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Robert Durst Arrested; Hillary Clinton Email Controversy; Interview with Director of Documentary About Scientology
Aired March 15, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, HOST: Good morning, I'm Brian Stelter, it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. A big show ahead today. We begin with breaking news out of New Orleans where Robert Durst was arrested late last night on a first degree warrant out of Los Angeles County.
We just found out about it a few minutes ago. If you've been watching HBO's remarkable miniseries, "The Jinx," you know exactly who Robert Durst is. He's the 71-year-old from the millionaire Durst family of real estate moguls. He's had a very troubled life. And over the years, he has been, quoting from "The New York Times" here, "an elusive suspect in the death of three people in three states."
But he's been never been found guilty. And "The Jinx" on HBO has been exploring his past in vivid, sometimes disturbing detail, including interviews with him. Now tonight happens to be the finale. You can see HBO's been promoting it right here, as having a shocking conclusion. You can see the tweet says tomorrow on HBO.
Well, it airs tonight. And now we know that Durst has been arrested. That's about all we know at the moment, but CNN will be staying with the story throughout the day and I'm sure there is more to come.
We take a turn now here to our other big story of the morning. That is the Hillary Clinton email controversy. It is something that has dominated the Sunday morning talk shows, and it is something that is really all people are talking about when it comes to Hillary Clinton.
But there is an important media angle that I want to tell you about. It's a First Amendment tug-of-war. Everybody has been asking everywhere I go this week, how big a deal is this really?
How big is it and is it going to affect Hillary Clinton?
I think the answer is it is a big deal. It matters and it matters to all journalists for the reason I want to tell you about. The Associated Press has actually filed a lawsuit against the State Department. It is trying to get a hold of documents and records about Hillary Clinton's time at the State Department.
It's not just about emails but it involves emails. And we have the top lawyer for the AP standing by. Really, this is about a First Amendment tug-of-war. It comes as
this Clinton controversy is all anybody in politics is talking about. I'm sure you watched the press conference earlier this week; it was a very intense one with reporters on one side and Clinton on the other. And you heard what she said about the scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department. I feel that I've taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails. They are going to be in the public domain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So Clinton says she's sure the emails will get to the State Department and they will be released to the public. But many journalists are not so sure. The Associated Press is the largest independent news organization in the world. It is ringing an alarm bell.
It is saying it's getting harder and harder for the government to give up public records. For us in the media and for you in the public to get a hold of documents from the government. The phrase United States of secrecy sometimes comes to mind. For the AP, this is about more than just Clinton's emails. I want to tell you why that is.
Joining me now for an exclusive Sunday morning interview is Karen Kaiser, she is the general counsel for the Associated Press, she's at the very top of the AP's legal ladder.
Thank you for being here this morning.
KAREN KAISER, AP: Thank you, Brian.
STELTER: As you can hear, I'm trying to make clear that what you are suing about isn't just about emails but does involve emails during Clinton's time as secretary of state.
Tell me what exactly you all are seeking.
KAISER: Absolutely. The lawsuit comprises six different FOIA requests, Freedom of Information Act requests that AP journalists sought from the State Department.
The requests are very wide ranging. They seek information from pretty critical topics that affect the American public, everything ranging from the Obama bin Laden raid to information about some of Clinton's top aides to information about the NSA surveillance. So the requests really are very wide ranging. They are not only about emails. They include requests for documents, calendars, notes and emails as well.
Ultimately it is information that should be made available to the American people. STELTER: You aren't suing Hillary Clinton directly but the State
Department to get a hold of these documents.
Why did you have to sue, though? Why did it have to get to this point?
KAISER: Absolutely. We are suing the State Department, not former Secretary Clinton. We had to get to this point because these requests because have gone unanswered for a significant amount of time. Our earliest request dates backs to 2010, and others date back to 2013.
So they have gone unanswered for many years. The State Department has missed its statutory deadlines, it's missed other deadlines that it has set for itself, estimated completion date. We've gone back and forth with them in negotiation and discussion and they keep missing these deadlines.
STELTER: They say they are overwhelmed, they say, what, 19,000 last year. Did they have enough people at the department to handle all these requests?
KAISER: Well, they did -- they claimed they received 19,000 requests last year and that is an awful lot of requests but they are legally obligated under the law to produce these documents. They have that requirement under the Freedom of Information Act. Five years is way too long to wait.
STELTER: This happens to be Sunshine Week. I'll tell the viewers about it while you fix your ISB there.
Sunshine Week is something organized by a lot of journalism groups, First Amendment groups every year in order to bring attention to these issues about government documents and the public's right to have access to them.
We see in state houses all across the country a harder and harder climate for journalists to get a hold of these documents.
And Karen, if you're back with me, do you think there's a solution to this continuing pervasiveness of government secrecy?
KAISER: Yes, I mean, we are seeing these continual problems, Brian. We are seeing continual problems mostly in terms of delays. On the state level -- on the federal level, there are tons of delays.
As we have seen repeatedly about Hillary -- about the State Department, they are one of the worst offenders when it comes to delays.
On the state level, these are an enormous problem, and we also have problems in terms of exemptions and redactions.
STELTER: So there's a wide range of issues here, it sounds like. Well, Karen, thank you for being here this morning. I greatly
appreciate it. And I would urge viewers at home to check out Sunshine Week's website, learn more about this effort. Because even though we as journalists talk about the importance of gaining these public documents and using the Freedom of Information Act requests to get a hold of documents, it's really a law intended for the public to use as well.
Where some people see secrecy at work with the Clintons, others just see self-preservation, something that's been seen for decades. As soon as the private email story became public about two weeks ago, the Hillary Clinton hate machine sprung into action. I'm talking about the people who love to hate the Clintons. The people who can find conspiracy in even the smallest of their movements.
They have been around for decades. In fact, my next guest, Christopher Ruddy, kind of used to be one of them. Ruddy doggedly chased the story of Clinton White House lawyer Vince Foster. He was insinuating back in the '90s that Clinton may have had something to do with Foster's suicide.
He even wrote the book, "The Strange Death of Vince Foster."
The reality is that Foster's death was ruled a suicide and there was no murder or cover-up. Two decades later Ruddy has changed his tune somewhat. He has warmed up to the Clintons, "The Washington Post" reports that he even traveled with former President Bill Clinton and he just donated $1 million to The Clinton Foundation.
Ruddy says Hillary would be a good president if she runs. But make no mistake: he's still a conservative. He runs a conservative news website Newsmax and plans to support the GOP nominee, whoever it is. But this gives some unique insight, I think, into the Clinton critics and how she can counter them.
Chris Ruddy joins me now from Florida, good morning.
CHRIS RUDDY, AUTHOR: Well, Brian, good to be on with you.
STELTER: I know people are always fascinated by the evolution in your relationship to the Clintons, let's say.
How do you explain it?
RUDDY: Well, it's a long story. I was very close friends with Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York. He introduced me to Bill Clinton and I really started to warm with Bill Clinton after he left the presidency, when I started really seeing what his foundation was doing and the work he was doing as a post -president.
He really reinvented the job of being a post-president. And I think, and I'm still a very big supporter of their foundation -- It's now the Bill, Hillary, Chelsea Foundation. And they are doing amazing work.
I have always found it to be very, very nonpartisan. They have extremely competent people. And there's always some sort of insinuation that there's something political or something malevolent, and I just find those things to be totally bogus.
STELTER: So you don't think the recent scrutiny by journalists about Middle Eastern contributions to the foundation is something that's legitimate and actually something that is going to affect her?
RUDDY: Well, I think it's really good that the president, the former president, went out and used his brand, his name, his reputation to raise money all over the world, not just from places in the Middle East but private corporations in the United States, wealthy individuals all over the world.
That money -- and nobody really disputes this -- has gone to really good purposes for health care in the third world, poverty alleviation, a sustainable development.
So look at the result. I wouldn't worry about -- I think it's great that Arab countries or other countries want to donate to that foundation. And nobody has ever really -- all this insinuation, again, no one has ever proved or said, indicated there was some benefit or that somehow Secretary of State Clinton did something to favor one of those donors. There's no evidence of that whatsoever.
If there was, I think it should be investigated.
STELTER: I know you have unique insight into this world because of your coverage in the '90s.
With that in mind, how do you think she handled the press conference last week and how is her organization handling all these questions?
I think a lot of reporters have been really frustrated by the lack of answers.
RUDDY: Well, I don't think it was really a great performance. But I also think she's in a very difficult position. People forget what the framework of this whole situation is. Every major company, every corporation in America, since the dawn of the Internet, have been properly storing and archiving e-mails. CNN does it. Newsmax does it. The federal government hasn't figured out a system yet.
In fact, President Obama, four years into his administration, in 2012, finally issued a memo and said every agency needs to get their systems archived, but they only have to implement it in 2016, which just happens to be the year he's leaving the presidency. So Hillary decided to start archiving these e-mails herself on her own server -- probably not a smart move, but at least she was archiving it.
We now know that other agencies didn't archive them at all. So, on one hand, I think it's really good that she wants to release the 55,000 pages. In fact, she's called for the State Department to do that. That's good. I think the bad side is she doesn't want anyone to look at the server. And I think that's going to raise up all sorts of questions and suspicions. And what I would suggest that she do is that an independent
auditor come in just to review the server, make sure no foreign government hacked it, make sure all the data was properly transferred, someone like a Louis Freeh, who's the former director of the FBI, somebody independent, to come in. And then you've settled the matter and it's over with.
STELTER: Well, you used the word "suspicions." That's what conservative media is so effective at, and what you used to do, raise suspicions...
... even if there's not always evidence. I mean, am I begin fair about that?
RUDDY: But, Brian, why are you blaming conservative media about raising it? I read the New York Times. I'm reading all these other -- Time magazine had a very negative story. These are all mainstream or liberal...
STELTER: Well, that's right. Let's show the cover, actually. It says -- it says, "The Clinton Way. They write their own rules. Will it work this time?"
You're absolutely right, Chris. I mean, the New York Times is the outlet that broke this story a couple of weeks ago. But I wonder if sometimes conservative media takes it too far and actually helps Hillary Clinton?
RUDDY: Well, Ed Klein was on Larry Kudlow's radio show yesterday. He reported that various people in the Obama administration are peddling the story and pushing the story about Hillary...
STELTER: That's exactly what I mean. There's no evidence for that. That's exactly what I mean.
RUDDY: Well, I think we all know as journalists that there's also people that are critical of Hillary on the Democratic left, some of the original Obama supporters. They're probably finding great glee in this story.
I think conservatives should handle this in a middle-of-the-road approach, saying, "Look, all the e-mails should be released; there should be a third-party review of it," but not make any accusation or allegation that she was hacked or that she hid e-mails, until the evidence proves it.
But at the same time, you know, if the conservatives go too far -- I saw this in the '90s myself -- Clinton won two elections; he's still an extremely -- Bill Clinton -- an extremely popular president. And these allegations and attacks work well in the conservative bubble, but they don't really win over middle voters. And that's the problem the Republicans are going to have.
STELTER: It's a very interesting tension, I think. Chris, thanks for being here this morning.
RUDDY: Great being on with you, Brian.
STELTER: And we're going to have more on Hillary Clinton later in the program, including why one veteran reporter uses the term "PTSD" when remembering her 2008 campaign.
But up next, the Church of Scientology is launching personal attacks against the maker of a new documentary about the religion. That filmmaker joins me for an exclusive interview, next.
STELTER: The Church of Scientology is notorious for intimidating and even suing journalists who try to investigate the inner workings of the highly secretive organization. And now Alex Gibney is the church's latest target.
He's the director of the new documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief." It's based on Lawrence Wright's book by the same name. Gibney's film is in some theaters now, and it's coming to HBO at the end of the month.
Now, take a look at this clip from it. This is where former members describe "the hole," a so-called secret Scientology compound where they say members were sent for punishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): The doors had bars put on them. The windows all had bars put on them. And there was one entrance door that a security guard sat at 24 hours a day.
(UNKNOWN): I had to stay there, sleep there. It stunk, and, you know, there were ants crawling around. You sleep about an hour, two and a half hours a night. You were in such a mental state that you were very controllable, very suggestible."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Scientology has a history of spending millions of dollars to silence their critics. And this time they're even buying Google ads. If you Google the words "Going Clear," right now, you'll find links to videos produced by Scientology rebutting the documentary.
Here is one example.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Alex Gibney's HBO piece is textbook propaganda, Gibney hand-picking his sources to serve his version of the truth. Let's take a look at what Gibney, sight unseen, calls "a prison camp." He could have shown the administrative offices for church management. Here's the reception. Here's the conference room and a simple courtyard. What did Gibney show instead? Ants. (END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Over the weekend, there was another response, actually a five-page response, to the film. So I wanted to get Gibney's reaction to that. I spoke with him a few minutes ago.
STELTER: Alex, thank you for joining me.
GIBNEY: Delighted. Good to see you, Brian.
STELTER: You haven't responded yet to this five-page letter from the Scientology Church to The Hollywood Reporter. When you read it -- I'm sure you've read it by now -- what was your reaction?
GIBNEY: I found it frankly ridiculous. You know, The Hollywood Reporter asked them 20 fact-based reasoned questions. The church didn't respond to any of them. Instead they sent a five-page letter full of nasty invective character assassinations and innuendo, which is very typical of the church.
You know, there's a doctrine in the church called "fair game," which means that if there are critics of the church, it's fair game to go after them in any way you can to slander them, to, you know, put out all sorts of very mean-spirited attacks. It's interesting to me that a church, which is a religious organization in theory, would spend so much time trying to provoke hatred.
STELTER: We're showing one of the videos they have produced now. In your film you talk about the prison camps that the church allegedly has. They then show their administrative offices and say that's the site of the prison camp, the so-called prison camp.
How do you explain that sort of contradiction?
GIBNEY: Look, we showed, in the film, and it's very clearly marked in the film, we showed a photograph of the double-wide trailers that were the whole at the time. It's not there now. But it upsets the church, I'm told, because David Miscavige (ph) likes to believe that his facilities are spanking clean and there are no ants. So it was the ants thing that really upset him.
But I think the most amusing thing about what they showed in that propaganda video were, one, they showed all the facilities but there were no people. And I think the membership of Scientology is mysteriously shrinking and shrinking fast.
The other thing was that, they say very openly, you can come and take a public tour of these facilities anytime. It's not true.
STELTER: No, I'm sure you tried.
What was the response from the church when you tried to gain access? GIBNEY: At the time I didn't try to gain access to that
facility. I wanted to go in and ask some very specific questions of some individuals, who particularly related to the story. The key guy, because many of these decisions come from the top, was David Miscavige. But he has relentlessly refused to talk to me or to anybody.
He's the head of the church but he doesn't speak. And so that's really frustrating. There are a number of other officials we asked for comment, too, and they declined.
STELTER: Asked if they are going to sue you or HBO about the film, they've said we can't comment but of course our counsel will consider all options.
How hard was it to make this film keeping in mind all the legal issues?
GIBNEY: It was very hard. We had to be very careful, we're still being careful.
STELTER: In what way? How were you being careful?
GIBNEY: Well, I think that we were very rigorous in terms of how we checked our story, how we had it scrutinized extensively by lawyers, not only my own lawyers but by HBO's lawyers. We hired outside counsel. There was a headline briefly that HBO had hired 160 lawyers. That wasn't true. That was a hyperbolic statement by Schieler Nevins (ph), meant for effect.
But it was, as they say in journalism, a fact too good to check. Now, that phrase in and of itself has been put across my chest as if that's something I endure. So I was just remarking on how a number of press outlets around the country ran with that 160 lawyer figure as if it was fact, which it never was.
STELTER: So there's a lot of lawyers involved but not that many.
Let me also ask you this -- on full disclosure, you're also in business with CNN, your film about Steve Jobs is CNN financed, actually premiered last night there at South by Southwest. Apple, of course, a secretive company, is there any comparison between Scientology and any of the other topics that you've ever covered in your films?
GIBNEY: Well, the -- in the case of Apple, we got about the same response to our queries for access from Apple as we did from Scientology. Though more amusing in the case of Apple. When we first went in the front door and we went in in the very beginning, they said, sorry, we don't have the resources to deal with your request, which I found interesting for the most valuable company in the history of companies.
STELTER: I have a feeling, though, they won't be buying Google ads to try to discredit you.
Let me finish up with a statement --
GIBNEY: That's true. That's true.
STELTER: Here is what it says, it says, "Mr. Gibney avoided contact in the church for two years, then he refused to provide the church with questions or allegations to which we could respond."
It went on to say, "It is apparent that Mr. Gibney was only interested in the story he had preconceived and any factual information that didn't further his agenda was an inconvenience to him."
Tell me what you want them to know as your film prepares to come on television to HBO at the end of the month.
GIBNEY: What I want them to know?
STELTER: Yes, about your process.
GIBNEY: My process was simple. When I wanted to go to the church and I felt I had some specific questions that I wanted to ask church officials and church members, I went to them and was prepared to interview them and to put them in the film if they had interesting things to say.
So I felt I fulfilled my duties as a filmmaker and as a journalist. But they all declined to comment.
STELTER: Alex, thanks so much for being here and commenting to me.
GIBNEY: Thank you, Brian. Pleasure.
STELTER: Time for a very quick break. But when we return, Hillary Clinton's testy relationship with the press.
Does she see reporters as the enemy?
And, well, are we?
Two veteran reporters join me with the answers right after this.
STELTER: Hillary Clinton has been in the public eye for decades. And even in the early years, Clinton struggled with the press and privacy. Here she is in 1994 as first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My sense of privacy, because I do feel like I've always been a fairly private person leading a public life, led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to, of both the press and the public's interest as well as right to know things about my husband and me.
I've always believed in a zone of privacy. And I told a friend the other day that I feel after resisting for a long time, I've been rezoned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now fast forward 21 years later and the conventional wisdom is that Clinton still has not warmed up to the media. And some don't blame her. She's been hounded at times over the years about Monica Lewinsky and other matters. Still, eight days passed between "The New York Times" revelation about her private e-mail server and her press conference. Here it is. Maybe she felt hounded here, too. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why did you wait two months to turn those e-mails over?
QUESTION: Why did you delete the personal e-mails?
CLINTON: I would be happy to have someone talk to you about the rules. I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Let's look at the future by looking back at the past.
I want to talk to two people who understand Clinton's relationship with the press over the years, beginning with Glenn Thrush, a senior staff writer for Politico magazine. He covered Clinton in the 2008 campaign. And so did Jonathan Allen. He's the D.C. bureau chief for Bloomberg News.
Thank you both for being here.
STELTER: Glenn, you say that you had PTSD after that campaign. Why is that?
GLENN THRUSH, POLITICO: And I got a heck of a flashback last week, I have got to tell you. I have been at a lot of those press conferences with her.
Look, my former colleague and myself -- Maggie Haberman -- wrote a story last year about Hillary's very fraught relationship with the press. And I think the most telling comment came from one of her longtime senior advisers, who told us, she hates you, she's always going to hate you, and that is never going to change. And I think it was fascinating looking at the statement from her
about the zone of privacy from that famous pink press conference. I think, if anything, that has intensified. And really in her two-year absence out of the spotlight since she has sort of retreated behind the walls of her two mansions, I think that has intensified.
And what you really saw last week was somebody who was being pushed reluctantly out into the spotlight. And my question is, how do you go from being sort of cloistered to being the most scrutinized candidate maybe in the history of presidential candidates?
STELTER: I kept thinking last week, Glenn, as there were stories saying, she's preparing to speak, she's preparing address the crisis, I thought, just walk out your front door, walk up to the microphones and start talking, or, even better yet, just start replying to questions on Twitter.
She could have engaged at any time, but instead it was a very carefully organized press conference.
Jon, when you watched that press conference last week and you have seen all this happen in the past few days, what do you think it tells us about her relationship with the press and specifically how she's gearing up for a campaign by hiring press aides?
JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, I think there are a couple of things at work here.
Number one, I don't think the press was her audience at all for that press conference. I think she was trying to shore up her Democratic base. I think she was trying to give talking points to some of her allies. Democrats were eroding from her and they were saying things on television and they were talking behind closed doors.
And I think she needed to address that. Whether she handled that or not, I'm not sure. But I think that was the intention. In terms of the relationship with the press, I think what Glenn said is absolutely right, that this is not a group of people that she particularly likes.
Her reaction to the press and to public disclosure is one of paranoia. And that doesn't mean that everyone is not out to get her, because I think in a lot of cases everyone is out to get her. But she is -- this is a pattern of behavior from her. They set up this e-mail system in 2009, one set of rules from her that are very different from the set of rules for everyone else.
And watching the reaction to this -- you asked about her aides -- some people suggested that there's not enough of an apparatus. I would suggest the opposite. There are two many people communicating with her about what she should do, hold off, get in, talk about it as fast as possible, do something on Twitter, do this, do that.
She's got way too many inputs and not enough people making situations, or not the right person making decisions about how to respond to things like this. STELTER: I want to talk about 2016, but I had a question for
you, Jon. I was rereading parts of your book "HRC" last night about her
time as secretary of state. And I wondered, did all of us in the press just miss this giant story about her e-mails? It was sort of hidden in plain sight, because she was e-mailing lots of people from a private account. Did all of us just miss it?
ALLEN: Well, it's hidden in plain sight if you have access to her server. I think not very many reporters would be e-mailing her directly, nor would she be e-mailing them directly. And I guess Sid Blumenthal, former reporter, who we know was e-mailing her about what was going on in Libya, maybe he counts.
But this is a situation where you couldn't possibly know, without being on the inside, that she had set up this system. Look, there are a lot of stories that were missed at her time at the State Department. And I think the way in which we missed this one most is that a lot of us got FOIA requests denied from the State Department for things that really should have been available to us.
STELTER: You're saying that was a sign, that was a sign of something going on.
If you get back to something that says there is no existing document, and you're pretty sure that document exists, how the FOIA letters are often written, perhaps it's time to start asking other questions, like,why does this document not exist in the public domain?
STELTER: Let me play devil's advocate via Rachel Maddow. Here is what she said earlier this week on her program about Hillary and the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": The media noise and static and nonsense around her is so loud, it's very hard to have effective reporting that people might actually care about, about what she would be like as a national leader.
And seeing the scrum this week and a lot of the stupidity in the coverage around this coverage issue, I worry about whether or not we're going to be well-served by a Beltway press corps that doesn't know how to talk about either Bill or Hillary Clinton without treading into real nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Glenn, what's the response to that as we all gear up for another campaign?
THRUSH: I think that's silly. OK? I think there's a ton of substantive reporting on Hillary
Clinton. I think if you choose to hear static and noise, that's what you're going to hear. And I think that's a convenient argument that Clinton and a lot of her surrogates make about this.
I think -- I don't think you can sort of deny that some of the early reporting here, particularly the investigating stuff, it's a choppy business. It's hard to sort of disclose facts without making an error here or there. But I think the reporting, particularly on the e-mail story, while it might be a little bit over the top in terms of the volume, has been pretty good, pretty solid.
And I think if you're only looking for stuff that's going to -- you're going to consider to be derogatory and silly -- and, trust me, there's a ton out there -- that's all you're going to see. But there's a ton of good reporting. And, by the way, even though a lot has been written about her, there are -- as Jon pointed out earlier, there's just a ton of stuff we do not know about her time at the State Department or really even stuff that she did in the White House.
STELTER: Jon, I have a few seconds left. You used the word paranoid, so I want to close with this. What happens if she becomes president?
ALLEN: Yes, she ought to go out there right now and say that any e-mails she sends are going to be available to the public like all other records are supposed to be at the White House, because that's -- it's something that nobody else that done.
And I think when you worry about giving power to somebody who acts in their own best interest above even the rules and laws, then, you know, she should do something to address that.
THRUSH: Yes, don't hold your breath.
STELTER: Well, that's something we may follow up on in '17, may, maybe not. Glenn and Jonathan, thanks for being here.
THRUSH: Thank you.
ALLEN: Take care.
STELTER: Need to take a break here.
But when we come back,a lot of ugly actions and statements coming out of Ferguson this week, coming out of the coverage this week. It feels to me like some in the media are just trying to oversimplify the problem. How can we do a better job? We're going to try to answer that right after this.
STELTER: Ferguson back in the news again this week, and a manhunt still under way for an unknown gunman who shot and injured two police officers as protesters gathered after the announcement of police Chief Thomas Jackson's resignation.
As you know, Ferguson ignited complex debate on race relations here in the United States, the key word there, complex. It all started after the high-profile shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown. But the news coverage has been -- I hate to say this, but it's true -- anything but complex.
On one side, there's oftentimes a narrative. It's framed as a war on cops. There's almost something red news, blue news to this, so let's start with "FOX & Friends" speculating on the protesters' motivations with Jeff Roorda, the spokesman for the Saint Louis Police Officers Association.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outside a police station about something that happened that you should be happy about. The sixth person has been forced to resign. There's been a -- the Justice Department just ruled in a way in which I imagined was right up your alley. What else do you want?
JEFF ROORDA, SAINT LOUIS POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: They want dead cops. And that was their goal all along and that was their goal last night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: You see the banner there, "Good Guys Gunned Down."
So, that would be red news. And on the other side, the narrative is often, but not always, but often framed as a war on young black men. Here is Jeff Roorda again -- this is on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" -- getting pushback from Mika Brzezinski.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC: I just wonder then why you would sort of put protesters in a group of one, when there are so many people that do certainly want change and have been protesting peacefully night after night after night. Are you sure that was the way to say it?
ROORDA: It ceases to be a peaceful protest the minute somebody in the crowd engages in violence.
BRZEZINSKI: I'm trying to help you out. All those protesters do not want dead cops. I think what you did was perhaps lump them all together in a way that was a little ham-fisted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: We see Roorda here on CNN quite often as well.
And I guess I'm just wondering, can this story really be reduced down to two sides? I think the answer is no. We have to ask, how can we in the media better cover this story, which almost feels like it's like 17-sided? There are not just two sides.
Joining me now to add some much-needed perspective, Marc Lamont Hill, HuffPost Live host and CNN commentator.
Marc, thanks for being here.
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My pleasure. My pleasure.
STELTER: We talked about stories like climate change not having two sides. This is different. This has many, many, many sides. There are many angles to a topic as complex as race and as police relations and al little rest.
When you're on cable news, as you so often are, do you feel like cable news and the media in general fails to relay the complexity of this story?
HILL: No, we don't. It's so funny.
Whenever I'm defending a particular perspective, I'm immediately positioned as being the opponent of another perspective. For example, if I say, look, these protesters have a right to be out there in Ferguson even right now, people say, yes, but what about the dead cops, as if supporting protesters means that you also support the shooting of cops.
It's not either/and -- either/or. It's both/and. I don't want people to shoot cops and I want people to continue to protest against injustice.
The other thing here, Brian, I think is that we often attach a layer of equivalency to this stuff that doesn't equate. For example, even in this segment, we're framing it as some people are talking black youth, other people are talking about the war on police, and both people have it wrong.
The truth here is that there is a war on black youth. Now, we may debate the complexity and the depth of it. And we may have some debates about what that means, but to be sure, there's evidence that black men are getting shot. And that's something we need to investigate.
STELTER: But would you say there's also an assault on police in this country?
HILL: There have been assaults on police in this country, but there is certainly a difference of -- in terms of the type of assault that happens on black youth vs. the type of assault that happens with police.
Police have a very tough job that they sign up for. I never want to see a police officer shot. I think it's an awful thing to happen. But it is a job that they sign up for. And it happens far less frequently than it does for black men in America. It's a different conversation. Again, I'm not saying it's not an
important conversation, but they are not opposite sides of the same coin. And I think that's the problem here. When we talk about race in this country, we continue to treat black and white as opposite sides of the same coin, black people have anger, white people have anger. It's the classic Obama response to race.
The problem is, white supremacy lingers, white privilege lingers, structural racism lingers. And as a result, they are not the same thing.
STELTER: Let me put on screen a tweet from "FOX & Friends" that got a lot of attention, a lot of outrage this week.
It says, "New Ferguson violence comes just one week after Attorney General Holder vowed to dismantle the city's P.D. Is this what he meant?"
And they're referring to the shooting of those two officers. Thankfully, those officers did not die. They were injured, but did not die.
When you saw that tweet and you saw all the attention around it, what did you think about it?
HILL: I thought it was grossly irresponsible. And this is the second time that this happened. When those officers were tragically killed in New York back in December, we saw the same thing. There's this narrative that protesters have blood on their hands, that Al Sharpton has blood on his hands. He's like the bogeyman for conservatives, apparently. They have to say his name.
And all this stuff emerges such that we can't have a conversation about protesters without linking it to every unfortunate thing that happens. We never did that with the Tea Party. If a bad thing happened at a Tea Party rally or as a consequence of a Tea Party rally, we wouldn't blame all Tea Party people. And if someone did, we would say that was grossly irresponsible.
I think we're painting a very ugly, ugly, ugly landscape right now when every time something tragic happens, we try to say other people have blood on their hands. I think that's anti-American, it's anti-democratic, it's anti-First Amendment.
STELTER: It requires some critical thinking skills here to be able to have different thoughts at the same time, right, that there are structural injustices in Ferguson and yet, according to all of the reports, according to the federal government, the hands weren't raised. It requires some critical thinking skills in these stories.
HILL: That's exactly right.
But the problem is, we have entered the pro wrestling mode of, OK -- well, I have said sort of FOX News is to news what pro wrestling is to sports. It's kind of like news. Right? But the problem is, we're all seduced into that now, where we need a good guy and a bad guy, we need Hulk Hogan to defeat the Iron Sheik. Right now, we need there to be two sides and somebody has to win. It doesn't have to work that way. We don't need a good guy and a bad guy. We need a complex conversation.
STELTER: I'm thinking to myself there's a lot of good cops, good guys, a lot of good protesters, good activists. There's a lot of good on both sides.
Well, anyway, Marc, thank you for being here and trying to explore it with us.
HILL: Absolutely. My pleasure.
STELTER: We have spent a fair bit of time today talking about e- mails. It might be one of the themes of the show. But imagine going without e-mail for a day. One reporter did that. And she's going to tell us what it was like and what she learned from it when we come back.
STELTER: Welcome back.
A viewer named Kelly on Twitter just said to me, she gave up e- mail a year-and-a-half ago and it was the best thing she ever did.
Now, I cannot imagine that. But as the controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of her private e-mail as secretary of state continued to escalate, this time last Sunday, actually, Secretary Lindsey Graham appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and he made this admission about e- mail to Chuck Todd. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Do you have a private e-mail address?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't -- I don't e- mail. You -- no, you can every e-mail I have ever sent. I have never sent one. I don't know what that makes me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I said Secretary Lindsey Graham. I meant senator, of course.
But that's right. He said he's never sent a single e-mail. And Senator Graham is not the only one. A bunch of politicians have talked about this, John McCain, for example, Chuck Schumer, Orrin Hatch, Tom Carper. Even Bill Clinton says he prefers to pick up the telephone over using e-mail.
Now that is a concept that those of us glued to our smartphones -- I'm meerkatting this right now -- find it impossible to imagine. But Jennifer Bendery, a White House correspondent for The
Huffington Post, decided to try it. She issued herself this challenge. She said: "I am giving up e-mail for one day, channeling Lindsey Graham."
Well, she joins me now from Washington to tell me what she learned.
Jennifer, thanks for being here.
JENNIFER BENDERY, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you for having me.
STELTER: So, you're back on e-mail now. What was the experience like to go without it for one day, but still try to work?
BENDERY: So, I thought this was going to be a fun little experiment to try to channel Lindsey Graham for a day, no e-mail, no social media just for a day at work.
And it was not fun at all. I was in a terrible mood all day long. My co-workers were probably avoiding me. And it was because I just -- I couldn't get anything done, and like the simplest tasks. Like, I wanted to work on a story where I would normally just e-mail a few of my sources.
And, instead, I spent I don't know how long on the Internet looking for their phone numbers, so I could call them instead. And when I found their numbers and I called them, I went straight to voice-mail, and their voice-mail messages said to send them an e-mail.
BENDERY: So I felt like time became a flat circle and nothing was happening.
STELTER: Some politicians have pointed out they do use e-mail. Here's Barbara Mikulski writing: "Yes, of course I e-mail. I'm modern. I'm contrary. I'm hot. I'm hip."
I guess this is now an interesting point of differentiation between our congress men and women.
BENDERY: I mean, I understand that a day without e-mail is not -- for a reporter is not the same as a senator. A U.S. senator has a whole staff. They have people checking e-mail, checking all their social media accounts.
But even -- I had a co-worker agree to be my assistant for the day and check my e-mail. And I still just -- I couldn't get anything done. And at one point, I was like, can you print out one of my e- mails so I can read a report? And the printer was broken. And then I couldn't read the e-mail for a while.
And I could just feel my blood pressure going through the roof. And it was not fun at all. And, you know, I should say, some people were like, it sounds like such a relaxing day, just disconnect and be free.
BENDERY: But this wasn't an exercise in disconnecting. This was an exercise in not using e-mail while you're trying to get your job done. And it's -- I basically was waiting until midnight so I could have a cocktail and get back to work.
STELTER: I am looking forward to reading your column about this online.
Jennifer, thanks for being here.
BENDERY: Thank you.
STELTER: Oh, boy.
Well, up next, actually a big name leaving NBC News. You have got to hear who and, more importantly, why. And that's up next.
STELTER: Well, this headline may not have surprised you on Thursday.
It says Dr. Nancy Snyderman exiting NBC News. I'm sure you remember what happened last fall, when Dr. Nancy was in Liberia, courageously covering the outbreak of Ebola there. That's when one of her crew members came down with the disease. And Dr. Nancy and all of her colleagues who weren't sick came home and pledged to stay home, quarantined voluntarily, for 21 days.
Now, that was the norm at the time, when Ebola fears were off the charts. A few days later, though, after she got home, she was seen outside her home in New Jersey. This caused local concern and national media coverage. Her credibility as NBC's chief medical editor was eviscerated.
She returned to work in December, but things were never quite the same. And now she says she's returning to academia, taking up a job at a medical school.
Now, there is no doubt that Dr. Nancy screwed up. She said one thing on TV, that she'd quarantine herself, and then did another thing. And yet consider how much has changed since Fear-bola struck last fall. This headline is barely getting any attention this weekend. It says 10 Americans being flown home from Sierra Leone for Ebola concerns.
And one health care worker is already being treated at NIH. The panic is over. And, today, an NBC News crew member who had Ebola is weighing in. It's Ashoka Mukpo. He is the guy that was sick in Liberia, but he's fully recovered.
And he tweeted this earlier this morning. Let's put it up on screen. It says: "Worth pointing out that Dr. Nancy Snyderman never had Ebola and never put anyone at risk. Just a little reminder that she was right."
Now, she did screw up by seeming hypocritical, but maybe we should ask if we all screwed up, too.
That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.