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He Said, She Said: Has the Press Picked a Side?; Clashing Narratives After the Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 30, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:23] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Has the press picked a side in this supreme battle?

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

Today is a special hour on the Supreme Court fight as Brett Kavanaugh's nomination hangs in the balance? We have breaking news about the limited scope of that FBI investigation.

We're going to get into that and more with legendary news anchor and podcaster Katie Couric. She will join me live, so will American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, a staunch supporter of Kavanaugh's. We're also going to hear from David Gergen on where we go from here.

With emotions running so high, the question everyone is asking, what everyone is talking about is who do you believe? What do you trust?

There is so much distrust surrounding the Supreme Court battle, including distrust of the media. There's extreme polarization at play, lots of distrust, but also enormous interest in what's unfolding. People are watching. People are engaged.

Let's start by recognizing that we've only arrived at this moment because of the media. What I mean is Ford reached out to "The Washington Post" along with her local congresswoman, as she reached out to "The Post" more than two months ago. And later, because of a leak probably from the Congress, other reporters started showing up at Ford's doorstep. That is why she decided to speak out, that is what led us to Thursday's hearing.

Of course, as you know, further reporting led "The New Yorker" to the doorstep of another accuser, Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh's denial, of course, were one of the key points of Thursday's hearing. Ford's testimony was the other key point.

And this hearing revealed two very different countries with two very different media environments. The debate about Kavanaugh is happening everywhere, but I think it's essentially to see that it's happening in two alternative universes. There's only one point of consensus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fight to confirm Judge Kavanaugh tearing Washington apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're really talking about tearing the country apart.


STELTER: Tearing the country apart.

Now, take a look at the front page of "The New York Times." This was controversial, the framing, the photo selection the next day. You see on the left, a composed, nervous Christine Blasey Ford. On the right, an angry and defiant Judge Kavanaugh.

This highlights perceptions of bias. Some conservatives said "The Times" was being unfair for not showing Kavanaugh being sworn in the way the cover of the "New York Post" did.

There are lots of arguments and conversations about the press's framing, perceptions of this story. And think about what's happening now, Kavanaugh opponents are hoping the press will find more evidence to against him to confirm their belief he isn't fit for the court. Kavanaugh proponents are saying all of this is character assassination and they are blaming the press for being complicit.

We're left with he-said, she-said, and this FBI investigation is raising even more questions. How real is this investigation? How broad or how limited will it be? And has this pivotal moment in history done lasting damage to the way we talk and listen to each other? Are we able to do that anymore?

Let's talk with Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and global affairs analyst for CNN. And her former editor at "Politico" is with me here in New York, political analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Susan, you wrote about this feeling of two Americas this week. You're in New Orleans. You've been traveling all weekend. Does it feel like two Americas to you today?

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Absolutely, Brian. What I'm so struck by is the one thing that happened that was unifying was that most of America was watching these hearings, taking in the news, everywhere I've gone. I've been in Texas as you have in recent days, in New Orleans, in Washington. People are talking about this on the airplane, in the airport, you know, in restaurants. It's a national conversation.

Unfortunately, however, there's not a shared narrative about the facts. And I think, to me, that's one of the biggest differences between now and 27 years ago when the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings happened, is that I think we've almost given up, we've ceded the idea that there should be one shared factual basis for the conversation, you know?

And I think that, you know, if the effort was to get at the truth, the hearing the other day was not about truth. And, of course, that wasn't the outcome of it either. It's very murky whether we ever will have a real investigation or understand exactly what went on.

STELTER: And the brand new reporting about that from our colleague Jeff Zeleny is that the White House, especially White House counsel Don McGahn has been working with Senate Republican leaders to, quote, narrow -- to make the scope of the investigation as narrow as possible.

[11:05:10] This was some reporting that was starting to come out Saturday night. The president came out and said, no, the FBI has free rein to investigate whatever it wants. But Jeff Zeleny reporting the scope of the investigation is going to be as narrow as possible as seen by Don McGahn.

Now, whether McGahn is successful in doing that remains to be seen. But I think there's reason to be skeptical about how extensive this investigation will be.

Jeff Greenfield, do you share my skepticism?

JEFF GREENFIELD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I'm skeptical about almost everything I've heard for this. And to your point, if I can pivot.


GREENFIELD: I think we're at a point where the whole last two years -- and, you know, certainly since Trump's inauguration has put the press or the press put itself in the position you described. When you have the president of the United States who says to his people, in so many words, don't believe anything negative you hear about me, it is fake, it is a lie, they're our enemies, I don't think it's surprising, at least in my view, a fair percentage of the press in one way or another thinks of itself as a kind of resistance.

We have to speak truth to this. We have to correct his statement about what we do, and in the process -- I mean, I have to say this to a CNN anchor, when I look at CNN, hour after hour after hour, I see panels rather than reporting, exchanging opinions, the overwhelming majority of which on this network I regard as quite critical or hostile to Trump.

Now, that might be justified, it may be these folks have concluded on the basis of how Trump has behaved and the Republicans that they deserve this pushback. But I think what you've described, these two different universes --


GREENFIELD: -- has only been accelerated. Look, you know --

STELTER: You think the press is exacerbating that feeling of two universes?

GREENFIELD: I think the press in some way is trapped because it's a perfectly legitimate argument to say this president has misled, dissembled, outright lied, more than maybe all the presidents combined and we have to call him to that. But what's happened is, that it's fed the view on the other side of the aisle that, of course, they're critical of Trump because it's all fake news because they don't like what he's doing.

STELTER: What do you think personally? Has CNN taken a side, do you think, in this Kavanaugh debate? Has the press taken a side?

GREENFIELD: Yes, I think if you take the overall coverage, you know, night after night and you said, well, what have I heard that balances out -- sure.

Now, again, I want to be clear to this. It may be that the facts justify that, but I don't -- I can see how you can look at -- anymore than you can look at Fox, say, you know, "Fox & Friends" and decide it's anything more than state media. In CNN's case, it's not at that level at all, but there is an overwhelming perception as a viewer, I used to be, you know -- that CNN in effect or most of its people have taken a stand about this president and about this nomination.

STELTER: Susan, what's your view of this? I've been thinking about the same thing Jeff has been talking about. My impression is lots of journalists trying really hard just to get this story right, trying to be really careful --

GLASSER: Well --

STELTER: -- trying to vet the reporting, trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves, trying not to assume the worst about Kavanaugh. I can understand why there's this perception that the media as a whole is out to get him.

GLASSER: Well, I think Jeff makes some important and provocative points around sort of the conversation and especially the visual impact on TV of the endless 24-hour conversation. But I want to make a slightly different point which I think is very important here.

If not for rigorous, independent, investigative reporting by "The Washington Post," "The New Yorker" and other news outlets, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. To me, that's the sign of the breakdown of our political institutions, the idea that we politicize whether or not we're going to have a proper FBI investigation, which is something that's never happened before, even in the Anita Hill hearings.

I think Patrick Leahy said in 44 years he's been on the judiciary committee, which is another issue about the lifetime tenure of certain politicians, but in 44 years this has never happened. Our institutions of politics have broken down in a kind of toxic partisanship that has made them unable to do the kind of work that is their job. And it seems to me that makes all the more important the work of reporters who have unearthed facts that the country is now being forced in a very problematic way to consider.

So, I would separate out the debate which is a legitimate debate over the conversation from the question of reporters and journalists doing their job. And to me, this underscores the critical importance of journalism as the fourth estate at a time when our national politics is broken. And you can call it the resistance, but it's not. People who care about the facts, that's not partisan, it's independent, and I reject the label.

[11:10:02] The president from day one has tried to place that label on independent critical reporting. The two reporters at "The New Yorker" who broke that story also knocked out a Democratic attorney general of New York state who was one of Donald Trump's most fierce opponents. And, you know, that's how we do it, without fear or favor.

STELTER: Susan Glasser, Jeff Greenfield, thank you both for being here.

We have a lot more to say. We're just getting started this hour.

I want to bring in Matt Schlapp and Jessica Valenti after the break, as well as Katie Couric for more views on how this week was perceived, how all this coverage has been perceived and what it means for the country.

Much more RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

There has been a quote bouncing around for the past couple days. I first saw it on the Twitter feed of the Reagan Battalion. This is a conservative Twitter group that said Democrats don't want the truth, they just want the seat.

Now, some on the left are saying the exact same thing about Republicans, they don't want the truth about Kavanaugh. They don't really want to know what happened in high school or college, the FBI probe is bogus, they just want the seat.

This is the debate that's roaring through the country. So, let's have it with Matt Schlapp. He's the chairman of the American Conservative Union and a staunch supporter of Kavanaugh's.

[11:15:03] Matt, I'm just curious firs and I want to ask Jessica Valenti the same question later, what did Thursday's hearing feeling like for you personally as a viewer?

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: You know, in full disclosure, Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh are good friends of ours. I served with him my entire time that I served with President George W. Bush in the White House. I know him well and I know his character. I know that this is not consistent with the man I know.

I felt -- to ping off the conversation you just had with Jeff and your other guest, I felt like I was watching my country slip. We've dropped a few more notches. I think we dropped too many notches. And I just -- I don't want to know --

STELTER: Whose fault is that? SCHLAPP: There's so much fault to go around. I blame desperately in

this situation Democrats on that hearing, Democrat staffers, Democrat members of that committee who were willing to do almost anything to smear him.

I look at these polls that are out of West Virginia and Missouri, it is backfiring -- it's backfiring even with women. Women in West Virginia by a 30-point margin want to see Brett Kavanaugh now confirmed after the hearing.

STELTER: You're bringing up that state because of Manchin. I understand why, but you know most --

SCHLAPP: Brian, let me just say this, in Missouri, more women now will vote for McCaskill's opponent after this hearing. This is having big impacts in red states and blue states. But you've got to also look at the impact in red states.

STELTER: Yes, I agree with you. I wonder your impression of the media's coverage of this. I think you wrote in a column on Friday that the press has been irresponsible. And I was wondering in what specific ways you've seen media malpractice.

SCHLAPP: You know, Brian, it's happening every moment of the day. I think this show is covering this issue responsibly. I've watched every minute of your show so far.

But I do believe there's a presumption of innocence for anybody who makes these charges and there's a presumption of guilt for anybody who is smeared by false charges. And I think that's very unfortunate.

I think for the press, they need to understand, for media generally, they need to understand it's true that the nation is divided. Most of you live in either New York or Washington like I do. The neighbors around me I'm sure would agree that Brett Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court.

When I talk to Americans in the red states or any other place besides this corridor or Hollywood, when you talk to other Americans, they have a much different impression of what's going on with this Supreme Court nominee.

STELTER: To be fair, most Americans don't want him confirmed.

SCHLAPP: That's not right.

STELTER: Most Americans in polls --


SCHLAPP: That's not right. That's not right.

STELTER: Go ahead.

SCHLAPP: Brian, it's not right. I just looked at a poll walking in here where 53 percent of the American people favor Judge Kavanaugh. You can't pick one poll and make seem like that is where the Americans

are. Don't do that. Real Clear Politics looks at all the polls, but you should say that the American people are split, don't say the American people oppose him because that's when people say you don't have credibility.


STELTER: I agree with you Americans are split on this, unfortunately very, very split in ways that are almost frightening that --

SCHLAPP: I agree.

STELTER: That people can't even talk to each other about this stuff anymore --

SCHLAPP: I agree.

STELTER: -- if you dare to suggest that Brett Kavanaugh's behavior in high school shouldn't ruin the rest of his life, you're branded a rape apologist.


STELTER: If you dare suggest on the other side, his temperament makes him unfit for the Supreme Court, then you're branded a Democratic --


SCHLAPP: So, where do we go? So, we are where we are. It is what it is. What do we do as a country?

I think we do have to have institutions like the FBI and like the Senate Judiciary Committee that we can put our faith in and we can trust. Unfortunately, the FBI for a lot of us who supported Donald Trump has been sullied by their own actions. Unfortunately, the staff on the Democratic side decided to hold on to a letter for six weeks and never tell Dr. Ford she could have done this confidentially because they wanted those theatrics. These are huge mistakes.

STELTER: You've litigated that on CNN on recent days. I don't want to go there.

What I do want to focus on is the dishonesty at the hearing, because many, many fact checkers have concluded that Kavanaugh was dishonest at the hearing. That he said things that --

SCHLAPP: Who? But you can't do that. You can't do that.

STELTER: So, let me show the example. Let me show an example.

SCHLAPP: What fact checkers? They're funded by left wing donors.


STELTER: That's not true. Let's see. Here's what he said about drinking at the hearing on Thursday.

SCHLAPP: Which one?



JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I liked beer. I still like beer, but I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out.


STELTER: Now, I do believe he probably blacked out in college. Lots of college people blackout. Here is what one of his college friends said to Chris Cuomo.


LYNNE BROOKES: There had to be a number of nights where he does not remember. In fact, I was witness to the night that he got tapped into that fraternity. And he was stumbling drunk in a ridiculous costume saying really dumb things, and I can almost guarantee that there's no way he remembers that night.


[11:20:07]STELTER: If Kavanaugh lied on Thursday, does that make him a fit Supreme Court justice?

SCHLAPP: Look, I think it's a very serious thing to give false testimony to the Senate. And I wouldn't blame senators for voting against him if they thought he did that flagrantly. But let's look at what you're talking about.

I watched that interview with Chris Cuomo with another former classmate as well. That woman said, I think he drank too much, but I didn't see any inappropriate sexual behavior. Blacking out is a very specific question, when you can't remember anything that happened.

He is the only person, Brian, who can answer that question. How dare anyone say that they know or can get into the inner most part of his soul and tell him when he blacked out and when he didn't? This is how it gets so absurd.


STELTER: I mean, do you really believe "devil's triangle" was a drinking game? I mean, do you really believe those definitions?

SCHLAPP: I'm going to come across as an idiot. I have never heard of "devil's triangle" before. I still don't know what it is. I don't know -- I assume it's a drinking game. But I don't know what it is.

And I think it has nothing to do -- I could care less -- I could care less whether or not Supreme Court justices guzzled too much beer. I think we're in a ridiculous place. We should be talking about his legal jurisprudence, how has he been as a public official, how has he comported himself with six FBI background checks over 25 years --


STELTER: I'm with you. But as a judge, he does to parse language. He does have to split hairs. He has to determine whether someone is telling the truth and the whole truth.

SCHLAPP: We all do. We all do.

STELTER: This is his job.

So, the idea he wasn't precise enough, that he was saying things misleading on Thursday. Can you see why it's a concern to the big chunk of the country?

SCHLAPP: Brian -- yes. This gets back to the question of, we all have to make our decision on what people saw. What I'm saying is it's a big mistake for the press, and for editorial pages and for reporters and their Twitter feeds, which I follow all of them, to be -- to take -- to seemingly take a side with their coverage and don't quote fact checkers when those fact checkers have been against Kavanaugh from the very beginning or they're funded by the left.

This is why we used to love going to media places who had great reputation because we knew -- we knew -- I knew just 25 years ago when I'd watch TV or read the paper, I knew there were places I could go to get the left and the right and to hear what the facts are. That has been destroyed by the watching habits of American people. And this is why you deserve great praise for having me on your show. Thank you.


STELTER: Enough of that.

SCHLAPP: But I don't fit your demographic, but it's important that people hear --

STELTER: Sure, you do. Of course you fit my demographic. But I do want to ask you about something you tweeted since you brought up Twitter --


SCHLAPP: It's important that the people hear on your show what is happening in these red states as well.

STELTER: Red states and blue states.


STELTER: You tweeted the other day about two conservative voters in a number of red states saying look at this photo and then you listed a bunch of states.


STELTER: Because these senators were all minorities, people called you out and said this was racist.

SCHLAPP: They sure did.

STELTER: What were you thinking? What were you doing?

SCHLAPP: I never thought about race when I saw that photo. I mean, Democrats deserve great credit for the fact that they've done a better job electing a diverse people than Republicans have. Republicans need to do better and also electing women.

But the fact is, is that two of those people are running for president, whether you like it or not. It's not a question of their race. They are leading the Democratic Party. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and the senator from Hawaii, Hirono, she's been the voice of this anti-Kavanaugh movement.

I can't help what race and gender and everything else they are. All I can do is say, they are leading the show. I think the picture would have been much better. I didn't create that picture. It was retweeted, if Dianne Feinstein had been in it as well.

I don't care what her religion is or her gender is. I think the activities by her and her staff are repugnant and I think they're making America more divided, not more united.

STELTER: All right. Matt, thank you so much for being here. Great talking with you.

SCHLAPP: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: I want to bring in Jessica Valenti now. She's a columnist for "Medium" and the author of five books, most recently "Sex Object: A Memoir."

And, Jessica, I want to ask you the same question I asked Matt Schlapp. What did Thursday feel like for you as a viewer?

JESSICA VALENTI, COLUMNIST, MEDIUM: I mean, it was difficult. It was difficult to watch. I know a lot of women felt the same way I did. It was sort of unbelievable that she even had to be there going through that.

But like the big, broad thing that stood out to me was the disparity in standards that we have for women and men. And when I thought about if Dr. Blasey Ford came out and acted the way Judge Kavanaugh did, she would not be credible, right? Like they would have taken her out by security. So, that is something I kept coming back to again and again, and just how angry and dishonest Kavanaugh was.

STELTER: You know, not all men share Matt Schlapp's views, not all women share your views.

VALENTI: Sure. STELTER: But there is a profound gender divide in this country right now. I feel about it. You worry about it. I worry about it. I think you worry about it.

How can we better understand where women like you are coming from? Are there too many pundits on TV and not enough experts to talk to these issues?

VALENTI: Absolutely, right?

[11:25:00] Like facts about rape and statistics about rape and studies about rape and victims' behavior are not partisan, right? We have a ton of experts. There are organizations, there are researchers, there are scientists who can tell us about victims' memories, rapists' patterns of behavior.

But we're not really seeing those people brought out. We're not seeing them on television shows, not seeing writing op-eds. And instead, we have armchair pundits who don't know that much about rape and sexual assault.

STELTER: And I have to admit. I am an armchair pundit at times.

VALENTI: Sure. A lot of us are sometimes.

STELTER: This is the kind of the default format for television, but it is interesting thing about how we can make it better.

I want to look at Thursday for a moment and look how the coverage of Kavanaugh was played. You know, in the morning when Ford testifies, there was sort of unanimous agreement over on Fox News and CNN and MSNBC that she was very credible, that it was a very important moment. But then things changed when Kavanaugh testified.

Let's watch the split when Kavanaugh testified.

I don't know if I actually have it. I'm sorry. I'll see if we can get it.

Essentially on Fox News, the reactions were very different than the reactions on MSNBC. What we were seeing were folks saying Kavanaugh has dug himself out of the hole that he was in. he had a fighting chance here. People were praising his anger and his rage.

And to your point, we wouldn't have seen that if it was a woman.

VALENTI: No, absolutely not. I think part of the reason so many on the right were praising this sort of like rageful diatribe that he went on was that he was really epitomizing this moment of backlash that we're in among entitled white men who are furious about being finally held to account. It wasn't just about this hearing, but about the broader movement that's been happening in the last year.

STELTER: We're at #MeToo anniversary, this Friday --

VALENTI: Exactly. STELTER: -- which is when the FBI investigation is due, is literally the one year anniversary of the first Harvey Weinstein in "The New York Times".

VALENTI: Right. And I think for a lot of conservatives, seeing him acting that way was what they have been waiting to see, right? Like they wanted that moment of backlash, they wanted that moment of pushback.

STELTER: He looked like a conservative radio host.

VALENTI: He sounded like Alex Jones.

STELTER: I don't know if I go that far.

VALENTI: I would.

STELTER: He sounded like Sean Hannity. He expressed the kind of resentment and fury they express on the radio every day.

VALENTI: Right. And it was, again, coming from this place of -- the disdain in his voice, right, I can't even believe I have to be here and answer these questions.

STELTER: Let me see if we can look at the "Saturday Night Live" reaction to this.


STELTER: I'm going to try one more SOT and see if we can play it. This is Matt Damon who made this cameo on "SNL" with a hyper- exaggerated version of Kavanaugh and the reactions were pretty intense this morning. Let's see if we can play that.


MATT DAMON AS BRETT KAVANAUGH: Let me tell you this, I'm going to start an 11. I'm going to take it to about a 15 real quick!


STELTER: There's something real there, right? Something real about what he's impersonating.

VALENTI: Yes, it was the only moment I've laughed in the last few days, I have to say. It actually -- it was a nice moment for me. I don't think it was biased or anything like that. It was a nice moment of levity. I think they made a good decision in not acting out any of Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony as well.

STELTER: Interesting. Interesting.

VALENTI: They were smart.

STELTER: Of all the media coverage, what stood out to me were the calls to C-Span from women recounting their own sexual assault, sometimes for the first time ever. I think we need to make more spaces for everyday people to be talking about this, the way they are in real life.

VALENTI: Right. And that there is such a gender divide on this, right? We know the statistics about how many women will be raped or sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetime. This is a really personal issue for women.

So, when women watched Dr. Blasey ford give her testimony, it was painful because it was so recognizable, and I think seeing Judge Kavanaugh's reaction was also really difficult for women because they recognized that person, they recognized that anger and that disbelief because it's what we hear all the time.

STELTER: Jessica, thanks for being here.

VALENTI: Thank you for having me.

STELTER: Good to see you.

A quick break here. The one, the only, Katie Couric. We'll get her thoughts on the coverage of the Kavanaugh hearing. And can you believe it's been ten years since this historic interview?


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back now here on RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter and we're talking about all the fallout from the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing. I'm joined now by Katie Couric. She needs no introduction but of course, she comes from the Today Show, from CBS, from Yahoo. She's now the co-host of the Katie Couric podcast. And you have a really interesting -- a new pod about your Sarah Palin interview that I want to ask you about, but first your reactions to this week?

KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST, KATIE COURIC PODCAST: Well, what an incredible week.

STELTER: I found myself still trying to process it.

COURIC: What an incredible week. What infusing week. I think I agree with a lot of things that Jessica said that I think, Bryan, that our understanding of sexual violence against women and the trauma, the lifelong trauma that ensures it still -- has not progressed since I covered the Anita Hill hearings 27 years ago. I mean, if there is not a process in place, I think that's a huge problem. Dianne Feinstein should have delivered that letter because now I think Dr. Ford story and account has been understandably politicized because of that failure.

I think the way that some of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee handled this was very troubling and I thought Lindsey Graham's full-throated defense of Judge Kavanaugh was disturbing only that because it completely dismissed and discounted Dr. Ford's you know, story and personal experience. So I think that we have a long way to go and I'm very relieved that an FBI investigation or fact-finding mission has been called. It should have been called already.

Jeff Flake obviously had a crisis of conscience and it will be interesting to see how he Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins feel after we have a fair appraisal of what happened. Now will --

[11:35:25] STELTER: If we do.

COURIC: We may never know -- we may never know the truth -- that's right -- and it's limited in scope, but I think everyone wants it to be fair so that the full Senate can decide if Brett Kavanaugh has the character and the judicial temperament if you will, to have a lifelong position on the highest court in the land. And you're right. We may never know and can someone evolve after bad behavior in high school in college or is that behavior so offensive and troubling that it really disqualifies him. That -- those are the things that the country and the Senate will be weighing.

STELTER: You've been known over the years for your big guts for T.V. bookings, and yes, it's only Kavanaugh that's done a sit-down T.V. interview, none of his accusers have. Does that just tell us something about the media universe here?

COURIC: Well, I don't think so. I think that the judge Kavanaugh went to a friendly outlet, Fox News, and I think --

STELTER: Hard questions though.

COURIC: You know, that's true, and I think it'll -- it remains to be seen if some of the other accusers will, in fact, do television interviews.

STELTER: You're right. It hasn't been ruled out. Certainly, this week is going to change things.

COURIC: Right, I mean, there's still time and I think that we might see some of them on television or in media outlets in the coming week.

STELTER: Yes. Speaking of the big get, this brings us to your podcast. It's been ten years since that famous Sarah Palin interview that you conducted while you were at CBS -- and you've revisited it for your podcast by looking at how it changed the media world and also frankly how Palin led to Donald Trump.


STELTER: Let's look first at a clip from the interview. This is one of the most let's say memorable questions and answers.


COURIC: What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand --

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR, ALASKA: Most of them again, with a great appreciation for the press, for the media, coming --

COURIC: Like what specifically, I'm curious, that you --

PALIN: All of them, any of them, that have been in front of me over all these years.


STELTER: Unforgettable moment with Sarah Palin, and there were many in that interview you say, was the most important interview you've ever done.

COURIC: Well, I think it was one of the most pivotal and one of the most impactful because as you remember, when that interview was done, it was the third interview that Governor Palin did. But I think it had a big repercussion because I think people saw that she was out of her depth and could not answer public policy questions in a very satisfying or satisfactory way. You know, we really wanted to look at through the lens of these interviews. The rise and fall of one of the most captivating candidates in recent memories, how she was selected.

There's an interesting backstory of course about Joe Lieberman and how he came this close to being tapped. You know, all sorts of questions about how she was or really wasn't vetted and you know, the role of the media in this, now with social media ten years later with disintermediation, the ability to go directly to consumers or voters, this sort of rite of passage of the network news interview with an anchor asking probing questions is no longer necessary in the current media landscape. And so we wanted to look at that and how much things have changed, and how her kind of anti-intellectual red meat populism, anti-media rhetoric did pave the way for Donald Trump and his anti- media sensibilities if you will, and --

STELTER: Right. And your critics said this was gotcha journalism, was did -- it make your brand more polarizing

COURIC: Well, you know --

STELTER: -- because asking a really simple question there.

COURIC: You know, it's interesting, I think even Republicans thought all the questions I asked were exceedingly fair and so I think it was after it sort of set in and Governor Palin knew that she had not performed well that that became sort of the typical trope that it was gotcha questions. But even Senator McCain, when I sat down with them for a joint interview, praise the interview I had done with Governor Palin. He had a very different campaign style and obviously, hers is diverged from his.

Remember he would calm down people who said inappropriate things, and she seemed to egg them on and certainly not temper that.

STELTER: Very Trumpian.


STELTER: And this was for CBS. You were at NBC with Matt Lauer for years then at CBS working at 60 Minutes with Jeff Fager among many other people. Since we're at this one-year mark of the #MeToo movement, can you share with us what you saw at those networks?

COURIC: Well, I think I can talk specifically with Matt. He was a terrific professional partner with me for many years. I was unaware of any kind of this behavior, predatory behavior, and it was obviously very shocking and disturbing to me and a lot of his colleagues, Brian, as you well know.

[11:40:06] STELTER: Yes.

COURIC: Meanwhile, CBS News, I think it's clear from Ronan Farrow's excellent reporting that they have a real culture problem there. And the culture I found at 60 Minutes personally was very challenging and at times quite offensive because I think obsequious subservience was a job requirement in order to thrive there for many women.

STELTER: What does that mean? Does that mean stuck up to the boss? Is that --

COURIC: Pretty much. Thank you for that translation. And I think that you know, obviously, the male hierarchy has been in place there for years and it's time for it to end. But they're not the only network that has a male hierarchy. If you looked at the news presidents at every major broadcast and cable network they're all male. All three evening news anchors are male. The vast majority of executive producers at every network are male and this really has to end.

If we really believe that the tone at the top is paramount, then you have to have more diverse voices at the top because they have such an impact on the editorial choices that are made, who cover stories and how they're covered.

STELTER: There's a similarity between politics and media that I hear you describing about the gender --

COURIC: That's right. Yes, and I think our -- you know our industry has to do much, much better. Furthermore, I think we also have to look at this glass cliff. You know, when a woman is appointed or elevated, she has to be qualified and supported. Otherwise, if she doesn't succeed all women are penalized for that. And finally, I think people need to understand implicit bias. You know, that's a relatively new area that needs to be understood better in media circles. These are cultural conditioning that cause us to look at people a certain way.

You know, I'm guilty of it too. I remember when Sarah Palin was picked, Brian, I said to Cindy McCain, how is she going to be Vice President the United States? She has all these children, she has a special needs child, and Cindy McCain looked at me like I had three heads. And I realized she was right. I would never ask that question about a male candidate. So I think we have so much work to do. And I think you know, if this is a fair analysis investigation into the culture at CBS News by these outside law firms and they're transparent and sincere and their desire to really change the culture, that will be a good thing but I think every network needs to do so.

STELTER: Interesting. Katie, thanks for being here.

COURIC: Yes, good to see you.

STELTER: Great to see you. And in that CBS investigation, it is ongoing, we've been covering at A quick break here and then David Gergen, his view of this week and whether the press appears to be complicit in the -- in the destruction of Brett Kavanaugh. That's what some on the right are saying. We'll talk to Gergan about it right after this.


[11:45:00] STELTER: This week has been about moments, moments of the new New Yorker story coming out, moments at the hearing on Thursday, in that moment with Senator Jeff Flake and activist in the elevator. Let's get a reaction now about all the week's moments from David Gergen former Presidential Adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, and CNN's Senior Political Analysts. David, your assessment of the news media's handling of this. What would -- how would you grade the coverage?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think overall the coverage has been remarkably responsible. The Ramirez story for example in The New Yorker, the New York Times had enormous restraint about filleting that up because they couldn't reach her and then it sort of got tucked away and in the bottom of -- in the middle of stories. And then along came the Avenatti charges and the press had basically hasn't covered much of those at all.

STELTER: People have been careful, I think. I hope careful, yes.

GERGEN: Very -- yes, careful, and I think that you know, too often we've been accused of being hysterical and you know way overplaying something. So I think overall -- and then catching that moment in the elevator, in the drama of that and how it changed history was with Flake, it was really important. But Brian, I must say to you, I think alarm bells right now I want to be going out much louder in the press about these apparent limitations on the -- on the investing a background investigation.

We were told from the president, free rein not the case. You know if we're really going to be limited to four witnesses by the FBI and having to go back to check with the White House on anything more, that's not -- that's not a proper investigation. That's not an impartial serious investigation.

STELTER: When you and I were on CNN last Sunday, you had a warning for the press. You said it is going to be a problem if at the end of this no matter what happens it looks like journalists were complicit in in Kavanaugh losing this seat. Are you -- are you more concerned about that a week later?

GERGEN: I'm still concerned because I do think in this age of tribalism, when people are shoved into different camps, that the press has been -- has been become seen as a member of the liberal camp anxious to bring down the president. I don't think that's what the role of the press has been. It's unnatural. You know, there's a new book out by a fellow named Matthew Pressman on the press, that it points out that you know, way back in the 60s, the press went from being an interpretive -- I mean just a descriptive organization carrying the press releases as issued by the White House to be more interpretive and being tougher because the White House was lying so much in the Vietnam War and lying so much on Watergate and we've been there -- and the press has been more challenging an adversarial ever since. I think that is good. It holds people accountable but we have to be very, very careful in how we report and not to go overboard, not to get hysterical and to show both sides.

[11:50:05] STELTER: And those changes in the press caused more distrust of the press.


STELTER: And so as we are more interpretive and trying to hold people accountable, that causes further distrust.

GERGEN: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

STELTER: David Gergen, thanks so much for being here. Thanks for joining us.

GERGEN: OK, Brian.

STELTER: More in a moment. A quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES. We'll be right back.


STELTER: Fresh off his trip to the U.N. and that incredible press conference where he showed how much he really actually loves reporters. President Trump resumed his midterm rally toward West Virginia. He accused the media of "stoking the fires of resentment and chaos" while stoking the fires himself. And he said things that would have been front-page, top of the hour, breaking news for any other president. Things like this.


[11:55:07] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know the interesting? When I did it and I was really being tough and so was he, we go back and forth and then we fell in love, OK. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters. We fell in love.


STELTER: Many prayed that the press would punish him for saying that, but the real surprise is how little attention it's getting. Trump says he fell in love, we fell in love with Kim Jong-un. One of Trump's top accomplishments is warping the news cycle like this. So that clip which what I would have led the show with ends up at the end. Well, that's a wrap this week. We'll see you back here at this time next week. Thanks for joining us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)