Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Why Trump Keeps Spreading Conspiracy Theories; NYT Called on Carpet for Curtains Correction; Avenatti's First TV Interview since Tucker's Show; Tucker Carlson Vs. Michael Avenatti; Shockwaves At CBS After Moonves And Fager Exit; Trump Is Misleading The Public More And More; 14 Dead In Carolinas Due To Florence. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 16, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:09] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey. 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 all of us can make it better.

This hour, a new era at CBS. The company searching for a new CEO and new head of "60 Minutes." What's going to happen to America's top news magazine?

Plus, Michael Avenatti is here live for his first interview about this fight with Tucker Carlson.

And later, an unpresidential milestone. "The Washington Post's" fact- checker says even he was surprised by how fast Trump hit the 5,000 falsehood mark.

And as we begin this hour, here's another one to add to the list. On Saturday evening, President Trump tweeted about Hurricane Florence, now Tropical Depression Florence saying five deaths have been recorded thus far with regards to the hurricane. He said deepest seems and warmth go out to the families and friends of the victims. May God be with them.

He said there five people had died, but at the time, CNN and Fox and the "A.P." were all already reporting the death toll stood at the least 11. Now, the latest reporting by CNN is that the death toll is up to 13. And unfortunately, that death toll will likely rise.

This is just one of thousands of examples of the president getting it wrong. Right there again saying five deaths have been recorded. This is his government doing the recording of the deaths. There's no word on where Trump got that number or why he added an exclamation point. There's been no correction or update yet.

But here's the point. If the White House can't get the small stuff right, it makes you worry about the big stuff. And, honestly, I think you should be worried because the president continues to spread conspiracy theories, even about hurricanes.

Now, he does this to evade responsibility, to deflect blame and to keep his fans fired up. But we in the press corps have to keep calling it out. We can't get immune to this. Obviously, his worst theory this week was about Puerto Rico,

suggesting the death toll in the wake of Hurricane Maria was inflated by Democrats to make him look bad. Death toll denialism. I really never thought I'd see the day.

While news outlets try to explain where that 2,975 total came from, about how the study was conducted, Trump did find support, as always, from his media enablers.


LOU DOBBS, FBN HOST: The numbers were inflated, and the president was right to call out the organizations who threw out science, statistics and evidence to discredit the Trump administration.



All right, look, Trump world embraces conspiracy theories because the truth is not on the president's side. Puerto Rico is just the most recent example. We all know how the president routinely attacks the Robert Mueller probe as an illegal witch hunt. Even just an hour ago, even in the wake of Paul Manafort's guilty plea. The evidence that this is a legal probe is overwhelming but the conspiracy theory that it's a witch hunt makes the president feel good.

And that's not the only one. Let's keeping going through the list. The idea of a deep state. That's a conspiracy theory, so is the idea that the fake news colludes and works together to take him down. All of these are really sinister conspiracy theories.

And, of course, the one that always stands out is the illegal voting theory, the idea that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, robbing Trump of the popular vote. This is actually one of the only common threads of the Trump presidency, his embrace of conspiracy theories. And I understand, it can feel good to believe in some fantasy to believe that there are external forces that are out to get you, rather than facing reality.

But this is RELIABLE SOURCES, so let's face reality with Brendan Nyhan. He's a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan who studies this for a living. And Amanda Carpenter is also here, CNN political commentator and author of a book all about this, entitled "Gaslighting America."

Brendan, normally conspiracy theories are about the people in power, right? It's not about the person in power spreading these lies.

BRENDAN NYHAN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: That's what's so remarkable about it, Brian. He -- Donald Trump has become the conspiracy theorist in chief. He's in the most powerful office in the world and he's promoting conspiracy theories. They usually are used by the powerless and directed against the powerful. But instead, he's weaponizing them from the highest office in the land, and leveraging the intense partisanship of American politics to do it. It's a dangerous combination and it's not one we've seen in

contemporary American politics before. It's much more like countries we see abroad where authoritarian leaders use conspiracy theories to avoid accountability for their actions. And I think that's a worrisome comparison. As I often say on Twitter, what would you say if you saw this in another country? The comparisons that come to mind are not our fellow democratic leaders. And --

STELTER: So what would you say?

NYHAN: That underscores how unusual he is.

STELTER: Let's go there. What would you say if a man in another country, another man in power in another country suggested the death toll from a hurricane wasn't what we all believe it was?

NYHAN: At some point, it becomes a kind of assault on our shared understanding of reality. And that's what we've seen in other countries where misinformation and conspiracy theories are weaponized by the governing regime. That's not a road we should be comfortable going down.

It's not one we should pretend is normal political dishonesty. Every politician dissembles, every political makes false statements, but this is something different entirely and it's about real people's lives. Those people in Puerto Rico, what happened to them is real. We sometimes act like what's on Twitter is a reality show.

But Donald Trump is trying to evade accountability for something that upset the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens and maybe even is responsible for the deaths of thousands of our fellow citizens. That is deadly serious.

STELTER: And by pushing this, Amanda, he's obviously stoking resentment of Democrats or of the media or of researchers, of scientists. What was your reaction to this ongoing messaging that he's coming out with about Puerto Rico?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, to me, it's nothing new because floating these conspiracy theories is really a way for him to deflect responsibility. And if you look at some of the defining narratives of his presidency, which is why I think Brendan is right to call him a conspiracy theorist in chief, three things really come to mind. That's the deep state, the rigged election and fake news.

And what makes this sort of awkward is that we expect Donald Trump as president of the United States to be a defender of major institutions. And yet we have a president who is floating these theories that get to the credibility of these institutions. And so, he continues to stoke this us versus them mentality, even while we look to him to protect these major things that we look towards.

And so, that's what makes this really awkward. And the thing that moves this into a dangerous realm is when the president of the United States does this is that political conspiracies can be more dangerous because at some point, if you think there's big, terrible things happening, people want to take action. And that may be something more than voting.

STELTER: Yes, and there's been this up tick in his conspiratorial thinking over time. I want to show how this can do real harm, in this case to Trump's party. This is a real example from today's "New York Times." And it's a really interesting -- results of a study from a pro-Trump PAC.

It says here the conservative leaning voters in the study routinely dismiss the possibility of a Democratic wave election, a blue wave, with some describing the prospect as fake news. So, that's what the research found. "Axios" has actually found something very similar and reported on something similar in recent weeks.

The idea here, Brendan, is that the president is calling polls fake. He's saying the blue wave is not real. And so, as a result, his voters will not show up at the polls and it could depress the voter turnout.

What do you make of that?

NYHAN: It's a remarkable turn of events. He's become the boy who cried wolf. He's delegitimized all other sources of information to his supporters and as a result, they're not believing what is in their political self-interest to believe.

Now, that's a kind of ironic event but I think we should worry about the implications of this when the stakes become more serious. When it's not just about which party wins an election, but it's about matters of even life or death. Like the president is not going to be able --

STELTER: Right, it was great to see --

NYHAN: -- to send emergency alerts to every American cell phone. What if they don't believe what's sent to them? What if they don't believe authorities when they tell them to evacuate in the face of an upcoming hurricane, for instance?

STELTER: Well, I'm glad you brought up. So this is a test of the FEMA wireless alert system that's coming up. Totally normal, any government would do it. This is not a Trump thing.

However, because it's going to be labeled presidential alert and only 32 percent of Americans trust the president, I'm worried about the lack of credibility and how that's -- this is a real world example about lack of credibility affects the government.

NYHAN: That's right. That's right. Imagine there was a crisis with North Korea right now. I don't think the president could speak credibly to all Americans. They might have to send General Mattis or someone else out to speak on behalf of the government precisely so that people would accept the information that's being provided.

STELTER: Right. Brendan, thank you so much for being here.

Amanda, stay with us if you can.

We're going to take a quick break and then dissect "The New York Times" big screw-up involving Nikki Haley. We'll get into that.

And we're also going to go live to the Carolinas for the latest update on Tropical Depression Florence. Honestly, depression is kind of a misnomer in this case. This storm is still drenching the region. It's like a bathtub slowly filling up with water. So, this story is getting more important over time. We're going to go live to a rescue boat in the Carolinas in the minutes ahead.


[11:13:30] STELTER: What was "The New York Times" thinking? Look at this headline published the other day in the paper of record. It says Nikki Haley's view of New York is priceless. Her curtains, $52,000.

Of course, the story gave the impression that Ambassador Haley was wasting taxpayer money that it was all pinned on her. But if you read past the headline, there was a startling contradiction. The story said later on that Haley had no say in the purchase, that actually this was arranged during the Obama years. It was a result of a move out of the Waldorf Astoria because a Chinese organization bought that hotel and they needed a new apartment for the U.N. ambassador.

All of it was explained. It was explained in the story, but by then there was a lot of criticism of "The Times", rightly so, for this big screw-up. We saw Marco Rubio and others pouncing on the air, taking swipes at the media along the way.

Where were the editors of "The New York Times"? Well, eventually, they reviewed the story and they were forced to issue a correction. An editor's note which you see here placed right at the top of the story. In fact, the story was pretty much rewritten to fix all of these flaws.

Let's get into this and a couple other media issues with Oliver Darcy, CNN's senior media reporter, and Amanda Carpenter is back with me in Washington.

Amanda, your reaction to this?

CARPENTER: Well, how did this even get published? Listen, most people get their news through social media. And the two ways you consume that news are the headline and the picture. Those were both bad selections by "The Times" and without the headline and that picture, that story pretty quickly falls apart unless you want to talk about the high price of curtains which, fine, go ahead and do, but that is not the message conveyed with the headline and the story.

[11:15:01] And so, yes, "The New York Times" fixed it. Good on them, but that was long after major publications like "Vogue" ran with the story. There's a Democratic congressman from California who started calling for an investigation and is still standing by that because of that story.

And so, there's some real damage done, but thankfully, there are people like Jake Tapper willing to fact check that story. And I think played a major role in getting it adjusted.

STELTER: Yes. And, Oliver, you wrote about this when it happened, about this issue with "The Times." I think on one level, this is about a reporter who made a big mistake, who I think may have a bad reputation there and about where his editors were. But on another level, this is about institutional bias at "The New York Times" and a reflexive anti-Trump bias?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I think that's what is playing out, certainly in conservative media that this is reflecting of a liberal bias. And, you know, you could make that argument but what I am most curious about is, where was the editors? Why did this get through?

The story itself contradicted the headline. It said that she had no say in the purchase of these curtains. So, why --

STELTER: So, the framing of the story was the biggest problem (ph).

DARCY: Right. And after "The Times" editors reviewed the story, they came to the same conclusion that everyone else did, that the story shouldn't be focused on Nikki Haley. Maybe focus on the curtains at the State Department that purchased these expensive curtains. But why are they focusing on Haley?

They rewrote the story effectively to take her out of it. They moved her picture from the story. They tweeted out an editor's note saying this.

So, they did correct it at the end of the day but the problem is the story had already been out there by then. It was spread around social media.

STELTER: Yes, there's no way to pull it back at that point.


STELTER: Another example of media malpractice, a local Fox station in Dallas drew instant backlash for tweeting this terrible tweet. It was about that 26-year-old youth pastor who was shot in his own apartment by a police officer. You see here that the tweet says there was a search warrant, there was marijuana found in the apartment. And the Internet basically reacted by saying, OK, why does that matter? Why the heck is that being tweeted by this Fox station?

Oliver, you also looked into this story. You reported on this. How did the Fox station handle this?

DARCY: They didn't -- it was actually opposite at "The Times". So, "The Times" came out and they corrected it. They explained their error. In this case, the Fox station didn't really do anything. They -- I

contacted them. They said they would give them my message to the news director. Never heard back. I called back. Got forwarded to voice mail.

STELTER: Yes, they never tried to correct the tweet.

DARCY: They never corrected the tweet. What they did do is they reframed the story online but the tweet still stayed up. And that was, again, on social media is where people get their news.

So, you know, it's nice if they corrected their story online. They didn't really explain why or offer an editor's note but left the tweet up which I think was really bad. It was a really a low moment of the week.

STELTER: Right, because, Amanda, the implication there, the insane implication there is if someone has pot in their apartment, it's OK for the police to storm in and shoot you?

CARPENTER: Yes, I think there is such outrage over that because everyone knows what the story is. An innocent person was shot in his home. It wasn't, oh, look, there may have been cause for the police officer to enter that apartment.

The story was an innocent person was shot and that's why the tweet should have been taken down because it was promoting the wrong story.

STELTER: Yes. Well, these are two examples of newsroom screw-ups. Let me end with a more positive note, an example of journalism I think really making a difference.

Look at how "Fear" is selling. This is the Bob Woodward book. It's been out for five days. It is smashing publishing records.

You know, according to its publishers, Simon & Shuster, 750,000 copies were sold up to the first day. Now, I'm told "Fear" has well surpassed the 1 million sales mark. That's according to a source involved in the sales. I think the publisher is going to come out in the coming days with an upcoming -- updated numbers.

But, you know, this is any author's dream. More than a million copies has sold.

And, Oliver, the reporting in the book, Woodward is adding to what's already been out there about dysfunction and chaos in the Trump White House. But in some ways, he's kind of put a bow on it in a way that hadn't been done before.

DARCY: Right, right. And it's Bob Woodward, all right? So, I think there was some questions about "Fire and Fury" and whether it was accurate and some people said that there were quotes made up.

You're not really seeing that here. You're seeing people react to it --

STELTER: But you're seeing non-denial denials.

DARCY: Right.

STELTER: You're seeing people say, it doesn't sound like the White House I know but they're not denying the specific claims in the book.

DARCY: Right. And I think that are probably going to have hard time doing so because Woodward has been saying that he has hundreds of hours of recordings and he has documents to support all of this stuff. So, if they do come out and contradict something that he's -- you know, has evidence for, I think that might be a problem, right?

STELTER: You mentioned "Fire and Fury", the only book that's sold better this year than "Fear" is "Fire and Fury". Michael Wolff's book is still number one for the year, we'll see if "Fear" overtakes it.

Amanda, Oliver, thank you so much for being here.

Quick break here and then an interview you have to see. This is Michael Avenatti standing by to weigh in on that face-off he had with Tucker Carlson. I'm going to ask about Avenatti's 2020 approach right after a quick break.


[11:24:09] STELTER: We've never seen a president like Donald Trump. But in my humble opinion, we will never see a future president unlike him -- at least when it comes to his use of TV. I have a sneaking feeling that every U.S. president from here on out will be a television star of some sort, maybe a lawmaker who knows how to create a TV moment, or a governor who knows how to throw a really great rally, or a businesswoman who knows how to connect through the camera.

Any way you slice it, star power will be a prerequisite to the presidency. That's my hunch. And Mr. Apprentice is just the beginning.

So that hunch brings me to Michael Avenatti. He doesn't have much of a political record, but he does know his way around a TV studio. And the other day, he went into the liberal lion's den of "Tucker Carlson Tonight", a show that's been calling him a creepy porn lawyer for months now.

[11:25:04] Before the interview, tucker claimed he would be respectful.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: We've invited him on the show many times to talk about his plans, but he's always declined until tonight. He's now agreed to appear provided we give him time to state his case and we're, of course, happy to do that. In the past, he's also demanded we stop referring to him by a certain unflattering nickname. We haven't agreed to that demand but tonight, as a gesture of goodwill, we will not use that nickname.


STELTER: And then the next 12 minutes, Tucker's show did use that nickname in all the banners on the screen. You'll see them here. Stormy's lawyer as creepy porn president?

Avenatti turned it around on Carlson like this.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: Why is it that you don't call Donald Trump the creepy porn president? He's the one that had sex with a four-month-old son at home with my client without a condom.


STELTER: After he got off set, Avenatti called Tucker's show trash TV. So, why did he show up there in the first place?

Michael Avenatti is here now to tell us why.

Michael, many Democrats say no to Fox's interview requests, many 2020 hopefuls. So, I'm curious, why did you say yes?

AVENATTI: Well, Brian, if you're going to be a fighter and you're going to fight for the future of this country and lead the Democratic Party, then you can't be ducking fights. And, frankly, sometimes you have to go into the belly of the beast, as they say, and take on some of these individuals, even if they're entirely unprofessional like Tucker Carlson.

STELTER: Yes, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was here earlier today. She's on Jake Tapper's show. I was asking her about her Fox strategy, about whether she'll ever go on Fox or not. I know it's a very live issue among Democrats. Is it right to go on Fox or not?

So, you're saying you have to take the fight to what you perceive as the enemy. Do you feel you succeeded with Tucker?

AVENATTI: Well, I think I did succeed because I think Tucker looked terrible coming out of that interview. I mean, he constantly spoke over me. I thought the use of the creepy porn lawyer at the bottom of the screen -- which I was not aware of at the time, otherwise, I would have called him out on it -- I thought that was completely unprofessional and uncalled for. And I think that Tucker lost whatever monochrome of respect as a journalist he had left as a result of that interview.

STELTER: Yes, he said he'd give you time to state your case. Do you feel he followed through on that commitment?

AVENATTI: Absolutely not. And another prerequisite was he was not going to interrupt me and talk over me and he continually did that and did not allow me to answer the questions that he posted.

STELTER: Yes, but hold on. If you're going to be a fighter, you're going to have to get used to people interrupting you? AVENATTI: And I am used to that. And I think if you look at that

interview, I demonstrated an ability to deal with that to a certain degree. But I was not given ample time to deal with many of the ridiculous questions that he posed to me and the attacks, starting with the fact that I'm exploiting my client because she's still dancing in strip clubs.

Stormy Daniels is dancing for one reason and one reason only, because Stormy Daniels wants to dance. Anybody that has been paying attention over the last six months knows at this point in her life, nobody tells Stormy what to do. And that includes me.

STELTER: There's been a lot of attention about whether you're going to run for president in 2020. How serious are you at this moment in time about that?

AVENATTI: I'm very serious, Brian. And I'm getting more serious by the week because I'm traveling around the country and people are encouraging me to do it. And I'll also add that I listened to your hunch at the beginning of this segment and I could not agree with you more.

The fact of the matter is, and people may not like this and we could have a debate about whether it's good for America or not, but we live in a different media age, a different realm if you will. And whoever is going to aspire to the presidency is going to need to understand what that realm entails and how to navigate it. And Donald Trump, you can say a lot of negative things about him, and I do, and I think he's completely unprepared for the office and he lacks the fabric to lead this nation, but if there's one thing that he understands, it's branding and how to navigate the media.

STELTER: Yes, I don't know -- I agree with you. I don't know if it's a good thing that star power and TV savvy is required for the job, but I think it is. And, by the way, I think President Obama also had a lot of TV star power and that helped him pre-Trump. But Trump is more evidence of this.

And looking ahead to 2020, one reason I'm taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news.

I want to show a headline about this about this from "Politico" because Bill Scher wrote about this saying you're currently leading the pack among 2020 contenders on the Democratic side. But he thinks that's a bad thing. He says you could be damaging the rest of the field and the country by taking away attention from traditional politicians who have more experience in this.

What do you say to them?

AVENATTI: Well, I completely disagree with that on a number of fronts. First of all, on Thursday, "The New York Times" published an op-ed that I wrote relating to the indictment of the president that dealt with some very complicated constitutional law matters. I've got 20 years of experience at a very high level as an attorney. I understand how governmental regulations are passed, how laws are passed, how the Supreme Court works.


I have an extreme depth of knowledge.

But, more importantly, Brian, if I decide to enter this fight, I think it will be good for the Democratic Party, because whoever emerges from the field, whether it be me or someone else, at that point will be prepared to take on Donald Trump and win in 2020, which is the most important thing.

I believe that the future of the republic is at stake in the 2020 election. And the Democrats cannot afford to lose it, for the benefit of the nation.

STELTER: But I'm concerned, sometimes, you fall into some Trumpian tactics.

For example, at one point earlier this year, you threatened Daily Caller reporters with a defamation suit. How is that appropriate for anybody thinking about running for office?

AVENATTI: Well, if a "journalist" -- quote, unquote -- and, look, I don't believe The Daily Caller's individuals are journalists by any stretch of the imagination, if you look at their history and if you look...

STELTER: That's very Trumpy. That's very Trumpy, trying to drive a wedge between real and fake journalists.

AVENATTI: Well, no, Brian, I disagree.

Look, I don't think all journalists are created equal. I don't believe many journalists adhere to the same standards as you and others, for instance, at CNN or "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post."

Just like all attorneys are not ethical, all journalists do not adhere to the requisite standards of journalism.

A lot of people have written a lot of negative things about me, and they will continue to do so, and I don't have a problem with that. That's what this nation is all about.

But when people engage in tactics that do not meet basic journalistic standards and make things up, from time to time, I'm going to call them out on it.

STELTER: What about blocking critics on Twitter?

Just the other day, you blocked Jon Favreau, some other Dems. If you want to be a fighter, why would you go blocking folks on Twitter?

AVENATTI: Well, Jon Favreau is not blocked, frankly.

STELTER: Well, he was. AVENATTI: And I would be happy to have a discussion about -- I would

be happy to have a discussion about Jon Favreau.

But, look, if people come on my Twitter feed...

STELTER: No, in general. Yes. Yes.

AVENATTI: Well, I -- yes, but, Brian, let me just finish.

So I'm a private citizen. If people come on my Twitter feed, and they attack me for no reason, or they engage in profanity or hurl insults at me, I have the ability to block them from my feed.

Now, they can go on their own feed or other social media channels and say whatever they want about me. This is a free country. And they're entitled to do that. But they don't need my feed to do it. I'm a private citizen.


AVENATTI: If I want to block somebody on Twitter, I can do it.

STELTER: And on Twitter yesterday, you challenged Tucker Carlson to a debate.

Come on. What are the odds? You think he's going to say yes?

AVENATTI: No, I don't think there's any chance he's going to say yes, because he doesn't want to engage with me in a legitimate debate, where we can actually answer questions and ask questions about real issues.

He would rather engage in his clown show of a TV show, like he did on Thursday night. And I think he looked terrible.

STELTER: But you are going to keep appearing on FOX, if asked, or maybe not?

AVENATTI: Well, I think, from time to time, I will, under the right circumstances.

But I think that I was treated with complete disrespect the other night. And I don't think anyone should have to deal with that. And, certainly, you and others on other stations would never treat any guest like that.

STELTER: I don't think you seem that creepy. But -- but that's just me.

Michael, thanks for being here.

AVENATTI: Well, thank you. Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Tucker Carlson, by the way, was also the subject of this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. We had a great conversation with Lyz Lenz, who wrote the definitive profile of Carlson and how he's changed over the years.

Check it out on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Up next, an update on Tropical Depression Florence, plus a look inside CBS in the wake of two dramatic departures.

I have fresh reporting about the future of "60 Minutes," and we have Janice Min here, with her expertise, right after this break.




STELTER: CBS will never be the same, and that's a good thing. Since this time last week, CBS CEO Les Moonves and the "60 Minutes"executive producer Jeff Fager have both left the company amid sexual misconduct allegations which they both denied. Now, the future of "60 minutes" is up in the air. The news magazine, of course, is one of the most important, most acclaimed programs on American T.V. but there have been whispers about Fager, the boss of the show, there have been whispers about his behavior for a while. And Ronan Farrow's reporting in The New Yorker brought that out into the open.

CBS reporter Jericka Duncan was one of the reporters following up, looking into the harassment allegations. When she asked him for comment the other day, he replied to her with a text, that said in part, "Be careful. There are people who've lost their jobs trying to harm me." That's, obviously, a threat. That's obviously intimidating language from a powerful news executive. So, that gave CBS a reason to fire Fager, even though the official investigations into harassment allegations are still going on. And they're going to be going on for several more weeks to come. So now, CBS needs a new head of "60 Minutes." There's a long list of people trying to apply, according to the folks I've spoken with. This is, of course, a plum job, lots of people want to be a part of the future of "60 Minutes." But the company also has to find a new CEO of the entire company, and that's causing a scramble in Hollywood.

Let's talk about both of those stories with Janice Min, the former editor of the Hollywood Reporter, and now, a consultant with Valence Media and NBC. Janice, thanks for being here.


STELTER: Moonves, first. He stepped down this time last week, last Sunday night. No one knows if he's going to get $120 million as a result or zero or something in between. What's the scuttle about what's going to happen at the top of CBS now?

[11:40:09] MIN: Look, I think you can't underestimate the significance of Les Moonves as a CEO here. To me -- I think to a lot of people, they would say he is the equivalent to Hollywood. To what Steve Jobs was to Apple. CBS is Les Moonves. And to try to replace him is going to be a challenge. This is the thing, though, Les Moonves played this larger-than-life role. He was unbelievably charismatic. There's a reason you would always -- he would always have himself put on, let's say, a Grammy's broadcast, or walk a red carpet, or open up the up fronts. He was a big showman. And one of his big things he was doing was marketing Hollywood and selling the whole concept of old school linear broadcast television. So, obviously, he was -- he was in a slightly weakened state because of the situation with Shari Redstone, and there's an opening here to change what CBS is.

Listen, CBS -- he did a great job making CBS probably look better than what it actually is, which is, you know, a network that creates programming for people in their, you know, I think you would kindly say people in their 50s, but likely 60s and older. And it's -- they have not -- you know, they have made huge inroads in the streaming war. And if you look at what Disney did with fox, that content acquisition, the acquisition of content there was to help populate Disney's upcoming streaming service. CBS is not even really in the same level of discussion. They have CBS All Access, but looking forward, they're going to have to find a new sort of hybrid executive, not someone who's going to try to sell Old School Hollywood but someone who can sort of manage New Hollywood.

STELTER: And bring the company more into a digital future.

MIN: Yes.

STELTER: And what about "60 Minutes" and Jeff Fager. I mean, Fager was only the second boss of the show in its history.

MIN: Right.

STELTER: He ran that place, you know, as his own fiefdom. It was really barely even a part of the rest of CBS News. What does it tell us about his ouster and about the fact that they have not lined up a successor yet. Now, CBS has to go out and find a new executive producer.

MIN: Right. Right, right. Well, I think I want to say that one of the things that someone said to me who is a longtime CBS veteran last night, said that, Fager's text that he sent to the reporter, that is classic Les Moonves culture, that is him -- that was Fager sort of echoing the kind of style of Les Moonves. And I spoke to another well-known Hollywood executive yesterday who said, let's just -- you know, Les is a bully. I mean, he was talking about Les' social prospects moving forward because he was also sort of the prom king with Julie Chen, prom queen of Hollywood. And he's -- and he said he's toast, which was interesting to hear. But also that he's a bully and the thing we've learned in all of this is that bullies, their behavior shows up in all sorts of different ways in business dealings but also obviously we're seeing with women.

With "60 Minutes," I mean, it is the gold standard of news programming. And it also has been as we've seen a boys club. And I was -- you know, I was talking to the son of Sandy Socolow last night who I went to college with, and Sandy Socolow was the executive producer for Walter Cronkite. And he said Fager was very good at courting the old guys. And that would occasion -- that would mean, you know, going out with Sandy Socolow, but that also meant paying a lot of homage to, obviously, to Don Hewitt.

And this -- you've seen this lineage of old, you know, white guys who've been -- you know, handing the thrown over -- passing this over from one to the other. And now, there's a real moment to create something different. I've always been shocked with, you know, when people have talked about who's going to take the Fox News job or CNN or any of these top news jobs that women are never in the mix. And I don't think it's because they're not qualified. I think because they have not been part of the club. And so, I love that --

STELTER: And now, only the last year is the head of Fox News a woman for the first time.

MIN: Yes, yes. And so, Susan Zirinsky who I'm told is incredible. I don't know her personally. Tanya Simon who is someone I went to college with and would love to see get the job. I'd like to see that those two names are out there. And whether or not they go to a woman or not --

STELTER: Yes, they're two prominent women at CBS that could get the job. Yes.

MIN: Yes. Which is very gratifying to see.

STELTER: Yes. Janice, thanks so much for being here. Great to see you.

MIND: Thanks. Great to see you.

STELTER: A quick break here, and then a very unpresidential milestone. We're going to talk with the fact-checker at The Washington Post about Trump's 5,000 falsehoods.


STELTER: According to The Washington Post, in 601 days, President Trump has made 5,001 false or misleading claims. We're at the 5,000 mark now. The untruths have been stacking up at a furious rate. In fact, it's been accelerating in recent months. On September 7th, Trump broke his own daily record. On just one day, he publicly made 125 of false or misleading statements in a period of time that totalled about 120 minutes. Just see, just see at home -- see if you can lie that much in two hours. Imagine what this is like for fact checkers. I spoke with The Washington Post fact checker about this.

Glenn Kessler, the editor and the chief writer of The Washington Post "Fact Checker" column joins me now. Glenn, you have been keeping this tally since day one of the Trump presidency, but did you think we would get here to this 5,000 mark so soon?

GLENN KESSLER, EDITOR & CHIEF WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: No. It's actually a big surprise. In January, he only crossed the 2,000 mark. So, just in eighth months, he's made 3,000 false or misleading claims. [11:50:03] STELTER: So, he's been speeding way up. This is something we've been talking about here on this program, the mistruths are happening more and more often, but you have the data to prove it. You say that the summertime was especially bad -- if by bad, we mean there were more untruths. And then, what happened after Labor Day?

KESSLER: What happened after Labor Day was the Bob Woodward book came out as well as the anonymous op-ed in The New York Times. And he went and went to a rally in Montana and then went to a couple fund-raisers in North Dakota. And over those two days, he made about 200 false or misleading claims, just in two days. And in fact, on the second day, it was 125 false or misleading claims. He had a few local interviews, he spoke to reporters on Air Force One, and he tends to increase his frequency when he feels under pressure.

STELTER: Under pressure, he definitely has felt under pressure this month.

KESSLER: It's pretty astonishing because when we started this as just -- originally is just for the first 100 days, he was averaging less than five false claims a day. What's noteworthy about President Trump is that even after it's been repeatedly fact-checked as false, he continues to say these things.

STELTER: So, the theory would be here, he's either engaging in propaganda by saying something that's bogus over and over again to get us to believe it, or as you suggest, he just doesn't know the truth and doesn't want to know the truth. Do you have a guess about which is -- which is going on, which is the reality?

KESSLER: It may well be a combination of those factors.


KESSLER: My experience is that President Trump is very situational. He -- so, he may firmly believe something today even though he might the next day completely contradict it.

STELTER: Right, that's a good point, the contradictions are frequent.

KESSLER: So, it's very much in the moment.

STELTER: Yes, that's a good point.

KESSLER: Right. And so, you know, and you see that actually in Bob Woodward's book and in other reporting that at that moment it is something that he truly firmly believes even if it's a complete flip- flop of what he said the day before.

STELTER: Now, you always say false or misleading claims. Tell me about that term versus the "L" word, lie.

KESSLER: Well, we tend not to use the "L" word, lie, we've done it once in his presidency. You know, I can't get into someone's head, I can't determine whether -- you generally cannot determine whether or not someone is purposely saying it's something that's not true, and the President -- it's a range of things. Sometimes he says thing that are absolutely false, such as he's presiding over the best U.S. economy in U.S. history, or he's passed the biggest tax cut in U.S. history, but there are other things that are misleading or lack important context, so we try to categorize all of those things, the statements that are made to mislead or misinform people.

STELTER: And you have, of course, a scale, one to four Pinocchios for your full-fledge fact-checks. Do you ever find you might need a fifth? Is there any such thing as a fifth Pinocchio that you have to increase the scale because some of this is so off the walls?

KESSLER: No, we don't have to increase the scale, but we are looking at -- coming up with a way to deal with this effort by the President to constantly repeat things, you know, dozens and dozens of times that, you know, in what might be consider misinformation or propaganda. We're looking at ways to --

STELTER: Right, because that's the new factor, right? He's just repeating it over and over again. That's what you're able to establish using this database.

KESSLER: Right, exactly. So, we're looking at a way to somehow signify those kinds of claims that would be different than simply on the Pinocchio scale.

STELTER: But here's what I'm wondering, if you are having to deal with 100 false claims a day in some cases, are you able to keep up, or you're having to add more staff? I mean, just practically, how are you keeping up?

KESSLER: Well, it's a staff of three, right now, and we're -- I haven't -- I haven't asked for anyone one more. We're just -- we just work long hours and many weekends.

STELTER: Many weekends. Kessler thinks Trump will hit the 10,000 mark by the end of his presidency. Up next here on CNN, a live update on Florence. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


STELTER: And before we go today, an update on Florence, no longer a hurricane, but still a severe threat, and you can see why here on the local radar. A tornado watch, that's the red box, but the big story here are the rains, and you can see these bands of rain continuing to come ashore from Hatteras down to Myrtle Beach. This is a slow-motion storm disaster that's unfolding. And the headline on right now says it really well. It says, the flood danger is worse than ever. Here's a lot of look from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the southern end of this storm. We've been able to show you other live pictures from around the region as well today.

Meanwhile, the death toll unfortunately is continuing to climb. The current number is 14 in the Carolinas. These are live pictures from Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, surveying some of the damage, looking around on some of those islands and some of those coastal areas. I think, in some cases, these pictures can be a little bit -- they don't always tell the full story because the flooding is expected to continue for days to come. A spokesman for the City of Fayetteville saying today, we are going to get hammered, the worst is still yet to come. So, Florence, of course, downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical depression, but the story very much unfolding still in the Carolinas. Stay with CNN for continuing live coverage. "STATE OF THE UNION" is up next.