Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

NYC On High Alert After Explosion; How Donald Trump Played The Media; Interview with Gary Johnson; Only 32 Percent of Americans Trust the Media; NYC Authorities to Hold Press Conference on Explosion. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 18, 2016 - 11:00   ET


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.

[11:00:01] This morning, New York City is on high alert, calm but well aware of last night's explosion on 23rd Street here in Manhattan.

At this hour, a possible second device is being taken apart and probed by law enforcement. We've just heard from the governor, Andrew Cuomo, saying this is not -- this does not appear to be linked to international terrorism, but there's a lot we still don't know. We're standing by for a press conference in the next hour with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and a number of other officials. We will have full coverage as soon as it happens.

In the meantime, there is a whole the lot happening at the intersection of media and politics. Donald Trump is playing a game -- a game reporters are getting tired of playing. Honestly, they're getting tired of being played.

Consider the five things the media manipulator-in-chief did just that week. On Wednesday, he brought his reality TV campaign to "The Dr. Oz Show", pretending to be transparent about his health.


DR. MEHMET OZ, THE DR. OZ SHOW: From your review of systems, why not share your medical records? Why not --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, I have really no problem in doing it. I have it right here. I mean, should I do it? I don't care. Should I do it?


TRUMP: It's two letters. One is the report and the other is from Lenox Hill Hospital.

OZ: May I see them? TRUMP: Yes, sure.

OZ: So, these are the reports? This is from --

TRUMP: Those are all the tests that were just done.


STELTER: A moment there, and then on Thursday, he played to his crowd again, outright bragging about ditching the reporter who travel with him. There are about 20 in the traveling press corps who go everywhere with Trump, but they were stuck at the airport while he was speaking.


TRUMP: I have really good news for you. I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane, they can't get here. I love it. So, they're trying to get here now. They're going to be about 30 minutes late. They called us and said, "Could you wait?" I said, "Absolutely not. Let's get going." Right?


STELTER: Now on Friday, his greatest are on you lowest trick of all, having all the cameras lined up to cover a press event, possibly a press conference about his original sin as a politician, his promotion of discredited birther conspiracy theory.

But this event, it was really an infomercial for his latest hotel in D.C., and then combined with a string of endorsements, and then with the confession about his birther lie at the very end. Journalists tried to shout questions at him. Trump refused to answer.

And then a Trump campaign aide physically stopped a TV producer from going on Trump's tour of the hotel, why? Well, probably because so he couldn't be asked any questions about that birther lie. So, that was Friday.

And then yesterday, another troubling development. This time in Houston. We're still seeking more information on this one.

Vice news reporter arrested while trying to gain access to Trump's campaign event in Houston. Now, this was the hotel that was apparently involved, the Omni Hotel. We're still getting more information on it. We know the reporter now has been freed on bond, but "Vice" has a lot of questions and so do we about what happened there.

Let's call it what it is, right? Trump is showing its contempt for the press. When we say he's a threat to press freedom, this is what we're talking about.

So, joining me now, an excellent panel to get into more detail about it. Lynn Sweet, a columnist and Washington bureau of "The Chicago Sun-Times", S.E. Cupp, a CNN political commentator and columnist for "The New York Daily News", David Farenthold, a political reporter for "The Washington Post" digging deep in Trump's charitable giving, and Jeremy Diamond, CNN political reporter who covers Trump's campaign every single day.

So, Jeremy, let me start with you. It's a rare day for you in New York. You're usually on the campaign trail wherever Donald Trump is. Tell me what happened this week. This is -- was this a new low in the relations between Trump and the media?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think a lot of the reporters like myself who cover Donald Trump on a daily basis certainly feel take way. You know, we had a number of instances from that Dr. Oz taping where campaign aides told us that he was not going to discuss his medical records and then Donald Trump did just that.

STELTER: That's right, 9:00 a.m. on that day, they said, it was very clear, he would not be showing his physical exam results. 10:30 a.m., he went ahead and did it.

DIAMOND: Exactly. And then after that, we had this incident where we landed in New Hampshire. As we're landing, we're looking at the live stream on our phones, and Donald Trump is there, first he's talking on stage already and then he's mocking us, mocking the fact that he left us behind -- a problem that is not only caused by the fact that he does not have a protective full, meaning he does not have press traveling with him on his plane which is already in and of itself defying decades of precedent of the coverage of major party presidential nominees.

And then the event on Friday which campaign aides told me, told reporters covering the campaign that it would be a press conference opportunity that we would get to ask Donald Trump about --


STELTER: That is so interesting. So, you all were told that you would be able to ask questions. It wouldn't be just an infomercial for his hotel.

DIAMOND: Absolutely. This is on background from campaign officials, of course.

STELTER: And that means they won't put their name on the record, but they're telling you information that usually checks out to be true. So, it's guidance for what supposed to happen.

DIAMOND: Exactly.


DIAMOND: At least it's supposed to be true, right, when you're covering a normal campaign that needs to give you information ahead of time. So, we arrived at this news conference and for 20 minutes, Donald Trump essentially got a live TV infomercial, right, where he was able to have a commercial about all these veterans embracing him on a day when he was disavowing this very controversial, most controversial aspect of his life in politics.

[11:05:11] STELTER: He sort of buried the lead, didn't he?

You said normal campaigns. You've been spending months covering this campaign. Is it a normal campaign?

DIAMOND: In a lot of regards, it isn't, right? I mean, there's a very -- a much small staff than they're typically is. There are very few communications officials with this campaign. You know, they're really only Hope Hicks and Jason Miller, who are the two spokespeople for this campaign. And it's very rare to get your request for comments returned.

STELTER: So, do you find yourself, I'm going to put on the spot here -- do you find yourself struggling to figure out how to cover this kind of campaign, but not a normal campaign, a campaign where there are more misstatements than usual, where it feels like we're being played sometimes by Trump?

DIAMOND: Well, I've been doing so for 15 months. So, at this point, I think I've gotten used to it to a certain extent.


DIAMOND: But at the same time, you know, it's just difficult when you're -- you know, last night when Donald Trump talking about this potential terrorist attack, this explosion in New York City, just minutes, you know, half an hour after the reports came in, and I'm trying to call Hope Hicks, I'm trying to call Jason Miller, trying to call campaign officials to understand why Donald Trump is calling this a bomb? What information does he have? And you get essentially radio silence from this campaign.

So, that makes it difficult to get the truth out there and to get their side of the story as well as far as why Donald Trump is saying certain things.

STELTER: Jeremy, let me bring everybody else into the conversation.

Lynn Sweet, I want to ask you about that nagging thing that I feel on the back of my head right now, and I bet you feel it, too, if that desire to treat both sides exactly the same. To say, oh, well, if Trump is bad with the media, Clinton must be equally bad. She must treat the press equally horribly.

We all know she went a long time, almost nine months without holding a big full fledge press conference. Lately, she has been taking more questions from the media.

So, I'm going to ask you, are these two campaigns equal? Are they equal in their treatment or their mistreatment of the media?

LYNN SWEET, COLUMNIST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: They're each a story in and of itself, and this is a point I'd like to make, Brian. You don't have to do a comparable in order to cover one side. And this is the trap I think that journalists are falling into. Well,

before I can assess how Donald Trump is doing, I also have to do the second story on Hillary Clinton. These are two story lines. Of course, you should have had more press conferences. But that's a misdemeanor compared to the felonies that you've just described when you deal with the press.

And they're not comparable. They shouldn't be treated as comparables. And I encourage my journalist brothers and sisters to look at this as not the two stories in one every day, every single way. That's the trap that people are falling into and it's hard sometimes to get away from it, but now is the time to do that.

STELTER: Misdemeanor versus felony, I'm going to keep that in mind going forward.

S.E., let's talk about Friday. Talk about that press conference -- well, actually, it wasn't a press conference. That press event in D.C. where you are, at the Trump Hotel. Was cable news partly responsible for taking this thing too seriously by showing this infomercial for the better part of half an hour?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think since the beginning, most people in the media have thought, we're going to cover every crazy, outrageous thing that Donald Trump says and does because it will expose his weaknesses and, finally, maybe that will get rid of him. And I think that's been the mistake of many in the media throughout the primary.

Now that it's the general --

STELTER: Are you saying that's been intentional? Are you saying journalists are trying to get rid of Trump?

CUPP: I think a number -- I think the vast majority of media outlets covering Trump in any sort of muscular daily way throughout the primary thought, the more we show, the better, because the more we show, the less likely it will be that he can survive all the way to November. I do think that that was a mindset of many in the media and that's what propelled a lot of the coverage.

Now, there's also an appetite -- media companies or businesses -- and there is an appetite to see what Trump is going to say from viewers. So, it's a symbiotic relationship for sure.

But now that he's the last guy standing for the Republicans in the general, what's happening when they go to these press conferences that turn into infomercials --


CUPP: -- is it really just elevates his stature as the Republican nominee and it really shows that he is in charge.

And I think for too long, a lot of folks in the media have allowed both candidates, and I'm the not making a comparison, there is no comparison between these two, but have allowed both candidates to really set the stage and control what the media does, whether it's Hillary Clinton's rope line herding reporters around a campaign stop, or, you know, Donald Trump sort of playing the press at every turn, forgetting that the media really has a lot of control over what they cover and what they can do.

And so, like Lynn would say to her friends in journalism, I would say to my friends in journalism, we still have some control here.

[11:10:01] We're not completely at the will of these two very influential, very powerful people.

STELTER: Interesting. David, I want to get you in, but, Jeremy, talking about control briefly, what could be done differently? Give us an idea what have could be done differently.

DIAMOND: I mean, it's hard to say, you know, at this point. I think that reporters are trying as hard as they can to continue to ask tough questions, to continue to press Donald Trump, to continue to force this campaign to really do more press availabilities, you know? But Donald Trump on Friday, his 51st day since doing a news conference. So, I think there is --

STELTER: It's almost time for a countdown clock with regards to his lack of press conferences.

DIAMOND: Absolutely. And we're getting to the point where Donald Trump used to be very, very accessible to the press. At the beginning of his campaign, he was extremely accessible. You could catch him for quick interviews on the way in and out of rallies.


DIAMOND: And that has really changed. That has completely changed now and he is less accessible I think in many regards than Hillary Clinton at this point.

STELTER: You cued up a commentary to me for later in the hour.

Let's keep in mind what happened this time last week as well, this hour last week. Hillary Clinton was missing. Reporters didn't know where she was. She left the 9/11 ceremony early, apparently stumbling, almost collapsing on the sidewalk. She went to her daughter's house.

But it wasn't until this moment we knew where Clinton was because she left her press corps behind. I would say in some ways, to Lynn's point earlier, that was a felony to use the misdemeanor/felony point.

David, let me ask you though about Friday. You were also there at this Trump event, and I want to hear what your experience was like. You were trying to yell questions at Donald Trump. Take us there. Tell us what that was like.

DAVID FARENTHOLD, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you sort of set the scene in the beginning. Trump has all these folks, these veterans come out and say nice things about him. He gives his very brief announcement about how he's renouncing the lie of birtherism and then the amazing thing was he moved physically, so he'd already separated us reporters from the stage by several rows of supporters.

Then, Trump says what he had to say that lectern, and then moves physically, about 15 feet off to the side. So, he's not behind the microphones anymore. And he has General Flynn starts speaking. So, he's not even standing near the microphone so that when a place where he could answer a question, and then after Flynn speaks briefly, he then walks off the stage.

So, Trump sort of throws this thing out there and almost like Batman, disappears without even being able to -- without anybody being to do more than just yell, in my case, like a complete idiot, questions at Trump as he leaves the room 50 feet away.

STELTER: I'm glad you tried.

SWEET: Never an idiot when you tried that. That technique works sometimes.

STELTER: David, that's why --

SWEET: I'm so sorry, Brian.

STELTER: Yes, go ahead.

SWEET: I just have a quick suggestion, though, for my brothers and sisters who were there and who get access to him. I think sometimes the questions need to be better.

So, the question right now, we know the answer to is, will you release tax returns? We've been through that. Let's have a better question. One that is a little more doable.

Just give us the pages with your charitable donations. OK. Those are pages that just state his facts. Not -- that would not be important info -- that is important information to reveal, but it is something that won't impact an audit one way or the other, because that's his declaration.

STELTER: Interesting.

SWEET: So, that's just one bite sized suggestion.

STELTER: And David would love that, as someone who has been dominating that beat.

If you could all stick around, please. Stay with me. I want to bring you back in a bit. I want to ask you, David, more about your incredible reporting about Trump's foundation.

Up next here, Carl Bernstein on Hillary Clinton's reset, a week of health talk and made complaints of this media mistreatment. Plus, an exclusive interview with the man who's not invited to the

presidential debate eight days from today. I'll ask Libertarian Gary Johnson what's next for his campaign.

Stay with us. We're just getting started.


[11:16:15] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

T minus eight days to the first debate. The whole country waiting for this to start, but only two candidates will grace the first debate stage in September 26, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That leaves out third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.

Now, Stein's absence is less of a surprise. Her numbers have remained relatively low of 3 percent or 4 percent. But Johnson's numbers have been better at 9 percent.

Let's take a look at the latest CNN poll of polls. It shows Johnson at 9 percent. But that was not enough to make the stage. The Commission of Presidential Debates was looking for a 15 percent threshold and Johnson did not meet it.

So, what will he do next?

Gary Johnson, himself, a former governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate, joins me now from Los Angeles.

Great to see you. Thank you for being here.

GARY JOHNSON, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a trivia question for you, and not to put you on the spot. But was Ross Perot --

STELTER: I'm ready.

JOHNSON: Was Ross Perot polling higher or lower than me before he was allowed in the first presidential debate?

STELTER: I believe he was polling lower. So tell me why you're bringing that up?

JOHNSON: Well, just that after Perot appeared in those debates, the Presidential Debate Commission made of Democrats and Republicans set a threshold that will never put a third party on the stage again.

And I think most people are surprised by the fact that Ross Perot who had such a good showing at this point prior to the first presidential debate was polling lower than I am right now.

STELTER: Now, the Commission on Presidential Debates was established almost 30 years ago. They say they are nonpartisan. I would call them bipartisan, made up of Democrats and Republicans.

JOHNSON: Yes, that's good. STELTER: They say they have to set these rules.

Let me play what Mike McCurry said here on CNN yesterday. He was talking about why the bar is set where it is. Let's see if we can play that.

Actually, I don't think we have it quite yet, but I'll tell you what he said. He said that they had to set some sort of threshold, some sort of criteria, so they set the 15 percent bar more than a year ago in order to give everybody plenty of time to try to meet the threshold.

Wasn't it a failure of your campaign, sir, not to meet the 15 percent mark?

JOHNSON: You know what, Brian? Here's another issue is, I've never had an issue with 15 percent, but that my name has never appeared on the top line of any national poll. And 99 percent of the media only reports the top line, so 70 percent of America right now doesn't even know I'm in the race.

So, that's manipulation in a way that just goes completely unnoticed by everybody. Look, if Mickey Mouse were on -- were the third name, Mickey would be at 30 because Mickey is anybody but. But Mickey's not on the ballot on 50 states, and I'm the only third party, along with Bill Weld, we're the only third party candidates on the ballot in all 50 states.

Fifty percent of Americans when they go to register to vote now are saying that they are independent. Where is that representation? Well, it's Bill Weld and it's myself.

STELTER: No doubt, I want all Americans to know about your campaign.

And let me try another sound bite, though. Let me try Chris Wallace talking to you a couple months back about what would happen if you didn't make it on the debate stage. Here's what happened.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: To get on this stage. Would you agree that if you don't get in to the debate, it's game over?

JOHNSON: Winnings election, yes, I would say game over winning the election. But the presidential --


STELTER: With that in mind, Gary, what happens after this debate? And now that you won't be on the stage, is the campaign over?

JOHNSON: Well, no, the clock still ticks. So, getting to 15 percent and being in the second debate and third debate, my partner, fiance, best friend, Kate, she said, Gary, this is just your luck, you don't have to hassle with the first debate and you're still going to get elected president. [11:20:05] STELTER: That sounds like spin to me, Gary. That sounds

like spin. But you're saying your goal now is to get to the October debates?

JOHNSON: Well, sure.


JOHNSON: You know, the clock does keep on ticking. And, you know, thank you for letting me on your show. I -- look, I'm polling higher than Ross Perot did. Ross Perot ended up with what, 19 percent of the vote? And at one point, he was actually leading the contest. That's the opportunity that exists if you're in the presidential debates.

It's not a two-party race. There are more in this case Bill Weld and myself are on the ballot in all 50 states. I think that speaks volumes.

STELTER: It does. But let me ask you about though --

JOHNSON: Fifty percent of Americans when they register to vote are registering as independent. Help.

STELTER: Let me ask you about Bill Weld. It's our understanding that he is starting to feel some pressure maybe to drop out of the race. He does not want to be the one to see Donald Trump elected as a result of a third party taking votes around from Hillary Clinton. Is he under pressure? And do you feel similar pressure to withdraw from the race?

JOHNSON: Absolutely not. Look, this is a two party -- this is a party that needs to be ruined. They have done this to themselves. They have become so polarized. Their only agenda is to kill each other.

What about a third scenario in lieu of Trump and Clinton where everything is going to be more polarized than ever? What about a third scenario where Weld and I get elected big six lane highway down the middle, we're going to hire Republicans, Democrats, everybody will be libertarian-leaning and call out both sides to come to the middle to deal with the problems that the country faces?

I think that third scenario, Brian, has at least the opportunity -- the best opportunity of succeeding.

STELTER: Are you saying the Libertarian Party is the middle between the Democrats and Republicans?

JOHNSON: Right now, a big six-lane highway down the middle at the moment. Big six lane.

STELTER: Never heard that before.

JOHNSON: Well, fiscally responsible, smaller government, socially inclusive, let people make choices in their own lives, stop with these military interventions, stop supporting regime change that has resulted if a less safe world, not a more safe world, and then the only free traders of the three candidates. Look, free trade, let's bring the world together with free trade.

STELTER: You mentioned a safe world and I want to get your reaction to the events here in New York. One bomb explode -- excuse me, one explosion, Donald Trump quickly calling it a bomb, Hillary Clinton also calling it a bombing. There was also the device that exploded in New Jersey yesterday. And there had been an incident in Minnesota, a stabbing at a mall in Minnesota. That person then shot by police.

Tell me your reaction to these news stories from the past 24 hours. What do you think the government needs to be doing on a day like today?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, just grateful that nobody got hurt.

Secondly, law enforcement is on the scene. Responders are on the scene. If there's anything that I learned having been governor of New Mexico for eight years, is that these people really do care, they are really qualified, they really do get to the bottom of this.

And by getting to the bottom of this, as an elected official -- look, we're going to find out who is responsible. Whether that's -- whether it's an individual or a group and they will be brought to justice. And that is something that all of us demand. All of us.

STELTER: Gary Johnson, thank you very much for being here this morning. We will keep an eye on this debate challenge in October.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Brian.

Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, Carl Bernstein will join me to talk about coverage of Clinton, Trump and Johnson.

We'll be right back.


[11:27:03] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

We're standing by for a press conference about last night's explosion in New York City. Thankfully no one killed in this, but about two dozen people injured. All of them now released from area hospitals. There's now an investigation, obviously, under way, both about what happened with this explosion, and also about a second device, possible device found nearby. It's actually being taken apart right now being probed by investigators.

So, we hope to learn much more coming up at noon this press conference in New York City.

Turning back to politics now. I was in the swing state of Pennsylvania yesterday, and as you can imagine, every single person I see, I asked them about the election. I tried to get a survey, you know, from these voters and almost every single Clinton voter I talked to told me the same thing. That they believe the media is going too easy on Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters told me the media is out to get him and we're all helping Hillary.

As Jim Warren said this week, journalists have become everyone's election season punching bag.

I think some viewers and some readers are projecting their own anxieties, their own fears about the race on to the coverage. But that doesn't excuse sloppy and unbalanced reporting. And my next guest definitely sees an imbalance.

Joining me now is Carl Bernstein, CNN political commentator, and author of "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Carl, great to see you this morning.


STELTER: We were just hearing from Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee. I was curious for your impressions. Do you believe he should be on the debate stage in eight days? We know he's not going to get an invitation.

BERNSTEIN: No, there are rules and he hasn't met the 15 percent threshold. And I was the one that first reported I think that Bill Weld I believe is thinking about dropping out of this race if it looks like he and Gary Johnson might get Donald Trump elected.

Weld despises Trump. It's a big story. I don't think he's made up his mind to drop out. But I think it's certainly a possibility down toward and after the first debate if it looks like his candidacy would help Trump and that he would then renounced his candidacy and go out and help Hillary Clinton who served with on the impeachment committee of Richard Nixon. So, stay tuned on that.

STELTER: Interesting.

Let's talk about the last seven days of Hillary Clinton's campaign. She had her near collapse this time last Sunday, off the campaign trail for several days and now back on the campaign trail. Has she fully recovered in a political and media sense from what happened last weekend?

BERNSTEIN: I don't know the answer to that question because there is a much larger question about the overall coverage of this campaign by the electronic media, by cable and network news. We've been terrific at interpretation at giving equal time to debate panels. But we've been positively awful in terms of reporting in a coherent way the biggest story of this campaign, the real existing life and record of Donald Trump.


"The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal" have done fabulous reporting on this. And we give snippets of it. We need to be doing an hour, two hours a night of real biography,

running it over and over, of what Trump's life and record have been about, because they're at absolute odds with the mythical and lying story that has told us. He's a con man. It's been established. And, also, he has presided over a cover-up of his own life. And we have allowed it in cable news and network news particularly.

STELTER: Well, here we are talking about it. I think some people have talked about it.

But I have got to push back a little bit. I see and hear comments like yours online every day. And yet you could say it's all coming from liberals who don't want to see Trump elected.

Isn't there a visceral hatred of Trump among a lot of journalists? And isn't that seeping through in the TV coverage and in the print coverage as well?

BERNSTEIN: I think what is seeping through, I wouldn't call it hatred. I think that there is realization -- and it's not just liberals -- I think it's conservative, too -- there is realization that Trump is a con man, and that that is a big part of the story.

Look, we have reported -- and nobody has been tougher on Hillary Clinton, especially on the server question, than I. I have said it's indefensible, what she did with it. But that -- and we have reported on her whole life. She has been around for 25, 30 years in public on the public stage. And we know her every position and record and her life.

Trump is different. He's a new kid on the block in terms of being in a presidential campaign. We need to do what "The Washington Post," "The New York Times" and the other print press or old-fashioned media has done, which is to report the real existing record repeatedly.

That is the story here. And that is where the Clinton campaign has a really good beef against the media. We haven't -- it's not equal. It's disequal that we have allowed Donald Trump to play us like this. And we focus on his outrageous statements, which we do every day, and we give equal time to those on his side and Hillary's side debating these crazy statements and positions that he changes every day.

And we analyze that. But do we go back and look at his whole business record? No, we don't. How about a real investigative biography on MSNBC, on CNN that runs every night about Donald Trump and about Hillary Clinton, about their two lives? Put them side by side and run it every night until the debates.

STELTER: Let me ask you about what Nick Kristof wrote in "The New York Times." We can put part of it's on screen.

I think he was channeling a lot of the frustration some journalists feel. He said: "We should be guard dogs, not lapdogs. And when the public sees Trump as more than honest Clinton, as some polls indicated, something has gone wrong. For my part, I have never met a national politician as ill-informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He's not normal. And somehow that is what our barks need to convey."

It's easy for Kristof to say that. He's an opinion journalist, but do you think journalists that try to be objective, try to be fair to both sides are actually failing by not calling this stuff out?

BERNSTEIN: Well, I think that, again, the question of Donald Trump's stability, preparation, knowledge, ignorance, if it were that, is a big part of the story.

We have never had a candidate before running for president, and certainly in the modern age, who there are serious questions about his stability.


STELTER: Hold on. Are you talking about his mental stability? What are you saying there?

BERNSTEIN: About his ability to deal with problems in a level-headed way, the problems of the kind that the presidency throws at someone.

It's not just about responding. But, again, let's look at his record.


STELTER: But I can hear Trump supporters yelling at the TV right now, saying that you and I and everybody on CNN is part of the problem. That's why Trump attacks CNN on Twitter all the time. He thinks we're relentlessly against him.

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, look at how we gave him all the airtime we have, and particularly during the period when he was seeking the nomination. And we gave him more free airtime than any candidate has received in history. We did not give Hillary Clinton equal amounts of time.

Look, I'm saying put the two of them up there next to each other in terms of their record, their lives. Do it as documentary form. And that is fair. It is -- quote -- "objective." It's what we need to be doing, because his life is the new real story and his business record.



Carl, thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. Please stick around as well. We would like to bring you back later in the hour.

Up next here, though, why so many Americans think we are unreliable sources. A new poll shows record low levels of trust of media. And guess who is taking credit for that?

We are going to talk about what reporters can do to turn it around right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) STELTER: Welcome back. I have a question for you. It's kind of


Do you trust me? Do you trust us in the media? This new data says no. This is a Gallup poll, the most depressing poll I saw this week, that shows only 32 percent of Americans say they trust the media either a great deal or somewhat.

And you can see why here in the data. Democrats, much more that they trust the mass media than Republicans. Only 14 percent of Republicans say they trust the news media this year.

Now, that number is a big drop from last year, which wasn't high to begin with. But because of the decline in trust among Republicans, the number has declined overall to record low of about 30 percent.

Now, it won't surprise you to hear that Trump is taking credit for that drop in trust.

So, I want to bring back our panel to talk more about this and, most importantly, talk about what journalists, what commentators, what we can all do in the media to get those number back up. Every day, we can either regain people's trust or lose even more of it.

Back with me, Lynn Sweet of "The Chicago Sun-Times," CNN's S.E. Cupp, and David Fahrenthold, the "Washington Post" investigative reporter who has been doing heroic work looking into Trump's foundation and charitable giving.

David, some people have said your work is Pulitzer-worthy. I know you're a humble guy. You don't want to talk about all the praise you have been getting this week.

But I want to ask you about the investigation you have been doing and how you have been doing it. Essentially, what you have been doing is going to all these charities and asking them if they have received donations from Trump.

Why are you going to the charities and not Trump directly?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I actually did go to Trump in the beginning. That's how this started.

We wanted to -- Trump says he gives tens of millions of dollars to charity out of his own pocket. But we asked him, OK, provide some proof. Show us, how much did you give? What charities did you give to?


And he won't give us that proof. And so I sort of set out to try to prove him right. And I wanted to make my search as open and as transparent as possible.

So, I made a list on some notebook paper of all the charities I thought Trump seemed the closest to, the ones that seemed most likely to get his money, if he was giving any money out. And I started calling those people and posting my results online, on Twitter.

And that's what I have tried to do, both because I want Trump to know that I'm out there looking trying to prove him right, and also because I want the public to see what I'm doing and if they have ideas to send them to me, so I can check them out.

STELTER: So you have been writing story after story.

And I wanted you to tell the behind-the-scenes story of how you have been doing this, because I think it might one small way for us to try to regain people's trust. What you're doing, David, is showing your work.

And the reaction, tell me about the reaction you have gotten from readers.

FAHRENTHOLD: It's been great, actually.

And the most important thing is that people have been reaching out to me and saying, hey, have you heard about this, have you heard about that?

For instance, this week, we're looking for a portrait, a 6-foot-tall portrait of Donald Trump that he bought himself, but used $20,000 of his charity's money to pay for. And I need to know where it is, because I need to know whether he's found some charitable use for a 6- foot-tall portrait of himself or whether he put -- hung it up in his club.

And this week, a reader on Twitter spotted another message on Facebook and sent it me that helped me track down a really important clue, which is where that painting went after Trump bought it.

STELTER: So, let me bring in Lynn and S.E. in here.

Lynn, do you think I'm being too optimistic here, or is it possible that by doing this kind of investigating and by showing our work in public in real time, we can start to win back some of the people who say they don't trust the media today?

SWEET: I don't know

But I think what I do know is that we can't stop doing the work just because we're at this all-time low. I mean, this is what Gallup called a stunning development for an institution designed to inform the public. That's what they concluded.

I was at a focus group in Alexandria on Friday night. And I asked the people there, why don't you -- or do you believe in fact-checks that the media provides?

STELTER: What did they say?


SWEET: They said -- and this is part of what we're grappling with -- well, we don't trust the media, so why would we trust what they conclude?

That shows how high the bar is now.

And, David, I commend you, because you're putting out things that we might all agree are facts. We have to respect that people don't see things the way we might, and just keep working in our craft to make our case when we have it -- and this is true of a presidential candidate down to an alderman -- to make it as simple and as airtight as possible and understandable to people with evidence which we can link to now that we have all kinds of social media.

So, I think the poll, yes, it's bad for us, but it shouldn't stop us from continuing the kind of gumshoeing that reporters always do. We have 50 days left -- and that's true for all candidates in all races -- is to keep at it and, in a sense, Brian, not worry about our own poll numbers.


STELTER: That's a good way to put it

Well, Donald Trump noticed the numbers, not surprisingly. He said he believes he is partly responsible for that decline in trust particularly among Republicans.

Let me ask you, S.E., is it dangerous, is it actually dangerous for Donald Trump to be helping undermine American institutions, even ones like the media that weren't very popular to begin with?

CUPP: Well, of course it is.

And there is always some consternation over the media every presidential election. Usually, it's Republicans griping about Democratic bias in the media, liberal bias in the media. But there is always some.

Never before, though, have we seen a candidate for president not only telling people to be skeptical of the media, but telling people to hate us as a body, as an institution.

There is no sort of nuance for the role that journalism should play. Trump doesn't understand that. He fundamentally shows over and over again he doesn't understand. I remember when he was...

STELTER: You don't think he understands, or you think it is all an act? Because when I'm with him in person...


STELTER: The one time I saw him this year, he is so kind, he is so friendly, he is so charming. You don't think he's just doing it for show?

CUPP: No, he's a charming guy.

But, no, we have seen too many reveals. He gave some charitable amount to, I think, the vets that one time, and was angry that it didn't get the coverage he wanted. He said, the media should be congratulating me.

And that is just not fundamentally the job of the media. And so to be telegraphing these impulses about the media, these almost like Trotsky era, Pravda-like ideas about how the media should treat a presidential candidate or a politician, telegraphing that to viewers, I'm not surprised that so many have taken such an unfavorable view of the media writ large, because he's really done a tremendous job turning the populace against this very necessary and important institution.


STELTER: I like to think that we are part of the central nervous system of democracy. We actually do work for the viewers, although sometimes we don't do a good job of explaining that and showing it.

So, David, let me go back to you.

What would you like to see your colleagues, even your colleagues at "The Post," do a little bit differently trying to earn back people's trust?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think we're working really hard.

The people at "The Post," as far as I know -- and I have seen this effort going on for months -- are writing about all these things that Trump says, all these things that Trump does. I think we have put a lot of it out there.

The key is to try to figure out -- and I think people are starting to do this -- what do you do when Trump says something that is not true and says it again and again and again?

And one of the interesting things that CNN has done, "The New York Times" has done, we have done the last few days, for instance, on the birther controversy, when Trump lies, we call it a lie. And that is -- there is no sort of journalistic euphemism about that. It's too obvious and it's gone on for too long.

I think you're starting to see a shift, where, before, we sort of wanted the candidate to show some shame about what they had done, so we could say it was shameful. And now you're seeing the media sort of push the candidates to higher standards and say they lied if they lied.

STELTER: That's interesting.

Lynn, where do you stand on that? When is a lie a lie? When do you call it a lie? How do you know what is in a person's heart or in their soul or in their mind?

SWEET: Well, this is not kind of a new position for me that you make the call. That's what we're paid do.

Especially once the rise of social media came, what is the value added for a professional journalist, who might have some more resources or access to information? You make the call.

And a lie -- if you think the word lie also then connotates motivation, then we could say, here is a statement that is not true. There are ways to do this. We're writers. We could figure this out.

And I think the other thing to do is very special. This is rule number one that I always see violated. Back each other up in press conferences. Do more follow-up.

STELTER: That is interesting.


You heard me earlier in this week, when Donald Trump told Dr. Oz that moving your arms is exercise, and he didn't did a follow-up question, of course that is preposterous.

And even I would invite people in other kinds of shows who have the people on, Jimmy Kimmel -- Kimmel and Fallon. It's fun. I'm not against a fun thing of tossing Donald Trump's hair or asking a lighthearted question.

But they have an opportunity to ask different kinds of questions and not just be fawning throughout the whole interview. And I think that means everybody has to just get up the game just to get more information.

And for viewers, it doesn't mean we're for or against anyone. I'm a strong advocate of just getting more facts out, even if it just means asking Clinton and Trump where they buy their clothes. You will learn a little bit about a person from answers like that.

So we should use these opportunities, back each other up, break down questions, and when need be confront in the follow-up question, this is not true, sir, and then see what they say.

CUPP: Well, and, Brian, just as a follow-up to Lynn's excellent point of backing each other up, Trump over the course of this campaign has banned a number of media outlets from press conferences or coverage.

In my ideal world of courage, if you are a similar media outlet, maybe you say then we're not going to cover you either. I know that is wishful thinking in the days of, well, if we can get an opportunity that someone else can't, but that I think would really send a message that you don't get to silence the press.

If you silence one of us, you silence all of us. And that's the danger that people need to understand when they look at Trump's actions.

STELTER: And, obviously, if Clinton or Obama or anything else were doing the same thing, maybe the same rules would apply.

CUPP: Right.

STELTER: Real quick, David, before we let you go, because "The Washington Post" was blacklisted until a couple of weeks ago, along with Politico, Univision and other outlets, has the relaxing of the blacklist helped you get more information from the Trump campaign?

FAHRENTHOLD: No, not at all.

I got no information before and I basically get no information now. One of the things I have tried to do to react is, I have started posting the questions I send them on Twitter, so people can see the questions that I asked and didn't get answered.

I do that because I don't want them to be able to take the things that they should have told me and then give it to other media as a way of saying that I didn't ask them for the right questions. So I want to show my work in that way as well to show kind of the responses I'm not getting.

STELTER: And there is one of the examples on screen.

David, Lynn, S.E., thank you all for being here this morning. Great talking with you.

SWEET: Thank you.


STELTER: And one more note about the campaigns and their willingness or unwillingness to answer questions, it is the first rule of campaign coverage, that journalists should always want more access and politicians almost always want to give less.

But Trump really revised that rule, giving hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of interviews in the 15 months since he's been a presidential candidate.

But I think it's high time to distinguish between the present and the past.


Listen to these disingenuous comments from "FOX & Friends" earlier this month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump has talked to the press over and over and over.

But if you look at the press conference, the number of minutes they have spent with the press, like actually standing there and taking questions, he spent four hours and 38 minutes this year talking to the press answering questions because he wants to be transparent.



And he -- and the Trump number does not include hours that he's appeared on network television answering questions as well.



STELTER: Now, it is true that Trump used to give interviews constantly. And much of his campaign was premised on constant media exposure.

But I said was, because it's no longer the case. Trump supporters are still arguing that he's more accessible than Hillary Clinton. And he is still giving interviews to friendly outlets like "FOX & Friends" there or "Hannity."

In fact, he has another "Hannity" town hall coming up this week. But Trump is ducking most interview requests from serious reporters. He's been turning down Sunday shows like "Meet the Press." He's not been subjected to many real interviews since the middle of the summer.

So, when you notice he's on FOX, when you notice he's appearing on FOX all the time, rallying up his base, you should also notice what he's not doing and how he's not as accessible as his surrogates say he is.

Now, we could say the same about Hillary Clinton. It's important for her to continue to grant interviews as well. Now, she didn't have press conferences for the better part of a year, and lately she has been taking more questions from reporters. Hopefully, that will continue.

But as we mentioned earlier in the show here, it's been almost two months since Donald Trump held a press conference. Both these candidates still deserve to answer and should be answering more questions from reporters.

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, moments away from a press conference about last night's explosion in New York City. We're going to keep an eye on the event. It's about to start. And we will take it live.

In the meantime, we will talk about how the media is handling this latest story, whether there's an overreaction happening. We will get to that in a moment.



STELTER: Welcome back.

Twenty-nine people injured overnight and scores of questions now left unanswered. In New York City, 23rd Street, where there was an explosion around 8:30 p.m., now the investigation under way, and we're standing by for a press conference from the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Let me briefly bring back Carl Bernstein. And also joining us here, Errol Louis of New York One and a CNN commentator -- political analyst as well.

Thank you both for being here.

Errol, I want to get your sense of this story as a New Yorker. How do we keep perspective when our media culture makes things seem to big, so loud, so scary in a situation like this?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's very much a challenge.

I think people would be -- I almost wish you could bottle it and sort of share it with other people the way real New Yorkers act when something like this happens.

In part, we're a little bit shell-shocked, because we have had so much trauma, between Hurricane Sandy, the two World Trade Center attacks, and on and on and on.

But the reality is, if you're living in a city with constant spectacle, whether it's a positive or a negative spectacle, people figure out that -- after a while, that their lives are not necessarily going to be completely knocked off balance.


STELTER: I'm sorry to interrupt.

I was going to say to Carl, I guess the point is, it's about reacting, but not overreacting to these sorts of threats.

BERNSTEIN: I watched both CNN and MSNBC last night, and I thought that both did a terrific job.

The anchors -- Don Lemon was terrific in putting it into perspective and saying, hey, let's keep calm about all this.

I think this is usually when we're at our best, especially cable news. We have a lot of reporters. They go in the street. They do basic police reporting. They talk about what's going on.

This story has a little bit of an added dimension in a political reaction by the presidential candidates. But I'm not going to sit here and be critical of what we have done on this story for a minute. I think it's been restrained and really good.

STELTER: Same word that applies to the political coverage, proportionality.

Gentlemen, I'm out of time here, but thank you for being here.

Stay tuned to CNN. After the break, Jake Tapper continues our coverage of this story with this press conference in New York.

Stay tuned.