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Reliable Sources

Patriotism Vs. Journalism in Wartime; The American Agent ISIS Loves to Quote; Did NFL Ties Lead ESPN to Suspend Analyst?

Aired September 28, 2014 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's Sunday, September 28th, and it is time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

Questions about one of my colleagues here at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, a plagiarist? I will tell you what my reporting has led to believe.

Also this morning, my interview with one of the most interesting men in television, a nightly news anchor who does not hide his point of view.

And, is ABC News air brushing a scandal involving Miss America? The reporter who's uncovered hazing allegations will join me.

In a few minutes, I'll be joined by a former CIA official who -- get this -- he is now being quoted in ISIS propaganda, but I want to start the morning by asking something controversial, but something that we as Americans have to be asking. Is our country again waging war in the Middle East based on faulty intelligence and exaggerated threats?

I have a pair of guests standing by who have a whole lot to say about this, about the media's duty to ask these questions in times of war.

So, let me set the table by considering what's happened since Monday when the government launched air strikes against ISIS in Syria. We were shown U.S. Navy video of the strikes and assured that the bombs hit the right targets. And we were told that the bombs also targeted a group we had barely heard of before, the Khorasan group, because they apparently posed an imminent threat to us.

Now, we as journalists have very few ways to verify these claims. So I ask you at home, do you want journalists to assume everything government officials say is true? Do you want journalists to assume that everything officials say is a lie and then work backwards and try to verify it? Or is there a middle ground here?

Let's be honest, there are good reasons governments keep secrets. Governments do a lot to keep us safe every day. But governments also have histories of exaggerating threats in order to advance their own interests. And you are not well-served if the press just passively plays along. So, let me bring in two people who know a lot about this. With

me here in the studio, Soledad O'Brien, a former anchor here at CNN who now produces documentaries for a wide range of networks. And in D.C. this morning, Mark Mazzetti, a national news correspondent for "The New York Times."

Thank you both for being here.



STELTER: Soledad, let's go back to 2003. You're an anchor at NBC at the time when the Iraq war started. Did you feel that there was a kind of group think happening, where we top tough questions were not being asked?

O'BRIEN: I think there was an atmosphere where the narrative had moved a certain direction and if you were going to be a voice standing up for sort of the other direction, you'd have a terrible feeling. You know, when everything is marching along, the narrative has been set, it's very challenging, especially if everyone around you, from higher ups to your lower ups, are all saying, this is the narrative, this is the direction you're going.

So, I think it was a big problem and certainly looking back now, many people have written about it --

STELTER: More skepticism this time you think?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I actually think there has been an appropriate amount of skepticism.

STELTER: Mark, what's your vantage point on this as someone who is covering this every day in "The New York Times"?

MAZZETTI: Well, I was struck over the summer by this ISIS as a threat, but no one was really examining exactly what this threat was all about, and then compound that with very gruesome videos of journalists being beheaded and all of a sudden, you had this real escalation of the rhetoric within the U.S. government about the need to go after ISIS.

So, what we tried do is write a couple stories which was really trying to truth squad this and examine to pick apart what exactly is a threat, who is it a threat to, and how imminent is the threat? As we started asking exactly what was the nature of the plot, we started to learn there had not been a target selected, there had not even been necessarily a mode of attack selected.

So, these are the things as reporters we have to continue to write about and ask questions about because, you know, we shouldn't just be buying what is said publicly.

STELTER: It is patriotic for us to be asking the questions, even though sometimes journalists are accused of being unpatriotic at times of war by challenging the government line.

O'BRIEN: Well, clearly. Remember, I'm sure you remember very well, after 9/11, there was a clear sense of what was patriotic and what was not, and there was a very clear category for you are a patriot and anybody else, of course, who stepped out of line really ran the risk of this public condemnation of what's wrong with you? Are you on their side or ours? We have just been attacked as a nation. What is -- what is your problem?

Journalists have to get out there and be in an uncomfortable position of pushing people on things they may not want to answer. That is the job. And it's interesting, you know, I remember months ago when I would do interviews and people say you grilled, you aggressively --

STELTER: Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: And it's like that's the job. That's the gig. It shouldn't be held as something exceptional. This is what the job is.

STELTER: Soledad O'Brien and Mark Mazzetti, thank you both for being here.

O'BRIEN: Pleasure.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.

STELTER: And as I just mentioned, it's almost impossible to know what's actually happened on the ground in ISIS control areas. So, much of what we know about the terror group comes from their own propaganda materials.

Here's the question, how would you feel if ISIS used your name and quoted you in a recruiting video?

Well, it happened to my next guest, Michael Scheuer. It happened this week and not for first time actually. Scheuer is a former intelligence officer for the CIA. He's also an author and blogger with some controversial opinions but also a lot of fans, a few of whom apparently are a part of ISIS. He joins me now from Washington.

Good morning.


STELTER: Thank you for being here.

Tell me about this case. This was one of these videos released where a hostage is basically acting like an anchor delivering ISIS opinions to the camera. Your name came up. How did you find out about this and how did you react?

SCHEUER: Well, it's not the first time it happened. Mr. Bin Laden used my name also and referred to my work. So, this is something that's unfortunately --

STELTER: Bin Laden recommended one of your books, right?

SCHEUER: Right. And what I've said recently is not a lot different from what I have been saying for more than a decade, that we're going to lose this war if we don't come to grips with what motivates the enemy and basically that is all I have said and it's certainly what ISIS was pointing to, that we have presidents, senators, congressmen in the last three administrations who have consistently lied to the American people about what this war is about.

STELTER: So, let's be clear. You're saying what is the lie that they are making?

SCHEUER: The lie is that somehow we're being attacked because we have -- my daughters go to university. We have elections early on the presidential years in Iowa. We have freedom. We have "X" rated movies and whiskey. They would have none of those things in their country but not one of them would blow themselves up because of those things. What they're fighting is our intervention in their world.

Our support as we're supporting now, we're in a coalition with tyrants attacking ISIS. We have long supported -- for 60 years, we've supported tyranny across the Middle East.

STELTER: I have some hesitations about what you're saying, but let's take it for a moment at face value because I'm curious if you feel the press is, you know, too complacent going along with what the government, what the president is saying about this latest war and not saying what you're saying.

SCHEUER: The media and the political establishment in this country can either be two things, sir. They can be idiots and they really don't understand or they can be liars. I think they're the latter.

STELTER: OK. You're only putting two buckets here, idiots or liars. You wouldn't put a third or fourth or fifth bucket here?

SCHEUER: Not right now, sir. We have 20 years of the Islamists telling us exactly what they're fighting about, and then matching their words with deeds. And we have 20 years of American presidents and most media people saying that, don't listen to them. We know better than they do what they're doing. They're narcissists, there's mad men. There's only a few of them. We'll take care of this problem.

STELTER: I'd like to think that me and my colleagues are not idiots or liars, but well-intentioned people who are trying our best. Would you maybe concede that?

SCHEUER: I'm not sure, sir. I followed Osama bin Laden for a long time and there was only one of his dozens and dozens of speeches that was ever reprinted in the United States for the American public to read.

STELTER: That's actually very interesting because I interviewed Anjem Choudary on the program last month. He is one of the men arrested in the U.K. earlier this week on suspicion of terror offenses. It was a tough decision, whether we should have him on the program but I thought it was important to hear what he says and how he says it.

So, I think you're saying the same thing, that we need to listen to what these mad men in some cases actually believe.

SCHEUER: Sir, the American government did a spectacular job during the Cold War period in letting the American people know what the Russians were up to, what they said, how they behaved, and most importantly letting us know what their intentions were regarding the United States. We will bury you, remember?

We have never been allowed to hear what the enemy says and have people in the United States off their own hook decide whether what the American politicians are telling them is true or whether we have something much greater to worry about.

The problem here is underestimation of the enemy. Take a look at the young men and women on prosthetic devices in this country. They're everywhere, sir. And why is that? Because we were too concerned with how many of the enemy we might kill before they had a chance to kill us. It is a tragedy.

STELTER: I will leave it there and thank you for joining me this morning and sharing your point of view with us.

SCHEUER: You're very kind, sir. Thank you.

STELTER: And one final note, as I mentioned, if you're a RELIABLE SOURCES regular, you probably remember this interview from last month with the radical cleric. His arrest happened in London. Got a lot of attention and then on Friday a day after, he was released and he wrote this on Twitter. "I have been released from police custody just in time for Cameron," the prime minister, "to declare war on Islam and Muslims in Iraq and Syria." Again, something so many would disagree with and yet we have to hear his voice, I believe.

We need to squeeze in a quick break here. When we come back, we'll take a look at a suspension of a major ESPN personality, and ask, did it have anything to do with the network's business ties with the National Football League?

A lot more ahead this morning. Stay with us.


STELTER: It's Sunday, so it's another big day of football. We're going it find out if my Eagles can make it 4-0.

But there's one unusually loud voice we won't get to hear and that's ESPN's Bill Simmons. These next two sound bites will explain why.

Here is the first one from Simmons' famous podcast, "The BS Report", where he blasted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for mishandling the Ray Rice scandal.


BILL SIMMONS, BS REPORT: I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it. If Goodell didn't know what was on that tape, he's a liar. I am just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test, that guy would fail.

And he's lying or to pretend they didn't know is such (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bulls (EXPLETIVE DELETED). It really is. For him to go in this press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted.


STELTER: Liar, liar, liar. But he didn't stop here. He kept going and he dared ESPN not to punish him for what he just said.


SIMMONS: I really hope somebody calls me or e-mails me and says I'm in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell. If one person says that to me, I'm going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner is a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast. Thank you.

CALLER: There you. We'll bleep the F's and the BS maybe but otherwise --

SIMMONS: We'll bleep that. Yes, we can bleep that. Please, call me and say I'm in trouble, I dare you.


STELTER: Simmons is one of ESPN's biggest stars. His job is to spout opinions but even he is not above the law, ESPN law that is. The next day after that podcast, the network suspended him for three weeks.

A lot of fans were stunned, and they supported him with a Twitter hashtag, #freesimmons.

And you have to wonder, if ESPN's $15 billion contract with the NFL had something to do with this. Then again, what would your employer do in this situation?

Let's talk about that. Here in New York is Jim Miller, the co- author of "Those Guys Have All the Fun", the wonderful oral history of ESPN, also his new addition of the oral history of another TV stalwart "Saturday Night Live".

And in Atlanta this morning is Will Leitch, senior writer for "Sports on Earth". He's the founding editor of "Deadspin".

Thank you both for being here.

Jim, I think we must have color coordinated here this morning.

JIM MILLER, NEW YORK TIMES: It's good thing we texted last night.

STELTER: That's right. And one thing I think we should point out, before we talk about this is, Bill Simmons' contract is up when?

MILLER: Next year.

STELTER: Next year. So, if he was, say, up for renewal right now, what do you think he would do?

MILLER: I think -- I mean, look, a lot of people is writing that it's inevitable that he's going to re-sign. I think it's very much in doubt, particularly what's going on this past weekend.

STELTER: He more than just about anybody in sports or in media is a personal brand. He could in theory take it and go anywhere. But we'll see.

So, let me bring in Will here and ask you what you thought of the suspension. Three weeks, was that way overboard?

WILL LEITCH, DEADSPIN: You know, I don't know ESPN's rules on this. I'm not sure ESPN actually knows ESPN's rules on this.

But, certainly, there was a certain symbolic ugliness to the fact that not only was it three weeks -- it was one week longer than Ray Rice was initially suspended. Obviously they're two different companies mostly. So, we can't compare them apples to apples.

He -- Simmons I think is an unlikely martyr for kind of censorship and free speech in corporations, but certainly I think by -- this got tied into what's general been going on with the NFL rather than just being something that was inside ESPN, and I think that's why this became such a big deal.

STELTER: And you wrote for "Sports on Earth". Do you think it has something to do with the financial relationship between the ESPN networks and the NFL?

LEITCH: Yes. As I kind of joked in the piece, like there are literally billions of people, it's infinite number of people we could have called a liar, and it would have been fine. Certainly, ESPN I think understandably says, well, it was because he challenged us and he kind of put us in that position which I think is reasonable. He certainly did beg for the suspension, but if he would have said Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, a league ESPN does not have a deal with, if he says he's a liar, he's a liar, come on ESPN, I dare you to fine me -- I really don't think he gets fined.

It's really hard to argue as things are, and particularly how kind of weird the whole NFL relationship with all of these media companies is now. It's hard to imagine -- I get why ESPN says it's just about the dare, but to pretend it's not connected to Goodell, what's going on in the NFL, I think is disingenuous. STELTER: Jim, you know ESPN so well. Do you think it was about

money or something else?

MILLER: I don't think so. With all due respect, Will, I don't think so.

Look, ESPN has been pummeling the NFL for the past several weeks on this Ray Rice issue. I think this is about the fact that nobody -- at ESPN, they believe nobody can be bigger than the brand. So, in Bill Simmons mind I think the podcast is sui generis, it's like this playground where he gets to go and say whatever he wants and he can be more free-flowing, doesn't have to worry about the fact that he's a manager at Grantland and everything else. ESPN believes it's all under the same umbrella.

And, you know, so I think if he had just said the first part, he would have been in trouble but the second part when you defy them to punish you, I think that's certainly added on a couple weeks. But there is an interesting point to Will's point, which is I think ESPN in some way is going through the same problem that the NFL has in terms of punishment, because three weeks does seem to be somewhat strange given what happened with Steven A. Smith.

And yet --

STELTER: That was a one-week suspension for his comments about domestic violence.

MILLER: Quote-unquote, "provoking", yes.


MILLER: So, I think ESPN needs to figure out a punishment structure like the NFL does because none of these suspensions seem to be tied to anything else.

STELTER: Oh, let's talk about punishment structures, though. Will, I mean, his job is to give opinions.

LEITCH: Yes, and certainly, and I get it. You know, listen, I understand the idea that ESPN feels the podcast is under their umbrella and they probably should. They are paying for it.

I certainly understand why they would feel that way. But, you know, I think the difference is -- to go back to the point, the idea that the reason that he said go ahead, suspend me if you want for saying that was because Simmons knew that Goodell was a sore spot. Going after Goodell was going to be a sore spot with ESPN, but I think there is something -- a lot of this again comes down to taste. A lot -- you hear that clip and you hear him say he's a liar and you hear him curse and so on.

A lot of people, particularly in the buttoned up world of the NFL, that's stronger than a lot of the fact based things that Don Benetta (ph) and some of those guys have been reporting.

So, I think that has something to do with it as well.

STELTER: I wanted to hear, Jim, because, you know, so many people on ESPN and you wrote on Twitter there's a civil war going on in Bristol, the ESPN quarters, about Bill Simmons. I know a lot of conversations are private with people, but what's generally the sense been about this three-week suspension? Do people there think it was overboard?

MILLER: You know, look, the reason why I used the word civil war is because I do think, look, Simmons has his supporters there and he had a lot of detractors. I think when you look at what happened with -- for instance when Magic Johnson was taken off the NBA show that Bill was on, not a lot of people came to his defense.

He's been through a lot this past year and I think that there are people there that are gunning for him and his deal is up.

STELTER: That's right. And so I go back to Will on the point we started with -- Will, do you think a year from now Bill Simmons will be at ESPN?

LEITCH: I do actually. I think that -- first of all, I understand what Simmons frustration with a lot of those people. One of the reasons Simmons feels like he's maybe even larger than the ESPN brand is he unlike a lot of people at ESPN is entirely self made. He kind of came in on a freelance contract and built the strength of the audience from his own voice.

Now I still feel like my joke in my column about this is I feel like the Simmons ESPN suspensions are becoming like when the NBA commissioner David Stern would fine Mark Cuban and they would kind of laugh about it later. Like it helps both of their -- I hate to say it, helps both of their brands to do it.

The idea that ESPN looks like, oh, we're getting tough with him, don't worry all these people over here, we're angry with Simmons, too. Simmons gets to look like the martyr, like, oh, I'm trying to say what I want, but they won't let me. It's a wonderful relationship. That's a perfect kind of relationship that they kind of continue to have going forward.

STELTER: I am glad you mentioned that.

Will Leitch and Jim Miller, thank you both for being here.

MILLER: Thanks.

STELTER: Time for a quick break here. Here is something to think about. Attorney General Al Sharpton?

I'm kidding, of course, but the resignation of Eric Holder will be looked at after the break through the red news/blue news prism.

Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) STELTER: It is time for red news/blue news, my weekly look at

partisan media paints news stories in various specific colors. My subject this week has gotten used to all that painting. He's been the attorney general for six years, Eric Holder, and this week he called it quits.


AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: Attorney General Eric Holder stepping down. A historic figure, a leader who fought to protect and expand the gains of the civil rights movement and reformed the worst abuses of our criminal justice system.


STELTER: That's blue news, MSNBC's Al Sharpton. And a few hours later on the same network, Rachel Maddow had prepared a pretty impressive highlight reel of Holder's tenure. This is just a part of it.


MADDOW: Getting the FBI to start taping their interrogations for the first time ever in the history of that opaque agency. That is Attorney General Eric Holder.

Unprecedented federal investigation and oversight of local police departments to get them to stop discriminatory policing. That was Attorney General Eric Holder.

Oh, and rebuilding a Department of Justice that was a smoking hulk when he got there. That, too, is Attorney General Eric Holder.


STELTER: Now, over on FOX News the anchors were not spending a lot of time talking about incarceration rates. FOX's website had a highlight reel. They even called it a highlight reel but it listed Holder's controversies over the years, mostly when the attorney general talked about race relations. A montage of his comments about race aired on "The Five", too. That's the 5:00 p.m. talk show on the FOX.

Here are all those hosts reacted.


GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: It's like a Bond film losing your Bond villain. He was our Dr. No, our gold finger, or jaws, or odd job. Without a Bond villain, you don't have a Bond film. He arrived -- he arrived to this job with a chip on his shoulder and he left the country in pieces because he was so obsessed with division and separation and righting the wrongs of a bad America.


STELTER: So, civil rights champion or controversial political activist? Which one is it?

Comparing blue news and red news coverage of this, it was like they were talking about two totally different people.

I thought this next sound bite was really revealing. This is from Heather Childers on FOX News talking about the segment on her early morning show where she solicits feedback from her viewers.


HEATHER CHILDERS, FOX NEWS: We call it keep talking and today's issue was this, and it was Eric Holder. Everyone was talking about how they don't feel like they were his attorney general, that they were President Obama's attorney general.


STELTER: Did you catch what she was trying to say? Holder didn't represent us, he represents them, the others. It's kind of like a call back to the rallying cry of the Tea Party right after Obama was elected and Holder was appointed back in 2009. You know the phrase -- time to take our country back.

Of course, that isn't a uniquely right wing phrase. During the Bush administration, taking America back was a talking point on the left.

Anyway, the attorney general post is a part of the never ending push and pull about that, and now this attention is turning to who is going to get the job next. So, I'll wrap up where I started with Al Sharpton.

Check out this media headline. Al Sharpton says I'm helping Obama pick Eric Holder's replacement.

Now, what Sharpton specifically said is that his National Action Network is, quote, engaged in a conversation was the White House in deliberations over a successor who we hope will continue in the direction of Attorney General Holder.

That's Sharpton wearing his activist hat, his Obama confidant hat, not his MSNBC host hat. I know it's confusing, and maybe that's part of the problem sometimes. And that's why we try to sort it out here with red news/blue news.

It's time for another quick break. When we come back, we're going to talk to somebody I think is maybe a sign of the future of television. He's an anchor who sees nothing wrong with being kind of an activist as well. You won't want to miss this.


STELTER: Remember all the stories you heard about Central American children all alone sneaking across the border into the United States? It was a front-page story back in July, a crisis, as children were said to be crossing the southern border in record numbers. We heard all about the dangerous beast train that carries

immigrants across Mexico and the experience of actually crossing the Rio Grande River, and the awful conditions at the detention and processing facilities here in the U.S.

And we all saw those protests that were going on along the border. But the story has mostly faded away here. I watch a lot of TV news, and most of the border mentions that I have heard lately have been about the idea that terrorists might sneak across the border.

And, meanwhile, the children keep coming; 66,127 unaccompanied children have come across between last September and this August, vs. 35,209 a year earlier. That's according to the Border Patrol.

There is a television network where this is still a daily story, and that's Univision, the main Spanish-language network here in the U.S. As you're about to see, Univision's biggest news anchor, Jorge Ramos, has been outspoken about the need for immigration reform.

He's a little bit unlike any other anchor you see on TV. He actually swam across the Rio Grande this summer to make a point. He anchors in Spanish on Univision and now also in English on a cable channel called Fusion.

And, earlier, I spoke with him about what it means to be a news anchor with a powerful point of view.


STELTER: Did you have any hesitations about making yourself part of the story?


I think we have to show what's going on, and that's exactly what's going on. If -- I think (INAUDIBLE) is seen on TV to be boring. It doesn't matter what you do and what I do. If people don't watch what we do, they are going to look for something else.

So I think we have to find interesting ways of making people watch what we do. And it was -- the story was not about me. The story was about the children who are doing exactly the same thing. It's just that we don't see it.

STELTER: This is why I think you're so interesting as an anchor, Jorge, because, like you said, you have a point of view on some big stories, and you go and experience it firsthand.

I have a hard time imagining Peter Jennings ever swimming across the Rio Grande River.

RAMOS: Well, Peter Jennings did a fantastic job. As a matter of fact, he's one of my idols in journalism.

And we have to remember Peter Jennings went to every single place where he believed there was news. I think that we have to be covering these stories in a completely new way, because, otherwise, no one is going to be watching what we do.

And of course we have points of view. Brian, you have a point of view, and you have prejudices, and I have points of view and I have prejudices. But the difference is that, nowadays, is that people are very smart. I mean, they do know that we're not talking in a vacuum. They do know that we have political points of view.

But I never go on the air in this newsroom every single night doing for Fusion or for Univision saying, vote Republican or vote Democrat. I mean, I'm a registered independent. So it is -- it doesn't make any sense to try to hide that from the public.

Of course I have a point of view. I'm an immigrant. I came from Mexico. That's a very important part of my life. And that is reflected in my reporting, but that doesn't mean that, when I'm reporting about Syria or Iraq or what's going on at the border, that I can't say exactly what is going on.

STELTER: I share a lot of what you're saying about the value of point of view in journalism.

But, on the other hand, I know there's a lot of anchors and a lot of reporters who would say they leave their opinions out of it completely and they just report what people tell them, what other people tell them. I kind of hear you saying that's outdated.

RAMOS: But that's fine. I respect that.

I respect that, but we know that they have points of view. The fact that they don't want to make it public, that's their prerogative. But the fact is that they do have points of view. What I think is important is that when you go on the air, that you are professional and that you are fair.

The idea of objectivity, as you know, in every journalism school is always being debated. But the fact that we are discussing Syria and Iraq, and not Senegal and Mexico and Nicaragua, that's a decision. That's -- you could argue that we're not being objective.

So, in other words, what I'm trying to do as a journalist every single day is to be fair. And also, Brian, I think it's important that being fair doesn't mean that you have to be bland and that you have to be boring. I mean, being fair means many times confronting the precedent and going to the Congress and confronting John Boehner.

Sometimes, as a journalist, you have to do that. Edward R. Murrow did it, and Cronkite did it, and Jennings did it, and Ted Koppel, and Amanpour and Anderson. They do it all the time.

STELTER: I wonder, has it gotten harder for you to get some of those interviews, though, because they know what you believe in and what you stand for?

RAMOS: But I'm not hiding anything.

(CROSSTALK) STELTER: And that's my point. I wonder if some people are wary

of talking to you, some officials, some congressmen or some presidents because they don't want to face the questions they know you're going to ask.

RAMOS: Some of them. Yes, I think some of them are -- of course are worried, and some of them decide not to talk to me. And that's fine.

But, so far, what I find very refreshing both on Fusion and Univision is that we have had actually no problem whatsoever talking to the most important people, not only in this country, but in the world. I mean, they -- I think they come to our shows on Fusion and on Univision because they think they know that I'm going to be fair with them, that I'm going to allow them to give their point of view.

And if that point of view is controversial, or if that point of view doesn't reflect what they have said in the past, I will confront them, but, again, my purpose as a journalist is to be fair.

STELTER: I continue to believe that point-of-view journalism is going to keep taking up a bigger and bigger space in our media world.

RAMOS: I think so, too.

STELTER: Jorge Ramos, thanks for joining me this morning.

RAMOS: Brian, thanks so much.


STELTER: I think he is a fascinating guy.

Let me know about what you think what he said. Send me a message on Twitter or Facebook. My username is Brian Stelter on both sites.

I need to take a quick break here.

When we come back, a question about ABC. Did its business relationship with the Miss America Pageant cause it to gloss over a potential scandal with the newly crowned winner? We will talk about that right after this.



Miss America Islamist pageant of all pageants, and perhaps the brand of all brands. At the beginning of this week, though, allegations surfaced on the blog Jezebel that the newly crowned Miss America, Kira Kazantsev, was involved in sorority hazing in college, not just involved, actually. She was kicked out of the sorority as a result.

That's not the kind of thing Miss America wants to be associated with. So, to defend herself, or at least to do some damage control, she went on "Good Morning America" and sat down with Lara Spencer.


KIRA KAZANTSEV, MISS AMERICA: All I can do is sit here and be honest and share that, you know, yes, I was involved under the broad definition of hazing at some point, but never, ever in a million years what this is claiming to hold.


STELTER: Now, here is the thing about that.

ABC was the broadcaster of the pageant earlier this month. And Spencer was a co-host of it. It did OK in the ratings. It was down from last year, but it still drew in a significant audience for ABC.

I don't think you can blame Miss America for seeking out a friendly interviewer, but can you blame ABC for maybe airbrushing the situation?

My next guest definitely thinks so.

Erin Gloria Ryan is the Jezebel editor who broke the news.

Thanks for coming in.

ERIN GLORIA RYAN, EDITOR, JEZEBEL: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Tell me how this story came about for you. It's not as if Jezebel covers Miss America all the time.

RYAN: No, we actually didn't pursue it at all. Somebody came to us with a tip.

STELTER: So, an anonymous tipster.

RYAN: An anonymous tipster.

Well, I was aware of who it was, but the tipster came to us saying that they didn't want their name revealed, but that they had some information. We communicated with them, got more information. And the more we looked into it, the more it checked out.

STELTER: And you thought it was newsworthy, why?

RYAN: I thought it was newsworthy because Miss America traffics in role models, and hazing is a serious problem.

And so it stands to reason that an organization that wants to find a role model for girls would maybe not want someone in that role that had participated in hazing.

STELTER: And you were bothered, and I know you were bothered because you wrote on Twitter about it and wrote on Jezebel about it, that ABC didn't contact you ahead of time about the "GMA' interview and that you thought the softball questions were a problem as well. What was your impression of that interview, the clip we just

played there?

RYAN: Well, to be short and sweet, it was a commercial. It was an ad.

It was "Good Morning America" protecting Miss America's reputation and presenting it as though it was news.

STELTER: And if I said to you every broadcast network does this with their different parts of their company, for example, "The Today Show" promotes Universal Studios because it's all a part of Comcast, you would say what?

RYAN: I would say that promotion makes sense, cross-promotion makes sense within media. It's kind of an inevitability. And, commercially, it's good.

But my problem was, I'm a person that cares about trying to at least get to the truth. And I think that journalism should be the search for truth.

STELTER: When I asked ABC for comment about this, they decided they didn't want to comment. I was actually with Lara the night after. And I can tell you, this was a big deal for her to be able to be the co-host of this, this big prime-time broadcast.

I think what you're saying is, that's fine, but then don't be the one to also do the interview when there's news about this.

RYAN: Exactly.

STELTER: You saw, I'm sure, on FOX News earlier this week the show "The Five" sort of went after you. Let's play the bite and hear what you have to say about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's ridiculous. And this angry Web site that tried to out her, it's a bunch of angry chicks that just hate on really attractive women, they should find something else better to do. To me, this is a total nothing burger.


STELTER: What did you make of that?

RYAN: Well, first of all, I think that "You're just jealous" excuse is from like the middle school greatest hits of ways to kind of deflect conversation.


STELTER: That's funny.

RYAN: I also think, you know, it's not a nothing burger. It's something that's important.

This isn't maybe something that's important to media elites living in New York City. Maybe this isn't important to people that are in college right now. Maybe this is kind of old-fashioned, but there are still little girls that look up to Miss America. It's really important to those little girls that the role model that is chosen for them is a good example.

I also think, on a larger scale, hazing is a big deal.


RYAN: People have died from it. And people that haven't died have gone to the hospital. People have been psychologically damaged by it.

STELTER: It's actually a great, big story that "Good Morning America" or "The Today Show" or other morning shows could investigate.

RYAN: Exactly.


RYAN: And it's a huge part of college life, especially for people that are involved in fraternities or sororities.

STELTER: Well, I think this issue you're bringing up, I would call it sources going direct, seeking out the safest place to do an interview, is one that comes up every day, it seems like.

So to have a chance to highlight it has been really interesting.

Thank you for coming over and being here.

RYAN: Oh, thanks for having me.

STELTER: Thanks.

I need to squeeze in one final break, but when we come back, I will tell you what my reporting leads me to believe about Fareed Zakaria and accusations he's facing about plagiarism.

Stay with us.


STELTER: Finally this morning, a story about the ethical practices of television shows like this one.

Earlier this month, anonymous bloggers who call themselves Our Bad Media accused one of my colleagues, Fareed Zakaria, of plagiarism, of stealing other people's words and passing them off as their own. They cited examples from "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," the show that airs right before this one.

I disagree with a lot of what the bloggers are alleging. But I want to take a couple of minutes here to tell you about it, because, number one, I believe media companies should be transparent, just like we want politicians and CEOs to be, and, number two, because my reporting leads me to believe that Zakaria's program made some attribution mistakes, a small number, to be fair, but they are the kinds of mistakes that other journalists can learn from, and viewers too.

First, in the interest of transparency, let me say that I trusted Zakaria before these allegations, and I still trust him after studying all of it. He is one of a kind, one of the sharpest thinkers on world affairs anywhere.

But these bloggers' claims have gotten attention partly because prior claims of plagiarism were leveled against Zakaria in 2012. Back then, another blog pointed out that he had cribbed from a "New Yorker" article while writing his column for "TIME" magazine. He said he had confused his notes, and he apologized.

CNN kept "GPS" off of to air for two weeks while it reviewed his on-air work, and then reinstated him, indicating no other serious offenses were found. Well, the bloggers at Our Bad Media claimed they did find some.

It is clear to me that these anonymous people are waging a campaign against Zakaria, not just against his CNN work, but his columns and books, too.

I believe that most of their claims about "GPS," 26 total, do not hold up under close scrutiny. The closer you look, the less it looks like capital-P plagiarism.

But when you zoom out, there's a perception problem. The perception is that, as Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute told Politico, "It seems obvious that Fareed was overly reliant on his source material."

McBride called some of the examples low-level plagiarism. Politico reporter Dylan Byers likened them to misdemeanors. And here is an example. One of the "What in the World?" segments on "GPS" back in June appears to have lifted two sentences from an appeals court ruling without attribution.

In a handful of other cases, it seems like parts of Zakaria's segments were inspired by articles in "The Economist," "The New York Times," et cetera.

It seems like he took raw material from the articles, reworded a bit of it, and then added his own insights, again, what appear to be misdemeanors plucked from hundreds of episodes of "GPS." But shows like "GPS" and this one strive for the highest standards.

So this is the part where I wish I could tell Zakaria's side of the story. For instance, many TV scripts are written by producers. So did Zakaria write the questionable passages himself or did his producers? But Zakaria declined to camera for an interview with me. CNN's

P.R. people have also declined to comment, other than to say that: "CNN has the highest confidence in the excellence and integrity of Fareed Zakaria's work. And we have found nothing that gives us cause for concern."

So, I can only tell you what my reporting has led me to believe. I believe the perception in this case is worse than the reality. But I understand why there have been raised eyebrows. We are in the business of raising eyebrows, after all.

Beyond just "GPS," television newscasts are inspired by newspaper and Web stories all the time. We run with their ideas, and sometimes they run with our ideas. Sometimes, we don't acknowledge it because we're short on time, and maybe, just maybe, because we want to sound all-knowing, like we didn't need the help.

That is not good enough. For people like Zakaria, for people like me, for people who read scripts on television, the pressure is on us to be generous with attribution, to figure out ways to give credit where it is due without bogging down our scripts.

I think the Web's norms of linking to the sources are becoming the world's norms. And the more transparent we are, the more trustworthy we will be.

That is all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but our media coverage keeps going seven days a week on

We will see you right back here next week, next Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. And if you can't join us live, make sure you set your DVR.