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President Trump's Fantasyland; Conspiracy Theories and Smears About Shooting; Glenn Beck talks about CNN Town Hall. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired February 25, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

This hour, Glenn Beck is here and he has lots to say about CNN's town hall in Florida and about the conspiracy theories against the students who survived the mass shooting.

And one of those students, David Hogg, is also here to respond to the attacks against him.

Now, there's also been a lot of news about the NRA this week, the organization claiming that the legacy media loves mass shootings? We're going to talk about how offensive that remark is with a woman, a 23-year-old journalist who's had to cover three of these in three years.

Much more coming up on the program today.

But, first, I think we should take a little trip, take a trip with me that man right there. Let's go open a trip to President Trump's fantasyland.

Everything he says, it's rosy. Everything's up, everything's getting better he says even as Robert Mueller's probe is looking worse and worse for his White House. So, before I show what Trump is saying, I want to show you a brand new CNN poll out this morning. It's new approval ratings data showing President Trump at 35 percent.

This matches his record low in CNN's polling and he remains at a historically low level for a president at this point in his presidency. Thirty-five percent.

I want to show that data first before I show you the fantasy land version. This is the spin that's out there courtesy of Judge Jeanine Pirro on Fox News.

Now, here's the thing -- President Trump called into Pirro's show last night and she went over the top in her praise of him. Watch.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: There's a poll that puts you at 50 percent, at CPAC, you're at 93 percent approval rating. You did all this in one year with the economy.


STELTER: OK. Did you see what she put on the screen there, that CPAC poll? That was a straw poll taken of the attendees of the annual conservative conference. Now, obviously, most of the people there are very supportive of President Trump. That's not a surprise. That's like asking people at a Yankees game how much they love the Yankees, OK? Even better, OK, it would be asking about the Eagles given that the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Now, President Trump calls into Pirro's show, he gets all this positive reinforcement, he gets told how his approval ratings are soaring when in fact, let's put that CNN data back up on screen, he's at 35 percent.

Now, you noticed Pirro mentioned some other poll, 50 percent. That's a Rasmussen poll that actually is not strong enough, it's not the kind of poll that CNN even cites because it doesn't meet our standards. It doesn't even call people on cellphones. It only calls landlines.

Anyway, I think this is an example of Trump's fantasyland. He's willing to give an interview to one of his friends who tells him how great he is, where the real data tells a story that's much worse, much more troubling for his White House. We've seen this over and over again recently. The president says one thing in his fantasy land when the facts show otherwise.

This weekend, he's saying that the Democrat memo that's supposed to rebut the Nunes memo, he says the memo is nothing when in fact the Democratic memo made a lot of news. Now, it seems President Trump was watching the coverage of this memo on Fox on Saturday. You could tell because he was basically live tweeting Fox News.

But even when Fox News told him the truth, even when Fox got it right, President Trump got it wrong. I want to show thank you because it's a really stark example of the president misquoting what he's hearing. Here's something that the president tweeted. Let's put his tweet on the screen about Schiff.

He says Congressman Schiff omitted and distorted key facts. You can see there's quote marks, with attribution to Fox News. Now, obviously, Trump goes on to attack Schiff. But the point is, he's quoting Fox News saying that Schiff was distorting key facts. Where did he get that from? I wondered, where was he getting that from?

So, I looked it up. Here is the sound bite from Fox News where he got it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Schiff, he argues the Republican memo omitted and distorted key facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: OK. Did you see what just happened there? This is what is kind of remarkable. The Fox News anchor correctly quoted Adam Schiff saying that the Republican memo distorted key facts. So you have Schiff, a Democrat, criticizing the Republican memo. President Trump took five words out of quote, turned the quote around, made it about Schiff.

If I did that in English class, if I did that in English class, I would be given an "F." I would flunk the assignment. But this is what President Trump does all the time. He takes something that he wants to believe and he says that it happened. This is what I mean by a fantasyland.

And we've also been seeing this in the wake of the mass shooting in Florida. It was remarkable to see the president leading these listening sessions at the White House. But now when he's at CPAC, when he's calling into the Pirro show, he's promoting this idea of arming more and more teachers.

Let's take a look at how he framed this discussion at CPAC.


[11:05:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.


STELTER: This ridiculous rhetoric has to stop. This is part of Trump's fantasyland.

First of all, the national debate about this should be about stopping all shootings, not just school shootings. It shouldn't just be about teachers and students.

Second, this is fantasyland thinking. Let's talk the Las Vegas massacre. There were many officers both at the concert and inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and yet 58 people still died. We've got to provide the proper context for these ridiculous quotes that are out there. Even if President Trump prefers to live in a fantasy land, journalists have to at least try to help him see the reality.

Joining me now is Dan Rather, former anchor of the "CBS Evening News". He currently anchors "The News with Dan Rather" on the Young Turks streaming network. And in Washington this weekend, Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", and Doug Heye, a CNN political commentator and former RNC communications director.

Doug, let me start with you. Sometimes when I try to point out these misquotes and these mis-attributions, the sloppiness, these misleading rhetoric, I get a lot of people to respond to me on social media and say, Brian, we know, we know, you don't need to tell us at this point.

Is there any value anymore, Doug, in trying to point out the daily deflections and spin? DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, there's no so much

noise these days that it's hard to filter things through. I think it's important to point out where things are right and wrong.

And let me say in full disclosure since you've showed Jeanine Pirro interview earlier. I've been invited on that show several times before I joined CNN --

STELTER: Oh, yes?

HEYE: -- and I'm really proud to say that I said no every time, and not just because it was on a Saturday night. This show and other shows on Fox and other shows on other networks I think take their rhetoric to the extreme. I think there's no better example of that than Jeanine Pirro's show which is why I'm proud I always said no to their show.

But, look, yes, of course, it's important to hold any politician accountable. I will say, though, as a conservative, there are a lot of us who feel that all the fact checkers who have set themselves up to be essentially independent arbitrators of truth have their own biases that need to be brought out. And that's why you see so many negative reactions from -- not just from Republicans on Capitol Hill but folks at CPAC and conservatives in the media as well.

Fact checking is important but we need to make sure that it's done on an even-handed level. Trump creates some biases against him on his own which is its own problem.

STELTER: Sarah, what's your impression? You were at CPAC for a few days. You heard President Trump up there on stage, he was giving really a campaign style stump speech. Is this what he prefers to be doing, trying to go back to what worked so well for him during the campaign?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think we've seen that more and more, whether it's calling into a fox show which was a tactic that he deployed very frequently during the campaign to allow him to sort of blitz all media coverage to these more free-wheeling speeches which is obviously his preference rather than giving the structured kind of remarks that are required of a president. President Trump really feeds off the energy of crowds. So, the CPAC crowd was very friendly, I think that his speech sort of went off the rails at certain points because he was sort of interacting with the audience at one point.

I'm sure you noticed he inexplicably asked the audience to clap for whether they preferred tax cuts to the Second Amendment. It's something that doesn't totally make a lot of sense intellectually, but he was loving the fact that the crowd was loving him and I think that amped him up a lot.

STELTER: Dan Rather, as someone who has been covering presidents for decades, have you seen this kind of fantasyland think organize behavior before? DAN RATHER, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR, CBS EVENING NEWS: No. We've

certainly seen behavior we didn't like in presidents, but we've never seen nothing like this. This is new. And I do think that most people get it. That most people understand that they're facing on a daily basis from the White House and from the president himself the rough equivalent you're facing a fertilizer spreader in a windstorm.

And it is past the point of shock with the president that Donald Trump, in his mind, you can argue he's delusional. He thinks he's triumphant. You say, well, he's 35 percent approval ratings, how you can think that? I have no explanation, but that's what he thinks.

He does have some things going for him. The economy being for one thing. But this business on guns and the shooting in Parkland, I think has damaged his standing. I think one reason you're seeing a drop in the polls to 35 percent.

But I will say this, Brian. If you want to judge where President Trump whether he's really in deep trouble, the mark is 30 percent. If his approval rating gets 30 percent or below, this is Richard Nixon country during Watergate. Thirty percent or above, can he probably keep himself going and hold out some hope of keeping the House and the Senate in November.

STELTER: He's been between 30 and 40. CNN had him at 40 last month, now back to 35. Gallup has him at 37 right now. He's been in the same range for a while.

But you say we're beyond shock at this point. Do you think there's less use then in journalists trying to check the false claims?

[11:10:01] RATHER: Not only I think it's useful, I think it's absolutely imperative now more than ever is when the press needs to be a kind of truth squad for this and every other president. It's perhaps more important with President Trump because there are more untruths to set record straight.

But if journalists cower, as many in Congress, both some Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, were cowering with the NRA, if journalists cower, then how long can we sing "we're the home of the brave"?

STELTER: The last question in this block goes to Doug Heye, because, Doug, you were a former RNC communications director.

HEYE: Yes.

STELTER: I know you've thought about this issue of guns for a long time. How much activism do you see in the coverage in the wake of Parkland and how much do you think journalists are overstepping their bounds?

HEYE: Honestly, I see a ton of it. I think there are changes that could and should be made, but I see a ton of it on every day. And I'll tell you, if you talk to Republicans outside of Washington, D.C. on the issue of guns, abortion, gay marriage, climate change, they see an activist press that basically issues the talking points of the left every day. I was at a farm two weeks ago in Fletcher, North Carolina, friend's farm of mine, where there was a big cookout and what I heard so often was in talking about the press was that the press essentially does act as the left.

And so, it's one thing to have conversations in New York and in Washington, D.C. But when people outside of the country see and hear every day is a press that they feel is against them, at least if you're talking to Republican voters. That not only echoes what Trump says, it means that they're listening to what Trump says whether on the Jeanine Pirro shows or other shows and essentially taking marching orders from them.

It's a very serious thing and it's also that's I think it's incumbent on the press to make sure that they get it right every time. If the press makes as a mistake, it's not just viewed as a mistake. It's viewed as bias and that's a problem that the press needs to deal with moving forward.

STELTER: We've set the table for the hour. So, thank you to the three of you.

When we come back, much more on these topics that we've started to address. A leading voice from the parkland school shooting activism campaign, David Hogg. You've seen him on television. He's going to join me here with Dan Rather for an interview you don't want to miss.


[11:15:44] STELTER: Normally, 10 days after a mass shooting in America, we'd be on to the next story. We meaning the national news media, we'd be moving on. Some reporters would remain on scene trying to find out what the motive was, trying to find out about the survivors, but most reporters would be home by now or maybe they'd be off covering the next shooting.

Clearly, this time is different. The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is still very much in the news and that's in large part thanks to the work of the students from the high school who are becoming activists now, who are planning a march that's less than a month from today that's expected to draw thousands.

Now, we've seen several of these student activists, these leaders take to the airwaves not just after the shooting but again this weekend trying to keep their cause on the forefront of everyone's minds. There are other reasons why the shooting still remains in the news as well. One of them are the excuses, these ridiculous excuses we're hearing from the police about their failures to enter the school more quickly and try to save lives.

There's also a third reason why it remains in the news. Those conspiracy theories you've heard about, these sick sneers that have been published on the web against some of the student survivors. These conspiracy theories are a form of pollution. Just like fake news, these kinds of ideas, they poison the media environment and they make all of us sick. It's a challenge for technology companies, a challenge for news rooms, a challenge for politicians and for all of us as ordinary users of the Web to try to come to grips with all of these theories, these lies, these hoaxes that spread virally after a tragedy.

So let's start there with David Hogg. He's a senior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the shooting, who was able to capture video during and after, and he's now been a subject of these attacks. And Dan Rather is also back with us here at the table.

David, I have a lot I wanted to ask you, but I have to start with these terrible YouTube, Twitter, you know, theories. If you search your name on Twitter right now, these lies about you being an actor is still at the top.

How are you feeling about that?

DAVID HOGG, SURVIVOR OF THE PARKLAND HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: It's great. It's great advertising honestly. These people are doing an amazing thing in the sense that they're showing how disgusting they are. The fact they're calling on me as a witness of this horrifying incident, saying that I'm an actor, a crisis actor, it shows how sad I feel for those people, honestly, because they've lost faith in America and we certainly haven't, but that's OK because we're going outlive them.

STELTER: Going to outlive them.

HOGG: Absolutely.

STELTER: Do you think Google and Facebook and Twitter should do more, though, to try to tamp down this pollution?

HOGG: I mean, honestly, these people that have been attacking me on the media, not the media, these people that have been attacking me on the social media --


HOGG: -- they've been great advertiser. My -- every since they started attacking me, my Twitter following is now over a quarter million people. People have continued to cover us in the media. They've done a great job of that. And for that, I honestly thank them.

STELTER: I'm impressed by that reaction. I don't know how you'd react, given it's been a week now of these lies on the Web.

HOGG: They're just proving what everybody else is saying that they're disgusting individuals that has lost faith in America.

STELTER: What about keeping this movement in the spotlight? You know, it's been 10, 11 days since the shooting. I know you all are planning the march for March 24th. How are you all thinking about trying to keep your movement in the headlines?

HOGG: I mean, honestly, those trolls online are doing a great job of it. We're really trying to stay in the headlines by reacting to what the NRA is saying, trying to point out what Dana is trying to do, I believe she's the CEO of the NRA. She's trying to distract people. If you listen to her talk --

STELTER: She's the national spokeswoman for the NRA.

HOGG: Exactly. She's national spokeswoman, and as such, she's a national propagandist for the NRA. If you listen to her speak, she's not really saying anything. She's sounding positive and confident and that's what she wants the people in the NRA to believe, her 5 million plus members. She wants them to think that she's on their side but she's not. She's actually working with the gun manufacturers because --

STELTER: So you're trying to drive a wedge between the NRA leadership and its members?

HOGG: Oh, I don't have to. She's doing that herself honestly, because she's showing that she doesn't care about them. She doesn't care about police. She -- why do you think she's criticizing these people? It's because she's going after them and she wants her base to continue attacking them so she can sell more guns.

STELTER: Some of the criticisms of the NRA, of Dana very personally, are you concerned that you might actually lose support if you get too personal, too incendiary?

[11:20:00] HOGG: Well, she's already done that by attacking Sheriff Scott Israel, who obviously there were some major mistakes made here and ones we have to look into. And I don't want to say anything until after the investigation is done because I don't know what happened, I'm just a student, I had to witness this horrifying incident.

But honestly, how you can say that you support law enforcement if you're just constantly attacking them over this? How hypocritical and disgusting are you? These are the people that are trying to protect our lives. Did they make a mistake? Absolutely. Is that something we have to fix? Absolutely.

But there's a much bigger problem in Washington where they say they want -- here's what Dana has been saying as a spokesperson for the NRA. She wants to continue to pass laws, she wants people in Congress to pass laws that help out with mental health and things like that and she says she can't do that. Are you kidding me? You own these politicians. You've passed legislation that enables these bump stocks, which by the way aren't allowed at NRA shooting ranges because they're too dangerous, that's how bad they are.

But continuing on with my point. She wants Congress to take action and says that they won't. Are you kidding me? She owns these congressmen. She can get them to do things, it's just she doesn't care about these children's lives.

STELTER: Where does the information come from when you talk about this? HOGG: My previous research in speech and debate through learning

about universal background checks, having to argue on both sides. I agree that the Second Amendment is important, but I think we should have limitations on it in the same way that we have limitations on the First Amendment. For example, I'm still allowed to speak here today, I'm allowed to speak to the press, but I can't yell fire in a crowd theater in the same way you shouldn't be able to get an AR-15 if you're mentally unstable 19-year-old.

STELTER: Dan, I wanted you here as well because you've covered movements for decades, social movements for decades and I wonder what you make of this current student movement that we've seen emerge in the past week and a half.

DAN RATHER, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR, CBS EVENING NEWS: I'm in awe and great admiration. This is a children's movement granted it's somewhat, you know, 16 to 19 here. We're being led by our children. It's reminiscent somewhat of the so-called children's crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 which was a bit of a tipping point for the civil rights movement when the students and young people from Birmingham and surrounding areas came with children's crusade, I'm calling this a children's crusade.

This march could be a tipping point. This is the first time in years that I have sensed within myself we're near a tipping point. We'll see how big the march is and the big thing is do you and the other students have staying power. You have the will power, but do you have the staying power?

Because those forces who oppose what you're speaking of, they're depending on you wearing out, getting distracted, moving on to other things. That's their bet.

HOGG: And I mean that's kind of what the Florida legislatures are doing, they're trying to make us forget. There's a reason why only one Republican lawmaker in Florida statehouse met with us. It's because they want -- I think they want these people to forget. They want to get reelected through name recognition and the incumbency advantage, and that's what they're trying to do and we're not going to let that happen.

RATHER: One point that he made earlier that many people don't quite understand, they hear the words but they don't quite understand that many in Congress are bought and paid for by the NRA. He stated this directly and forthrightly before. I think a lot of people don't quite understand that.

And if there is a tipping point now, it will be from the march to a sustained movement that puts enough pressure on the people in Congress to say, listen, you're either going to cower with the NRA behind the NRA money and their backing and the elections or you're going to do the right thing.

STELTER: But doesn't the NRA's power come more from mobilizing its members versus the campaign contributions? RATHER: Well, "The New York Times" has a story this morning, it

certainly comes a lot from mobilizing their members. That also takes money. But the key thing, the ballot box of what counts in this country and the key votes in Congress of keeping things hold up in committee even small steps towards doing something sane, something common sense about guns (INAUDIBLE), and that's not because of the organizing ability, it's because of their money.

STELTER: I wonder, David, I've been interested in your story because you were working for the TV station at school, you were the news director of the station, you've been thinking about getting into journalism. Are you still thinking about trying to major in journalism someday or are you thinking of more of a political path?

HOGG: Yes, to both.

STELTER: Still thinking about it.

HOGG: So, honestly, what I would like to do personally is I'd love to go to somewhere like Harvard for poli sci or go to Northwestern for journalism. But honestly like even a day after the shooting, I got rejected from one of safety (ph) schools, Cal State-Long Beach.

STELTER: It happens to all of us.

HOGG: Yes, it does, it really does. But, I mean, honestly, I just want to continue on. I want to continue learning. I might have to take computer work during midterms to help on these campaigns, but I want to continue to change the world. And the only way I'm going to be able to do that and the only way the American public is going to be able to do that is through education.

STELTER: Anything you want it know from Dan Rather?

[11:25:00] HOGG: Got any advice?

RATHER: Writing is bedrock of the craft. If you want to do anything in journalism, learn to write and dedicate yourself to a lifetime of improving your writing. I can't guarantee you'll be famous and make a lot of money, but you can have a very satisfying career if you concentrate on writing.

HOGG: Absolutely.

STELTER: And that actually would apply to activism as well, right, to giving a political speech, working on honing the writing.

RATHER: Exactly. The best politicians are those who write their own speeches. John Kennedy, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan to a degree.

STELTER: Right. Right. Well, to the both of, you thank you for both being here. Great to see you.

After the break here, Glenn Beck, he certainly knows a bit about conspiracy theories. Some would say he was promoting those back in his days on Fox News. He's here now to talk about these hoaxes and lies and about this sense that we're in two separate Americas. My interview with Glenn right of this break.



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

There's never been anything on American television like it. That's what Quartz said as it described CNN's Wednesday town hall that brought together Florida students and politicians.

Politico said the town hall -- quote -- "may have actually moved the nation's dialogue on guns."

But there was criticism as well, criticism of the format, particularly from conservatives, who said the emotional crowd skewed the event.

Now, the goal, of course, was to bring together the community with their elected leaders for a listening session and for a chance to answer questions.

I would say listening, really listening, it's something that's all too rare right now. In fact, Senator Marco Rubio brought that up in his opening remarks. This is exactly what he said at the start of the town hall.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We are a nation of people that no longer speak to each other. We are a nation of people who have stopped being friends with people because who they voted for in the last election.

We are a nation of people who have isolated ourselves to only watch channels that tell us that we're right. We're a nation of people that have isolated ourselves politically and to a point where discussions like this have become very difficult.


STELTER: Here to discuss that with me is Glenn Beck, the founder of The Blaze.

Glen, good to see thank you morning.

I thought Senator Rubio made that point very eloquently, but it's a point that you and many others have been making for years. So, how do we move from just diagnosing the problem to actually solving it?

GLENN BECK, FOUNDER, THE BLAZE: Best way do it is to read Martin Luther King.

He talked about reconciliation and not winning. And both sides are just trying to win. I tried to win for a long time. I'm right, I'm right, I'm right. We need to start looking to reconciliation. Winners creates losers.

And with everybody trying to just win and be right, we stop listening to each other. And we come to this place where we think the other side doesn't have anything to teach me, so I'm not even going to listen to them.

STELTER: Yes, there's the sense that on the left that the right's acting in bad faith, and a sense on the right that the left is acting in bad faith. So there's no willingness to meet somewhere in the middle.

BECK: Yes. Right.

And parts of that are true. Parts of it aren't. We just see the world differently. But, you know, I'm a student of history. And you can look to the 1960s for answers, and you can look to the 1920s and '30s for the problems.

And we are currently, deeply, probably 1926, 1928 Weimar Republic. At that time, the two newspapers in Germany, one was pointing -- one was saying the national socialist point. The other was saying communist point.

And you could look at the papers on the same day for the same event, and you would get two different, radically different views, to where it didn't even look like it was the same event. And no one who read this one read that one.

And so you were either right or wrong. That's a real problem, because that's where we.

STELTER: So is this a marketplace problem for media companies? Is there a market for the middle?

BECK: I think there is a market for the middle, but we have to stop looking for the market. We have to start looking to heal.

We have to start looking at ourselves and saying, what role have I played? You know, it will take a long time, because there are people -- there are people that are watching you right now that hate my guts and think that I'm the man that they thought I was in 2008.

As you know, I have been preaching something very different for a very long time. It takes people on both sides.

Who in the media has really stepped to the plate and said, you know what, we made bad mistakes?

I will tell you, "The New York Times" did once right after the election. And it was good, but they didn't keep ringing that bell. They didn't keep pointing out, OK, we were this, we're doing this, and only one time made the right do what the left has done to me, and that's like, yes, right, OK, so you admit this one. See? That's just the problem.

[11:35:03] You have to back it up with action.

STELTER: Well, a lot of people remember your famous blackboard from your FOX News days. You were frequently accused of spreading conspiracy theories about Obama and about liberals, which I why I want to know what you make of the conspiracy theories this week, these attacks against the students in Florida.

Why do people embrace this kind of conspiracy theory thinking?


So, let's talk about conspiracy theories, because, again, this is a left and right kind of thing. If you remember, Scripps Howard did a -- excuse me -- Scripps Howard did a poll in 2006. And they asked the question, how likely is it that people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action because they wanted war in the Middle East?

Twenty-two percent said very likely; 22 percent of Democrats said very likely; 28 percent said somewhat likely. So that's more than half of Democrats thought that Bush was involved in the 9/11 conspiracy.

So, conspiracy -- and, by the way, the person who was behind that conspiracy is the same guy behind a lot of these conspiracies, Alex Jones.

Politico described that as something -- at the time, they said, well, that's just things that people are saying because they don't like the other guy.

That's the problem. We're willing to accept things about the other guy because we don't like him. And then there's no...

STELTER: Well, if that is the...


STELTER: ... after 9/11, what's worse now is the social networks, that they spread these crazy theories to millions of people.

What should the technology companies do?

BECK: I don't know that the -- the Facebook and Twitter have -- have added to this problem a great deal.

I think, if you look, we -- if you look at where the average Democrat was and the average Republican, if you look at the charts, it's pretty much like this, until, what is it, 2006, the first year of Facebook. And we started moving apart. And we are now here.

We are vastly two different countries. We can't read only the things that we agree with. We have to have conversations, calm conversations that make us uncomfortable. We have to have that.

STELTER: You have talked on your programs in the past about the... BECK: Can I be honest with you? Can I be honest? Let me be honest with you on one thing, too.

STELTER: Of course. Yes.

BECK: And this is something that you're not going to want to hear.

CNN had a right and a responsibility to have that conversation, that town hall.

STELTER: The town hall.

BECK: But when you added a room full -- when you added, what, 2,000, 5,000 people that were grieving and angry, you did nothing.

You made things worse. If you wanted to have that conversation, then let's have that conversation in a calm way. But adding it -- adding the crowd, it became the Christians and the lions. It was despicable and grotesque.

STELTER: So, you have told the students to shush? You would have told them to shut up?

BECK: No. I would -- I would have said, this is too raw right now to have a stadium full of people.

Let's just you pick the people, you have the kids that want to talk, and let's have that conversation in a small room without the cheering crowds.

It's why I can't go on "Bill Maher." Bill Maher has asked me for years to go on his program. I won't, because it is just the cheering crowd. Somebody's trying to win.

Martin Luther King would not have done that. Martin Luther King would have had the discussion without the cheering crowds. Don't try to win. Look for reconciliation.

STELTER: Glenn, I respect your point of view. And I appreciate you being here. Thanks for coming on.

BECK: Thank you very much. I appreciate you. Thank you.

STELTER: And that's what our show's for, for a critical look at the media.

I did want to share this, though, from town hall moderator Jake Tapper. He had a Twitter dialogue with another critic of the town hall format.

And he said: "It was really the community there in Parkland that asked us to facilitate a town hall, where they could ask questions of lawmakers. You obviously feel we shouldn't have. I disagree."

Then Tapper continued: "You feel I should have reprimanded a mass of grieving and upset people on their behavior. I disagree." So, that was Tapper's point of view.

He also said to "Variety" this was the toughest assignment he had ever had at CNN.

And I can see why. This town hall really was, at least in my view, a turning point in this conversation about guns.

Now, when we come back here on RELIABLE SOURCES, I want to you meet a 23-year-old reporter, a local reporter in Florida, who has already covered three mass shootings in her career. We will talk with her right after the break.



STELTER: The NRA has a new talking point. It's an anti-media talking point.

After a week of the organization being on the defensive in the wake of the Parkland mass killing, the NRA came out and said it's really kind of the media fault in some ways. The media loves mass shootings.

I hate to even say those sick words out loud, but I think we do need to debunk them.

So, let's bring Lulu Ramadan. She's a breaking news reporter for "The Palm Beach Post." She's covered three mass shootings in the past three years. Also here with us, John Avlon, editor in chief of The Daily Beast, a CNN political analyst, and the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."

Let's first take a look at this new talking point.

Here's how the NRA is describing the media in recent days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one on this planet benefits more from mass shootings and motivates more people to become mass shooters than our mainstream media.

The mainstream media love mass shootings.

DANA LOESCH, SPOKESWOMAN, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it.


QUESTION: Why would you make a statement like that?

LOESCH: Because it's true. They like the ratings aspect of it.


STELTER: Lulu, do you love mass shootings?

LULU RAMADAN, "THE PALM BEACH POST": I can say with 100 percent certainty that I do not love these tragedies.

STELTER: You have been getting some attention recently for a tweet you posted right after the Parkland massacre.

You said: I have been in this business barely any time at all. I'm 23 years old. And this is the third mass shooting I have covered.


What does it feel like on a personal level having to covering these attacks again and again?

RAMADAN: It's incredibly difficult to cover these events, especially so frequently and so close to home.

"The Palm Beach Post," we're a local paper. And I got this job right out of college. And so, in less than three years, I have covered these incredible tragedies.

And it's in no way enjoyable, especially when you're dealing with the fallout, and you're trying to figure out how your community is going to cope and recover after this, only to find out that another one happens almost immediately afterwards.

STELTER: Killings, deaths at the end of a firearm, they happen every day in America. Local journalists have to cover suicides every day, murders every day.

And then, when there are these spectacle murders, when many people are killed in one shooting spree, the national media descends. And it's even worse in some ways.

But I think we shouldn't -- you know, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that local papers like yours, they have to cover gun deaths on a daily basis.

RAMADAN: No, absolutely.

I mean, we're not just covering gun deaths on a daily basis. We're also covering these mass shootings, these mass tragedies and mass deaths.


RAMADAN: I mean, I definitely don't think I anticipated that coming into -- you know, especially so early in my career, but coming into this job.

And so I think that, as journalists, we're taught to deal with tragedy. It's -- we know that we're -- we're braced for that. We know what we're getting ourselves into. But on this scale and so frequently, I don't think anyone could quite prepare or anticipate that. STELTER: So, over to John Avlon on the question why.

Why, John, is the NRA pushing this talking point about the media loving the ratings from mass shootings?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It is a talking point, clearly, from those two SOTs you just heard. And it's a disgusting one.

And it's an extension of a playbook that Donald Trump learned from Roy Cohn. When you're attacked, you punch back. And they're trying to deflect the anger and the frustration people feel at the fact that this seems to only happen in America on too regular a basis.

What Lulu has experienced, you know, three years as a reporting covering all these, The Daily Beast and other national outlets, we have got muscle memory on how to cover these things because they happen too frequently.

But because people naturally say, why do they only happen here in America, what role do guns and the mass-capacity magazines and other issues have for this, the ability of weapons of war to be taken into schools and clubs and churches, this is an attempt to deflect and distract and to take people's anger, particularly among their base, and direct it at the media.

And it is disgusting. There's no love. There's horror at having to cover these things. But it's part of a playbook they have learned, unfortunately, from the president, who got it straight from Roy Cohn.

STELTER: I like the way you say it, deflect and distract.

One other point on this, John. I think what Dana Loesch said about the media loving mass shootings is sick, but I also think this is sick.

This is a tweet from Richard Painter, who's a regular on CNN and MSNBC as a talking head. He said this about Dana. He said: "She's the Tokyo Rose of the NRA. She loves watching Americans die."


STELTER: Seems to me we have got to condemn that kind of rhetoric as well.

AVLON: Absolutely.

STELTER: People are going too far on the left in some cases as well.

AVLON: Absolutely.

And this is the echo chamber that gets created, people fury and wanting to project it back.

Dana Loesch, you disagree with her intensely, but she doesn't love watching Americans die, no more than the media that she accuses of loving watching mass shootings. She's not a Tokyo Rose. I think World War II metaphors, Axis metaphors should be generally off the table.

But we need to condemn it extremely on both sides, because we need to find a way to get back to a fact-based debate. And that kind of fury, that echo chamber only makes our country uglier and more divided.

STELTER: And about a fact-based debate, Lulu, last question to you.

What's the next story you're trying to do there on the scene of the killing?

RAMADAN: We're trying to cover this from just about any angle and aspect.

You know, as local reporters, we're going to be dealing with the fallout of this shooting long after the national media has moved on and gone on to the next story.

And so, you know, it goes back to that comment made by Dana Loesch and how inflammatory it is, because we don't enjoy seeing this. We're going to be dealing with this for months, if not years.

We're looking at how this school is going to reopen, how these students are going to be able to cope and recover, how is the school district going to afford to knock down this building that they no longer want their students walking into?

What's going to change at the sheriff's office? How are these -- we're finding out these details about apparent missteps that led up to this tragedy. Are they going to make changes across the board?

You know, there are people calling for the resignation of the Broward sheriff. And so, you know, we're looking at this from just about every aspect and how it's going to affect our community and the people who live here.


And the sheriff, by the way, coming up on "STATE OF THE UNION" in 10 minutes.

Lulu, thank you for being here.

John, stay right there, if you can.


STELTER: A quick break, and then a look some of the media bashing from CPAC. Why is it that attacking the media is the one thing that unites conservatives?



STELTER: Let's look at the annual conservative conference CPAC then vs. now.

First, a flashback.

You know, the media has always been a favorite punching bag.


RICK PERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: The popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The mainstream media wants us to shut up.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Don't let the big consultants, the big moneymen and the big bad media scare you off.


PALIN: Don't let them invalidate you.


STELTER: Bias complaints are common, but, this year, it's a lot different.

What we're hearing now is rhetoric that is a lot more radical.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we have a very crooked media.

ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The media of this country does not understand the tone of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media has not learned one thing. They have gotten worse. The media are lying about you. They're lying about me. They're intentionally dividing the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are watching the slow and painful death of the mainstream media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So long, mainstream media. We don't need you anymore.



STELTER: There's a big difference between constructive vs. destructive criticism.

It is one thing to critique the press to make journalism better. But we're now hearing more and more calls just to burn it all down.

Doug Heye and John Avlon are back with me now for a final thought.

John, I think of this as pro-journalism vs. anti-journalism. Why are there so many anti-journalism voices now coming to the front?

AVLON: Well, I think there's an attempt to undermine the system of accountability, that the president has set the tone, calling the press the enemy of the American people.

And this is part of a larger trend that should be troubling to anyone who ostensibly wants to defends the Constitution. It's got to be the First Amendment as much as the Second.

And if you continually try to attack people whose job it is to hold power to account, what you're doing is creating an unaccountable environment. You want to put your own partisan narrative on top of that, feeling -- feelings of persecution and dividing the country fully.


It's really troubling. And if we're going to defend liberal democracy, we need to defend the free press, with all criticism, warts and all.

STELTER: Doug, what's your view?

HEYE: Well, I think of -- looking at CPAC, I think of the old Duke Ellington song. Things ain't what they used to be.

CPAC ain't what it used to be. I haven't been to CPAC in five years. And the reason for that is, it used to be a place for some serious conservative discussion. And they certainly still have serious thinkers and talkers there.

But what we've seen is, it's really morphed into basically a Star Trek convention, where, as long as Captain Kirk shows up, and you can sell the merchandise outside the venue, and money is there to be made, CPAC is going to keep going on.

And that's because this message of anti-media sells with the CPAC audience. There's a lot of money to be made there. And that's why they keep harping on this single issue.

AVLON: And it's the glue.

STELTER: I just think we should have more constructive criticism. I would love to hear that all day long.

HEYE: Absolutely.

STELTER: But destructive criticism is what seems worrisome.

Doug and John, thanks for being here for the final block of the show.

We have to leave it here, but we will see you online at and right back here on TV this time next week.