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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

One Of The Most Watched Trials In Decades; Is The Press Covering Biden's Infrastructure Plan Fairly?; Fox Propped Up Rep. Gaetz Until Investigations Were Revealed; COVID-19, Vaccines, And Misdirection; Hunter Biden's Memoir Hits Bookshelves On Tuesday; Myanmar Citizens Arrested After Speaking With CNN. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 4, 2021 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:13]

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter.

Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES, live from New York. Happy Easter and Passover to you and yours.

On this program, we examine the story behind the story and try to figure out what is reliable.

This hour, we're looking at how President Biden's latest spending proposal is being covered by the press.

Plus, absolutely stunning leaks about Matt Gaetz's behavior. So, will this Fox fixture be back on TV anytime soon?

Also, ugly details from Hunter Biden's new book called "Beautiful Things". We have read through the entire book, and we have the highlights and lowlights for you.

And later, what these brave photographers are doing in Myanmar so that their neighbors do not die in vain.

All of that and more coming up.

But, first, it is one of the most watched trials in decades, and sometimes very hard to watch. Video is playing a key role in the State of Minnesota versus Derek Chauvin, since George Floyd's arrest and his death was recorded from every angle.

Lawyers are using body cams, surveillance, and cellphone footage to piece together what happened last May 25th. Prosecutors are saying you should believe your eyes, as people watch this video.

At key moments, there are multiple angles. Here we see body cam footage alongside security footage of police pushing Floyd into the cop car while Floyd is clearly in distress.

Sometimes, the angle makes all of the difference. I mean, from far away outside of Cup Foods, there is not much to see. It is sanitized from a distance. But then up close, the cell phone video seen around the world told a very different story. There has also been new footage presented at the trial, like this

never before seen video of Floyd being put into the ambulance while they're trying to revive him.

Watching all of this video and seeing it being broadcast on networks all around the world, it makes you think about the power of the videotape and how having cameras everywhere is changing the way that prosecutions take place, and more broadly, it's changing the way that we see the world around us. Think about all of the times recently when cameras, ubiquitous cameras have made a difference.

You look at the Capitol Hill riot on January 6th where there were so many cameras rolling, so many angles and a lot of videos have been used not just by Democrats, you know, in the impeachment -- second impeachment of then-President Trump, but the footage also has been used by the FBI, by authorities to figure out who went inside of the Capitol and who should be prosecuted.

This headline from "The Washington Post" this weekend about surveillance cameras. It is striking to think about the impact of this footage, whether in Minneapolis or in Washington, and at this point all around the world, how the ubiquity of smartphones and surveillance cameras is changing the way we see the world around us.

So, let's talk more about what's unfolding in Minneapolis, what's happening at the trial and how it is being covered around the world. In a moment, I will talk with Kethevane Gorjestani. She's a U.S. correspondent for the French state-owned international network, France24, and she's been covering the trial.

But first, live in Minneapolis, outside of the courthouse, is Sara Sidner, CNN national and international correspondent who was able to go inside for a time on Thursday.

Sara, thank for coming on.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah.

STELTER: We're waiting for testimony to resume on Monday. So it's hopefully a quiet day there.

Have you been able to process what it was like to be in the courtroom, witnessing this firsthand for yourself?

SIDNER: Yeah, I've covered a lot of trials in my 20-plus years of being a journalist and this one is unique.

It's unique in a couple of ways. One, this has never happened before in Minnesota. What is -- this is a first. This is a first time an entire trial from start to finish has been filmed. They have allowed cameras inside of the court here in this state.

So, it is a first for the country and first for the state. But what is surreal about it is that the entire courthouse and other buildings, government buildings here are surrounded by all sorts of security apparatus. I'm talking about fencing, barbed wire, razor wire. You're also seeing barricades all the way around these buildings.

And so, it gives the sense that, you know, something is -- needs to be secured and then as you go in and as you walk into the court, there is pin drop silence.

[11:05:05]

You can hear yourself breathe in that court, it is so quiet.

Even when people are testifying, everyone is paying attention in a way that I haven't seen before. There is no rustling of paper, there is nobody coughing. It is extremely quiet.

And one of the reasons fort that everybody is self-distanced, there are pews that are filled with people that would normally happen in a trial of this magnitude and they have two seats that sit there for the families of George Floyd and for Derek Chauvin's family.

The George Floyd seat is always filled with a family member. We have yet to see anyone come for Derek Chauvin at this point in time.

But you're sitting there as a reporter, you're used to being surrounded also by your colleagues and family members and it's just two people. There is a reporter, they call them pool reporters, for newspaper and digital, and there is a broadcast reporter. I fall into the second category and that is it. And you share that each time we sort of rotate.

It is because it is to quiet, you get to concentrate on every little thing that happens. And that is usually hard to do in a courtroom that is filled with people. And so you really are getting a view of exactly what is go on every moment with the judge, with the witness, with the defendant, with the prosecution, and with the jury.

And our job, we cannot show you the juror, so our job is to watch the jury watch the trial. And look at family members and watch their reaction to what is being played, the video, to what the witnesses are saying, to what the prosecution says and the defense.

And it is -- it is quite surreal being in there because it is so quiet and because it is so small number of people that even when we got there early, the judge comes out and he talks to you. He comes over and introduces himself and he makes sure that, you know, you understand the rules of the court but he's very polite and very approachable.

It's extraordinary actually being inside of the court, Brian.

STELTER: I'm listening to you and I'm so captivated by it because there is so much that we can't see, as you point out, the jury, for example, which makes sense.

And yet we're seeing this death relived through all of the different camera angles. Do you think that more angles, more views of this are actually providing more clarity or not? SIDNER: Absolutely. That is the whole point of the prosecution showing

the jury, because this is really for the jury. Yes, the world is watching. But inside of that courtroom, it is about the rule of law, and it is about the prosecution trying to prove their case and we have to remember they must prove their case.

Derek Chauvin doesn't have to prove anything. The prosecution has to prove its case and his defense attorney, Derek Chauvin's defense story, has to poke holes in it and that's what's been happening back and forth. This is our legal system. You inside that courtroom are innocent until proven guilty.

And so what is happening is right now the prosecution goes first and then trying to prove their case and that is video, which is extremely hard to watch, it's excruciating to watch for someone who has seen this video over and over again as a reporter, reporting on it, but the jury as you watch their faces watch the video.

I mean, it's hard to watch.

STELTER: Yeah.

SIDNER: Some people look away. Some people put their hands over their eyes at some points because it's hard to watch.

Imagine as well, a family member of George Floyd is inside of that courtroom every single day watching this over and over and over again.

So it was no wonder to me when we saw witness after witness break down in tears, but the one that I will never forget as a reporter is the one witness who is 61 years old. He was walking in the neighborhood, it's his place. He said he was a nosy guy and he heard some commotion and he went over to check it out.

Charles McMillian, the 61-year-old who broke down in sobs on the stand, I don't think any of us have ever seen that much emotion from someone who was a bystander, not a family member, not somebody involved, seeing that much emotion from a man of his age and his experience was remarkable. It was touching. And it was extremely powerful. You certainly could see that on the face of those inside of the court.

STELTER: Incredible. Sara, thank you very much for those impressions from inside.

Kethevane, let me bring you in. You're covering this for France24.

The whole world really is watching. It's not just a cliche or, you know, it really is actually literally true in this case, livestreams of this trial are being seen around the world, different networks are carrying it internationally.

When you were in Minneapolis, were you struck by how many different reporters from different networks globally were all there?

KETHEVANE GORJESTANI, U.S. CORRESPONDENT, FRANCE24: Yes, that was definitely pretty impressive and interesting to see. I was there just a few weeks ago when that jury selection started.

[11:10:05]

And when I got there, obviously, there were a lot of reporters and a lot of American reporters but there were plenty of foreign reporters, several of my French colleagues were there. There were a German media, Spanish media, British media, Australian media.

So, really, it showed the interest that there has been for this whole case, obviously, for this trial, but it really goes back to --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: And that interest, is that coming from this perception of the U.S. as racist? What is the heart of the interest?

GORJESTANI: I think the interest really goes back to how striking it was to see the death of George Floyd and how much resonance it got throughout the world at the time. Remember that those protests that we saw here in the United States, they happened almost everywhere around the world, especially in Europe.

STELTER: Great point.

GORJESTANI: But not just in Europe.

So, really, people felt closer. There was some idea that before George Floyd, it was sort of -- you saw police brutality in the U.S. and it was sort of, yes, it happens in the U.S.

This time, there was a sort of George Floyd becoming the symbol of what was happening in those different countries that they all have their own George Floyds in the past. In France, for example, the name that came back was Adama Traore (ph), a young black man who died in police custody back in 2016.

And so, George Floyd really became a vector to express all of the anger that have been boiling over for this young black man and that was the same throughout the world. Not just for black lives, but for all of the minorities that have been oppressed by police brutality across the world.

STELTER: Sara and Kethevane, thank you both for being here and sharing your impressions.

Coming up, a takedown of a provocateur.

Plus, is Biden's bold and expensive infrastructure plan getting a fair shake from the media? Jim Acosta and Annie Karni are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:39]

STELTER: Broadband Internet for all Americans. We've been hearing about big brand promises for decades. So will the Biden administration be the ones to finally deliver?

Biden's infrastructure proposal lists Internet right alongside water and power which is where it belongs. The plan says access in rural areas and tribal lands is still really lacking despite many years of investments and access is not the only problem. So is affordability. The Biden plans has Americans paying too much for the Internet and the price should be reduced but it doesn't say how to do that.

Biden's proposal budgets $100 billion toward broadband which works out to be $300 per American. It is the on-ramp for all immediate you and emergency alerts all communication and as Biden mentioned in his speech, it's an issue made more pertinent by the pandemic and all the Zoom classes and all of the work from home that is happening.

Now, there is a political tug-of-war underway about government control versus private enterprise, who should pay and how, but the bottom line is that this broadband story affects everyone and it is part of a bigger proposal for rebuilding across America.

Let's analyze the coverage with Annie Karni, "New York Times" White House correspondent, and Jim Acosta, CNN's chief White House correspondent in the Trump years now our chief domestic correspondent and weekend afternoon anchor.

Welcome to you both.

Annie, infrastructure, this is, well, I guess, the first of many infrastructure weeks. Some of the coverage may have been breathless, the coverage very skeptical. What's the right way to balance this?

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It is a really good question, right now. We are at a place where the Biden administration is talking about this plan in big terms, calling it a once in a generation plan that will reshape middle class America and reposition America's place in the globe.

They're not wrong to position it like that. It is incredibly ambitious. But as journalists, we need to temper that with what we call a too be sure paragraph, which is that to be sure it is ambitious, but it has no Republican support in Congress, people are very pessimistic that Republicans want to support him on anything, and does Biden have the votes? We just don't know yet.

So, comparisons to LBJ, to FDR, yes, in scope, maybe it's fair, in reality, do we -- how do we talk about this when we talk about --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: We talk back in a year.

KARNI: We don't even know --

STELTER: Right.

KARNI: We don't even know specifics about what projects are being funded yet. So it's a complicated to strike the right tone on what were actually -- what this plan actually means right now.

STELTER: Here are two very different front pages after Biden's speech. "New York Times", where Annie works, Biden plan stresses jobs and roads. "Washington Post", the plan draws opposition.

So, quite a difference between these two front-pages, Jim. And maybe it's good to have both. Maybe that's just a sign of a diverse media ecosystem.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, I think that's a good thing. I don't think we should all cover it the same way. And, you know, as Annie was saying, there is a lot to be covered in this Biden infrastructure plan. We got used during the Trump era, you know, to think of infrastructure week as a joke. It is might be an infrastructure year --

STELTER: Right.

ACOSTA: -- in how we cover all of this.

I mean, you know, as far as I'm concerned, can we just have a damn high speed train in this country? I mean, can I please I get to New York -- to -- from New York to Washington without problems on the Acela? And can I get on the Wi-Fi by the way --

STELTER: Right.

ACOSTA: -- when I ride the train and have that not be a problem?

I mean, we have some major infrastructure problems in this country. You were just talking about broadband, I've been traveling down South and out West, there are still parts of the country where they can't get access to the Internet.

And, oh, by the way, when we talk about this coronavirus pandemic, so many people out there, especially elderly people, have been needing to go online to set up their vaccine appointments and, you know, many of those folks may not have access to the international or not know how to use the international very well.

STELTER: Right. That is a good point.

ACOSTA: That is a major problem. So we have huge infrastructure needs in this country. Our airports, our roads, our bridges are nowhere near where they are in the other parts of the world and I think we need to recognize that as well.

STELTER: And if we're going to spend all of this money, let's build for the next 100 years, not just build --

ACOSTA: Yeah.

STELTER: -- what we needed 20 years ago, but let's build for the future.

ACOSTA: Right. STELTER: Hey, I'd love to hear from both of you how D.C. journalists are adjusting to the Biden era.

Jim, this is your first weekend anchoring here on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Do you feel like your rundown, your lineup is really different than it would have been in the Trump years?

ACOSTA: If you asked if I was run down, I thought you were talking about how I felt during the Trump era.

No, I think that, you know, listen, I think we're all dealing with post-Trump stress disorder, you know, either than that happy Easter as he was saying in those statements a few days ago.

Listen, you know, as Annie was just saying a few moments ago, there are questions about why aren't Republicans getting on board with these Biden proposals? There were Republicans getting on board with overturning the election just a couple of months ago so we shouldn't have high expectations for that.

But in terms of stacking show and what comes first and second, Brian, you and I both know this all too well, we did cover the news before Donald Trump came along and we did it pretty well. And, you know, there is plenty of stuff in the news and it doesn't have to have Donald Trump in the headlines for us to continue to exist, especially when he's putting out statements, you know, when he was president, he was doing things that were beneath the office of the presidency. Now he's doing things beneath the office of the post presidency.

He's not going to change. But we need to change with the times.

STELTER: Right, he's still saying he was robbed. I don't think anybody is listening except for the hard core base.

But it is important to note, the big lie is still alive and well in the pro-Trump bubble. I can feel like it went away after the riot when reality reared its head. But no, the lie is out there in the pro-Trump bubble.

Annie, what is it like for you? It is okay to cover the president without mentioning the ex-president?

KARNI: I think it is. And it is fading quite quickly. I think Biden benefited from a comparison to Trump especially during the impeachment trial. It showed the ex president at his worst. That wasn't bad for people to remember why they voted for Biden, that they wanted a return to normalcy.

But now I think they've really moved away. I mean, the White House, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary won't engage about Trump in the briefing room. We saw Trump do little bit in the press -- sorry, Biden in the press conference.

But it's not -- you know, it's not up there. And what the challenge with this White House, this White House is not factionalized the way the President Trump White House was. This White House is not personality-driven as much as the Trump White House was and that's partly because they're more disciplined but because of the crisis of the moment.

There's not a lot of disagreements about what they should have done first. It's pretty clear that they had to do the American Rescue Plan first. So the size of the crisis has helped them be more on the same page. That there's not factions to pry and that is where the leaks come from when there are two sides that want different things and they try to press that in the media to win.

The challenge for us, now is penetrating a more disciplined administration and what's easier than it was in the Trump White House is they are so focused on not getting off their plan, not being distracted by news of the day, even if it is another crisis, even if it's a mass shooting, they are delivering on a plan and they don't want to be pushed off of it. So it's not going to --

STELTER: Including by the media.

(CROSSTALK)

KARNI: -- a tweet that takes us into a new director for tweets.

Exactly. It is not going to be a tweet that takes us into another direction. We know what direction they're going in. So that makes it a little more clear what is consuming the people that matter in the White House, we know.

But is it harder to penetrate and have people talk unsanctioned to us? Yes, it is a little bit more difficult.

STELTER: That's a little annoying from a reporter point of view. Annie, thank you very much.

KARNI: Yes.

STELTER: Jim, thank you.

Jim is back at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on CNN today.

On deck, David Zurawik on the hires in the right wing media and what it has to do with Matt Gaetz.

Plus, major coverage of Major Biden. Has the media gone to the dogs? Oh, yeah, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:29:10]

STELTER: The widening Matt Gaetz scandal is proving John Boehner right. Yes, John Boehner, the former Republican leader, the former speaker of the House, saw the danger in lifting up right wing MAGA media stars as the faces and the futures of the Grand Old Party, guys like Gaetz, who cared more about being on TV than actually legislating. Boehner rails against them in his forthcoming book right there on the

House, and excerpts published by "Politico" have official Washington all aflutter. Boehner says Fox News made his life, quote, a living hell. He knocks places like Fox for creating the wrong incentives and elevating freshman congressman into right wing rock stars.

He blasts talk radio conspiracists who lied about Barack Obama. He says Sean Hannity was one of the worst.

And look, this is what a lot of people have been trying to say for quite sometime. But now, the former GOP speaker of the House is saying it.

[11:30:03]

Consider just the past began lines by the pro-Trump media universe. Lara Trump joining Fox as a paid contributor, Kayleigh McEnaney becoming a co-host of Fox's lunchtime talk show. Seb Gorka and Steve Cortes getting shows on Newsmax.

The pro-Trump media continues to become even more of a bubble. And folks like Cortes, of course, immediately bashed Boehner over speaking out. That's all predictable. It's all part of this broader attempt to create GOP entertainers like Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, who is currently under investigation by the DOJ for allegations involving sex trafficking and prostitution.

The leaks are stunning, the leaks are sickening, and they just keep coming. But before these stories hit the headlines, Gaetz had floated out -- it was seems -- it seems like it was Gaetz, maybe it was someone else, but somebody floated a balloon to Axios, saying, you might make an early retirement and get a job at Newsmax or some other right-wing network.

As Nick Confessore of the New York Times pointed out, the Trump era GOP is becoming less of a traditional party with voters' policies, donors, legislation, and more of a media platform in competition with other media platforms. Well, that's certainly been Gaetz' approach.

According to the Washington Post in the last 12 months, Gaetz averaged 87 minutes a month, just on Fox and he was on other channels as well. He even wrote in his own book, "It's impossible to get cancelled if you're on every channel. Why raise money to advertise on the news channels when I can make the news?

And if you aren't making news, you aren't governing?" Well, he sure is making a lot of news now, right? And he's off T.V. You know, we can't find him anymore. Maybe he's trying to figure out how to get out of the boxes that he's in.

But this idea about Gaetz going to Newsmax is worth scrutinizing. Maybe it was just a smokescreen. Maybe there was no real plan. But I checked in an hour ago in Newsmax PR, they are not commenting. They're not denying it. They're not ruling it out in the future. They're just not saying anything. Meantime, Fox News went silent about Gaetz, you know, they had them on the air all the time. But then once these scandals erupted, they basically stopped talking about Gaetz whatsoever for 48 hours, and then just dropped a couple little mentions in here and there. They are disappearing Matt Gaetz from television, after propping him up for years.

So, let's talk about this dynamic. This GOP entertainment industry with Abigail Tracy. She's a national political reporter for Vanity Fair who interviewed Congressman Gaetz, and then wrote about his media star power. David Zurawik is also with us. He's the media critic for the Baltimore Sun.

Abi, what was Gaetz' strategy up until a few days ago? He seemed like he wanted to be on Hannity more than on the House floor.

ABIGAIL TRACY, VANITY FAIR NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head with your quote from his book, that if you're not making news, you're not governing, that has very much --

STELTER: Well, that came from your article, so.

TRACY: Right. Well, thank you. Yes. And that was really one of the things that he would often say to me, you know, he constantly kind of hit this refrain of stagecraft is statecraft. And he really viewed the idea of being on the airwaves as being more important than being on the House floor to a degree. You know, this idea of building a profile, not unlike Donald Trump did, and sort of how that is the best way to sort of be a lawmaker in today's times.

I think, you know, you hit it too when you mentioned Boehner's book. Boehner describes the ecosystem wherein Matt Gaetz has absolutely thrived up until obviously the very serious allegations that he's facing now. But really, his goal has kind of he hitched his wagon to Donald Trump star and his profile has risen by, you know, borrowing some of the exact same tactics from Donald Trump's playbook, you know, staying knee deep in the outrage cycle. I think that has been his approach.

And again, you know, back to that idea. If you're not making news, you're not governing. And that's really what we've seen from Matt Gaetz over the last couple of years.

STELTER: Dave Zurawik, this Boehner book comes out in a couple of weeks, he's going to be on a press tour, et cetera. Is he just way too late? Should he deserve credit? Does he get credit for decrying the radicalization of the GOP and Fox or is it too little too late?

DAVID ZURAWIK, BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC: Well, it's important to have a player of his former stature, saying this. You know, when I read Boehner's excerpts, I thought, oh, I read some of this in Tim Alberta's "American Carnage" because he interviewed Boehner and he interviewed Brian. And so, I sort of knew that field. I think it's important to have a player confirming what Alberta reported about the way it operated. And it's absolutely true and it is fascinating. So, when you had Trump in there and you have someone like Gaetz, 2016 Gaetz arise, there was a synergy where Trump would court him -- court these people who would go on Fox and praise him. But the thing is, Brian, you and I and others have been writing about this for years how dangerous Fox is as a political tool for the Republican Party. And not just for the Republican Party, really, the far-right wing of the party with guys like Gaetz and Jim Jordan. And that's what's interesting about this.

[11:35:05]

Look, the criminal stuff that's out there, we don't know about that. That's terrible stuff, if he's found guilty of any of it. But just in his terms of his career, here's what I would be worried about. The way Fox on Wednesday said, we have no interest in hiring this guy ever.

STELTER: They did say that. Yes, they did.

ZURAWIK: That doesn't sounds like Fox -- if he's dead to Fox, he's dead politically. He -- and that -- and that is (INAUDIBLE)

STELTER: Well, hold on, is that true? Abi, what do you think? Is that so true? I mean, what about Newsmax? Right? Well, maybe Newsmax would still hire him? What do you think, Abi?

TRACY: Yes, I mean, I think he's making a great point. If Fox is saying no to him, that's a big problem for somebody like Matt Gaetz who, you know, his profile has really grown, thanks to Fox News. That said, you know, yes, I think maybe One American News Network, Newsmax, they might still pick him up, especially as you mentioned earlier at the top of the block that Newsmax, unlike Fox, isn't commenting and they're not denying or, you know, talking about why they're not interested in Gaetz.

STELTER: Makes me wonder. Makes me wonder, you know. Look, Gaetz wouldn't be the first politician who would just deny, deny, deny, come up with this alternative storyline and try to run to the bank.

Abi, thank you. David, please stick around.

Coming up here on the program, vaccinations continuing, good news, every day as more Americans line up for their shots. But there's vaccine misdirection happening, and I'm going to tell you all about it after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:35]

STELTER: We are living through history, the pandemic, the locking down, the distancing. But now, the vaccinating and the reopening, we are living through history every day, something that we know we will remember for the rest of our lives and tell future generations about. We will tell stories of loss and pain and compassion, and resilience, and growth and even hope. Right now, vaccine selfies are a declaration of hope. The Biden administration is rolling out pro-vaccine pictures that you can use on your Facebook profile, plus some new T.V. ads that frame vaccination as a way for Americans to reclaim their lives with a slogan, "We can do this." And we can and we are. But there are some very loud voices casting doubt, so in confusion about the science, often through a trick called misdirection.

Let's talk about that with Derek Thompson. He wrote this article for the Atlantic about Alex Berenson, who he calls, "The Pandemic's Wrongest Man." Let's talk about why that is. Derek is with me now.

Derek, you've written this long piece. It's outstanding. It's on the atlantic.com, it talks through all the ways that Alex Berenson tries to confuse people, the pandemic, but you kind of withheld where that I thought really stood out, misdirection. It's not always just somebody explicitly lying. It's more subtle than that, isn't it?

DEREK THOMPSON, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, it really is. And I want to start with some good information, hygiene when it comes to debunking --

STELTER: Let's start with the truth. Yes, yes.

THOMPSON: Let's start the truth? Exactly. Thank you, Brian. So, look, these vaccines are miraculous. They're not 100 percent effective at absolutely everything, but they are incredibly dang close. They're extraordinarily effective at blocking symptomatic illness, and even better at blocking severe illness and death. The CDC is not connected a single death post-vaccine shot to the vaccine itself. Everyone should take one.

That said, I think what the conspiracy theorists and misdirectionists are doing is not so much building a case, is taking down a case, they are deconstructing rather than constructing and you're doing it by sort of rooting through, spelunking through some esoteric studies, finding little details, they expect people don't know a lot about and then dressing it up in spooky language.

So, what I did in this piece is I tried to undress the spooky language. I took the references that people like Alex were using, I checked those references. Everyone came back false, false, false, false, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. So, I tried to put science above conspiracy here.

STELTER: Of course, Berenson went on Tucker Carlson show that night, he's a frequent guest on Tucker's show. He promoted his newest pamphlet about vaccines, it's shot to the top 10 list on Amazon. And here's what Berenson said in reaction to your article.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX BERENSON, "UNREPORTED TRUTHS" AUTHOR: Look, even if I'm wrong about all this, and I'm not wrong about all of this, it's useful to have me and it would be useful to have other journalists asking hard questions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: So, he actually is the only person asking questions which is obviously BS.

THOMPSON: Right. I mean, look, Fox has called this a hit piece. This is not a hit piece. This was a fact check. He put out things he thought -- he thought were facts. I asked the scientists about those facts. And every single scientist said that all of his, quote, unquote, facts were wrong.

So, if you're a person, if you're a journalist in a position where you submit your article to fact checkers, and they call -- and they check so many of your facts is wrong, that you feel like it's a hit piece, that's your fault. That's not the fact checker's fault.

I think the issue here is that Tucker Carlson wants to make it appear like he's talking about epidemiology, like he's talking about immunology, like he's talking about vaccinology, but he doesn't want to talk with epidemiologists or immunologist or vaccinologist.

He wants to talk with a spy novelist about vaccine science. That goes to show just how performative this so-called brave search for truth is. He's not talking to scientists. He's talking to someone that all the scientists are saying is wrong.

STELTER: Right. He could book one of Fox's medical journalists. He could book one of Fox's doctors. He doesn't even do that.

Derek, thank you. Everybody should read that piece at the atlantic.com.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

STELTER: After the break, a massive gap between the caricature of Hunter Biden that you see on T.V., and then the real human being that's revealed on Hunters new book. We take you inside, next.

[11:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: I tell you what, I've read a lot of memoirs. I've never read a memoir like this one before. This is Hunter Biden's book, "Beautiful Things," that comes out on Tuesday. It is extraordinary. You know, you've heard about Hunter Biden over the years. You've heard all the tabloid coverage of Hunter Biden. You think you know his story. We know that right-wing media is obsessed with him.

Fox News always targeting him. And there are real questions to ask including about that laptop that CBS is probing, that CBS asked Biden about in an interview that's airing today and airing again tomorrow. But this book, this book about addiction, about how many times Hunter Biden could have died, the president's son, it's breathtaking.

So, let's talk about it with Kate Bennett. She's also read a copy. She's a CNN white house correspondent. Kate Bennett is with me along with David Zurawik who is back for more. Kate, I just want to preview this for people, this book is kind of under the radar, comes out in two days. What stood out most to you?

[11:50:05]

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's just what you said, the depth and scope of Hunter Biden's addiction and the honesty with which he discusses it. I mean, this was a man who had a serious crack cocaine addiction, as well, as a serious alcohol problem.

He had his first drink when he was eight years old -- I'm sorry, a glass of champagne at a -- at an event with his father. And I think it also shows that addiction is really the great equalizer in this country. And, you know, it's the one thing that really brought President Biden to his -- to his knees. I mean, this is something that's helpless for many, many American families. With the --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: That is the critical point. And then, take out -- take out the last name, Biden, this is about addiction and how to help people, and it's going to resonate for that reason. David, the idea that, you know, someone like Hunter Biden has covered in the tabloids, he's covered on Fox, people never hear his side of the story.

It's rare to actually hear the principal or the celebrity, in this case, that's the wrong word, but you know what I mean, the famous person actually tell their account after being in many cases smeared for years.

ZURAWIK: Also -- yes, and also, to tell it so well, to tell it as a journey. You know, I don't want to call it a hero quest, but it's the kind of thing Karl Yune (PH) -- union journey. It's powerful, it's profound. And Brian, so many Americans have dealt with addiction in their family, especially during the opioid addiction.

So, I think it's going to have real resonance with people. And it's the most powerful kind of statement you can make, even amid all the tabloid and all the politicization of his story, I think the power of this is going to be positive for the Bidens.

STELTER: Now, David, from son to father, you published a column about President Biden's remarks on autocracy versus democracy. This stood out to me at well -- as well, Biden's recent press conference. Here's what Biden said.

He said, "I predict your children, your grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral theses on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy? Because that's what is at stake." Is the press getting that story right, David, or is it -- you know, are we able to get our arms around that?

ZURAWIK: I don't think -- you know, I think you got some of it last week, in fact, on your show, but a lot of the press know, in a way they don't like talk like that. And I think the other thing is there's kind of a bias that Joe Biden is not a deep thinker. That's a very deep thought. And if you look around the world that the autocrats, you see it, but right at home, he feels this existential moment, because he has Trump. He went to war with Trump in 2016.

And you know, if you look up autocrat, it's somebody who believes in holding absolute power. But he's -- Trump is autocrat with fascism layered in because fascism is racism and nationalism. He's a fascist, but autocrat is a good word. If Biden wants to call him that, that's fine.

He is warring with that right in his own -- Brian, January 6th, we saw the two forces at war on Capitol Hill. Still oppressed doesn't get it. We're not geared up, generally, I think, to think this way. I mean, there's parts of the media, of course, that does think this way, but most of us are really trying to do --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: No, but we got to keep the pressure on. I'm glad you're -- I'm glad you're speaking out about it. We got to keep the pressure. This is a big -- this is the story of our time, in some ways. OK. Let's try to go from now we're going from father to K9, to pet. Because, Kate, you've been on the White House dog beat.

And I've seen you get some flak for this. You broke the stories about major nipping, biting at the White House. You broke these stories. And I've seen you get some flak on Twitter, folks say this isn't news. I think it is. But I want to hear your argument. Why is this important?

BENNETT: I get a lot of this isn't news on my beat. I mean, listen, I think it's news. I think that the Biden's made a big deal about these dogs coming into the White House. I've done the reporting behind the scenes, you know, no way -- no one's blaming Major, Major is a dog, a good dog, just doing his dog thing.

But there are people in the White House who are not thrilled that Major is there. He is -- you know, I've spoken to people that are sort of concerned that he charges, that he often doesn't have -- seem like there's control over him. To me, that's news. And now we've had two incidents.

And the White House medical unit being called as not a small thing. We questioned the White House and everything else, even we should question them about the dogs, too. I mean, it's part of our American vernacular.

STELTER: It's not the lead story, but it is important. I love what you said to me the other day, you said like, what's more human than a story about a dog? Everybody relates to these stories.

BENNETT: This is so true.

STELTER: So, I'm glad you're on that beat. Kate --

BENNETT: Thank you. STELTER: -- David, thank you both. After the break, these photos from

the New York Times show you the situation in Myanmar. These photographers trying to get the truth out during the military takeover of the country. We're going to tell you more, including from CNN's team in Myanmar in just a moment.

[11:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: There is no longer a free press in Myanmar. That's a quote from Reporters Without Borders. The military junta that took control in February is stamping out local reporting and cutting off internet access, trying to stop an uprising by pro-democracy demonstrators. With news Web sites blocked and reporters muzzled, citizen journalists are trying to get the truth out.

CNN currently has a team in Myanmar with the permission of the military. And earlier today, a military spokesman expressed regret for something that happened on Friday, something revealing. When the CNN team was invited to tour markets in Yangon, some residents approached and wanted to be interviewed. Two women flashed a three-finger salute which is a symbol of the protest movement. Eyewitness said those two women were arrested just minutes after the CNN team left.

And the same thing occurred later in the day in a second market. A total of 11 people detained for talking to reporters. Thankfully, the CNN team found out and pressed the authorities for information. And the military now says it regrets what happened and has instructed local forces to release the residents.

But this episode is a window into the incredible challenges of reporting in conflict zones, and a reminder that freedoms, even the basic freedom to speak must be defended. Thanks for joining us. We'll have more RELIABLE SOURCES right back here next week.