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Media Bias or Trump Working the Refs?; Donald Trump's Gettysburg Address; AT&T to Buy CNN Parent Company Time Warner. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 23, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:05] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for "RELIABLE SOURCES", our weekly look at the story behind the story, with how the media really works, how the news gets made.

A special welcome to the viewers here in the United States and around the world on CNN International.

We have just 16 days to go until the American Election Day, so, today we're asking are journalists writing Trump's campaign obituary way too prematurely?

Plus, the stress of this election. The toll it's taking on viewers and reporters. We're going to talk about it all with a psychiatrist.

And we have something really special for you -- a new way to examine trust in media. We convened this focus group in Nevada and you've got to see the results.

And later, this weekend's big news right here at CNN. AT&T buying CNN's parent company, Time Warner. I have something to say about news independence later this hour.

But, first, the media loves nothing more than a good comeback story. But right now, it's hard to find one. ABC and "The Washington Post" are out this morning with a brand-new poll that must make Donald Trump just cringe. It shows a 12-point gap, Hillary Clinton at 50 percent, Trump at 38 percent among likely voters.

Remember, the best way to inter interpret polls is averaging all of the reliable ones tighter. Not just looking at one, but all of them. And that's what CNN's poll of poll does. It shows Clinton with a nine-point lead nationwide.

Now, Trump has been hinting that he doesn't believe the polls and he's been railing against media bias in the final stage of the campaign.

But how is this anything more than the team that thinks it's losing trying to work the refs?

Let's ask Sean Spicer. He's the communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee.

Sean, I want to ask you about that ABC/"Washington Post" poll. Do you believe the poll data we're seeing showing Trump almost uniformly behind Clinton?

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, there's no question. I think we're trailing behind, but I think we got the wind in our back heading into the final two weeks. The momentum is with Trump, the enthusiasm is with Trump, and I think that's what's going to propel us to victory in November.

STELTER: Where do you see signs of that, of the momentum?

SPICER: Oh, North Carolina and Florida in particular. If you look at the returns in Florida, we're up in terms of absentee ballot and absentee ballot returns by 2 percent, and we're up over 9 percent in North Carolina. When you look where we were four years ago in terms of early vote, we're up 20,000 more than we were in Iowa. We're 40,000 in Ohio. We're up in Nevada in terms of where we were historically four years ago.

So, in each one of the areas, you look at where we were and where we are now, huge momentum in our favor. And I think again, the interesting thing about this map versus four years ago are states like Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, states that Obama won twice. Trump is in them to win them, and I think that's a very different map than it was four years ago. It's actually more expansive than it was when we did this four years ago.

STELTER: Most experts would say that the Clinton trail has many paths to 270. Trump has a very narrow path. Would you agree with that assessment?

SPICER: Sure. But I think we said that four years ago. We've known that all along. When you've got big states like New York and California in your column at the beginning, we've got smaller Midwest states and areas that aren't as universally Republican. So, we've got to go and win that vote.

But I think, again, you've got to keep it in context. We've actually expanded the map this cycle, whereas -- so, they are on defense in states that Obama carried twice.

STELTER: Let me ask you about what you believe is media bias. We were talking earlier this morning and you say there is evidence of this all over the place.

Isn't this just working, just complaining about the coverage, sort of a way to work the refs in the final weeks of the campaign?

SPICER: No, I think there's a difference between complaining and explaining. I think for viewers at home, it's what goes on and what has been going on in the media is frankly a disservice, and in many cases, just frankly appalling. How it's been covered --

STELTER: In what ways?

SPICER: As you pointed out -- hold on -- because I think at the beginning you pointed out most of the reporters, if you look at the Twitter feeds, they have become unbelievable activists against Trump. They may not like him but the degree to which they're helping Hillary is unbelievable.

Look at the Twitter feeds of most of these journalists, whether it's "The New York Times" or "Politico", look at some of the revelations that have come out over the last couple weeks that come through the leaked e-mails in terms of the collusion that's gone on some of these reports where they are cheering on Hillary Clinton or they're providing them copies of their story to edit or review. It is unbelievable.

And then the idea that folks in the media go, oh, you're just playing the refs. That's not playing the refs. That's calling out fouls. That's calling strikes and balls.

When people in the media who are supposed to be reporting the facts start becoming activists for a particular candidate, that deserves to be called out.

You look at panels that get put on different networks, it's one anti- Trump person after another, you know, and they put on a Republican but they're against Trump and so they call it a balanced panel.

When was the last time a panel had a Democrat that wasn't for Hillary on it? I haven't seen one this cycle.


[11:05:01] STELTER: There is a lot more unity in the Democratic Party than there is in the Republican Party, though. There are a lot of anti-Trump Republicans.

SPICER: There's a lot of -- but I bumped into plenty of Bernie Sanders supporters, millennials, minorities, who are lifelong Democrats that aren't going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Yet, we never hear or see them about. Every story and every --


STELTER: That's a false equivalency, though.

I mean -- well, let me play what Donald Trump said about WikiLeaks, because I only want to put this in context about what you're seeing is collusion. Here's something that Trump said on the campaign trail last night.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: WikiLeaks shows the media colluding and conspiring directly with the Clinton campaign. E-mails even show the Clintons boasting gleefully about very friendly and malleable reporters.


STELTER: Here is where I take issue that. Don't you think if there was a hack by a foreign government or by anybody into the Trump campaign or into the RNC, you'd find a lot of e-mails from friendly reporters? I mean, Sean, I've sent you some pretty friendly e-mails over the years.

SPICER: You sent some friendly emails like happy birthday, how are you, good job, but I don't get debate questions. I haven't gotten into edit stories from folks. I mean, you got look -- there is a different between a friendly e-mailing collusion --


STELTER: People are saying collusion --


STELTER: They're picking and choosing a few examples of stupid journalists.

SPICER: But I don't have a few examples.

STELTER: And claiming it's a conspiracy.

SPICER: No, I mean, I think again, look at -- there is several. Look at the amount of time that you guys give Evan McMullin and Gary Johnson versus Jill Stein. Jill Stein has been nonexistent. And she still has 5 and 6 percent.

You guys don't want to cover people on the left the way you do on the right. You want to make sure that more people are giving time --


STELTER: But that's an interesting point, especially about Evan McMullin, right? He's really only competitive in one state right now, in Utah. So, you're saying the media is tilting the playing field by boosting up Trump's opponents.

SPICER: You boost the opponents. You put on people on panels. You know, no one has asked NBC how did that "Access Hollywood" tape that only NBC had copies of it. How did that actually get out? Has anybody asked NBC that? Has anybody --


STELTER: Sean, we know we've been -- we've been begging for information about that. You know that.

SPICER: Where is the story, Brian? Where is the story on it? Where is the story?

Every time Donald Trump makes a comment, every Republican up and down the ballot including here at the RNC asked to comment on Donald Trump's leak. When was the last time someone was asked on the record to comment about Hillary Clinton's disclosures, whether how she handled classified information, whether or not they believe she's fit to serve because of how she handled classified information? When was the question how risky she is as a candidate, whether it's her failed Russian reset, how she handled Libya? How she handled Syria? There are questions about Hillary Clinton's fitness for office that never get asked of any other Democrat. And I think it's a very tilted thing.

Those -- that's not complaining. That's not working the refs. That's making sure people understand when they tune into their television or go online to a main stream media source whether it's "The New York Times" or "Politico", that they need to understand that they are getting a very bias, one-sided activist journalist view of this race.

STELTER: There's a lot to think about here and I appreciate you being here this morning. Thank you, Sean.

SPICER: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: For another perspective on this, let me bring in a legendary journalist, Dan Rather, a former news anchor of "The CBS Evening News", now the host of AXS TV's "The Big Interview".

Dan, you've seen it all when it comes to presidential elections. Do you think the media playing field is tilted in Clinton's favor? Has there been an anti-Trump bias from the many journalists who actually do privately fear Donald Trump?

DAN SPICER, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR, CBS EVENING NEWS: Well, there's some of all of that. One cannot say that there had been no media bias. Of course, there has been some media bias. What wasn't discussed in your conversation with Sean, a gentleman I happen to like a lot, was Trump's bias against the media. But --

STELTER: Does that make the right to challenge --

SPICER: No, no, it does not make it right. Look, journalism is not a precise science. It's at its best is a crude art. Is there some bias? Yes, there is some bias. Has some of it been not consistent with traditional journalistic values? Of course, that's true. But seeing it as a whole, seeing in context and with some perspective, what you're hearing is a classic whining to the referees when things don't seem to be going your way.

And I don't -- I don't think this is frankly an argument that gets very far with independent and swing voters. I think it may play very well to Trump's base voters but I don't think it plays very well with infinite swing voters. But we're about to find out.

One of the things I agree with the Republican leadership and Trump's leadership is that the election is not over. You speak of bias, bias that set in that the election is over.

STELTER: The people think we know what's going to happen.

SPICER: How much? I agree that's the way to put it. But this narrow path we talked to before is something real. If you get -- if it turns out there are a lot of silent voters who don't show up in the polls and they show up in very strong numbers, particularly the number of white voters, particularly white men is exceptionally high, and if you get a lot of traditional Democrats, so-called blue collars, swing to Donald Trump, he could win.

[11:10:10] I'm not saying he will win. I'm saying it's still possible he could win and all this talk about sweep for Hillary Clinton and so- called mandate is way premature. I'm reminded of the old saying in Texas and Louisiana, "Don't taunt the alligator until after you cross the creek." I think the Clinton people may be making that mistake of sort of -- mixing metaphors here -- dancing in the end zone before the game is over.

STELTER: So, what you're saying, Dan, is stay tuned?

RATHER: Definitely stay tuned.

STELTER: So, stay with me. Let's all stay tuned.

Let's take a quick break and lots more to talk about, including talking about moderates versus Trump's base. Is his appeal to his base a pitch for his own TV network?

Find out what his campaign CEO told me about the prospect of Trump TV, right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

I was billed as a historic speech in Gettysburg. Donald Trump following in the steps of footsteps of Lincoln, urging Americans to heal the divisions in the country.

But then Trump again claimed falsely that the elections are totally rigged. And he vowed to sue the women who have accused him of sexual assault or impropriety.

[11:15:03] So let's bring back Dan Rather, the former "CBS Evening News" anchor and host of AXS TV, and bring in Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at "The Federalist" and Jane Hall, a professor at the American University School of Communications.

Jane, what was your take away from this Gettysburg address?

JANE HALL, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATIONS: You know, one of the things I find so interesting I Donald Trump apparently cannot help but reveal who he is. He goes to Gettysburg, one of the sites of one of the great battles and American political speeches to talk about divisiveness and policy and then he launches into "I'm going to sue" all of the women who have come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct and he talked about how the elections are rigged, which is very bad for the country and also I think he railed against the media.

We need to listen to why people think we're bias but he has stoked those fires. He wasn't off message. That is his message and I just find it so interesting that even when he tries to do something else, he still cannot help revealing some aspects of himself that I think are very troubling. STELTER: Mollie, let me ask you about a refrain of the election, the

media takes Trump literally but not seriously, while voters take Trump seriously but not literally. Do you believe that's what happened with his talked about rigged election that the elites have overreacted to it but voters understand what he's talking about?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: Yes, this is a brilliant insight that's been out there for a little while, about the difference in how the media listens to Donald Trump versus the way his message resonates with average voters, and this is just the latest good example of that. He tagged that's actually quite common rhetoric on the left and "The Washington Free Beacon" had a great super cut showing President Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton herself all talking about when the systems are rigged, the media didn't flip out when they said that systems are rigged. They just wait until Donald Trump says it and then they act like it's completely confusing and over the top rhetoric.

And in fact, voters kind of hear that and they say that's why they like his message. He's talking about the government being rigged, the economy being rigged. You know, our economic plans being rigged and this is something that really is underlying his message and I do want to point out --

STELTER: But there is a difference between claiming widespread voter fraud and saying the system is rigged against a common person. Trump alleged widespread voter fraud.

HEMINGWAY: So again, I think, you know, it's more -- what's interesting about it is the media reaction it. He says something and the media just go apoplectic with rage. NPR actually did a great segment this weekend showing that in fact this type of rhetoric is not unheard of, it's been in place throughout our country's history. We've had very few elections that weren't seriously contested and the republic survives.

And this is -- this is something the media should calm down rather than act like everything he says is so crazy. If they want to report why they think it's disconcerting, go ahead and do that. But it's just an over the top reaction that is not matched by similarly alarming things that Hillary Clinton says and people can see that.

HALL: That's just not true. It's not only the media, it's people who are dissidents in China, people who lived in countries where people say they're going to put their opponent in jail. This is not a media reaction.

I agree with you that Bernie Sanders talked about a rigged economic system. That is different from treating the results of this election like some kind of reality show, he's going to keep you in suspense about. It's not the same thing.

STELTER: So, let's take this to Election Day. Let's talk about November 8th. Let's talk about what's going to happen, Dan, at 11:00 p.m. or whatever time the networks are ready to call this race. You've been in the seat. What is the role a journalist can play in

helping the country accept the results once the decision desks are confident in the results?

DAN RATHER, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR, CBS EVENING NEWS: Well, first of all, the role of the anchor is to be an honest broker of information and to get as close to the truth as is humanly possible. And on election night, when it's clear, if it's clear that Hillary Clinton has been the winner, I would I think that every anchor reveals some responsibility to say it not so directly.

These charges that Donald Trump is throwing out about a "rigged election", quote/unquote, ridiculous, untrue, and dangerous. It's very important that people have confidence in the electoral system. It's ridiculous to say all of these good people who work at polling places, who work in gathering the votes are somehow part of a rigged system.

STELTER: You're saying he's insulting the volunteers and the lawyers and people that run the system.

RATHER: Well, absolutely and some of his own people in Ohio manage in charge of making sure that the voters are as honest as possible, who is a Trump supporter, has said in effect that this is not true.

We talked earlier about some bias. It's not reporter bias when something is untrue, patently untrue and ridiculous and dangerous, the press's role is to say so. And then when running the kind of campaign Donald Trump is running, you shout bias.

But, you know, what the country needs is a flicker of -- a candle of hope and unity, and Trump has cast himself as a divider, quite honestly in my opinion, never worked very much -- if he had taken a different tact in the campaign, he might be closer in the polls to Hillary Clinton right now.

[11:20:09] But, look, the American people -- I have great confidence in the American people. They understand that this system is not rigged. Yes, there is a certain segment of the Trump core support that's going to believe that. But all the more to say that what we need is hope and unity, not a division.

STELTER: Let me turn from November 8th to November 9th, the day after the election. Many people think Trump is paving the way to Trump TV, a post election network or streaming service, Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon was on the same flight as me to the debate. So, I caught up with him on the way to baggage claim and he told me and Brooke Baldwin, well, he wouldn't deny the rumors. He told us, Trump is an entrepreneur.

And then Hillary Clinton's campaign press secretary seems to agree. After the debate on Wednesday, Clinton aide Brian Fallon said, "Trump's appeal to the base could be a strategy for creating a nice base of consumers, customers to monetize the television network."

Molly, Trump's aides have charged this is an attempt to suppress the vote, to talk about Trump TV as a way to discourage Trump voters. How do you see it?

HEMINGWAY: I couldn't possibly understand what the Trump people are thinking about starting another network. But what I'm concerned about again is how the media are kind of pushing people in this direction.

We have historic lows of trust in the media, of approval ratings for the media, people don't feel like they are able to watch different networks or read different papers and get actual news and that is pushing people into these further ghettos. And we already have a problem with the ghettoization of media, and I think that's very bad for our republic that we need to have standards we uphold across different journalistic lines and both on left and right, and now corrupting the mainstream media. We can't trust the media.

And that is causing a total break down in people's ability to trust institutions. And so, if the media really do care about the problem of rhetoric, about rigged elections and whatnot, they should redoubling their efforts to be calm and to report the news.


HEMINGWAY: You know, rather than tell people what to think, they should just report actual facts and give people a fair shake, try to understand different view points, and scrutinize both candidates.

It's not bad to scrutinize Donald Trump, he's gotten that. That's great. We have also a historically problematic candidate for the Democratic Party, and she's just getting a pass left and right. When people see that, that makes them feel like they don't need to waste time with traditional media institutions and that's bad.

STELTER: Jane, briefly your thoughts on Trump TV. It might not be journalism but to the right of FOX News. FOX had a great week with Chris Wallace moderating this debate. A huge moment for the network.

Do you think Trump TV network would make a bad, politically polarized country worse?

HALL: Well, I think that she would -- he would be reaching the people who are probably maybe even critical of FOX News. I mean, the alt right, he could do something online or do something with Facebook live or do something attached to his Twitter feed. He wouldn't have to start another network.

I think one of the things that will be interesting is to see what happens with FOX, which is doing very well but also trying to figure out what happens to FOX during the post-Ailes era. Would he drive in further to the right?

I think it would be very interesting to see. It wouldn't cost a lot of money. He doesn't have to go create a whole other network and get cable coverage, which would be a big deal to do.

STELTER: That is the big question. Jane, Mollie, thank you both for being here. And, Dan, while I have you on, I wanted to ask you briefly about the documentary coming out November 1st. It's about Trump's America, that the anger out there, you know, Steve Bannon said to me, what the media doesn't understand is the anger at these rallies. Is that what you experienced going into these rallies exploring them?

RATHER: Yes, we went to dozens of rallies and what this report and this documentary premieres next Tuesday night at 9:00 in Eastern time zone is trying to understand the rise of Trump. How Trump happened. How he came to such prominence, why it happened and why you should care about it and you should care about it?

Because I'm of the school of thought that overwhelmingly, the people who support Trump are good Americans, they're hard-working people. Yes, there is a fringe element but that always happens with such movements. But these are good people and so convinced that there's got to be dramatic change that they even in many cases just hold their nose and say, listen, I'm for Trump.

This documentary seeks to point to people that once the election is over on November 9th, you mentioned, 38 or 40 percent of the people roughly speaking are going to have voted for Trump and how we pull ourselves together, how we reduce this polarization --


RATHER: -- is part of what this documentary is about. It begins with understanding why good people have -- are so angry and so afraid that Trump will get 38 to 40 percent of the vote.

STELTER: Dan, great to see you. Thank you for being here.

RATHER: Great seeing you always. Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks to all our panelists this morning.

Coming up next, the media -- is it prematurely writing Trump's obit? We're going to ask ABC's Matthew Dowd right after this break.


[11:29:00] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

It's often been said the media loves nothing more than a horse race, a tight race because -- well, we have a bias towards conflict, towards something happening, a story. But, you know, right now, we're about two weeks before Election Day, and the dominant narrative from the press is actually not about a horse race at all. It's about how -- well, Hillary Clinton is far ahead of Trump and has already talked about Trump's campaign being over.



REBECCA BERG, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Certainly, he's at a stage where he's needing emotionally, personally, to confront the possibility that he could lose this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With just three weeks to go here, he finds himself in a fair amount of trouble.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Trump is most likely headed to lose this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presidential race will be preordained and the only battle will be over the Senate and the House.


STELTER: I think this is a really interesting situation for cable news and for journalists to be in. Some journalists feel Trump squanders opportunity, others feel his candidacy is reverted back to what it was in the first place, a joke.

But are reporters, are commentators getting ahead of themselves?


Let's ask ABC News chief political analyst and former Bush-Cheney adviser Matthew Dowd. He's joining me now here in New York.

Matthew, we just heard Dan Rather saying this race is not over, people should be careful about that.

Your message, though, has been, Clinton had a steady lead all along and that, absent, I believe you said, a political meteor, Clinton is going to win a very similar victory to Obama in 2008.

What's the right tone for journalists to be striking trying to keep both these things in mind?

MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER BUSH CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, I think the right starting point is to tell the truth, right, to say actually what is going on, instead of invent some scenario that creates some other media point of focus in there.

STELTER: Do you see that happen sometimes, journalists trying to make up a horse race that doesn't exist?

DOWD: Well, I said a couple weeks ago, I have watched this race since June, and the race basically has traded between a two-point Hillary lead and seven-point Hillary lead the entire time. It's been between those things.

That's actually a significant lead in a country that's very polarized. I have seen journalists who actually say the race is too close to call, it's too tight, in order to feed a narrative and they can cover a close race.

I think the problem with that in this environment, why I think I want to speak out and say, yes, it's not over, but it's a definite Hillary advantage and she's most likely going to win it, is that there is a number of voters out there, if you tell them that it's too close to call, and all of a sudden they show up on Election Day and it's a six- or seven- or an eight-point race, they actually are going to distrust the system less.

STELTER: They are going to believe Trump's claim about a rigged election.

DOWD: Yes.

And when Donald Trump points to one or two polls that are outlier polls saying it's too close to call, or his campaign management tries to convince his voters that he's really competitive in the course of this race, it actually feeds the narrative that on election night, if he loses, then they believe the system is rigged.

STELTER: Let's talk about election night. You said on Twitter this week that Paul Ryan should come out and give a speech. Assuming Trump might not give a concession speech, why should Paul Ryan come out and speak the same night as Clinton?

DOWD: Well, I love this country and I'm a huge believer in this country and I'm a total independent now. And I have fault in both political parties in this. Somebody needs to take over for the GOP as the designated driver on election night and take the car keys away from Donald Trump.

STELTER: Do you think Trump won't come out to the cameras and concede if he does lose?

DOWD: I think that the words Donald Trump will utter will not do anything to help heal the country.

And we need leaders on election night that will help heal this rift in our country or begin to heal. It is going to take awhile to do that. I think Paul Ryan or somebody else needs to step up and give a speech that says we may have our differences, and assuming Hillary Clinton is likely to win, that I'm going to work with Hillary Clinton, we're going to help bring this country together, we're going to move ourselves forward.

That kind of speech needs to happen on election night, and I have grave doubts that Donald Trump can give that speech.

STELTER: It says something about the stability of the race that here we are 16 days before Election Day talking about election night and gaming out the scenarios involving whether Trump will speak and what he will say and whether Paul Ryan should speak for him.

DOWD: Well, I think, having run campaigns and been involved in a number of campaigns and having joined George Bush's race in 2000 and 2004, I think many times the races are covered too tactically and not broadly enough in the moments.

The series of important moments in this campaign have passed. And the last one passed in the debate. What is going forward now is either an unexpected thing that breaks.

STELTER: A meteor.

DOWD: Yes, that happens, and, all of a sudden, wow, that is shocking, I didn't know where that came from. And those do happen. George Bush's DWI in the final three days was an effect in the race in 2000.

But absent those things, the tactical elements of this campaign are not going to adjust this. Who gives a speech where and what they say here, even though everybody wants to cover it and all that, is not going to fundamentally the opinion of 140 million Americans.

STELTER: Some great context for us as we watch the last 16 days of all this coverage, the nonstop coverage that will suddenly end in a couple weeks.

DOWD: And we all love our country and we want it to heal.

STELTER: Matthew, great to see you. Thank you.

DOWD: You, too, man. You, too.

STELTER: Coming up here after the break, something I have been looking forward to doing all year long.

Since America's trust in the media is at historic lows, what do people want to see changed? I spoke with a focus group to find out, and we will show you the answers right after this.



STELTER: Welcome back.

Donald Trump is waging two wars the same time, a campaign against Hillary Clinton and a campaign against what he calls the dishonest, crooked media. And his attacks are sort of working.

A recent Gallup poll showed Americans' trust in the media at historic lows, and Republicans' confidence in particular the lowest it's been in 20 years.

For journalists, this is incredibly alarming. Politicians have been railing against the media, running against the media for decades, but Trump's assault is unique. He's been undermining the press really completely, rejecting the notion of journalism. And according to those polls, it has inflicted some damage.

So we wanted to ask people just like you, viewers at home, what you think about the media. We wanted to find out not from experts, talking heads on TV, but from real voters.

I spent some time with 20 participants in a focus group right after the third and final debate in Las Vegas. The responses, they might surprise you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: Wildly speaking, do you all trust the media, hands up? So,

less than half. And distrust the news media, hands up.


STELTER: So you can see there more than half of the participants say they distrust us. Why is that? They echo a lot of the feedback I hear via social media and e-mail. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is not enough honesty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the truth? You know, there is absolutely no substance and it's disappointing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a lot of things are taken out of context.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just stick with the facts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people that are supposed to be news anchors give their opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're a reporter, report and let me make my own decision. I shouldn't know what you think, especially politically.


STELTER: Now, I drilled down a little bit deeper. I wanted to ask, what are the media's biggest flaws in your minds?

A common theme was that there is not enough honesty. The reporters are showing bias, when people just want the facts.

So, then I asked a harder question. If you were in charge of CNN or if you were in charge of "The New York Times," what would you do differently?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to tell the whole perspective, not just one side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're showing all the bad. What about all the good that is being done out there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The thing I would change would be to make sure that things were balanced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would get better analysts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would try to instill accountability for doing your own research.

STELTER: So you're putting it on the consumer.


STELTER: You're saying it's not all the fault of the news media. It's the fault of the reader or the listener.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's up to me to decide are they telling the truth, are they slanting it?


STELTER: Another term is news literacy, that we all have to be literate when reading and watching the news to understand what we're consuming.

Now, what about the people who do trust the media? I thought their answers were just as interesting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I totally trust the media.

STELTER: Totally.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the complete reverse experience than everybody here, I guess.

I watch everything. I watch "NEW DAY" all the way to the 11th hour.

STELTER: Is your secret a well-rounded meal, a well-balanced diet, you're getting lots of different news sources?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fort most part, they report things as they are and try not to be too slanted one way or the other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where else do we get news from? We didn't have Internet in the '70s and '80s, when I grew up. We didn't have that. So, we watched the news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people I know rely more on the Internet than, let's say, cable news. And social media-wise, that scares me more than watching anything on TV.


STELTER: Hmm. The Internet changed everything when it comes to media consumption in the past 20 years.

The bottom line is that there a divide among the American people. And you could see it right here in the focus group. Some of it is along party lines, with many people who are more willing to consider Trump as president more willing to believe his conspiracy theory about the media being a big part of the problem, about the media helping to rig the election. Check out this answer.


STELTER: Do you all feel like your friends, your family members, your friends on Facebook are living in alternate realities now because of the rise of the Internet? Do you all feel like you can't agree on the facts? Raise of hands.


STELTER: So that right there is the fundamental problem we face as journalists, that a lot of the audience members, a lot of our readers and viewers do not believe they can trust what we're sharing. And they don't even believe what they see on the Facebook feeds. They think their friends and family are living in alternate realities.

So, I think that focus group presents some of the challenges the media faces.

I would love to hear what you think, whether you agree with our focus group members, whether you disagree. Send me a message on Twitter or Facebook. My handle is @BrianStelter. And I will be looking at your thoughts right after the program today.

When we come back here on RELIABLE SOURCES, talking about the effects of this election. Many of the focus group members said they have been stressed out by this campaign. And they are not alone. As journalists become targets, we will look at the issue of confirmation bias right after the break.



STELTER: Take a look at this American Psychological Association survey. It recently conducted its annual Stress in America survey and found that 52 percent of those surveyed feel this election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives.

But how is this affecting viewers and journalists?

Let's ask Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and host of the podcast "The Power of Different."

Dr. Saltz, is this election different than all the others? Are people feeling it more, and then how does that affect them?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Absolutely. People are definitely more stressed this election cycle than I have

certainly ever seen before, but I think than surveys show has ever been seen before.

The reasons are that we are so polarized, that the messaging is so vehement and so catastrophizing, as though this is sort of the end of the Earth in certain kinds of ways. And it's so interruptive for relationships. People are arguing with people in their circle, with people at work and arguing via social media. It feels like we're having a minute-to-minute fight. And that raises people's anxiety levels tremendously.

STELTER: Let me share a tweet on screen from someone that really -- this really stood out to me about what this means for victims of sexual assault.

This person said: "It's sad that the road to the likely first woman president has been paved with reminders all the ways we're demeaned, assaulted, objectified."

Does this coverage, all this saturation coverage of what Trump has said about women and what he has said -- what these accusers said about his alleged treatment of them, does it affect victims of sexual assault or harassment in unique ways we need to pay attention to?

SALTZ: Possibly yes.

People who have had trauma in the past are much more likely to feel the traumatic effects again later if they are brought up in a certain kind of way and especially if they rehash and are put in front of them constantly.

Add to that the idea that they wouldn't believed, and you will definitely have more of a response, more of a traumatic response, anxiety, not sleeping, nightmares. So, yes, I would say for people who have had that experience -- and, unfortunately, there are many women who have -- this could be an issue.

STELTER: We're hearing women and men say they just can't watch it anymore. The ratings for all these channels are still very high, and yet there's a lot of people saying online they just can't take it anymore.

SALTZ: Right.

Brian, I hope they mean it, because while people should stay informed, the antidote, so to speak, is not be having it 24/7 in front of your face. So, yes, know what is going on, but you don't have to follow your Twitter feed minute to minute in order to know what is going on.


STELTER: My wife will love that you just said that. Put away the Twitter feed for an hour.

SALTZ: Yes. What that is serving to do is to actually keep your anxiety level

very, very high. And you don't have moments of time to let it recede, to go take a walk, get involved with your kids, do something that has nothing to do with this and look away for a little while.

STELTER: What about the journalists who cover this campaign every day? We can show some video of CNN's Jim Acosta sort of being accosted verbally by some Trump campaign ralliers the other day out on the campaign trail. What do you say to journalists who have to deal with this every day on both sides, on all sides of this election?

SALTZ: Right.

Well, journalists have always been on the front lines, if you think about it, to any sort of traumatic situation, if they are doing war coverage, if they are doing anything that's dangerous, if they're in the eye of the hurricane, et cetera.


So they are in the eye of the hurricane of this unusual political election, where there is potential violence, where there's at least a verbal abuse. And that obviously makes a problematic situation for some journalists.

I would say that some media outlets need to rotate their journalists, so that one person is not always the one on the front lines, so that they have breaks and reprieves.

STELTER: And, finally, I have 30 seconds left.

What should we know about confirmation bias, the idea that when we fact-check Trump or Clinton, the people that support that candidate actually believe the lie even more?

SALTZ: The problem is this is an unconscious process.

And so people only take in the information that comes through the prism of what they already think. And then they are reinforced for that by their own brains. The best scenario would be if media outlets would all present both sides.

But when that doesn't happen, people tend to only tune in to what they want to hear. And because it's unconscious, they don't even realize they are doing it. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot to do about confirmation bias.

What people can do about their anxiety is go vote, is get involved in the election on the local level, because doing things makes you actually -- that you feel that are helpful makes you feel less anxious.

STELTER: Sixteen days.

Dr. Saltz, thank you for being here.

SALTZ: My pleasure.

STELTER: Great to see you.

And up next here, the biggest deal of the year, AT&T buying CNN's parent company, Time Warner, what this means for you and for CNN, after a short break.



STELTER: This network, CNN, is about to have a new owner.

Last night, AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner in an $85 billion deal, the single biggest media merger of the decade.

Time Warner includes CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS, Turner Sports, HBO, and the Warner Bros. studio. So, this is a big deal in more ways than one.

And it's sure to be heavily scrutinized in Washington. The experts I have interviewed believe it will eventually receive regulatory approval.

So, for a moment, let's consider what it means to own the news.

AT&T's roots go all the way back to the advent of the telephone, 1876. AT&T is a lot of things. It's one of the biggest public companies in the world, the second biggest wireless provider in the U.S. and a company with an ability to see around the corner to what is next.

Check this out. This is a 1993 AT&T commercial previewing the future. And, as you watch, remember, this is from 1993.


NARRATOR: Have you ever watched the movie you wanted to the minute you wanted to? Learned special things?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's all taken from jazz. Now, any questions?

NARRATOR: From faraway places.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So where did jazz come from?


NARRATOR: Or touch your baby from a phone booth? You will.


STELTER: Look at that, on demand for online class, video calling.

AT&T saw it coming and helped make it happen. But up until now, AT&T has never been in the news business. And news is unique. Owning news is special and sometimes really difficult.

Owners like AT&T need to understand the news business and invest in it, but most of all respect journalistic independence.

Owning a news division, a worldwide news organization, means you employ people who are in harm's way, journalists in conflict zones who need to know they have the support of the owner. A news division means you face legal threats and even sometimes subpoenas. It means people stand up at your shareholder meetings and accuse you of bias.

It means scrutinize your donating and your corporate lobbying. Sometimes, it even means protesters outside your headquarters.

But if that's the negative, here's the positive. News divisions have a special place in people's lives. And that is something to be really proud of. At its best, CNN is a public service. Think about election night. Think about the millions of people who will tune in to CNN on election night and trust what the anchors say.

That's why ownership matters, trust. Viewers need to trust that corporations are not interfering with the news. This is why journalists get a little queasy seeing ABC News' morning news promote its parent company Disney's theme parks.

This is why there was so much criticism when NBC found out that -- that vulgar "Access Hollywood" tape of Trump talking with Billy Bush, but then sat on that tape for several days, until it was leaked to "The Washington Post."

Product integrations are fine on the entertainment side, but now more than ever, we need to protect the news side. Trust in the news media is already too low and it's not going to get any better if AT&T meddles in the news.

Here's an example. When studies come out showing that Verizon has better mobile service than AT&T, the bosses should not be calling the editors here and trying to squash the story.

The good news is, right now, I have no reason to believe AT&T will do that. I have been doing some reporting on this deal all weekend long. And my sense is that AT&T values CNN's global brand and big profits and does not want to mess it up.

In the coming days, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will be introducing himself around Time Warner. What CNN staffers want to hear from him is that he knows what AT&T is buying, knows what it means to own a news division.

Now, on that front, he's saying all the right things so far. Former CNN CEO Tom Johnson e-mailed a group of media A-listers overnight, including the heads of "The New York Times," "Washington Post," CNN and journalists like Bob Schieffer and Christiane Amanpour.

Johnson was saying it's critical for AT&T to recognize CNN's independence.

And Stephenson shared this response with the group. He said: "CNN is an American symbol of independent journalism. We must protect the creative talent throughout the Time Warner business." Going to skip to the end here. It says: "The board and I are not confused. Ensuring the public that CNN remains independent from an editorial perspective is critical."

Of course, actions are much more important than words, but these words are a very good start.

We are going to have complete coverage of the deal on I will be writing up his full comments about CNN and the importance of independence.

That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. But you can check out for our nightly media newsletter.

And stay tuned. I will be right back here next week.