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Should the Press Take Omarosa's Book Seriously?; De Blasio: Murdoch Stokes Hate and Division; Ingraham Echoes White Nationalist Rhetoric; Hannity Hands His Radio Show Over To Trump's Lawyers; Sinclair's Stinging Defeat In Washington. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired August 12, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: 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, and how we can make it better.

This hour, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is here. He says Rupert Murdoch's media empire has damaged the country. He'll tell me why he believes in an exclusive Sunday morning interview.

And later in the hour, you saw Laura Ingraham's comments earlier in the week echoing white nationalism. We're going to talk about what exactly Fox is peddling with our panel.

And one more thing talking about Fox and the empire there, it's all part of a Trumpian hall of mirrors. We're going to show how Sean Hannity handed over his radio show to Trump's lawyer. That's coming up later this hour.

But, first, a simple question: is she a whistle blower or is she a fame junky? What is Omarosa Manigault-Newman doing with her new book? She's making startling claims against her former boss, President Trump. But should the press take her seriously?

This is a story that's going to be unraveling for days to com. Ultimately, it's a story about credibility and it is incredible. I mean, wherever she goes, Omarosa has a reality show following. Ten years ago, she was a reality TV villain. One year ago, she was the highest ranking black employee in the Trump White House.

And now, she's the author of a tell-all book titled "Unhinged" out on Tuesday. Now, in the book, which CNN has obtained early, she turns on Trump, calling him racist, misogynistic, and mentally waning. She's begun her TV tour on Sunday's "Meet the Press" and she shared some of the tapes that she's secretly recorded inside the White House.

Now, we'll get to that in a moment, but she's calling out her former colleagues as liars.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is a White House where everybody lies. The president lies to the American people. Sarah Huckabee stands in front of the country and lies every single day. You have to have your own back.


STELTER: That is, she says, why she recorded tapes in the White House. But, look, she's not excusing herself. Omarosa is saying she was complicit.


MANIGAULT NEWMAN: It is hindsight, but I will say this to you, I was complicit with this White House deceiving this nation. They continue to deceive this nation by how mentally declined he is, how difficult it is -- it is for him to process complex information, how he is not engaged in some of the most important decisions that impacts our country. I was complicit. For that, I regret.


STELTER: She can say that now. She's sort of playing the hero now, speaking out against Trump. That's how she's portraying herself.

But her brand has always been about being a villain, not a hero, a villain, a liar, a back stabber and self-promoter. I mean, shortly after she was kicked out of the White House, she took up residence on the CBS "Big Brother" show and hinted about revelations on Trump and now, she's out pitching her book.

Now, I think the book is a big deal because she is the first Trump White House staffer to write an unflattering tell-all. But some of what she's written is unbelievable. There are basic mistakes in the text and several people have already come out and denied specific things that she has written about them.

There was apparently a lack of fact checking, a lack of editorial rigor associated with this book and yet, you know what's going to happen. For days to come, the media is going to talk about this book, especially the entertainment media, the tabloid press which finds it irresistible.

So, let's talk about all this with our all-star panel.

Indira Lakshmanan is the Newmark chair in journalism ethics at Poynter, and a columnist for "The Boston Globe", Jeff Greenfield, a long time political analyst and journalist. And April Ryan who had some scrapes with Omarosa is a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. She's also a CNN political analyst and she's about to be out with her book titled "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House".

There is a lot to unpack.

Indira, first to you, how do we approach a book that have some pretty sloppy errors in the text but is also a damning portrait of the sitting president?

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, NEWMARK CHAIR IN JOURNALISM ETHICS, POYNTER: Look, this is a situation where it's a mixed bag. Josh Dawsey of "The Washington Post" has actually listened to some of the tapes she made surreptitiously in the White House. He's also reviewed the non- disclosure agreement she was offered by Laura Trump and the Trump campaign to be paid $15,000 a month and stay quiet which she declined.

And Josh Dawsey says that many of the quotes in the book do match what he heard on those tapes.


LAKSHMANAN: So, clearly, there seem to be errors and lack of fact checking. That is a real problem. It's not confined to just this book.

[11:05:02] Let's think about "Fire and Fury", the Michael Wolff book that was explosive that we all couldn't stop talking about that seemed to have basic lack of fact checking. I think this is a problem across the book publishing industry right now as it relates to stories being told about Donald Trump that everyone is looking for the most explosive story and we can't lower our standards and not fact check.

At the same time, there clearly is a lot of stuff in this book that was taped that was true and if she was credible enough to be a senior White House official to be quoted as a White House official at the time, then she's credible enough to be listened to now at the same level. You can't have it both ways. I mean, that's what I would say about her credibility.

STELTER: It all comes back to Trump hiring her in the White House over a year ago.

Let's talk about the tapes you referenced. I think it's interesting that she's using these tapes as leverage, so when people call her a liar, she says, well, here are the receipts, here are the tapes.

April, let's listen to part of the tape of the day Omarosa was fired by John Kelly. This was she says was taped in the Situation Room I guess on a cell phone. Let's listen to it and we'll talk about it.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Can I ask you a couple questions? Does the president -- is the president aware of what's going on?

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Don't do -- let's not go down the road. This is a non-negotiable discussion.

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I don't want to negotiate. I just I've never talked had a chance to talk to you, General Kelly. So, if this is my departure, I'd like to have at least an opportunity to understand --

KELLY: No. We can talk another time. This has to do with some pretty serious -- integrity violations. So I'll let it go with that. So, the staff and everyone on the staff works for me, not the president.


STELTER: So there you go. Part of this tape recorded at the White House on the day she was let go. April, I know that Omarosa also secretly taped you in the past.

So, how are you processing this new tape?


Well, you know, in "The Washington Post" article after she edited a tape of our altercation in the West Wing that I detail in my book factually, she passed the tapes around and she said that is what we do. Meaning, that's what everyone including the president of the United States does, tapes people.

But here is the problem. If indeed these tapes are factual and I believe them to be credible, I was on Twitter today and I was reading some of the tweets and I saw something from David Frum after the "Meet the Press" interview and I called Congressman Elijah Cummings, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, who is the minority leader in the Government and Oversight Reform Committee in the House, and he said if indeed these tapes are there and they were taped in the Situation Room and the Oval Office and other places, this is a national security issue and he's looking into it.

National security protocols were not followed. Omarosa says that she has taped in the Oval Office, and in the Situation Room. We've heard the tapes. Now, I've talked to people from former administrations and they have said you are not allowed -- and I know this for a fact, when we go into OTRs with the president or senior official, we have to put our cell phones in these cabbie holes in the Roosevelt Room.

In the Oval Office, you're not supposed to tape. You're not supposed to bring your cell phone. In the Situation Room, you're not supposed to bring your cell phone. In the Roosevelt Room, you're not supposed to bring your cell phone. You're not supposed to have your cell phone in the office of the chief of staff, and you're not supposed to have your cell phone in the National Security Office.

And this leads to a broader question, are national security protocols being followed in this White House? Because, you now, we're talking about Russia. Now you got to worry about Omarosa, and then others, who might have cell phones taping things and they could be hacked.

So, this is not just about a booking getting paid for, a book telling all. You know, if she did the tapes, you know, we hear voices and everything. You don't know if they are edited are not.

Bu the bottom line -- and there is a credibility issue with her. I'm just going to be honest with you. There's a credibility issue with everyone.


RYAN: But there are tapes and this is a national security issue. This is not just about a book anymore. She's giving receipts and she's now in trouble.

STELTER: It's a strange situation because nobody involved has a lot of credibility. Let's put on screen Sarah Sanders' statement about the book, even though I don't think Sanders has read the book yet. She came out and said the book is full of lies and false accusations.

And she said she regrets that the media giving lies a platform.

RYAN: She has no credibility, either.

STELTER: Keep that in mind the next time Sarah Sanders dishes a false accusation. So, it's a matter of who has less credibility I think.

And, Jeff Greenfield, we also have to keep in mind Omarosa's many past statements supporting President Trump.

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I don't quote Karl Marx very often, but one of his famous lines is history repeats itself the first is tragedy, the second is farce. And if it weren't for the fact that as April says there is some serious national security issues here, this kind of looks like a weird remake of Dr. Strangelove.

And maybe the way to approach this once you have a situation where someone like Donald Trump can actually be president of the United States, why should we be surprised that a reality TV star is offering a book which is now dominating the media, including may I say the lead of this program, in which it is quite clear, A, that her affection for Donald Trump is in direct relationship to whether or not she had a high-paying job at the White House.

[11:10:18] And second, where the most basic fact checking in a book, not a tweet --


GREENFIELD: -- has clearly been missed.

So, my feeling is as far as I'm concerned, I want to wait for Bob Woodward's book. I'm an old school guy. I have a feeling his credibility is shade more stronger (ph) than Omarosa's.

STELTER: Yes, yes.

GREENFIELD: And see what he has to tell us about how this White House operates.

RYAN: And my book, too.

STELTER: Right. You know what's interesting? Woodward's book is called "Fear". It's out in a month. But it's already doing well, so much better on Amazon than Omarosa's book is.

You know, there is something to be said for more reporting and less of this speculating. But here is the thing about Omarosa, Jeff. She says our president is in declining mental health.

Should that not be a lead story? She says he's a racist and is in declining mental health.

GREENFIELD: Yes, except it should be, but part of the problem is that when you have comments by somebody who up to about, what, a year ago, was telling us we all have to bow down to Donald Trump, it makes assertions less credible.

You know, I mean, look, it's always a disgruntled employee who does this. We've never had a book from a gruntled employee, as far as I can tell in American history. But part of the problem is, yes, if Donald Trump is declining compos mentis, that's a serious issue. But the problem is, the source of this, Omarosa is in my view so compromised by everything she said up to the point when John Kelly kicked her out of the White House that it goes to the issue of how much are you going to trust this?

STELTER: Right, right. Definitely.


STELTER: Sorry, April, last word. Yes.

Sorry, April, are you there? Last word to you since you've known Omarosa for years.

RYAN: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

Yes, I've known Omarosa for years and we are not friends anymore. What has happened is, is that this White House created this monster and it was even before this White House. You know, I would say Donald Trump created his own monster and now the monster -- he created the own monster in his own likeness and the monster has come back to bite him.

And the bottom line is, I can tell you for a fact, she was complicit, but she also did the bidding, and she wanted to prove that she was in their camp because she used to be a Democrat. And she went so far as to try to go after me. She told Sean Spicer to stop calling on me.

She has done so much. She lied on me telling people that I was taking money from Hillary Clinton to hurt my career. Omarosa did these things. She may not even talk about it in her book but I talk about it in mine, and she did these things to support her president and to support her friend that she said she was loyal to.

And the bottom line is, is that yes, she was complicit, but she was doing all this knowing that it was going to be a payoff in the end for her. And then once she got upset with him or he got upset with her, or whatever happened, she decides to turn on him. She's not a friend, she's a liar and I would say she's evil.

STELTER: I hope she can respond to that at some point soon calling her evil.

RYAN: She will, I'm sure she will. I'm sure she will.

STELTER: I'm sure she will. Panel, stick around. Let's take a turn for a moment and bring the panel back later in the hour.

After the break, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, is he taking a page from President Trump's playbook attacking the press, specifically Murdoch's outlets? De Blasio will join me in just a moment.


[11:17:17] STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

If you asked New York City's mayor what lies behind a lot of the negativity and the divisiveness creeping this nation, he's got a simple answer for you. He says it's the media empire of Rupert Murdoch that's at fault. Bill de Blasio has long been a critic of the hometown "New York Post" newspaper. Murdoch has owned it for years. He says it's right-wing propaganda.

Now, he's also been talking about Fox News as well, of course on a week when Laura Ingraham's hateful comments are on the news.

This critique of right wing corporate media coming from the left may have appeal in the 2020 Democratic primary, but isn't it rather Trumpian?

Mayor Bill de Blasio joins me now here on set.

Mayor, thanks for coming over.


STELTER: What is your critique of Murdoch? You were quoted recently by "The Guardian" saying, imagine the country if Murdoch had never had papers or networks here.

DE BLASIO: Right. We would be a more unified country. There would be less overt hate. There would be less appeal to racial division, I guarantee it, because what Murdoch did through Fox News and "The New York Post" among others is to create a dynamic where that stuff could come out in the open.

We saw it in New York City for years and years where race was infused into the dialogue in a very negative way and it was a sort of an apocalypse vision was created of the notion of going back to a time of crime and decay and always putting that through a lens of people of color as the villains. Whether you talk about Central Park Five or so many other instances, certainly you saw that around the election of David Dinkins in New York, to what he was vilified by "The Post" throughout his mayoralty.

But you're seeing it on a national level as too. They don't just dog whistle, they go a lot farther than that. They put race front and center, and they try and stir the most negative impulses in this country. There is no Donald Trump without News Corp. I firmly believe that.

He never gets to the presidency, because he would never have been elevated the way he was consistently for years and years.

So, I believe in a free strong media with diverse views. I'll defend it with all I got, but we have to be able to call out when a particular company has a corporate agenda, has a political agenda and has very effectively changed the American discourse.

And, by the way, when I was growing up with I think some real heroes of journalism. Walter Cronkite is an obvious one and Murrow and so many others before him, they set a tone of evenness, respect. The civil rights movement of the '60s got a fair hearing because the American media gave them that opportunity to be heard. Today, you have one outlet and one outlet only that is constantly sowing division and we should be able to talk about that.

[11:20:02] STELTER: So you'd rather not have "The New York Post" or Fox News exist?

DE BLASIO: Look, it's a free country. I'm saying because they exist, we've been changed for the worst. Now, if you said --

STELTER: But isn't that like saying they are fake news or they're enemy of the people?

DE BLASIO: No, because I think what the president has tried to do is create a dynamic that's anti-media, anti-free speech, undermining democratic norms. This is a president that doesn't really believe in democratic norms. It's quite clear. I believe in them deeply and I believe in a free discourse. But --

STELTER: It sure sounds like you feel anti-media feelings.

DE BLASIO: No, I feel anti-News Corp feelings. I feel very angry when I see a media outlet, a corporate giant, a profit-making giant dividing people and creating hatred and negativity and changing our political landscape for the worse.

Now, I think we have to be able to talk about that. They -- we have to respect their constitutional rights, of course, but we also are consumers. We're also citizens. If we don't talk about it and they continue to do this to our country, something is wrong.

STELTER: There's lots of media critics out there, but politicians make lousy media critics. Why do you feel it's your role to be calling out a newspaper because you don't like the content?

DE BLASIO: Because I think it's not happening enough. Now, I agree with you that --

STELTER: So, you're doing it because nobody else is? Is that what you're saying?

DE BLASIO: No, it's not that no one else is. It's not happening the way I think it needs to. I agree with you. Anyone in public life, we're going to get criticized by all kinds of media, right? Left and center. And we have to respect it and we have to take it and we have to listen.

By the way, even "The New York Post" sometimes writes a story on something happening with a government agency that proves to be right and we have to address it, we have to fix it.

But I think it's fair to say also that when you look at CNN, for example, you look at the major networks, they do not harbor a daily hourly political agenda and bias. They provide both sides. It's part of their DNA. They may have values and views.

When it comes to News Corp, they have a political mission and we have to be able to talk about it. So, my --

STELTER: By singling out News Corp, it's like Trump singling out CNN. Two wrongs don't make a right?


STELTER: Two versions of something bad aren't --

DE BLASIO: Couldn't disagree more.

CNN on a regular basis provides both sides of the story. CNN, you can find politics in CNN, but it does not even come close to resembling the clear political agenda of News Corp. Now, again, to your (INAUDIBLE) -- why should we talk about it? Because it's changing our lives and if we don't talk about it, how do we address it?

STELTER: Look, I had staffers at "New York Post" this week say to me you were doing exactly what Donald Trump does.

DE BLASIO: Couldn't be more untrue.

STELTER: You're saying you think it's a false equivalency?

DE BLASIO: Unbelievably false.

STELTER: But two things can be bad even if they're not equal. They can both be bad.

DE BLASIO: OK. So, let's break it down. If one agrees and look at the facts over decades, does News Corp have a clear right wing agenda? I think that one is pretty obvious.

Do they sensationalize, racialize and divide? Yes. Does that compare to CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, "The New York Times", "The Washington Post"? No.

One of these things is not like the other. They have a right to exist, but we also have a right to confront what they're doing to our country and not simply stand idly by because we fear --

STELTER: OK, but a "Post" staffer says that makes me feel unsafe leaving my building in midtown Manhattan. Isn't that a problem?

DE BLASIO: It's not a problem if you say, we respect all media. We defend all media's rights, but we also have to be able to say if a media outlet is affecting the national discourse in a certain way. We can't continue to do --

STELTER: Are you doing this because you want to run for president in 2020?

DE BLASIO: I am mayor of New York City and I continue to be. My term goes to 2021.

STELTER: Because I think Bernie Sanders hit on a vein when he attacked the corporate media in 2016. It makes me wonder if you view this as a wedge issue or a campaign issue.

DE BLASIO: I've been talking about the corporate media since 1980.

STELTER: It's true. You have been. You have been.

DE BLASIO: OK? So, the fact is --

STELTER: Let's go through examples actually, because some of what you said about the tabloids I thought was pretty hurtful. Here's some of what you said according to the private e-mails that were leaked out, released by a court order actually. At one point, you said the news media is pitiful, saying it's sad for our city and nation. You accused "The New York Times" of bias. Another point you said, maybe if "The New York Daily News" went online only, that would be good for us.

But now "The Daily News" has had to lay off half the staff. Isn't that hurting our city?

DE BLASIO: What I was calling out is the sensationalism which I think has infected "The Daily News" too much as well, which creates a bad civic discourage. We want a respectful, high road, intelligent civic discourse. What I think is happening to the tabloid culture has actually created a lot of division in my city and a lot of obscuring of some of the bigger issues affecting millions of people.

We have a massive income inequality crisis in our city, but if you look at the tabloid approach, it takes attention off of that and on to, unfortunately, a lot of the divisions that exist, particularly along the lines of race. I want to see that fixed.

But I also believe "The Daily News" plays an absolutely crucial role. I would like it sold to someone that cares about New York City.

Tronc, its parent corporation, does not. They don't want real, insightful reporting. They want "The Daily News" to dig into the every day stories of every day New Yorkers. They want a profit and they're laying off half the newsroom.

[11:25:00] That's unacceptable too. So, I hope you can hear that I believe in a free, strong media,

diverse views. But that doesn't mean we should be silent on the outcomes of some of the approaches if they are specifically for an agenda, and that's what gets me back to News Corp.

I don't accuse "The Daily News" or "New York Times" of having that kind of agenda. I sometimes say "The New York Times" takes an elite view of the world too often. I don't think that's a news flash, but I respect what they do and I respond to what they do.

But if we have a force in our society that's fundamentally changed us, just again, think of that equation, a world without News Corp, a world with the kind of reporting both sides and a real devotion to objectivity that was the norm up through the 1970s in this country, what would we look like today? I guarantee you Donald Trump would not be president and I guarantee you that what we're seeing today in Washington, the right and the alt-right and negativity and the division coming out in the fore and feeling it has licensed, that wouldn't be true. And that's good when those forces don't feel they have license.

STELTER: I still think politicians make lousy media critics, though.

DE BLASIO: We may, but if you're someone who has a belief system as I do, you can't stay silent if you see something not being recognized.

It's not the same. And this is part of the argument. You know, sometimes when I made this criticism, people have tried to say, we have to defend "The Post" and everyone else. I defend their right to exist, but can we not acknowledge that they are different than essentially every other outlet out there?

And in a world like we almost saw Sinclair take another huge step forward and build its empire, and we can also see some of the same tendencies in Sinclair towards clear political agenda infecting news reporting, that should be a concern for all Americans. Separating editorial from reporting, I think that's a pretty core American civic value that does not happen at Fox, that does not happen at News Corp.

STELTER: Mayor, thank you so much for joining me today.

DE BLASIO: Thank you. Appreciate it.

STELTER: Appreciate it.

And the debate rolls on.

Quick break here. Sinclair and more coming up later in the hour. But next, the challenges when it comes to covering hate groups like the gathering expected in Washington later today. How to report on racist without fanning the flames? We'll talk about it right after this.


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Washington D.C. is bracing for a white nationalist rally right in the shadow of the White House today. And when this is happening, we can't ignore the fact that there's white nationalist rhetoric being moved into the mainstream. The other day on Fox News, Laura Ingraham echoed the kind of racist xenophobic language that we see on these fringe Web sites. Look, don't take it from me, judge it for yourself.


LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: In some parts of the country it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people and they're changes that none of us have were voted for and most of us don't like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country is changed. Now, much if this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigrant that of course progressives love.


STELTER: The America we know and love doesn't exist anymore. We, who's the "we"? Who's the "us"? Ingraham denied that this was about race, but what do you think? What I hear is in her segments and some of Tucker Carlson's segments is white fright, this fear of change, what so many Americans he has progress, many Fox fans see as loss. You might also call that white anxiety or a white majority panic or you might just say it straight up racism. So as we look ahead now to this rally in Washington, the continued concern in Charlottesville about racists showing up there again on the one-year anniversary of the riot there last year, how can newsrooms responsibly cover these problems? How can we in journalism shine a light on these groups without fanning the flames?

Let's bring back the panel and talk through that. Indira, first to you. You and I had a dialogue about this over the weekend. What is your approach? Should we just ignore hate rally in Washington? Should we just not draw attention to it?

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, NEWMARK CHAIR FOR JOURNALISM ETHICS, POYNTER INSTITUTE: Look, we can't ignore it. It's something that is reality, it's our job as journalist to shine a light even on the ugliest things that happen in our society but that means it can be very hot light. You know, we don't need to put any kind of group, we have no obligation to put this groups into soft focus. And I think that part of the issue here is knowing how to interrogate groups whose ideas rely on a lot of lies and do a good job of holding their feet to the fire and not just giving them a free platform.

And I say this because I'm thinking about the way that for example Megyn Kelly interviewed Alex Jones of Infowars a year ago, the controversy that came up about the NPR interview with Jason Kessler the -- who organized this anniversary of the Charlottesville rally in Washington and I think the problem is that when you're going to give a platform to someone like this, yes we need to expose their thoughts why they think that way but we need to come armed with our facts. We need to ahead of time have done all the research so that when someone says something ridiculous like I.Q. is based on race, that you're ready to come right back and say that is completely bogus. That's not real science, that's been disproven.

You know, you have to frame the interview correctly and you have to be ready and armed with facts to be able to push back really aggressively on things that are not true. So the ethics are yes, of course, we have to cover these people, it's not like it's not like if we deny the media coverage that they don't exist but we have to give the proper context and really cover it responsibly. And this is important because we can't do sort of lazy both sides journalism. What really bothers me is people who try to say well, you know if we're going to cover black lives matter then we have to cover the white supremacists. Those are not two sides of the same coin.

[11:35:36] STELTER: Yes, not equivalent.

LAKSHMANAN: You know, black people arguing to not be attacked by the police is not the opposite side of white supremacists who are saying they're better than everyone else. So there are a lot of difficult issues tied up here and journalists really have to tread carefully when they do this.

STELTER: And we have to recognize when we do cover racists or white nationalists or you know, call them whatever you want, you know, we can hide behind euphemisms although I don't think we should, no matter what -- how we describe them, we have to recognize when we're interviewing these folks or pointing our cameras at them we are you know, that they are viewing it as a chance to recruit. That's my concern, Jeff, is that they are viewing it as a chance to recruit followers. What's your view on what she said?

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm sorry, is that to me Brian?'

STELTER: Yes, I'm sorry, yes, please.

Look, what I'm -- what I think is that clear lines have to be drawn and I'm remembering when Trent Lott said of that Strom Thurmond the segregationist who run as a segregation as the president of country would have been better off if he'd been elected, it was a Republican President George W Bush who not only slapped him down but presided over the loss of his role as Senate Republican Leader. And the fact that we have a president now who whatever people want to say clearly has been attracting from the moment he announced elements of white nationalism is one of the reasons why we're in this predicament.

It's one of the reasons why Laura Ingraham can say what she said in direct line of succession to the people in the 1850s who said German and Irish Catholics were a threat to the new direct line of succession from a New York Times editorial more than a hundred years ago praising the lynching of Italians in New Orleans because these sneaky Sicilians were the descendants of bandits. It is a direct line that is big in this country not just about Blacks, God knows that's the most egregious, but about all these people who supposedly were threats to our way of life.

And the most important part I would argue does not lie with the media, though I think you know it's correct to say we have to know how to approach these issues, but when you have a President of the United States who persistently refuses to draw a bright clear line between white supremacy and racism on the one hand and the rest of the country on the other, that's where the fundamental problem lies.

STELTER: April Ryan, what's your take? I wonder if I've lost April, maybe I don't have her at the moment. Well, all right, I think we lost April but I want to thank the panel, Indira and Jeff, as well and keep in mind as we head into tonight in -- this in this rally at Lafayette Park, there's going to be a counter-protest with many, many more people. I think part of this issue about how to cover these hate groups is to make sure we're spending a lot of time covering the positive, as well as the hate, as well as a negative. A quick break here in the RELIABLE SOURCES, and then Sean Hannity and his fresh attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation. We're going to break down how I did it this time with the help of two Trump lawyers. We'll be right back.


[11:40:00] STELTER: Now for a trip inside Trump world's hall of mirrors. But first, before we enter, let's make one thing really clear, most Americans believe that the Russian effort to attack the 2016 election is a serious matter that should be fully investigated. Poll after poll has shown that but among president Trump's base, there is deep distrust of Robert Mueller's probe. To understand why, just turn on your radio.


JEY SEKULOW, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Hey, welcome to The Sean Hannity Show. Jay Sekulow and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, how about that? Giuliani and Sekulow.


SEKULOW: It is. We could start all kind of speculation.


STELTER: This would be funny if it weren't so serious. Of all the people Hannity could have had fill in for him, he went with the President's lawyers, gave them three hours to laugh it up and defend the President and that is really revealing. It reveals us to us how the pro-Trump media world works hand in hand with Trump. It is a collaboration that helps Trump but hurts the public. Why? Because Trump's defenders are drawing attention away from what matters most, Russia's efforts to attack America back then and happening again now. By making this all about Trump and swearing these innocent and saying he's the victim, they are missing the big issue.


GIULIANI: A lot of questions about this investigation it surely looks like an illegitimate investigation. The President United States said this a long time back that it's a witch-hunt and you could describe it a lot of ways, a hoax, like Gregg's book. But you look at the questions they keep falling out. (END AUDIO CLIP)

[11:45:01] STELTER: You heard a mention Gregg's book there right, first-name basis. He was referring to guest Gregg Jarrett who works for Fox News, who wrote a book Rupert Murdoch's publishing house claiming the entire probe is an illegal plot to overturn the election. Millions of people believe this stuff. The President apparently believes this stuff. He's always using the word illegal and rigged witch-hunt. Now, Trump has promoted Jarrett's book not once, not twice, but three times on Twitter and that is how it works. It's like a house of mirrors where you're seeing the same thing over and over and over again, except it's distorted.


SEKULOW: I have a stake of most of the news these days. I was making a joke the other day that sometimes you're making the news, sometimes you're in the news, and sometimes you're just talking about the news. I will tell you these days I am doing both or all three. I am making the news, talking about the news, and have been in the news now.

STELTER: Now, that is true. The President's lawyers keep talking and talking and talking so much that they are for now driving the news narrative about Mueller's probe. Meanwhile, Mueller's team is only speaking through court filings and trials. So Trump's team speaks so much that I think we risk forgetting what this is really all about. Remember, the special counsel was ordered to investigate Russia's actions and any links and or coordination with anyone in the Trump campaigns orbit. The word collusion never even appears in the document. This has never been about collusion. It's about coordination, conspiracy, Russia's attempts to divide Americans.

GOP Senator Ben Sasse called it out what he said is the Trump centric framing the other day. He said the press is contributing to this problem too and the result is "few Americans understand Putin's agents are now picking at the scabs of every cultural skirmish we have from race, to guns, to media tribes." That's the one thing Rudy is not talking about. He's playing politics trying to sow doubt, offering a counter-narrative to the base, trying to win in the court of public opinion. He yaks on cable news, Trump hears it, Trump reflects it back on Twitter and that's how the hall of mirrors continues.

Here's a great example, just last weekend Fox host and radio star Mark Levin dined with Hannity and Trump out of Bedminster. Keep that coziness in mind when you hear this.


MARK LEVIN, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Robert Mueller is a greater threat to this Republic and the Constitution than anything Vladimir Putin did during the campaign. And I'm no fan of Vladimir Putin. What questions exactly does Mr. Mueller have? I'm talking to you Mr. Mueller, exactly what questions that you have will you seek to turn this country upside down and disenfranchise the over 60 million people who voted for this President of the United States?


STELTER: Levin's colleague Jeanine Pirro has been promoting that same line of thinking. In the pro-Trump media world, the real conspiracy is about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton trying to stop Trump from winning. Pirro went after Mueller again Saturday night, even told him to get a defense attorney. Remember Trump keeps hearing this. He keeps reacting to this rhetoric. He keeps reflecting it to his fans. On Sunday morning, here he is approvingly tweeting out part of Pirro's rant. That's what led the NYT's ace reporter Michael Schmidt to react by saying, "hey it's been 15 months into the special counsel probe and I'm still not convinced Trump understands the depth and breadth of the obstruction investigation, the threat it poses and the issues his own public statements and tweets have created for him."

So why is that? Why doesn't Trump get it? It's because of the pro- Trump media world, it's because of this hall of mirrors. Trump doesn't trust the fact checks, he doesn't trust the people who are trying to explain to him how serious this probe is, he sometimes doesn't seem to trust the intelligence about Russia's interference, he only trusts his Fox friends. Trump willingly walked into this house of mirrors. Heck, he helped build it, but does he know how to get out? And that's my essay for today. A quick break here and then Hadas Gold is standing by to talk about a couple interesting media world developments including the Sinclair Tribune deal is now off and an interesting coordination between more than a hundred newspapers. We'll get to that just a moment.


[11:50:00] STELTER: Coming soon to a newspaper near you, an editorial about the dangers of President Trump's attacks on the press. It's a coordinated effort led by the Boston Globe to say hey we're not the enemy of the people. The Globe tells me that more than 100 papers have signed up so far with more joining the effort every day. The editorials will all come out on Thursday. Let's talk about this with CNN's Hadas Gold. Hadas, it's another sign of unity, solidarity on the part of the press corps.

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: It is a sign of solidarity and it is notable and should be commended that they're doing these editorials especially coming from the differing voices that each newspaper will be doing their own and they're not going to be running their same editorial. But I have to how much of an effect this will have on people who are already not trusting the press, already think that there's so much "fake news" out there.

And I think what really needs to be focused on is something that takes a lot of time and something that's expensive and that's educating people both in schools, educating students on how to read the news and how to know what's trustworthy and what's not and also getting more on-the-ground local reporting where reporters are interacting face-to- face with our readers and with our viewers and getting them to understand how we do our jobs and why we do our jobs the way we do, and I think that's where you're going to get more trust in the media and not so much from an editorial as commended as it should be. STELTER: Yes. Hey, and one more story you've been thinking about

this week that Sinclair's thinking defeat, its deal with Tribute was trying to get bigger now that deals collapsed. Who's the ultimate winner now that Sinclair has lost its chance to buy these T.V. stations?

GOLD: It is so stunning that this deal fell apart because if you would have asked us six months ago we would have said oh it's going to sell through. It's really amazing there's a lot to question all in those in terms of government regulation and how that all came about with Ajit Pai and the FCC. But the ultimate winner in all this is honestly Rupert Murdoch because for Rupert Murdoch's Sinclair has becoming more and more of a threat especially as they take on this sort of conservative brand and they're having a more national impact.

Now they're not going to be as big, they're still huge, but now Fox could potentially come in and buy Tribune stations, or buy at least some of those Tribune stations and expand their own local T.V. footprint especially now that new Fox is going to be spun out and that's really where they're going to be focusing some of their efforts is on local T.V. So now the Sinclair-Fox rivalry can continue. But ultimately for Rupert Murdoch as we've noted before it has been an excellent summer for him.

[11:55:46] STELTER: Rupert may win again. Wow. Hadas, thanks so much for being here.

GOLD: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: And thank you all for tuning in for RELIABLE SOURCES. Join us next week for an in-depth interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Hey, if you have questions for him, tweet me. I'm @BrianStelter and I'll see you right back here this time next week.