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Self-Proclaimed President returns to Venezuela, Despite Arrest Concerns; New Yorker, "The Making of the Fox News White House"; American Citizen Jailed, Tortured in Saudi Arabia; Actor Luke Perry, Star of Beverly Hills 90210", Dead at 52; Michael Jackson Accused of Molesting 2 Boys in Explosive HBO Documentary. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 4, 2019 - 15:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Risking possible arrest, Venezuela's opposition leader and self-declared interim President, Juan Guaido, has now returned home and is already rallying his supporters.

Guaido arriving in Caracas to large, adoring crowd. He then headed to a massive protest rally where he spoke of unity and vowed to oust embattled President, Nicolas Maduro.


JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): Is there a little bit of fear, no. We were all threatened, all of us who are here, you all saw it. Of killing us. And I say something. It hasn't been persecution. It's not going to be threats that we are going to be stuck. We are here, more united, more strong than ever. More stronger than ever.


HILL: CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Caracas at this hour. What more can you tell us -- Patrick?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, People here are comparing this to a Hollywood thriller because it couldn't have been scripted any better. Many people are wondering if Juan Guaido was going to be smuggled back into the country -- if maybe a military plane from one of the country he's been visiting across Latin America -- would be lent to him to bring him back. But no, he went to Panama. Got on a commercial flight and basically dared the Maduro government to arrest him.

When he got here, there were a group of ambassadors from European countries that escorted him out of the airport into a motorcade of cars. Brought him to this rally where I was as well and it was just electrifying when he arrived. You can very much say that the opposition, again, has this wind in their sails. There's a lot of expectation here that he will continue to call for President Maduro, the socialist leader of this country, who many feel stole the election last year, to step down from power. But the wild card still remains the Venezuelan military. Which has been a staunch defender of Maduro. Have benefited greatly during his reign.

But, you know, here we are in the country that has the greatest oil reserves in the world and you see people picking through trash for food. You go into the markets and the food there is, is in such incredible prices that nobody can afford to eat. So until that makes such a difference that the military decides to back Guaido, decides to call for elections, probably not that much will change -- Erica.

HILL: Patrick Oppmann with the latest for us from Caracas, thank you.

Up next, Fox News as state TV. We discuss an alarming "New Yorker" piece about the in incredibly close ties between the cable network and the White House, including a loyalty ratings system.


HILL: A "New Yorker" article is painting a troubling picture about the not so secret alliance between President Trump and Fox News. The in-depth expose cites several examples of how the conservative cable news network and its cozy relationship with the President has created the closest thing the U.S. has come to having propaganda state TV. Brian Stelter is CNN's chief media correspondent and the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES". Bill Carter is a former "New York Times" media reporter and a CNN media analyst. Gentlemen, good to have both of you with us. We were talking briefly in the break, a lot of this was sort of known. Right? Or at least alluded to by a lot of people, but it's the depth of the reporting this the piece, thee pages in this article and the details that really set up this relationship. Where it's clear, it's a symbiotic relationship between the President and Fox News. They need and feed one another.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right, making the case this could be called not state-run TV, by state supported, state sponsored television. I mean, the White House and the President and Fox News have an alliance that we haven't seen before.


STELTER: Maybe a Democratic president would dream of having this someday with MSNBC, but never happened before.

CARTER: I thought it was funny. But the comparison she made was James Madison -- to having an outlet that basically is trumpeting your point of view, full time, and not challenging anything you say.

HILL: It's amazing too what's laid out here about sort of how Fox News has changed along the way with Donald Trump and even their standards. How they have changed. So they detail different moments with Sean Hannity. Right? Who's a perfect example, who as we know is very close with the President. Who in January of 2018 was at the border waiting for the President. The press corps gets off the bus, Sean Hannity is already there, hugging Secretary Nielsen.

He appeared at a campaign event in November of 2018, which was remarkable because back in 2011 he was this close to being an event with the Tea Party in Ohio. When all of a sudden Roger Ailes said, no way, not happening and pulled the plug. There's a distinction between journalism and politics. That's gone.

STELTER: It has changed over the years. I think that Fox News is actually being two channels in one. An actual Fox News, to the newsroom, there are real journalists there like Bret Baier. And then Fox opinion, which is much, much bigger.

CARTER: And more powerful.

STELTER: And frankly, and much more powerful. And frankly, the Fox News part has been shrinking in the Fox opinion part has been expanding.

[15:40:00] And the reason why all this matters is because the President has these reinforcements no matter how bad the scandals get. No matter how bad his behavior gets. He has these supporters on Fox and they help hold the wall for him in order to keep his support from eroding.

CARTER: It's really crucial, Erica, that if he didn't have that and he only had media coverage that was objective. All the things that he does that are inaccurate and false and challengeable, would appear to everybody as something to really be questioned. But he gets backed up by Fox. He can sort of say that isn't true, it's fake and they support him. And so his followers only watch that and that's the only view they get.

HILL: And vice versa. Right? I mean, there are plenty of accounts of the President taking his cues from hosts on Fox. And even analysts on Fox and following through with those talking points. He actually ranks the loyalty -- according to this piece, Brian -- of Fox hosts?

STELTER: Yes, and this was new. Hadn't heard this described before. Jane Mayer citing sourcing saying that President Trump considers Brett Baier to only be a six, but the host on "Fox and Friends" to be a ten or even a 12. There you see. Steve a 12. There you see --

CARTER: Steve Doocy got a 12.

STELTER: Give Doocy a 12. I'm sure Doocy's proud of that.

CARTER: About a 10, yes.

STELTER: But I wouldn't be proud.

CARTER: No, that would be embarrassing to a real news person. It would be embarrassing to think you are so in the tank, you're over the top in the tank for me.

HILL: It's also remarkable -- so, Bill Shine, right. So Bill Shine who is now at the White House. We learn too that he's still getting paid as part of settlements from Fox News --

STELTER: Millions of dollars.

HILL: -- while being paid millions of dollars, while being paid by the White House. There was talk in the article that the case was laid out by Jane Mayer , that he's brought his style to the White House, that even the President may fell that he's being aggressive enough when it comes to the Proscar. He wants to see Shine be a little tougher.

CARTER: He doesn't feel like anybody should criticize him, so if he sees any kind of criticism, he goes to Shine. What it's matter with you? You can't control that. I expect you to control that. It's like he expected Jeff Sessions to control the investigation. Everybody that's appointed is for his benefit not for the countries benefit. So how do you help me? And Shine particularly because he plucked him out of Fox News, his own TV outlet. He particularly expects him against the corps.

STELTER: But I would say, we read this piece on the "New Yorker" website, when you're thinking about Fox News a former propaganda, ultimately, they're doing a disservice to their viewers. Ultimately, when the Sean Hannity's of the world are covering up bad news about Trump and promoting a bunch of BS that make Trump feel better, that's actually a disservice to the audience. It may make the President feel good, it doesn't help the audience because it actually confuses the audience.

CARTER: But that's what they want though, Brian.

HILL: Doesn't it also lay out the case though that the management -- for the management at Fox, this is about, it's a business and this is about eyeballs and this is about ratings and this is about money and if going down that route gets them that --

CARTER: There's an audience that wants it. There's an audience that wants that version of the facts even though it may not be accurate. They want that version. And Fox gives them that version. The Trump version.

HILL: They like the outrage.


HILL: There's a whole lot in there. Brian Stelter, Bill Carter, good to see you both.

STELTER: Thanks.

CARTER: Good to see you.

HILL: Thank you.

More on the big news just in. Democrats demanding to speak with the translators in the President's mystery chats with Vladimir Putin.

Plus, one family says a dual American Saudi citizen is being jailed right now. Tortured by the Saudis. What the State Department is saying.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HILL: Tossed into a Saudi jail, beaten, tortured. The family of the Saudi/American says that's exactly what's happening to their loved one and they fear now for his life. That situation putting the Trump administration's relationship with the kingdom under a spotlight. This all involves a doctor who lived in the U.S. for years and went back to Saudi Arabia to set up a hospital. The State Department confirming he is detained there and says it's raised the case with the Saudi government. CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now. So, Nic, what do we know about this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, his family believed that while he's in jail, he's psychologically deteriorating. He has little contact with them. The occasional phone contact, but we did learn on Sunday through Jake Tapper's interview with national security advisor, John Bolton, that U.S. officials have been able to meet with Fitaihi.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST THE LEAD: What do you know about this? What is the U.S. trying to do to secure his release?

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well as of this moment, my understanding is, we have had what's called consular access. Meaning American diplomats in Saudi Arabia had visited with him. Beyond that, we don't really have any additional information at this point.


ROBERTSON: But Fitaihi was actually rounded up in 2017. So he's been languishing in Saudi custody a long tile. A point that his lawyer has made. But I think perhaps the strongest point on that is an alarm bell that was sent ringing by none other than Jamal Khashoggi, "The Washington Post" journalist who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in October last year. In January, the beginning of last year, this was a tweet from Jamal Khashoggi and just think how precedent this was. This is what he says.

What happened to us, how can someone like Dr. Walid Fitaihi get detained and what are the reasons for that? Of course, everyone is helpless and confused. There is no one to plead to and no prosecutor general that responds so that we can confirm. God help us.

Khashoggi, obviously, never survived to find out the answers to any of those questions. And it does seem the Fitaihi is finally getting some U.S. consular attention. But that's far from actually being released from Saudi jail. And you know, the conversations, we understand, the State Department have had is that they point out the Saudi officials, they say, as they point out to all government officials around the world, that all detainees should be treated with respect in accordance with the law.

[15:50:00] But his family feels and his lawyer feels, due process isn't being -- certainly isn't being served in Fitaihi's case.

HILL: All right, we'll continue to stay on top of it. Nic Robertson for us this afternoon. Nic, thank you.

Still ahead, detailed accusations of sexual abuse surfacing against Michael Jackson in a new documentary film. What it means for Jackson's legacy.

Plus, remember the life of actor Luke Perry. We're just learning he's died from a stroke at the age of 52.


[15:55:00] HILL: An outpouring of love and sadness in the response of the news of actor Luke Perry's death. His publicist confirming to CNN, the star of "Beverly Hills 90210" in Riverdale, died after suffering a massive stroke. He was surrounded by family when he passed. His close friend, Patricia Arquette, tweeting today.

Luke Perry -- irreplaceable, beautiful and kind human being, incredible friend, generous actor and adoring father to Jack and Sophie and loving partner to Madison we are all heartbroken. You are the love and you are the light.

Fellow actor, Seth Green calling him warm, kind, generous and hard- working. Adding, we met very young. I witnessed the grace with which he became a pop icon and parent. He's been an awesome example of how to stay decent in a swirl of crazy. Love to his family.

Luke Perry was 52.

Now to a disturbing portrait of the late king of pop, Michael Jackson, laid bare in the new HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland". Two men accused Jackson of molesting them as young boys. The allegations are compelling. They are graphic. And at moments very difficult to watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, HBO "LEAVING NEVERLAND": He told me if he ever found out what we were doing he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives.

Secrets will eat you up. You feel so alone.

I want to be able to speak the truth as loud as I had to speak the lie for so long.


HILL: The reaction is strong, conflicted and raw. Lisa France, CNN senior entertainment writer, joins me now. So, Lisa, first, for people that haven't seen it, just walk us through what is in this film. What are the allegations here?

LISA FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT WRITER: Well part one aired on Sunday. And what we got to see where allegations that Michael Jackson groomed these two men when they were young boys and that he basically used his power and his celebrity to kind of ease the way to his bed. They both allege they were molested by him over several years while they were children. And they gave very graphic detail as to the sexual acts they are alleged they indulged in with Michael Jackson.

HILL: CNN, I know actually spoke with the Robson family in 1993. We have part of the interview. I want to play a little bit.


WADE ROBSON, SAYS MICHAEL JACKSON MOLESTED HIM AS A CHILD: Yes. I know there's been different times where it will be me and Michael. Then there'd be other times where he -- and he has other friends other too. It's like what Brett said. It's just a slumber party. We just have a lot of fun.

CHANTAL ROBSON, WADE ROBSON'S SISTER: And you know, I have slept in the same bed as Michael. It's just you watch cartoons. You fall asleep. You know, it's just a friendship and I know he would never do anything to hurt my brother. He is the nicest guy you have ever met.

JOY ROBSON, WADE ROBSON'S MOTHER: I've been there when these kids have been in Michael's room. I've been there with them. It is just party time. They eat junk food. They play video games. They play so hard they fall asleep. They are exhausted. They fall asleep. There's nothing more to it than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From your standpoint does it seem unusual for 34- year-old man to have kids sleeping over?

JOY ROBSON: Not when you know Michael's background. Under normal circumstances, possibly, yes. But Michael everybody knows he didn't have a childhood.


HILL: In that same interview, Lisa, they said they would never take money to protect Michael Jackson. What change there? Why are we hearing this now? As I imagine it's tough for them to talk about.

FRANCE: Yes. You're seeing him Wade Robson and family denying all of this. And that's actually counting against him and him and James Safechuck, because they both said that Michael Jackson in the past had never done anything to them. Now both of them are fathers. They both have young children. And they wanted to come forward and share their story. And "Leaving Neverland" really gave them the opportunity to talk all the allegations in their own words of what they say happened.

HILL: Jackson's estate filed suit against HBO. They actually called this documentary as part of their statement, a public lynching, trying to counter program. And yet a lot of people are watching. It's leaving, as we noted, a lot of people conflicted. And you touched on that in your most recent piece for

FRANCE: Yes. I wrote a piece about why it hurt so much to watch this. I mean, Michael Jackson was larger than life. And he was a man who we thought of as someone who love children, who love the world and who called us to be our higher selves and our better selves. So to then grapple with these allegations and hear them so graphically laid out and to hear these two men tell them in such a way. What really rocked me was how much they tried to get across how much they loved Michael Jackson. They really loved, adored and respected this man, but at the same time they also say that he was the person who molested them.

So a lot of fans are really having difficulty with the age-old question of can you separate the artist from the art? Can we listen to Michael Jackson's music now after hearing all these really horrible allegations against him? So I feel like whether you believe it or not, it's still a very painful documentary to watch.

HILL: Yes, and part two coming up tonight. Lisa France, always appreciate it. Thank you.

FRANCE: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: I'm Erica Hill in today for Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for spending some time with us. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.