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The Best & Worst From Correspondents; Dinner Journalist Who Profiled Melania Trump Barraged by Abuse; Presidential Candidates Engage Electorate on YouTube; Obama Welcomes Jason Rezaian Home. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 01, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:07] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story before the story, of what's really going on and how news and pop culture get made.
We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C. this morning, the location of the so-called "nerd prom" -- I've gone ahead and taken off the tux here -- better known as the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner with media elites and Hollywood celebs and White House officials all mingling on that red carpet last night.
So, we're here to break down the good, the bad, and a little bit of the ugly from this weekend's festivities.
Also this hour, Donald Trump's love/hate relationship with the media now extending to his wife Melania over this "GQ" profile. Now, what happened after it was published is downright disturbing, and the reporter is here live to explain.
Plus, a sit-down with one of the world's most powerful media executives, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. She's talking about the double-edge sword of politicians using web video.
But first, the reason why we're in Washington this morning: President Obama's blunt messages for the media at his eighth and final White House Correspondents' Dinner.
This is how he kicked things off.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't say it, but you know it's true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, there was nervousness in the room when his speech started. I think it was embraced by the end of it. All the reviews, of course, have been positive for President Obama. Most, actually, not all.
Not so much for the other performer, Larry Wilmore, who had to follow Obama last night.
And let's talk about what the president said and how he said it with an all-star panel here in Washington.
Betsy Fischer Martin, a long time executive producer of NBC's "Meet the Press", now an executive and resident at American University School of Public Affairs, and the co-host of Bloomberg's "Masters in Politics" podcast.
Also, Ron Fournier, a senior political columnist at "The National Journal". He's the author of the new book on "New York Times" best seller list, and the title is "Love That Boy: What Two Presidents Eight Road Trips and My Son Taught about a Parent's Expectations.
And also here at the table, Tammy Haddad, who's also a co-host of Bloomberg's "Master in Politics" podcast, a former executive producer of shows like CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" and MSNBC's "Hardball." She's also the president and CEO OF Haddad Media.
Thank you, all, for being here this morning.
TAMMY HADDAD, CO-HOST, BLOOMBERG'S "MASTERS IN POLITICS" PODCAST: It's our morning. We had to be here.
STELTER: That's right. Well, you were in the room, Tammy. You thought the president did receive rave reviews from the audience that was at the dinner, right?
HADDAD: He did, indeed. He had a great time. I don't think this is partisan politics, and that reporters are Democrats. I think it's the appreciation for the president as a performer.
He took his time. He waited. You just showed the pause before he started to get the room together with him. That's what a master performer does.
And then he hit it out of the park, according to most people in the room.
STELTER: Yes, let's go ahead and watch his comments about Donald Trump. This was certainly the most anticipated part of the evening, and here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world -- Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.
And there's one area where Donald's experience could be invaluable, and that's closing Guantanamo, because Trump knows a thing or bout running waterfront properties into the ground.
All right. That's probably enough. I mean, I've got more material. No, no.
I don't want to spend too much time on the Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint, because I think we can all agree that from the start, he's gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy.
I hope y'all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost, and now we're praying that Cleveland makes it through July.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I think the president really looked forward to saying that in particular. We've heard his media critique about Trump coverage before, but this was in depth in front of all the people who make the decisions.
I wonder, Betsy, if you think there's something here about all the audience members saying more, more, more, encouraging President Obama to say more about Trump. Is that a sign of media bias, a sign that there are a lot of journalists in that room who do want to see Donald Trump elected?
BETSY FISCHER MARTIN, FORMER LONGTIME EP, MEET THE PRESS: I don't think so. I fell for the head fake in the middle of the speech where he was starting to do the fake close.
[11:05:04] And I thought, oh, my gosh, we have to get to more Trump.
I think, you know, some of this material writes itself. It's natural. I think he enjoyed the digs at Trump. I think he's obviously --
STELTER: But the room did as well. Ron, do you agree it's not media bias to hear the folks in that room, including myself, I was there applauding a lot of the jokes, that that's a sign of what the press corps doesn't want to see in November?
RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: It might be part of it, but I think the press is doing some introspection and realizing the president might have a point. Although, I think he's a little off.
I don't think the problem is the amount of attention Trump has gotten. It's he hasn't gotten the right kind of attention.
STELTER: The type?
FOURNIER: Yes. Look, he's the front runner. We have to write a lot about him.
But we have to stop just writing about what he says and how it's going to effect his poll numbers and really dig in and say, what is it he's saying and doing and how does that reflect the kind of leader he might be and the president he might be. We're not doing enough real good accountability journalism against Trump. We're doing a lot of flash in the pan, celebrity, reality TV type coverage.
I think that's the point the president was making.
STELTER: Betsy, you produced "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert for many years. You know about scrutiny. You said scrutiny, that's what's lacking, you think?
MARTIN: I think so. The hour-log interviews we used to do, you don't see candidates doing those, getting put through the ringer like that.
FOURNIER: Let him call up on TV.
HADDAD: Wait a minute. Can I defend cable though? Can I be the person to defend cable news?
Let me keep this straight. This man is running for president. Millions of people are following him and are voting for him, and we're not supposed to carry the coverage? We're supposed to step away and show what? I mean, isn't that our responsibility?
FOURNIER: We're supposed to carry him, but we use that time to hold him accountable and give real scrutiny.
HADDAD: That's your department. The print guys ought to start doing that.
FOURNIER: No, no, no. It's the cable news division. Isn't just cable, let --
HADDAD: Wait, well, there's analysis going on. I think the whole time.
FOURNIER: -- a lot more of it.
HADDAD: Well --
STELTER: One of the president's points was we need more fact checking. If we're going to be showing these live events, giving the microphone over, there needs to be more fact checking. In fact, he really ended his entire speech with that note. It seemed to me he wanted to get serious in this final chance he had in front of the White House press corps.
FOURNIER: The irony here, of course -- he's right, but the irony there, of course, here's a gentleman who came into office promising to be the most transparent administration ever and he's been one of the least. So there's a lot of hypocrisy.
STELTER: Yes, we need to mention that. That's important, I think. We see this coziness at the dinner. One of the critiques of this dinner is that everybody's cozy. It's almost incestuous perhaps. But the reality is when you're covering the White House day to day, there's very little access. You don't get to schmooze with Valerie Jarrett or administration officials necessarily. Has that improved in the eight years that President has been in office?
FOURNIER: It's the worst administration I've covered. Each one has gotten worse. I suspect the next one is going to be even less access and less accountability to the public, which is one of the reasons the public is so upset, not because the media is not getting access, but because they can tell their politicians aren't accountable to them anymore, aren't paying attention to them anymore, are disconnected from their lives.
MARTIN: You know this dinner used to be, we as reporters, you used to be able to invite our own sources to the dinner, back 20 some odd years ago, 15 years ago. And so, the people at the dinner were your sources. They were maybe cabinet officials, midlevel cabinet officials, administration officials. It gave reporters the opportunity to sort of have that one on one access.
That has now since evolved into more celebrity guests, more advertisers and --
FOURNIER: I think Betsy means this parenthetically. The importance of that wasn't so we got to know them. The importance was so we can build a relationship so we could get information out of them that they otherwise wouldn't give us that the public needs to know. We don't have that ability anymore.
HADDAD: They're making you defend a dinner now.
STELTER: Well, Tammy, of course, you're co-host of the most popular garden brunch of the weekend. Tell us your defense.
HADDAD: Well, my defense is how could it be bad to be able to sit together with all of these officials from government --
MARTIN: It's not bad.
HADDAD: No, it's not bad. And it's not bad having celebrities hear. It's not bad having executives.
At Bloomberg, we bring in executives. We bring in tech folks. We bring in all kinds of people who are doing business with government. What's bad about that?
I'll tell you what's good about it is more people get involved in the process of this election. More people are going to vote.
Can I just say the one political piece, what the president did? How about his restraint in going after Trump? What is that about?
That is about this election. That's about the general campaign. That's about this president getting on the campaign trail, saving all his good material for that campaign.
STELTER: That's an interesting theory. I like that.
FOURNIER: News organizations are putting advertisers in seats that reporters once occupied. I think that's something we need to look at.
STELTER: Well, I think fundamentally, I mean, my takeaway from the dinner, we showed me walking into your brunch, Tammy, I think my takeaway when I'm here this weekend, is that we have to have a little bit of distance the whole time, even when it's exciting to see some celebrities on the red carpet, always have to have a little bit of that distance, right, we've been taught in journalism school.
Let me play one more sound bite from last night, because this was a really interesting moment. We're talking about the Obama administration's access and whether there's enough access to White House officials and whether they're transparent enough. This is what President Obama said about the movie "spotlight" which recently won the Oscar. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I also would like to acknowledge some of the award-winning reporters that we have with us here tonight. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber.
[11:10:06] Thank you, all, for everything you've done.
I'm just joking. As you know, "Spotlight" is a film, a movie about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since "Star Wars."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, that cuts pretty deep, I think. That line, I think that resonated widely at the dinner.
What I heard the president doing was creating a divide between two types of journalists. I want to know if you guys agree. One type who prides conflict and controversy and pay dues, and another type that prides investigative reporting and digging deeply. It seemed to me he was trying to encourage that investigative journalism, even though, of course his administration stymies that kind of work.
MARTIN: Investigative journalism costs money, at the end of the day. It's very expensive to produce. And that's the problem with a lot of news organizations that don't have the resources to devote to that anymore.
FOURNIER: This administration has gone after investigative reporters and even threatened criminal action against them. So, he should think -- look deeply inside himself when he makes those accusations. Although, again, he's making a broader point that is true.
If you look at -- since the "Spotlight" investigation was done, there's a third fewer reporters working in this business nationally than there was then. There's far fewer reporters who get up every day who get six months to work on one story and dig really deeper because it's an expensive proposition.
HADDAD: Look, this is a dinner and it's a party. But what we should also talk about is the reporters covering the Trump campaign who have no access, who are so controlled.
STELTER: It's not just the Obama administration that limits access to reporters.
HADDAD: No, and they're not taken care of. They have to do everything on their own.
The other thing about Donald Trump calling into shows, he's so smart because he figured it out. You know what, when you call into a show, you control a show. You're controlling it.
If I weren't sitting here and you had to listen to me on the phone, you would have to listen to me finish. Otherwise, you'd be the rudest host.
FOURNIER: So why do the shows take the calls?
MARTIN: It's leverage.
HADDAD: It's leverage.
MARTIN: The man knows it.
STELTER: Well, you might say it's like radio. Radio interview, people call in for that. We have seen a recalibration of this role as well. He's doing less phoners than he did six months ago. So, it does seem there's been some reassessment.
STELTER: Real quickly, Ron, before we go, I mentioned your book, "Love That Boy". It's about your son Tyler and your relationship with him, also about your relationship introducing him to presidents over the years.
I'm just wondering, as you're talking about Trump here, do you worry about this campaign? Do you have him watch television coverage, or do you try to limit it? I've heard a lot of parents say they try to shield their children from coverage of this campaign because of the crude nature sometimes.
FOURNIER: It's a good question. I don't have to because he's not interested in politics. But it's not just with Trump. Although, I think he's a very coarse, vulgar figure. The whole industry has become more coarsening. And actually one thing that I realize looking aside myself, when I sat there for an hour with Bill Clinton talking to my son and George Bush for an hour talking to my, they didn't do this because they had any reason to do it politically. They did it because they're public servants.
It reminded me of something I knew a long time ago that I tend to forget. I'm not just covering a title. I'm covering a human being.
And most of the men and women in this business, it's my job to be cynical and hold them accountable, but they're human beings, who are trying -- most of them -- trying to do the right thing.
STELTER: That's the balance, isn't it?
FOURNIER: It's a tough balance. You can see me conflicted on this show with that balance.
STELTER: Betsy, Ron, Tammy, thank you all for being here this morning.
MARTIN: Thank you.
STELTER: Great talking with you.
Coming up next here, something you won't see anywhere else this morning. We're going behind the scenes of the president's speech with the man who was his chief joke writer. That's a real title. It's an important title. You'll find out why right after this.
[11:17:12] STELTER: Welcome back.
Peeking at the overnight ratings here, the White House Correspondents' Dinner was a big hit on TV. It drew a much bigger audience than it did last year.
Maybe that's because people wanted to see what President Obama would say about presidential candidate Donald Trump. Some said this is the hardest speech the president has to give all year. And since this is Obama's last time, he talked about who he thought might be performing this time next year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it's anyone's guess who she will be. But --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, let's peel back the curtain here, because what I really want to know is who really comes up with this stuff?
Joining me now is the answer, the actual answer. David Litt, a former speech writer for President Obama, he led the joke-writing for the last four of these dinners. He's now the head writer at Funny or Die D.C.
So, David, I know a team comes up with these jokes. You were leading the team in recent years. How many jokes are conceived before this performance each year?
DAVID LITT, HEAD WRITER, FUNNY OR DIE D.C.: Well, I think the key to having the 35 or 40 really funny jokes is to have several hundred less funny jokes that get written. Every year, I would personally write hundreds of jokes, most of them not at all funny.
LITT: Yes, you just keep at it. Then we would also have, you know, both former staff, John Lovett and Jon Favreau, former speechwriters. We've had some comedians who remain discreet and work pro bono for -- and sent some stuff in.
STELTER: Well, level with me, if you have that in submissions, wouldn't anybody be funny? Wouldn't I be funny? Wouldn't anybody be funny in that circumstance?
LITT: Well, I mean, the truth is, no matter the joke, the president really does make it better. You saw this last night. He's got an incredible sense of comic timing, especially for somebody who has a day job, and it's a very demanding day job. He's really funny.
STELTER: It sort of feels like a requirement of the job now, though, you know, that a president has to be able to perform in these circumstances because he's able to say things through humor that he can't say otherwise that he really wants to say, I think.
LITT: Well, I mean, one of the things that Funny or Die did was working on the "Between Two Ferns" video with Zach Galifianakis and President Obama about health care. And so, we have seen instances where the White House can use comedy to get a message across.
STELTER: Let's take a look at an example of his comic timing. This is from last night talking about Prince George. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, they've been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So in that case, that joke, that's all about the timing, right?
LITT: It's all about the timing. When the president sort of paused and said that was a slap in the face, right?
[11:20:02] I mean, as far as I know, that was an ad lib. That's just his sense of audience, to say, OK, here's a way to tag this and make it even funnier. And so, one nice thing about working on this dinner in past years is the president always makes his joke writers look good.
STELTER: That's a nice feeling.
You know, I wanted to show the end of his speech. I thought what he did here -- let's take a look at this. I thought he was creating a GIF moment. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And with that, I just have two more words to say -- Obama out.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, my take on that was he was trying to create something that would be turned into a GIF, right, an animated GIF, a dropping of the mike, it will live on forever. Do you think he and the White House and his aides think that way, about kind of creating imagery, images that will last?
LITT: Well, I think what's changed in the last eight years about the dinner is you have the audience in the room which loved it, but then you also have this audience online. So, whether that's on Twitter, sharing the GIF of the mike drop, you have these multiple audiences and it makes it a chance for what the president does in that room to go way beyond it.
STELTER: Right, right. Yes, bottom line though, this is my gut feeling. I want you to tell me if I'm right.
When the president is making jokes about the press, when he's chastising in a humorous way about over-coverage of Trump or something, I think it's because he really has real animosity, you know, real hostility toward some of the coverage. What do you think?
LITT: Well, I mean, the way I always thought about this is, the dinner, the point is to be funny. If it's not funny, it's not working. The president's been very funny.
If you get to do a little truth telling, if you get to say something in a tone you wouldn't normally get to say in a speech, that's a side benefit. Sometimes you'll see the president, you know, he'll make a point or two.
STELTER: I think he did. I think he did last night.
David, great to see you.
LITT: Yes, great to see you too.
STELTER: Thank you for being here.
LITT: My pleasure.
STELTER: And coming up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, from Washington, we've been talking about the best of last night's White House correspondent dinner. But my next guest says the gala and the hoopla actually represents the worst of the relationship between journalists and those they cover. We've got to hear his argument right after this break.
[11:26:25] STELTER: Welcome back to Washington.
Now, I'll admit, I kind of like watching media types squirm in their seats while being roasted by comedians and by the commander-in-chief.
Larry Wilmore's performance last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner was very polarizing. A lot of people thought he bombed. Others loved it. I heard boos in the room from where I was sitting. But I also heard people cheering at various times.
I know one thing for sure. Some of his very best lines were directed at us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY WILMORE, COMEDIAN: Welcome to Negro night here in Washington. Or as FOX News will report, two thugs disrupt elegant dinner in D.C.
I am a black man who replaced a white man who pretended to be a TV newscaster. So, yes, in that way, Lester Holt and I have a lot in common.
C-Span, of course, is carrying tonight's dinner live -- yes, which is ironic because most of their viewers aren't.
CNN is here tonight, men (ph) of CNN, yes. I've been watching CNN a long time, yep. I used to watch it back when it was a news network. I did.
Is it all CNN here tonight? Have you seen morning -- oh, come on, guys. Seriously. No, you know, guys, "Morning Joe" has their heads so far up Trump's ass they bumped into Chris Christie. You know that's true. You know I'm not lying. You know that's true.
You know, I should say some of America's finest black journalists are here tonight. Don Lemon is here too. Hey, Don. How's it going? Alleged journalist Don Lemon, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Don Lemon then flicked off Larry Wilmore with his middle finger, which I didn't particularly didn't want to show on Sunday morning TV. It did garner Don some criticism on social media.
Well, here's the thing: Don and Larry are actually friendly. They hung out on Friday night before the dinner. They posed for pictures again last night after the dinner.
That leads me to the fundamental criticism of this spectacle. It's the coziness. It's the incestuous even. It's one thing for a journalist and a comedian to be having fun. But what about the hobnobbing between journalists and their sources, like White House officials? That's what makes some media critics queasy at this so-called nerd prom weekend.
These are star-studded red carpet and parties bankrolled by big companies. And the bottom line, I think, is in an election season fueled by anger at the establishment, this nerd prom is the establishment.
So the question is, should more news outlets do what "The New York Times" does and skip the dinner? Should they boycott it?
Joining me now is a dinner critic, let's say. Bob Garfield, the co- host of WNYC's "On the Media."
I say "dinner critic", Bob, because you've been outspoken about this over the years. You say it's odd an ethically questionable when journalists attend these dinners. I was there last night. I went to the parties, tried to take in the whole thing.
I mentioned earlier, trying to be removed, trying to take it in and be skeptical about it. But it is a very odd and intriguing phenomenon, these dinners.
Why do you think they are troubling for journalists?
BOB GARFIELD, CO-HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Odd and intriguing and repulsive.
STELTER: Repulsive, I forgot that word.
GARFIELD: Yes. Well, where does one begin? Let's start with these are supposed to be the watchdogs, watchdogging those in power. And they're sitting there passing one another dinner rolls with zero possibility of any journalism breaking out.
We're sitting there honoring a president who has stiffed the media for going on eight years now. I mean, it's about 7 1/2 years of the worst access of a modern president.
He -- his administration has prosecuted journalists for doing their jobs. The FOIA situation is out of control. That's the Freedom of Information Act requests.
You can't even get -- never mind getting -- asking a question during a photo-op. You can barely get a photographer into the president for a photo-op. And there he is, 40 feet away from you, Syria is on fire, there's a -- the Republican front-runner is running for dictator. The Russians are buzzing our military in the open seas. And there is zero chance to even ask the president a question.
STELTER: What about the argument that when you're at these events, when you're maybe seeing sources, that it will pay off down the line, that those relationships may actually improve access and improve reporting, not that night, but weeks or months later?
GARFIELD: Oh, because I have a social relationship with...
STELTER: That's the idea. Yes.
GARFIELD: But -- except that presumes that there really is any benefit down the line.
I see no evidence that the administration -- now this is its eighth Correspondents Dinner. I see no evidence that it's become more accessible, more transparent at all. It's a disgrace. It's a sham. It's a sham of a mockery of a travesty of a two mockeries of a sham.
STELTER: Tell me how you really feel.
STELTER: But I -- the reason I kind of...
GARFIELD: And you're part of the problem.
STELTER: Well, tell me more.
GARFIELD: Well, you were there. CNN was there in force. How is CNN's access to the president? It's...
STELTER: I'm sure we would like more interviews and more access. In fact, Michelle Kosinski said to me last night, one of our White House correspondents, she said that she barely has had any access to the president.
She's not sure that he knows who she is, even though she covers the beat for CNN, one of the biggest news outlets in the world. That does speak to this lack of access. But I wonder...
GARFIELD: One of America's business news-like outlets in the world. I got to throw in with Larry Wilmore on that.
STELTER: You can say that if you wish. You can say that.
But let me try this argument out on you, the idea that, at this time when it seems like everything is polarized, when republicans and Democrats can't get along, that maybe at least for one night it's good to have everybody in the same room to see that kind of mixing, to be reminded that everybody, you know, at the end of the day, they are humans, and they are -- that the administration and everybody there, right, does have something to relate to.
GARFIELD: Let's hold hands. Kumbaya.
STELTER: I'm just trying it out on you.
GARFIELD: Yes. But, clearly, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is no access to the president, criminal investigations against reporters, lagging on FOIA requests, and the president doing -- fulfilling George W. Bush's greatest dream of doing a total end-run around the press.
STELTER: Now, the White House would say that they gave lots of interviews. They grant lots of access. Reporters would disagree.
But how would boycotting the dinner help with that?
GARFIELD: Well, I'm not telling anybody to boycott the dinner.
I don't go to the dinner, and there's a very good reason for that. I'm seldom invited.
GARFIELD: But -- and I don't -- you know, I'm not going to tell you not to go. I just think that the event is sort of the...
STELTER: This may be a symbol of what you think is the problem.
GARFIELD: It's the apotheosis of everything that's wrong with journalism and government in this city.
GARFIELD: Everybody's too cozy. And it's hard for the press to fulfill its watchdog function if you're palling around with people who you can't even ask a journalistic question of.
STELTER: I think we think about what one of the themes this campaign season has been, especially with Donald Trump's rise.
It's that the media has been out of touch, especially D.C., New York media has been out of touch. And you do wonder if this is an example of that. On the other hand, I saw Katrina Pierson and Scottie Nell Hughes and Jeffrey Lord and some of Trump's supporters at the event this weekend as well.
So, maybe you see some of the anti-establishment mixing with the establishment at this point at an event like this.
GARFIELD: Well, I guess you do. And if democracy is the better for it, I surrender, but I just don't see any evidence that that's happening.
STELTER: That's why I wanted to hear from you this morning.
Bob, great to see you.
GARFIELD: Good to see you, Brian.
STELTER: Thank you for being here, Bob, the co-host of "On the Media."
Thank you so much. Coming up: a "GQ" profile of Melania Trump setting off the latest kind of cyber-attack on a journalist by some of Trump's supporters, at least by his trolls. We're going to explore this phenomenon and why it's so disturbing right after a quick break.
STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.
We know what Donald Trump thinks of the media. He says journalists are disgusting. And yet he also praises many of us when he likes stories we write.
When I spent time with him earlier this week the TIME 100 Dinner, he was very kind in person.
But let's talk about other members of his family who express their disdain for the media. We're talking about Melania Trump, actually, Trump's wife, who had a big problem with this "GQ" magazine article. It's a profile about her she was not happy with. She took to Facebook to post this statement all about it.
She -- quote -- "The article published in 'GQ' today is yet another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting. Julia Ioffe, a journalist who is looking to make a name for herself, clearly had an agenda when going after my family. There are numerous inaccuracies in this article, including certain statements about my families and claims on personal matters. My parents are private citizens, and they should not be subject to Ms. Ioffe's unfair scrutiny."
Now, whether you agree or not with Melania Trump's statement, at least she kept it above board for the most part. There were no personal attacks.
However, certain so-called Trump supporters did not keep it to that. We want to show you sort of what happened next. And part of it is really troubling to see.
She was sent these kind of messages, virulent, sometimes anti-Semitic and downright threatening messages, one which shows her with a yellow star that says "Jews" on it, another which uses a slur we will not repeat on air and refers to Melania Trump as empress.
I have to wonder if this type of reaction could be a glimpse at what is in store for other journalists when covering Trump or when dealing with a Trump presidency.
And joining me now to discuss this reaction in her own words is Julia Ioffe, a "GQ" magazine contributor.
And I think we should say right off the bat, we see a lot of hate all over the Internet.
JULIA IOFFE, CONTRIBUTOR, "GQ": Yes.
STELTER: We see this not just for political reporters and political writers, but also for many other kinds of writers.
It seems all public figures are subjected to this kind of online harassment.
Do you think it's a serious problem for the Twitters and the Facebooks and the Snapchats of the world, having to figure out how to deal with this kind of incoming vitriol?
IOFFE: Yes. And I think the law also has to catch up, right, because...
STELTER: Tell me why.
IOFFE: Because, for example, I and many other people have received, for example, direct threats or things implying threats.
And when you call the police, there's really not much they can do about it. Even if they can find the person who sent the threat, like, get through the proxy, get past the TOR, it's still very hard to prove that...
STELTER: TOR is a way to hide your identity online.
IOFFE: Yes. That's right. That's right.
They still have to prove that this person did it. It's very hard to prove. Nobody is ever -- so, people feel very brave sitting behind their keyboards. And they should feel brave, because nobody's ever going to do anything to them for making threats.
STELTER: Do you think there's something specific about the way that these Trump trolls or Trump bots react to negative or even just skeptical coverage of the candidate? Is something unique about Trump here?
IOFFE: Well, look, a lot of the -- a lot of the trolls who were sending me the most obscene anti-Semitic stuff I have frankly ever seen directed at me in my life, a lot of them had somebody in the user pic wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat or they had Trump as their background or they had Trump as the -- you know, user pic with like a KKK rally in the background.
So, you know, they were putting Trump right in the middle of all of this imagery.
STELTER: Do you think the campaign needs to do more to combat this?
Because I think it's important to say you're not the first writer to face this kind of online harassment.
IOFFE: Yes. (CROSSTALK)
STELTER: I have counted more than a dozen cases that I did research on myself, including conservative commentators and reporters.
I think your case has been perhaps a bigger story this week because you wrote about it. You have been public about it. You have shared some of this disgusting material on your own Twitter account. So you have made sure to highlight it, to make sure people know what happened.
IOFFE: That's right.
I know that I'm not the first person that this has happened to or the last one that this will happen to. And I think it's important that people see what happens, you know, that this isn't just Trump telling his supporters to boo at the press section at his rallies.
STELTER: Although that happens too.
IOFFE: That happens too.
But it's all part of this -- like, this general disdain for the media is starting to cross certain thresholds. And it's...
IOFFE: ... scary.
STELTER: Well, are you saying that Melania Trump's statement is what triggered this hate online directed toward you?
IOFFE: I don't think this was her intent.
And I don't think she -- you know, I'm hesitant to say that she sent these people to my virtual doorstep. But she put out a statement. She said she wasn't happy. She named me, which is fine.
But I will add, by the way, that she has not submitted any requests for correction or anything.
STELTER: That is something I was going to ask you about.
STELTER: There haven't been any specific inaccuracies that have been cited by the Trump campaign.
IOFFE: No, nothing.
STELTER: You did go very deep into her past. You found -- was it a half-brother that she didn't know she had?
STELTER: Some people say this has limited value. What's the point of digging this deep into a candidate's wife's life?
Why do you say there is value in doing that, by the way?
IOFFE: Well, I think she's a cipher. We don't know much about her. She rarely speaks. She's rarely on the campaign trail.
But she could very well be the first -- the next first lady of the U.S. What -- who is he? Where does she come from? What's her family background like? That -- I think those are all legitimate, newsworthy questions that we should -- that the press -- we in the press should be answering.
When it comes to her family, I think women and women's -- Trump's appeal to women has been a big issue in this campaign. And I think people wonder, you know, how is Melania Trump married to a man like Donald Trump?
And digging into her family past showed me that, well, she really loves Donald Trump because she grew up with a man who's like Donald Trump. Her father is a lot like Donald Trump. He behaves like Donald Trump. He speaks like Donald Trump. He does business like Donald Trump.
It's just psychological insight.
STELTER: And readers can decide if it then helps them or not.
STELTER: Here's what I really wonder, though, at the end of the day.
When you see this kind of vitriol directed at you, these anti-Semitic comments and others, does it make you less likely to write another story about the Trumps, or does it make you less likely to do this kind of reporting in the future?
IOFFE: No, not at all.
STELTER: It doesn't? It doesn't intimidate you?
IOFFE: No. No.
STELTER: Because that would the ultimate sort of...
IOFFE: Yes. Why would you let them win? That's what they want to do. They want to silence criticism.
They want to scare reporters from digging further. Our job is to dig and to make -- and to find things that might make people uncomfortable, frankly. And, you know, and this is -- and the criticism and the trolling comes with the territory. Sometimes, it crosses a certain line.
STELTER: Yes, I think it crossed a line in this case. I don't want to give it more attention than it deserves.
IOFFE: Yes, exactly.
STELTER: But I think it's important to see and understand what writers and reporters face sometimes.
IOFFE: Yes. Exactly.
STELTER: Julia, thank you for being here this morning.
IOFFE: Thanks for having me.
STELTER: Good to see you.
Coming up next here, we're taking you to Silicon Valley for this next segment. The 2016 candidates all flocking to YouTube. But we will explore why that might not be all good for them to do. I will explain right after this quick break.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
YouTube is undergoing a dramatic transformation and giving rise to a new crop of so-called YouTube stars, YouTube celebrities. But it's not just about entertainment on the sprawling video site.
News, sports, politics are also all in play as the company attempts to continue to blur the lines between TV and the Internet. In fact, this week, the company is holding its annual NewFront presentation. That's when it brings in lots of advertisers and tries to persuade those advertisers to spend more money with YouTube and maybe a little less for TV networks.
I recently caught up with YouTube's CEO, Susan Wojcicki, in Silicon Valley actually on Google's campus to talk about the future of the company and how presidential candidates are engaging with users.
This is our latest in our "Headliners" series.
STELTER: What do the skeptics have wrong today about digit video and about the future of YouTube?
SUSAN WOJCICKI, CEO, YOUTUBE: Well, I think, if you look at YouTube -- and it first started with people uploading videos just around them, just really casual videos.
And over time, it's really evolved as a medium, where now we have people who are professional YouTubers. And, actually, so "Variety" just did this study, and they looked at American teens, and they said, who are the top celebrities among American teens?
And eight of the top 10 were YouTubers. It's not just a one-way conversation. It really is becoming a two-way conversation, where the fans are participating and communicating with the creators.
STELTER: Do you feel that YouTube stars are not yet enough mainstream, they're not mainstream enough within the rest of the country or the rest of the world, or is that an outdated perception?
WOJCICKI: Well, I think they're definitely becoming mainstream.
So, YouTube creators are definitely mainstream among -- if you look at the teen audience. That's why eight of the top 10 celebrities are YouTubers.
But YouTube right now is -- has huge reach and huge set of users in the 18-34 and the 18-49 category, too.
STELTER: I guess I find myself wondering if YouTube is still sort of an alternate or parallel universe from what we think of as sort of mainstream traditional entertainment, and, if so, are they blurring more? Are the lines blurring more?
Well, I definitely think the lines are blurring a lot more. Traditionally, we had YouTube creators that would post their content, and it would be unique to them. But if you look at all of the traditional content, they're also putting their content on YouTube. Sometimes, they're promotional clips, so users can see an example or like a highlight what happened in their show, but, sometimes, they're posting the whole show.
And it's a way for them to be able to reach a new audience. So, if they have a show that is on in the middle of the day, and then they post it on YouTube -- like, "Ellen" is an example of that -- then they can reach a whole new audience on YouTube.
STELTER: John Oliver's Donald Trump takedown had 25 million views on YouTube and about five million on traditional TV, so that's a great example of reaching a bigger audience online.
So, I think a lot of the networks are seeing examples where they're posting full shows. And John Oliver is an example of that, where they will post the whole show the next day. But it gets a lot of viewing. It's able to reach a lot of users that otherwise would just not have access to that content.
STELTER: How are you seeing YouTube views in the U.S. presidential Elections? Because I have seen more and more political ads on the site.
WOJCICKI: Yes. We have seen a lot of the candidates really engaged with YouTube.
They have been creating some really great and interesting ads. In fact, when we look at our most popular ads that were run on the platform, we saw that three of them in one month were from political candidates.
What we are also seeing is, is that our viewers are using YouTube as a way of engaging and understanding the issues, and getting to better understand the candidates.
And so we actually just recently looked and said, well, how many hours were spent researching candidates and issues? And over the last year, it was over 110 million hours, which is just a huge amount of time for users to be understanding candidates and those issues.
STELTER: Do you worry about the campaigns using YouTube, though, to go around the news media, to avoid being asked questions by making their own videos instead?
WOJCICKI: No, I don't think we really worry about that.
I think it's -- there's so many candidates. Everybody is making their own issues. One of the ads that was actually run was a super PAC ad that was actually trying to show a negative light on one of the candidates.
STELTER: Yes, but ads usually have misstatements and lies and B.S.
And at least in a television environment, those can be fact-checked right afterwards. If they're running on YouTube, they're just spewing B.S.
WOJCICKI: Well, I think one thing that's actually happened too with online video is that it's actually made the candidates a lot more careful about what they say.
STELTER: That's interesting. Yes.
STELTER: They know they're always being filmed.
WOJCICKI: They're always being filmed.
So, if they make any misstep or if they say anything that's not appropriate, you know, or -- they're held responsible, because now that clip can be uploaded and shown to a billion people. And so they are very careful about what they say now.
STELTER: For more of our visit to Google, check out CNNMoney.com/media. We will be posting more clips there.
Coming up next here: President Obama welcoming home a journalist who spent 18 months behind bars.
We will have that story in just a moment.
STELTER: For me personally, the best thing about this weekend here in Washington was spending some time with Jason Rezaian, who's now adjusting to normal life here in the U.S. after 18 months behind bars in Iran.
President Obama welcomed the "Washington Post" reporter to the White House Correspondents Dinner last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last time this year, we spoke of Jason's courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison.
This year, we see that courage in the flesh, and it's a living testament to the very idea of a free press and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and the physical threats faced by reporters overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Jason also took to the podium earlier in the evening. He received a long standing ovation from the crowd of thousands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON REZAIAN, JOURNALIST DETAINED IN IRAN: Thank you.
This is a big, intimidating room, but I can say that it beats solitary confinement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Jason now figuring out his next step, starting with a Nieman fellowship this fall.
We're out of time here.