Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Trump's Hate Movement Against the Media; Sanders Used Debunked Story to Attack Media; Heroes And Villains: Trump Is Telling A Story; Trump Ups Ferocity Of Language Against Media And Mueller; Journalist On The Receiving End Of Death Threats. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired August 05, 2018 - 11:00   ET


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

This weekend, breaking news from President Trump. He's upping his ferocious language against the news media and Robert Mueller. "New York Times" columnist David Leonhardt is here with a theory about what's going on.

Plus, think of him as the story teller in chief. Are we in the news media over-analyzing President Trump's statements, his stories? Should we really be analyzing him more like a novelist?

A lot of thoughts to get to, a lot of angles to discuss, because the president is really attacking the press with renewed vigor. It's something we need to analyze in detail because it's something that's being talked about in newsrooms across the country right now.

You might say his attacks are becoming normalized in some way. Let me show you what I mean. I think it's as simple as this: President Trump's newest attempt to strip away our legitimacy and indeed our humanity is coming through on Twitter. He's posting these kinds of tweets.

Here is one of them that I want us to take a look at and dissect. He is saying the fake news hates being called the enemy of the people only because they know it's true. He's claiming he is providing a great service to the public by explaining this.

Here's what the president says about journalists. He says they purposely cause great division and distrust. They can also cause war, he says. They are very dangerous and sick.

I know we're all used to him tweeting all the time but just think about what he's saying here. The president, with his back up against the wall, is saying journalists are dangerous, sick enemies of the people. That's where we are. This is America.

Let me show you a few of the reactions from journalists this morning. Chuck Todd is calling this outrageous. He's saying here he tries not to take bait but this time he's reacting in the hopes that rational folks realize this is wrong and dangerous. Bill Kristol, an outspoken Trump critic, says the president sounds

closer in spirit to Vladimir Putin than America. And SP Dade, a White House reporter for "The Huff Post", pointed out that other leaders in the past have always used the phrase enemy of the people. Among those leaders, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.

Look, enemy of the people does have a Stalin era connotation. It was used in order to inflict pain and cause violence on populations of people throughout history. If the president doesn't know that, surely someone has told him by now.

But you think about what's happened this week. There's been three days of rallies. The president singing the same tune but singing it more loudly, he's shouting some of these attacks nowadays. And there's certainly been a newfound focus on how he whips up his crowds against the press corps.

More and more, I think "hate movement" is the proper term for what's going on. President Trump is not just telling his fans to ignore what we report. He's telling people that we are the enemy.

Trump and some of his allies are promoting a hate movement against the American press. And I've been seeing that term used more and more. And the first time I saw that more than a year I think it was by NYU's Jay Rosen. Others are picking up on it as well.

I think it's a helpful frame to understand what the president is doing. When we see people booing journalists at rallies, when we see the death threats that come in over social media, it's all part of this hate movement. And later in the hour, I want to show you one of the death threats that I recently received and we don't normally do this, but I'm going to play the phone call for you so you can get a sense of what it's like.

But, first, let's talk about the state of play, what's the president's strategy is, if there is one, with two White House veterans. Here to talk about this is Anthony Scaramucci, the former Trump White House director of communications, and Joe Lockhart, a former Clinton White House press secretary and also a CNN political commentator.

Let's get this out of the way first. Joe, are journalists the enemy of the American people?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. That shouldn't be hard to say from the podium.

STELTER: Anthony? Are journalists the enemy?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION: I've said that consistently that they're not the enemy. And when you use the word enemy that means you're at war with people. And so, I've asked the president and I've said to people in the administration to end the war declaration against the media.

STELTER: Look, we might disagree on some other issues, but I'm glad all three of us can agree about the rhetoric here. Why do you think, Anthony, the president is falling back to this enemy rhetoric and using it more often? Do you see a strategy behind it?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I mean, he's upset because if you look at the Harvard study and you look at other studies, the bias there is about 90 percent against the president.

[11:05:00] And so, he's a counterpuncher.

But I think it's the wrong strategy because what ends up happening is you're uniting people against you that you don't need to unite. And if you really understand the First Amendment and you understand the hits historically that presidents have taken since the beginning of the republic, frankly, there's no reason to declare war against the press.

Having said that, you can have an adversarial relationship. You can disagree with people that are in the press. You can disagree with editorial statements and things like that.

Sure, presidents are doing that and have been doing that as well for 240 years. But I don't like the war declaration, because it will lead to something that none of us really want. And I've said that directly to the president, Bill Shine. I've said that to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And I'll continue saying that.

And, frankly, the war started when Steve Bannon at CPAC, he got up there and said that the press was an opposition party and they were, in fact, the enemy. So, it's just wrong, guys.

And so, having said that. I support the president. You don't have to be on side on every single issue. I don't believe in litmus tests.

I think by and large, he's done a very, very good job. His speech away from the rhetoric about the press I thought was very good last night.

STELTER: What about the idea that no one -- that people are telling him to drop this rhetoric and he's not listening? I mean, is this partly why you weren't in the job longer? He doesn't want to hear this kind of advice?

SCARAMUCCI: Listen, I mean, I obviously made a mistake and I got fired by John Kelly for that mistake, and I bear the accountability for that.

But I'm telling you that the most loyal people, your most loyal employee, your most loyal staff are offering you constructive advice and telling you balls and strikes the way they see them as opposed to just acting as sycophants. So, I would encourage people that are in the West Wing if they think differently than the president, they should speak out. They should speak out in a constructive way. There's no to be ridiculously critical or biting.

But on this topic, the president's got great judgment. He's been a great marketing person his whole life. He's a great communicator. I think he's wrong on this topic. I think he's been right on the economy. I think he's been right on

North Korea. I think about what's about to happen in Iran will be a result of his doing.

But I don't -- I don't think this war with the media is something that's going to help him long term.

STELTER: And, Joe, what about you? When I say it's hate movement, that's how serious this is -- do you think that's fair depiction of what's going on?

LOCKHART: Well, I think, first off, the -- when you say movement, what Trump is trying to do is to pit the media against the public. And I think the media makes a mistake when they make it about just themselves. What it is, is it's a hate movement and war on our democracy. The media is an essential part of that -- keeping the president honest through the work that the press secretary does and the president does.

And the president and his people are pursuing a deliberate strategy. They are trying to confuse and undermine all the information sources except for the most conservative. They want to keep their base happy so they throw out the raw meat to Fox News and others. And then they want to get everyone else confused.

And you see this most explicitly in how he talks about the Mueller investigation, calling it a witch hunt despite all the indictments that have gone in. Despite all of the work that's been done. And what he's trying to do is just make people get so frustrated that they'll say, "I don't believe anyone".

It is a deliberate strategy. It's a cynical strategy. It's a dangerous strategy and it is a war on our democracy.

STELTER: Anthony, a war on our democracy?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I wouldn't go as far as Mr. Lockhart is saying. I don't think it's a necessarily a war on democracy. I think as it relates to what he's talking about specific to the witch hunt, he means about himself specifically. I think he does recognize that there could have been some foul play on the periphery. And certainly, a lot of indictments came down were not directly related to him.


STELTER: If that's what he feels he can say that. If that's what he feels he can say that. He doesn't. He says rigged witch hunt.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, I -- I got that. I think -- I think rigged witch hunt sets people's hair on fire, Brian, I mean, you know, those of us that have hair.

What I would basically say to you is he is upset about the media bias. He has a right to be upset about the media bias, but tactically and strategically, the rhetoric he's using is very, very bad for the country -- STELTER: Yes, I think yes.

SCARAMUCCI: -- long term that amendment was first for a reason.


SCARAMUCCI: So, we have to uphold that amendment. We have to uphold the sacredness of that amendment.

And people can disagree with me inside the White House. The president can disagree with me. Friends are allowed to disagree. But I think that people that like him should look him straight in the face and tell him the truth about this if they feel as strongly about it as I do.

[11:10:07] STELTER: It makes me wonder, you know, you say that he's upset with the media. It makes me upset if Bill Clinton had Twitter, what he would have said about the media? Joe, do you have any guess?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think it's a fair question. And there's a fundamental difference between the way -- first off, every president thinks the media is biased against them.


LOCKHART: Ask any of them, and if they told you the truth, they think the media is too tough on them. They don't understand they don't cover the positive news. Full stop.

But look at the difference between the 1990s and now.

Bill Clinton pursued a political strategy of saying, you know what? This is all going on over here, but I'm not going to talk about it publicly because you elected me to work for you. I'm not a victim. Even though at times he felt like a victim but in public he didn't do it.

Donald Trump can't go 20 minutes without pouring out a self-pity stream of tweets about how people are out to get him. There's the deep state. There's Mueller. There's the Democrats. There's LeBron James. You pick any one that you can come up with.

And that's fundamentally different. So, I think even if we had Twitter back then, I think President Clinton rose with the public because he was able to put people first and look past what he thought was a politically motivated investigation and Trump is pursuing the attack opposite strategy. And I think it's failing. And that's why you see this flailing around.

STELTER: Anthony, Joe, please stick around both if you can.

Some breaking news before we go to break about the future of CBS. You'll recall that Ronan Farrow's blockbuster "New Yorker" story came out nine days ago. It detailed harassment allegations against several people at CBS, including CEO Les Moonves. Now, more than a week later, Moonves remains in charge while two law firms investigate the allegations. But in the past few minutes, we have received word from CBS News about another man accused of misconduct, Jeff Fager, the executive producer of "60 Minutes." CBS saying they heard the investigation into Fager will be wrapping up soon. So, Jeff Fager has decided to stay on vacation.

Now, here is the significance of that. Fager was originally planning to return to work tomorrow, Monday. It was going to be first day back on the job after the news magazine's traditional summer vacation.

However, "The New Yorker" article detailed allegations of unwanted advances by Fager and alleged that he enabled a culture, a climate of harassment at the legendary news magazine. Fager firmly denied those allegations. But CBS News said it was going to have an outside law firm which was already on the job investigating other harassment allegations against other people that that firm was going to look into Fager as well.

The word from CBS News is that this law firm's work will be completed sometime this month. And so, as a result, Fager, who's one of the most powerful television producers in the business, s going to remain on vacation for now. That's notable because a few days ago he told me he'd be back on Monday.

We'll be back with much more from Scaramucci and Lockhart and all the day's news after a quick break here.


[11:17:05] STELTER: Sometimes the simplest questions provoke the most interesting answers. On stage the other day in D.C., Mike Allen of "Axios" asked Ivanka Trump about her father's enemy talk.


MIKE ALLEN, AXIOS: Do you think that we're enemy of the people?


ALLEN: Do you think we're enemy of the people?

TRUMP: No, I do not.


STELTER: Later in the day, Sarah Sanders was asked the same question but she punted and attacked the press instead.

So, it's official White House policy that press is the enemy of the people. It's pretty outrageous if we're being honest. You know what else is outrageous from that briefing? Sanders' attempt to smear the media by saying journalists somehow revealed bin Laden's location or made it harder to find him? Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We fully support a free press but there's also comes a high level of responsibility with that. The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that puts lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools. One of the worst cases was the reporting on the U.S. ability to listen to Osama bin Laden satellite phone in the late '90s. Because of that reporting, he stopped using that phone and the country lost valuable intelligence.


STELTER: She just said reporters made it harder to track down bin Laden before 9/11. Is that true?

No. Of course, it's not true. Of course, it's not true. It was debunked years ago, more than a decade ago this was debunked.

Sarah Sanders has yet to apologize for her screw up. I don't know what to say anymore, everybody.

But back with me now is Anthony Scaramucci and Joe Lockhart.

Joe, is this how it works? Is this how it works in White House press shops? I mean, you were there for years in the Clinton administration. Someone just hands you a piece of paper and you read it and you lie to the public?

LOCKHART: No, it's -- this is -- this has never happened before. We've had -- you know, we've had great presidents. We've had terrible presidents, Republicans and Democrats.

But we've never had anything like this where a president -- we have a president who is incapable of telling the truth. He -- you know, "The Washington Post" averages something like seven and a half to eight lies day.

The job of the press secretary, even with an honest president, is very, very hard because you're balancing the interests of the president's political fortunes and the government with the press and the public's right know things. And it is hard.

But I think, you know, with both Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders, they have crossed the line here where they now -- the facts don't matter and they reflect the boss. They -- you know, if the boss lies, well, then I can lie. And that's just a terrible place to be for the country. And it has consequences.

The consequences of it -- White House podium used to be place that around the world you could take it to the bank. This is our policy.

[11:20:00] This is what we're doing. Right now, no one knows what the truth is and, you know, they could say, you know, the sun is going to come up in the east tomorrow and there'd be speculation that it's not going to, because of the lies just get told.

And I think for Sarah Sanders, she's now gone beyond the point of being in a tough situation with a hard boss. And she's now, you know, aiding and abetting the process. And the process is designed to undermine the public confidence in the one tool they have to keep the government accountable.

STELTER: Joe, I saw on Twitter, you said she is cowardly. Do you really believe she's cowardly?

LOCKHART: Well, yes. I think the brave thing to do --


LOCKHART: -- would be to up there where in that moment, in that moment, to say, you know what? The president misspoke. The president, you know, sometimes uses hyperbole when he talks about it. The president is frustrated. But the press is not the enemy of the people. That would have been the brave thing.

STELTER: Anthony, you introduced Sanders as press secretary this time last year. What's your reaction to what Joe is saying?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, look, I mean, we're going to have to disagree on her personally and what her character is and what her principles are, because I think she's very different from Sean Spicer, literally like night and day. And so, she's trying her hardest to tell the truth to the American people. Joe does recognize that she has to strike the balance in terms of --


STELTER: But is she? Is she actually trying hard? When she got up there and lied about bin Laden, I mean, she never corrected it.

SCARAMUCCI: I think Joe knows -- I think Joe knows more than the three of us, frankly, how difficult the job is and how difficult sometimes it is that you have to protect the principal and balance the situation but also respect the free and fair press.

Now, listen, you know, Sarah is representing the president there. Ivanka is speaking at the "Axios" conference giving her own opinion. I think that the president still believes and still says thing like the press is the enemy of the people. And so, it's very tough for Sarah to be up there as the president's avatar and to answer that question.

And so, maybe she doesn't think that the press is the enemy of the people but she's representing the president of the United States. So, what I would like to see happen is the president walk that back.

He's got an unbelievable economy, great growth, great wages. If you look at minority unemployment at historical lows, he should be in the mid-50s as it relates to his approval rating, but he needs to change come some of the content and some of style, frankly, of communication. If he doesn't do that, he'll be -- he'll be off to the races, into the midterms and into reelection.

But if he doesn't do that, I think there's a headwind there where people are scratching their heads and saying, hey, hold on a second. The First Amendment is there for a reason.

All three of us know --


STELTER: On another level, way beyond 2020, this is damage we're going to live with for a long time. But, look, I don't want to rant about.

I did notice you took LeBron James side this weekend, Anthony, in this tiff between Trump and James. Is that an example of what you mean by him needing to change his communication style?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. I think -- I don't agree with what the president is saying about LeBron James. I tweeted about it two or three weeks ago before he said the stuff about Don Lemon and LeBron James last night. I just disagree.

That doesn't mean I can't be on his team. Now, if he doesn't want me on his team because I disagree with him on a few things, that's fine. I let him decide that.

But, you know, I think Melania -- the first lady is actually in the same camp as me.


SCARAMUCCI: LeBron James is a great American success story. LeBron James is a guy, frankly, that has been a role model to so many people, not just people in the African-American community but all of America.


SCARAMUCCI: He's an inclusive guy. If he disagrees -- if he disagrees with the president and he says a few things here and there, the president's very combative guy, and so, he's hitting him back. I would tell the president knock it off.


STELTER: That's why a lot of people look at this and they think, hold on, they think LeBron James, Don Lemon and later in the day he attacks Maxine Waters again. A lot of people look at that and they see racism. Do you not see any sign of racism there?

SCARAMUCCI: I don't see that. I don't see that. He calls everybody stupid, OK? Black, white, green, yellow and red, OK? It's not -- the guy -- the guy is not racist.

STELTER: He called three black people stupid this weekend. I didn't see him call any green or red people stupid.

SCARAMUCCI: He's called a whole host of people stupid, Brian. So, I mean, I think it's inappropriate. But it's definitely not racist.

And, look, I know the guy personally and I see how he interacts. You can ask Omarosa. He's far from racist, OK? He picks on everybody universally. So, that's not the issue.

What's at stake here is a guy like LeBron James, every once in a while, if someone is hitting you a little bit, just let it go. Let's get the approval ratings into the mid-50s where it's capable of going if just look at the dashboard of success that America is having right now both domestically and internationally.

[11:25:05] And so, I would change the tactic --

STELTER: But he says the polls are fake.

SCARAMUCCI: And -- he says the polls are fake.


STELTER: I just think there's a deeper problem than what you're describing, right? He literally told me last night at a rally, I watched the live rally, where he said the polls are fake. I mean, that's what he said. I mean, you talk about approval ratings.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. Listen, listen, he may think the polls are fake. I've gone a lot -- look, I'm a trained economist and I understand statistics pretty well. Let's take a sampling of 50 of the polls. They are roughly right.

And so, let's get-- let's get him on track communication-wise. Stay away from attacking LeBron James and Don Lemon. I think it's just a bad move.

STELTER: Anthony and Joe, thank you both.

SCARAMUCCI: Or it might be good for Don for his ratings, though. I don't know.

STELTER: For another conversation.

Anthony and Joe, thank you both for being here.

LOCKHART: Thanks, Brian.

SCARAMUCCI: Thank you.

STELTER: Coming up in a moment, what this outlandish QAnon conspiracy theory is really all about. I have a theory. I'll tell you right after the break.


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Sometimes I think we in the press overanalyze the Trump phenomenon. While he gives a lot to talk about, his appeal is at least on one level pretty simple. He's telling a story. Now, his story is more fiction than fact but that's the thing about a novel or a drama, it's not really meant to be fact checked. It's there to make you feel something. So as much as I promote fact-checking and accountability journalism, I think we should look at this through the prism of storytelling. Like any entertainer, like any producer, Trump knows his story needs heroes and villain. It's us versus them, darkness versus light. His supporters get it. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is a storyteller. He's an entertainer. He should tell the truth but he tells stories and sometimes his stories stretch things.


STELTER: Stretch things. Many of Trumps lies are awful but they are in service of this story he's telling. And if you can look past the lies for a momentum, you can see why some of his fans love the stories. Look another the faces at the rallies. Trump says he's putting America first. He's fixing the economy and fighting the dark forces trying to stop him. In other words, he's the hero battling against Dems and the date state and Never Trumpers and Mueller. And whether you love Trump or hate him, you got to recognize both the power of that story and recognize the powers that boost that story. Picture his pro-trump media world as his co-producers. It's as if his favorite hosts on Fox News are hard at work in the writer's room developing the plot for the next episode. And Trump in turn then promotes them to millions of people.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The guys that we love, right, they're blowing them away in the ratings. Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Steve Doocy, Ainsley, Bryan.

So we're blowing them away and that's good because those are the people that love us.


STELTER: "We," notice that? Well, he's talking about Fox. He says "we." And he doesn't just promote shows, he promotes books as well. He tells people to read specific books that back up the story he's telling. In other worlds, he gives people ways to participate. And that's a really important part of this. I think it's kind of what this Q thing is all about. You know, Q, this crazy QAnon theory, it got a lot of media attention this week because people have showed up with Q signs at all three of Trump's rallies.

The theory is that Trump is secretly saving the world and stopping pedophiles, I think. What you'll find on these message boards is basically don't believe the media coverage of Trump's terrible mistakes because he's really a hero. And that's somewhat serious but believers in this theory also think it's fun.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a fun thing know about it, a fun thing to be part of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's fun because things get revealed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fun because we know before it's going to happen a lot of times. So think about it, when things are happening, we got a smirk on our face and go Q told us.


STELTER: See, there's almost a choose your own adventure aspect to all of this. It's entertainment. Trump and his favorite talk shows and his favorite authors and the people who come up with the conspiracy theories and the Twitter bots and trolls that promote it and the politicians that play along. All of it amounts to an alternative reality. In the same way that Disney fans fly to Florida, in the same ways that comic book fans argue on message boards. Trump loyalists flock to these rallies. They are motivated to defend him and they are motivated to tell his story.

Never underestimate the power of an entertainer. This is where pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson wrote. For all that Trump may ignore the fact, sort of like a plan, he's got something that can still matter a lot, a story. Now, Kristen actually wrote that before Election Day. But her point back then holds really true today. And it might leave you wondering, if Trump is telling this emotional story, what story are Trump's opponents telling? Now look, that's my attempt to make sense of the rally phenomenon. We're seeing more and more of these rallies so let's hear from someone who has been there.

Margaret Talev is the Senior White House Correspondent from Bloomberg and a CNN Political Analyst who was at last night's rally in Ohio and I'm also joined by Susan Glasser, CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Staff Writer for the New Yorker. Margaret, a lot of attention this week about the angry crowds yelling at the press corps at the rallies, but then hen i watch the rallies there's joy and happiness on the face of the attendees. What do you see going on at these events?

[11:35:19] MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, in a way you do almost have to be there, Brian, to understand the nuance of the feel. On some level, every rally is a little bit different. I -- it rarely takes on a mood on it's on. I've been to some that I felt ominous that I've actually felt afraid to come in with the press pool and be identified as press. And then others that are really joyous happy occasions where you'll kind of jump in and start trying to talking to people in the crowd, getting to know who's there. They're very nice very, very cordial. Hi, I'm a retired plumber. This is my son. Oh yes, I live here. Welcome to our neighborhood. Sorry, the air conditioning is broken. And then five minutes later when the President begins bashing on the press, the same people are turning around shaking their fists at you but it is almost kind of -- many people not audience as if it were like a road show or a reality show or a rock concert that they know what their part is. There's a call and respond kind of element to it. There was a call and respond element to President Obama's rally. We were just never one of the foils in that game. It might be something else but --

STELTER: So for that reason -- yes -- I'm seeing more and more viewers and e-mail readers saying to me reporters should stop attending, stop showing up at all. What do you say to that?

TALEV: I understand that sentiment but it misunderstands fundamentally what the job of a journalist is. The job of a journalist to be an impartial observer that witnesses things and synthesizes them to give viewers and readers information so that they can make a judgement. So it's not the role of a journalist really to take part in any of this and that's part of the sort of the diabolical nature of what the President is doing is that he knows that. But the journalists are there to tell American people a story. Now, there's a different question which is do news channels need to cover a rally live gavel-to-gavel for an hour and a half and I think the answer to that is obviously no. The media has never done that for past presidents and it is the job of reporters to be there to decide what is news and to show that to the public.

STELTER: The new normal is that CNN and MSNBC don't carry the rallies live unless there's big breaking news. The Fox News does carry every rally live in its entirety so you see different strokes for different folks I guess. Susan Glasser, you wrote about Trump's lies this week. And at the rallies, we hear a lot of these lives over and over again. Your headline was "It's true Trump is lying more and he's doing it on purpose." What's the meaning there?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know I think that does sum it up. Margaret's point is extremely important, the rallies and the dramatic scale and scope and number of Donald Trump's lives are very much in tandem. At this point, one of the reasons that the Washington Post fact checker has documented this dramatic uptick in the number of presidential lying misstatements and untruths is because Trump has kicked into campaign mode in recent months and we're likely to see even more of it over the next couple months headed up to the midterm elections. He said he'll be on the road six to seven times a week.


GLASSER: In my view, these misstatements and untruths are very much connected to his political identity. These aren't random misstatements or untruths. They're connected with his political story so it's not just a narrative that he's telling. You know, if you look at the categories where he lies the most in public, it's things like immigration, trade, Russia now increasingly, NATO for example. So these are things that are connected. It's not just that he has policies that he's supporting. He's supporting those policies with a conscious strategy of lying and attacking. And I think it goes right along with his broader war on the truth, war on the media and calling us enemies of the people in the lake.

STELTER: Margaret, Susan, thank you both for being here. And on that point Susan was just making, we'll talk about the effects of all this enemy rhetoric, the threats the reporters are receiving right after a quick break.


[11:40:00] STELTER: Our theme this hour, President Trump's untruths. He says polls are fake, then he promotes polls. He likes he says he loves law enforcement, then he says Jeff Sessions should stop the rigged witch-hunt right now. My next guest says this is all connected. David Leonhardt an Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times wrote that Trump's campaign against independent information has been especially chilling this week, a campaign against independent information. I asked him what he means by that?


DAVID LEONHARDT, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This week was especially chilling because of the ferocity of the language that he used against both the media and against the Mueller investigation. What I was trying to point out is as worrisome as the languages against the media, what he's doing is not restricted to the media. He essentially is on a campaign against anyone who represents an independent source of information, the media, Mueller's investigation, the FBI, the national security apparatus, the Congressional Budget Office, scientists in the case of climate change, I could go on and on and on. But Trump essentially wants a monopoly on information and he wants to attack anyone who threatens that monopoly.

[11:45:06] STELTER: That's a much bigger move than merely calling CNN fake news.

LEONHARDT: That's right. We're calling the New York Times the failing New York Times or going after NBC. All of that is alarming to be clear but I think it's important for people to see this isn't just about the media. Trump doesn't hate the media because it's the media. I mean, anyone who's from New York as I am and is roughly my age has spent decades knowing that Donald Trump loves the media. He loves attention.

The issue here is he doesn't like anything that is a threat to his ability to tell people what the truth is because he wants the ability essentially to say whatever he wants. He wants the ability to say his inauguration crowd is X when it's really 20 percent of X. He wants the ability to make statistics up about the economy, to tell stories about Russia and so whoever that independent source of information is the media, the FBI, the Mueller investigation, you name it, if that represents a threat to him he wants to attack them as unreliable so that he then can be the ones to tell people this is what's really going on.

STELTER: He has lots of helpers, right? He has let the allies like Sean Hannity who will tell him he's right and we'll back up his point of view. So it's really not just Trump's campaign, it's Trump world's campaign.

LEONHARDT: That's right. Trump is not the mastermind behind all of this. He's the most important player in it but we now live in a country that is deeply polarized in which people essentially don't believe many people I should say, not everyone. Many people don't believe anything unless it comes from a voice they already trust.

STELTER: But how big is that group you think? How big is that population that only believes what Trump says? LEONHARDT: I think we -- so what's the largest possible group it would be, it would be his core supporters right? He's consistently had approval of about 40 percent of the country. Sometimes it rises toward 45, sometimes it dips to 38, but right around there. And then I would say look, I do think there's some people in that group who don't actually believe what he's saying but support him and don't care if he's lying. And then I think there are another group of people who don't really think that much about it. To them, it's really doesn't matter. He's right in the larger sense they think. So why does it matter whether he makes some statistics, he's on their side? And so I don't know. To the extent -- are we talking about a quarter of the country? I'm not sure.

STELTER: That's an important point. It's not necessarily 40 percent of the country that dismisses everything the press reports about Trump, it's a subset of his base it's especially loyal to him right, and those are the folks that were in the rallies and chants CNN sucks at the cameras.

LEONHARDT: That's right. And look, this is worse than what we see in other parts of our political system and I really, really don't want to equate them. But I think people who were not the president's supporters, if you think this through you could imagine how this would happen. Imagine a politician who you thought was on the side of truth, who you thought was trying to make the country a better place, said something in some case that turned out to be untrue or you thought they even were being disingenuous. You're not going to immediately get worked up about that and I think we see that phenomenon essentially happening repeatedly with Trump supporters.


STELTER: You can hear the rest of our conversation right here on our podcast. Just search RELIABLE SOURCES on Apple podcasts, TuneIn or Stitcher. After the break, I'll show you something we don't normally share. It's audio a phone call threatening me and another CNN Anchor. We want to show you what these threats to reporters are all about.


[11:50:00] STELTER: Attacks on the media are having an effect. Threats against reporters are on the rise. But instead of me just telling you that, I want you to hear it for yourself. On Friday, a caller to C-SPAN said he's going to shoot me and Don Lemon if he sees us. Let me preface this by saying I'm not asking for sympathy. I don't think I'm in extreme danger. I know some of my colleagues get much worse threats than I do. CNN has a great security team and we know how to handle this stuff and this problem is not confined to CNN. People at Fox News and other outlets had to deal with this garbage too. But these kinds of threats are coming in more often. So take a listen. Here's the phone call.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don, state call of Pennsylvania supports the criticism in the media. Don, you're on the air. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. It all -- it all started when Trump

got elected. Brian Stelter and Don Lemon from CNN called Trump supporters all racists. They don't even know us --


STELTER: OK, let me stop you there. I've never called Trump supporters racist, neither has Don Lemon. So what this guy is about to say is predicated on a lie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't even know these Americans out here and they are calling us racists because we voted for Trump? Come on, give me a break. They started the war. I see them, I'm going to shoot them, bye.


STELTER: So he says we started a war so if he sees us, he's going to shoot us. So where did the caller get the impression that I called all Trump supporters racist? I don't know. But I do know the night before on Fox Sean Hannity played a two-year-old clip of me asking if racial anxiety was a factor in Trump's rise. Obviously, researchers have proven that yes, racial anxiety and resentment was a factor but it's not the same as calling all Trump's supporters racist. And I don't know if the C-SPAN caller watched Hannity, I'm not blaming Hannity. I just thought the timing was odd. Friday's threatening phone call in C-Span is just a tiny illustration of the threats that are out there. Many journalists who cover politics say they are receiving more and more threats nowadays in the Trump era. MSNBC's Katy Tur sounded the alarm earlier this week.


[11:55:16] KATY TUR, CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC: I hope you get raped and killed, one person wrote to me just this week, raped and killed. Not just me but a couple of my female colleagues as well. And in case you want to argue that this has nothing to do with the President, the most recent note I got ended with MAGA.


STELTER: Of course there's always been unhinged people in the world but journalists are concerned now. As Bret Stephens wrote in the New York Times on Saturday, journalists are concerned we're approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the President's hands. I hope he is wrong. I'm sorry to end on a somber note today but we'll see you back here this time next week and stay tuned now for "STATE OF THE UNION."