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Reliable Sources

Trump: Some News Outlets are "Enemy" of the People; Trump's Nixon-esque Press Bashing; Challenge to Press: Focus on Trump's Actions, Not Insults; Trump Demands Crackdown on Leaks; How Can Media Do a Better Job?; The Importance of Anonymous Sources; Fox News Under Investigation for Failure to Report Payments. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 19, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story at how the media really works, how the news gets made.

First, this comment.

The American press is stronger than any demagogue but President Trump's attacks do present real challenges. That's what today's program is about. For as long as I've been alive and for as long as you've been alive, no leader of the free world has publicly spoken this way about the press.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press honestly is out of control. Those are critical leaks. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake. Fake media. The failing "New York Times".

Fake news. Very fake news. They should be ashamed of themselves.

REPORTER: Impartial, free and fair. Mr. President --

TRUMP: Yes, sure, just like CNN.

Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.

Not a simple question, not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question.

The tone is such hatred.


STELTER: Poison, that's what it is. It's a verbal form of poison meant to affect your view of the media world, meant to harm news organizations.

Notice what Trump was doing with this tweet -- this now famous tweet from Friday. You saw it. It says, "The fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people."

He was singling out specific news outlets as enemies, including this one. He wasn't talking about the entire press. He was talking about those five. And he wasn't saying that they're his enemy, but your enemy. Maybe trying to drive another wedge between the sources he likes and the sources he dislikes.

Maybe he also was trying to distract us, right? Let's see. What else happened that hour, the 4:00 p.m. hour on Friday? Let's go ahead and pull it up in the control room. This is from CNN at 4:01 p.m.


TV ANCHOR: This is exclusive video of the FBI Director James Comey leaving a classified briefing on Capitol Hill with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a handful of other senators and we are told that meeting was, listen to this, about Russia.


STELTER: What was said in that meeting remains a mystery two days later. But reporters are trying to figure it out.

Some folks in the media say Trump's huffing and puffing about the press is just a petty distraction. That we should focus more on covering his actions, what he does and not what he says. And it's true that his actions are the most important things.

But some of his actions are about the media, appointing aides who condemn the press, holding news conferences that complain about the coverage for an hour and 15 minutes, and carefully composing tweets in response to what he sees on TV. Those are his actions.

These actions and these words matter. His words inspire many people, but they instill fear in many others. His words are what won him the election. Words like crooked and build a wall.

Now, his words like fake news are part of a never-ending campaign. I would describe those words as poison.

So, we're going to take his words and actions seriously here and discuss the consequences. You know, looking back at history, recent history, there's only one president who so vehemently called the press an enemy. It happened in secret.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Remember we're going to be around and outlive our enemies. And also never forget the press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy.


STELTER: A number of veteran journalists have told me they see parallels to Richard Nixon right now.

So, we have an all star panel to help break this down. We're going to bring all these voices in just a few minutes.

But when it comes to comparisons to Nixon, there's one expert I must start with, right there in the top, Carl Bernstein, CNN political analyst, one half of the famed Woodward and Bernstein team that broke Watergate wide open.

Carl, Nixonian -- is that appropriate? Is that a fair comparison to make 30 days into Trump's presidency?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Trump's attacks on the American press as enemy's of the American people are more treacherous than Richard Nixon's attacks on the press. Nixon's attacks on the press were largely in private.

There's a history of what enemy of the people, that phrase means as used by dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler -- and I'm not about to say anything comparing Hitler and Trump. But it's a demagogue's statement. And we live in a time now when there is no civic consensus in this country like there was at a time of Watergate, about acceptable presidential conduct.

There was a consensus that Nixon had to leave office because he had breached that acceptable conduct. We have no such acceptable compact among Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals in this country today. So, Trump is out there on his own leading a demagogic attack on the institutions of free democracy, including the press.

[11:05:08] STELTER: Do you have a sense that it's working? Because one reaction would be, these are just words. These are his words. He's not taking action. He's not threatening news outlets, trying to shut places down, filing lawsuits and things like that.

Is it working? That his anti-press attacks are actually having an impact?

BERNSTEIN: I think it's working in the sense of playing to his base and further dividing the country. Is it working in terms of also scaring the hell out of a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who think that he is off on a ride that is dangerous to American democracy and are they quaking? Many of them, without speaking out, yes.

We are into terrible authoritarian tendencies that we are seeing in the new president of the United States. We've never seen in an American president such open authoritarian moves and rhetoric. This is a terrible time we're living in.

And the press -- look, when the press was reporting on Hillary Clinton server and the Clinton Foundation, the same people who he is now calling enemies of the American people, Donald Trump thought we were patriots. So, the hypocrisy of this aside from the lies that underlie the president's words.

We are doing our job. That is what we're there to do. We need to find out all of what this president is doing. What his administration is doing -- nothing more, nothing less. And that's what we're doing. We are not enemies of the American people. In fact, we're the last

resort of the American people to a dictatorial and authoritarian inclined president.

STELTER: Strong language from you, Carl. Let me bring in some other voices to see their perspective on this.

Salena Zito, a columnist for "The Washington Examiner" and a CNN contributor, and political analyst, Jeff Greenfield, are both joining me now.

Jeff, your impression here. Carl is using words like authoritarian. Would you agree with that characterization?

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's certainly the whisper of it. When you use a term like enemy of the people, a lot of people have pointed to totalitarian regimes that use that phrase whether it was Stalin or whether it was hitter. And I'm certainly not going there at this point.

And I would point out where I think we have to keep a sharp eye, is whether we go beyond words. Remember, Richard Nixon first sent out Vice President Agnew to attack the media as an unelected elite based on their coverage of the Vietnam War and more seriously there were plans in the second term to use the government's power to do things like take television stations away from companies that own newspapers and challenge licenses.

So, I think what would be useful rather than just focusing on the words is to see whether or not this takes the form of action in which the power of the government whether it's anti-trust, tax laws, whatever, whether that's used.

I mean, CNN is part of Time Warner, which is engaged in a huge merger effort with AT&T. Does the government oppose that on what might ostensibly be sound antitrust grounds, but are really doing it to punish Time Warner and CNN? That's the sort of thing I would like to keep an eye on.

STELTER: Past mergers like the AT&T/Time Warner deal have received government approval. Trump, before Election Day, before he won the election, said he would block. He vowed to block that merger. At the moment, it's working its way through the regulatory process. These companies hope it will clear by the end of the year.

But what you're asking, Jeff, is a giant question mark about what this administration will do with regards to the merger. It strikes me as something I've been saying privately and I haven't said it on television, I think I probably, which is that as journalist, I think we need to think about how bad it could get for the news media. Meaning, we shouldn't have a failure of imagination here. I hope this administration does not go down the road of blocking licenses or auditing journalists or things like that.

But we need to know what's possible and imagine what's possible and prepare for it and certainly media lawyers are doing that. Salena, let me bring you in to this conversation. You were writing on

Friday about Trump's enemies tweet. I want to make sure we're not going overboard, over reacting to what the president is posing on Twitter.

So, how did you interpret it?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think we have two things going on. To Carl's point about, is it penetrating into the American public? I can remember an umbrage in my own backyard in Pennsylvania covering a Trump event. And I was on the phone with my editor and a woman, elderly woman, she later told me she was 74, said, "Do you work for CNN?" And I said, no. At the time I didn't.

And she said, oh, well, that's good, because if you did, I would spit on you. I was like, what?

You know, that is penetrating into the American public because she believed that we were unfair and that we were deliberately trying to hurt her candidate.

[11:10:10] Having said that, Trump, I believe that Trump believes he needs someone, a straw man, someone to blame because there's not a Hillary Clinton out there.

STELTER: An opponent.

ZITO: And we make the most easiest foil for that.

And our problem tends to be is tht people believe we spend too much time focusing on what he says about us. And they would like to see us spend more time on what he's doing. Does that make sense?

STELTER: It does. I would argue some of his actions, what he is doing is attacking the media.

ZITO: Well, that's true.

BERNSTEIN: It's more attacking -- go ahead and I'll make my point.

ZITO: I mean, we're caught in a really bad position is in the way that I see it. We're not the enemies. We work very hard to bring the truth to the people. The people need a free press. It's a vibrant part of a democracy.


BERNSTEIN: Look, Trump is an enemy of the truth. That is what we know from his presidency thus far. He's not interested in the truth. He's not interested in the best attainable version of the truth, which is what real journalism and reporting is. He's not interested in a fact-based debate. What we are seeing already are actions at intimidating the press, which means the people lose and intimidating those in the American government who talk to the press.

We already, as in the Nixon years are watching Trump initiate a leak investigation of draconian threats, it's already under way. That is the threat to the American people. We don't need, the press, to be self-centered about attacks on us.


BERNSTEIN: We need to be, all of us, focus on attacks on the First Amendment, on the Constitution, free press and how it reaches the people, especially when we have an authoritarian president who seems not to understand the Constitution. Nixon understood the Constitution. This president does not.

STELTER: Tell you what? Carl, you set up my tease perfectly. We're going to talk leaks later this hour.

Take a quick break. Let's bring everybody back and bring in some more voices right after a quick break, talking about how the press should respond to these complaints.

We'll be right back.


[11:16:18] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

We're talking about Donald Trump's criticism of the United States press and what the press should be doing in response.

Back with me, Salena Zito of "The Washington Examiner" and CNN, political analyst Jeff Greenfield, and bringing in two more voices now. Glenn Thrush, one of the White House correspondents for "The New York Times", and Jay Caruso, assistant managing editor of

Yesterday, Jay, you posed this challenge to the media. You wrote, "Dear news media, worry more about what Trump is doing instead of what he says about you."

Do you think some of the complaints you have been hearing on this program are just whining?

JAY CARUSO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, REDSTATE.COM: I don't know if it's whining. Going back to what Carl said, I think what's important is when President Trump starts to do something. Right now, he's only saying things.

I don't remember this level of outrage from members of the media when President Obama, his Justice Department, named journalist James Rosen as a conspirator in an Espionage Act case against a leaker. That was -- that's, in a view, far worse than anything than Donald Trump tweets.

Again, going back to what I said, if he starts to take action, like he said, the merger between Time Warner and AT&T, or he starts these investigation leaks with his Justice Department and Jeff Sessions is leading, and suddenly, they are calling journalists in front of grand juries and they're naming them as unindicted co-conspirators, then you have a serious problem.

But, right now, it's really more just about, it seems it's about two sides with very large egos that are going back and forth complaining about each other.

STELTER: There are some egos involved. That's definitely true.

Let's get Glenn Thrush in here.

Glenn, was there outrage when the Obama administration relentlessly pursued leakers?

GLENN THRUSH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, there was. I completely agree with Jay that was pretty awful and a real issue in terms of the gap between the high minded rhetoric that President Obama had and his actual actions. I also agree with Jay -- I don't agree about the big egos thing -- I agree with Jay about -- at least speaking for myself.


STELTER: You're modest.

THRUSH: I agree with Jay on the fundamental point.

And I have to say, personally, I agree with everything everyone has said. But our role, I think, needs to be to talk about his actions or in this case his lack of action.

The story that came out of Friday and Thursday was this provora (ph) performance, this rambling performance. We were focused on Donald Trump the personality and celebrity. There are three news stories that emerged from that press conference in the subsequent days that we should pay attention to, I believe, more than his distracting attack on the press.

Number one, the National Security Council which is the core of our foreign policy decision making process, is in flames. Two people who perhaps were most qualified to replace General Flynn have pulled themselves out of running because of questions they have about the way the White House is being run. That is a big deal.

The second thing is and I want to give credit to my colleague from the "Associated Press", Julie Pace, who was very disciplined of her questioning of the president, didn't fall into a discussion about the press with him. We still have large number of unanswered questions about the contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The president, I think, very interestingly, during that press conference made a couple of admissions that he, for instance, wouldn't have minded if General Flynn had spoken to the Russians about sanctions. A very questionable statement.

And then the third issue here is we have a spectacle of high ranking administration officials, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Vice President Mike Pence, overseas in Europe right now, cleaning up some of the statements that the president has made.

[11:20:04] And there is an enormous amount of daylight between his delegated emissaries and the things that he has said. Those are real, not fake, news stories. And I think while we ought to have discussion amongst ourselves about the press role, we've got to focus, we've got to keep our eyes on the prize here.

STELTER: Yes, on shows that are not about the media, we need to be prioritizing. I think there is prioritizing going on.

But, Jay, isn't part of the challenge here that when we ask questions about policy, Trump turns it around and talks about the media instead? We saw this on "Face the Nation" again today. Reince Priebus answers questions by attacking the press.

CARUSO: Well, yes. I mean, if he's going to erect a straw man in the middle of a discussion about policy, then he should be called on that. You know, the question that I have is that if he's -- when, again, it always comes back to how much are you going focus on his attacks on the press. If you're discussing it in general and saying, once again, Donald Trump was attacking the press, that's fine.

But if you're going to carry on for a couple of days, it's going to distract away from what Glenn was talking about, the important issues that should be covered.

STELTER: And the other factor here, Salena, let me ask you about this as someone who works hard out in Pennsylvania and Ohio to interview Trump voters, understand what they are thinking, isn't the other issue here, we're using the word attack. Some Trump voters say he is holding the press accountable for bias. They don't view it this way at all.

ZITO: Well, I mean, I saw that during and the aftermath of the press conference. For a lot of them, they were very happy with that press conference. They believed, from their viewpoint -- remember, we have to think of it from their viewpoint. They believe he laid out what he was going to be doing, they laid out what he has been doing, and then he went out after the people that they believe don't cover them the way that they believe they should be covered.

In other words, I mean, you have to remember outside of New York and Washington, there are a lot of local newspapers that are just disappearing across the country. And so, news -- people are losing that connection with news organizations. So, they get more of their news from national news. When they consume that news, they look at it and say --

STELTER: And from Facebook.

ZITO: -- wait, that's not me. We have a problem there, too.

STELTER: This is -- it's really interesting to think about the impact of that press conference, how it was viewed in different ways.

Jeff, we saw the president take a couple of questions earlier in the week at these joint press conferences where he takes two questions and the foreign leader takes two questions. And they were all conservative news outlets asking questions. Putting aside the quality of questions, Trump was bypassing the biggest news outlets in the country and calling on "Daily Caller" instead. Then, he holds the press conference where he does call on the NBCs and ABCs of the world.

What were your impressions of these press conferences, especially his use of the term "fake news" during them?

GREENFIELD: I think the idea of reaching out beyond like the big four papers, networks is fine. But my concern, to me, it's at the center of a lot of this and why I think the words matter is what Donald Trump is saying to his supporters is when you hear things on the news that challenge me, don't believe them because they're fake. And what we're talking about is basic factual assertions or factually -- false assertions where there's a reckless disregard for truth. Oh, yes, that electoral vote, there was somebody told me.

I come back to this point it's critical. Everybody is reading 1984 now or many people are now.

STELTER: Right, it's on the top of the Amazon bestseller list, yes.


In that book, the doomed hero says, freedom is the ability to say two plus two is four. At the end of the book, with his portrait, he says two plus two is whatever big brother says it is. And where my concern is where I think there is -- whether it's deliberate or kind of instinctive, almost ability of Trump to know how to challenge, if he's convincing his people that whatever you hear on these networks is false, that whatever I tell you is true because I assert it, then you begin to undermine as basic a fundamental, a notion of what the press is doing as I can imagine. In that case, I think, what his words are saying really do matter.

STELTER: On that note, I want to thank the panel for being here. I appreciate it.

Glenn, please stick around. I want to ask you a few questions later.

Up next here, Trump's leaky argument against leaks.


STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

Nobody likes leaks, right, except for plumbers and reporters. But leaks from anonymous sources, sometimes whistleblowers provide vital information to the public. President Trump knows this and he's been railing against it, against leaks that link several of his aides to Russia and ultimately let to the ouster of his national security advisor, Mike Flynn. Republican lawmakers are now calling for leak investigations and Trump who embraced WikiLeaks during the campaign says the current leakers will pay a big price. Here to discuss, Glenn Greenwald, the cofounding editor of "The

Intercept" and Pulitzer Prize winner for his reporting on Edward Snowden leaks. And also here, Dana Priest, reporter for "The Washington Post" and Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at University of Maryland. And let's bring back, Carl Bernstein, CNN political analyst, who's been working on these Russia stories.

Dana, let me start first with you. You've written extensively about Michael Flynn. Your reactions to his resignation being forced out this week?

DANA PRIEST, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, my actions is the media did -- they were able to get information that was pretty stunning given how quickly the information did come out. I think that represents one kind of leak which is the kind that happens when people inside the government, good people who want to do right thing by the president, by the way, are very, very worried about what's going on inside. And that's where you get people leaking, for instance, transcripts or the summaries of transcripts from intercepts with foreign leaders. You saw that with Australia. You saw that when he talked to -- when Flynn talked to the Russians.


So, I'm not surprised. I think the Flynn matter is a culmination of things. It's not just this one thing. As we reported before and others did, Flynn is a rather erratic person. And I can't imagine that they wouldn't have discovered that sooner, rather than later.

STELTER: You're describing the motivations of leakers.

And, Carl, I wonder if you can provide some insight into this as well. You worked with a number of other CNN colleagues on the stories about that Russian dossier -- that dossier about Russia and Trump. You have been working anonymous sources about this.

There's been claims that this is all just angry former Obama staffers, loyalists to Obama leaking.

Can you give us insight into whether that's true?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, the whole process of reporting is to piece together from various sources at various institutions with various points of view a story that is based on fact, to the extent that you can.

And that's what was done on these stories that CNN has done. Some of the sources may well be from close to Donald Trump. Some of the sources might be former Obama administration officials. Some might be still in the intelligence administration -- agencies in positions that are career positions.

All over the place. Some are in the private sector. Donald Trump has no idea of where these stories are coming from. And the idea of a leak investigation here, as I have said earlier, is to intimidate. But one other thing about Trump. It was said in the earlier segment

that we should not pay too much attention to his words and look at just what he does.


BERNSTEIN: In the case of Donald Trump especially, words matter. His words are an MRI of his mind.

And so far, that MRI is showing all kinds of masses in the brain that ought to concern not just reporters, but people all over this country, because they are expressed in demagogic and frightening and treacherous words that have meaning in terms of threats to democracy.

STELTER: Dana, I see you shaking your head.


I really think that, at this moment, we should eliminate the adjectives and stick to the facts. I mean, when you look on your mobile device at what all the mainstream media is reporting on, you will get -- right after the first couple stories, you will get a whole series of editorials that tend to be all anti-Trump.

So, on the one hand, I'm not condoning his attacks on the media. It's not unusual for a president to not like -- not like the media.


PRIEST: But what I'm saying is, right now, we should pay attention to the language that we're using and stick to the facts, and eliminate the opinion and eliminate the adjectives.

STELTER: Carl, your response?

PRIEST: And, if we do that, I think we have a better chance...


PRIEST: ... of -- of convincing the people that we're not for anybody in particular, but we are for unearthing the closest to the truth we can get.

STELTER: And, Glenn, I promise I want to bring you in.

But, Carl, I think you're being criticized there. I want to hear your reaction.

BERNSTEIN: First of all, we need to -- as Dana says, to do our job and report the best attainable version of the truth.

At the same time, we need to evaluate, as reporters, what it is the president of the United States is saying. That's a big part of the story, just as it was when we were looking at Richard Nixon's words, as well as his actions. The two fit together. Should we be engaged in -- and spend most of our time on heated

rhetoric defending ourselves? No. But the function of the press is something that we need to explain at this moment. And the best explanation is through our reporting. And the second best explanation, which needs to be elaborated, is, what is it that we do under the First Amendment? And we need to explain that.

STELTER: Let's explain the use of anonymous sources.

Glenn, you have said the president is right when he says some of these leaks are illegal, meaning people are sharing information illegally. But you say it's justified. Why is it justified?

GLENN GREENWALD, THE INTERCEPT: If you look at the reporting of the people who are on this panel, what you see is that some of the most important revelations that have strengthened American democracy have come from people inside the government, as Dana said, discovering information and then giving it to reporters because they believed that the people had the right to know that their leaders were engaged in illegal or deceitful conduct.

That's what happened with the leakers who exposed General Flynn's lies. And although the conduct is illegal, it's also, in my view, quite noble because it strengthens democracy.


The problem is that, if you look at the last eight years, there's been a very concerted war on not just sources and whistle-blowers, but also journalists, implemented by not Donald Trump, but by the Obama administration, more sources prosecuted under the 1970 Espionage Act than in all previous administrations combined, journalists such as James Rosen at FOX News and Jim Risen at "The New York Times" and those of us who worked on the Snowden reporting constantly threatened with prosecution or having our phone records subpoenaed and the like.

And Democratic officeholders in D.C. were virtually unanimous in the idea that people who leak information that is classified are villains, they're traitors, they ought to go to prison.

And this framework has been created, both rhetorical and legal, over the last eight years that says that people who leak classified information, regardless of how important that information is, ought to be punished.

And that's the rhetoric and the framework that Donald Trump is seizing on. And it's the reason why it's been so damaging to have watched Democrats, who suddenly love leaks now that it's helping them, have waged such an aggressive war on journalism and investigative reporting over the last eight years.


PRIEST: But you notice...

STELTER: Go ahead, Dana. PRIEST: No, but you notice that nobody is backing down.

And that's -- nobody in the press yet is backing down. And I really don't think they are going to. This tension between classified information that needs to be kept secret, or that the government says, and the reporters who are trying to do their job has gone on forever.

Usually, we win. And what I mean by that is, usually, especially recently, in the last decade, information gets out, and reporters continue to do their job.


PRIEST: So, I would again -- and that's what you're seeing now.

In fact, the reporters that did this national security reporting are the best in the business. They have been at it for a decade. And they have very good sources who have learned to trust them and learned not to go overboard.

So, I think look at the bylines, Adam Entous, Greg Miller, people from "The New York Times." They -- they are careful. Sometimes, they get things wrong. That doesn't mean that things are fake news. It just means that we don't ever have a perfect view into the world.

And if Donald Trump really wanted to put an end to the speculation that Michael Flynn was working on behalf of the Russians, he is the declassifier in chief.

BERNSTEIN: That's right.

STELTER: That's right.

PRIEST: He could release those intercepts today. And I think he should.

STELTER: That's the most important -- that's the most important point.

We lost Glenn's audio. We will keep talking with him on Twitter.

Dana, Carl, thank you very much for being here.

PRIEST: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next here: For a bunch of communications pros, we're not always very good at communicating. Hear my challenge for the owners of media companies right after this quick break.



STELTER: "We're not at war with the Trump administration. We're at work."

That's what "Washington Post" editor Marty Baron said this week, summing up how most journalists see themselves. We're at work.

But there's a problem with that formulation. A lot of well-meaning people don't understand our work. They don't understand who or what to believe. This is a media literacy problem.

And I would like to challenge newsrooms to face it head on and do more about it.

Of course, this problem existed well before Donald Trump became president, but Trump's anti-media attacks have exacerbated it.

On Saturday, Trump quoted one of his predecessors, Thomas Jefferson, to make the point that presidents always have gripes about the press.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thomas Jefferson said nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself, he said, becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.


STELTER: That's true. Jefferson said that in 1804.

Reporters tend to respond with a different Jefferson quote from before he was elected president, when Jefferson said: "Were it left to me decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

But I would like to highlight what he said next. Here's the really important sentence. He said, "I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."

He's literally talking about literacy, media and news literacy. It was important 230 years ago, when different papers had different partisan points of view, and it is essential today.

I don't know about you, but my head is spinning sometimes. News media norms and the ways we consume news are changing so rapidly, and it's hard to keep up.

Trump and his aides take advantage of this by casting reporters as villains. I experienced this firsthand a few days ago, when I went on the BBC, and then Trump aide Sebastian Gorka was on right after me. Watch.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's only weird the journalists like yourself who are biased.

I mean, Brian Stelter is your authority? This is a man who on CNN by his own media colleague Michael Wolff was called ridiculous with his obsession for attacking President Trump. This is a man I would ask your viewers to just Google Brian Stelter, fake news, Delta Airlines, who propagates himself absurdities on the media.

So, no, it was a fabulous press conference.


STELTER: Gorka was castigating me for a tweet I posted one morning back in December.

I would love to talk with him about it. So, I e-mailed him repeatedly. And producers reached out to the White House asking him to come on today's show. He never responded.

This is like a tiny example of what is a huge media literacy challenge. Journalists, by and large, work hard to hear from all sides, but we need to do a better job showing our work, letting you know when sources like Gorka decline to participate.

Let me show you one other clip from that BBC interview.


QUESTION: Are there measures you're intending to take? I'm just asking if there are measures.

GORKA: This is fake news.

QUESTION: No, it's not news at all. I have asked a question.


GORKA: You have just committed fake news. You are implying that there's some dread intent.


QUESTION: I'm not.


STELTER: Come on, man. Asking a question is not fake news.

But it's true that what journalists do, even asking questions and quoting people and fact-checking them, can come across as negative, rude, like an attack.

When I was moderating a panel about media trust in Miami this week, "Dallas Morning News" editor Mike Wilson talked about this in a really great way. He was describing an e-mail from a reader that, who told him that reading "The Dallas Morning News" in the morning and reading what he called constant Trump bashing was debilitating.


MIKE WILSON, EDITOR, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": I think I report the news, and he thinks that I offend his values, that I attack his values. STELTER: You think you report the news. He thinks you offend his



I think that I have reported the news in this morning's "Dallas Morning News," and he thinks that I have attacked him. And that's a reality that I have to deal with, because he's not just a reader. He's a customer of ours.

And I have got to figure out how to talk to that person and all the people who represent him about what we're doing.


STELTER: That is the challenge right there, explaining why we do what we do.

Democracy demands media literacy. And this particular moment in time demands a serious investment by newsrooms and by tech giants like Facebook and Google, an investment in news literacy.

I don't have all the ideas here, but public service announcements, ombudsmen, explainers, maybe coffee sessions with editors. Let's brainstorm new ways to help our customers -- and that's the word, customers -- understand why and how we do what we do.

Quick break here. But please stick around.

More with Glenn Thrush. I'm going to ask him some questions about media literacy right after this.




MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Now I'm going to open it up for questions. And I'm probably going to freak if you start asking stupid ones.


MCCARTHY: Speaking of freaks and stupid one, Glenn Thrush, "New York Times," stupid hat, go.



STELTER: "SNL" is off this week, but the real-life Glenn Thrush is hard at work.

He was here earlier in the hour. So let's bring him back for a few more minutes.

Glenn, I can't resist playing the "SNL" clip. I'm sorry.

THRUSH: I have seen it once or twice.

STELTER: Yes, I figure. I figure. Maybe you will be back in a few weeks, when the show is back on the air.

So, we have been talking about media literacy here, communications with the White House. This week, the White House brought in a new communications director working with Sean Spicer, the press secretary.

But you said online, you said you're actually having a hard time getting answers from this White House, same problem I had trying to book a guest today. You're not getting your e-mails or your questions answered?

THRUSH: This does happen periodically, and it isn't only constrained to the Trump White House.

When you write stories that people don't like, of they go -- for instance, when the president of the United States goes out and calls your publication for fake news, people tend to shut you down.

But I think it's really important for people to understand how diligently most of us most of the time try to obtain comment from the White House. We do it constantly. We try to get called on in press conference. We send e-mails. We try as best as we possibly can to read specific portions pertaining to fact back to White House officials, as we do all the time.

And more frequently than not -- and this has been an accelerating trend with the Trump White House -- we're not getting responses or an open phone on the other end so that we can fact-check our stories appropriately.

STELTER: Oftentimes, you're using anonymous sources. And this morning on CBS, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, said anonymity shouldn't be given. Here's what he said.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think that the media should stop with this unnamed source stuff, put names on a piece of paper and print it. If people aren't willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn't be listed.


STELTER: Glenn, your reaction?

THRUSH: Let's talk about some of the stories that would not have been exposed to the public had anonymous sourcing not been permitted.

You had Carl Bernstein on. I think his is perhaps the most recent example of this. I think there are very few stories that have been important and impactful and accurate that has have had included some modicum of anonymous sourcing, simply because people are endangered and whistle-blowing is difficult, particularly when you have an administration where the president and his spokesperson talks about, for instance, firing people in the bureaucracy who don't agree with them.

STELTER: And speaking of people in the bureaucracy, we have seen some of Trump's aides less visible on television in recent days. Kellyanne Conway has not been on TV by my count for five days. I believe that's right.

Are you sensing she's being pulled back, she's being used less often with the media?

THRUSH: I don't know.

I also think we have all known Kellyanne Conway for quite some time. I think she's had a rough couple of weeks. She also works very, very hard. All I can tell you is, every time one tries to draw conclusions about people in and out of this world, we're more often wrong than right. So I guess we will see over the next couple of weeks.

STELTER: More palace intrigue.

Glenn, thank you very much for sticking around.

THRUSH: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next here: Roger Ailes and FOX News back in the headlines. I will tell you why right after this.



STELTER: Before we go, an update to a story we have been following for months, a story FOX News just can't seem to shake, the network now reportedly under federal investigation to determine if it broke the law by not informing shareholders about payments made to employees who charged Roger Ailes with harassment.

You will remember, Ailes was ousted last summer.

A FOX News spokesperson said this week: "Neither FOX News nor the parent company, 21st Century Fox, has received a subpoena, but we have been in communication with the U.S. attorney's office for months. We have and will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities."

We will stay on top of this story and all the rest of the day's and the week's media news on, our news coverage there seven days a week about all of the biggest stories in media. You can also sign up for our nightly newsletter coming out Sunday through Friday, six nights a week. Sign up at

I will see you right back here next week. Thanks for tuning in.