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Reliable Sources

Cashing in on "Clinton Cash"; Do Sports Writers Take a Pass on Investigating? Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 10, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:07] FRANK SESNO, CNN HOST: He's the man at the center of a media storm and the target of a Clinton war room counterattack. The author of the new controversial book on Hillary Clinton is here.

And the reporter who first broke the deflategate story has strong words for his colleagues in sports journalism.

And did the media get the story wrong in Baltimore again?

Happy Mother's Day, everyone. I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in for Brian Stelter today. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

Well, with most media budgets downsized, it could be that the closest thing the media has to a job creator these days is Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign. Yet, her inaccessibility to the media has created something of a vacuum, and we know how nature hates vacuums.

So, last week, a new book arrived and it's gotten a lot of attention. "Clinton Cash" raises questions of conflicts of interests between donations to Bill Clinton's foundation and his wife's public policy while she was secretary of state, in deals from Kazakhstan to Columbia.

But the fact that it was written by Peter Schweizer, a former consultant to both George Bush and Sarah Palin brought up its own questions of conflicts of interest. Lots of folks took aim at that, including Seth Meyers.


SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS/NBC: Some of his previous books include, "Do as I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy" and the more succinctly titled, and this is real, "Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less and Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals".

So clearly, clearly it's hard to tell if he has any bias.


SESNO: Harsh. Still, the impact of the book has been remarkable, not just from the

usual Clinton-bashing outlets. Yes, there was an hour-long special from FOX News owned, like the book's publisher, by Rupert Murdoch. But the book was released early to "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." They expanded on some of the book's allegations which fed the media beast and prompted "The Times" to observe the book had more impact because "The Times" had given it more impact.

Amy Chozick from "The Times" wrote that compared to other anti-Clinton books, "Clinton Cash" is potentially more unsettling both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations, including 'The Times', 'Washington Post', and FOX News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book."

Exclusive agreements with the author? Well, that raised eyebrows. "The Times" own public editor who investigated the agreement and concluded "The Times" should have been more clear with readers about the nature of this arrangement.

One of the co-authors of "The Times" piece, Mike McIntire, defended the deal as just a journalistic tip.


MIK MCINTIRE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was really no different than a tip that we received from any potential source. There were no agreements as to what we would write. There was no agreement as to when we would write it or what we would not write about.

So, this idea that we were -- somehow struck a deal with him is really false. I mean, we accepted this is a tip in the same way that I receive them interest all ends of the partisan political spectrum.


SESNO: Why is this book getting so much media attention? Does it deserve? Authors would kill for this kind of exposure. So, how was this done? And what about the author?

Well, joining me now is the author himself, Peter Schweizer, who is in Tallahassee, Florida.

Peter, welcome to you.


SESNO: Well, and congratulations on getting all this attention from Seth Meyers to "The New York Times", to their public editor.

For people who aren't familiar with the book, let me ask you in 30 seconds to give us your reporting headline if you bumped into somebody on the street and they said, what's the bumper sticker? What is it?

SCHWEIZER: I think the bumper sticker is you see a pattern that indicates pay to play, from foreign entities giving money to the Clintons either through speaking fees or Clinton Foundation donations, and those entities get favorable action from Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. That's the thumbnail sketch.

SESNO: So, the questions raised we just touched upon in the introduction here about the connection to "The Times" and "The Post" -- what was the treatment between you and these other publications?

SCHWEIZER: Yes. I mean, Mike McIntire is right. I mean, I had a copy of the galleys. I took them to "The New York Times" in part because I have a story building upon a previous report that "The New York Times" had done on Kazakhstan. I took it to "The Washington Post" because they had done some work already on the speechmaking that Bill Clinton was engaging on. I took it to FOX News because there was an individual there who used to have been at "Newsweek" who I knew.

And it was simply, hey, I found some interesting things you guys might want to look into it. I also did the same with ABC News as well.

So, there was no unique arrangement. I think it was just --


SCHWEIZER: Any of these guys -- any of these guys -- any of these guys pay you, Peter, for this?

SCHWEIZER: Oh, no, absolutely not. No payments, no time constraints put on, no conditions put on -- absolutely not.

[11:05:01] I mean, these are all professionals as you know, Frank, and no, they would have never tolerated that and I never would have asked for that.

SESNO: OK. Well, that was for the record. So, let me ask you this for the record -- were you looking deliberately and hoping for this kind of pickup in the, quote/unquote, "mainstream media" to blunt some of the criticism that you are just a Clinton critic and that this book lacks credibility as a result?

SCHWEIZER: Well, you know, I wish, Frank, that I had this master plan. If you look at my two previous books, "Extortion", it was featured on "60 minutes." There was a whole series on CNN by the investigative unit on it. My book before that throw them all out on insider trading, and the stock market, again was the subject of a "60 Minutes" episode, and there was mainstream media on both of those.

So, this book is really no different from the two previous that I have done. And it's all fact-driven. I mean, yes, I am a conservative. I say that. But I have gone after Republicans. I have gone after conservatives. The focus is really on corruption and I think facts are facts.

SESNO: So, let me ask you this question and this for people who haven't followed this very closely is also the substance of the 4,000- word piece that "The New York Times" wrote, which is this deal for the Russians to buy this uranium company that was up in Canada with the two brothers, the business partners there were making contributions to the Clinton Foundation after the deal went through. Bill Clinton got a very lucrative speech in Russia as part of all this. Hillary Clinton is now secretary of state.

And the connection or the -- not the connection but the implication here is that there was some pay-to-play. But, but I have heard over and over again, no smoking gun here. And I want to show you and the audience this montage the Clinton campaign put together, with you out making these pictures to the media and their response.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX: There's no indication that Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton took direct action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no -- there's no evidence.

SCHWEIZER: I was not in any of these meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no smoking gun.

SCHWEIZER: I can't look into Hillary Clinton's mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there hasn't been a there-there.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: We've been investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action.


SESNO: So, what do you say to all the media organizations that looked into this core accusation in the book around said there's no there- there, or no smoking gun there?

SCHWEIZER: Frank, I'm an author and a journalist. I don't have subpoena power.

Let me just ask this very basic question: if this were a secretary of defense, it were not the Clintons. They had a small company that needed Pentagon approval of something, and nine individuals in that small company had sent $145 million to a private foundation that the secretary of defense had and the secretary of defense's spouse had received inflated speaking fees during the time of this approval.

And when asked about this, the secretary of defense said, oh, there's no connection.

Would the media take their word for it? Would investigators take their word for it? No. They would say this is something that needs to be investigated, and that's my position. And this notion that an author has to provide the smoking gun is absurd. All of these things ought to be investigated.

SESNO: Why is that -- why is that absurd? Why -- if there's a core allegation, is it enough just to raise the question? I mean, if you did that -- if you were writing for a major newspaper, they'd send you back and say you haven't got the story yet.

SCHWEIZER: No. I disagree completely. I don't think the news standard at any news outlet would be if you demonstrate a small company has send $145 million to a foundation connected to the secretary of defense and the secretary of defense had business before them, you're telling me news organizations wouldn't run with that story even if they didn't prove direct action? Of course they would.

The question is, is what do you do with that information? And in the book you show it again and again and again and again. So, the question becomes are these just all serious coincidences or is there something else afoot? And I think it deserves further investigation.

SESNO: Peter, you have said that you are trying to change the narrative, the Clinton narrative in the media. A lot of folks say there's plenty of criticism in the media and lots of questions have been raised. Are you trying to change the narrative? And if so, to what?

SCHWEIZER: No. My focus has been over the last five years on crony capitalism, and that is what I see this as a story. This is not about ideology. This is about a family, the Clintons, who have become enormously wealthy in the post-presidential years, and I would argue and I think the evidence is clear a lot of it has to do with the fact that former President Bill Clinton's wife had very real power and could do favors for people that needed it done at the State Department.

And that's a serious area of inquiry. I'm looking into the same thing at Jeb Bush right now. This goes to the heart of the problem of crony capitalism and self enrichment.

SESNO: So, Peter, I want to ask you this question, which you asked to others. And that is, who is funding you and who is funding your foundation?

SCHWEIZER: Yes. And some of that has been out in the media. We have a variety of donors.

[11:10:00] They are politically conservative. They're not all Republicans, and they all don't have a consensus about a particular candidate.

But I will tell you -- and I think our research is clear on this -- I have never had a donor tell me, don't look into this person or don't look into this area. That has never been a restriction.

And our evidence is clear. My last book on extortion, I was soundly denounced and criticized by Speaker of the House John Boehner.

So, the idea that this is just about Republicans or Democrats is absurd and is a way of deflecting of the real substantial of what's in the book.

SESNO: It is worth noting and that's why I did, that your support, your financial support, is from conservatives, including from the Koch brothers and others. You have not denied that. So, that's out there for all to know.


SESNO: But I want it to be out there for all to know.

SCHWEIZER: Yes. I would just correct the record -- and you're right, they have in the past. The Koch brothers did not fund this research project.

SESNO: They didn't fund the research project but they funded your foundation.

SCHWEIZER: Yes, in the past, yes, on (INAUDIBLE), yes.

SESNO: OK. My last question for you on is this, one other thing that has raised concerns is comments you made, that 10 percent, this 10 percent comment that you made, that 10 percent of what's gone to the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable foundations to do the work. There's been a lot of reporting, a lot of digging on that. It shows that that is not the case. That they are -- that a lot of their work does need to go to other charities. They do it themselves.

Are you prepared to withdraw it?

SCHWEIZER: No, and I make that point. No, If you look at my comments in context, I say their charitable giving to other foundations, but as I point out they are positioning themselves as a management consultancy to work with other charities. And I always make that clear. I don't just cite that 10 percent figure. But that 10 percent figure is accurate and true.

The problem is the Clinton Foundation is an unusual charity. Charity navigator won't rate them because of a, quote/unquote, "usual business model". The Better Business Bureau has dinged them for serious problems with their internal practices.

So, that all stands and that all is accurate and true.

SESNO: Peter Schweizer, thank you very much. An author with some impact and always a healthy thing for the discussion and it will continue. Thanks very much.

SCHWEIZER: Thanks, Frank.

SESNO: Deflategate, when it comes to investigative journalism, do members of the sports media drop the ball? We'll have that one.


SESNO: And welcome back.

And now a look at the media that cover sports and whether they're reliable sources.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and deflategate are back in the headlines after the Wells report found it was more probable than not, their words, that Brady was aware of those improperly deflated footballs. Well, reporter Bob Kravitz from WTHR in Indianapolis broke the

deflategate story and ignited the media firestorm that followed. For him, Wednesday's official report was vindication after his initial reporting that drew disdain and even death threats.

He took the media to task, especially the home town crowd in a personal op-ed. He wrote, "The people who disappointed me most were the folks at "The Globe's' Web site They were renowned pom-pom wearers, so it wasn't a surprise. But I was struck at the enthusiasm they displayed while carrying the Patriots' water."

Well, do most reporters carry their teams' water and act as cheerleaders? How should sports reporters balance the play by play and star culture of the field with the business of journalism and the job of tough questions?

So, the joining me now is Bob Kravitz, that sports columnist from WTHR, and Christine Brennan, "USA Today" sports columnist as well.

Welcome to you both.

Bob, let me start with you. That story that you report, how did you get it? And tell us again about what the responses were?

BOB KRAVITZ, WTHR SPORTS COLUMNIST: Well, you know, it was a night of the AFC championship game, and I received a text roughly 10:00, 10:30. I did not see it until midnight because I was doing some TV postgame work. And I -- it was from a source saying call me, it's really important. I called the source roughly midnight, 12:10. I was told what was going on with the deflated footballs. I then was able to confirm it with a second source, so I tweeted it out at 12:55, and then I watched Twitter blow up.

SESNO: Before Twitter blew up, did you know instantly that, oh, my gosh, this is a big story here?

KRAVITZ: Yes. I had a pretty good idea. You know, yes, I did. You know, I mean I have broken a few stories along the way. When Chuck Pagano had cancer, I broke that. I knew that would be a big deal.

I knew this would have far-reaching consequences. I knew --

SESNO: And Twitter blew up. What do you mean?

KRAVITZ: Twitter blew up. Absolutely everybody -- first, the first response was who the heck is Bob Kravitz? You know, they expect stories to be broken by Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen who do break most of the stories nationally in the National Football League, and then it was a lot of people saying it was sour grapes. It was the Indiana Colts attempting to deflect from the fact they got absolutely walloped on the field, lost to 45-7.

It was insane. I mean, my Twitter notifications --

SESNO: Seriously death threats? KRAVITZ: Yes, absolutely. Along the way throughout the process of

the last I'd say 100 and some odd days, I have had people threaten my well-being.

SESNO: All right.

KRAVITZ: Not to the point where I got protection. I have always felt like I don't worry about people who tell me they're going to kill me. I worry about the people who don't give me advance notice.

SESNO: OK. That's something for us to think about.

Christine Brennan, let me bring you into this because you heard what Bob just said and you have broken your fair share of stories and you certainly have broken a fair bit of glass in your career and in your columns. What is the job of a sports journalist? Is a sports journalist supposed to be cheering for the team and giving his play by play, or is the sports journalist supposed to be digging in, working sources and making people really uncomfortable?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA TODAY: Frank, the latter, absolutely 100 percent. Exactly what Bob Kravitz did is what we're supposed to be doing all the time.

SESNO: I'm not sure your readers and your fans want to read that.

BRENNAN: That's -- you may be right. They're fans, but we're journalists. And I have never cheered for a team. In fact, it's interesting, every now and then, rarely, Bob probably gets this too, well, who do you cheer for? Who is your favorite team?

SESNO: People ask you who you cheer for?

BRENNAN: Oh, yes, right. Nobody. Nobody. I'm cheering for the story.

SESNO: Bob, people ask you who you cheer for? Because --

KRAVITZ: All the time.

SESNO: -- in Indianapolis there. Yes, what do you say?

[11:20:00] KRAVITZ: All the time, I'd say exactly -- I'd say exactly the same thing. I say I root for the story and, you know, you give up -- you don't give up much when you go into this business, but you do give up your fan card.

BRENNAN: And, of course, though, Bob, as you know well, we signed up for this. This is exactly what we want to do. I mean, we're journalists first. And, you know, the stories, Frank, it's just incredible what's happened over the last ten years. Bob will agree. From Jerry Sandusky in Penn State, Jameis Winston, Lance Armstrong, now this. Of course, the very --

SESNO: Ray Rice.

BRENNAN: -- domestic violence and Ray Rice.

Sports takes us to a national conversation in a way nothing else can, and I think it's actually fascinating and wonderful conversation to have whether it'd be about horrible things like Jerry Sandusky or domestic violence or performance enhancing drugs before.

SESNO: And there are some of the issues here, Bob. I mean, the sports industry is a gigantic multi-multimillion billionaire business as we see with issues of concussion and other kinds of things. There are major issues we need to be aware of.

I'm not really sure that most of the sports journalists I know and some of the young people who want to get into it think that's what they're going into when they go into sports journalism. They think they're covering teams.

KRAVITZ: I think a lot of the young people want to go -- they want to be Bill Simmons. They want to be -- they want to market themselves and become stars. They want to, you know, go to the ballpark and hobnob with ball players and managers and coaches and G.M.s.

And, you know, I mean I grew up at a time when, you know, I kind of grew up in the Watergate era and have always been told that, you know, whether you're covering sports or you're covering politics, you need to cover it the same way. You need to afflict the comfortable as they say.

SESNO: Well, Bob, you raised Bill Simmons and, Chris, I want to ask you about that because Bill Simmons got booted from ESPN. They didn't go into great detail. But we know that he gotten suspended from the ESPN when he attacked the NFL commissioner and called him a liar.

BRENNAN: Exactly.

SESNO: Now, ESPN has a gigantic contract with the NFL. So, isn't this one gigantic conflict of interest? And how do you do journalism that way? Is it being done?

BRENNAN: Well, yes, it is. There are people at ESPN who are doing a good job at journalism while ESPN has multizillion dollar contracts as you point out. I personally love the fact that with my affiliation with "USA Today", with CNN, others, that I'm on the outside throwing hand grenades in.

I am very uncomfortable being part of anything that is involving the production and the rights fees. Look at the Olympics. How can NBC cover the International Olympic Committee and those issues we got into, Putin and Ssochi, whatever, when, of course, they're financially together as partners on the Olympic Games?

So, it's a huge issue but I think there are journalists out there like Bob and like many others who are still doing it the right way and not worried about the money.

SESNO: That's why we're at the RELIABLE SOURCES, going to shine a bright light on both of you now and forever. So, that's a promise. BRENNAN: Bring it on.

SESNO: Bob Kravitz and Christine Brennan, thanks so much. And thanks for joining us with this conversation.

When we come back, we'll go back to Baltimore and questions of coverage there. This time, did sympathy for the protesters get in the way of tough questions for the state's attorney as she brought charges against six cops implicated in the death of Freddie Gray?


[11:27:28] SESNO: Welcome back.

The street peace has returned to Baltimore, but is the press doing the story justice? It's been two weeks since the national media descended on Baltimore to cover the riots and protests which subsided after Baltimore City state's attorney Marilyn Mosby walked into the national spotlight and announced charges of police brutality in the death of Freddie Gray.


MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE CITY STATE'S ATTORNEY: To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed. As I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.


SESNO: Now, counter charges were quick to follow, like these made by former deputy state's attorney, Page Croyder.


PAGE CROYDER, FORMER DEPUTY STATE'S ATTORNEY BALTIMORE: She didn't use the tools available to her. She herself is terribly inexperienced. She never personally was involved in any cases of this magnitude. And further of all, you can look at the charges themselves that tell you that she doesn't have her ducks in a row.


SESNO: Now, the national spotlight on Baltimore has faded a bit but the story is no less important.

So how are the media doing as the case moves through the legal system and what one of our next guests calls "a vicious war of words"?

Joining me now, David Zurawik, wrote that article, this article, "What media should learn from the Freddie Gray case" for "The Baltimore Sun". That's where he wrote it for.

And Charles Blow, who wrote this op-ed column, "Restoring Faith in Justice", wrote it for "The New York Times."

Gentlemen, thank you for being here.

David, first to you: What's the answer to that question? What have the media learned and how are they doing on the story?

DAVID ZURAWIK, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, I think the media has learned a lot. Look, just "The Baltimore Sun" has 60 journalists on it --

SESNO: Sixty?

ZURAWIK: Sixty, six-o, at "The Baltimore Sun" and were still on it. It may not be 24/7 like it was for three week, but we are still on it. So, in one sense you talk about the paper in the hometown, absolutely all over it. I think CNN, CNN last Friday still had three reporters in Baltimore. They are still covering the story.

SESNO: So, why did it take so long and why did it take the former state's attorney to raise questions about the speed with which and the tools that Mosby was using in going into the prosecution?

ZURAWIK: Frank, I think part of this is really political. We are getting, you know, live in this awful ideological warfare that we live in today, and this story, this is one of my sort of great concerns about where this story is going. It's starting to shift into that. People want -- you know, on the right --


SESNO: What do you mean?

ZURAWIK: I'll tell you.

SESNO: You mean in media or in the public --

ZURAWIK: In media. There are people on the right who are saying this isn't a story about a young man dying in the back of a police van. It's a story about 50 years of failed Democratic liberal leadership in Baltimore.

No, it is a story about a young man dying in a van in Baltimore. But people are trying to spin it for their ideological reasons, and that's the danger about where this story is right now.

SESNO: Charles Blow, do you see this story becoming politicized in the media coverage, now that the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared from the streets?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't necessarily think it's politicized in the media coverage, but it is certainly politicized in the public at large.

I certainly agree with that point. And I believe that the -- all of these incidences of kind of social justice and the intersections of policing and communities of color have been politicized from the very moment that people started to draw attention to them, because, some way, we get lost and pulled apart from the idea that there is someone who was alive who is no longer alive because they encountered the police, and that should not be.

And we need to look into every one of those cases. And if it turns out that the police used an appropriate amount of force, then, great, but that's not a political issue. That's not a left and right issue. That is a wrong and right issue and whether -- who is wrong and who is right.

SESNO: Charles, I want to -- I want to quote from a piece that you wrote, "Restoring Faith in Justice," on May 4.

BLOW: Right.

SESNO: You -- about the state's attorney here that I mentioned.

"Mosby seemed to recognize in that moment that she was out there that this case and others like it are now more -- about more than individual deaths and individual incidents, but about restoration or a formation of faith for all of America's citizens in the American justice system itself."

Are you suggesting that this is not about the case at hand and that the media should somehow not cover this in terms of the case at hand, but be looking at this larger issue?

BLOW: There is absolutely nothing in what you just read that suggested in any way that that was the about the media not covering it, about the case at hand.

SESNO: But what I'm asking you is whether -- I'm extrapolating from that.


BLOW: Yes, but you're extrapolating in the wrong way.

SESNO: I'm not trying to turn your column...


BLOW: But you're extrapolating in the wrong way.


SESNO: No, what I'm asking you about, when you posed the premise here that this is about something bigger, which it may be, is it still not about this particular case? And is that not where the media should...


BLOW: But you're setting -- you're setting that up as an either/or, which it is absolutely not, right?

So it is both about this particular case, but also I believe that -- and she was in that moment saying -- understanding that there is a bigger crisis of conscience in America and whether or not people have faith in the justice system. And she's an instrument of that justice system.

So, for you to say that it is -- it can only be one or the other is just -- that's -- the preposition of the question is not correct.

ZURAWIK: Frank, let me say just honestly, I read Charles in saying it is about this case, but this case resides within a larger continuum.

And one of those continuums starts in Sanford, Florida, and it goes through Staten Island, and it goes through North Charleston, South Carolina.


ZURAWIK: And we now have seen those citizen videos of that.

And I think especially for white America, they may not have understood -- a lot of people in white America may not have understood that a black man can be stopped by the police in this country and be innocent of anything to be stopped and wind up dead.


ZURAWIK: I think blacks and African-Americans understood that in the country. I don't think white people did.

It does resist -- reside in terms of that arc that starts in Sanford. It also resides in a larger, even larger arc that goes back to race relations in this country from the very beginning. But I have read nothing in Charles' work that he -- that says he doesn't understand..


SESNO: I'm not suggesting...


SESNO: And if I conveyed that, Charles or anybody else, my apologies.

What I was trying to get at is, it is often difficult for the media to cover stories in multiple layers. And, sometimes, when something -- and there was a lot of criticism, as you know, when the media descended on Baltimore because suddenly Baltimore was in flames, and what's happening in the meantime?

What I'm wondering about and somewhat concerned about here is that, can we do, can the media do all these things and still stay focused on the merits of this case with the specificity that they need?

Charles, I will let you take that.

BLOW: Right.

Well, I think we can both walk and chew gum at the same time. Right? I think that we can look at the specifics the case. I think the local media, particularly "The Baltimore Sun," is doing a fantastic job of that, just following the ins and outs of the case, following the facts as they present themselves.

And I think that we can also -- the media writ large can also give context, both historical and national context, to what is happening in Baltimore. They can give economic context to that. They can give kind of historical oppressive context to that in terms of the way that African-Americans have generally -- have historically been treated by the police, in fact, from the very formation of the police that grew out of a way to kind of control these kind of populations of people.


And if we can do that, both things, I think that actually helps to elevate the conversation to be both specific to one thing, but also kind of global about the issue of oppression and about use of force and about policing.

SESNO: OK. Charles Blow, thank you very much.

David, you have got your assignment now, so I'm going to let you go back and talk to the 60 folks at "The Baltimore Sun" and elsewhere and make sure you get it right.


ZURAWIK: Thank you, Frank.

SESNO: Thanks to you both for being here.

ZURAWIK: Thank you.

BLOW: Thank you.

SESNO: Well, it is Mother's Day, and social media is alive with tributes for the world to see. But for residents of U.S. military bases, it was a different kind of tweet from the terror group ISIS that led them to living the day under increased security measures.

So, up next: a look at ISIS' use of social media and how the United States is or isn't fighting back.


SESNO: Welcome back.

Now a case of social media becoming antisocial media. This morning, U.S. military bases are on increased alert, in part do to a troubling tweet. The suspect jihadist who may be linked to last week's attack on that anti-Mohammed event in Garland, Texas, revealed on Twitter the name and address of a U.S. military officer connected to the training of Syrian rebels, threatening his safety.

That attack in Texas has also been traced to ISIS communications over Twitter. ISIS, the self-proclaimed terror group, actively recruits via social media.

[11:40:03] So, as the news media figure out how to cover ISIS, is ISIS pursuing a

deliberate and destructive media strategy of its own?

Here to take us inside is the co-author of the book "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," Michael Weiss.

Michael Weiss, welcome to you. Thanks a lot.

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. Thanks for having me on.

SESNO: Let's start here.

The ISIS slogan, "Don't hear about us, hear from us," what does it mean and just how is the group using social media to recruit, convince, and persuade these folks to fall in line and do these things?

WEISS: Well, they have a very strategic and savvy propaganda conceit, which is that if you go back to the '90s or the '80s, when jihadism was still a rather marginal affair, these guys had to rely on how the Western press would disseminate their messages. Right?

You had journalists like Lawrence Wright going to interview Osama bin Laden, Robert Fisk for "The Times of London." ISIS, as we know, doesn't take kindly to Western journalists. And, instead, they have created their own journalistic platform. They have a television station, radio station. They use Twitter and social media to disseminate the propaganda and the message right from the source.

So, what they're doing is, they're saying you cannot rely on the Western news cycle because this is all lies. This is all conspiracy. They're depicting the false nature of the caliphate project and what the brothers in Raqqa and Mosul are actually doing and how we're helping all Muslims and we're the safeguards and guarantors of Sunni Islam.

So, it's quite powerful. And then there's another component to this.


SESNO: So do the media then fall into the trap of just perpetuating this, amplifying all this, even in the conversations we're having now talking about how they are using social media?

WEISS: Yes, right. It's a catch-22, because, if we don't cover it, we're not doing our homework -- or we're not doing our job, rather.

If we do cover it, though, we are playing directly into the hands of ISIS. They are looking to control the emotional response through their acts. And the emotional response is controlled by how they know the Western press is going to be covering these things, the James Foley beheading...

SESNO: Right.

WEISS: ... threats against the U.S. homeland, this increased terror alert.

The idea that they're doxing U.S. military officials, giving out the home addresses of either retired or, as you pointed out, active service guys, they know that this is going to be on the 24/7 news cycle. And it...


SESNO: I remember vividly -- I remember vividly, after 9/11, we had conversations throughout the media about even pictures that we put up of bin Laden, if he was wearing his watch on his right wrist or left wrist, was that a signal to others?

WEISS: Right.

SESNO: What responsibility -- and we really deliberated over that.

What responsibility does Twitter, does Facegram, does Instagram have with respect to social media and signals that could be sent in any which way?

WEISS: Well, look, all of these platforms and many others are taking accounts offline.

The problem with, say, Twitter, is that it's a game of Whac-A-Mole. You have thousands upon thousands of ISIS accounts that spring up like mushrooms in the night. You take one down and five more appear. In fact, in their manuals or in their dictates to people who aren't even necessarily part of the organization, they say, follow these accounts to get yourself started, and then here is another secondary and tertiary set of accounts to follow in the event that the primary set is removed.

Again, though, this is the genius, I suppose, of the ISIS strategy. If the U.S. government, if counterterrorism officials convince private corporations to remove these accounts, ISIS then says, you see? We told you. The infidels, they don't want -- they don't want the truth to come out. They're trying to silence us. What do they have to hide?

And so people who are inclined to join them think that there's some truth to this. They think that, in fact...



SESNO: Let me ask you this -- this last question then.

Going forward, knowing what we have seen and what you would anticipate, what do you expect from ISIS in terms of how they're going to be using media going forward? Is this an evolving strategy that they have got here?

WEISS: It's very evolving. They're very quick to adapt. When the Internet was first kind of

conceived, I suppose, there was a lot of utopian nonsense about how this was going to liberate the conversation and everybody, you know, would have a voice.

What I don't think was properly anticipated by a lot of these futuristic-minded people was that authoritarians and totalitarians can also figure out how to use technology. And, in fact, in many cases, they're much more adroit at using it, and they're ahead of the curve.

ISIS is one of these. In the researching of our book, Hassan and I discovered a platform that nobody knew existed called Zello, which actually live-streams sermons by ISIS clerics directly to Muslims in the region.

So, these guys are very clever. And, again, we tend to fetishize them as a bunch of ragtag peasants and 14-year-old boys from Tunisia. Not true. The upper command of this organization is populated by former Baathists in the Saddam Hussein regime. These guys know how to do information warfare. They know how to do intelligence and counterintelligence. And we need to take that seriously.


SESNO: Sophisticated and evolving.


Michael Weiss, thank you very much for being here. Thank you.


WEISS: Sure. My pleasure.

SESNO: We really appreciate. Very informative.

When we come back: Reality TV continues to push the boundaries of exploitation in order to pull in ratings. Many critics are saying A&E's "8 Minutes" is a reality show about sex workers rescuing sex workers, a show that crossed the line.


SESNO: And welcome back.

How much is too much in reality television?

Each new series seems to push the envelope a little more. Critics say A&E's recent reality show "8 Minutes" went way too far into outright exploitation. In the series, sex workers are contacted by a pastor and former cop who poses as a client, then stages an intervention, offering the women help if they choose to leave the life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of my experience as a police officer, I learned about the manipulation, the mind control that the women suffer. It really put a fire and passion in me to stop this.


And so, today, I'm senior pastor of Side-By-Side Church International. And together, with other volunteers, we go out basically and rescue victims of human trafficking.

MAN: You have eight minutes.

MAN: Hey.

WOMAN: How are you?

MAN: Very well. Thank you. Come on in, please.

Oh, man, I'm good. I'm good now that you're here.

WOMAN: One-eighty.

MAN: One-eighty? I thought we agreed upon $160, is what I remember. Right?

I am a pastor.


MAN: And I'm not here to have sex with you or anything else.

Just think if you had resources, people who could walk you through the system to get help. I have help for you right now. Do you want to take it?

WOMAN: That's like the most awesomest thing I have ever heard in my life.


SESNO: One woman who appeared on the show, Kamylla, says the whole premise of the show was a lie.

She tweeted this: "This show is using prostitutes for interviews and luring them with promises of a better life. They do nothing."

Shortly after, BuzzFeed published this article: "Sex workers claimed A&E show lied to them about providing resources and protecting their privacy."

Well, A&E quietly canceled the show after airing just five episodes.

So, what was all this about? And what about the ethics of a program like this?

Joining me now is D'Lita Miller. He's an anti-sex trafficking advocate, as well as a cast member on "8 Minutes." And Jennifer Pozner, author of "Reality Bites Back." Now, before we start the conversation, a point. We asked A&E to join

us. They declined. We asked them for a statement. They declined that too.

So, thanks to you both for being here.

D'Lita, I want to start with you. Is this appropriate material, do you think, for a television show? You were making it.

D'LITA MILLER, "8 MINUTES": I think that there does need to be a television show that brings awareness to the issue. But, again, I was only a cast member.

SESNO: Now, you have made it your life's work to fight sex trafficking. So clearly you think that's a problem. Do you think a program like this is a way to address the problem, solve the problem?

MILLER: Absolutely not. But I do believe that it is a way to bring awareness to the public.


Let me turn to you, Jennifer. What are your thoughts on a program like this and its role?

JENNIFER POZNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN IN MEDIA & NEWS: Well, I think, like almost every reality show in the genre, it's based on exploitation and manipulation, both of the cast and of the viewers.

You know, you saw in the clip that the pastor star of the show promises to save women from manipulation and mind control. But in the name of doing that, they manipulated and falsely framed this entire thing, making the women's lives worse.


SESNO: How were they manipulating? I mean, just by having the camera there? What do you mean?

POZNER: Not -- no, no. The cameras themselves are not the problem. The promise of resources and job and housing support and health care and dental support that never happens after the show, that's a problem.


SESNO: D'Lita, did that happen? You were -- let me ask D'Lita.


SESNO: You -- there were all these promises of help and resources. Were they ever offered, to your knowledge?

MILLER: Yes, they were.

POZNER: Yet none of the sex workers say that they were. Five women who were involved who were paid $200 each to show up for

this show say that the promises of aid in all sorts of material ways were never -- never materialized. And if this show actually wanted to aid and help the women who they said they were going to aid, they wouldn't stage a fake narrative where the preacher is actually bargaining them down on air.

They promised them $200. How much were you paid to be in it, D'Lita? I'm sure it was more than $200.


SESNO: All right, let's ask D'Lita both to answer that question.

And, D'Lita, would you address the issue of were these resources that were promised -- you say they were provided. Give us an example.

MILLER: Well, prior to the show -- and, you know, I can't speak about production and promises. I can only speak about what I was involved in.

But I myself personally sat down with a team of service providers in Houston that provide services to trafficking victims, met with an advocate who advocates, as well as has a program inside of the jails, to try to make sure that resources were available.

Now, all across the U.S. -- because this isn't something that I do just in front of a camera or in Houston -- this is something that I do in my daily life. And I find myself and others that work in this field scrambling for resources all of the time. Now...



SESNO: But you're saying -- and I don't mean to interrupt. But I just want to be clear.

The resources that you're saying were advertised and promised in the show were delivered there? Just let's establish that. You're saying yes.

MILLER: Well, what I am saying is that there were 41 women who were reached on the show.

And we have four or five -- and I'm not saying whether they're lying or telling the truth. What I am saying is that we offered them the resources that we had available.

Now, when it comes to resources for these types of women or people, you have resources such as emergency shelter. If they are a trafficking victim who's in emergency situation, then there were resources to go to safe housing.


SESNO: And if they raised that, if they raised that issue, that they need that.

Jennifer, I know you want to jump in just quickly.

MILLER: If they raised that issue that they need that.

POZNER: So, here's the thing.

That brings up another point. Many, many of the women who participated in this show were not actually trafficking victims. Sex workers, some of them are trafficked. Many of them are not trafficked. Many of them are doing this work because they don't have any other financial resources.

Choice is, of course, a loaded term in a climate where women are often in poverty. But this show often preyed on impoverished women who weren't trafficked, but were in the industry because they didn't have other options...

SESNO: And that is the...

POZNER: ... who were promised -- who were promised economic and housing and medical support, and then were not given any of it.

And women who are sex workers are actually workers, and they need jobs. They need access. They need money. They need any number of things that were promised and denied.


POZNER: They need more than a preacher and a prayer and a hot line number for therapy, which is most of the women say they were given.

SESNO: Jennifer -- Jennifer Pozner, D'Lita Miller, we're going to have to leave it there. I thank you both very much for this.

And, again, we asked A&E to comment. They did not.

We will be right back.