Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Trump's Well-Documented History of Lying; How Missing Migrant Children Story Went Viral; Administration Officials Attempting to Work in Shadows. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired May 27, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Let's call a lie a lie.

I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made.

This hour, Sean Hannity -- how he's helping his pal, President Trump, disrupt the Mueller probe.

Plus, how some Trump appointees are adopting his anti-media playbook. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt has been hiding from the press and now a congressman is demanding an investigation. We'll talk with him about that.

And later, the NFL, protesting players and freedom of expression, all hot topics on this Memorial Day weekend.

But first, all the president's lies. While we're covering this war against truth, this ongoing crisis of credibility, journalists are feeling pressure from both sides.

The question lots of Trump supporters ask is, why do you all hate the president? At the same time, the question Trump's critics ask is, why do you all go too easy on him? Why aren't you all tougher? When he lies, why don't you say he lies?

So, let's talk about that. President Trump is the leader of the United States. He is also a liar.

This has been well-documented. Lying was a big part of his business strategy. He called it truthful hyperbole. But now as commander in chief, he misleads the public constantly.

Now, I understand why many of you want news outlets to use the L-word, lie, more often. You want us to affirm what we all see, that Trump has a truth problem. You want us to take it seriously, to take it really seriously, to recognize that it's damaging the country, and you want us to rethink how we do our jobs as a result. Maybe we shouldn't be reading his tweets aloud, because it hard to believe anything he says.

I agree, but let me attempt to also add some nuance. He lies, but not everything he says is a lie and we need to distinguish between a deflection, an exaggeration and a straight up lie. Take Friday's tweet, claiming that murders in Chicago are happening at

a record pace. Thankfully, they're not. Thankfully, homicides are down 22 percent, the number is still very high, but the number is on the way down. So, either Trump has the wrong information, which makes this a falsehood, or he's lying. Look, it's bad either way, but we need to recognize the differences.

I think this next example is more clear though. Trump said on Saturday, why didn't the crooked, highest levels of the FBI or justice contact me to tell me about the phony Russia problem? Now, I think it's fair to call that one a lie, because according to NBC News, the FBI did brief him back in the summer of 2016, briefed him about Russia. So, that would make this tweet intentionally false -- in other words a lie.

But others might reach different conclusions, that's why we created this lie-o-meter on the bottom of the screen. It's worth thinking about the shades here.

For example, when Trump blamed the Democrats for separating immigrant children from their families -- was that a deflection, was he just shifting blame? Was it worse? Was it a distortion? Or was it a straight up lie?

Here's another one, was spygate an exaggeration or a falsehood? After all, Trump used lots of caveats this week to hedge his claim. Did you notice that? In this tweet, he said, this could be one of the biggest political scandals in history, spygate.

So, he said, could be. He was hedging. He was hedging all week long.

But the idea of a spy improperly infiltrating the campaign, it embedded itself everywhere. It was debunked as you can see here, but it still dominated the news for days.









UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't use that word, because that's not what it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's not right.


STELTER: Are journalists doing enough to shut down these kinds of distortions? Are we doing enough to call out the lying?

Joining me now, Sarah Westwood, CNN White House reporter, Daniel Dale, the Washington bureau chief of the "Toronto Star", and Joan Walsh, a national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" and a CNN commentator.

Joan, what should we be doing in situations like this? The word "spy" has been in the press all week long. I think the president succeeded in poisoning the discourse with this word.

Was this a media failure?


I think it was a media failure, I think we're behind the 8-ball after a lot of reasons that are not our doing. Our job generally, Brian, is to quote the president. We go to his own words. That's why we go to his tweets, they are news.


WALSH: He calls it spygate, we repeat it. I think we repeat it once.

I think the constant -- the way that it kind of became our default, I saw it on a lot chyrons, I saw it leading into segments, even if it got debunked later.

[11:05:01] STELTER: Right, right.

WALSH: It was still -- that word was still being used and it gets out there. And for his supporters, it forms the basis of what they believe and then when we try do debunk it, we're being unfair. So, you know, I think -- I think we went with it way too long this week.

STELTER: Daniel Dale, how do you handle these? You've fact-checked every word Trump says for the "Toronto Star". I think it's remarkable. How do you handle this, quote/unquote, big lies?

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TORONTO STAR: I think we have to call them lies, we have to challenge them each and every time Trump utters them, and we cannot get worn down by his persistence in saying things that aren't true.

My issue with the media handling of his lying is not so much the big lies, as the daily little lies. This is a central feature of his presidency, the incessant dishonesty. And I think it's still often tweeted as kind of a side show rather than the show, rather than the central story. It's relegated to people like me or the great Glenn Kessler at "The Washington Post" or PolitiFact, rather than treated as a central part of the daily news coverage and that's where I think it belongs.

STELTER: I interviewed Glenn Kessler of "The Post" for our podcast this week. He made the point that he believes Trump's dishonesty is getting worse overtime. Meaning this time last year versus now, there are more falsehoods being shared on a daily basis.

Let's talk about one of those in particular, Sarah Westwood. You've been covering this tweet from the president on Saturday, railing against "The New York Times". He tweeted saying a, quote, senior White House official does not exist, even though dozens of journalists were at a briefing with this senior White House official.

Tell us how this is an unusually black and white example of a Trump falsehood?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. We've seen President Trump go after the use of anonymous sources before.

This is an instance in which CNN and many others reporters were present for a background briefing with this official that was sanctioned by the White House. It was scheduled in advance. It was conducted just feet away from the Oval Office, in the press briefing room and yet, President Trump attacked a quote from one of his own officials who was tapped to speak on behalf of the White House.

His going after anonymous sources, though, is one of the most corrosive ways that he does attack the media.

STELTER: By saying we make them up, yes.

WESTWOOD: Right, because he knows that in order to trust the news that an anonymous source is saying, you have to trust the reporter, that the reporter has assumed responsibility for the information presented once a source is anonymous. President Trump recognizes that, he exploits the people's unfamiliarity with the news gathering process to try to undermine the credibility of all the press.

STELTER: And Lesley Stahl gave up this game the other day, right? In this remarkable conversation at the Deadline Club, she said this is Trump's plan all along. She revealed a conversation she had with him more than a year ago and here's what he revealed.


LESLEY STAHL, JOURNALIST: He said, you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.


STELTER: So, assuming Lesley Stahl is telling the truth there, and there's no reason not to believe her. She has a lot of credibility, that confirms what a lot of us believe for a long time. I wonder if we can take that to the next step then and say, what do we do about it? Daniel, what do we do about it?

DALE: Well, I think we challenge it every time, we challenge it professionally with out --

STELTER: And not got tired of it, not get used to it. DALE: Not, no -- and not get used to it. And going back to my

previous point, the issue with the media's handling has been that, you know, he'll have a rally in which he'll say literally 25 false things and the coverage of the rally will not even mention that. Reporters will often call out the lies that are false claims or whatever you're going to call them on Twitter, but then if you read the coverage the next day, or watch the nightly news segment, it's Trump talks tax policy, Trump attacked such and such.

I think that his lying, his dishonesty needs to be front and center in all of the coverage where appropriate and I think it's almost always a --


STELTER: But do you agree with me that not everything is a lie, that some of what he says, he's just exaggerating?

DALE: I do. I'm less caught on the word that a lot of -- a lot of liberals on Twitter are -- you know, when they yell at me for not using the word lie. I think what's important as journalists, especially if we're going to hold ourselves out as arbiters of truth, we have to stick to what we know is true.

So, in some cases, we know that this president is confused about policy. We don't know that his intent is deliberately to deceive. In other cases, I think it is appropriate to use lie.

You know, when he says the head of the Boy Scouts called him to say, you gave the best speech ever to the Boy Scouts, we know that no such phone call. There's no word for that other than lie.

So, I think we need to handle it on a case by case basis. What's important though is to point out when he's not telling the truth.

STELTER: Joan, some of -- one of the factors here that journalists are trying to protect their access you think, and that's why some of them go easy on these claims?

WALSH: I think that that's definitely a concern of folks on social media. I think that that is, right or wrong, a lot of people think that that is why we shy away from using the word lie, that we -- that we are not saying what is in plain sight.

STELTER: I think it has more to do with us not knowing what he believes, not knowing what --

WALSH: I think often that's true, but I honestly think that there are some journalists who -- and some news organizations that really do go too far in trying to avoid the word lie. The word lie is very harsh but it's very powerful and it's very real -- when it's real, it's there.

[11:10:06] I also want to want to ask, I don't know why some of our news organizations, Brian, didn't just out the name of that senior White House official who gave the briefing that the president denied existed. I -- maybe he or she will get in trouble with the president. Maybe that's a concern --

STELTER: I was in this conversation last night. I think part of the answer is, it wasn't this guy's fault, right?

WALSH: Right.

STELTER: This was anonymous aide, he didn't do anything wrong, he didn't renege. He didn't lie to the press.

WALSH: But he works for the press that is now calling us liars. He or she is works for an administration that's now participating in this lie about our news business. Why are we not more protective of our own news business and our own credentials and our own integrity than this poor guy? This poor guy can go get a new job.

STELTER: All right.

WALSH: He can apologize to the president. He can call us liars. But I don't see why we're protecting him.

STELTER: Right. Let's see if he stays in his job or not. One more point about the L-word, Sarah Westwood. Here's how MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush administration official, handled one of the president's tweets the other day.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Can anyone even imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party in absolute power? So, I'm not reading anymore of this. You know what? Brett Stevens, this is -- and even by reading it, this is -- these are bold- faced lies.


STELTER: All right, Sarah, I'm putting you on the spot here as a CNN White House reporter. How do you handle these situations, when we are, both of us covering tweets on the air that are full of holes?

WESTWOOD: That's a remarkable response from Nicolle Wallace because it's not one you see too often.


WESTWOOD: President Trump exploits our journalistic impulses, knowing that we are going to have to discuss the context around anyone of his claims and by saying something that's blatantly untrue, he knows we're not going to be able to help ourselves, we're going to have to fact check it. And so, we are constantly discussing the FBI's use of a confidential source, even though it didn't deviate from standard operating procedures.

We are talking about MS-13 when he makes unrealistic claims about their affects on, you know, society and stuff like that. We are being led to cover the things that he wants us to cover in the form of fact checking, but we're still talking about it. STELTER: Right, he's using his bully pulpit very effectively. MS-13

is a threat, I don't think it's a kind of threat that he exaggerates it to be. I also don't think that's a lie. I think it's somewhere on that spectrum and it's very complicated.

Sarah, great to see you. Thank you for being here. Everybody else, stick around if you can.

I want to take a quick break here and then look at how some liberal columnists have pulled a page from Trump's playbook, putting a spotlight on the flights of migrant missing children. You have to see this, right after the break.


[11:16:14] STELTER: We talk a lot about how pro-Trump narratives pick up steam through the media. But this next story appears to flip that script. Critics have helped propel a shocking story to the top of many people's social media timeline.

The headline here says: Federal agency says it lost track of 1,475 migrant children.

This story is actually one month old, but it's getting a ton of press this weekend thanks in part to liberal columnist and other journalists who are calling attention to it. It's agenda-setting 101.

The overarching issue is what happens when immigrants enter the U.S. illegally. Unaccompanied minors get placed with sponsors, placed with sponsor families, but some of those kids disappear.

Now, that was found at a Senate hearing almost exactly a month ago. Incredibly, it was just a one-day story at the time. It got a little bit of attention and then people moved on. I guess it was missing the human element, the pain and the agony of individual families.

But the story is back now in part because of the Trump administration's new policy to break up more families, to break up families across the border. It's supposed to be a deterrent as Jeff Sessions made clear a couple weeks ago.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you as required by law.


STELTER: OK, that's the policy. But let's back up here, what's really going on. Trump's key issue for the past three years has been illegal immigration, and whenever he watches Fox, he's reminded how his base feels about immigrants. Trump is angry that migrants keep coming across the border. It's so bad that the homeland security secretary almost resigned earlier this month. That was a one-day story too. So -- but this is the backdrop: more children will suffer now. But let's be clear, this has been going on for years. This is not just the Trump issue. The ACLU released a report on Wednesday alleging widespread abuse of migrant kids dating back many years.

But that story about the kids who were missing now is back in the news thanks to some writers and reporters who have forced it back into the news. One day before the ACLU report came out last Tuesday, "Arizona Republic" columnist E.J. Montini helped put the issue back on the map by asking, hey, wait, before announcing a plan to separate more children from families, shouldn't there be a plan to adequately protect the children who are already here?

On the same day, NBC News covered it on the ground in Texas with a really great story about the human element, interviewing people actually affected, and that was on Tuesday. And for some reason, I still can't quite figure out, this all went viral on Friday. In some cases, Websites were just repackaging last month's Senate hearing with snappier headlines, making it look more compelling. You can see here there were dozens of stories all of a sudden on Friday.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes also called it out by interviewing immigrant advocates.


LAURA ST. JOHN, IMMIGRANT ADVOCATE: What's happening right now is really unprecedented. We've actually seen children who are 2 years old regularly, and just last week, we saw a 53-week-old infant in court without a parent.


STELTER: Friday happened to be National Missing Kids Day, that might have been another element to propel this onto the national radar. In any case, we see lots of Democratic lawmakers, liberal columnists, trying to focus attention on this issue and it worked on Saturday when President Trump weighed in and tweeted about it.

So, let's talk about it now. John Walsh and Daniel Dale are back with me.

Daniel, you called out the president's tweet. He said, hey, he got to put pressure on the Democrats to end this horrible law that separates children from their parents, he misspelled the word there.

Daniel, you said this was a big lie. Why?

DALE: Because there's no law that requires the Trump administration to separate children from their parents. This is a Trump administration policy that other administration officials have owned as their policy. Jeff Sessions, John Kelly, they said this is our policy you know for better or worse.

[11:20:03] So, Trump as he as he did with DACA seems to have gotten squeamish possibly because of all the coverage and is now telling Democrats who don't control Congress to end the law that does not exist, pretending that that his own policy is something that he is powerless to change.

STELTER: On "Fox and Friends", the other day, the president also said border crossings are down 40 percent right now. That's not true. Border crossings are up.

Joan, what do you make of this?

WALSH: Well, border crossings are up, and he's very concerned about that Brian. And so, this is a new policy. We saw Jeff Sessions declare it. This does not go back to Democrats. So, it is a lie.

Now, there are two things coming together here and I do think it's important that we that we pull them apart. There is a history of -- we had a tragedy of unaccompanied minors coming into the country. There were many --

STELTER: During the Obama years.

WALSH: During the Obama years. That does go back to -- that was -- that happened not his fault but on his watch. There are kids that were probably lost during the Obama years, but what is happening now is while we cannot account for these children that were in our care, we are now cruelly adding more children, putting more children into a system that is obviously not keeping track of them, doing the cruelest thing imaginable and pulling babies -- little babies from their parents.

There was a mother -- and this is where the symbolism becomes important -- there was a mother crying as her toddler taken away and she was given a yellow wristband, shades of Nazi Germany -- to mark her as a mother who had smuggled in a child and that smuggling of her own child is considered a crime. This used to be, if we caught people, often they would go back across the border, they would be deported but they would go together.

Now, they're being detained. They're being separated. It is cruel. It is horrible and Trump is lying about it.

And yet Trump and Sessions, they may say -- OK, this coverage -- it's working. It's having a deterrent effect. This is exactly what we want, to make sure people don't cross the border illegally.

WALSH: That isn't -- that maybe what they're saying but, you know, shooting people would actually have to be a deterrent effect. Are we going to start doing that? I mean, really, where do we draw the line in our cruelty?

STELTER: Daniel Dale, one more question about this: is this sort of the big lie you know we've been talking about when to call things lies when not to. You were saying that sometimes you try to define is falsehood or misleading statement because you don't know what the president's thinking.

But in this case, you said it was a big lie. When do you make that determination that something is a lie? How do you do it personally?

DALE: You know, Brian, it's subjective. I -- you know, I can never quite know what the president is thinking. I think often if it's some quantitative complicated policy issue, I tend to give him more leeway. You know, we know he doesn't always understand that.

If it's something that we have -- we were reasonably certain he has knowledge of, if it seems like he's just making something up out of thin air, I think I'm more inclined to call it a lie. But there's no -- there's no hard and fast formula, and I think you know sometimes even I can be too quick to jump to the word lie. I think we as journalists need to be --

STELTER: Too quick.

DALE: Cautious about sticking to what we what we know for sure.

STELTER: I think some Trump fans would say, what do you mean too quick to call it a lie? Y'all are attacking him every day saying he's lying every day.

DALE: Well, he often does lie every day.

WALSH: He is lying every day.

DALE: I think -- I think it's clear that he is a serial liar. That doesn't mean that each and every instance of his say him say something false is a deliberate lie.

STELTER: I was struck by something Don Lemon said on scene another night. He said, this is an extreme crisis and I liked the framing of that because we sometimes lose sight of how it's an ongoing problem to your point earlier, Daniel, we can't let this fade away from the headlines.

Joan, last thoughts to you?

WALSH: You know, our parents raised us to say be honest and if you lie, people will then never trust you again. So, Donald Trump has lost the presumption of truth and, you know, I rarely give him the benefit of the doubt if it looks like he's lying because he has been lying his whole career, he's been lying his whole presidency I don't think he -- you know, without evidence, he doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

This is a conscious, conscious tactic that he uses. It's a tactic that authoritarians have used from time immemorial to confuse us all, have us fighting amongst ourselves about --

STELTER: Confuse, I like that word confuse.

WALSH: -- what the truth is. Lose sight of -- the truth loses meaning and we're fighting were fighting about tangents. But I'm with -- I'm with Daniel. Bring this story of the lying, the overall pattern of lying. That is a story in itself. It should be part of our beat. STELTER: Joan, good to see you. Thanks for being here.

WALSH: You too.

STELTER: Daniel, great to have you on the program as well.

DALE: Thanks.

STELTER: Thanks for being here.

Up next, why are top government officials like EPA boss Scott Pruitt trying to work in the shadows? A congressman and a reporter are here to tell you how they're trying to shine some light to it.


STELTER: What are Trump administration officials like the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt trying to hide from you?

It's a question that not only reporters are asking, but some government lawmakers as well.

It's not just Pruitt either. Many of Trump's cabinet officials have been running their departments in a dark cloak of secrecy.

Now, there's always a tug of war between the press and the government. There's always a push and pull. But lately, the government's been pushing harder, pushing journalists out. In one case this week, literally pushing an "A.P." reporter out of a meeting at the EPA.

You know, back in December, political review press access into all 17 cabinet agencies, and the Website found that at least six cabinet departments were not releasing appointment calendars that would show where the heads of the departments were. They were not releasing basic information that past administrations provided.


Now, the EPA is of particular issue right now, because there was a meeting, a two-day summit being held at the EPA, where Pruitt was speaking and others were speaking.

The topic was the contaminants in water supplies. It's kind of a big deal. And yet reporters for CNN and AP and other outlets were not able to attend Pruitt's speech.

For some reason, the EPA said that is because there were not enough seats in the room. But that was B.S. There were plenty of seats in the room.

So let's dig into with two people who come to this from different perspectives, Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee, a Democrat who is calling for more transparency, and Rebecca Leber, an environmental politics and policy reporter for "Mother Jones."

Rebecca, first to you on this issue about access at the summit earlier in the week. Were you there? Were you trying to attend as well?

REBECCA LEBER, "MOTHER JONES": I was there later in the day, when the EPA briefly opened it up to all press, though they closed it the next day, so they went back and forth on that.

STELTER: Is your impression overall that access to the inner workings of the EPA have become more restrictive under the Trump administration compared to Obama?

LEBER: They certainly have.

The EPA certainly had certain issues with reporters during the Obama era, but all of that has been taken to a new level in the Trump administration. And you could argue that it's the agency-wide embodiment of the Trump administration's attack on press.

STELTER: So, the EPA borrowing from Trump's playbook or adopting his playbook?



LEBER: I think Scott Pruitt has really taken it and run with it for a taxpayer-funded agency.

STELTER: And you wrote about it. Let's put your story up on screen.

You said, Pruitt, when he came into in his office, wanted to run the EPA press shop like a campaign-style media operation.

Is he succeeding?

LEBER: Well, there have been a few examples of that.

He hired a firm last winter that -- to collect media clips. And that in itself is not so unusual. But he wanted this firm, an overtly partisan campaign firm, to track explicitly press in Oklahoma and right-wing media.

And you could -- that is unusual in itself, that he wanted to essentially build a campaign operation by hiring this outside no-bid contract.

And we got documents this week that shed additional light on that. And I think it just adds to the speculation that he has a future interest in politics.

STELTER: Congressman, what's your position on this issue of access this week? I know you wrote a letter calling for more information about why those journalists from CNN, the AP and other outlets where were denied access to Pruitt's speech.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Well, as was said, this administration operates in the dark. And when it comes to something as basic as clean drinking water, which in part this discussion was all about, we need to be far more transparent.

I represent Flint, Michigan. One of the big casualties of the Flint water crisis is that the people there lost trust in institutions of government because information about something as vital as drinking water was kept from them.

And now I have another community up in Oscoda, Michigan, that is dealing with the same thing. And they're dealing with PFOS, which is what the subject of this entire two-day session was intended to deal with.

Not only was the press kept out of most -- of some of the most substantive aspects of this, but one of my own staff people, my senior legislative assistant, Jordan Dickinson, who has been working on water issues for the six years that I have been in Congress, went over on Wednesday just to get information, and was not even allowed to get into the lobby.

They would not allow him to participate either.

This is unprecedented. We have always had some difficulty getting information we want from the federal government. But as your other guest said, the Trump administration has taken this to a new level.

I'm not going to stand for it. I have asked for the EPA inspector general to take a look at this to determine whether or not any laws were broken. And if not, we may have to look at legislative approaches to this to make sure that the EPA and every other agency of government understands that they work for the people.

They work for the people of the United States. It's not their own private business.

STELTER: And there are open meeting laws. There's open meeting laws to ensure access.

Do you know if the I.G. is going to pursue this?

KILDEE: We have not heard a response yet. We just sent the letter last week, after my staff person was essentially kicked out.

We were able to watch some of it on a live-stream. Some of it was made available. But that second day, where the EPA and state regulators were discussing with one another regulations and the potential regulatory approach, that was the most important discussion.

That's what we want to make sure is public. And that's why I asked the I.G. to take a look at this.

STELTER: Pruitt, meanwhile, he's been embattled. There's almost a dozen investigations going on into various scandals at the EPA.

[11:35:05] He hasn't given an interview in many weeks. I think it's fair to say, in any other administration, he probably wouldn't still have his job.

So, we will see where this goes.

Rebecca, Congressman Kildee, thanks for being here.

KILDEE: Thank you.

STELTER: Just want to point out, we did invite both Pruitt and an EPA spokesman to be on the program and never got a response.

Pruitt's lack of interviews continues.

Use this quick commercial break to sign up for our nightly newsletter. is where you can sign up. It's a free nightly newsletter with all the day's media news. You can sign up at

Up next on here the program: the NFL taking a stand on kneeling. We will talk about the reactions and the news coverage with Donte Stallworth right after a quick break.



STELTER: Protest is patriotic.

Honoring national symbols like the flag is also patriotic. And that is what causes so much tension when NFL players kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence and injustice.

A few days ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced a new policy requiring players and personnel to either be standing for the anthem or to remain in the locker room during the anthem instead.

This has emboldened President Trump even more when it comes to this issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms, but, still, I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.

You have to stand proudly for the national anthem.


STELTER: Leave the country. It's that kind of rhetoric that is exactly why players may feel they need to kneel in the first place.

Joining me now is Donte Stallworth, a former NFL-wide-receiver-turned- activist.

Donte, your reaction to the president just, you know, kind of offhandedly, randomly saying, maybe they have to leave the country?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think it's detestable for the president to use that type of rhetoric, especially towards American citizens who are peacefully protesting for social inequality and against social injustice and against racial injustice.

Now, the president has been -- this is following a disturbing pattern from this president. And I have said it on a number of different occasions, and others have said it as well, that this president has been flirting with authoritarianism since his campaign, since he started his campaign.

He's talked about a number of issues where people are -- have raised eyebrows, and then he's tried to implement those.

STELTER: But, when you say that, you know, he hinted about a boycott of the NFL, and then nothing happened. Nobody boycotted.

How can he be flirting with authoritarianism, if he ends up being so weak?

STALLWORTH: Well, no, I think you look at what he's -- I mean, just even the rhetoric of him using the fact that he said that maybe those players who are protesting maybe shouldn't be in the country.

Now, any offhand remark like that, as Donald Trump the TV show host, or Donald Trump the real estate mogul, it definitely doesn't hold as much water.

But when you're the global hegemon, and you're the head of state of that global hegemon, the United States...


STALLWORTH: ... you cannot use that type of rhetoric, because it reverberates throughout the rest of the world.

STELTER: Is your impression that the big sports networks, the big news outlets that also have NFL contracts have been covering this fairly?

Or are they somehow affected by their billion-dollar sports deals when they're talking about a subject as sensitive as this?

STALLWORTH: I'm a lover of history. I love history, and I always have. It's probably the first thing that I have loved, including football.

But I believe that we can't forget what happens -- what happened -- what has happened throughout history. And these players that are -- that are peacefully protesting, Brian, what they're essentially doing is practicing dissent. And we know that dissent is not supposed to make you feel comfortable. Protests are not supposed to make you feel comfortable. Even when people were sitting in during the civil rights -- civil rights era, when they were sitting in restaurants peacefully protesting, that was uncomfortable to a lot of people.

And they were spat on. They had food thrown on them and drinks poured on them. So, it -- I don't think that we should take that out of context and not to understand this compulsory patriotism that the president and the NFL is expecting these players to engage in.

STELTER: Donte, thanks for being here.

STALLWORTH: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Great -- great to see you this Sunday.

And we will be right back with much more RELIABLE SOURCES after a quick break.



STELTER: News outlets have been battling in court to get a look at some of Robert Mueller's investigation filings.

But the special counsel is saying, hands off. In a new filing this week, he said the requests should be denied because -- quote -- "It's not a closed matter," but it's an ongoing criminal investigation.

Someone should tell that to Sean Hannity. Hannity has been hammering away at the Mueller probe since the beginning. And he's claiming Mueller found nothing and it's all a sham, et cetera.

But the anti-FOX site Media Matters, a liberal group that tracks what Fox does, has a new study out showing exactly how Hannity has been doing this, how he's been spreading anti-Mueller rhetoric, music to Trump's ears.

Let's look at some of the findings from Media Matters. They basically just crunched the numbers here to find what Hannity has been saying for the past year.

There have been hundreds of times, 254 episodes of Hannity's show since then, including 487 segments devoted to the probe. It was the featured story in Hannity's opening segment 152 times.

There were 256 segments, including media criticism involving the Mueller probe, and so on and so on.

This is helpful data because it speaks to how Hannity is repetitive, how he says the same thing over and over again, convincing his audience the Mueller probe really is a witch-hunt, when in fact there's already been a bunch of witches found.

Joining me now is Jim Rutenberg, media columnist for "The New York Times."

Jim, is Hannity the tip of the spear, helping the president erode credibility in Mueller's investigation?

JIM RUTENBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, he's definitely the most watched part of the spear, right?

I mean, this is -- he has millions of viewers, huge prime-time audience. And whatever he's saying is being echoed throughout the Web and other sites and on social media. So it's a pretty loud echo chamber. He's a huge part of it.

STELTER: And when he is attacking the media, I sometimes wish we could -- we could help those viewers, help those viewers understand how the press really works, how your newsroom really works, which brings me to this new documentary you are a part of called "The Fourth Estate."


It's a four-part docu-series on Showtime. All four episodes are on demand now. It's going to air tonight on TV.

I want to show people a clip from the series and then talk about why it's important.



RUTENBERG: Bill O'Reilly.

Jim Rutenberg. How are you?

Was there anything else, though? Like, were there other settlements that, like, facilitated this that you know of?


STELTER: I love this because you're showing people how the sausage is made, how the reporting happens.

And I think if Hannity's viewers or anybody else knew more about how we do our jobs, they'd be at least a little bit more trusting and understanding of the imperfect art that is journalism.

Is that why you agreed to participate and be one of the reporters that was going to have cameras follow you around for a year?

RUTENBERG: I mean, I personally very much felt that way, that if you show people what goes into reporting, it's really hard.

And I think, especially in this era of social media, people don't necessarily even get it themselves, because it's so easy to pick up on a thread and just retweet it. What we have to do -- and it's not just "The Time" -- it's every news organization -- is really, you report, you report, you report. You sweat over the details. You lose sleep over the details.

I think the film does a good show job of showing how much you give up of your life to get it right.

STELTER: As someone who was in a film about "The New York Times" a few years ago, I found it to be very useful for people, for the public to see how it works. And I'm glad this on TV this weekend.

One more question for you, Jim. You know, O'Reilly is one part of a domino effect that Harvey Weinstein really kept going last October, thanks your colleagues at "The New York Times." Seven months later, Weinstein arrested on Friday.

What did you make of this made-for-TV moment, where all the journalists were tipped off ahead of time, all the camera crews knew where to be, at the 1st Precinct, to get these pictures?

RUTENBERG: One of my colleagues wrote that it was like a reverse red carpet moment.

We have seen Harvey Weinstein with the starlets in these amazing settings with the same number of press around him receiving the accolades. And here was, I would say the capstone to the story, but there's a long way to go now with the trial.

But I like the point you made about O'Reilly that is shown in that film, because, if the Bill O'Reilly case doesn't happen, I really believe the Harvey Weinstein story is much harder to get.

And the key in all these was finding brave women who were going to step forward and tell their stories. And now that's going to keep happening in the courts.

STELTER: And the arrest, you're right, it was just one end of a chapter. It was not the ending of the book.

Jim, great to see you. Thanks for being here.

RUTENBERG: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES.

We will be right back.



STELTER: Hey. Welcome back.

Let's tie a bow on today's conversations about President Trump's lie, spy gate, and the assault on Robert Mueller's credibility.

Carl Bernstein is here with me now, one half of the famed Woodward and Bernstein duo.

What do you see happening at the end of this week, Carl?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, based on my conversations with people in the White House, with lawyers for some of the defendants who have come before Mueller, and people on Capitol Hill, I think we can look at a big picture now with some real definition, in which the perilous moment for our country right now, and it's a question of whether lies, authoritarianism, and the character of the United -- of the president of the United States are going to take us to an authoritarian place, where we have never been, in which he will be bury a duly constituted and legal investigation that will determine whether or not the president is above the rule of law.

And what we are seeing and what Donald Trump understands and the reasons he wants to bury, demean, undermine, and put this investigation out of business for all time, is he knows that Mueller has the ability and the facts to reveal him, Donald Trump, in a really terrible light, whether it's criminal behavior or not.

Mueller has enough to show Donald Trump and his lies in a way that, definitively, the American people, including a lot of FOX viewers perhaps, may be convinced that we are seeing a false narrative by the president of the United States, in which, well, maybe there is collusion. How do we define collusion?

Trump does not want this story told. That's the bottom line. And whether or not it will be told will have a lot to do with whether the Republican Party in Washington insists that Mueller's investigation be protected, and that it go forward, and that Mueller produce a report, not necessarily that he brings to the president in shackles into the Congress or before a grand jury, but whether his report is allowed to be made and made public.

And then the American people will be able to judge what happened with Donald Trump and foreign powers and corruption as well. And that is what Donald Trump is trying to prevent.

And I think that we can say that with real definity at this juncture, based on people in the White House and in Congress.

STELTER: Right, the bottom line there.

Carl, thank you so much for being here.

And, by the way, Carl is one of the many stars of the CNN special "1968." It's airing tonight and tomorrow night here on CNN.

That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. We will have more for you on

I hope you have a thoughtful, restful Memorial Day weekend.