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How Does the Press Handle Hurricane Trump?; Is There Any "Line" to Cross Anymore?; Joy Reed Blog Posts Discussed; Trump Pardons Examined; A Look at Babchenko "Death". Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired June 03, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES. Our weekly at the story behind the story, of how the media really works, how the news gets made, and how it can be made better.

This hour, the term fake news is out, the term double standard is in. The president and his pro-Trump media allies have been hollering about a double standard over the coverage of Roseanne and Samantha Bee. But are they the ones with two sets of rules?

And speaking of double standards, MSNBC and Joy Reid, she's apologizing again for old blog posts. But what about those hacking claims?

And later, even presidential pardons now have a media strategy behind them. Or is it? Frank Rich is here to tell us.

But first, hurricane Trump. He blew into Washington 500 days ago, and it's hard to keep up with all the damage reports, the lies, the corruption, the ethical scandals, the unpresidential behavior. But sometimes, it's also hard to recognize that we're in the center of that storm.

The president is very effective at playing the media game and touting good news stories. And there is good news. I mean, take a look at the great economic numbers for May, which he previewed a little bit early ahead of time by telling people to tune in. And also his meeting with North Korean officials, you see the president there, beaming in the Oval Office holding that oversized envelope.

For pro-Trump media outlets, there's a lot of good news to report, and a lot of stories for the mainstream media to be reporting as well. But stories like those exist in the calm eye of a hurricane.

You've heard about this before, right? The eye of the hurricane. When you're in the eye, the wind stops, the rain stops, you can hear birds chirping, sometimes you can even see a glimmer of sunlight. You can almost convince yourself that the storm is over. You can almost convince yourself the storm has passed.

To me, that's how some of these days feel. You know, when I'm seeing stories about the economy, and how well it's chugging along, when I hear Trump cheerleaders talking about how he's making America great again, and how all these Russia stuff is a deep state hoax, I start to think that we're in a clear.

But then there comes a story about Trump's abuse of power, or a story about scandalous conflicts of interest, or a story about his legal troubles and suddenly the storm is raging again.

Here's Sunday's "New York Times" headlines, the latest example of this, it's about a letter secretly sent to Robert Mueller in January, Trump's lawyer saying he's exempt from questions. Now, this secret letter is now public thanks to the "New York Times". It says that Trump couldn't have possibly obstructed justice in the Russia probe because he has sweeping powers over the probe.

The letter also reveals for the first time that President Trump dictated the first statement about his son's 2016 meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower. Now, remember, that had all the signs, all the appearance of a cover-up. It was a letter that had previously been distanced from Trump.

Remember, there were Trumps lawyer's like Jay Sekulow who had previously said Trump did not dictate the statement.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: The president was not involved in the drafting of the statement.


STELTER: OK. He wasn't the only one saying that last year. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also double downed on the same position during a White House press briefing.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly didn't dictate, but, you know, he -- like I said, he weighed in and offered suggestions like any father would do.


STELTER: Now, Trump's legal team says in this secret letter to Mueller that Trump did dictate the letter. Now, I only cite this because it's one of many examples of misleading information coming from the White House.

"The Washington Post" is out with a brand-new count. You know, it's been trying to keep track of all of Trump's claims, the new number, according to "The Post" is 3,251. That's false or misleading claims in the first 18 months of President Trump's term.

Now, "The Post" doesn't call those lies, it doesn't try to get into the president's head. But certainly some of those are lies, some of them are different things, but that is a remarkable number that's getting worse with time. To me, that number, 3,251, is another example of Hurricane Trump, and sometimes like I said, you can convince the storm is not raging, but that's because we're in the eye of it.

Let's talk more about it now with David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun", Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief of "The Chicago Sun-Times", Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator and senior columnist with "The Daily Beast", and Mary Katherine Ham, a senior writer for "The Federalist", and also a CNN political commentator.

Great to have all of you here. I'm thrilled to be in D.C., we can all talk in person today.

I wonder if -- if I'm making any sense, Lynn, when I say this feels like a hurricane, where there can be days when it can all seem kind of probe, you can kind of forget what's going on in the Mueller probe, but then all of a sudden, we get this "New York Times" story this weekend, and all of a sudden, we're all talking about whether the president can pardon himself. I mean, that's been a big subject on the Sunday morning talk shows.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, what we're talking about here is the new definition of what Trump strategy is in the Trump era.

[11:05:03] It is playing defense, not offense. And that I think is what considered at a frame when we've -- you've tried to analyze Trump and the media, because he's impulsive about his own media habits, and because he's obsessed with watching television and that's mainly Fox.

What you have here is a team that I think kind of self-identifies their role more as 3,251 potential needs of issues to clean up, more than what could be by day 500 in office, hundreds of initiatives that they could have said, we really message that well, Matt. You know, like, we got -- we really got people focusing on the good jobs numbers.

STELTER: They're trying.

SWEET: Right, they're trying, but then his pardon play, which could have waited a few days, he knew the jobs numbers were coming, and I know there's a controversy if you leaked it early, or hinted at it at early --


SWEET: -- usually, there would have been a whole rollout, if the numbers are big, we'll do this, maybe we'll have this kind of interview. But instead, he knows, or should know by now that when you start rolling out hints of pardons, that if you really want to talk about your good jobs numbers, there's only -- you know, news is 24/7, but that limits, that is a limit, 24/7.


STELTER: Yes, right.

SWEET: If he wants to take -- and he knows he's going to get most of it. And this is what is baffling, he controls so much air time, if he just wouldn't tweet sometimes, he could get more of the 24/7 maybe talking about the topics they want, so when they complain, which you often hear from the White House, you know, you're not covering this, or you're not covering that. You know, there is a way that we cover the news, and if you put it on the table, we're going to cover it.

STELTER: Right. Matt, is this an example of two Americas? You have written about two Americas idea recently with regards to an alternative universe where spygate was a shocking Obama era scandal: Is there two Americans where the sun is shining in one of them, and the storm is raging in the other one?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And, you know, one of the stories that Donald Trump stepped on this week was passing this right to real legislation, which I think is a good idea and could been I think a bipartisan, a lot of people would have supported it. You really do have two Americas, and I think maybe it's different TV channels that people are watching.

On the one hand, you have Donald Trump who has given conservatives all these things like tax cuts, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, you have the jobs going -- jobs in the economy are going well, North Korea, at least we can be somewhat hopeful about that possibility. And so, on one hand, things seem to be going pretty well.

On the other hand, you have these much bigger issues in the sense that it speaks to things of character, right? Things like the erosion of the social fabric that Donald Trump is bringing about, liberal democracy under threat, authoritarian tendencies, the attacking of the media, and just the vulgarity as well. I mean, the fact that we have -- we're having to talk about Stormy Daniels all the time.

So really, there are two Americas and I suspect that if you're a conservative and you're watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh all the time, you're saying this is the best thing since Ronald Reagan. If you're exposed to different media, you probably have a very different conclusion.

STELTER: Right. You know, think about this hurricane metaphor. One of the times I covered a hurricane, I was surprised by how tired I was during it. And that's because the wind, the rain, it actually has a numbing effect, just kind of a lullaby, the constant wind, the constant storm.

I was thinking of that because there was a "BuzzFeed" headline a day or two ago that said, Trump's power is not fear, it's fatigue. Just that you're getting tired of all the stories.

You know, this morning, on Twitter, the president is mocking his own DOJ, his own Department of Justice, and putting the word justice in quote marks. That's shocking. That's put up the breaking news banner for him to be mocking the DOJ, and yet because he does it constantly, maybe we have fatigue.

Do you think that's a fair idea that his power is the fatigue?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do think there's some of that going on. I think that's how he sort of broke open the process to begin with, because the process had been the one that created robot Rubio, like unless I say the same thing over and over again, then I'm going to get busted.

Well, Trump is like I'm just going to say the wrong thing all the time and no one can hone in on the one bad thing I said, right? That's how this works, he spreads it all out.

I will say, it's always infrastructure week in the White House, right? And I think we've had another one. But I think there's a lot in the country that does live in the eye of the storm, they think of the storm as hitting the East Coast.

STELTER: Yes, that's right, here in Washington.

HAM: And I also think it's important for us to remember, we're part of the storm. Like this is a symbiotic relationship between Trump and the media and we are happy to play along sometimes. I think a perfect example is the pardons that get a bunch of attention are the Dinesh D'Souzas and the Joe Arpaios, the ones that don't are the Jack Johnsons, which really was a righting of injustice.

STELTER: Fair point.

HAM: And so, that is part of our choice to focus on what we want to focus on.

STELTER: And I catch myself trying not to sound whiney. You know, I would have sat here and say, you know, when Obama had great jobs numbers toward the end of his administration, I don't think there was much press, I don't think there was much talk about it.

[11:10:07] But when I bring that up, I feel like it comes across as whining.

SWEET: But there was enormous pressure on Obama in 2012. Every month those numbers came out.


SWEET: We've -- you know, everybody stopped to see, they were worried about 8 percent unemployment then. So, he was under enormous scrutiny over those numbers when it was most important.

HAM: I would also -- I was going to say real quick, it's a perfect example of the Trump administration like messing up it's own story, because he tweets this a little bit early, and it messes up a story about actually literal full employment? You can make that about something else. That is a misstep.

STELTER: Let's talk about Melania Trump for a second. One thing that the president and the White House had been quite quiet about is Melania Trump and her status. We did see her tweet the other day, but the first time we've caught a glimpse of her -- the last time we caught a glimpse of her was on that May 10th, 24 days, more than three weeks, there's been a lot of questions about her surgery, her time at Walter Reed and now her invisibility.

You see on Twitter, she addressed this. She kind of blamed the media of it, just that the media was working overtime speculating about where I am and what I'm doing. Rest assured, she said, I'm here at the White House with my family, feeling great and working hard on behalf of the American people.

David, my question for you is -- how long does she have to be out of sight to make this a legitimate media story? Are we already there yet?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: Well -- no, I think because of the health concerns, it was a legitimate media story. The thing I was surprised, Brian, was to see that tone from her, the media -- mainstream media working overtime. I haven't seen a lot of that with her.

And in fact, the media just went crazy about the state visit celebrating her. And I think some of it was, we want to trash Trump so we'll celebrate her, I mean, there are -- you know, it's a way to say, hey, we don't hate this administration. If it does something well, we'll celebrate it, you know? Trump just wasn't doing things that we feel we could celebrate in that way.

So, I think it was legitimate. I don't think the media -- I think the media has treated Melania Trump rather well. I mean, I think they have been fair about it. And this -- I was surprised by her tone, and I thought, I wonder if somebody is guiding that kind of tweet from her. That doesn't seem like her, at least the message she's had in her engagement with the press.

STELTER: Well, the headline on "Fox and Friends" this morning, I think we can put it up on the screen. It says, why is the media intent on tearing down Melania?

ZURAWIK: There it was -- oh, thank you for two Americas, Brian. Yes.

STELTER: There's the alternative universe.

But, Lynn, you're covering the White House every day. Is this a big story? Is it getting bigger the more days that she's out of sight?

SWEET: Well, I can't say it's bigger than whether or not Trump read the letter that the Koreans delivered to him, that big thing.


SWEET: Which is another way that he pivots attention off this bigger issue, if he's going to be headed toward successful talks.

First ladies get media coverage, I don't care what your political ideology is, when a first lady disappears from the public 24 days after being in a hospital, of course, reporters are going to raise questions and it's not hostile. I mean, there are so many things that are polarizing and divide us, you know, sometimes I just yearn for the place, can people understand, this is a time where so much is not normal and you don't want to normalize the serial misrepresentations, fabrications or lies that Trump does.

That it just is -- you know, Mrs. Trump has a press operation. If she's doing stuff in the White House, isn't there a picture? That there seems to be all kinds of ability to tweet something when you have it. And you would think that one way of answering it, if she doesn't want to up, she didn't want to go to Camp David with the president this weekend.

STELTER: Right, this weekend, right.

SWEET: And he took some of his children and not his young son. So, you know, where's the picture?

STELTER: Yes, we need more reporting, less speculating. I think there's a risk of some liberals falling into a conspiracy theory trap here by assuming the worst about what's going on.

SWEET: I saw nothing.

STELTER: We just need more reporting about it, yes.

SWEET: It's just what reporters do. If a first lady disappears, I don't care -- it could have been from Bessy Truman to Mrs. Washington, you know, for all our presidents, if the first lady or the person who's standing in for first lady disappears, you want to know where she is.

STELTER: Quick break here, and then some brand new reporting about the seismic week of TV news. Roseanne Barr, she's not staying silent. And Samantha Bee, she has more to say. Details right after the break.


[11:18:14] STELTER: While the Trump administration fails to condemn racism, it's fallen to corporate America to take a stand, to show leadership, and that's what Disney did this week. The company, the parent of ABC was widely applauded for its decision to go ahead and cancel it's top rated new show "Roseanne" because of Roseanne Barr's racist and bizarre tweets.

Now, I have to admit, I didn't see this coming. I thought Roseanne Barr was too big to fail. I thought she was too popular to be fired.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are they going to fire here her?

STELTER: I am standing by for a statement from ABC. I don't know what it will contain. I expect it will be some sort of condemnation, but it would be hard to imagine ABC parting ways with Roseanne Bar.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right. We have the breaking news. So, what is ABC saying?

STELTER: The show has been cancelled.


STELTER: Hey, there you go. Lesson learned. It really was a shocking move. It sent shockwaves about the TV industry, many in television executives did not think ABC would make this move. But that is partly why it became such a big story, because it was so surprising, because the network was essentially putting morals over money.

Now that was on Tuesday. Barr continued on a tweet storm throughout the week, making excuses, playing the victim, et cetera. And President Trump sort of did that as well. He tweeted toward ABC's owner, Disney's CEO Bob Iger, saying why aren't you apologizing to me for various insults that have aired on ABC?

Then, of course, the conversation turned from Roseanne Barr to Samantha Bee and her vulgar attack against President Trump's daughter Ivanka. Now, Bee came out and apologized and her parent company TBS, which like CNN is owned by Turner, a division of Time Warner, stood by her, rather than suspending or otherwise punishing her, Bee will be back on the air on Wednesday.

[11:20:04] In fact, I can report that she will address this. She's going to take it on on her show called "Full Frontal", on Wednesday night.

I'm really curious to see what she says, how much she takes responsibility and how much she tries to change the subject back to what she was originally talking about, which was President Trump's immigration policy. Remember, that was actually what she was actually trying to talk about, but it was all overshadowed by her profanity.

Let's talk about it now. The panel is back with me here in Washington. And Maria Cardona is also joining the table.

Maria, Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee, two very different stories. Did you see a lot of folks trying to draw a false equivalency?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I did, and I call it a false equivalency because what I tried to do and thinking about this was to compare apples to apples. So, for example, if Samantha Bee had done exactly the same thing as Roseanne Barr, tweeted exactly the same thing, that say perhaps about Condoleezza Rice, and she did it to -- when she was employed by a company like ABC or Disney which is very family-oriented, I bet you she would have been fired.

And if you flip it, if Roseanne had done this on a late night show and used the same words that Samantha Bee did, let's say towards Chelsea Clinton, I bet you she probably would not have been fired.

So, I think that's the way to think about it, more so than just each one in its own silo, because when you think about each in its own silo, it is very easy to go to that false equivalency and to scream that there's a double standard. I think that it would more honest for all us and maybe we will all get to different conclusions anyway, as opposed to what I just said. Maybe people don't agree with me, but I think if you try to compare with -- in exactly those some circumstances, each one, then I think maybe it's an a lot more honest conversation.

STELTER: MK, how do you see it?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me just take the completely opposite view on this. I think it sounds extremely try hard to make them completely different things. These are two women public figures, attacking women public figures. They both have on autonomous TV shows.

They both used what is universally recognized as the worst terms about what you can talk about African-Americans or women. You could argue that the racism is a harsher one because just because it's racism, you can also argue that Samantha Bee is -- it evens up because hers was scripted and prepared by an entire staff of a network.

So, I think these are fair to put next to each other.

STELTER: Should she have been fired?

HAM: Well, look, I'm actually in favor of a lot of people being able to say lot of crazy things about being fired because I heart speech. But I am -- I'm not surprised that the racism got Roseanne fired and I think this is roughly equivalent, and I'm sort of surprised that she's still being given awards and that she's out there taking interview --

STELTER: Yes, she was accepting an award on the same night that she apologized. And in that speech, she said, look, we spend an entire day debating a single word and not the president's immigration policy. I think she was frustrated that this got so much attention.

HAM: Well, she's frustrated at herself then. I mean, this -- and it wasn't just that word. She also said that Ivanka Trump should go and then put a tight dress on and essentially seduce her father into changing her immigration policies, which I would argue is not super pro-women either. Look, I think -- I think she probably should have been punished worse than she was.

She's out there saying in her acceptance speech for this award that basically Trump supporters made me do it because I'm so passionate. It's like, no, nobody made you use the C-word.


STELTER: Matt, why is it that -- what I see at play here is grievance politics? And we see this on the left and the right, the idea of victimhood, that my team is the victim of the other team's behavior. Why is that so effective when President Trump taps into it?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the conservatives have actually for a long time had the sense that we are discriminated against. And I'll be honest with you, I think that there's some truth to that. Even in the case of -- if you take overt politics out of it and just look at the entertainment that Middle America gets, right?

So, there's -- it was in the '60s or '70s, you had a couple of hit TV shows on "Green Acres" and "Beverly Hillbillies" which were actually winning their time slot and were cancelled. That -- so, sometimes the free market doesn't exactly work. Sometimes, these executives, maybe have liberal bias, they're not putting the bottom line ahead -- so they're not actually going with money. Roseanne was doing very well with her show, they fired her anyway.

Look, I do think, though, race is a red line. Misogyny is obviously bad, and there's the Me Too moment right now. But when you call, when you talk about Valerie Jarrett and you talk about "Planet of the Apes," that is -- you cannot do that, and I think rightfully so. So, I -- they're apples and oranges, they're both fruits --

STELTER: They're both equally bad fruits.

HAM: Except the C-word used to be a bright line as well apparently. It's not anymore.

STELTER: What about President Trump's tweets on the matter, about Disney and then about Samantha Bee?

David Zurawik, both networks just ignored them. I kind of thought that was interesting. They didn't engage at all.

ZURAWIK: I think that's important, I think people in some ways are starting to ignore presidential tweets because of Trump.

[11:25:07] You know, when he tweeted that Tomi Lahren was a role model after she had this incident in Minnesota, I wrote -- when I first saw it, I said, I'm going to leave this alone. Then Trump tweets, and I'm like, OK, I have to address this, because the president of the United States is saying this person is a role model and this person has tweeted things about Black Lives Matter and KKK that are really racist and this has to stop.

Most, I think, a lot of people just ignored the president on that, I still think because -- and I believe this is true. The president and the White House can still drive our rhetoric, the level that we have our national conversation at, it can still drive visual imagery in this culture.


ZURAWIK: And it can still drive the American imagination in -- for all of our media platforms, nobody can match that, and a lot of this goes back to the way the White House is driving all of that in the public mind. The -- look, you can't blame the White House for something as ugly and horrid as Roseanne did, but you can see how Trump's rhetoric fed her and made her feel justified in her racism.

And you can also see in a way how it drives someone like Samantha Bee -- and I'm not excusing her in any way, and I'm not blaming him for this, you know? But you can see how it driving people to those extremes, when he says the kinds of things he does -- STELTER: But to sink as low, to sink lower?

ZURAWIK: That's the mistake. Yes, listen to, when they go low, we go high, that's what we should do, but the culture is not doing that, Brian. It's going in the other direction.

I have to tell you, I agree with you about the hurricane metaphor, I was off last week and I was like, Tuesday, and I said, I'm not turning those cable channels on at 6:00 a.m. Eastern in the morning like I always do.

I am sick of Trump. I am sick of the fighting. I just want to like walk my dog, you know? Look at the sunshine.

And then Roseanne's tweet comes out, you know, and I'm on the phone with the office and I'm writing it and I'm back in the hurricane, my Twitter is blowing up and everything else.

STELTER: Well, it went on longer because of the president's comments about Disney and about Iger.

What I wish Trump would tweet about is the aftermath of an actual hurricane, about Puerto Rico, because we're at the start of a new hurricane season --


STELTER: -- and there's a lot of concern about Puerto Rico's readiness.

I do think we should address here, even though we have waited until the 27th minute of the hour, my fault, for not talking about this Harvard study, why is it that Roseanne so overpowered the Harvard study about the estimate of Puerto Rican death toll? What is it that Puerto Rico has been short-changed by the press?

ZURAWIK: I think a couple of reasons. One, we are addicted to celebrities, I mean, in a sick way. We've been that way for a long time.

STELTER: A celebrity culture.

ZURAWIK: Yes, we're a celebrity culture. So, that's one thing.

What she said so went to the guts of the culture war in this country, and it was so ugly, even by the standards of social media rhetoric today, it was so shocking, what she wrote, and then you -- and here's the other part of it.

STELTER: It's also relatively easy to cover. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has an interest in it.

ZURAWIK: I agree, Brian, but there's also this deeper thing -- that people saw her show and saw the character of Roseanne Connor who's likable in some ways. That show spoke to them in the same way that Trump did. And I'm not denigrating this, I think it was important, I'm from


STELTER: Very important.

ZURAWIK: For people to say in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, we hear you, we know how bad things are. She did that.

So, you like her in that artificially constructed Roseanne Connor character. And then the real Roseanne does something that's so repulsive and so ugly that it shocks you. This was a shocking moment in our culture.


CARDONA: Brian, I need to jump in here, because I grew up in Puerto Rico. My brother lives there. This is very personal to me. I talked about this this morning, and I agree with you, this should not have been overshadowed.

And I wonder if it's because it is Puerto Rico and it is not the main land. I mean, I'm sorry, but Puerto Rico has essentially gotten the shaft from this administration. The way that the recovery has been treated, the preparation, what FEMA has done was not nearly to the extent that they -- that it should have been done and I wonder if these were 5,000 American citizens stateside and if they weren't brown and if they didn't speak Spanish, I think we would be talking more about this.

STELTER: Look, we don't know what -- I don't think we'll ever really know what the real death toll was. This Harvard study found it could be 4,600, it could be much higher, could be lower. There's new data from the government that indicates there was a spike in the death after the hurricane.

I was struck by two headlines on that I think summarized as well. One said, Americans viewed Hurricane Maria as if it was happening in another country.

CARDONA: Exactly.

STELTER: To your point.

CARDONA: That's right.

STELTER: And the second headline was also from It said, President Trump will have to deal with this. But Puerto Rico will be an enduring stain on his legacy, on his presidency.


CARDONA: It will be -- it will be a very black mark on his record.

STELTER: But maybe only if the press takes it seriously.

CARDONA: I agree. And I think it is our responsibility to try to continue to put -- to shine the light on this.

Let's think about this. The death toll -- and I have talked to a lot of people there, anecdotally, to the administration down there, and to medical folks that have worked in the field. And they say that it probably will be much higher than 5,000, because a lot of these deaths were not reported.

People were having their loved ones who died in their houses, they were keeping them there after Maria because they didn't know what to do with them.



CARDONA: So, I do think that this will go over 5,000. And that means that there have been more American citizens killed in the aftermath of Maria than in 9/11 and Katrina combined.

Let's think about that for a moment.

STELTER: We have to take a quick here, bring back the panel after a commercial break to talk about another one of the biggest stories of the week, a media scandal that you probably heard about involving Joy Reid, more embarrassing blog posts from Joy Reid's past.

Who's digging these up? Why? And why is she still avoiding the hacking issue?



STELTER: MSNBC host Joy Reid apologized again on Friday for old blog posts that have been found and republished.

These are blog posts that are full of embarrassing comments and language. Some of them are homophobic. Others have been insulting public figures like John McCain.

One of the most disturbing to me was when she suggested people check out on a 9/11 truther documentary.

Now, she published these blog posts more than a decade ago, but the issue, the reason why it's relevant now is because of this claim that maybe she didn't publish them at all. It's a credibility issue involving her claim in April that she was hacked, that there was a breach of her blog and that some hacker had published some of these posts in order to make her look bad.

Now, she is not claiming she was hacked anymore. And she is apologizing again for the posts.

MSNBC is standing by her. In this statement, the network is saying that her -- some of her posts were "obviously hateful and hurtful and not reflective of the colleague and friend we have known for the past seven years."

Now, again, what's missing MSNBC's statement is any reference to the earlier suggestion she was hacked and that the claim was being investigated by the FBI. I guess this hacker is still at large.

I mean, here's The Daily Beast reported on Friday. Neither Reid nor MSNBC have commented on whether they stand by the hacking claim or whether the supposed FBI probe is still ongoing.

I want to bring back David, Matt, Mary Katharine and Maria here at the table.

Look, obviously, these old blog posts are being weaponized against her. I think it is fair to wonder if there are anti-Reid folks out there trying to publish these all posts in order to embarrass her.

But this claim of hacking is more relevant because it's brand-new. This was made in April. Then she sort of backed away from it, right, OK? She said she couldn't prove she was hacked.

HAM: Right.

STELTER: But, to me, this lingers in the air now as a confusing issue from MSNBC.

HAM: Yes, again because I heart the speech, I want to give people a lot of leeway on their old statements.

STELTER: I love that, right. People evolve. People change. She's evolved.

HAM: And I want to give people leeway to evolve.

Do I think it's possible liberal hosts get more leeway for evolving than conservative hosts? Sure. But I also think the problem here is the hacking up claim, because you have got a federal law enforcement agency involved due to it.

And I think people are willing to forgive you if you said something in the past that you don't agree with anymore. And we can move on. But the lying -- I think -- what I think is probably lying about the hacking when she was trying to get out of it earlier is a problem.


The lying question, we don't know if she's lying, but it looks like that.

HAM: I'm highly skeptical.

STELTER: David, how is your interpretation of this?

ZURAWIK: Brian, especially in this moment in the media where we are being told by the White House that the press lies, this is the last thing.

We should have the highest standards in the world. If you look at the "Fourth Estate" documentary on "The New York Times" and you see the levels they have to go through with editors and that to try to get it right, that's the image we need out there.

NBC News does not need to be presenting somebody or being silent about something that say, maybe this person sitting at this host desk is a liar.

And also this lie -- this alleged lie is also kind of complicated, in the sense that it's kind of nutty. It's the kind of thing you make up when you're really desperate.


STELTER: Like when you're backed into a corner.

ZURAWIK: Right. Students make up these kind of stories when they don't have their work there.


STELTER: We see Reid's fans saying, hey, stop talking about Reid. The real threat is Trump.

Maria, what about that pivot, to say don't pay attention to Reid's issues?

CARDONA: Now, I think that this does go to her credibility, because if she had just come out and apologized, period, people like redemption stories. People want to give people a second chance. People want to believe people when say that they are truly sorry.

Maybe liberals give more of a leeway when it comes to evolution or evolving -- it could be because we believe in evolution.





CARDONA: But I think it also has to do with, this didn't happen yesterday.

So, this happened, what, 2005? That was a long time ago, so she can definitely say, I'm not the same person that I was back then.


CARDONA: I apologize.

And that would be it. But now the story is this. And, frankly, it reminds me of the Anthony Weiner story, when he -- when Wolf presented him with the pictures, you remember, on air, and he kept claiming that he was hacked. That's not a good memory for people to have when Joy Reid talks about her hacking.

And now the fact that they're not even addressing it, I think, even shines more of a light on it.


LEWIS: Why isn't MSNBC doing anybody about this?

And, to me, this is the larger problem, right, which is, we have now created a world where we -- shame doesn't exist anymore.

ZURAWIK: Yes. Yes.

LEWIS: And you look at some of the things that Sean Hannity has said or done that did not get him fired, there's a sense that we're all tribalists now.

And if someone's coming out after one of our people, we need to circle the wagons and protect that person. And that's what MSNBC is doing right now with Joy-Ann Reid.

STELTER: To the panel -- David, last word to you?

ZURAWIK: No, that's exactly.

We look at every -- everything is judged through a political perspective, instead of a moral perspective. We need to do a moral reasoning.


LEWIS: They're doing what a political campaign would do, not what a media outlet would do.

HAM: Tribalism is good for traffic, though.

STELTER: Good for traffic, good for Web traffic.


STELTER: Unfortunately, that is true.

To our panel, thank you very much.

Quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES. We will be right back.



STELTER: What is the media strategy behind President Trump's recent spate of celebrity pardons? He's been saying we might see even more pardons and commutations in the coming days, including for some former "Apprentice" contestants. So now we're seeing people lobbying for pardons on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The same people that went after Mr. D'Souza are the same people that went after my husband, the same people are going after the president now.


STELTER: That was last night on FOX News.

Of course, there's a debate raging about whether the president is playing favorites with his friends or sending a message to his enemies through the people he's choosing to pardon. Maybe it's a mix of both.

Joining me now is Frank Rich, a writer at large for "New York Magazine" who is also the executive producer of the new HBO series "Succession."

We will get into that a moment.

But, Frank, is this the inevitable kind of end point of the FOX News presidency, people going on FOX first to lobby for pardons, and then, once you're pardoned, you go on FOX to thank him?


It's like -- I don't know. It's like now turning the presidency not just into a reality show, but a game show, where if the price is right, I mean, there is something behind the curtain and you get the big prize.

One point about it that I find not explored enough is, what are of these pardons worth to some of these people? I think particularly of Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart was completely dissed and insulted by Trump when her "Apprentice" show failed, when she got in trouble with the law.

And you have to wonder, what is -- what good is he doing for her now? It may be another example of trolling, because she built up her business again, built up her brand. And now how does a pardon from Donald Trump help her?

STELTER: Or even the talk about getting a possible pardon. I wonder if people even benefit by being speculated about. I think that remains to be seen.

Let me turn to "Succession." I mentioned it a minute ago. It's this HBO series that you have been crucially involved with. It's a fictional spin on a media empire. That's why I the viewers of this program are going to be into it.

I think there's a similarity here between Rupert Murdoch and Brian Cox, who plays the patriarch on your program.

Are you going for a Murdoch-like media dynasty on this new show?

RICH: Well, Murdoch-like, Redstone like, any billionaire family with a ton of power and a ton of money and the power in the media to really affect all our lives, to affect the other 99 percent of us daily.

So it's a drama about a crazily dysfunctional family. It's satirical, we hope funny. Three writers of my other show, "Veep," has worked on it, for instance.

But it also has a point to make, not preachily, that these people, these screwed-up people affect our daily life.

STELTER: Hmm. And that's something that's been true for decades, but is especially true today, as we see a new wave of media consolidation.

RICH: Absolutely.

And, indeed, a story line in our first season is that our family patriarch, the 80-year-old billionaire played by Brian Cox, wants more and more. He wants to own all the news, as we put it.

And,yes, and they're ever greedy for more money and more power and more clout with government and the rest of it.


Frank, best of luck with the new series. Thanks for being here.

RICH: Thank you.

STELTER: Quick break here, and then the most incredible story of the week, a reporter who fakes his own death. But was the credibility of journalism the real victim here?

You have to hear what Julia Ioffe says about this right after the break.



STELTER: Is it ever ethical for a journalist to fake his own death? What if his life is at risk?

A Russian journalist has put that question to the test this week. He worked with the Ukrainian government to fake his own death as a part of a sting operation in order to capture the people he believed were pursuing him.

Now, there are a lot of ethical questions here that you might not have thought of. But Julia Ioffe has. She's joining me now. She wrote about this for "The New York Times" this week.

Julia, there was an immediate reaction, saying this actually could be problematic for other journalists who cover Russia. How so?

JULIA IOFFE, "THE ATLANTIC": So, everybody was relieved that Arkady Babchenko was alive.


IOFFE: But I think people were concerned, A, that he cooperated with the Ukrainian security services, the successors to the KGB, and, two, that he presented it as either I was going to get killed or I had to go along with the sting operation.

There were lots of choices in between. But I think the real problem is that the Kremlin often when it is caught doing something bad, like shooting down a Malaysian airliner by accident or poisoning a former Russian spy in England, it claims these elaborate stories and says, well, what if this was simply a false flag operation to make Russia look bad?

And that is what the Russians claimed after Babchenko was first proclaimed dead. And then it turned out that their most outlandish theory, that this was all a setup to make Russia look bad, proved true.

So what happens in the future when Russia is caught doing something bad or yet another Russian journalist is killed, and they say this is a false flag?


STELTER: Yes. Let me put up the map from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

It shows how many journalists have been murdered in Russia and the Ukraine since 2000. You see on screen there it's a disturbing trend. And your concern is that next time it will be called fake news.


IOFFE: Well, yes, it's that.

And it's also, I have to say, traumatizing a community that has gone through a lot. The speed with which his colleagues wrote obituaries and memorials of him, put all their differences aside -- he's not a very well-liked guy, not a guy a lot of people agreed with.

But they have gone -- this community of journalists has gone through this trauma so many times. And to fake one -- there was one journalist, Tatyana Felgenhauer, who was stabbed in the neck in October and survived. And when she saw that she had come back from the dead, she flipped out.

It's just like -- it's a really traumatized community, with a lot of PTSD, that you just retraumatized for your own benefit or just to make Russia look bad.

STELTER: Wow. Julia, thanks for being here. I recommend her piece on

And we are out of time here on television. But we will see you on the Web,

See you right here next -- this time next week as well.

And a reminder: Chris Cuomo's program premieres here on CNN tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

It's a big moment for the cable news wars, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" tomorrow.