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Trump and the Media: Media's Challenge of Trump's Daily Attacks Aired 11-12p ET

Aired December 24, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:04] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Merry Christmas Eve to you and your family.

It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

Today is a special edition, a chance to critically examine President Trump's relationship with the press at the one-year mark.

Are alternative facts the new normal? Are partisan extremes here to stay? And what's the significance of all the leaks to news outlets this year?

And later, it's the one end of the year list that you don't want to end up on. PolitiFact's top editor is here to share the lie of the year.

First, I want to take you back in time. You know, so much has happened this year. It's easy to forget some of the shocking developments.

For example, when you hear these words, are you still shocked?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.


STELTER: That is how it began on Trump's very first day waking up in the White House, he turned on the TV and he turned angry at what he saw. Journalists were pointing out that the audience for his inauguration was smaller than Obama's. So, Trump fired back, exaggerating his crowd size and then sending Sean Spicer out to defend him.

You know, Trump even described the inauguration weather inaccurately. He said the skies became really sunny after his speech, when, in fact, it remained cloudy and started to rain a little bit. I think that's actually metaphor for the year. Trump painted a dark picture of the American carnage and said he alone could fix it. He believed his world was always sunny.

When Trump played loose with the facts and journalists challenged him on that, he couldn't stand it. I mean, here's an example you've probably forgotten. This is from February.


TRUMP: The murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years, did you know that, 47 years? I used to use that -- I'd say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn't tell it like it is. It wasn't to their advantage to say that.


STELTER: It wasn't to our advantage to say that because it wasn't true. Obviously, fact checkers jumped into action trying to counter the claim that he was making about the murder rate.

But, you know, Trump's really cynical, sinister view of journalism that we don't really want to tell the people the truth, it came through in his comments all year long. Here's another example.


TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.


STELTER: There he is telling members of the U.S. military that the press was intentionally downplaying, even covering up terrorist attacks. If anything, the opposite is true.

All year long, I heard anchors and reporters and editors reaching for new ways to say that's not true and that makes no sense. And all year long, I heard the president coming up with new ways to call us the enemy.


TRUMP: We are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are.


STELTER: That was February. Now, let's fast forward all the way to August.


TRUMP: Truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media. They make up stories. They have no sources in many cases. They say a source says. There is no such thing, but they don't report the facts.


STELTER: Some people have gotten numb to this, but these are really sinister claims from a world leader and totally unsupported by the real facts. I mean, heck, there were times this year that I used White House aides has anonymous sources because the aides would not speak on the record.

Journalists don't go around making up sources but the onus was and is on us in the press to better explain why we do what we do. For example, why we agree to keep sources anonymous sometimes, how we've had our facts. Trump's daily media attacks have been a challenge and an opportunity, you know. So when he says something like this --


TRUMP: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should look into it.


STELTER: Yes, yes, look in it. I think the more that you know about how newsrooms work, how journalists work, the more likely you are to know that it's not fake. Yes, one of the president's favorite words, fake. He will told his supporters all year long that the press was out to get him, out to take him down and many people believe it. The country is split on this question, and it's an ongoing issue for newsrooms.

So, let's bring in an all-star panel of decision-makers and newsroom leaders. Sally Buzbee is the executive editor of "The Associated Press", John Avlon is editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast" as well as an analyst here at CNN.

[11:05:04] And Joanne Lipman is the chief content officer for "The USA Today" network and editor of "USA Today." She's also the author of the upcoming back, "That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know Women Need to Tell Them About Working Together."

Let's talk about Trump's attacks on the media and the journalists' responses. Sally, this is your first year as top editor of "The A.P.", but before that, of course, you've been at "The A.P." for many years. Was this the most challenging year to be an editor?

SALLY BUZBEE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: This was a challenging year, there's no question. Both the extent of the interest in the Trump story globally, and I think that's one thing that's very important, not just Americans who pay an enormous amount of attention to this. People all over the world pay attention to the Trump presidency and it's been difficult to get factual information out of this administration. I think it's provided a lot of new challenges to reporters.


BUZBEE: But it's also been such an important year, so important for the values that journalists hold dear, the importance of facts, and in some ways, it's been -- although there have been a lot of challenges, it's been sort of an inspiring year in a way, in the sense that I personally believe that consumers of news are actually seeking out good journalism and actually understand its values. So, for many of our journalists, there's been some affirmation this year I think too.

STELTER: Joanne, are you seeing that as well, in the traffic, in the page views?

JOANNE LIPMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, USA TODAY AND USA TODAY NETWORK: Well, certainly, we're seeing there's a real interest in legitimate journalism. But I would also say, I think one of the most important things within the media itself is to understand, is to not internalize what we're hearing. When we have attacks on the press from the president or anyone else, it's so important not to internalize that and to --

STELTER: Well, let's be honest. That happened sometimes, didn't it? People took it too personally?

LIPMAN: Well, not just personally, but to take on the mantle of being the enemy, which the press is not. The press -- our job is to shine a light in dark corners, to hold the powerful to account no matter who the powerful are, and that's what we have to continue to do.

STELTER: Marty Baron, the head of "The Washington Post" said, we're not at war with the administration, we're at work.

But, John, do you believe most people believe that, that we're not at war with Trump?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I hope so, because that's really fundamentally what's happening here. Look, we are a guarantor of liberty. We are the not the enemy of the American people. The Founding Fathers built in the First Amendment as a check on power grabs, to hold the power to account.

STELTER: But do you think you need to remind people of that nowadays, don't you?

AVLON: Ye, I do. But also, people are being reminded that had they can't take democracy for granted, that the free press isn't free, and that itself has an invigorating effect that I think is actually the silver lining we can take from all these conflicts, because this is sort of advanced civics people are experiencing in real time. A lot of old certainties about liberty democracy that I think people assumed or believed was ascended around the world inevitably are being pushed back not at home but around the world.

So, this is the time for the free press to stand up, for citizens to stand up and get involved because the alternative is too terrible to imagine.

STELTER: Trump certainly has forced conversations about profound issues, right?


STELTER: We're talking the most important basic values that we all may share or not share. There's been stories this year about race and class and gender that have affected the White House, so in a way he's enabled or -- or encouraged some really important soul-searching.

AVLON: Yes, you know, there must be a pony in here somewhere, and -- and I think there are silver linings. I do think people are taking more civic responsibility, and I think you're seeing that in subscription rates. People subscribing to newspapers and joining membership models they hadn't before.

You know, they were taking for granted news content is free, and now they understand that they need to stand up and support independent journalism, that scoops matter, that investigative journalism matters because that's what really holds power to account, and there maybe great controversy around this and we're all beset by social media trolls, and it's a bit of a novelty to be attacked by the president of the United States and the press, for some journalists personally. But I think we have to remain invigorated by the challenges and not exhausted and realize that we have a gift of the fact that our mission is clearer than ever right now.

STELTER: Thinking back to January and February versus now, I think there was a lot more anxiety in the year among journalists, a lot more uncertainty about what a Trump administration is going to mean. Is it fair to say, Sally, that the worst fears that some journalists have not actually been realized?

I mean, there's not been an explosion of libel lawsuits. The press hasn't been kicked on in the West Wing. The cameras are still on in the briefing room after a period when they were turned off. But maybe our worst fears have not been realized.

BUZBEE: I mean, I do think that that -- there's some truth to that. I think that we did not get kicked out of the White House. I do still have some concerns about -- I mean, the Department of Justice has said that there are a lot of leaks investigations going on, for example.

We have some indication that the Department of Justice is still looking at some ways to sort of potentially eliminate some of the protections that have guided reporters in legal fights and things like that, and a lot that have is still up in the open.

[11:10:05] I think there's also frankly a lot of -- journalists have actually kept their nose to the grindstone fairly well and chased facts, and I think that that has been the best thing that's happened this year. Every time we get distracted into sort of what I would call not terribly important fights with the White House, it takes us away from our main mission, which is to go out there and find out what is actually going on. What is the impact of the policy changes that are being made? What is happening inside the White House? What is actually factually happening?

And within our organization, we have tried to say, do not get distracted by some of these more, you know, sensational but not necessarily as important disputes that have been going on and try to keep your focus on what is really happening in this administration and your duty to report that.

LIPMAN: That's opinion the most important thing I think this year that I've repeated again and again to our newsrooms is that we've got to keep our eye on the ball, on the issues that are important, on the president's actions, not simply on the president's tweets.


STELTER: A researcher found that since 2015, the new president has posted about 1,000 anti-media messages on Twitter. So, it does pile up. It does have an effect.

John, think it's a poisonous thing that he's constantly calling real outlets fake news but to some degree that's also a distraction.

AVLON: Yes. And, look, it is absolutely our responsibility not to be distracted by things that are intended to be distractions, to focus on the facts what have actually impacts people, not just radioactive rhetoric. But, you know, the larger issue that I think we need to confront is something quite sinister and the president is an advocate, which is blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

You know, fake news in the context of the 2016 campaign is something real, stories written with the intent to deceit. Sometimes for profit, sometimes for propaganda, but they had an impact on the election via social media.

For the president to try to take that term back and direct it at credible news outlets, places that are filled with imperfect human beings but who do check facts, who do correct mistakes and who are pursuing truth every day

STELTER: But what about the perception that the journalists are so sloppy and making mistakes all the time? I mean, John, if you watch Sean Hannity's show as often as I do --

AVLON: Sure.

STELTER: -- you must think that journalists are an evil species constantly screwing up on purpose to hurt the president?

AVLON: Right, and that would be false but Sean Hannity lives in a glass throne someplace out --

STELTER: Well, CNN did have three people resign because of an error. We've seen errors at other major news outlets as well. Brian Ross suspended this month.

AVLON: And those are corrective. That is evidence of the fact that standards matter, and when people make mistakes, they are taking into account.

I don't think -- you know, we should overcorrect because you're never going to please all folks. But look also the source of the objection is an administration, unfortunately, led by a president who lies at an uncommon rate even compared -- and especially compared to other presidents. So, this disregard for truth got to flow both ways. It's coming from the president, not from the press, and we need to remain steadfast, insisting on a fact-based debate, recognizing that and everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. And we can fight on that ground.

LIPMAN: Can I just add on the concept of fake news, because this is something I think is very dangerous just as a meme.

I've instituted a rule at "USA Today" and the USA Today Network which is 109 local newspapers like "The Detroit Free Press" and "The Arizona Republic", we don't use that phrase because it's not correct, right? There's false information. There's propaganda. We need to call it what it is.

But, again, by internalizing that phrase and repeating it ourselves, it's a real misnomer. It's not news.

STELTER: Quick break. Let's keep this going after a quick commercial break.

On the other side, we're going to look back at inauguration weekend. Some of the questions that we had then and whether we have any answers now.

Stay with us. We're just getting started.


[11:17:59] STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to this special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, the press and the president.

One of the themes of this year has been the assault on truth. The end of every year, I love going back and look at what we covered and how, kind of like a self-evaluation, and when I went back and looked at January, our program from the weekend of Trump's inauguration was like a time capsule. I asked a bunch of questions pertaining to the Trump White House and the media. I asked will President Trump deny reality on a daily basis? Will he make up his own false facts and fake stats? And if so, what are the consequences?

Well, given the recent reports that he's questioned the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" tape, I would have to say yes, there is some denial of reality. Now, Trump's critics say a lot of this is ultimately about maybe his own insecurities, that he wants to project a winning image.

That's why I think the single most inconvenient truth of the Trump era, the truth he can't escape is from all the way back last year. November 8, 2016, losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, losing by millions of votes contradicts all of the White House's claims about how the American people spoke and chose him so strongly.

So, for Trump, well, he opts for an alternate reality. One of the very first leaks of the year, one of the very first things sources anonymously told reporters is back on January 23rd. It was about how Trump are falsely told lawmakers that millions of illegal ballots had actually cost him the popular vote.

Do you remember this? This was a big scandal? He was claiming 3 million people had voted illegally. Actual little Bill O'Reilly of all people asked him for proof.


BILL O'REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: So you think you're going to be proven correct in that statement.

TRUMP: Well, I think I already have. A lot of people have come out and said that I am correct.

O'REILLY: Yes, but the data has to show that 3 million illegals voted.

TRUMP: Forget that. Forget all of that.


STELTER: Forget it, forget it, he said and he changed the subject. But I don't think we should forget it. After all, this is part of the reason why the government set up a voter fraud commission.

To this day, Trump continues to tout his Electoral College victory.

[11:20:03] You know, during his first and only solo press conference at the White House back in February, he wrongly said he had the biggest electoral college landslide since Ronald Reagan. And there was this amazing moment where during the press conference, NBC's Peter Alexander had his phone out, he checked, he corrected the president, leading to this.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: I guess my question is, why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive of being fake when you're providing information that's --

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I was given that information.


STELTER: That's absolutely not a good enough answer, but nearly a year later, Alexander's question still applies. Why should Americans trust you?

Of course, that same question applies to all of us. So, now, my question for the panel is if truth was the biggest casualty of 2017?

Still here at the table: Sally Buzbee, John Avlon, and Joanne Lipman.

John, in this choose-your-own-news environment, do you think fact checks, do you think corrections, do they really break through?

AVLON: They should. They're important. We need for fact checks in real time. We need more reality checks from anchors when people come on air and starts spinning and that applies to the press secretary and the president as well.

You know, this casual -- is truth the biggest casualty of 2017? I think that's the right term. It's wounded but it's not dead.

STELTER: OK, all right.

AVLON: We need to keep fighting for truth because facts do matter and we need to insist on it and when we're confronted with spin, you know, what we're being confronted by the president's surrogates and staffers and the president himself goes well beyond the typical kind of spin and prevarication we've seen from previous presidents. There's unfortunately a steady stream of the fake stats and fake facts that you predicted the day before the inauguration and we need to confront that and not be afraid to call it out and that I think in turn can helped straighten America's civic backbone.

It's a fight because the press' credibility is compromises as well. We do need to know own. But I think that's a result over decades of the rise of partisan media that President Trump has --

STELTER: Right, right.

AVLON: -- if anything -- accelerated and trying to capitalize on.

STELTER: Looking at how the president has communicated with the public and the press, obviously, Twitter, a popular source for him. What about good old-fashioned interviews and press conferences? I mean, Sally, when was the last time the president spoke with the "A.P."? We haven't seen a sit down, formal interview with -- you know, you got one of the biggest news organizations in the world.

BUZBEE: Yes, there's no question that the president has sought out friendly interviewers. Other presidents have done that. It's been pretty intense this year, I think.

And I think the public is, as John said, it's very divided in the news sources that it goes to. And so, you can get away with, you know, quite a lot of that and of not answering sort of honest questions.

LIPMAN: When our talking about truth though, I think we have to talk at a much larger context. This is not just talking about the presidency or the White House. We're talking about a year in the last couple of years where we've seen social media being weaponized by Russia and by other actors.

I mean, Facebook acknowledged that 126 million of us, that's a third of the United States population, have been exposed to false reports posted by Russian actors and by others, and so that also degrades trust. It's really -- this goes well beyond the White House.

AVLON: It's designed too, as well. I mean, Russia's effort to influence the election via social media was classic disinformation campaign. It's designed to muddy the ground between fact and fiction. It's designed to sort of depress turnout and confuse people and demoralize people.

And that's why it's so dangerous to democracy, which is why we've really got to forthrightly fight back. But it is -- the fight is happening on multiple fights right now. But it is a good fight. It is the good fight to defend democracy from this misinformation.

But we should not take for granted the severity of it, because it's happening from foreign actors? It's happening from the federal government. It's happening via social media.

STELTER: Joanne, it's almost Christmas. Normally, presidents hold an end-of-the-year press conference. Does it matter that we haven't seen President Trump use that solo format that other presidents have in the past?

LIPMAN: You know, the president's protests and the rest of us hear from him very regularly, So, typically, that end of the year press conference wraps up. It's a chance for president to talk about his achievements.

President Trump talks directly with the population, so I would expect, that you know, we hear from him every day as it is.

STELTER: Right. But we're not able to answer questions every day other than shouting them to him when he walks to and from the helicopter.

AVLON: And that's the way he likes. I mean, you know, that's the argument. He views himself as sort of the way FDR used radio and JFK used TV. That's the way I use Twitter. But, obviously --

STELTER: But he has these safe spaces on FOX News, and when he does give interviews, at least, (INAUDIBLE) into May, it's only on Fox News?

AVLON: That's right. And that's sort of -- it's an extension of the confirmation bias environment we're confronting in media, and I think that's also one of the real challenges because we need to all box our way out of that. We need to figure out as journalists I think thinking in a deeper way about how to weaponize facts so they resonate as much as confirmation bias online.

STELTER: I think the way he's used or not used media is really telling all year long. Think about it, you know, he decided not to fill out a March Madness bracket for ESPN.

[11:25:03] He skipped the correspondents dinner. He skipped the Kennedy Center honors. He hasn't gone on any late night shows and daytime talk shows.

So, it's more than just talking to Fox or avoiding press conferences. He's not using the kinds of entertainment outlets either to try to reach the population.

AVLON: And yet at the same time I think we've seen late night comics get much more topical and political to great effect.

STELTER: And anti-Trump.

AVLON: And anti-Trump. You know, "The Colbert Show's" resurgence, this has been, in many

ways, the year of "The Colbert Show", rocketing to the top of late night because he did not back away from politics, he did not talk down to the audience. He decided to get smart.

You know, we saw John Oliver as well. Jimmy Kimmel getting very political about health care and personal in a way about his child that really resonated. And I think that also speaks to the way you can talk outside any particular bubble.

STELTER: Right, and people soak up information that way.

AVLON: Right.

STELTER: Panel, stick around. Much more after the break here. We're going to look at some data involving polarization, involving people in their own bubbles and silos. What can be done to burst our bubbles?




Who do you believe, the president or the press? Sometimes, it seems things really are that bitterly divided. We were talking earlier about Trump's frequent fake news slurs.

Now, this week, he used a new term for TV shows he doesn't like, fake news hate shows.

So let's analyze the effects of this rhetoric. This is Gallup data. Notice the red and blue lines here. Democrats' trust and confidence in the media has jumped this year from 51 percent in 2016 to 72 percent this year.

But you will see the red line has fallen even further down. Now, let's look at the overall percentage of trust in the media. When you take those two lines and merge them together, you see there has been an overall uptick in trust in the media.

But the number is still low and the uptick is only thanks to Democrats.

For more on this, let me bring in S.E. Cupp. She's the host of "Unfiltered" on HLN.

S.E., I have a feeling it doesn't surprise you that Democrats' trust in the press has spiked up this year.


As the media has collectively taken Donald Trump to task and focuses often and frequently on his errors, his inaccuracies, and in some corners really demonized him and some of his policies, it's no surprise that Democrats are trusting the press more than they had in the past, and equally no surprise that Republicans are increasingly skeptical.

Now, Republicans have always been skeptical of the media writ large, the mainstream media, as they like to say, and for good reason. The mainstream media has been largely liberal for a long time.

Now, of course, you and I know the rise of FOX News has sort of put a dent in that argument, because conservatives certainly have a huge platform and position and a big microphone through FOX News and conservative radio, conservative digital. Conservatives get heard, and they are compensated well for their media appearances and their media jobs.

But there still is an overall impression that the media is a liberal place. And, frankly, I don't think -- I think that the Trump presidency has really sort of sharpened that into focus for a lot of conservatives.

STELTER: Ten years ago, it was Sarah Palin calling the press the lamestream media, right, the liberal lamestream media.

Now Trump has all these various insults that he uses against the media. Do you think that it has had a corrosive effect this year?

CUPP: I do.

Look, you know, I was talking to Cokie Roberts, a veteran journalist, about this recently, and she said, look, the media doesn't need to be popular. That's not our job. And so we shouldn't necessarily worry about popularity or our approval in the polls.

But the poll that you talked about is trust, and that should matter to the media. So, when Donald Trump villainizes the press writ large, that's dangerous. It's not dangerous because it hurts our feelings. It's not dangerous because people dislike us.

It's dangerous because it undermines the real importance of this pillar of democracy, a strong, credible free press. And he does it with lots of different institutions to try to undermine the trust in them, so that he is the only entity that is trusted by the public.

It's the popular dictator tactic, frankly, not to sound, you know, overly dramatic. It is what people do. But with particular -- with particular attention to the press, he is really trying to erode trust, and it seems to be working.

STELTER: You used the D-word. I have been thinking about the A-word, autocracy.

There were a lot of concerns earlier in the year -- I talked about them on this program -- about whether we were seeing this authoritarian drift in the country led by Trump.

And, frankly, I don't know now, at the end of the year, how much I agree with that or not. What's your take?

CUPP: Well, certainly, when it comes to some in the media.

I have watched a lot conservative...

STELTER: Meaning people talk about it?


When you watch FOX News, for example, one of the hallmarks of, you know, an autocracy, of authoritarians is having a press that's very friendly and a press that...

STELTER: Celebrating the dear leader, yes.

CUPP: Yes, that the ruler can go to, knowing he will have a friendly audience, knowing he won't be challenged.


It's not just FOX News that has become a very -- too comfortable home for Donald Trump. I have plenty -- I know plenty of conservative journalists whom I enjoyed and respected who have really decided to sort of cover for the president.

That's dangerous, too. That's just as dangerous as liberal bias. It's just as dangerous as fake news.

So, you know, the hallmarks of autocracy-ism and authoritarian regimes are not just on the side of the president, of Donald Trump, but you see that sometimes in the press as well.

STELTER: Now, when programs like this one talk about authoritarianism or question the president's mental fitness, does that just cause further distrust in the press and just make the polarization even worse and worse and worse?

CUPP: Well, look, you know, we all have to shy away from the kind of hyperbole that the president himself uses.

It's not responsible when he does it, but it's definitely not responsible when we do it. I think it's completely fair to have an analytical conversation about some of the normalizing of the way the president treats the press, and vice versa, and how dangerous that might be.

To point out where we see, you know, hallmarks of authoritarianism, I think that's honest and fair. We don't have to -- you know, we don't have to fret that America is going to become a dictatorship. We still have checks and balances. We are one of those checks and balances.

But I think it's fair. To pretend that all of this is normal, to pretend that we can just sort of lay this administration over -- an overlay over the last, and sort of trace around the subtle differences, no, there's no way to do that.

So I think we have to have honest, fair, challenging conversations without getting crazy and hysterical and hyperventilate about it. STELTER: Now, you're a conservative columnist. And yet I remember

you telling me offline that you even have members of your own family who think you're, what, a traitor to the movement, not pro-Trump enough?

CUPP: Yes, that I'm fake news.

STELTER: What kind of feedback do you get? Yes, fake news.

CUPP: Yes. Yes.

STELTER: So what happens around the table when you're at home for the holidays?

CUPP: You know, I mean, none of them mean it maliciously, but we have some spirited debates.

Look, I can handle it. You don't always want, you know, the Twitter trolling to continue at home around the dinner table. But I can handle it. I have got thick skin.

And, frankly, you know, it's nice for me to check in with people who don't think like I do this on, because you know as well as I do in this building a lot of people tend to see things in a certain way, both because we're in the media, we're in New York City, et cetera.

So it's -- you know, I'm actually -- it's nice to have a reminder of the way that I think a lot of people in the country are looking at the news, not necessarily the way that we do.

STELTER: It's fun to go home.

And, by the way, in January, I saw you have booked Sean Spicer for, what, January 4 on your show?

CUPP: Yes, for an hour.

STELTER: How did you book him? He hasn't been on TV much since leaving the White House.

CUPP: It's really organic.

He tuned in to see "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered" one night on HLN. And I have known him for some time. And he texted me and he said: Your show is great. I really love it. I love the format and the spirit. It's friendly, it's polite, it's civil, but it's interesting.

And I said, great, come on. You know what? I will clear the decks. You can come on for an hour. We will talk about your last year, of course, and, you know, probably ask him some tough questions. But then let's move on and let's do that show where you get to ask some fun questions of some interesting guests, and we kind of get to, you know, do our own little thing for an hour.

I think it's going to be really fun.

STELTER: All right, January 4, 5:00 p.m.

CUPP: Tune in.

STELTER: I will be watching.

S.E., thanks for being here.

CUPP: Thanks.

STELTER: Up next here, standing by in Washington, PolitiFact editor Angie Holan. She spent all year fact-checking, so she could announced the lie of the year -- when we come back.



STELTER: It's fake news, a hoax, just a lie perpetuated by losers.

That's what President Trump said all year long when it came to questions about Russian interference in the U.S. election and whether any members of his campaign had a hand in it.

But guess what? PolitiFact says that's the lie of the year. Yes, the claim that Trump has made over and over again that Russian interference is a made-up story, PolitiFact says that was the biggest whopper of them all.

Joining me now from Washington to discuss this is the editor of PolitiFact, Angie Holan.

Angie, great to see you.


STELTER: You had so many options to choose from this year, so why this one on the top of your list of shame?

HOLAN: Well, it was repeated over and over again by President Donald Trump.

He would say it as a defense of charges against collusion, which I should emphasize we're not saying there was collusion. That's unproven. What we're saying is, this Russian interference definitely happened, and President Trump has said several times that it hasn't.

Well, it has. And it really goes to the heart of American democracy and our elections and how we decide who to pick to be our leaders in Congress and in the White House.

STELTER: And his repetition, the repeating it over and over again and calling it a hoax, does have an impact.

I want to talk to you about that in a minute, but, first, the runners- up, right? There were a couple runners-up we can put on screen.

In second place here, Republican Congressman Raul Labrador saying -- quote -- "Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care."


Tell me about this one.

HOLAN: This is one that we were just like very dubious about.

There have been studies about whether people have great health care outcomes on different types of insurance, especially Medicaid. But the idea that nobody dies because they don't have access to health care, that's just wrong. And we talked to numerous health care researchers who were just like, yes, no.

STELTER: Angie, you went on a trip, several different states this year, talking with voters about how they perceive fact-checks.

Where were you, Tulsa, Mobile? What did you learn on these trips?

HOLAN: Well, we wanted to talk to voters who voted for Donald Trump and might be open to learning more about fact-checking, because we have seen survey data that says Trump voters are very suspicious of the media generally, and they are also suspicious of fact-checking.

So we thought if we met them and listened to their concerns, we might learn better ways to do our job, they could hear about how we do our jobs, and maybe be more open-minded to our reports.

And the interactions were very positive. It's like when we get out from behind our computers and sit down face to face with people and have a conversation, it works really well. We just have to figure out how to scale that up.

STELTER: So, many people were receptive.

At the same time, I don't mean to be a pessimist here on Christmas Eve, but I sometimes wonder if there's a portion of country that is unreachable by fact-checkers, that there's a portion of the country that does not want to hear any of the real news that's negative about the Trump administration.

Has that been your experience as well? Has that been your finding?

HOLAN: I think there is a portion of partisans who do not want to listen to independent journalism.

They see their political identification as part of who they are, and so, no, they are not open. And I don't think fact-checkers are going to reach those people. But our reports might reach their friends, their family, people who could influence them.

And what we're hoping to do, as fact-checkers, is just get accurate, credible, vetted information into the hands of voters, so they can make better decisions about who they want to support and how they want to see the country governed.

STELTER: The people spreading misinformation or ignoring fact-checks, it's not exclusive to one side either.

Your site reminded me about that video of Trump greeting a disabled boy at the White House. There were these claims that Trump had snubbed the boy, ignored the boy because he had a disability.

I remember J.K. Rowling shared that video with millions of followers, and lots of liberals shared it and thought it was real. And you all had to publish a fact-check about that one as well.

HOLAN: Yes, we fact-checked that and rated it Pants on Fire, because if you looked at the whole video, you would see that when President Trump came in, he greeted the boy and gave him special attention. He didn't ignore him at all.

But I think that goes to the political polarization. And for the people who have the strongest politically held opinions, they are not willing to give the other side the benefit of the doubt at all.

STELTER: Yes. And that's definitely a problem going forward as we head into the midterm election season.

Angie, thanks so much for being here.

HOLAN: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Up next on this special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES: the press and the president. What were the biggest lessons learned in the first year of the Trump presidency?

Our super panel of tough editors is back in a moment.



STELTER: President Trump and the media, some say President Trump vs. the media.

Before we go here this morning, what are some of the lessons that each of our editors on the panel have learned over the past year? I'm sure there's quite a few.

So let's bring back Joanne Lipman, John Avlon, and Sally Buzbee.

Sally, head of the Associated Press, what are you telling your journalists at the end of this year?

BUZBEE: It's a great question.

So, look, Washington reporting in what is happening in the Trump administration is really the most important thing that's happening in the world at this moment.

But what we try to constantly talk to our journalists about is, make sure you are not just focusing on that. There are things that are happening in the world, the rise of China's influence, what Russia is doing, what people outside of Washington in America actually think about what is going on in their country.

And don't become obsessed with that just that one story. Go out and say, what's the impact of the policy decisions that are being made? Cover the world and make sure that people aren't losing sight of all these things.

The accountability journalism in Washington is -- has been and is likely to continue being the most important thing that we do in the coming year. It is what is of interest to the globe.

But make sure you're talking to real people too. Make sure you're showing your work, and you're trying to engage your audiences. And if we are worried about building trust for news organizations, make sure that they know how you report out a story, and so that they can have firsthand information about whether the facts that you're telling them are real or not.

STELTER: Yes, be transparent.

Joanne, what about you? What about your newsroom?

LIPMAN: Yes, I would agree with this.

We really have to think about the audience first, right? What is the information that people need to act on and that they care about every day? And while, you know, we in the press do have something of an obsession with Washington, that the rest of the world and the rest of this country have many, many other incredibly important issues that have to do with their own lives, with employment, with health care.

You know, USA Today Network today, as I mentioned, we have "USA Today" as the flagship. We also have 109 local news organizations. And these local news organizations, half our audience is red, half is blue. They have different political viewpoints, but they share a real interest in a lot of these issues that affect their lives.

And they don't want to read a front page every day that is all Trump all the time. They want to understand what they should be looking for. How are they going to pay for college for their kids? You know, what is the quality of the education? What is the quality of their health care? How will they get access to it?

These are so many other issues that we need to focus on.

STELTER: John, what's been underreported? What's been missed in all these conversations?

AVLON: We really do need to focus on original reporting and investigations, which is we focus on at The Daily Beast.

And you have to do it in a way that makes the important stories interesting to people. You have got to entertainingly educate, and that's fine, but we need to keep in mind that larger mission right now.

[11:55:00] And it's not just a mission to the United States. It's -- you know, we talked about fake news earlier, that term that the president's proliferated. By some counts, there are 24 journalists in jail around the world today on charges of fake news.


AVLON: So, on a Christmas Eve, we need to keep them in mind and recognize that what we're fighting for when we're standing up for facts, it's not a partisan concern. This is something deeper, and it's the fight worth having.

STELTER: John, Joanne, Sally, thank you so much for being here. Happy holidays.

And thank you all for tuning in today.

For Christmas, I'm taking my 7-month-old on a road trip home to see family, so wish me luck.

I will see you right back here next week for a special New Year's Eve edition.