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Trump's Thinly Veiled Attack On "Washington Post"; What Happened When Laura Ingraham Crossed the Line. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired April 01, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. Happy Easter Sunday and a happy Passover. I'm Brian Stelter, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.

We have a jam-packed program for you this next hour, including Roseanne. Yes, the return of "Roseanne". Is she making network sitcoms great again? And is the press making too much about President Trump? The star of the president's show on Comedy Central is here with his take.

Plus, advertisers fleeing Laura Ingraham's show for her mockery of David Hogg. But are ad boycotts really the right strategy?

And later, a segment you have to see about the effects of the pro- Trump media's attacks against the FBI.

I also have some fresh reporting about Sinclair coming up.

But first, the perfect story for April Fool's Day. Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, stepped down this week, leaving a big vacancy in the White House in the communications office specifically.

Now, Trump is thinking about hiring a new comms director. But what he really needs to hire is a fact checker.

This weekend, he's attacking Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos in what appears to be a proxy war with "The Washington Post." The connection here is that Bezos runs Amazon and separately owns "The Post".

Trump's been tweeting about Amazon three times this week. He says that Amazon is scamming the U.S. postal system out of billions of dollars. He says the company is not paying its fair share of taxes. And that "The Washington Post" should register as a lobbyist?

Now, news outlets have been churning out fact check after fact check, correcting the false claims here and trying to put it in context. You know, Amazon not only do the packages mailed by the USPS cover the cost, but Amazon and all the money it spends with the postal service is helping keep the postal service alive.

But look, it is clear by now, Trump does not let the facts get in the way of a fight. So, let's talk about this new fight he's picking with Amazon and the rest of the week's developments with Jill Colvin, a White House reporter for "The Associated Press", and Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News and the author of the number one best-selling book in the country, "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump". We'll get to that in a little bit.

Michael, first on this Amazon versus Trump issue. Let's put on screen some of the other examples of President Trump, using his power of the office to pressure companies or criticize companies that he's at odds with. Do you see a connection here between the Amazon attacks and some of the other companies he's been battling with as president?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Absolutely. And it goes beyond that as well. I see it as a piece of his directives to the Justice Department about who they should investigate, his attacks on Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director who was fired at the Justice Department.

I mean, this is presidential pique, government by presidential pique, rather than by policy. And, you know, the problem is that it undermines whatever legitimate policy goals the president might have in mind because it comes off as him just attacking his enemies.

Look, on the Amazon issue, there may well be legitimate issues to debate about what the pricing policy should be for Amazon's shipment, its impact on retail stores or whether it's paying its full fair share of sales taxes. All these are legitimate questions, but when it comes off as Trump's going after Jeff Bezos because he doesn't like what "The Washington Post" is writing about him, it undermines whatever he's trying to accomplish.

And it -- you know, it's really -- it's a mirror image in a way of the way Vladimir Putin runs Russia. Companies in favor, oligarchs in favor get the benefits. Those who aren't are imprisoned or prosecuted. And you could -- it's the flip side of that, and it's quite serious.

STELTER: Well, look, the Bezos/"Post" connection, this Amazon issue, it calls to mind AT&T and Time Warner. Time Warner, of course, CNN's parent company.


STELTER: Time Warner is in the process of being bought by AT&T, but the Justice Department under President Trump is suing to block the deal. We've been through about a week of the trial so far. This is going to go on for several more weeks. Then we'll see what the judge decides.

The question all along has been whether President Trump's disdain for CNN is somehow a factor in the government's lawsuit. And I think that's the issue you're raising, Michael, these government issues.

ISIKOFF: It casts a cloud.

STELTER: I'm sorry, what's that? [11:05:00] ISIKOFF: Yes, I'm saying it casts a cloud over what the government is trying to do. As in the McCabe example where, you know, you had an I.G. report that had findings about Andrew McCabe. We haven't seen it yet. But the fact that the president himself was attacking on Twitter the deputy director of the FBI raised questions about whether the decision to fire him was done for a legitimate reason, based on the I.G. findings, or was a result of pressure from the president.

So, any step similarly with Jeff Bezos and Amazon, any step the board of governors of the Postal Service or Congress seeks to -- does in response, will have the same cloud cast over it. Are they doing it because of legitimate policy reasons the president is making, or is it because he's going after a political enemy and they're bowing to pressure from the White House?

BRIGGS: Amazon, by the way, not commenting. "The Washington Post" not commenting. They're just letting his words stay out there.

What I think is interesting, Jill, is that some of the president's attacks against companies or other figures, they're not true. They're not based in fact. So, you wrote about this for the "A.P." over the weekend. You said Trump is misrepresenting Amazon's record on taxes.

Can I ask you, are you tired of this point of writing fact checks about the president?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's an interesting question. No, I don't think any reporters are because the truth is important and facts are important. This is a president who very often will overlook those truths and those facts to make a political point, or in this case to be able to continue ramming "The Washington Post" because he's angry at stories he's written.

There's a clear pattern here. The president tends to lash out when "The Post" publishes a particular juicy story about palace intrigue as they did this weekend. And it's something that's part of our job. Look, we're there and it's not just you write fact checks. You do it every time you write a story. If the president is saying something, you don't put it out there for readers without the context of explaining whether it's true or not.

STELTER: Shouldn't the president have someone by his side to see if his tweets are true before he sends them out? Shouldn't there be kind of a fact checker assistant?

COLVIN: Yes, I mean, you'd think, even just a spell checker assistant. We see again and again where the president puts out tweets that contain -- I think there was one recently that had like five errors in 140 characters. This is something that John Kelly had tried to do.


STELTER: You know what the response to that is, right? The response is, oh, you're a media elite. Nobody cares about spelling. COLVIN: Problem is, when those kinds of errors then trickle in to

these are official communications from the president, these are official communications from the United States, what does that do to U.S. credibility? It raises all these questions.

But this is something Kelly did try to do, where he wanted the president to at least run by tweets. He wasn't going to tell him what he could or couldn't tweet. He just wanted to look at them to make sure they were actually factual. That obviously hasn't happened.

The president often also is not the one who's actually tweeting. He will let, for instance, Dan Scavino, his social media guy, who is at this point pretty much his longest serving aide, someone he's very close to. It'll often be Dan Scavino who's the one actually tweeting. They just do this in a very haphazard way.

And for the president, look, this is the unfiltered way to speak to his supporters. And he doesn't seem to be interested at all in changing that.

STELTER: Yes, I was just pulling up this quote from "Axios" this week that I wanted to read to you, Michael, and see if it rings true to you. This is from Mike Allen's newsletter. He called this Trump's land of make believe.

He said: The president often gets agitated and stirred to action by random things he hears on TV or from shoot the bull conversations of friends. It drives staff nuts because they're responding to things that are either inaccurate, highly distorted, or flat-out don't exist.

Does that sound true?

ISIKOFF: Rings true. I mean, we've seen countless examples of where some random account on Fox News, Saturday night Jeanine Pirro show, or Sean Hannity, which has only a marginal connection with reality then gets echoed and amplified by the president on Twitter.

Look, it didn't just drive John Kelly and his staff nuts. It drove his lawyers crazy, because especially when it gets into the Mueller investigation, and the Russia connections.


ISIKOFF: You know, he has made life more difficult for him. You know, we have yet to hear from John Dowd about all the reasons that he was the president's top lawyer who resigned just a week or so ago.

STELTER: That's a good point. We haven't had an exit interview from him.

ISIKOFF: No, no. And we probably won't, attorney/client privilege. But you have to believe that the president's tweets clearly complicated his job and made it much more difficult to deal with all the issues that -- and, you know, remember, the president has a depleted legal team right now. [11:10:16] He can't hire the top-flight lawyers that he's tried to

hire. You know, he's down to like basically Jay Sekulow, an assistant at this point, as well as Ty Cobb from inside the White House. But, I mean, this is not the kind of legal fire power you would want when you're up against a major criminal investigation into your campaign and the operations of your White House.

STELTER: Michael, I've noticed every time Mueller fades from the headlines for a week or there aren't new indictments for a couple weeks, there's a conservative media narrative that, ah, Mueller doesn't have anything and the media has moved on from collusion. This week, the narrative was, ah, the media is focusing on Stormy Daniels because that's a new way to get to the president because Mueller hasn't found collusion.

Can you just get to the bottom of this for me? People have this expectation of instant updates, daily developments. But Mueller and the Russia probe moves at a much different pace, doesn't it?

ISIKOFF: Absolutely. All indications are Mueller is moving methodically. We actually had a fairly significant legal filing by Mueller this week. It didn't get nearly as much attention because of Stormy Daniels and a lot of other things.

But in filing in one of the cooperating witness' cases, the lawyer for a major law firm who prepared a report and lied about it to the FBI relating to Manafort's business for Ukraine, you had the filing that Richard Gates, the deputy to Manafort, was in touch throughout the campaign, including the closing weeks of the campaign, September -- October '16, to a guy who was a known Russian intelligence agent, a guy from the GRU.

We talk about this in "Russian Roulette" about his ties. This is Konstantin Kilimnik who was basically running Manafort's operation in Kiev. He was known as the guy from the GRU. And Gates, Manafort's deputy, was in touch with him in September and October.

Now, we don't know the details yet of what those communications were, but that was a significant new filing by Mueller.

STELTER: So why wasn't that front-page news? It's not as simple as Stormy Daniels.

ISIKOFF: Well, you know, I think to those of us who are following the Mueller investigation closely, it was highly significant and got duly noted. I think as with so much with Mueller, we don't know what else he knows. We don't know what the nature of those communications were.

But the mere fact that you had -- you know, Manafort was gone from the campaign by August of 2016. Gates stayed on. He actually was still a top official of the campaign. He was liaison to the RNC. And then he remained, basically was running the inauguration for Tom Barrack.

And we now have this new evidence that he was communicating with a guy who the FBI believed was a Russian intelligence agent. There's clearly a lot more we'll want to know about what the nature of those communications were.

STELTER: Jill, Michael, thank you both for being here.

And since we're talking about fact-checking, I want to mention International Fact-Checking Day. It's tomorrow. A bunch of journalism advocacy groups like to celebrate this day each year. And actually, on our podcast this week, our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast, we talk more in depth about sorting out fact and fiction. You can find it on Apple podcasts or right on

Coming up here, why Fox's Laura Ingraham is taking a vacation amid an advertiser boycott. Do you remember what happened with Bill O'Reilly did that?


[11:17:43] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

Once again, a Fox News host is taking a vacation, this time after a tweet gone bad. Laura Ingraham picked on Parkland-shooting-survivor- turned-activist David Hogg, mocking him for getting rejected by several colleges. Hogg targeted her on Twitter and targeted her advertisers.

She apologized, but he didn't accept the apology and kept up the pressure. Now, we've seen more advertisers avoiding her show.

What's interesting is that on Friday night, Ingraham said, hey, I'm going on vacation.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I'll be off next week for Easter break with my kids, but fear not, we've got a great lineup of guest hosts to fill in for me.


STELTER: And Fox is backing her up, confirming this was a preplanned spring break vacation.

But it's notable because this time last year when Bill O'Reilly was in trouble, he went on vacation, too, and never came back. Now, here's an incomplete list of the advertisers that have cut ties with Ingraham's show.

Notably, it's continued even after the vacation was announced. On Saturday, we heard from the company Bayer, announcing, quote, we have stopped advertising on Laura Ingraham's show. We have no plans to resume any time in the future.

This is clearly a headache for Fox and Ingraham.

So, joining me now, David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun". And Anthony Atamanuik, he's the star of Comedy Central's "The President's Show." He has a special coming up this week.

David Zurawik, are ad boycotts the right answer here? I'm personally pretty weary of this. I think it's dangerous to see these ad boycott attempts happening more and more often in this country.

My view is let's not shut down anyone's right to speak. Let's meet their comments with more speech. Let's try to respond that way.

What's your view of these ad boycotts?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, Brian, I agree with let's meet their speech with more speech. But in the world of commercial media, nothing is more powerful than an advertiser boycott. The first commandment is thou shalt not lose your advertisers.

So, if you feel you're a high school student and somebody of her stature is taunting you on Twitter -- look, there's two things about these students at Parkland that just fascinate me.

[11:20:03] One, they have a great moral authority that most people in the media don't have. And they have it because of what they went through, seeing classmates killed and then having to mourn and bury their classmates and go on with their life. That's a great moral authority.

They're also, especially David Hogg and some of the others, incredibly media savvy in a good, good way.

So, why you would go after someone like that and not expect the fiercest kind of push back that he or she can generate doesn't make sense. So, in a way, look, you're talking about a high school student. He's smart enough to know what will hurt Laura Ingraham.

And, by the way, you're so right. It was almost a week -- you negotiation April 12th. Same language in the headlines, preplanned vacation that Bill O'Reilly left year. On the 19th, they fired him. So, that's a chilling precedent.

STELTER: Yes, the thing though -- right. The thing is O'Reilly is so different because those were secret settlements. It was a national scandal.

This was really just a stupid tweet, right?

ZURAWIK: Well, Brian, you know what? I don't -- you know, maybe it's generational. But I think if you tweet and you work in the mainstream media, you might as well publish it on the front page of "The New York Times."

You don't get to say it's a stupid tweet. I see that with a lot of younger people. Well, I took the tweet down after I saw that people were hurt. I want to go, no, you published it. You -- this is like publishing slander or libel. Look --

STELTER: She did apologize though. She did apologize. I think the fact these students are under attack in the first place, though, proves they're winning, proves how much political power they have.

ZURAWIK: Totally, and --

STELTER: Anthony, let me get your take on this ad boycott issue because you work at Comedy Central.


STELTER: You've been on the air mocking President Trump, critiquing President Trump.


STELTER: You could turn around tomorrow and see people coming after your advertisers. What's your view of this?

ATAMANUIK: Well, I think that David really has it right, which is that it also has to do with the position somebody's in. I mean, part of speech is in a capitalist society hitting people in the pocketbook. If you want to affect the way or have repercussions for how you speak out against somebody, then a good way is to remove their advertisers.

I mean, I think one of the big issues here is that Laura Ingraham was not in some sort of capacity as a radio host or TV show host in that moment. This was a personal attack from the position that she has. You have to meet that with something just as strong.

And I think the other thing that's really dangerous, in my view, is also this echo chamber of -- especially in the right wing and sometimes in the left of saying really egregious things simply to get attention. And I think the most amazing thing to me is these young kids have more maturity and purpose than most of the folks who are trying to cover the story, especially at Fox. I find it a disingenuous argument to say they've been put into or provoked or paid into becoming activists. These are survivors of a tragedy.

I think you have to also take into account the idea that this is, what, weeks ago, right, maybe a month ago. Could you imagine going through something like that and having the ability to speak on the Washington mall and activate yourself while pushing into the back of your mind what you have suffered through?

So, I think that this -- you know, these '90s and aughts radio host folks who have become faces of Fox News are realizing that acting like wrestling heels and saying whatever you want is unfortunately not the way it works, and that meeting speech with speech is fine, but part of speech in our culture is money.


STELTER: I want to turn to Sinclair for a moment. There's been a lot of --


ATAMANUIK: Thank you. Ed Harris should play you, David, in a movie. (CROSSTALK)

ATAMANUIK: That's a great -- I hadn't seen that. But you're right. Yes.

Let me move on to Sinclair for a second. There's a lot of attention around Sinclair broadcasting and its conservative bent. This is a company that owns stations all across the country.

And last month, I reported that the company was mandating its local stations to produce these media-bashing promos. There's been a lot of angst in local newsrooms about this. Now, we're actually seeing the pr promos.

This is a compilation courtesy of Deadspin that's gone viral this weekend. Just a little taste of what these promos look like.


PROMOS: The sharing of bias and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming --


And this is extremely dangerous to our democracy.


STELTER: I think you get the idea there what's going on.

[11:25:01] All these anchors and all these markets required to read this script. It's attacking fake news.

But really, what it's doing, it's kind of like the Fox fair and balanced slogan. It's a way of saying, we're fair. Everybody else is biased. It's taking a page out of Trump's playbook.

And I've been talking to staffers in markets, David, that say they're sickened by this, they're uncomfortable with it. Quote, my staff is up in arms about this.

Zurawik, you're in Baltimore. Sinclair is based right up the road. What's your impression?

ZURAWIK: Brian, I've been reporting this story, as you know, since last summer. And, you know, my first concern was when they hired Boris Epshteyn from the Trump White House and made him the chief political analyst, and stations were dictated to carry his, what I think of as, talking points, almost out of the Trump's -- talking points almost, out of the Trump White House.

There's a lot of pushback. Look, I think reporters and anchors, especially when you centralize the message -- and this is what's important. If you are centralizing a political message to however many -- more than 200 stations I think it'll be if they get the FCC approval for this, to 200 stations, you have one of the great political messaging machines in the world.

And especially, it's the local people, the people you see at the supermarket in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or your hometown in Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, who are delivering these messages. They're not people from New York or Washington who you can dismiss. Much more powerful.

I think Sinclair has the potential for that, and I think in some ways, people react to that when they see this. Look, this thing by Deadspin is a really clever piece of editing, but it powerfully states what people have been saying about the danger of centralized messaging if a broadcaster decides it wants to send out political messages that way.


STELTER: Quick break here, Anthony. First word to you on the other side of the break.


STELTER: I want to talk also about the return of "Roseanne". The return of this classic sitcom. Of course, it scored big in the ratings, as you've heard, and even impressed President Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITD STATES: You can look at "Roseanne". Look at her ratings! And it was about us. They haven't figured it out. The fake news hasn't figured it out. They have not figured it out.




STELTER: Roseanne Barr has always done things on her own terms.

And that's led to a lot of success for her as a comedian, as an actress. So it wasn't too much of a surprise that the revamp of her show "Roseanne" was a big hit this week. Over 18 million viewers watched live. Then more watched on a tape delay. The program has already been picked up for a second season.

To put this into perspective for you, my sources at ABC said the show was more than twice as highly rated as the network projected, as the network expected it to be. So, this was a smash hit.

And there's been talk about this being a Trump effect, that Barr's support in real life and on the show for President Trump was a big factor, although I think it had a lot to do with the comedy of the show. It was just plain funny.

But now that the show is a hit, now that people are looking forward to the next episode, there's also talk about Roseanne Barr's real life views, about what she's been tweeting about, about what she's been saying online, because she's been into conspiracy theories for years.

You take a look at her Twitter feed, her social media feeds, you will see it for herself, some fringe conspiracy theories that she's been embracing, including one about something called QAnon, a conspiracy theory called The Storm.

I would really rather not go into details about them, because they're so uncomfortable. But you can read about them on and on The Daily Beast and other sites that have done explainers.

Some of these conspiracy theories involve sex trafficking. They involve other kind of unhinged theories.

So, let's get back to our panel and talk more about this.

David Zurawik, Anthony Atamanuik back with me now.

Her tweets are definitely a headache for ABC. I think we can say that for sure.

Anthony, what I oftentimes hear from conservative media is that liberal celebrities, they should stay out of politics and not talk about politics. And yet, in the case of Roseanne Barr, I wonder if people should try to separate or maybe in all cases try to separate their personal views from their professional work.

What's your sense of that?

ATAMANUIK: I think it's one of the more difficult ones, because she has tweeted some things I think people would consider beyond the pale, Pizzagate being one of them.

And, at the same time, you know, Roseanne was incredibly successful for a very long time. She was an active feminist, all the way from her youth through into her comedy career. And I do think it's interesting to have a show on the air that shows right and left in a house, which is what's happening in America and probably around the Easter table and the Passover tables right now.

STELTER: Yes. It's like, as opposed to running away from politics, this show is running toward politics. I love that.

ATAMANUIK: Which is -- yes. And I think that's great.

And I think that Sara Gilbert is really involved in the show. So, I think you have to look at it more holistically than that. And we have a lot of people. I mean, Mel Gibson was in "Daddy's Home 2." And he had some choice words for Semitic people. And Alec Baldwin has been defending Woody Allen steadfastly.

So, we have a lot of folks on Twitter who are sharing their personal views. And yet we also appreciate their work or don't appreciate their work, depending.

[11:35:00] And I think, therefore, for Roseanne, it's more about what the show -- you know, how the show plays out. I'm happy to get to see a Halloween episode, because those are the best episodes of the show.

And I think she also...


ATAMANUIK: It's true.

And she -- also, I think the show represents something that was more important, especially in the first run, which was putting out a point of view in this country that was the last time we really saw true working-class views represented on television in a mainstream way.

We jumped to the "Friends" world, where everyone is living in impossibly expensive apartments and don't have jobs. And media does both reflect our state of being, but also can imbue our state of being. And so I think we have had a long run of seeing people impossibly successful without making effort.

And that does affect the psychology of the people watching it. So I think the idea of returning to a deeper debate and putting some issues out there that are uncomfortable for people are good.

It would probably be helpful to step back from like NewsNow and whatever -- that's not a real one.


ATAMANUIK: But -- and retweeting this sort of insane click bait.

But, again, Twitter has devolved 5,000 years of human history of trying to clear our mind of the first thought that comes to our head. And instead now we celebrate all the flotsam and jetsam that shoots out of our prefrontal cortex, which is a bigger problem.

STELTER: Sounds pretty bad.



STELTER: David, what is your impression of the Roseanne coverage?

There's been so much coverage of the Trump factor here, the president's celebration of the show. Has the media made too much of that piece of the Roseanne success story?

ATAMANUIK: Well, I think the media has, but, you know, Brian, a lot of the media is sort of ahistorical.

There's so much history involved in this, if you try to put it in context, put it in context of "All in the Family" as a working-class, highly political sitcom from '71 to '79 with a president, Richard Nixon, like Trump in the White House, and the same kind of cultural divide we have today.

I think when you look back at that show, you say, yes, you know, it is good that we can sort of symbolically have these discussions about politics in a sitcom format. It's what the great -- Greeks said they were doing with drama, the ancient Greeks and catharsis.

I wouldn't say it's catharsis in this society today. But that symbolic kind of playing out of the tensions that Roseanne and Laurie Metcalf have in this show I think is important.

But we also have a terrible history in this country of network television when it comes to working-class sitcoms. The medium started out in the early '50s with a number of hard-core working-class sitcoms like "The Honeymooners" and "The Goldbergs."

They quickly got away from it because Madison Avenue wanted to use television to sell the consumer society of credit cards and buying on credit to America. So everybody all of a sudden started to live in suburban homes and the mothers wore pearls while they were doing the dishes and the dads always had a white shirt and tie on.

And you saw products and appliances you wanted to buy. We got this brief spurt in the '70s. We got away from it. I think Roseanne is an important figure in the history of American television because she brought working-class sitcom back to the top 10, and she did it in the '80s, you know, in the era of "Dynasty" and "Dallas" and glitz and money, much like today.

And so I welcome that return. And I welcome the political discussion that's going on. Trump will take credit for anything. You know that. Trump will take credit for it. Hey, he wants to take credit for the 18 million who watched her? How about the 22 million who watched Stormy Daniels on CBS "60 Minutes"? I don't think he wants to take credit for that one.


STELTER: Yes, I don't think Anderson Cooper has received a congrats phone call about that one.

ZURAWIK: There you go.

ATAMANUIK: He should.

STELTER: David, Anthony, thank you both for being here.

Check out Anthony's special on Comedy Central on April 3. That's this Tuesday on Comedy Central.

Quick break here. And then we're talking about the ongoing attacks against Robert Mueller's investigation, attacks coming from the right against the FBI, attacks like this one:


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Our sources are telling us that the abusive power is far bigger than Watergate.


STELTER: We're going to get into that with a former FBI agent right after this.



STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.

Trump had dinner and played a game of golf at Mar-a-Lago with one of his chief defenders, FOX News host Sean Hannity, this weekend. Hannity, of course, has been a loyal attack dog in the battle against Robert Mueller and the FBI.

For months and months, almost for a year at this point, Hannity has been waging a war on Mueller and the FBI.


HANNITY: We have been sounding this alarm about the deep state.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt.




HANNITY: What do we need to get the wheels of justice really churning here? Because I know I'm fed up and my audience is fed up.



STELTER: What is the fallout? What is the damage from that constant stream of criticism and attacks?

Let me ask my next guest, Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI special agent, now a CNN law enforcement analyst. Josh, you posted a tweet this week that caught my eye, saying that

Hannity's attacks, the complaints from FOX, they are warping people's minds. How do you see this playing out?



I think, if you look at recent events, I think it shows that we are slipping as a society because of some in the news. And when I talk about FOX, I just want to say at the outset that there are a lot of good, hardworking journalists over at FOX.

My focus here is on the prime-time lineup that often tries to masquerade itself as news, when, in fact, it's really entertainment.

You look at the last year and what has now become fair game for these attacks. First it was the FBI. Then it was our institutions of justice. And now even high school kids are becoming the attack -- the victims of, you know, people on media who say, OK, we're throwing everything, all caution to the wind and now we're setting our sights on them.

So, it shows kind of that slippage. And if you look at these attacks, Brian, kind of throughout, there's one common theme. And that is, you don't see an intelligent debate on ideas. You see attacks on people and on institutions.

So we don't have an intelligent debate refuting Russian collusion. We get attacks on the FBI and on Bob Mueller. We don't get a really serious gun control debate from folks like Laura Ingraham. We get attacks on kids' report cards.

And I think it's part of a strategy. And, you know, I recently did the transition from the FBI over to journalism. And I was wondering why the transition was so seamless. And it dawned on me that these are two professions that are very similar, in the sense that you collect facts and then you explain them. Collect facts, explain them. Simple as that.

When you look at politics -- and this is what I'm afraid, when you look at this prime-time lineup, when you have the political model that's now infused on top of journalism, these folks start with a conclusion and then selectively pick facts in order to reach that conclusion.

I think it does a disservice to the viewers.

STELTER: Do you see the ultimate strategy here, the daily complaints and attacks against the FBI, as a plan for whatever happens down the line with Mueller, whatever indictments come, that Trump and his media allies will be able to point and say, they're biased, they're corrupt, you can't believe it? Is that the endgame?

CAMPBELL: Yes, absolutely. And not just my view, and but a lot of my former colleagues who I would talk to, we would sit there and watch. And a lot of these -- if you think about law enforcement, which is mostly right-of-center, a lot of folks, politically, they would sit say perplexed and say, here's the network that we watch, here's the party -- quote, unquote -- "of law enforcement" that's now attacking the FBI.

And they're trying to make sense of it. And I think the conclusion was, kind of the consensus is, this is an attempt to soften the ground, to discredit Bob Mueller and his people and the men and women of the FBI, so that if something does come down the line and show some kind of malfeasance, that they can look back and say, aha, we told you all along that these folks can't be trusted.

And so I think it's really concerning.


STELTER: So you're saying that there are folks still at the FBI that have to explain this to their relatives, right, that have to say, here's why they're attacking us on television?

CAMPBELL: Absolutely.

And if you think about it, there were some out there who were saying, well, we're just talking about leadership, we're not talking about the people.

Whether you're an FBI agent or analyst at FBI headquarters, maybe you're down in Salt Lake doing an investigation, moving up in the chain, or you're out in the field, you are impacted by this. This impacts everyone, these political attacks.

And I think, at the end of the day, because the FBI is an organization that has to be believed, if this corrosive doubt continues to take hold and the American people really think the FBI can't be trusted, then I think it's dangerous for our country.

And I will just say one last thing too. When we look at this dinner with Sean Hannity and the president, I don't fault the president.


CAMPBELL: I don't fault a politician for looking and saying, OK, here's my orbit, and communication is a part of that, so I'm going to try to co-opt fringe media in order to help amplify my view.

I don't fault the politician. I fault those who masquerade as journalists, who -- and, fortunately, I can't sympathize with this -- to go to bed every night looking back knowing that your spent your day as a shill for a politician, and knowing you're going to get up tomorrow and do the same, it's got to be an incredibly icky feeling.

I'm just saying that it does a disservice to the American people. As long as that little cube is spinning in the bottom of the screen saying news, folks wants news. And to provide opinion that is masquerading as news without providing the facts, I think, is a disservice.

STELTER: Thank you for being here, Josh. Great to see you.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: And we will have more RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.



STELTER: There was a moment on last week's RELIABLE SOURCES that sparked a reaction. So, I want to revisit it now.

It was this comment from Rebecca Schneid:


REBECCA SCHNEID, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I think that, for me, the purpose of journalism is to raise the voices of people that maybe don't have a voice.

And so I think that, in its own right, journalism is a form of activism. And I think that there's distinctions for me as a journalist and also as someone that wants to demand change.

But I think that the partnership of the two is the only reason that we are able to make a change.


STELTER: Schneid is a co-editor of the MSD High School newspaper.

Her comment prompted all sorts of responses about journalism vs. activism or whether they're similar.

Josh Kraushaar of "The National Journal" said, "Journalism is not activism, and that mentality is killing trust in our profession."

Matt Pearce of "The Los Angeles Times" took the opposite view, saying, "Journalism is activism in its most basic form. Choosing what you want people to know is a form of activism, even if it's not the march and protest kind."

Let's talk more about this with Noor Tagouri. She is a correspondent with E.W. Scripps. She actually wrote about this years ago.

So, that's why I wanted to revisit it with you now, Noor.

What's your view of whether journalism is a form of activism?

NOOR TAGOURI, E.W. SCRIPPS: Well, thanks for having me, Brian.

Journalism -- I agree, journalism essentially has the same root as activism, where, when you're going into covering a story, you want to present people with all of the facts and all of the information, hoping that they will be able to be informed enough and go out and make what change they feel is best.


STELTER: And I look at something like the March For Our Lives last weekend, and I say, journalists have to stay on the sidelines, right? They have to be clear that they're not a part of what's going on.

So, to me, that's where the very clear delineation is between journalism and activism.

TAGOURI: Well, I think that saying that journalism and activism should not touch at all or not be related at all is a very privileged mentality, because, essentially, choosing what stories we're going to cover and how we're going to cover them is a form of activism.

We're choosing what's going to be prioritized in the media, what is going to be covered, how much we're going to cover it, how much we're going to go into the story itself.

And when you're in a newsroom, oftentimes, the people who are running the show typically tend to be people of privilege, whether they're white college-educated men and so forth.

And when you are making those decisions on what people are going to consume, that, in itself, is a form of activism, because you are deciding what is important enough for people to hear.

STELTER: Really interesting.

I wish we had more. Let's post-tape. Stay with me.

But let's end the program here on television. We will keep it going online on

And we will see you right back here this time next week. Thanks for tuning in.