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Reliable Sources

Sean Penn Met "El Chapo" For Secret Interview; Why NRA Avoids Debating Gun Reform; Talk Radio and the GOP; Media's Role in "Making a Murderer"; Golden Globes Kick Off Awards Season. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 10, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story of how news and pop culture get made.

And ahead this hour, we have breaking news about "Rolling Stones'" El Chapo interview.

Plus, how Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity helped Donald Trump gets to the top of the GOP pack. Hear a surprising perspective from the country's top talk radio expert.

And the back story about the sensational new Netflix series, "Making A Murderer". I set down with the documentary maker. They are pioneers of a new way to tell a true crime story. Also hear from one of their fiercest critics, HLN's Nancy Grace, who calls it a mockumentary.

Also this hour, President Obama's new push for gun reform and the NRA's pushback. Can we ever agree on a reliable source about Second Amendment rights? We're going to ask an expert mediator to help us do that.

But, first, a developing story involving a notorious Mexican drug cartel and the Hollywood star who scored a controversial coup getting an interview with El Chapo before his recent capture.

Now, this is in the upcoming issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine. This is the cover just into us here at CNN with the headline "El Chapo Found". Found by Sean Penn, months before being nabbed by Mexican authorities.

Here is the beginning of the 11,000-word article, with an important editor's note that we'll get to.

"Rolling Stone" wanted to Penn to prove the secret meeting actually happened. So, this handshake picture was taken. That's quite a contrast to Penn last night in Hollywood. Here he is hosting a gala to support relief efforts and recovery efforts in Haiti.

Now, we haven't heard from Sean Penn about his story but there's a lot to analyze within it. And let's begin by going live to Mexico to CNN correspondent Nick Valencia. He has new information on how this meeting happened and what the authorities did or did not know about it.

And right now, he's outside the prison where El Chapo is being held.

Nick, good morning.


I just got off the phone with the senior Mexican law enforcement official who tells me that the Mexican government is looking to question Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo, specifically what they want know is more about the location where they met El Chapo and how they got there. Sean Penn talks about how they were not blindfolded and if he were more of an expert tracker he would be able to triangulate landmarks. The Mexican government wants to know exactly where this meeting took place.

Mexico, also interesting enough, Brian, did not know about this meeting between Sean Penn and El Chapo until this "Rolling Stone" article was published late last night. Additionally, we did hear more information about extradition timeline. The source tells me that they are hoping by this summer to extradite El Chapo to the United States, but it all depends on legalities, and the legal system here in Mexico. Of course, the attorney for El Chapo has said that he doesn't want his client extradited to the United States. He believes that the Mexican justice system can handle this case.

El Chapo sits behind me here in this prison. He's now back in custody -- Brian.

STELTER: We think he's there. He did sneak out once before, of course, back in July, and recently returned to that prison.

What I'm wondering, Nick, your sources are indicating something really important. There's been news reporting really suggesting this meeting is what helped Mexican authorities end up finding El Chapo. Your sources suggesting something else, that they did not know anything about this interview ahead of time, or afterwards until he was captured.

VALENCIA: This senior -- that's right. This senior Mexican official, law enforcement official I should say, says that the first indication that they had that Penn had this meeting with El Chapo was when the article came out, of course, on Friday at that press conference when El Chapo was paraded in front of the media, we heard from the attorney general here in Mexico saying that it partly was El Chapo's own ego and carelessness perhaps of reaching out to producers, actresses, to try to make a biopic that perhaps could have been a separate line, a different group of actors, actresses that El Chapo was reaching out to, we just don't know.

What we know and what we can tell you, according to this source, is that they didn't know about this specific meeting.

In this "Rollin Stone" article however, this 2-minute clip that was posted overnight on, we do hear from El Chapo talk candidly about drug trafficking and his role in it.

STELTER: Nick Valencia, thank you so much for joining us.

There are ethics questions. There are legal questions, partly because of this, take a look at this editor's note that attached to the articles. It says, "Some names have had to be changed. Locations not named and an understanding was brokered with the subject, that's El Chapo, that this piece would be submitted for the subject's approval before publication."

The subject, El Chapo, did not ask for any changes. Well, what if he had? What would "Rolling Stone" have done?

The idea of source approval is highly, highly unusual. We're going to talk about that.

[11:05:01] This is the cover of "The New York Post" this morning reacting to this, calling Sean Penn "El Jerko". There's been a lot of criticism of Penn and "Rolling Stone". But others are coming to the magazine's defense.

Let's talk about it with Ravi Somaiya, media reporter at "The New York Times", and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Thank you both for being here.

Ravi, you got to spend time reading this article. The back story here is "Rolling Stone" shared the article with you a few hours ahead of time. You were able to write about it for "The New York Times" in the front page this morning.

What stood to you? What's the news in the actual interview?

RAVI SOMAIYA, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he has a very distinctive writing style as I think are aware now, sir.

STELTER: People are making fun of these 11,000 words. This flourishing sort of article, yes.

SOMAIYA: To me, it seems like one of the first occasion what he does for work. Previously when asked by Journalist, he suggested he was a farmer of a different sort back in 1993. I would guess this candid admission of how he operates his business and his mulling the consequences.

STELTER: Yes, he said, "I supply more heroin, meth and marijuana than anyone in the world." What a quote?

SOMAIYA: It's not ambiguous I think.

STELTER: The quote was obtained not by a journalist, but by an actor, by an activist, Sean Penn, who in this case might have been performing an act of journalism or might not have been.

Jeffrey, what are the legal ramifications? We hear the Mexican government wanting to investigate this, wanting to talk to Sean Penn, maybe that's a face saving move because they weren't able to find El Chapo but Sean Penn was able to. Are there legal consequences?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, based on the facts available, I don't think there are any legal problems for Sean Penn or "Rolling Stone". Journalists interview bad people all the time. Journalists are not obliged to help the police in the United States or elsewhere to find fugitives.

As long as Penn did not assist him in hiding or give him weapons or some way to avoid capture. There's no suggestion he did any of those things. If he simply went there and interviewed him, I don't think that's a legal problem for "Rolling Stone" or for him.

Now, what happens afterwards in terms his getting questioned that may create some legal difficulties in terms of whether they want to cooperate. But did Sean Penn commit a crime? I certainly don't think so.

STELTER: Legally, no. What about the moral question, however, about spending time with, interviewing and publicizing a drug kingpin?

TOOBIN: I don't have a problem with that. We're in the news business. If someone would have given me the chance to interview him, I would have run to it. I think it would have written a very different article.

I mean, he has, as Ravi said, a very distinctive and florid writing style. But, you know, I think this is a fully appropriate subject for "Rolling Stone" to write about. He's a very important person in the world. An opportunity to interview him is a precious gift for a journalist, even for someone who is not a full time journalist. So --

STELTER: Would you have accepted this idea of source approval? That's the real issue to me.

TOOBIN: That's a very different story.


TOOBIN: I -- there are certain circumstances where journalists have given quote approval where you don't quote someone unless they approve the quote. It's not favored practice, but certainly some respectable publications do it.

Giving the whole article --

STELTER: Right, handing the copy over.

TOOBIN: Yes, that's something I've never heard of. They say he didn't demand any changes, which I suppose --


STELTER: That worries me too. If he didn't demand any changes that means he likes the story. Should this drug kingpin like the whole story?

Ravi, you've asked "Rolling Stone". Have they commented at all about this issue?

SOMAIYA: No, they're declining to comment by letting the story I guess stand for itself and editor's note stands for itself. But as you say, that's raising all sorts of questions.

I think it's worth pointing, as Jeffrey noted, it's not unprecedented. I mean, journalists interviewed bin Laden, Vice and Dennis Rodman to North Korea to talk --

STELTER: That's right. The North Korea --


SOMAIYA: And so, it's kind of (INAUDIBLE) genre of journalism. I guess it's sort of reverse access journalism where the star gets greater access to the news making figure.

STELTER: And certainly, the celebrity status of Sean Penn is a big factor here.

TOOBIN: Although, you know, one of the things I thought was interesting is on the tape, El Chapo mispronounces Sean Penn's name. He says Seen Penn (ph). I think the real story here maybe more El Chapo's His interest in the Mexican actress who was the other person involved in this story.

STELTER: A woman who brokered the meeting.

TOOBIN: Right.

STELTER: This Mexican actress who had expressed some support for El Chapo on social media, who brokered the meeting with Sean Penn.

TOOBIN: Right. I think El Chapo was more interested in her than the man he called Seen Penn.

STELTER: Let me work in a couple of other perspectives here. This is a comment from Andrew Seaman. He's the chairman of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalist. He wrote that "allowing any source approval over a story's content is inexcusable. He said the practice of pre-approval discredits the entire story whether the subject requests changes or not."

Here's a tweet, though, from another perspective.

[11:10:00] This is a Vice correspondent who weighed in last night. He said he's never been a fan of Penn's journalism. However, me and every other journalism would have compromised the whole lot more to get an interview with El Chapo". That's a comment there from Danny Gold.

And I saw other comments like that. I think you're making that same point, Jeffrey Toobin, that others would have taken the interview as well, but maybe not with the source approval requirement.

TOOBIN: I mean, the quote approval is something that even respectable journalists sometimes negotiate.

But -- I mean, let's not kid ourselves. This is one of the most famous and notorious people in the world. I would have interviewed him. I think most journalists would have interviewed him.

We don't just interview good people. This would limit our sources a great deal. So, you know, that alone, the decision to interview El Chapo, I have no problem with at all.

STELTER: "Rolling Stone", of course, hoping for a comeback here. A year ago, their rape on campus story was debunked, discredited. There are now lawsuits pending against "Rolling Stone" about that.

The magazine has had some successes since then, big interviews with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama. However, I think this is the biggest story since that really embarrassing scandal.

SOMAIYA: Exactly, exactly. I guess you could say this is a kind of comeback to them, you know? It's them saying this is the old swashbuckling "Rolling Stone" journalism that we used to do and you knew us for.

STELTER: And yet, a highly controversial comeback. I think --


STELTER: -- they are hoping that Jann Wenner, the publisher, is going to get back with the comment. But I think they're just letting the story speak for itself, letting people just go ahead and read Sean Penn's story and take their own perspective about it.

TOOBIN: To go back to the mid-1970s, the story that put them on the map journalistically was they were the ones who broke the story of where was Patricia Hearst during all the years that she was on the lam with Symbionese liberation army. I mean, they do have a history of really great journalism.

And, remember, they were responsible for the departure of the general who was in charge of Afghanistan for -- McChrystal, because of his interview with "Rolling Stone".

So, you know, this is a very serious and distinguish journalistic history that "Rolling Stone" had. There's obviously been some serious problems. The Virginia story, most notably.

But, you know, no one should condescend the "Rolling Stone" about long form journalism.

STELTER: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much for being here.

Ravi Somaiya, did I get your last name, right?

SOMAIYA: You did.

STELTER: I messed it up in the beginning. We got to read people's names right.

Thank you both for being here this morning.

TOOBIN: It's good journalism, read people's name right.

STELTER: That's right. It's step one.

Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, President Obama, we all saw him tearing up earlier this week talking about gun control. But did that emotion have any affect on his relationship with the NRA? We'll talk about that when we return.


[11:15:39] STELTER: One of the biggest stories this week, of course, President Obama announcing executive actions that would place new restrictions on gun sales.

He gave a speech where he teared up and then, two days later, he presented this town hall. CNN put it on, asked him to come, Anderson Cooper moderated it. And President Obama took and answered tough questions.

It was also notable how he called out the NRA for not attending.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a reason why the NRA is not here. They're just down the street. And since this is the main reason they exist, you think they would be prepared to have a debate with the president.


STELTER: This is what I want to explore this morning. How is it that the most influential voice in the gun debate wasn't in the room?

It's because the NRA declined that invitation to participate. They also declined numerous other interview requests here on CNN this week and our program request's for an interview as well.

You know, as the president was speaking, Chris Cox of the NRA was apparently watching because he went over to FOX News one hour later and he explained why he wouldn't meet with President Obama.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Does it make sense to meet with him?

CHRIS COX, NRA: And talk about what, Megyn? This president can talk about background checks all day long but that's nothing more than a distraction he can't keep us safe and he supported every gun control proposal that's ever been made. So, what are we going to talk about? Basketball? I'm not interested to talk to the president who doesn't have a basic level of respect or understanding of the second amendment in law-abiding gun owners in this country.


STELTER: What we see is mistrust and really no actual direct back and forth between these sides. And no one can agree who is a reliable source about this.

So, how do we move forward and how do we have a conversation everyone can participate in and maybe agree upon? In a few minutes, I'll talk about that with a noted mediator, Ken Feinberg.

But, first, let me bring in a panel to discuss this, beginning with Erik Wemple, a media columnist for "The Washington Post", Lois Beckett, a journalist who's covered gun policy and politics for "ProPublica", and CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp.

Let me start saying, S.E., you're an NRA member. You appeared in NRA magazine, spoken to NRA events, but you're not paid by the NRA.

And, Erik, you pointed that out in a blog post earlier this week. You thought it was important to make sure those disclosures are made.

I wonder -- I want to start with you, Erik, if you've noticed what I've noticed, which is that the NRA doesn't like to debate. They don't like to be on these segments, their representatives, their actual representatives keep saying no to interview requests.

I wonder if the strategy is not let this topic be debatable and not let gun reform be a debatable point. What do you think?

ERIK WEMPLE, MEDIA COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think they are willing to engage in discussion if they go over to FOX News. So, clearly, they are happy having some level of discussion on this thing. I thought it was cowardly, utterly cowardly that they wouldn't show up for CNN's event.

They complain they would only have one question. They complained it would be pre-screened. But, as you saw, Brian, as I saw and as the country saw, people who oppose President Obama's gun agenda were able to stand up there right in front of him and press their points with the president. What more could you ask for?

They didn't ask any follow up questions. They could have pressed him harder. I asked CNN if they would have been allowed to ask follow- ups, CNN said there was no prohibition on follow-ups.

I don't know, I don't know if you -- how can you ask for a better forum than that if you want to criticize President Obama on gun restrictions. Instead, you know, the NRA took to Twitter, which is a cowardly move.

STELTER: And FOX News, a friendlier forum, perhaps for their argument.

S.E., do you think the NRA's strategy here is a wise one?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The NRA has no incentive to sit in a town hall and be lectured to by a president who thinks they are the problem and by extension, the law-abiding gun owners that the NRA represents, are the problem. Democrats running for president at a debate recently called out the NRA as an enemy they are all proud to have accrued.

There's no -- there's no common language here. There's no sense of respect. Why would any member or representative of the NRA think they can have an honest and open conversation about these issues when they are repeatedly told they are the problem? That makes no sense.

WEMPLE: That sounds like an indictment of your employer. Are you saying that CNN did not put on an excellent event that encouraged the exchange of ideas?

[11:20:04] CUPP: CNN did a great town hall and Anderson asked some very tough questions. I've applauded the president for showing up at that debate.

But the media writ large has not been friendly to the gun issue. A newspaper just after Newton published the names and addresses of law- abiding gun owners, as if we are the problem. The media has been overtly hostile on this issue. It's also been overtly and deeply disappointingly unknowledgeable.

I have never seen an issue be covered by so many vocal people who know so little about guns.

WEMPLE: Let's stick to the issue.


STELTER: I agree with you on that issue about lack of knowledge. Too many journalists have too little knowledge about the specifics of guns.

But I have a theory I want to try out on all of you. I think if the NRA had come to that town hall, it would have been great TV. It would have been great journalism. We would have heard from them at length. Maybe the president and the NRA rep would have been going back and forth. You know, that is something that it was a missed opportunity by the NRA.

Lois, let me bring you in here. Did you feel that I'm right about this idea that the NRA doesn't want the issues to be debatable? They don't want to cede any ground or suggest that this is a debatable subject?

LOIS BECKETT, REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: So interesting, last month, Chris Cox argued the NRA didn't oppose gun research, that they would support a fair, tough-minded look at how well gun laws actually work. But we're actually not seeing a lot of CDC gun violence research funding.

So, why doesn't the NRA just release a list of laws that they like questions, questions that they'd like answered. That would be helpful for everyone.

STELTER: Have you ever been an NRA representative?

CUPP: But, Brian --

BECKETT: I've gotten comment from them but only rarely.

STELTER: Yes, I noticed that Wayne LaPierre doesn't do many interviews. Chris Cox does a number but not a high number. It's interesting to me they don't do more press.

S.E., I heard you jumping on here.

CUPP: Well, I mean, the idea that there's a strategy to not debate any of these issues because the NRA doesn't want any movement on these issues is also just not true. There's a bill in the Senate introduced by Republican John Cornyn that has the NRA backing, to expand mental health checks.

The NRA is responsible for helping to get the NICS system, the background check system passed through Congress. The NRA is responsible for getting background checks as opposed to five-day waiting periods.

The NRA has been willing over the course of its existence to help inform and construct meaningful legislation that it knows it can help get passed through Congress.

Under this administration, however, it's been impossible when the president routinely calls out the NRA after every shooting as the problem. That doesn't make sense for either side if actually Democrats want to get meaningful legislation passed, then they know they need the NRA to do it.

STELTER: Erik --

WEMPLE: Well, if the NRA has such a great record and so on, why won't they just show up unmediated and make the points to the president. I don't see why --

CUPP: I explained why. He's overtly hostile to them.

WEMPLE: Let me just finish here, let me just finish here.

You're complaining that the media has a widespread ignorance about guns and so forth. I think that's a pretty good point. But the idea of a town hall is basically take the media away and let people have a direct channel to the president, which is what we had on Thursday night. I still don't think your defense in saying it's ludicrous to expect the NRA to show up, I don't see how that stands up.

STELTER: Part of the reason why the NRA may choose not to say yes to interviews because they have their own media outlets.

And, Lois, let me ask you about this as well, because I find it really telling they have had NRA news for over a decade. Very forward thinking by this organization.

They have YouTube channels. They have radio shows. They get their own message out to their own supporters. They don't have to go on CNN, perhaps.

BECKETT: That's true. But I think it's important to emphasize that mainstream media has not done a good job of even covering the basic data on this.

STELTER: Give me an example by that.

BECKETT: After Sandy Hook, Pew did a survey asking Americans if gun violence had gone up or down over the last 20 years. The majority of Americans thought that gun violence had gone up when it was down more than 50 percent. Just a dramatic failure of the media to inform people about the most basic fact about gun violence in America.

STELTER: We have too little data, you say, to cover this story effectively?

BECKETT: Well, many media outlets don't use the data we do have. And that's a problem.

STELTER: Lois, thank you for being here.

Let me go back to S.E. and Erik for one more moment.

I guess maybe what we can all agree upon is that there's no common ground here -- very little common ground, very little common language. Is that fair to say, S.E.?

CUPP: No, there is common ground and that's what's so disappointing. I mean, you hear it from Democrats and Republicans alike after most tragedies that we need to talk more about mental health. That's why it's so disappointing that the president took an executive action to do something that John Cornyn has already submitted legislation for.

There is common ground, but it's too beneficial to Democrats and Republicans to make this issue political as opposed to practical. And I think one solution in addition to better data is to get reporters whose beat is guns, not just crime, but guns.

STELTER: Like Lois here.

CUPP: So, there people at every media outlet who can speak fluently about a very complicated issue.

[11:25:04] STELTER: Let me just say, I have to turn to another guest. But, Erik, here's my dream, tell me what you think. I think President Obama and the next president should do a monthly forum, I don't care what channel it's on, but a monthly forum where they face the opposition. Wouldn't that be great TV and great journalism?

WEMPLE: Yes, it would be great TV. Actually, I didn't -- the parts of the town hall where his supporters were asking questions, didn't make a lot of sense to me. I thought the parts where the opposition got a chance to ask questions were really the only cutting moments.

STELTER: It's almost like question time in parliament in the U.K. that C-Span always airs. Thank you all for being here. I greatly appreciate it.

Let me turn to the guest I previewed earlier. That's Attorney Kenneth Feinberg. You know him because he served as both the special master for the federal 9/11 victim compensation fund of 2001, also the former administrator of the Gulf Coast claims facility, which oversaw payments to the victims of 2010 oil spill.

This is your specialty, Ken, so I wanted to ask you, what you would recommend. How do we mediate a situation like this where many Americans don't trust what they hear from the opposition on this issue?

KENNETH FEINBERG, ATTORNEY: There's some issues that can't be mediated. If someone side to an issue --

STELTER: I was afraid you were going to say that. I was hoping that wasn't going to be your answer.

FEINBERG: If one side to an issue sees any type of compromise or reasonable middle ground as the enemy of the perfect, you're not going to get two sides to bridge differences and reach accommodation. Now, I don't want to get involved in the gun debate and the NRA versus the president of the United States, but I see frequently people expect too much of mediation on negotiation. If one side sees the good as the enemy of the perfect, there's not a whole lot of time that can be spent trying to get people to compromise their differences.

STELTER: Are you telling me this is case that you wouldn't take?

FEINBERG: I don't know what I would do. I mean, if you've got some people on one side that view the Second Amendment as inviolate, it is pure, it is perfect, it cannot be touched, and you've got the president of the United States sitting, trying to come up with a package of reforms, reasonable reforms, but that run afoul of the view of the other side that it's simply unacceptable, then what can I do? What can any mediator do in a situation like that?

I think the president tried to reach out to the other side to have a meaningful dialogue. The other side whether it's because there's no room to maneuver or they felt it wasn't a level playing field with CNN, I don't know. But one can understand why they took that sort of Machiavellian position.

STELTER: An interesting argument that the president using code words for the left when he talks about Australia, for example, when he talks about things that liberals know to be a positive and conservatives know of a negative, that he's using code language and that causes conservatives or the NRA (ph) not to trust him. I wonder if there's a starting point, something small you'd recommend, some small part of this?

FEINBERG: Again, this debate has gone on for decades. It's a very emotional. Reason doesn't always enter into this. It can be a very emotional situation.

The other problem with mediation in cases like guns or even I watch in the Middle East, you know, if one side comes to the table ready to negotiate, but isn't convinced that the other side can deliver -- you know, I hear this is lot from the Israelis when they say, well, even if we sit down and try to work out with our adversary across the mediation table, we have no confidence, none that that adversary can turn around and deliver on what might be agreed upon. And that's a big problem in some issues as well.

STELTER: Feels like one of those, doesn't it?

Kenneth, thank you so much for being here and showing that point of view this morning.

FEINBERG: Thank you. Thank you.

STELTER: Coming up here, we know that Trump, Donald Trump, uses television, but do talk radio set the stage for his success? That's next.



STELTER: Welcome back.

We all know that Donald Trump is a creature of the media and that television, especially cable news, has fueled Trump's campaign by covering his controversial statements and sometimes treating this like a reality show.

But did another medium set the stage? Think about talk radio's influence here. This is what conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote.

He says: "There's a great divide within the GOP and talk radio is reflecting that divide, coming down firmly on the side of those fed up with the system. They are giving voice to their listeners who are otherwise being ignored. It's precisely the same reason Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls. He's tapped into a frustration much of talk radio already understands, because so many of us understand our listeners a whole lot better than the Republicans in Washington."

Let's talk about this idea. I wonder if Donald Trump was the seed -- if talk radio was sort of the seed or the fertilizer for Donald Trump's success.

Joining me now is the publisher of "Talkers" magazine, Michael Harrison, and CNN commentator and host of "The Ben Ferguson Radio Show," Ben Ferguson.

Thank you both for being here.

Michael, you're the talk radio expert. You publish the definitive data and information about how the industry is doing. Do you credit talk radio with Donald Trump's success in the past six, seven months?


I think that talk radio is just one of many media that is playing into Donald Trump's success. I support free speech. And I think that Donald Trump is an expert at playing it.

But Donald Trump was created by Donald Trump, and Donald Trump's media success was created by NBC and "The Apprentice." He's a shock jock that is now running for president.

STELTER: I hear what you're saying about "The Apprentice." I do think his practice on "The Apprentice" was really important.

But you don't think that Rush Limbaugh's show and Sean Hannity's and Michael Savage's and others, they represent and they reflect the anger in the country that Donald Trump has taken advantage of?

HARRISON: Well, I think there's anger in a lot of places. I think liberal talk radio has created Bernie Sanders, if you want to look at it that way.


STELTER: That's interesting, but liberal talk radio is so much less influential than conservative talk radio. You know that Rush is number one.



HARRISON: Yes, but I think that we give far too much credit to all of talk radio for creating the situation that talk radio really, very intelligently, like the rest of the strategic media, is reflecting.

As for who starts it, whether the tail is wagging the dog or the chicken comes before the egg, et cetera, is something that media theorists have been trying to figure out for years. I wouldn't be so quick to say that conservative talk radio is creating the hate and anger that Donald Trump is tapping into.

I think that's a political football. I think it's a mischaracterization. There are many different kinds of talk radio and there are obviously many different kinds of conservatives. I think that the media ultimately, no matter what it is, serves its own interests.

And Donald Trump is a big surprise to the conservatives on talk radio, just as he is to the rest of the country. And everybody is tapping into the Trump bandwagon, because it brings ratings.

STELTER: Ben, would Trump be where he is today if not for talk radio?

FERGUSON: Brian, look, Donald Trump's candidacy would not have gotten the jump-start that it got if it wasn't for talk radio. As a talk show host, when he started being blunt, talk radio started

talking about him. And that's what turned him into no longer, I would say, an "Apprentice" host and more into a politician.

Talk radio helped the Tea Party become what it became. And the next 2.0 version of that has been Donald Trump's campaign, where you had a lot of listeners that were very upset with Washington. They were sick and tired of what was going on there. You can accredit Ben Carson, I think his rise, to talk radio covering him.

I think Carly Fiorina the same way. They give them a foundation and a base for how they move forward. And I think talk radio early on, when Donald Trump was deciding to go around the country, they were covering him in his events the same way they covered Tea Party events.

And, look, there's been backlash. If you're a talk show host and you bring up anything negative about Donald Trump now, you take a lot of heat. I take a lot of heat when I criticize certain things that Donald Trump says. And his supporters are fanatics. They love him. They are loyal. And they will come after any talk show that says anything negative about him, even if you're talking about another conservative like Ted Cruz, which, by the way, talk radio gave him a basis in Texas early on.

They were the first people to listen and introduce him to the public. So, this idea that Donald Trump -- look, yes, he understands how to control media afterwards. He understands how to keep the story on him. But the core base of what he has been able to do definitely spun out of talk show hosts around country that were covering what he was saying.

STELTER: Ben, Michael, I appreciate your perspective this morning. Thank you both for being here.


STELTER: Coming up here, Netflix's "Making a Murderer" has a lot of buzz, but does it also have some bias? Hear from the filmmakers. We see down with them, plus HLN's Nancy Grace, who is calling this a miscarriage of justice. Hear both sides after this.



STELTER: Welcome back.

Like many of you probably have, I have binged network newest series "Making a Murderer."

It's captivating TV. It follows other true crime series like "Serial" and HBO's "The Jinx." And it's generating tons of buzz and also a whole lot of controversy.

The series recounts the trial of Steven Avery in Wisconsin in 2007. He was found guilty of murderer Teresa Halbach. But some people believe that he was framed and that he's actually an innocent man.

Now, the series raises all sorts of question about police and prosecutor -- prosecutorial -- don't know why I can't pronounce that word today -- prosecutorial misconduct. There all these Reddit threads and Facebook threads all talking about what could have actually happened.

So, I sat down with the filmmakers of "Making a Murderer." I wanted to ask them what they think. Do they believe Avery is guilty or framed?


STELTER: When you all started, Netflix was just a DVD-by-mail business. So there literally wasn't a market for this series when you started.

MOIRA DEMOS, FILMMAKER, "MAKING A MURDERER": That's right. Getting those DVDs in the mail was part of how we got by in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.


DEMOS: But, yes, our models were "Paradise Lost," "The Thin Blue Line."

These were feature films. But we had outlines for a series and ultimately we just had to keep making a series until we had enough of it made that somewhere could see where it was and could see that we could do it.

STELTER: What conclusion did the two of you reach about Steven Avery's guilt or innocence in this murder?

LAURA RICCIARDI, FILMMAKER, "MAKING A MURDERER": We did not reach a conclusion. That was really of no consequence to us.

We were not concerned with whether or not Steven Avery had committed this crime. What we were there to do was to document the process and to really question whether Steven, when he was pulled back into the system, was entering the same system that had failed him in 1985, or whether he was stepping back into a system that had made meaningful progress over the intervening 20 years.

STELTER: So, did he get fair trial?

DEMOS: I do not believe that he received fair trial, no.

STELTER: So, that's the conclusion that you all as filmmakers are willing to reach based on all the experiences?

RICCIARDI: Absolutely. We documented. There was so many irregularities in this case, not only actually the Halbach case, but the original case, as well as what came out through the attorney general's investigation and Steven's federal civil rights lawsuit about while Steven Avery was incarcerated, what was happening behind the scenes, essentially.

STELTER: You have heard all the criticism from the prosecutor, Ken Kratz, and from others that this documentary is biased and it's slanted in favor of the defense. Is there any at least ring of truth to that?

RICCIARDI: No. It's -- we chose Steven Avery to be the main subject of our documentary.

Part of what we were trying to share with viewers was the experience of being an accused in the American criminal justice system. That doesn't mean that this is a biased piece. It just means that we were representing or depicting what this person was experiencing.

STELTER: Let's talk about the local media's role in this case. Have you all reflected on the power or the danger of local TV influencing a community, influencing the jury pool in this case?

RICCIARDI: Well, I think individuals who find themselves in the position that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey found themselves in are at a distinct disadvantage. This was a high-profile case.

So, there is a segment in the series where Steven Avery is commenting on his concerns that he won't be able to get a fair trial because of how saturated the community was with this type of coverage.


To be fair to local media, the prosecutor was holding daily press conferences in November while the Avery property was being searched, and they were reporting on those press conferences.

DEMOS: We all have to all take responsibility for this.

They wouldn't be there if they didn't have viewers. People want to know a dramatic story. They want a gruesome crime. They want a dramatic answer. And that's what they are delivering. But maybe the prosecutor shouldn't be using the media to argue his case a year-and- a-half before the trial.

STELTER: A big bombshell from you all this week, that one of 12 jurors reached out to you before the film premiered. What did this juror reveal?

RICCIARDI: What this person explained to us was that they, for the past eight years, have been living with guilt essentially for having voted in the way that they did.

STELTER: Voting guilty?

RICCIARDI: That's right.

And this person believed that Steven Avery had not committed the crime, that the state had not met its burden, and that Steven Avery was framed by law enforcement.

STELTER: And this person is afraid to speak publicly. That's why they're anonymous?

DEMOS: That's right. We asked them, well, you're saying this to us, but you need to say this to more people. Are you willing to do that?

And this person said, not until certain people are in prison do I feel safe.

STELTER: Certain police officers?



STELTER: This new report of an anonymous juror coming forward has a lot of people wondering if Avery could get a new trial.

But HLN's Nancy Grace does not think so. She's been critical of the series. And the series is also critical of her.

One of the takeaways from the 10 hours is that media coverage can hurt defendants.

But Nancy, she is not buying that.


STELTER: Nancy, great to see you.


STELTER: You said on your program that you thought this was a miscarriage of justice by Netflix, that they were clearly biased in the production and the release of this film.

Isn't a film like this just a necessary and appropriate antidote to shows like yours, which do strongly suggest guilt for people that are on trial?

GRACE: Brian, I wish you would tune in at 8:00 Eastern every night, because we stack our guests against the state.

STELTER: Oh, I know you do.

GRACE: I bring on multiple defense attorneys.

STELTER: For sure, but your voice is the loudest. Your voice is the loudest on the show.

GRACE: I'm going to take that as a compliment. OK?


GRACE: I'm just channeling lady justice, Brian. Do you have a problem with lady justice? Because I don't think you do, not one that you will admit to. But hold on. I think that what would be appropriate here, if this

were truly a documentary, is to show both sides, both sides of what was presented to the jury of what exists. And I am not impressed by two then film students who decide to pitch a documentary to Netflix.

STELTER: You have seen all the reactions. You have seen the petitions that have been signed. Do you think people are just too gullible? Is that what is happening here?

GRACE: No. I don't think that the public is gullible. I think the public has presented a beautifully packaged mockumentary that appears to be serious, appears to be forthright, but it's not.

If you see just that, you would probably believe that Steve Avery is innocent. You probably would. I happen to know, after speaking directly to Avery before he was arrested...


GRACE: ... that his story is a line of B.S. B.S., that's a technical legal term. I think you should look it up in "Black's Law Dictionary," Brian.


STELTER: How did you feel about the portrayal of yourself in the documentary?

GRACE: Didn't care about it one way or the other, because it's not about me.

STELTER: Didn't care? OK.

GRACE: It's not a -- you know what, they can tar and feather me. It's not what it's about.

This is about Teresa Halbach and how she died, how she told her colleagues she did not want to go back to Avery's salvage pit, that she was afraid of him, that he had already come to the door once wearing nothing but a towel.


GRACE: But she wanted to keep her job, so she went back. It was Halloween, October 31. She was never seen again.

November 3, her mother reports her missing. Volunteers, volunteers, not police, asked to search the pit. The older brother allows them to go. And that's when they discover her car there, not police, the volunteers. That's how the whole thing started.

To believe his theory, you would have to know -- the cops would have had to know that he disguised his voice and asked her to come back over that day, which she did, that she was there, that cops would have to murder her or find her murdered body, burn it, and put it in his burn pit, and then hide her car there. STELTER: There's a "Dateline" producer quoted in the series.

She says: "We're just trying to beat out all the other networks to get that perfect murder story."

Do you think there's any culpability on the part of the press for sometimes corroding the presumption of innocence that every American has, when the networks are all chasing the perfect murder story?

GRACE: You know what?

That question presumes that our voices are so important, that they override the justice system. I got two syllables for you, O.J. OK, how many times did people scream he did it, he did it, he did it? Guess what. He was acquitted.


So was Robert Blake. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. Just because a pundit says it on the air doesn't make it so. So, the press, the media can do whatever they want to. I don't know that it's going to affect a jury decision.

STELTER: Can we agree sometimes prosecutors do get it wrong?


STELTER: That maybe not in this case, but that we do have to be skeptical of them as well?

GRACE: I don't know if I would say you have to be skeptical of them, but I do believe that they have gotten it wrong. I absolutely do believe there have been cases where they have gotten it wrong.

And I know it's going to be hard for you to believe, but that miscarriage of justice is just as disturbing to me as someone guilty walking free.

STELTER: Nancy, thanks for letting me turn the tables on you. Good to talk with you.

GRACE: Well, if you want to -- if you want to characterize it that way, then fine.


STELTER: Nice to see you.



STELTER: Up next: 25 top news editors sending a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging action. Find out what they're hoping to get accomplished right after this.


STELTER: NPR, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, ProPublica, Politico, NPR, "The New Yorker," "The New York Times," BuzzFeed, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the AP, these news outlets compete vigorously every single day. There's not a lot they all agree about.

But, this weekend, all of them, 25 in total, are coming together with one goal. This is a letter signed by virtually all of America's top newsroom editors and executives, a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the government to do more to secure Jason Rezaian's release from an Iranian prison.


Jason is the Tehran correspondent for "The Washington Post," but he's been locked up since July of 2014, charged with crimes relating to espionage, but with no evidence to back up those claims.

This case continues to be a travesty. Journalists around the world agree on that. The U.S. should press Iran, this letter says, urging the government to do more. And this new effort actually started months ago, when the heads of NPR and the "PBS NewsHour" and "Frontline" all wondered what more could they be doing to support Jason.

You might remember Michael Oreskes. He was on the show a couple weeks ago. He's the head of news at NPR. He said Kathleen Carroll, the head of the AP's newsroom, was especially helpful framing the letter. And so was David Remnick of "The New Yorker."

Oreskes told me, "We just wanted Jason to know that his colleagues have not forgotten him."

We have not and we will continue to keep you updated on Jason's case, hopefully with good news soon.

We will be right back with more RELIABLE SOURCES in a moment.


STELTER: Tonight is the start of Hollywood's awards season, the Golden Globes tonight.

And it could be a big night for journalism. "Spotlight," the film about a team of "Boston Globe" journalists who exposed the decades- long cover-up of child sex abuse by members of the Boston clergy, it is the odds-on favorite to win best motion picture drama. A Golden Globe win would help "Spotlight" at the Oscars. And, by the way, those nominations come out this Thursday.

You know, I still haven't taken my wife to see "Spotlight." Maybe we should go this afternoon.

Now, that's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But our media coverage keeps going all the time online, so sign up for our newsletter at It comes out this afternoon and every evening.