again, that staffers don't feel comfortable coming forward with complaints.

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA, AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, because staffers don't feel comfortable partly because of the power that these people hold.

You had NBC anchors themselves saying live on air after this broke that Matt Lauer was arguably the most powerful person at NBC News, even more powerful than some of the executives. So, how do you expect a younger woman, let's say, who is in a junior position to come up against somebody like that, especially in a he said/she said situation?

Now, though, as we have said, the ground does seem to have shifted where maybe now we're going to see executives starting to investigate these rumors, as Sarah talked about, whereas before they might chalk them up to typical newsroom chatter.

Maybe now we're going to see actual investigations based off of that newsroom chatter.


ELLISON: Well, I think that H.R. is seen as protecting the company, not protecting the women who come forward.

And so far, what we have seen is it has taken journalists, not H.R. departments, to really unearth these stories.

STELTER: I remember seeing "Variety"'s Maureen Ryan, who investigated claims against a producer in Hollywood. She said journalists are acting like the H.R. departments, essentially, by uncovering these stories.

ELLISON: Right. Right.

STELTER: And on the point about NBC and the review, I'm told it will take several weeks, maybe not months, but weeks. So we may not have an outcome until after Christmas. I wonder about other cases that we all may still know are in the

works, VICE Media, for example. "The New York Times" has been looking into VICE for several weeks. We saw three firings this week, which seemed to be an attempt to get ahead of whatever "The Times" is about to report.

Is it fair to say, Sarah, there are other investigations in other newsrooms still in the work?


ELLISON: Right. You to think there are.

And, in fact, I know of some that are ongoing, but I think everyone at this point -- and they might not be motivated -- these companies might not be motivated by anything other than self-preservation. But at this point, that is required, in fact, like, to look into this stuff.


GUTHRIE: I think they're in a panic, these companies.

STELTER: Who is in a panic?

GUTHRIE: These media companies are in a panic about what is going to come out about their people, and they are trying to in some cases get ahead of it.

And, you know, as we sit here today, there are rumors about top executives at multiple media companies, OK? These are the people making the decisions to fire some of these people.

STELTER: But it's important to differentiate between rumors and something that can be corroborated, right, which is complicated.

GUTHRIE: Exactly. Exactly.

ELLISON: And it's also different -- what you hear in almost all of these cases is, well, we knew there might have been infidelity, but that's a private matter.

And, of course, that is a private matter. But workplaces have rules about dating underlings and bosses for a reason, because this stuff gets really murky.

STELTER: The broader picture perspective, though, I have seen several columnists write about this week is the idea that Lauer and Mark Halperin and Harvey Weinstein and Mike Oreskes at NPR, they were shaping news coverage. They were shaping cultural opinion.

How much do you buy into that idea, Sarah, that these could have been misogynists who were in some cases criticizing Hillary Clinton before Election Day? Are there dynamics there?

ELLISON: Well, I think it's impossible to see Hillary's coverage and not see that. I mean, that's the best example we have. You can't just -- it's not just being a sensitive flower. You can go

back and look through that. Hillary was a difficult candidate. She didn't answer questions clearly sometimes. She tried to tell the truth and sounded like she was lying.

But there's no question that when you look at a variety of different interviews with her -- and that's that's the evidence that we do have -- you can't really argue with that notion.

STELTER: What about you, Hadas? Do you buy into this suggestion that, you know, these are shapers of the culture, that Weinstein was this predator behind the scenes, and that affected what movies he would make, what movies he wouldn't make, for example?

GOLD: I don't think that we can at all avoid what these people did behind the scenes, and how that might have translated into their work.

And, obviously as we said, Halperin, Charlie Rose, Weinstein, Matt Lauer, they shaped a lot of our political coverage. But I do think we can argue that people are very complicated people. And for some of these men, I'm hearing conflicting things from women who work with them, who said, I'm having a hard time grappling with this, because on the one hand, this person was such a champion for me and a champion for my work and did such good work, but on the other hand may have done some of these horrible things.

I do think that we can go back and examine their interviews for what they were. Matt Lauer's interview with Hillary Clinton at the Intrepid was criticized widely for how he handled it before we even knew about any of these allegations.

STELTER: That idea that people are trying to come to grips with it, you know, with the person they saw on television and the person that might have been -- he's alleged to have sexually assaulted someone in his office off-camera, I wonder if it's too soon to have those conversations.

What do you think, Hadas? Personally, I, as a viewer, I keep thinking about how many millions of viewers loved spending their mornings with Matt Lauer and now feel somehow that was tainted.

GOLD: Right.

I mean, that's what you're hearing a lot of. Our colleagues went out and spoke to "Today Show" fans just the day after this all happened. And you heard a lot of sadness in their voices. And you hear a lot of sadness in the voices of colleagues of these people who are accused of these -- of these things and lose their jobs as a result.

And It's true, because you can feel sad for both the person who is the accused. You can feel really sad for the victims as well. And what "Today Show" has to deal with is that Matt Lauer is somebody who was sitting in people's living rooms every morning, that people felt they really knew these anchors.

And to hear this whole other side of them, it's a really shocking thing. But "The Today Show" is going to have to figure out, how do they build that trust back up with their viewers?

STELTER: And one more question for our panel here about, of course, succession planning, the question of who will replace Matt Lauer on "Today" and Charlie Rose on CBS.

We have never seen this before, right, two empty chairs on morning TV.

GUTHRIE: Amazing.

And, you know, for years the discussion has always been, who is going to be Matt Lauer's co-host?


GUTHRIE: Is it Matt Lauer going to sign a new contract? And now he's gone, Charlie Rose gone.

STELTER: I think what you mean is what younger woman will be sitting next to Matt Lauer while he continues to age?

GUTHRIE: Exactly. Exactly.

I think, you know, in talking to a lot of women anchors in the last few days, what they hope is that this will explode that myth, that you need the older, sort of perfunctory, you know, kind of man with the younger woman who is in the sidekick role.

And they're hoping that, you know, at least maybe we can kind of get away from that retro thinking.

STELTER: From that idea.

ELLISON: And it certainly punctures that happy family of morning television. I mean, it really, really blows that all apart. And that's a real problem for the networks, because that was such a cash cow for them.


STELTER: "The Today Show" was called America's first family in the 1990s, Katie, Matt, Al, and Ann. And the only person left is Al Roker of that four. Who would have thought that Al Roker would be the last person in that family?

To the panel, thank you all for being here.

And a quick plug. We sent out a special edition of our RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter when the Lauer news break. You can subscribe here for free at It's our six-night-a-week recap of all of the day's media news.

Up next here on the program, one of my next guests says it's a badge of honor that he was not invited to this White House Christmas party. So find out who was there, and what happened, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) STELTER: Every year, the White House holds a holiday party for the

press, sometimes two of them.

But, this year, CNN decided to skip the White House Christmas party.

Here was the statement from the network about why -- quote -- "In light of the president's continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it's appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests. We will send a White House reporting team to the event and report on it if news warrants."


Now, every other major television network did go ahead and allow staff, did -- you know, have staff go ahead and attend this party.

You can see that from the photos here shared on Twitter.

And there were also journalists from print publications at "The New York Times" who decided to attend.

Now, Trump did not answer any questions about the Flynn -- the Flynn plea deal. He didn't pose for photos. But he did give a brief speech, praising the stamina of the press.

Now, I think it's interesting that this decision was so controversial, that outlets had to decide whether to go to the party or not.

So, let's talk with two reporters who did not attend and find out what happened here.

April Ryan, Brian Karem are back with me.

And, April, let's dig into this.

You were not invited; is that right? What happened?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What happened, I -- I was not invited. I did not receive -- Brian, behave.


RYAN: I did not receive an invitation.

Now, Brian, you have to understand, people think that these invitations just come out, you know, just before the party. The invitations were given out weeks in advance, way before Thanksgiving in November.


RYAN: I knew I wasn't invited. And I was fine with it.

KAREM: Me too.

RYAN: I had never gone to any... STELTER: So, are you saying you were snubbed on purpose?

RYAN: I believe I was -- I'm not going to say snubbed. I believe they did not want me at the party. They did not want to put me on the list.

KAREM: Exactly.


RYAN: These invitations came out. People were asking me.

And they said, are you going? I said, I never got an invitation. And I did go into my e-mail just to see if I got one. I never got it. And I never -- I never got that e-mail.

And then I went -- kept going on about my day. And I didn't go to the White House press office, like some did: Oh, I didn't get my invitation.

KAREM: Right.

RYAN: I didn't care.

And I'm going to tell you why, Brian. And I'm going to say this to you. You know, people think that I'm hurt that I did not get invited.

I am so fine.

Friday, I'm glad that my fellow reporters did attend.

But I'm going to say this. In August, when I was named the journalist of the year by the NABJ, which I was thankful for, that Saturday night, that Sunday morning, there was a campaign ad that came out that had the endorsement of the president saying he approved this message.

It was a bunch of our friends, talk show hosts who were said to be thwarting the president's agenda. And there was one White House correspondent in that group, one, only one White House correspondent in that picture group.

STELTER: And it was you.


KAREM: That was you.

STELTER: I remember that.

KAREM: Yes, I remember it.

RYAN: It was me. I was considered the enemy.

So -- yes. So -- and I was very upset about that, because that put a target on my head. So, understand this. If someone considers me the enemy, I understand

that I'm not going to break bread with you, and I'm sure you don't want to break bread with me.

KAREM: Amen.

RYAN: But I'm going to continue to be in that room asking questions.

STELTER: So, you would not have gone to the party if you had been invited, April.

RYAN: I would not have gone anyway.

KAREM: Right.

RYAN: I would not have gone anyway. I am good.

And I understand how they feel about me, and I understand how they feel about the press.

KAREM: Exactly.

RYAN: But I have not done anything wrong.

I am covered by the First Amendment. So, I would not have gone anyway for this president.

But, trust me, I have been to Christmas parties before for other presidents. The last three, I have covered over 20 years, OK?

KAREM: I think you're good, April.

RYAN: And it's a good way for us to -- it's a good way for us to have a -- to have a better business relationship, to get more information when we have these things.

I have been to Christmas parties, state dinners and other events by George -- from George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. And if this president chooses not to, that's fine with me. I am OK.

STELTER: I have got about a minute left.


STELTER: And I think, Brian, this gets to the broader point...


STELTER: ... that this president...

KAREM: You took all the time, April.

STELTER: ... is different to cover -- well, I -- which I love.

RYAN: I'm sorry.


STELTER: But, no, it gets to this point about how...

KAREM: Me too.

STELTER: ... it's different to cover this president, and journalists have to make these tough decisions.

KAREM: Well, it's not a tough decision.

STELTER: Even about going to parties.

KAREM: It's not a tough decision to make.

You call me the enemy of the people, I consider it a badge of honor you didn't invite me. As far as I'm concerned, I made Richard Nixon's enemies list, and I'm thankful for it. I begrudge no one who went. I wouldn't have gone had I got the invitation.

I, like April, am fine with not being invited, because the simple fact of the matter is, I'm there to do a job. And if you don't appreciate the job...

RYAN: Exactly.

KAREM: ... and you're going to call me the enemy of the people, and tell me for a year that I am part of the problem, why should I sit down and break bread with you? You have declared war on me.

So, the bottom line is -- and I appreciate the people who went. I think it's fine that you went. I would not go. I have been to others. And I would not go to this one had I been invited.

I think there needs to be some change inside the White House, some recognition of what we do, some respect for what we do. There is little respect for what we do. We are constantly vilified.

In those tweets that he sent out today, how many times did he say fake media today, just today? He's always blaming us for his foibles.

RYAN: He's not going to thank the media, Brian. Do the job. It's a thankless job, but people...


KAREM: No, no, no, he's saying fake news. I don't want him to thank me. I don't want him to thank me. I want him to quit telling me I'm fake.

He's got to own up to the fact that the problem is his, and not ours. We are always going to make mistakes. We always will.

STELTER: Two very real -- two very real journalists, April and Brian. Thank you for being here.

He mentioned Nixon. [11:50:00]

We will have more on that right after a quick break.


STELTER: Legendary editor Ben Bradlee, who ran "The Washington Post" during Watergate, is the subject of an excellent new film, "The Newspaper Man," premiering Monday night on HBO.

I sat down with Bradlee's widow, Sally Quinn, and I asked her if she sees any parallels between President Trump and the coverage of Nixon back then?


SALLY QUINN, WIDOW OF BEN BRADLEE: Oh, I would say lying, lying and lying.


QUINN: I mean, one of the things that Ben hated the most, my husband, Ben Bradlee, was lying.

People ask me every day, how would Ben react in this environment?

STELTER: How would he?

QUINN: And what I think is, he would be conflicted, because, on the one hand, he is a journalist and he would recognize this as a great story.

And he would say, let's get the story. Let's go out and get it, get it right -- get it first, but get it right.

So, if it's Nixon and Watergate or if it's Trump and the Russians or Trump and the taxes or the business deals or whatever it might be, look at the money. Go for the money. You know, look, where is the money? Who are the people who are involved? What was happening?


It's not -- there would never be this: Get the president. That was never his goal.

STELTER: What are the lessons you hope viewers take away from this film?

QUINN: I would hope that people would be optimistic, because I am optimistic.

And I think Ben would be optimistic. I think that there's this sense that we have all got to work together to get to the truth and get the story. And we will, and it will, and our country will survive, and so will the First Amendment.


STELTER: Ending on an optimistic note.

We will see you right back here next week.