Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

After the Debate, A New GOP Narrative; Has the Media Made Trump Unstoppable?; 2016 Presidential Race Looks Towards Super Tuesday; "Spotlight" Highlighted in Tonight's Oscars; Cable TV Facing Diversity Questions. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 28, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

Ahead this hour, Clinton wins big in South Carolina, but does her redemption in the Palmetto State solidify her path to the nomination and should the press be careful not to count Bernie Sanders out? Ed Schultz and David Brock will weigh in.

Plus, the candidates' media blitz before Super Tuesday is ramping up, but there's one place the candidates aren't appearing. It's your local newspaper. We're going to talk with three of the country's top editors join me from Super Tuesday states for a special editors' round table.

And later, an implosion at MSNBC. Host Melissa Harris Perry's show suddenly gone, canceled. I have fresh reporting on what went wrong later this hour.

But, first, the gloves, they sure were off at the CNN's GOP debate in Houston on Thursday night. Gosh, it feels like it was a long time ago, doesn't it? Almost 15 million viewers tuned in to watch the leading candidates hurling insults and trading personal attacks.

But it's really what happened next between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump on the campaign trail that made the debate look civilized. Marco Rubio taking a page right out of Trump's playbook and it's making the GOP contest feel like this, a SmackDown from the WWE.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched him repeat himself five times four weeks ago --


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched you repeat yourself five times five seconds ago.

TRUMP: It was meltdown. He's a nervous basket case.

RUBIO: Con artist.

TRUMP: He's a choker.

RUBIO: He spelled choker, c-h-o-k-e-r, chalker.

TRUMP: Boo, boo.

RUBIO: The worst spray tan in America.

TRUMP: Nasty little guy.

RUBIO: Make sure his pants weren't wet.

TRUMP: Ahh, ahh, I need water.

RUBIO: He was having a meltdown.

TRUMP: Bing, bing, bing. Bing, bing, bing.

RUBIO: Donald Trump likes to sue people. He should sue whoever did that to his face.


STELTER: What do we say, right?

You know, comedian Jake Flores might have said it best. He suggested on Twitter this week, he said, "I'm starting to think this is the last season of America and the writers are just going nuts."

I was just looking here. It's been retweeted 25,000 times. So, clearly, some people agree with him.

Now, many people are asking have media outlets enabled Trump and are they now egging on Rubio?

Let me bring in my all-star panel to talk about.

Kathleen Parker, syndicated columnist at "The Washington Post", Jim Warren, the chief media writer at "Poynter", and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist".

Kathleen, do you feel is happening is Rubio basically trying to portray Trump as a loser, something other candidates up until now have been maybe afraid to do?

KATHLEEN PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, absolutely. And I'm delighted that he seems to have taken my advice because I wrote a column to that effect.

But anyway, yes, he -- you know, basically what he's doing I think is going after Trump. He's taunting him because the one thing a bully can't stand is to be taunted, and he's trying to get under Trump's skin I think at a deeper level than anyone else has bothered to do previously and why not? I mean, Trump has been throwing it at him pretty fiercely. He's returning the volley.

STELTER: Yes, what --

PARKER: But he's also having a little bit of fun I think. It's a liberation moment for Marco Rubio who has been accused of being so robotic previously.


PARKER: So, he's -- you know, it seems to be working too. Trump cannot stand it and we'll see where it goes. We'll look forward to everyone getting back to being a little more presidential however.

STELTER: You think that will actually happen?

PARKER: Will that actually happen? Well, you know, it has to at some point. I mean, I think Marco Rubio has been out front for a good long while with his policies and has been very, very serious all along. But now --

STELTER: I find myself --

PARKER: -- that he's be able to do this a little while --

STELTER: I'm sorry to interrupt you.

I was going to say I find myself wondering, Mollie, if this wall-to- wall coverage of Trump and now this wall-to-wall coverage of Rubio could end up hurting Trump. You know, a lot of people have said for months that cable news coverage of Trump has boosted his campaign, has turned him into the front-runner he is, but you have to wonder now that Rubio is using Trump's tactics and being broadcast live doing them, if it will really start to do damage to Trump.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Well, it's not just that Donald Trump has gotten so much of the media coverage. You know, 60 percent to 80 percent of the actual air time when you're covering Republican candidates, it's also about what he's getting coverage for.

The media aren't responsible for Donald Trump but they're definitely responsible for enabling him and they're also responsible for the fact that if you're a Republican candidate and you're trying to get even a chance at air time, you have to taunt and mock your opponent just to get any time on the air.

And so, that is something I do wish the media would reflect on what they're incentivizing in the process. There's no incentive to act presidential because it doesn't get you air time. There's no incentive to talk policy.

STELTER: Jim, as our media critic, do you agree?

JIM WARREN, CHIEF MEDIA WRITER, POYNTER: Yes. Well, Kathleen, there's a better chance my New York Knicks from the early days will win the championship than this is going to get more presidential anytime soon. [11:05:00] I mean, we have an obvious race to the bottom for the likes

of Trump and now Rubio. The marketplace is almost dictating, you know, this sort of descent into the valley of kind of almost Internet trolling. The back and forth is akin to some of the raw notes we see at the bottom of our internet pieces as anybody can say what the heck they want.

And, obviously, you've got the symbiotic relationship between the candidates on one hand and news director whose see some of this as ratings manna, particularly with Donald Trump, and you have a system which is commercially driven.

Remember, in most other countries, you know, debates and town halls like this are not commercial. There's not an incentive for folks to sort of jack up the pugilistic air about it. So, I don't think this descent to the bottom is going to change anytime soon.


STELTER: You know, Jim, I went to reach for my water to take that sip and then I realized Trump might make fun of me. The way we've seen visual comedy on the trail with Trump mocking Rubio, and then Rubio, of course, reading tweets on stage, we showed that a couple of minutes ago, it felt like something right out of late night TV, right out of Kimmel having people read mean tweets.

Kathleen, I saw you shaking your head yes.

PARKER: Well, are you speaking to me? I couldn't tell.

STELTER: Yes, go ahead. I'm sorry.

PARKER: There's a little bit of wind.

So, I think it goes without saying that the candidates, that this campaign on the Republican side has devolved into sort of the reality TV, you know, template. But, you know, I think too and I agree with Mollie that the media do have a choice in how they cover it, and I wish they would cover it more substantively and the ratings clearly drive all of that.

But, you know, at some point, I do think, you know, maybe it's after the conventions. I mean, that's a long time to wait for presidential. But at some point, you know, everybody has got to sit down and talk seriously about how to fix things and how to unify the country primarily. That's the most important --

WARREN: But, guys, guys, at the same -- guys, at the same time it's interesting, you have so many reality sort of hiding there in plain sight, whether it's the Donald Trump business record, and that's been laid out by many folks.

There was the former "New York Times" reporter David Cay Johnston who a year or so ago did a fabulous piece raising 20, 25 questions or so in something called "The National Memo" about that record. Then, the other night you had Rubio with what was deemed some Pearl Harbor-like sneak attack when it comes to Trump University. That's all been laid out.

Go to "TIME" magazine, my old friend Steve Brill did a fabulous piece just going through the court records and almost everything Trump said in response to Rubio, to Wolf Blitzer, was categorically wrong.

But the question is does -- is any of this appreciated? The information is out there, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of understanding or interest in understanding --

HEMINGWAY: It's not --

STELTER: Mollie --

WARREN: -- on the part of the Republican primary electorate.

STELTER: Mollie, go ahead.

HEMINGWAY: It's not just about whether you cover it one time or whether there was something written in the past. It's really about how much coverage you're giving as part of the whole. And so, when Donald Trump get so much coverage for every outlandish thing, and then you say, "Oh, well, there was a piece written a few months ago that went through some of his mob ties," that's not sufficient.

I think the media need to be a little more proportional in the same way that they cover Hillary Clinton. Certainly, her campaign gets covered but also some of her e-mail scandals and things like that. So, I think we could just see much more substantive coverage of Trump as well.

STELTER: You mentioned mob ties. Worth knowing Ted Cruz brought up that on one of the Sunday show this is morning. Wonderful if we'll hear more from Cruz on that.

I want to turn in this block to another of Trump's favorite punching bags, of course, the media, because this week, "The New York Times" wrote one of these substantive stories we're hungry for. The title here is: "Donald Trump in New York, Deep Roots, but Little Influence."

Now, don't know this for sure, but what do you think? Do you think Trump attacked "The New York Times" as a result? Take a look at what he said.


TRUMP: "The New York Times," it's going out of business, it's the worst newspaper. It is a dead newspaper. These people are incompetent and they're bad people. They have a bad agenda.

We're going to open up the libel laws so when they write falsely, we can sue the media and we can get the story corrected and get damages, right, believe me.


STELTER: "The New York Times" has seen better days but it's not dead. Jim, I want you to tell us about the libel law issue. Educate our

viewers for a moment. Is it fundamentally an attack on press freedom to do what Trump is proposing to do?

WARREN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, if you go back --


WARREN: -- to the Supreme Court case, famous case Sullivan, you've got to show malicious intent in proving libel against a media outlet, even when it publishes erroneous facts.

The irony here of a guy who is trying to weaken those libel laws at the same time, he's very much profiting, is he not, from the protections of the First Amendment by basically saying what the heck he wants.

But I think in the process, by railing every time he feels he's been done some injustice by the press, I think he has inadvertently making a very, very good case for why you should make the laws stronger, not weaker.

[11:10:03] And I do hope Mr. Trump and campaign adherents are watching the Oscars tonight and crossing their fingers that "Spotlight" wins because that movie is all about the First Amendment and its relevance in a democracy and why it should be stronger, not weaker, as Trump wants to make it.

STELTER: You just gave a great tease for me. We're going to talk about "Spotlight" later in the hour.

I'm curious, you know, we have to keep in mind -- whenever I hear Trump criticizing the press, I think this does resonate with a lot of his fans. We are a punching bag that seems very effective.

Mollie, is the antidote, if there is one, to that sort of rhetoric?

HEMINGWAY: It's heartening to see the way the media have responded negatively to Donald Trump's calls to open up libel laws. But it also speaks to the strength of his argument, which is that the same media who are complaining about what he said about "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times," they don't care when Democratic candidates openly state they're opposed to Citizens United, which is also a Supreme Court decision that protects the First Amendment, that allows people to criticize candidates.

I don't know if people remember, Citizens United was about a nonprofit group trying to criticize Hillary Clinton and the Supreme Court said they could do that under free speech and free press rules.

So, we don't see the same level of angst about other candidates speaking against the First Amendment or the current administration, which hasn't been so friendly to press freedoms and has punished people that they think are not covering them fairly, or also just opposing other parts of the First Amendment such as religious freedom protections. People are upset about that and that's partly why they're supporting

someone like Trump.

STELTER: Mollie, Jim, Kathleen, I thank you all for being here this morning.

HEMINGWAY: Thank you.

WARREN: Thanks.

STELTER: A quick reminder that after Super Tuesday, the big media story will be Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly, the rematch next Thursday night.

You know, this conversation reminds me of a quote of "Rolling Stone's" latest issue. We put it on screen here. It says, "Trump found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn't know how to turn the cameras off even when it's filming its own denies."

So should we find the off button? The author of that story, Matt Taibbi, will join me right after the break.


[11:15:37] STELTER: It is a question being asked in every American newsroom right now: if Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, how much credit or how much blame should the press get?

Matt Taibbi explores this in a new "Rolling Stone" cover story declaring how America made Donald Trump unstoppable, calling Trump an above average con man, saying the political system is his easiest mark and that the media helped him by having failed attempts to prop up his opponents, like Marco Rubio and others.

Now, Taibbi also calls out two members of the media in particular, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, and he's joining me now to tell me why.

Matt, great to see you. Thanks for being here.


STELTER: First, you spent a lot of time on the campaign trail, but as an outsider, not someone who lives every day on the campaign trail, like most of Trump beat reporters.


STELTER: What shocked you the most?

TAIBBI: I think with Trump the thing that surprised me the most was that his actual stump speech, you know, the race-baiting stuff that has gotten him so much attention in the media is actually a relatively small part of his presentation.

STELTER: When you say race-baiting, what do you mean? TAIBBI: You know, the things about Mexicans being rapists and, you

know, keeping the Muslims out of the country, and all the things that have gotten him so much negative attention.

His actual stump speech is very populist in tone and is very much directed at this kind of global criticism of the system as being corrupt and infected with money and politics, and I think that was interesting to me because I think the media has underreported that emphasis.

STELTER: That part of it.

TAIBBI: Uh-huh.

STELTER: You say America has made Trump unstoppable. Do you feel the media has played a part in making him --

TAIBBI: Of course.

STELTER: -- basically at this point, the presumptive nominee?

TAIBBI: Absolutely. Of course, we have. I mean, just look at the statistics. I mean, we cited one in our article where he had had 233 times the amount of television network coverage that his next biggest opponent on the GOP side, Cruz, had had, and he's had twice as much coverage as Hillary.

STELTER: And I might just say that's because he's more unpredictable, because he's more interesting, he's more compelling --

TAIBBI: Of course.

STELTER: -- and he's more popular.

TAIBBI: Of course, and he gets better ratings. And we all know that whenever anybody covers Trump, that it's going to increase our readership and our ratings and --

STELTER: Well, this is partly chicken or egg, right? We have been having this chicken or egg conversation in some ways for eight months.

TAIBBI: Right, right, we have. But I mean I think this is what I was trying to say about Trump in the article is that he sort of found the flaw in our system, which is that normally when we have candidates who fall outside the pale and whom political reporters consider unsuitable candidates, people like Pat Buchanan or Howard Dean or Ron Paul --


TAIBBI: -- normally, we criticize them and they go away. Trump figured out if he just makes the whole thing a circus, we just can't resist covering it.

STELTER: Well, let me read actually from our article about that. You say, "Trump isn't the first rich guy to run for office, but he's the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is the watchdogs in the political media can't resist a car wreck. The more you insult the press, the more they cover him."

And then you go into the statistics about how he's been pulling more coverage than his rivals and as well as Hillary Clinton.

TAIBBI: Right.

STELTER: Are you saying that maybe it's good television but it's not good journalism to be covered him as much as he gets covered?

TAIBBI: Right. Well, it's definitely good television. This is another point we were trying to make in the article, which is that the election campaign, it's just a television show, and I think this is what Trump is -- his key insight into this whole process.

He's a reality TV star. He knows how to do this and he's good at this. And he's turned this -- what is essentially a television show into a show where he is the star and we can't live without it.

STELTER: And yet I would argue if Marco Rubio or some of the other candidates would agree to give interviews more often, they'd be on TV more often. Maybe they'd have more of a chance. Maybe they haven't learned Trump's lesson that is Trump might be teaching.

TAIBBI: That's possible but Trump is just so good at turning, you know, a spontaneous moment into a whole news cycle's worth of headlines. I mean, we talked about how Ted Cruz made a major ad buy. You know, he spends half a million dollars before Iowa to try to get himself up in the polls, but then Trump turns around a week later and calls him a name in a middle of a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, and he gets four s for his ad buy and doesn't have to pay a dime for it.

No other candidate can do what Trump is doing.

STELTER: Do you think there are other people in 20 or 2024 or 2028 who can pull this off, others like Trump who have the ability to go around the usual political system?

TAIBBI: Absolutely, but I think they're going to come from the place Trump comes from. I think they're going to be entertainers.

[11:20:00] There might be wrestlers, like Jesse Ventura, I mean, who knows? I mean, people like that -- the insight here --

STELTER: Some people have said Trump is one of a kind. This can never happen again but I don't think I agree. There are others in the future --

TAIBBI: Right, of course.

STELTER: -- who can use free media and not have to buy TV ads for example.

TAIBBI: Right, they just have to have an instinct for getting media attention and he's brilliant at that, but so are a thousand other reality TV stars. And I think that's what we're going to see in the future.

STELTER: So, we're talking about the campaign as a reality TV show. I want to get your take on this "Morning Joe" issue. We talked about it briefly on this program in the last weeks.

TAIBBI: Right.

STELTER: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have come under criticism for being too close to Trump. They say they're not. They say this is just rivals trying to take cheap shots at them.

But we see this town hall that happened a couple weeks ago as an example of a close relationship between the two sides.

From your perspective, is that a fair critique, that there is a cozy relationship here?

TAIBBI: Absolutely. What happens in journalism, the same way there's a race to the bottom with wages, there's a race to the bottom with journalism, too. When politicians find out there's a platform out there where they can go and deliver their message without being asked tough questions, they're going to go there every single time as opposed to going to the place where they're going to be asked difficult questions.

STELTER: Now, I would say Scarborough had asked difficult questions and Trump doesn't answer those questions.

TAIBBI: Right. But generally the treatment there is very, very favorable and very, very cozy on that show, and it's gotten cozier over time.

STELTER: Do you think so?

TAIBBI: I think so. And that's another thing that happens with journalists, is they -- the more time they spent with a politician, the closer they become intellectually and socially with that person and they start to have a simpatico with that person, and that's something we're starting to see with the show I think and some other shows as well he's been on.

STELTER: Yes, and it's interesting to note that the Trump town hall, it did better for MSNBC than they would have done at 8:00 p.m. that night. They had Bernie Sanders on earlier this week also at 8:00 p.m., and the ratings were pretty flat.

TAIBBI: Right.

STELTER: And I think it does go to this point Trump is more effective as a communicator on television.

TAIBBI: Right, right, of course. And it's hard not to be affected by that as a journalist, when you see the ratings are good in one place and not good in another place, you're going to -- subconsciously, you're going to gravitate towards --

STELTER: Well, and by the way, we talk about ratings but I would say page views.

TAIBBI: Of course.

STELTER: It's just as important in this conversation as we're moving to the digital age.

TAIBBI: Yes. I mean, I'm just as guilty as everyone else.

STELTER: Oh, yes?

TAIBBI: Yes. I mean, I just wrote a cover story about Trump that got --

STELTER: Well, that's because he's the most important story at least of this election and maybe in a longer period of time.

TAIBBI: That's true. He is undoubtedly important. There's no question about that.

STELTER: Thought I'd give you a little out here, Matt.

TAIBBI: I think so.

STELTER: Let me ask you before I have to go, you write that the Democratic race is breaking just right for Trump. Why is that?

TAIBBI: I just think that if you listen to Trump's stump speech, that Hillary Clinton is a candidate he already talks about quite a lot and who is right in his wheelhouse in terms of what his criticism of the system is. He's going -- if she ends up being the nominee, he is going to pitch her as a creature of a corrupt system and that's what's won him the election on the GOP side.

And I think people are underestimating how effective that criticism might be from him against Hillary.

STELTER: By the way, I think Clinton's huge landslide win last night makes it less likely we'll see Michael Bloomberg enter the race.

TAIBBI: Right.

STELTER: Some of that talk from earlier in the month maybe fades away a little bit. We'll see what happens on Super Tuesday.

Matt, great to see you.

TAIBBI: Thank you very much.

STELTER: Good to see you.

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCE, we talked about Joe Scarborough but there's more to MSNBC. Some drama behind the scenes and we'll get into that later this hour.

Also up ahead, if Hillary Clinton does become the Democratic nominee, one of the people she will be thanking is David Brock, and he'll join me next right after a quick break.


[11:27:36] STELTER: "Clinton wins by a landslide" or "Sanders never had a chance", whatever your Sunday morning front page headline says, it boils down to one thing, Hillary Clinton is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Bernie Sanders has a serious game of catch-up.

Now, will Clinton's lead result in changes to the way the race is covered and does Bernie still have a fighting chance with the media and have voters.

Joining me is Ed Schultz, a former host on MSNBC, now, the host of "The News with Ed" on RT America, and here in New York, David Brock, the founder of Media Matters, and also the founder of Correct the Record, a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC.

I thank you both for being here.

Ed, let me start with you. What is the significance of the results in South Carolina last night?

ED SCHULTZ, RT AMERICA: Ryan, I don't think there's a whole lot of significance to it. Bernie Sanders has won New Hampshire. He lost Nevada by 700 votes and he lost big in South Carolina last night.

But South Carolina hasn't been won by the Democrats since 1976. It's been ten election cycles.

So, this isn't a bellwether state. It's not any tea leaf. There's a lot of water that's going to go under the bridge between now and the middle of March.

So, I think that looking at this, it was a state that Hillary expected to win. It was an uphill battle for Bernie, but it's in the south and the Democrats aren't going to win South Carolina anyway.

I think the Sanders campaign would much rather have a win in Minnesota and Colorado and maybe Texas and later on Florida in the month than to win South Carolina.

So, I think the media is putting a lot of attention on a state that really is insignificant in the big picture.

STELTER: I thought it was revealing last night, MSNBC and FOX didn't even air Bernie Sanders' speech when he was on the road on the campaign trail. CNN did air part of it and then moved on.

Sanders didn't even take advantage of the air time when fox and MSNBC were live. So I wonder if that was a missed opportunity.

David, what do you make of what Ed is saying about South Carolina not being significant to the grand scheme of things?

DAVID BROCK, CORRECT THE RECORD: I don't agree. I think look, in the first four contests, Secretary Clinton has won three all over country. And I think this significant. It's significant going into Super Tuesday and the reason it's significant is I think the secretary's inclusive message about breaking barriers, about cementing President Obama's legacy, building on, it it's resonating now.

And I think for Democrats the focus after Super Tuesday, I think she's going to have some decisive victories there, is going to be a focus on what's going on on the other side of the aisle. Because you see Secretary Clinton last night talking about love from a biblical verse and you flip the channel. And on the other side of the aisle, you see the hate and divisiveness and a front runner who has no idea how to run the country, when we have got a prospective nominee ready to be commander in chief.


STELTER: Well, you came out about a -- about a month ago, you said: I don't think it's Ted Cruz anymore. I think it's Donald Trump.

BROCK: Right.

STELTER: I think Trump is going to be the nominee.

BROCK: I did.

STELTER: You clearly still agree with that.

BROCK: I do.

I think so. And I think it's going to present some challenges. I think that there's a danger of Democrats underestimating what that challenge is, but I like our chances. You look at his high negatives, you look at how he's going to do with the Latino vote.

And, again, you look at the broad vision that Secretary Clinton is spelling out. Now, Senator Sanders has demonstrated some real appeal, as I have said. And he deserves congratulations for that. But I think it's a more narrow appeal. And that's what we're seeing as we get into these states that are bigger, they're more diverse, more representative of the whole electorate.

STELTER: There might be disagreement about that, but, Ed, do you agree that Trump is likely to be the GOP at this point?

SCHULTZ: Well, he probably will be. Statistically and mathematically, it looks pretty good for Trump right now.

But hold the phone, not so fast on the Democratic side. We have got a lot of primaries and a lot of caucuses left here. Super Tuesday is going to tell an awful lot, and so is March 15, when it comes to Florida and Ohio. Those are really the wheelhouse of what Bernie Sanders has been talking about, and Hillary Clinton is vulnerable in all of those states.

And so I think that Bernie is in a great position right now. It's not like he's been rolled in all of these contests. He certainly won New Hampshire. He was expected to lose South Carolina, 700 votes in Nevada, and two-tenths of 1 percent in Iowa and they haven't even officially called it yet.

So this media narrative that it's all about Clinton, I think, is wrong. Now, if Clinton starts picking off Minnesota and Colorado, then you have got something to look at, but I think this entire superdelegate conversation is getting more attention than it's ever gotten.

Since when do the superdelegates tell the people how to vote? The superdelegates could be making a serious mistake right now putting themselves ahead of the popular vote. Bernie Sanders is going to be very solid in all of these states.

STELTER: Let me get David in here.

BROCK: Well, sure.

I think Ed is right that this race is far from over. Secretary Clinton is going to work to get every vote in these Democratic primaries. But, look, I think Senator Sanders is being poorly advised. I think he made a big mistake this last week.

After New Hampshire, he said we're going to have a debate on the issues and we're going to stay positive. And you saw a relentless negative barrage from the candidate, from his surrogates, present company expected, but you had Cornel West out there talking about Hillary as having no morality and being a Wall Street corporatist, and Senator Sanders not being called on the carpet to say whether he agrees with that or not.

And I think Tad Devine and others are making a big mistake for the Sanders brand here. And so let's let the race go on, but let's make it more positive, let's make it more constructive


BROCK: They're doing the Republicans' work for them.

SHULTZ: What about the super PAC work you have done against Bernie Sanders?


BROCK: I'm happy to talk about it. Look, we're vetting the candidate. We are vetting the candidate.


SCHULTZ: The hedge funds on Wall Street that support fracking, and Hillary Clinton says...


BROCK: This is exactly what I'm talking about. We're doing the Republicans' work for them. It's right out of the Republican playbook.

The Republicans...


BROCK: ... spending millions of dollars with that message. So did President Obama.


SCHULTZ: Where does she stand on Keystone? These are reverses after Bernie got into the race, and you know that.


BROCK: Can I get a word in here?


SCHULTZ: No, you can't, because I'm going to make a point here.

If Hillary Clinton is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, why isn't she lobbying against it in the United States Senate? Why doesn't she pick up all the phones and call these people in the Senate who are endorsing her and say, you know what, we have to defeat TPP, this is bad for American jobs? She's not doing that.


SCHULTZ: The only reason why she's against it is because Bernie is against it.

STELTER: David, go ahead.

BROCK: I don't think that's fair at all.

I think, look, Senator Clinton has been and Secretary Clinton has been the real progressive champion in this race. On these trade issues, she wants that to be fair for American workers. And that's been her position.

Now, the only one who has really moved as a result of this race is Senator Sanders flip-flopping on the gun issue, where he supported the biggest special interest vote in the United States Senate for the gun immunity loophole. And he's backed off on that.


BROCK: Senator Clinton has been -- Secretary Clinton has been totally consistent. And on Wall Street, she's got a tougher plan. Every liberal columnist and expert has said it's a tougher plan.

SCHULTZ: Than release the transcripts.

STELTER: I have seen both of them move. And I have seen Clinton move to the left in a way that the base clearly supports and appreciates. Ed, before I go, I want to ask you about your role at RT America.

It's part of Russia Today, a channel owned by the Russian government. Have you found you have been able to be independent while covering the Democratic race or politics at all, while working for a Russia Today channel?

SCHULTZ: It's an international news agency that covers the world.

And, yes, American politics is a part of that. And I have had tremendous freedom there to do what I want. We want both sides of a story and great debate. And that's what I have experienced the first month that I have been on the air there. It's a great gig, great people, very professional shop, and we're going to make a lot of inroads as time goes on.


I'm very excited about this international platform. I want to make one more comment about the gun, if I can.


STELTER: It's interesting. More and more channels -- there are more and more international news channels funded by different countries. And RT America is one example of them.


STELTER: I'm out of time here.

But, gentlemen, I appreciate you both joining me. Ed, David, thank you very much.

BROCK: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Good to be with you.

STELTER: Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES: why candidates are avoiding your local newspaper and what are they doing about it? I'm sitting down with three top editors from Super Tuesday states for a special roundtable right after this.


STELTER: I'm sure you know the saying all politics is local.

But is that still true in an age when Donald Trump right here flies in on Trump Force One? Right now, all eyes are on Super Tuesday with 11 states set to vote.

So, I want you to hear from three of the country's top newspaper editors, all three of them in Super Tuesday states running campaign coverage. And all three say they have never seen anything like this.

[11:40:03] The primary process has been nationalized like never before, but the

editors still say there is a special role for truly local media, and they do not agree about the effect of old-fashioned newspaper endorsements.


STELTER: Susan Ellerbach, the executive editor of the "Tulsa World" newspaper, Kevin Riley, the editor "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," and Mike Wilson, the editor of "The Dallas morning News, thank you all for being here.




STELTER: Kevin, what is the sort of scenario for a newspaper like yours, a big newspaper, of course, "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"?

Are you able to get access to these candidates? Are they willing to give interviews or are they bypassing you guys, trying to give TV interviews or just tweeting and Facebooking instead?

RILEY: I think that they have really changed the way that they approach things now.

A lot of the candidates don't like to talk to newspapers anymore, as I'm sure my colleagues will attest, because we will stick with the line of questioning. It's harder for them to control. So while we have had some access to the candidates, they really do like to fly in, make their TV appearances, hold their rallies and not really be subject to any tough questioning from our reporters.

STELTER: Mike, you're shaking your head yes? Same thing for you?

WILSON: Yes, I was thinking we invited, of course, all the candidates to visit with our editorial board, and we had one person accept. That was John Kasich, who came in on Friday to see us after our editorial board recommended him for president.

We had -- just a few days ago, Marco Rubio did a rally not six or seven blocks from here, but couldn't find his way to talk to us and answer any questions at "The Dallas Morning News."

STELTER: You bring up editorials. Obviously, newspapers like all three of yours, the op-eds, the editorials, they are written separately from the newsrooms. That's important to say off the top here.

But do you all sense that editorials are mattering less and less?

Let me start with you, Susan. Are you finding that in Tulsa? ELLERBACH: I think so, absolutely.

I just don't think people pay that much attention to them anymore. We still do them and we feel like they're important to let people know how the editorial board is going to weigh in, but I don't think people pay that much attention to them.

WILSON: I think that, for the campaigns, they have the ability now to take their message directly to voters, and they see it -- they take whatever opportunity they can to do that and to go around any questioning or scrutiny that they may get from people like us.

STELTER: Mike -- tell me about the choice that "The AJC" made back in, what, 2009 not to make any more endorsements anymore. Why is that?

RILEY: Well, Brian, what we found is that people don't like to be told what to do, and what they really want us to do is thoroughly vet these candidates, really dig into their past, get to the real story.

And what we find is that that's a greater service to our readers than trying to persuade them exactly how to vote. So that's what we spend our time doing. And we dig into their finances. And people on our Web site can find out exactly of who's donating money, how the candidates are raising that money in Georgia.

And that's really crucial in our state, because after this primary, the candidates probably really won't be back, except to raise money because Georgia is such a solidly Republican state, that once it's over on March 1, they probably won't be back.

STELTER: Of course, the newspaper does not endorse but "The AJC," one of your opinion columnists did call Donald Trump a fascist in a piece for the Web site.

What was the backlash to that? What kind of reaction do you get when a piece like that is published?

RILEY: Well, we always make sure we publish people on both the conservative and the liberal side, so what inevitably happens is that people attack from one side or the other on this.

But I do think people are paying closer and closer attention to Trump, who came to the race well-known and had a celebrity status.


RILEY: And so he's been able to define the other candidates, but now I think that's turning a little bit, and he's being asked to be a little bit clearer about exactly what he thinks.

STELTER: When you hear candidates criticizing the press, bashing the press, sowing distrust of the media, do you think there are things media outlets should be doing to counter that, things that newsrooms should be doing to try to encourage voters to actually take what we do seriously and trust us? ELLERBACH: Well, I think what we try to do is, we try to make sure

that our reporters are on their game at all times, that they don't become argumentative, so that we can present a good face to the public when we're in the sites.

But we try to -- you know, we try to make sure that we're reporting what people say, that we're not in error, or we're not making mistakes. I think we just have to, you know, shore up our credibility a little bit.

WILSON: I just really agree with that. I think the answer to that is to not take it personally and do better reporting. All criticism can be answered by better, deeper reporting.


RILEY: Another thing we can do is just show our readers and show the public what we're doing behind the scenes. I mean, one of the things we do is we check the statements for accuracy that the candidates make, and we use the Truth-O-Meter and PolitiFact.


But as part of that, we let them see and we actually make available to them which documents we have checked, who we have spoken with. And I think when people can see behind the curtain of how a newspaper works -- we have certainly seen that recently in the movie "Spotlight" -- we do gain credibility, because no one puts as much into checking out the truth as a newspaper does.

ELLERBACH: That's right.

STELTER: I love that shout-out for "Spotlight." We are going to talk about that movie later in the hour.

Thank you all for being here. This is a great editors roundtable.

WILSON: Thanks a lot.

ELLERBACH: Thank you.

RILEY: Thank you.


STELTER: Yes, hear from the director of "Spotlight" in just a few minutes.

Plus, why one cable news channel has made one of its stars disappear -- my new reporting on how she's fighting back right after this.



STELTER: What I'm about to tell you sounds like fiction, crowds of people all across the country standing up and cheering for reporters, yes, reporters. Really. It's happening at theaters for the new movie "Spotlight," which has been heralded as the best movie about journalism since "All the President's Men."

Well, tonight, "Spotlight" is up for six Oscars, including the prize for best picture.

So, here is why the movie matters.


STELTER (voice-over): Everyone knows the sorry state of the news business, the Internet taking over and thousands of jobs lost along the way. Overall trust in media is at record lows.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are disgusting, I'll tell you.

STELTER: With few signs it will improve anytime soon.

JOSH SINGER, CO-WRITER, "SPOTLIGHT": It's been such a shame, what has happened to journalism over the last 15 years.

STELTER: But the new movie "Spotlight" is a rebuttal to all the doom and gloom. In "Spotlight," the reporters are heroes, uncovering Catholic Church corruption, bringing sex abuse survivors out of the shadows.

"The Boston Globe" won a Pulitzer for its work in 2002, and now the movie about it is on the verge of winning the Oscar for best picture.

LIEV SCHREIBER, ACTOR: Show me the church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn't have to face charges.

MARTY BARON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": This was a story that confronted us, really.

STELTER: Marty Baron, the real-life editor played by Liev Schreiber in the movie, arrived in Boston and read a column saying that the truth about priest abuse may never be known.

BARON: When you say the truth may never be known, that should be a red flag to journalists to go after something and really find out what the truth is.

STELTER: The resulting investigation rocked the Vatican to its core. Now "Spotlight" is doing what its title evokes, shining a light on the ways journalism can truly help people.

MARY DISPENZA, SURVIVORS NETWORK OF THOSE ABUSED BY PRIESTS: Since the movie "Spotlight" came out, many more survivors have come out. Nothing in the past has done what "Spotlight" has done to bring out of darkness the issue of priest abuse, cover-ups and the ongoing secrecy that still exists today to protect the good name of the church.

STELTER: In other words, there's still more reporting to be done. MICHAEL KEATON, ACTOR: Everybody knew something was going on, and no

one did a thing.

STELTER: Reviewers say "Spotlight" has given inspiration to an industry that needs it, with some comparing Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams to Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford from the famed movie "All the President's Men."

ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: There's no way the White House can control the investigation.

STELTER: Reporters have loved this movie, but the makers of "Spotlight" say they want the message to resonate with the general public as well.

TOM MCCARTHY, DIRECTOR, "SPOTLIGHT": Hopefully not just a shot in an arm to journalists, but also to citizens to say, hey, we need this. This is -- good journalism is an essential element of our democracy. We have to do what we can to protect it.


STELTER: This weekend, I spoke with all six of the real-life reporters who are portrayed in the movie. This morning, all six are waking up in Hollywood for tonight's awards show.

So, find out what this movie experience has been like for them in my story at And we will post it this afternoon.

The big question tonight is, what will Oscars host Chris Rock say on stage about the diversity questions that have dominated this awards season? He hasn't commented yet. So, he's saving it all for tonight in prime time.

Up next here on the show, similar diversity questions for a cable news channel, MSNBC. Outgoing host Melissa Harris-Perry sends a stunning e-mail saying: "I'm not a token, mammy or a little brown bobblehead."

Now what? Well, I have just heard back from her, and I will have an update right after this.


STELTER: Cable news show come and cable news shows go. That's the reality of the TV business.

But something strange is happening over at MSNBC, revealing a lot about how MSNBC's liberal identity is fading away. It involves Melissa Harris-Perry and her weekend morning show. Her one-of-a-kind and at times controversial talk show has been in TV purgatory, replaced by generic campaign coverage for the past three weeks.

And as of this morning, it is officially canceled. Now, listen, I'm a direct time slot competitor of hers, so I have an interest in this. And I know Harris-Perry is a polarizing figure. Some people are very happy she's been sidelined. But I think she deserved better than this.

Harris-Perry's talk show was unique. Love it or hate it, she booked people who otherwise weren't seen or heard on TV. In some ways, she symbolized the Obama era of MSNBC.

But that era is ending. For months now, she has felt like her show was being squeezed and slowly canceled, even before it was preempted once and then twice this month.

So, as more and more people started noticing that she disappeared, MSNBC put her back on the schedule for this weekend, but she said, no, she would not come to work.

She wrote in a letter to staff that: "The purpose of this decision seems to be to provide cover for MSNBC, not to provide voice for my show. I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobblehead. I am not owned by MSNBC."

Now, that is a scorching statement. I have never seen anything like it in cable news. And it has led to her exit. She has confirmed to me in a text message this morning that severance talks are now under way.

And the reality is that MSNBC is making changes all across its schedule, trying to score ratings victories against CNN and FOX. But by marginalizing her, the channel is taking a risk. Look at this, the outpouring of support for her online.

The hashtag #MSNBCsowhite has popped up, with some people complaining that black and Hispanic hosts have been disproportionately affected by all these changes. According to Paul Farhi in "The Washington Post" here, "All the changes carry a potential perception risk that MSNBC is diminishing the contributions of its minority personalities."

More to come on this story. And I will be covering it on

That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but sign up for our newsletter also at It comes out every night. And we will be previewing the Oscars in just a few hours.

I will see you next week.