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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
The Big Picture Of Trump's Erratic Behavior; Right-Wing Media Hypocrisy About The Deficit; Reporters Expose West Virginia Governor's Conflicts Of Interest; April Ryan Breaks Silence On Bodyguard's Alleged Assault; United By Tragedy: Two Families Work To Keep Reporters Safe. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 25, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:34] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made and how all of us could help make it better.
Lots going on this hour. We are drowning in hypocrisy about the economy, the debt and deficit. Thankfully, Daniel Dale is here to save us.
Plus, April Ryan is here for his first interview about this troubling incident at one of her speeches. Her bodyguard took a man out forcibly. We're going to get to what happened coming up.
And later, a five-year milestone, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were murdered by ISIS five years ago this summer. Find out what their parents are doing now to help other reporters. That's all coming up in the minutes ahead.
But, first, the story that's playing out every day on our TV screens and Twitter feeds. He is getting worse. We can all see it. It's happening in public. But it's a very hard, very sensitive story to cover.
I'm talking, of course, about President Trump, about his behavior, about his instability, the contradictions, the lies, the complete rejection of reality.
Some prominent figures, including the husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, are pleading with the press to take this more seriously. On Friday, George Conway said Trump is decomposing before our very eyes. He said, quote, Republicans need to face the fact that the president is mentally unstable and psychologically unfit.
Now, Conway seems to think it's narcissistic personality disorder. Others have other concerns. Anthony Scaramucci is out there saying mental breakdown.
What makes them so worried? Well, stuff like this, the summer has been chockfull of examples. Trump making racist comments about Baltimore, making racist comments about the "Squad", repeating ridiculous claims about voter fraud, denying things you can hear with your own ears, like calling Meghan Markle nasty on tape and claiming he never said it.
He's been bragging about visits to hospitals in Dayton and El Paso. He did once mixed-up Dayton and Toledo, two different cities in Ohio. And there's cancelling a planned trip to Denmark over the Greenland dispute.
And remember, back in June, he attacked Nancy Pelosi and Robert Mueller while in World War II cemetery. He's been retweeting conspiracy theories about Jeffrey Epstein. The list goes on and on, but the list is necessary in order to cover the big picture of what's going on.
Look, all of these stories are covered in the moment, individually, by reporters. News outlets use words like erratic, volatile, unstable, but rarely are the words and actions covered as a whole, rarely do they take it to the next level.
OK, what do you see -- what he just said seems crazy. What does that reveal about him? We rarely see it go to that next step.
Now, I get the Trump opponents have been saying he's sick since before election day. I think some folks threw out terms like cognitive decline way too casually. They dream about the 25th Amendment.
But it is possible to have a fact-based conservation about this. In fact, it's not just possible, it's necessary. Look at the "New York Times" reporting that some former Trump aides are, quote, increasingly worried about his behavior. Most people who cover this world for a living know that.
I spent the week talking with major media figures at networks and newspapers. There is definitely widespread recognition that Trump's behavior is getting worse in type and infrequency. It seems he's acting more erratic more often. I mean, calling his Federal Reserve chair an enemy and compare him to the communist leader of China, sending the markets into a free fall, come on.
Of course, the president is always going to have a choir to back him up, to rationalize the irrational, to make excuses and orders say, hey, he was just kidding. His Fox fans pretend that Trump's worst episodes didn't happen at all, or, you know, they blame the media for bad coverage.
But let's talk about that coverage, everywhere but Fox. When you watch a broadcast nightly newscast, how often do you hear about just how far off the road Trump is? Not often enough. Yes, they do note the daily madness, but they rarely connect the dots between the freak- outs.
Now, I do think CNN and MSNBC are better about putting the ugly reality in front and center in banners and in stories, but there's not really a vocabulary for this. There's not really a format for covering it.
I mean, look, it's comfortable and natural to lead a newscast with, say, Trump wanting to buy Greenland. We have a format for that. We know what to do. We know what to put in a matter. We know how to do it.
It's a lot harder to cover concerns about the president's wellbeing, because it's really a series of questions that no one is able to answer.
[11:05:08] Why does he make it all about himself even after visiting a hospital after a massacre? Why does he lie so often? Is there a method to the madness or is something wrong? Is he suffering from some sort of illness?
It's questions, questions and then just more questions. No satisfying answers and here is what happens every time.
Take Megan McArdle's newest column for "The Washington Post", she says: I'm not Trump's doctor and I don't know what's wrong with him.
There is that understandable aversion to diagnosing someone off the TV and that aversion sometimes shuts down these conversations. But McArdle said she doesn't need a diagnosis to know she should be worried. And maybe that's the point.
Here is James Fallows making a similar point for "The Atlantic", saying if Trump were a CEO or an airline pilot or any responsibility, action would already be underway to remove him from that role.
So something is wrong. There are lots of theories about what it is. There are some doctors who think they know. Others say we shouldn't speculate. There are ethical questions about having this conversation at all.
But we can't tiptoe around it anymore. We've got to talk about this. So let's talk about it. Let's do it.
Let me bring in two guests, two psychiatrists with different views about this.
Dr. Bandy X. Lee is a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. She co-authored a book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump". It originally came out two years ago, started this conversation in many ways about Trump's mental health.
And Dr. Allen Frances is in Philly for us. He's a professor emeritus and former chair of psychiatry at Duke University Medical College. And he authored the book "Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyses the Age of Trump".
So, Dr. Lee, first, to you, you have been trying to sound an alarm for the past two years about the president's fitness. Has the press been listening to what you and your colleagues have been saying?
DR. BANDY X. LEE, PSYCHIATRY PROFESSOR, YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Not at all. I feel that the press has actively tried to shun us, especially "The New York Times" editorial that seems to have been publish in collaboration with the past APA president, and I'm very concerned about the fact that the American Psychiatric Association has been working as pretty much as an agent of the state to -- STELTER: To stop people from talking about this issue?
LEE: Yes, I'm speaking of the new, what many of us have started to call a gag rule. They have modified the original Goldwater rule, which I'm a staunch supporter of, into an order that allows for no exception and it basically says that we're not just allowed to diagnose but say anything of any kind in relation to a public figure.
Here's what the original Goldwater rule says that psychiatrists have a responsibility to society as well as to patients, and we are expected to contribute to activities that improve the community and better public health. And so when we're asked about a public figure, we should educate the public in general terms, just not diagnose.
STELTER: Right, without saying I'm diagnosing because you've never met the man.
STELTER: You can describe what you're seeing.
So, Dr. Frances, I know you disagree with this view that Dr. Lee and a couple of other dozen psychiatrists have published in this book. You say it's dangerous to be talking this way. Why?
DR. ALLEN FRANCES, FORMER CHAIR OF PSYCHIATRY, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that medicalizing politics has three very dire consequences. The first is that it stigmatizes the mentally ill. I've known thousands of patients, almost all of them are well-behaved well- mannered good people.
Trump is none of these. Lumping the mentally ill with Trump is a terrible insult to the mentally ill, and they have enough problems and stigma as it is.
The second issue is that calling Trump crazy hides the fact that we're crazy for having elected him and even crazier fo allowing his crazy policies to persist.
Trump is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin and Mao were in the last century. He may be responsible for many more million deaths than they were. He needs to be contained but he needs to be contained by attacking his policies, not his person.
It's crazy for us to be destroying the climate our children will live in. It's crazy to be giving tax cuts to the rich that will add trillions of dollars to the debt our children will have to pay. It's crazy to be destroying our democracy by claiming that the press and the courts of the enemy of the people. We have to face these policies not Trump's person.
[11:10:00] Now, it's absolutely impossible, you can bet the house that the Congress, that Pence, that the cabinet will never ever remove Trump on grounds of mental unfitness. That will never happen. Discussing the issue in psychological name-calling terms distracts us from getting out to vote -- (CROSSTALK)
STELTER: But I'm not talking about name-calling. I'm talking about asking questions that are really uncomfortable. Not saying we have the answers, I'm saying we need to bring it up.
FRANCES: Well, the problem is the diagnosis offered have been amateurish. They don't apply to Trump. They will never get Trump out of office.
And I'm worried that in dealing with the psychological motivations and inaccurate psychiatric diagnosis, we lose the focus on getting out to vote, and that's much more important at this point.
STELTER: So, Dr. Lee, your response?
LEE: First of all, I'd like to clarify that I have never diagnosed. In fact, I have always emphasized dangerousness over diagnosis. Dangerousness is about the situation, not the person. Mr. Trump as a private citizen would not be such a great danger.
I also object to the moral attribution that Dr. Frances is giving. Those with mental illness are no different than the general population. Some are good, some are bad.
And in fact, mental pathology is defined by destructiveness, whether one is destructive toward oneself or against others. It is something we need to treat and address.
STELTER: So your advice to the press to outlets like CNN and NBC and others that are trying to cover Trump, what's your advice?
LEE: So, my advice is consult us. There are now thousands of mental health experts who are eager to speak beyond belief. In fact, they have formed professional organization called the World Mental Health Coalition and made me president.
People can go to the website dangerouscase.org. We started on an ethical basis. I held an ethics conference at Yale to speak about, to discuss the gravity of speaking up and after that, we collected the essays of 37 of the most renowned psychiatrists and mental health experts from around the country and that's how the book came about.
We are not trying to medicalize politics. We're trying to meet our professional responsibility to society.
STELTER: And, Dr. Frances, your advice to the press? How do you feel the press should handle these situations, these ongoing questions about the president's health?
FRANCES: Well, the problem is I thought the book was really silly. The people most willing to offer diagnosis know the least about it, have never contributed to discussions about diagnosis.
There is absolutely no doubt that Trump is dangerous. Everyone knows that. Everyone should have known that before the election. The question is, is he dangerous because he's a bad, evil con man or
is he dangerous because he's mentally ill?
And on that issue, I think it's very clear he's dangerous because he's evil. He's not dangerous because he's mentally ill.
And the mentally ill argument, if it would get him out of the office, I'd say, go with it even if it's inaccurate. Anything to get this man out of office. But it won't work.
So piling on inaccuracy, stigma, the press will be getting people who know nothing about psychiatric diagnosis spouting off at the mouth, it won't add to the discussion, it will distract from the political stuff and we have to focus on how evil --
STELTER: -- connecting the dots be between all of these ridiculous things that happen every day, and my fear is that people are too afraid to say, whoa, this is -- this is a problem. There is something wrong here when he's attacking his Federal Reserve chair, misspelling the guy's name and doing 50 of those a day, kind of grasping for the language to use around this, but it's --
FRANCES: I have -- I think I have better language. I think Trump is best characterized as a spoiled brat as a baby having temper tantrums, as a completely unfit person unable to meet the challenges and the responsibilities of his office, as a con man, as a -- the most narcissistic person maybe in our time, a narcissist for all times.
All of these -- as a thief, as a corrupter of others, as a obstructer of justice. These are terms that all make sense.
Attributing every bad behavior that humanity is capable of to mental illness misses the point of evil and also stigmatizes the mentally ill.
STELTER: Dr. Frances, thank you.
Dr. Lee, last word to you?
LEE: I like to call out that Dr. Frances has diagnosed, saying that someone does not have a narcissistic personality disorder is also a diagnosis and I don't believe there is a need to dualize everything. I believe that what you said is actually very important, that we need to connect the dots.
[11:15:01] One does not have to be -- one or the other, someone can black the capacity, as well as be criminally minded. I pointed that out in a number of interviews and it does not have to be only a personal problem, we're not concerned about Mr. Trump's personal mental health, we're concerned about his affects on society.
And political people are asking questions about mental health. Mental health people are wondering about the political process. It's about time for a conversation, I would say. STELTER: Dr. Lee, Dr. Frances, thank you both. I'm grateful for you
Quick break and a conversation about the economy, President Trump's tweets and comments about the economy and right wing media hypocrisy about the debt.
STELTER: All right. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
With the U.S. economy slowing down and President Trump trying to spin it back up, Trump's pledge to eliminate the federal debt is further and further out of reach. The government now expects the deficit to surpass $1 trillion by 2020 next year, which is sooner than expected.
So, notice what's not happening right now. Right wing TV and radio hosts are not up in arms. In fact, they barely made a peep when Trump surrendered a 10-year-long partly made-up fight over debt and deficits by signing a budget bill that increases spending and raises the debt ceiling. That story almost didn't lead the nightly news. It was barely discussed in primetime and that's partly because there wasn't an outcry.
[11:20:02] I guess conservatives wanted this issue to disappear to ensure that their other capitulation on the budget, something that was once said to be a top priority as a party would go mostly unnoticed. And it mostly did.
But small signs on this tension still surfaced. Fox News host Neil Cavuto called it out, demanding that Fox Business host Lou Dobbs explained what Trump is actually doing to lower the deficit. Dobbs couldn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS HOST: What has he done to address it, Lou?
LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST: We are looking at record low unemployment for every minority group in this country.
CAVUTO: I'm asking you a question about the deficit and debt. Do you worry about that or not? If you don't, that's fine. Just said I don't worry about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Dobbs defending Trump, of course, but I don't want this history to fall down the memory hole. Dobbs and other right-wing stars screamed about the rising debt during the Obama years, they screamed. This is in 2015. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DOBBS: We've seen seven years of absurdity. We're talking about a debtor nation in perpetuity. We continue to persist between $400 billion and a half trillion dollars in deficit every year. You don't find your way to the promise land that way. You find your way to devastation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Devastation. Well, now, we're nearing a trillion dollars. Dobbs apparently doesn't care anymore, because he likes the guy who's spending the money.
And Dobbs is not alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the most outrageous example of deficit spending imaginable. He's bankrupted this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They borrowed $170 billion to pay for the spending not covered by the tax revenue. Amazing. If you run your household like that, you would be bankrupt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: These clips are important to remember. Rush Limbaugh, too. He spent years slamming Obama, only then to turn around and blame politicians, not himself, politicians, for scaring people about the deficit.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: This is about the debt that Obama created if Obama was a CEO with a private company, he would facing an SEC investigation, because of his lies about the nation's financial situation.
Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it's been --
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STELTER: It's easier to roll your eyes at hypocrisy, where you're now excusing Trump for doing something they tore Obama apart for.
But in these moments, we need to remember those old clips. The most outrageous aspect of the right's hypocrisy on the budget is that Obama added trillions to the debt to keep the Great Recession from becoming a depression. It's Econ 101, increase demand, and support the safety net during a recession and it worked. Trump inherited a healthy economy with the growth, the deficit slowing, and Trump immediately started blowing up the debt with tax cuts. God help us if we do have another recession.
With me now is CNN Reporter, Daniel Dale, and senior correspondent for "New York Magazine", CNN Contributor, Irin Carmon.
Daniel Dale, of course, the president is trying to blame any economic downturn on the media. Apparently, he's going to say, it's our fault if there is a recession. What's been his most egregious lie lately about the economy?
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, last week, speaking to reporters, he was asked about, of course, his trade war. And he said, somebody said it's Trump's trade war. It's not my trade war.
STELTER: Not his trade war.
DALE: It's not his trade war.
And so, as fact checkers, we like complicated policy claims we can delve into nuances and make ourselves look smart, but a lot of these Trumpers just like up is down, you know, ridiculous ones where you're like no, everyone knows that's not true.
STELTER: There is the quote. He really did say it.
Irin, how are we supposed to respond, you know, when he says, I'm the chosen one, I'm the chosen one to take on China and then a couple of days later, he says, I was being sarcastic, you guys can't take a joke?
IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And we have something in the last 24 hours, too, about whether he had second thoughts, what it means to have second thoughts. I think it's really a problem when the president's version of truth, we already know is malleable.
We also don't even know if his words seem to mean what they sound like if the tweets constitute any kind of policy -- I mean, we're in this ever shifting reality here where it's impossible to know whether to take these seriously because sometimes policies do follow some Trump's random musing in the middle of the night.
STELTER: Right, and tweet things like that.
So, Daniel, what should the press be doing differently? I was talking about how to handle things that seem unhinged from him. When it seems to fact checking, your specialty, what do you wish we would do differently?
DALE: The number one thing, Brian, is cover the dishonesty at all. I can't even tell you the number of times I fact checked a rally he made 15, 25, sometimes 30 false claims and then I'll go and read the coverage of that rally, and not only is that not the focus, it's not even mentioned.
STELTER: It's like, hey, he was energetic at the rally.
STELTER: And the headline should be, he lied to them for --
CARMON: And his people love it. The headline is always is that his people love it and they don't care. We know that already.
DALE: Yes, so even if it's not the focus, it should be mentioned at least and that often still four years into this does not happen.
STELTER: Often times, the lying is the story.
STELTER: I'm glad that CNN brought you on a couple of months ago, because we've got a fact checker now full time checking this stuff, but we need a lot more of that across the press it seems like. All through the news outlets to keep it front and center.
DALE: Agree. There are a couple things the press should be doing as well. One is confronting Trump at least about the lies and false claims he's made dozens of times. I understand if the first time, you don't know the facts and aren't comfortable putting him on the spot, but after 80 times he passed the Veterans Choice program that Obama signed into law, surely, at that point, someone can say, Mr. President, that's not true.
[11:25:10] I think, also, it's not even after his rallies, it's not even mentioned whatsoever that he made 15 or 20. So, I think both of these things need to happen.
STELTER: This week, two former Trump secretaries got new jobs. Sean Spicer going to "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC. Sarah Sanders joining FOX News as a commentator.
Does this matter, Irin, to see folks rewarded after misleading the public after months and months and months?
CARMON: I think what we're seeing at play here is precisely the consequence of what Daniel is talking about, the failure of reporters who are daily interacting with Trump to call him out, because there is a desire here to pretend everything is normal and to memory hole the parts that are extraordinary.
I mean, again, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders regularly lied not just to the press but to the American people, in service of most likely blatantly unconstitutional policies.
And so, does truth matter? Does it matter that we can trust basically what's coming out of the White House? Instead, we have this impulse where we want to move on. We want to pretend it's normal. People want to take their kids to school. They want to worry about their jobs.
They don't want to keep thinking about the fact that people in what is supposedly the most elevated institution of our country are lying to them, and so we turned it into, as Hannah Arendt called it, meaningless triviality. We pretend it didn't happen. We make Sean Spicer, or the producers of "Dancing with the Stars" want to make Sean Spicer into this lovable hilarious character who doesn't have any rhythm.
But we can forget that this is really serious stuff, that we're losing the ability to trust in these institutions, because Sean Spicer is out there lying about voting fraud.
STELTER: Now, CNN hired Andrew McCabe, formerly with the FBI, was fired from the FBI. He was accused of lying in a leak investigation.
And people on the right said, well, you're hiring McCabe, why can't Fox hire Spicer? Is there a difference? Why can't fox hire Sanders? Is there a difference?
CARMON: Of course, there's a difference. Andrew McCabe is going to bring serious expertise with respect to the FBI and investigations, and he in no way was accused of standing in front of the American people and lying to them. He was accused of lack of candor and talking to the press, that the proportion, skill and substance are utterly not comparable.
STELTER: Is that a problem, Daniel, more broadly, that two wrongs don't make a right sort of behavior, the false equivalence behavior that goes on a lot? I find in my Twitter feed, I got a lot of Trump supporters saying every politician lies, so what's the big deal about Trump?
DALE: Yes, I get that all the time. I'll point out that Trump made, say, 240 false claims in a single week before the midterms and I'll get people saying well, Obama said you can keep your doctor under Obamacare where you couldn't.
Of course, every politician is not always honest. Of course, Obama was sometimes dishonest. But if you talk to any presidential historian, they'd tell you, we've never seen anything like the avalanche of dishonesty, the sheer frequency, and I think the triviality, the needlessness of many of these false claims are simply no qualitative or quantitative comparison between Trump and his predecessors
STELTER: Daniel, Irin, thank you both.
Quick break here, and then, April Ryan coming up next.
[11:30:00] STELTER: Billionaire politician comparing a newspaper to garbage, but I'm not talking about President Trump. I'm talking about how his anti-media rhetoric trickles down. This week, West Virginia's Charleston Gazette-Mail in partnership with ProPublica released a damning report about the state's Republican Governor Jim Justice.
Now, the report details the countless conflicts of interest created by the governor's ownership of the luxury resort The Greenbrier because he refuses to place his assets in a blind trust. Here's the front page of the Gazette-Mail.
Now, this all sounds familiar it's because Trump made the exact same move. In fact, Governor Justice and President Trump share a lot in common. They both frequently criticized the same kind of targets. They attack the media. Justice is known to bring a paper copy of The Gazette to slam negative coverage of his rallies.
Now, we did invite the governor to come on our show and he declined due to a prior obligation. But Ken Ward Jr. is here. Ken, it was -- but before I bring in Ken, let me show you what justice said about the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He said this week, "It's become the Charleston Enquirer. They make no news. All they do is throw garbage." Come on.
Now, despite his efforts to discredit the paper, lawmakers in West Virginia are calling for ethical reforms. So Ken Ward Jr.'s reporting is having an impact, and Ken joins me now from Charleston. What's it like, Ken, to be called garbage, that your paper called garbage by the governor?
KEN WARD JR., STAFF REPORTER, CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL: Well, this is nothing new for us. Former Governor Arch Moore years ago, the Charleston Gazette was known as the morning sick call. But certainly, I think President Trump has kind of elevated this and it's allowing this sort of anti-press rhetoric to trickle down and embolden people like Governor Justice to take those kinds of cracks and attacks at what is just good solid reporting by The Gazette-Mail and ProPublica.
STELTER: Did he actually answer real questions you asked?
WARD: We wanted to sit down with Governor Justice and go over the questions we had about the Greenbrier and they declined to do that. A spokesman did send us some responses to emailed questions that we sent but no, they would not sit down and discuss this with us.
STELTER: And notably, your reporting was in consult with ProPublica, a national nonprofit news organization that's been trying to help local news outlets recently. What does it mean to have nonprofit help like this?
WARD: Oh it's just absolutely essential. You know, the -- ProPublica's program, the Local Reporting Network, Report for America is another great program, Frontline has just started a similar program.
One of the things we're seeing and this happened in West Virginia last year when ProPublica helped us write about the natural gas industry, it's happened in Kentucky where ProPublica is working with the courier-journal, what we're seeing is that a powerful interest whether they're politicians or industries are very critical of this ProPublica program. And what that shows you is that powerful people don't want local news organizations to be strong and independent and be doing this kind of reporting that exposes wrongdoing.
STELTER: That's one of the best testimonials I can imagine for having strong well-funded local journalism. If they don't like it, you're onto something.
WARD: Well, I think that that's -- you know, we follow the money and in the -- when we get a reaction like this, it certainly shows that we're onto something. Notably, while the governor called our reporting garbage, he didn't point out anything that was inaccurate in our story.
STELTER: Right. That's always a thing, right? They always resort to name-calling when they know the facts are not on their side. Ken, thanks so much. Check out the four reporting on Gazette-Mail Web site or ProPublica.
A quick break here. Much more head this hour including April Ryan. I'm getting her shot up. Also ahead this hour, a really important story -- we're going to get to a Ryan in just a moment. Plus, these two men, these two journalists killed by ISIS in Syria five years ago this summer, if you were their parents what would you do? We'll find out what these two parents did, how they are honoring their children's legacies. That's all coming up ahead.
[11:35:00] STELTER: In just a moment here on RELIABLE SOURCES, April Ryan is here for a first interview after a troubling incident at one of her recent speeches. Hear what happened right after this.
[11:40:00] STELTER: Now, to a controversy involving April Ryan, the well-known CNN Political Analyst and White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan has been silent about this incident that took place on August 3rd when she was giving a speech here in New Brunswick New Jersey.
Ryan was there with a bodyguard. You just saw him walk through the frame. An unfortunate reflection of the fact that she's faced death threats for speaking out in the Trump age. But the bodyguard Joel Morris took local editor Charlie Kratovil's camera. You can see it's shaking there while he was filming the speech.
Then the bodyguard forcibly removed the reporter from the event as seen here on the hotel's lobby security camera. Kratovil has filed a criminal complaint and Morris is scheduled to appear in court on September 12th.
Morris declined to comment to us and up until now so is Ryan. Kratovil has criticized her for not immediately condemning the use of violence against the journalists. Ryan is joining me now for her first interview on the matter.
April, a lot of people have expressed concerns about this being a First Amendment violation, and it sure does look concerning to me. We can see in the video that it seems like the bodyguard tries to say something to you when you're on stage starting your speech. Did you order the bodyguard to take the man's camera away and remove the reporter from the event?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Brian, before I even get to that, I want to say this. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm the first person who wants to get a story out being on T.V. or radio. And the only reason why I've been quiet is because of a threat, a threat of lawsuits, and my attorney said I can't speak. But here's the thing. This is not about suppressing the press. My body of work stands for me. And no, I did not order anyone to do anything.
At that moment what you saw was my then-bodyguard who was concerned with my safety come to me and say stop talking. They were about 100 feet away from me. I didn't know what was going on or what was said. I was on the stage at the time.
STELTER: And that's tough when you're on stage and you're not sure what's going on. But why not have cameras at your speeches? What's the problem with having a person videotape your speech?
RYAN: Well, you know, this was a private event for a non-profit organization in New Brunswick New Jersey. Our contract stated that if someone wanted to come and film or if they wanted to interview me, they had to ask for permission. There was no request for permission and permission was not granted.
Now, if they would have asked for permission, it would have been granted. And the reason why I do this, one it's standard in the industry, and two because I don't want my words twisted.
STELTER: And I get that. He says he did have permission. He sends he has the documentation. He sent some of that to me.
RYAN: But according to my contract -- according to my contract and with the organization, no one asked me for permission.
STELTER: Do you -- do you regret that the bodyguard --
RYAN: It would have been granted if he had asked me -- if it was asked, yes.
STELTER: Do you regret that the bodyguard put his hands on this reporter? To me, that's completely inappropriate.
RYAN: Well, again, my former contracted security personnel thought I guess I suspect was concerned for my safety.
STELTER: So maybe he just overreacted. Are you saying he just overreacted?
RYAN: Yes, yes.
STELTER: I was given --
RYAN: And on the date after this, we reviewed this, and we decided not to contract with that organization anymore. But again, I believe, in my humble opinion or I assume that he was concerned about my safety.
STELTER: And you have spoken in the past about facing death threats more than one. Can you tell us you know, anything more about that because I know that's sensitive? RYAN: It's a very sensitive situation. I do receive death threats.
I continue to receive death threats. The atmosphere around me is charged. And that's one of the reasons why I assume you may have overreacted because he was concerned for my safety. But it doesn't make you feel good to get a death threat and have to send it to the FBI and local authorities.
I'm a person in the community of children. I have friends and family. It's a tough situation to live under but I do it. And unfortunately, I have to have bodyguards around me. Here's what Washington Post's Eric Wemple wrote about this. He said, it's one thing to hire a bodyguard to protect to freedom of press advocate for death threats. It's another thing when the bodyguard undermines freedom of press on behalf of that freedom of press advocate.
So what will be different in the future? Will there be something different in the future? It sounds like the bodyguard in not anymore working for you so that's one thing that'll be different.
RYAN: Well, you know, as long as this atmosphere continues, Brian, I'm going to have to have a body part but the protocol is that the bodyguard is supposed to be with me, and that was not protocol.
[11:45:04] STELTER: You mean, because he left -- because he left to go allegedly assault the candidate -- the journalists. You're saying he didn't follow the protocol.
RYAN: I say, I didn't know what's going on at the time.
STELTER: Right. And you weren't in the room when he did that at the hotel lobby.
RYAN: I was -- I was speaking so -- and at the very least for those real journalists who are saying the things that they're saying, I would hope that they may be a correction for the error that you know, some of the things have been said.
STELTER: Isn't it concerning though that you're out there speaking privately that you know -- I remember, when I was giving a speech at a college and a couple of Infowars reporters showed up, and they were asking me a bunch of questions. I just thought the best thing to do was just to talk to them rather than try to ignore them or swat away their camera because that's not our job. Our job is not to stop people from asking questions, it's to help them ask questions.
RYAN: Right. And see that's the issue. If someone asked for permission, I would have granted it. But sometimes your words are twisted by people who don't necessarily understand you or what you're saying or who have an agenda. And that kind of thing can charge the atmosphere to create hate against me and death threats.
So that is one of the reasons. This was a protected measure but again, we're reassessing a lot of things. My team were reassessing a lot of things.
STELTER: April, I appreciate you being here. Thank you for talking with me.
RYAN: Thank you so much, Brian.
STELTER: After the break here, it's been five years since the tragic murder of two journalists at the hands of ISIS. Today their families are taking that tragedy and turning it into purpose. Mom and dad, James Foley's mom, Steven Sotloff's dad are with me next.
STELTER: Now, the two families united by tragedy. It has been five years since the brutal killings of two journalists by ISIS. James Foley was abducted covering the conflict in Syria. He was held by ISIS, murdered on August 19th, 2014. Steven Sotloff was murdered two weeks later. Now, five years later, Steve and James live on because his parents have taken that trauma, one of the worst days of their lives, and worked to keep other reporters safe in war zones. It is the ultimate tribute to their sons.
The James Foley Legacy Foundation founded by his mother Diane advocates for hostages and provides journalist safety guides. And The Steven Sotloff Memorial 2LIVES Foundations founded by his parents, Art and Shirley funds safety training sessions and presents scholarships. They join me.
Thank you so much both for being here. Diane, first, just a basic question. How are you doing? What is your life like these days?
[11:50:21] DIANE FOLEY, FOUNDER, JAMES W. FOLEY LEGACY FOUNDATION: Well, we're challenged. Both Arthur and I, we want to continue the legacy of our brave sons. They both wore intrepid, courageous journalists who really wanted the world to know of the suffering of the Syrian people.
So my challenge has been to continue Jim's spirit. So the James Foley Legacy Foundation advocates for freedom of all Americans who were taken hostage abroad, and for the protection of journalists worldwide.
STELTER: And Art, same question for you. How are you doing five years later?
ART SOTLOFF, FOUNDER, 2LIVES STEVEN J. SOTLOFF MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: We're doing OK. I have a purpose now. We have a purpose of Steven's legacy in protecting journalists, giving them training, first-day training and survival training, which is called (INAUDIBLE).
It's very rewarding to us to see that we're making a difference in these young -- I have to say, young freelance journalists. They were kids just like my son. independently, they came up to me and they said, if it wasn't for you, and your wife and the foundation that they never would have been able to afford this type of training.
And when I started to get this feedback, I realized this was really something that I had to do more than once a year. We're looking to do three to four training sessions a year. STELTER: Diane, Jim was 40 years old in 2014. Do you think about where you would be today? Do you think about what he would be accomplishing in journalism?
FOLEY: Well, sure. And that is why I applaud all of you, courageous journalists who dare to continue to report the truth, to investigate the truth, to report from dangerous parts of the world, and even domestically on subjects that people may not want to hear the truth on. And that is why Art and I and other families through our foundations want to create this culture of safety, so that journalists who want to become -- report on the truth in the world know how to protect themselves, the subjects that they interview, and dare to speak the truth to power in the world.
So that is why the Foley Foundation also has developed a curriculum, a safety curriculum for graduate students, and most recently, we're working on undergraduate students so that they know how to protect themselves, their sources, and so that they could continue to do this important work.
SOTLOFF: The journals that I met that have taken our training have said to us that if again, if it wasn't for our organization, and also with the Foley's organization does, that they wouldn't be able to afford to even come and it's very, very essential. This is training that saves lives. It makes them think correctly, it teaches them first aid, security on their computers, how to handle yourself in interrogations, breathing properly just things that everybody needs to know.
STELTER: Yes, indeed truly two organizations well worth supporting. And we'll be back in just a moment.
[11:55:00] STELTER: Hey, we're out of time here on T.V., but check out our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast available through all the major outlets. Also, subscribe to our nightly newsletter. It's all available at reliable sources.com. We'll see you right back here this time next week.