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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

One-on-One with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson; One-on-One with Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos; Three Top Editors on Coronavirus Coverage. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired March 22, 2020 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:00:27]

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES, at a special time here on CNN. I'm Brian Stelter.

We've been covering Governor Andrew Cuomo's press conference here in New York. His latest updates about how New York state is really the epicenter of this coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Cuomo calling on President Trump to nationalize production of medical supplies. We will let you know if we hear from the president or the administration.

We are also awaiting updates from Capitol Hill, a possible congressional briefing or some sort of press conference about the $2 trillion plan that is currently in the works to try to support some of the people that are losing their jobs, some of the corporations that are struggling at this moment.

Here on RELIABLE SOURCES, looking at the media angles here, every corner of the media industry has been touched by this pandemic.

And telecom companies and tech companies, like AT&T are working in a critical way to keep the internet up and running, literally keeping people connected when we are all so isolated.

We are also seeing streaming services being used quite a bit. We'll talk about all of that in the next few minutes here. Standing by for me is Netflix chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, one of the most powerful media executives in the world. He's going to talk with me in a moment about what Netflix is doing.

But first, let me bring in chairman and CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson. AT&T is the owner of this network, CNN.

Randall, thank you for being here.

I'm curious about what has changed for you and for AT&T in the past couple of weeks. How have you had to change AT&T's priorities?

RANDALL STEPHENSON, CHAIRMAN & CEO, AT&T: Hi, Brian. Thanks for having me on.

It's kind of unusual to face a national crisis and ask our employees to go home, but that's effectively what we've done. We've told our employees, to the extent you can do your work at home, go home.

We have 90,000 people who are now doing their job from home. We have a number of people, about 20,000, who are affected by this virus, through any number of reasons. And so, they can't do their jobs at home, so they're on leave. And we're paying folks, you know, 180 hour -- or 160 hours to stay at home, take care of family, take care of themselves.

But then, we have 100,000 employees, Brian, who just, when hurricanes happen, earthquakes happen, they run into those situations and it's no different in this one. So, our technicians are out making sure that the services are up, performing well, and particularly, Brian, for our first responder community.

You heard Governor Cuomo, who I thought did a terrific job, talking about the needs of our medical professionals and the heroic work they're doing. We are the provider of the first responder network, FirstNet. And we have built out a nationwide network under the purview of the federal government to ensure that all of these first responders are connected.

And in a time like this, of national crisis, this network is being tested for its first time. And it's actually performing quite well. And we're doing everything we can. All of our resources are being marshaled towards ensuring that our first responders are able to communicate and do their jobs effectively.

STELTER: What about the wireless and the broadband customers that have AT&T all across the United States. Is the internet infrastructure able to keep up with increased demand?

STEPHENSON: Yes, it's interesting. When the United States business sends everybody home, it changes traffic patterns.

STELTER: Yes.

STEPHENSON: And what we're seeing is our mobile volumes are up 40 percent. Wi-Fi calling volumes are up 100 percent.

The network is performing quite well, to be quite honest with you. It's doing very well. But it's an indication that as we have sent people home, they're now no longer working in their offices, they're working out of their homes, this infrastructure is allowing the communication to continue.

That face-to-face communication that once existed is now happening over mobile devices. It's happening over Wi-Fi. And the infrastructure is holding up quite well.

We're seeing some signs of stress. We're having to go out and do some augmentation of networks, and so, we're sending our employees out to get that done. But right now, the network is performing quite well.

And this is really an indication that the United States has led the world in investment, in communication infrastructure. Not just us, T- Mobile, Verizon -- and this investment, billions upon billions of dollars of investment, we're seeing it pay off during a time of national crisis like this.

STELTER: Yes, you know, I never thought my first time interviewing you on RELIABLE SOURCES would be with you at home. But everybody is at home. Everybody is using these webcams to join and feel a little bit less lonely.

I wonder if you've thought about how this is going to change our world after this pandemic. Is this going to be the new normal? Are we all going to be working from home?

[12:05:01]

Have you thought about that?

STEPHENSON: We've thought about this a lot. And in fact, I think it's going to cause every business to evaluate how they do business. Does this give us comfort and confidence that technology can actually prove to be a great enabler of communication and allowing people to do work from home, child care and work at the same time?

I think when we come out of this, this is exactly what we're going to see.

And, Brian, this is one of the reasons that AT&T, we're doing everything in our power to shore up our balance sheet and make sure we continue investing through this process, because when we come out of this, and the United States will come out of this, we should come out with maintaining leadership in communications technology. This is a competitive advantage for our country for a long time. And we think we should come out of this crisis continuing to invest in 5G, new technologies, and leading the world.

STELTER: There's so much fear about the state of the economy and the possibility of something as big as another Great Depression. What do you say to AT&T employees and other workers who are worried about losing their jobs?

STEPHENSON: Well, AT&T workers, what they're telling them is, you take care of yourself, you take care of your family, you take care of each other. And if you need to stay home to take care of family, then please do so, and we're offering 160 hours of paid time leave. And we'll work to accommodate requirements that go beyond that.

To our customers, Brian, we have said, look, we understand how important communication is for getting through a time like this, and especially small businesses. And consumers and small businesses, we have said, we will waive data caps on your broadband. On your wireless, if you're a consumer or small business impacted by this, on wireless, even your data overcharges, we will not impose those data overage charges on customers.

If you're late, we will not impose a late payment fee. We will not cut off your services if these are issues that are a result of what we're experiencing right now.

So I think corporate America, we're all going to need to step up to help our employees and to help our customers do everything we can to try to endure this.

STELTER: Yes, just to make a painful period a little bit less painful.

While I have you, what do you make of the stimulus package that is being prepared on Capitol Hill as we speak? Right now, the figure is $2 trillion. Is that a sufficient figure?

STEPHENSON: Brian, I don't think we're going to know. When -- the Business Roundtable, we all met virtually this week, and the president joined us. And the general comment of the Business Roundtable was, we need to be big, we need to be bold, we know everything is not going to be precisely targeted as it should, but we need to step up and help, first, the consumer, we need to help small business.

Because small business -- this is going to be really traumatic and dramatic for small businesses. And so do whatever we can to help shore up our small businesses. And we are actually advocating helping some of the more stressed areas of business, the airlines and so forth, that are really critical for a functioning society, as we come out of this.

And so, we think directionally, it's in the right place. It's hard to say whether it's exactly what needs to be done. But it's big, it's bold, and we think that's what's going to be required to keep the economy at some level of stability, particularly if we come out of this.

STELTER: And one more question for you, Randall. It's been a couple of years since AT&T acquired CNN and the rest of what was known as Time Warner. This is the biggest story CNN has had to cover since you've been in charge of CNN and the rest of these brands.

What's it like for you to own a news division? How are you approaching owning CNN in this period?

STEPHENSON: You know, Brian, a lot of the business leaders, and myself, particularly, we're looking at this as a time of war. This is like World War II. And everybody needs to step up and do their part, in terms of how we -- how we help the general population and the general public.

And I see the press as vital in a time like this, in a time of war, to make sure that our people are informed, to make sure that our politicians have a means of communicating, to hold people accountable, people in power, whether it be CEOs like me or politicians, to hold people accountable during these times, and getting information to the public.

And I take my hat off to CNN. I think what we're doing there is terrific work. And the journalists -- we've talked about the health care professionals, we've talked about the communications people who are out risking themselves. CNN journalists are doing the same thing. I think of you as first responders, yourselves.

So, I just thank everybody at CNN for what you are doing. STELTER: Randall, thank you for coming on and thank you for what

you're doing.

STEPHENSON: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: So we've been talking about leadership. That's the theme this hour. You've got your Internet connection, your broadband or wireless. What are you watching? What are you doing when you're at home?

Let's turn to Netflix now and the chief content officer of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, is with me. He's responsible for all of the original programming on the platform.

And Ted, there have been headlines this week about Netflix slightly reducing the quality of the streaming signal in Europe, YouTube is doing this as well, to make sure that the Internet infrastructure holds up during this crisis.

[12:10:07]

Is that something you're having to do in the United States as well?

TED SARANDOS, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER, NETFLIX: Good morning, Brian.

All of the video providers are working with the E.U. regulators to tune down the bit rate to take some of the stress off of the Internet, to make sure it's available for emergencies. And so, we obviously are complying with that and we're going to look to support that -- those requests around the world if there need be.

STELTER: Yes, as they come.

What has changed for Netflix in the last couple of weeks? I know you had to halt production just like --

(CROSSTALK)

SARANDOS: And keep in mind, Brian, the visual quality for the consumer --

STELTER: Sorry to cut you off. What's that?

SARANDOS: I was going to say, keep in mind that the visual quality for the consumer will be barely noticeable at the rates that we're talking about in Europe.

STELTER: Oh, I see. OK.

I know that Netflix like other entertainment giants has halted production of practically everything. How is that affecting your company and your rivals?

SARANDOS: Well, I mean, it's been a massive disruption. Every one of our productions around the world are shut down. I believe that's unprecedented in history. And we have a lot of folks who have found themselves suddenly and without notice to be out of work.

So -- and we're figuring out ways to keep productivity up, but in general, what we're trying to do is make sure that people are taking care of their families and worrying about that first. So, when we were forced to shut down those productions, the first thing we did is make sure that everybody on those sets (ph), everybody on those crews knew that they were being paid for the next two weeks, as if they were there.

We sent all of our employees at home. So, we have all of our employees at home, even in roles that are not necessarily conducive to doing that. So, we're trying to keep things business as usual as we can, in a time of great uncertainty for some people. We hope this brings them some economic comfort, if not emotional comfort.

STELTER: Right. And, I mean, you know, you think about what this would have been like 20 years ago, before we all had these screens at home. And we were all able to watch whatever we wanted at the same time. It makes us feel a little bit less isolated.

But, I do wonder, you know, is Netflix thinking about three months from now, six months from now? I know it's a small question in the grand scheme of this crisis, but are you going to run out of new shows? Are you going to run out of content?

SARANDOS: Well, here's the -- what's happening now, remember, we work pretty far ahead. You know, we deliver all of our shows with all episodes at once. So, we're pretty far ahead. So we don't see any disruption in our output over the next few months. You know, maybe later in the year, if this progresses long, you'll start feeling some of that as the physical production is not operating.

But the creative process has been remarkably adaptive and we've been able to do things like virtual reading (ph) rooms. One of our shows, "Big Mouth", the other day, did their first virtual table read. We had 40 actors and writers with Netflix executives doing a table read of a new episode.

So, people are being quite adaptive on getting ready to -- on getting geared up for a time when we do get back to work.

STELTER: Right. Right.

And what about usage of Netflix? Is there anything you can tell us about how many -- how many more people are streaming more often? Or is that something that we don't know yet?

SARANDOS: Yes, you can imagine, all viewing is up, you know? So, viewing is up on Netflix, viewing is up on CNN, viewing is up on television.

But in general, like I said it's been -- as Randall said, the system has been very robust and can handle the volume of it. And -- but people certainly are watching a lot more Netflix. And that's why we're -- you know, this is what Governor Cuomo said so beautifully, the most important thing you can do stay home. So, we're proud to be part of that, which is trying to make that stay-

home experience a little more bearable for folks, a little more enjoyable, even, and give some families something to gather around, something for people to talk about, making us feel a little less isolated while we are being physically isolated.

STELTER: Yes, yes, it's -- at least there's a feeling of empowerment, as if we can all help, just by staying home, you know, at least we can all feel like we can contribute somehow, even if it's just by closing the doors.

Ted, thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

SARANDOS: Yes, I don't think there's been a --

STELTER: Yes, go ahead, please.

Coming up, we're turning from business executives to newsroom leaders, talking with three of the world's top newspaper magazine and wire service editors about how they are rising to this challenge, how they are covering this crisis. That's coming up in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:18:07]

STELTER: We're back on RELIABLE SOURCES, at a special time.

Every corner of this economy is being upended by the pandemic, including every corner of the media industry. Let me show you a few examples you might not have thought of so far. You know, in the entertainment business, drive-in movie theaters are seeing a sudden comeback. In the area where people are still being given the encouragement to go out of their homes, drive-ins are doing well, at the same time while most movie theater chains have closed. And most movie new releases have been postponed.

In the sports arena, networks like ESPN have had to come up with new plans. They're showing pretty obscure sports and old games, while newspapers are cutting their sports sections for now. Local newspapers are going to be especially hard hit by all of this turmoil, because many papers are already struggling to get by, as "Axios" says, this is a crisis, because advertisers are now slipping away.

If the local car dealership is closed, it's probably not going to advertise in the town paper. You can read this full story on CNN.com, about the virus speeding up the death of local papers. And we're already seeing that with weekly newspapers, because they rely heavily on a vent listing. Some of those have already shut down and laid off staff in just the past week.

I wish I could turn to some positive news here and tell you why it's all going to be OK, but we are, you know, we're living through a tumultuous, frightening period. There are positive signs, though. Local TV stations are producing fantastic coverage of the crisis, but they are also feeling the pinch from advertisers. Subscription business models are sort of the solution, but when people lose their jobs, it is harder to pay for news websites or magazines or cable TV or Netflix.

Some media brands will not survive this downturn. Major networks are adding hours of special coverage, but if families can't pay for cable, then those networks will eventually feel the pinch, too. So, that's the sober picture of this business that tries to keep people informed about the world around them and about world war V, "V" for the virus.

[11:20:05]

With me now is the editor in chief of "The Wall Street Journal," Matt Murray, the executive editor of "The Associated Press", Sally Buzbee, and the editor in chief of "The Atlantic", Jeffrey Goldberg. All three outlets doing very important work in this moment in time. Thank you all for joining me from your homes or offices here.

Sally, you have thousands of employees around the world. How are you keeping them as safe as can be while covering this crisis?

SALLY BUZBEE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, that's really the trick, no question. So our journalists are obviously very in variance. This is obviously a new type of crisis, but many of them are battle hardened. So we've been talking a lot about how to go out and cover the story, but not endanger other people and not endanger themselves, as they do that.

So protective gear, in some cases. We're rethinking, basically, everything we do. But I think our news report has been enormously strong, very fact-based and explanatory. And so far, we're pretty happy with the way we've been able to help news organizations across the entire world get the news and the information they need to distribute to their audiences and their readers and their viewers to stay on top of this.

STELTER: There have been so many cases of the virus being found at newsrooms. Staffers at CBS and CNN and pretty much every other major outlet have been affected. So, Matt Murray, you're at "The Wall Street Journal," you share a building with Fox News and Fox Business. We know four Fox News media employees who have tested positive.

How are you trying to keep your staff safe at "The Journal"?

MATT MURRAY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I would echo what Sally said, Brian. We sent everybody home about a week ago. We did a number of work-from-home drills before that. And of course, starting in January in Asia, we had employees working at home. So we started to anticipate what was going to be needed there.

We had through travels and different exposures. We've already had something like 200 employees in the newsroom who have had self- quarantine. Now, we did have our first case the other day. And we've been in close touch with the people who work with the individual, and we've got pretty careful protocols in place. But -- and I think we'll have more, but broadly similar to what Sally

said. We've got people at home, we've got a pretty careful protocol, we've got pretty careful information. We're not sending anybody out to the story that they don't want to go cover, we're giving them predictive cover.

We're making sure everybody is informed. And we're prioritizing the safety of the folks and their families before even the reporting if they feel uncomfortable.

STELTER: Yes.

Jeffrey, it seems like very day, every hour, there are ten stories that could be the top, top story at that moment. What is number one to you right now?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: Number one to us, at "The Atlantic," is I think the testing story. We were very, very early on the test historic, the lack of kits, lack of organization.

Our reporters have been great on the CDC angle. And we just posted a brilliant reconstruction of, I guess you could call it, sort of the two lost months of this or the month and a half, where things could have happened that didn't. So that's an enormous story for us.

We're approaching it from all angles. We have a very, very strong science team, and a very strong health team. And so, we're trying to give readers as much information, as much context as possible, because I think that's incredibly important right now. That just information without context, without science, background without really close adherence to facts, I think that could be dangerous. So we're really trying hard.

STELTER: Yes, it's like, don't believe the random people you see on social media. If they're telling you it's going to be the end of the world, or if they're telling you it's all going to be OK. Try to find established scientific voices and trust them instead.

Jeffrey, do you think we're fully conveying the scope of this story? Meaning, is this a once-in-a-generation event like a Vietnam or a 9/11? Is that coming through enough?

GOLDBERG: Yes, I don't know if it's coming through quite enough. It feels that way. Obviously, people have that inchoate feeling that this is something that's truly different. 9/11 is a touch point, but there's really nothing to compare this to, in our lifetimes, our collective lifetimes.

And I think it's one of the things that we're focusing on here at "The Atlantic." obviously, as a daily, hourly, updated website and also a venerable print magazine with long deadlines, we have to figure out ways and we're trying that right now, just to figure out what we need to tell people in two, three, four, five, six months about what this all means. And we've been -- we've been trying to go at two speeds at once, the hyper speed of getting information out as fast as possible. But also trying to contextualize this and finding the writers and ways to say this, because this is something that I don't think we have any -- we don't have any -- any reference points for.

STELTER: No, we really don't. That's partly why it's so anxiety- producing. And, Sally, I've seen news say that the "A.P." is viewing this as the Olympics of explanatory journalism.

[12:25:04]

Why is that? Tell me more.

BUZBEE: I think it's exactly what Jeffrey just said. There is facts alone, which are incredibly important and obviously the key part of this. We also need the context around them. We need our health and science specialists, and thankfully we have a very strong team, to be really engaged in every aspect of the coverage.

I mean, the usage is off the charts. As you know, we provide news to news organizations all across the globe. And I think it's fair to say that every news organization across the globe is focusing on this story, almost to the seclusion right now of all others. So we are trying to make sure that we are providing both facts, very quickly, but also wrapping that into looking at the effect of the economy, looking at just how people are living their lives.

There are so many ripples to this story. And I think it's just critically important to stay on top of those and to provide that context. It's really -- I mean, what if we get a second wave that then goes back into other parts of the world again? We need to stay on top of this.

And we are sort of viewing it as a marathon. We're also very much viewing it as, this is the moment for explanatory journalism. People are actually turning to the media for information, which is a wonderful thing for our industry, and all of our journalists are rising to the occasion in a way that is just really extraordinary and inspiring in many ways.

STELTER: Yes, it is, it is.

STELTER: Matt, I wonder, you know, you're more of our business journalist here. You have "The Wall Street Journal" there. What are the business impacts for the media business, for local newspapers? Am I right that we're going to see a very, very difficult situation for some of these local papers?

MURRAY: Yes, look, I think that you are going to see some of the trends that were already affecting the media industry just accelerate, Brian. (INAUDIBLE) introduction.

Advertising is taking a pounding. Not really clear when or how it's going to come back, but everybody is rethinking spending right now. Even the cost of putting out print papers, many of the local papers already have been bought now by hedge funds and there's a consolidation wave going on.

Finding a business model for the other side of that does seem a challenge, even with the silver lining, as Sally just note, that people are turning to news sources and trusted news sources right now in search of information. If I could add one thing to also that discussion of Sally and Jeffrey there, what's striking for our discussion, this is a business and market story on top of the health story and a politics story and a national story.

STELTER: It is, yes.

MURRAY: At "The Journal", where everybody has risen to an extraordinary degree, it's literally touching every beat, every job, and people are responding in really incredible ways. Even features coverage, and how do you write about entertainment and features for a different world, and that's a galvanizing effect.

And there's a lot of adrenaline going right now in journalism. And there is a silver lining to that. And it would be nice if people really felt a turn here in the need for quality journalism and trusted facts.

One of the things that I would add that is funny at this point in time, there's a lot of information, but part of the anxiety is that we're at that peak moment where there's a lot we don't know. We don't know how bad it will get, how long it will last, whether the economy will come back, we don't even quite know yet what all the stimulus measures are going to be.

Part of what journalism can be doing right now is getting the best information on all of those facts and staying on them to help people get the information through the situation. And that's really important right now. And I think people are respond to that.

STELTER: I think so, too. I hope so.

Matt, Jeffrey, Sally, thank you very much. Thank you for all you're doing.

After the break here on RELIABLE SOURCES, we've seen some Fox News hosts do U-turns in the way they are recovering this crisis. I'll be joined by an ex-Fox host who says it's been worse than malpractice. Hear her comments, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: E.R. doctors are pleading for supplies. New York's governor is asking for help building temporary hospitals. Millions of people are at risk of being laid off right now. So where is the stimulus? We have this in from Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just departed a big meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or at least with members of his office staff. She said there is no deal yet. She says the House will introduce its own bill, its own stimulus bill, that could significantly draw out the process to finalize a bill.

If you're watching this right now you know someone who's either out of work or about to be out of work. We all know people who are at risk of losing their livelihoods right now and seeing their businesses go under. They are worried about paying their rent. They're worried about keeping the power and the electricity on. The Senate, the House have got to pay attention to those Americans, those suffering Americans and not, and not to screw around the way they usually do.

I'm sorry, but I am worried about my family members, and I'm worried about the viewers who are e-mailing me right now. We're also worried about the people we all know who are in hospitals, who are sick at home wondering if they'll be in hospital soon. So in this moment, come on. Come on. Get it done.

Look, we are all getting through this together. We're all turning to television, digital media, forms of media to find out what is going on. We also talked about how Fox News has covered this story, how right-wing media outlets have been covering the coronavirus crisis because there has been an incredible U-turn in the past couple of weeks in Fox News channels coverage of the virus, especially the primetime shows, Sean Hannity's, Laura Ingram's Jeanine Pirro's on the weekend.

The way they talked about this at this emergency a few weeks ago versus today is remarkable. And the Washington Post created a video to kind of show you what I mean. They've created this incredible supercut video showing you what Pirro and others were saying a week or two ago, versus today. Let me just show you a clip of it.

[12:35:32]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: All the talk about coronavirus being so much more deadly doesn't reflect reality. Without a vaccine, the flu would be far more deadly.

We are facing an incredibly contagious and dangerous virus that is moving across the world from one hotspot to another.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Oh, let's bludgeoned Trump with this new hoax.

This program has always taken the coronavirus seriously. And we've never called the virus a hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Then versus now then versus now. Look at the polling here, Pew found that Republicans were far more likely to say the media has been exaggerating the risk of -- the risks of this outbreak versus Democrats. Republicans far more likely to say it's been exaggerated. You could draw a straight line from the commentary from the Hannity's of the world right to that finding.

Let's talk more about it now with Fox News -- with former Fox News contributor, that makes all the difference, former Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky. She's a Democratic Strategist. Also with me is Max Boot, he's a columnist for The Washington Post and a CNN Global Affairs Analyst.

Julie, I saw you on Twitter saying that how Fox has handled this has been worse than malpractice. Who specifically and why?

JULIE ROGINSKY, FORMER CONTRIBUTOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Well, for all the reasons you just mentioned, and not just the reasons that you mentioned earlier, but even as recently as yesterday, you had Bret Baier, who's a respected anchor at Fox News, and Brit Hume, who obviously, was one of the founders of Fox News, tweeting out something written by a former Romney staffer, who effectively was saying that this is a little overblown, it's not a big deal. We shouldn't really look at this as something that's overblown.

And that becomes something that's very problematic because the Fox News viewership is on average, 65 years old. They are people who are much more susceptible than the average person as a result of their age to the virus, and they're doing a disservice to their own viewers. I think that's the biggest problem of all in this quest to protect the president, in this quest to make it look like the President is doing everything right, they're actually putting --

STELTER: But they turn that around. They turn it around. They brought on doctors and experts. Is it too little too late?

ROGINSKY: Well, it's not -- no, it's never too late. I'm glad they're doing that now, but they're not turning it around. Because the problem is that when you have somebody like Bret Baier who I have a lot of respect for him, Brit Hume and others tweeting out effectively theories from somebody who's unqualified to give them, somebody who's not an epidemiologist, somebody who's not a medical professional, and saying, hey, look, you know, we may be making this overblown, this may not be a big deal, and then this takes off like a wildfire to the point where media had to take down this thing that they were tweeting out because it apparently was giving out such poor information. They continue to put people at risk.

Why not just listen to Dr. Fauci and two other epidemiologists. Stop spinning this as a political attack on the president. Stop trying to downplay this. This is not a joke. I've heard from people on social media, former Fox viewers who are still in touch with me, who for months have said that this is no big deal, that this is a Democratic hoax to try to take down the president.

And instead of saying, look, we have to do the right thing by our own audience, our vulnerable aged audience, they continue to equivocate and say, well, maybe this is a big deal, but maybe it's not as big a deal as other people have said. Maybe it's just something political. That's not right. It's not right towards their own audience. They need to stop.

STELTER: Yes, I've got one friend in the ICU, three other friends who are sick with this illness. I think we all have that. Increasingly, everybody knows somebody who is personally affected by this invisible demon. Max Boot, there's a lot of blame to go around about what happened in January and February, lack of testing, lack of preparation. How do you apportion the blame?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think certainly President Trump bears a huge blame here, Brian. Obviously, he didn't create the virus. We would have had a virus no matter who was an office. But you know, leadership really matters at a time like this (AUDIO GAP) places like Singapore and South Korea that have gotten a handle on the coronavirus situation (AUDIO GAP).

And we've now -- we're now seeing the reporting that President Trump ignored at least two months of intelligence warnings, telling him that this was going to be a crisis (AUDIO GAP) upon us. But it's not just Trump. As we've been hearing, I think his enablers in the media also bear a huge portion of the blame. And Fox News was extremely Pollyannaish in their coverage of this for months as we're discussing now. They were basically suggesting this was a "hoax" designed by Democrats to make President Trump look bad.

[12:40:08]

And you know for years, Fox News has been putting our democracy at risk with their misinformation, propaganda, and lies. Now, they have gone beyond that. They are putting our lives at risk. They're putting the lives of their own viewers at risk. I have never seen anything that's irresponsible done by any American media organ in the past. It's just a disgrace and it's really a threat to our public safety.

But clearly, Fox here is guided by not what is true, not as not what is in the national interest, but what is in President Trump's political interest, and it's all about protecting political Trump. And so, while President Trump was in denial about this virus, Fox News was as well. And now in the last week or so, President Trump is willing to admit that we are facing a real problem, and so Fox is willing to admit that as well. But their role I think has been really dangerous and disgraceful here.

STELTER: The best way to help the president is to tell him hard truths to make sure he's not caught flat-footed in a crisis. So I'll just leave it at that. Julie and Max, thank you both very much. We'll take a break here and then bring back Carl Bernstein and Dan Rather who joined me a little while ago. I want to ask them about the President's handling of this and what's been going on in the press briefing room. Carl and Dan in a moment.

[12:45:00]

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STELTER: Comcast is the owner of NBC. It is also one of the nation's leading cable and internet providers. Comcast staffers are working around the clock right now to keep people connected during this great shutdown of 2020. It is one of America's great companies. At Comcast news division, NBC News employees are mourning the death of a veteran staffer Larry Edgeworth who succumbed to the virus earlier this week. Other staffers are having to stay at home because they may be sick as well.

At this hour, the President of the United States is attacking Comcast and trying to give it a new nickname. He's reacting to the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, who is calling for federal resources, federal help making masks. Here's what the President tweeted a short time ago. He said, "The governor and other small group of certain other governors together with fake news, CNN, and Concast -- he's making fun of MSNBC there -- should not be blaming the federal government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be." Is that reassuring to anybody?

Let's bring back Carl Bernstein and Dan Rather. We were talking last hour about presidential leadership and what we've seen from governors versus the president. Dan Rather, your reaction to the President's latest attack against the media at a moment of national emergency.

DAN RATHER, HOST, THE BIG INTERVIEW, AXS TV: Deep disappointment and recognizing it's absolutely disgraceful what he's doing. He's continuing to try to divide the country at the very moment when we need to pull together. This is unacceptable, and I think most Americans recognize it as such. But (AUDIO GAP).

STELTER: I think we might be having a little hard time with Dan's connection. We'll try to get his connection back. Look, we're having everybody from home today for their safety and for our safety, and we're going to be seeing this on television for weeks and months to come. You saw Anderson Cooper at home the other day out of an abundance of caution, etcetera.

Let me see if we can get Carl back though. Let's see if Carl's signal is working. Carl, we've seen these press briefings every day, the president oftentimes coming out using these as like a new kind of a rally. There's been some calls for the press to stop broadcasting the daily briefings. What say you?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we need to broadcast them. He's the president of the United States. He deserves to be heard. And we need to say when he's lying, and he is a compulsive liar, much of what he says is untrue. He is still conducting a war against the truth instead of focusing totally on a war against a deadly plague.

People in this country will respond to real leadership from this president if he provides it, and that includes the press responding. What the President is so exercised about is that the reporting has correctly shown that for two and a half months, he doddles, he fiddled while Rome burned, that he was getting the intelligence, he was being urged -- and I, two weeks ago, I heard from people in the national security bureaucracy and on the White House staff that the President's family, his friends, the NSC bureaucracy, his chief deputies in the White House, were desperately trying to get him to understand this is not a hoax. This is a huge danger to the people of the world and the United States. And it has been a real struggle to get him to recognize that.

As one person said to me, and I'm looking down to read it, he hasn't grasped the whole thing. We may be getting closer to it now. A lot of people were trying to get it to him to shake him up, including in his family. That was two weeks ago. But now he obviously gets it. He is -- he sees what a danger this, and at the same time, he seems unable to help him -- he can't help himself from going after the press. And the real story, the great stories that have been done in the past week by the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, which did three stories all showing the lack of command that this President has of the facts of what he needs to know. He has not led with a competent response yet. But there is still time to catch up and that's what he needs to do. He needs to lead this country not to be conducting a war against the truth.

[12:50:36]

STELTER: Every day, yes. Yes, lead or get out of the way. Dan, last word to you. I have about a minute left. Last word to you about how television anchors and other media leaders should be handling this moment?

RATHER: Well, first of all, to do our job, which is to get the facts. Reporters, many of the facts as possible, connect the facts and up and say until and unless he proved differently, to pay far less attention to President Trump. I really regret having to said that but he's not going to come to anybody's rescue. And the faster we realize that, the better off we'll be.

STELTER: It's a very important point. There's a lot going on, and the health story is the most important of all. The hospital story is the most important of all. Carl and Dan, thank you for being with me both these hours. Let's take a quick break here. More RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.

[12:55:00]

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STELTER: Dealing with hardship actually makes you stronger. That's what Governor Cuomo said earlier today. That's what am I going to teach my kids right now at home. I'm heading back home where all of you are as well. Thank you for joining us. Our special coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer.

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