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White House Bans CNN's Jim Acosta; Trump Calls for "Respect" While Insulting Reporters. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired November 11, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:26] 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 help make it better.
This hour, Democrats making huge gains on Election Day. But the election still isn't over yet. Every day that passes, the results are better for the Dems. Did the press underplay the blue wave? We'll talk about that.
Plus, a major scandal in the news world. "Houston Chronicle" forced to retract multiple stories from a reporter who is believed to have been making up sources. What did "The Chronicle" do about it? We'll talk to the paper's top editor.
Plus, my interview with Tucker Carlson's business partner about that really disturbing situation at Tucker's home the other night. This Antifa protests got out of hand and police are now investigating.
Lots to get to, but first, President Trump's attempts to distract from various negative stories in the news. Not the least of which were the results of the midterms and the GOP's losses in the House. What did he do the next day? He fired his attorney general and he kicked Jim Acosta out of the White House.
I'm sure you've heard by now that on Wednesday night, CNN's chief White House correspondent tried to show up for his 8:00 p.m. live shot and he was told he wasn't allowed into the White House property. His Secret Service hard pass had been revoked. It's been suspended, that's the word from the White House, suspended until further notice.
But, look, this is not about Jim Acosta. This is about the White House trying to control news coverage by blacklisting certain reporters. Ultimately, it's about freedom the press. The question now is, whose credentials could be revoked next?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as I'm concerned, I haven't made that decision. But it could be others also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, look, CNN's in the thick of this story and Trump's insulting Acosta, insulting Abby Phillip on Friday, insulting April Ryan this week, CNN is on record here saying that Trump's attacks against the media are disturbingly un-American. That's the official word from CNN.
But I want to try to approach this as dispassionately as we can. After all, right now, it's about CNN, but NBC or "The New York Times" or other outlets could be next.
So I want to ask if there's a legal case here. Could CNN end up suing in order to get Acosta's press pass reinstated? Will the White House take away other press passes?
And what's going to happen next here? There's a lot to talk about.
But let me start with the one, the only, Sam Donaldson. Of course, you know Sam's days at ABC, shouting questions sometimes at the White House.
Sam, thanks for joining me.
SAM DONALDSON, LEGENDARY WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Glad to be here, Brian.
STELTER: Your view first and foremost of what the White House did this week to punish Jim Acosta.
DONALDSON: Well, the president's order to revoke his credentials is not only wrong and unfair, it's dangerous for the press as a whole.
We all saw what happened at the news conference. There's a group of people moving through Mexico toward our border described by people on the scene, observers who are neutral as made up of men, women, and children seeking asylum from persecution and from hardship.
Well, the president has characterized them as a caravan composed of many terrorists wanting to invade the United States. He sent thousand of troops to the border, with orders to repel them by force if necessary. So, Acosta asked him why he called it a caravan at the news conference. The president replied, that's my opinion.
And Acosta tried to press him on what basis, what evidence he used to form that opinion. And instead of answering, President Trump lashed out with a vicious personal attack on Acosta. And then ordered his press credentials revoked.
Now, if that order isn't reversed by the courts, what reporter, what news organization would risk the retaliation of the White House by asking questions or publishing stories that the president doesn't like? The courts must reverse that order and I'm sure they will.
STELTER: Sam, I know that you've been in touch with Jim over the years. I think he looks up to you as a White House correspondent. Have you all spoken this week?
DONALDSON: No. No, we haven't spoken but I e-mailed him and said keep it up, don't worry about the vicious attacks on you by anybody and the threats and all of this. You're performing in the best appearance of a reporter. You're doing your job properly. And it's a badge of merit.
STELTER: You know, the White House says this credential was revoked because he placed his hands on a White House intern. The video shows that Acosta did not mistreat the intern but that's the White House spin about this story, that's the excuse to revoke the credential.
[11:05:05] Do you think the White House is going to come up with other excuses to revoke other credentials and this is going to ill become a deepening crisis?
DONALDSON: Well, they better try because the First Amendment of the Constitution forbids an abrogation of the press's right to freedom. And the president doesn't seem to understand that. The amendment doesn't say unless the president doesn't like it, then of course he has the right to revoke it.
And what President Trump has done having no law, as the amendment forbids, to fall back on, he's done it through the backdoor. If he refuses to allow a reporter to report, if he refuses to allow an organization like CNN to select its own reporter, but can he select the reporter, then what is freedom of the press? The president does not understand a lot of things about our Constitution, but I expect and I believe the courts will instruct him.
STELTER: Sam, stay with me, if you can. I want to open this up to a couple other guests. But first, let me tell the viewers at home the latest on what's going on. We can show you the video from Wednesday night when Acosta arrived at the White House, when he was told his Secret Service credential was being taken away he got out his iPhone and recorded it so there was a record of what happened. That was on Wednesday night.
Now, here we are at Sunday morning, and he remains on the blacklist. Yes, Jim is reporting in Paris, yes, he's still getting scoops. You don't have to be at the White House physically in order to get scoops about the White House. But Jim remains on the blacklist, which means he's not able to attend official White House events, he's not able to be in a position to ask questions of the Trump administration.
All of CNN's other reporters and producers they still have access but Acosta has been frozen out.
So, let's get to two other guests that are here with me, Frank Sesno, a former CNN D.C. bureau chief, now the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, and also here with me, famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams.
Floyd, I want to ask you about the legal consequences in a moment.
But, Frank, there are a lot of Trump supporters who look at Acosta. They look at his grandstanding. They say he's a showboat. They say he's a loud mouth. They say he should have his press pass revoked.
What's your response to that?
FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL OF MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GWU: Absolutely not. They're absolutely wrong. I mean, Sam Donaldson, I was there when Sam was at the White House, he was all those things and he didn't have his -- with all due respect -- he didn't have his press pass revoked.
What I would say to Trump supporters and anyone who even suggests this, imagine now, it's some years from now, and there's a very liberal president. And the very liberal president doesn't like being berated by the correspondent from Fox News or from any other conservative media, and the liberal president says get that person out of here --
STELTER: Get out of here.
SESNO: -- because those questions are inconvenient and disrespectful. That's not how this works.
Presidents of the United States refer to the White House as the people's houses. The press corps, as rowdy and imperfect as it is, is a represented of the people. And those voices represent the people. And anybody who runs for the United States should know that and should welcome that, as unpleasant and imperfect as it is all.
STELTER: But a lot of conservative commentators say Acosta crosses a line by expressing his own point of view or by trying to challenge the president in inappropriate ways. Do you think that's a fair critique at all?
SESNO: I think it's a critique if you want to critique different styles of coverage, fair enough. It's not a critique to determine who should have a pass or not. That's not how it's been done, it's not how it will be done. Jim in the exchange the other day said -- made a flat-out statement, he said this is not an invasion at the end of the conversation and the questions about the caravan.
There are many reporters who say your job is actually not to make a declarative statement. Your job is to ask questions of the president. To me and I think to anybody who's thoughtful about this, that's stylistics and where do you draw the line on that? I'm sure you're going to be talking about this with Floyd. Sam made reference to this.
There are procedures, processes for revoking someone's Secret Service pass, and it is not the whim or the idea or the opinion of the president. I was speaking to someone who's knowledgeable about this just yesterday who basically said I want Acosta gone, right? The fact that the president of the United States wants Acosta gone is not enough and it's not grounded on anything and it does not recognize process for what would be a very serious move to withdraw someone's press pass.
STELTER: So, with all that in mind, Floyd, does CNN have grounds to sue over this?
FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL AND FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: I think it's a really strong lawsuit. I mean, there was a case in Washington of Robert Sherrill back in the late 1970s where his pass was revoked. He went to court and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said before that happens you have to have notice, you have to have a chance to respond, and you have to have a written opinion by the White House as to what it's doing and why, so the courts can examine it. We've had none of those things here.
STELTER: So, you think CNN does have a case? But here's a slightly different question, should CNN sue?
[11:10:00] Because that would be quite an escalation.
ABRAMS: Let me put it this way, I can understand CNN being reluctant to sue because the president keeps saying CNN is the enemy of me and CNN might have some reluctance to have a lawsuit titled CNN versus Donald Trump. That said, yes, I think they should sue. And if it's not about Acosta, this is going to happen again. I mean, I think --
STELTER: That's my belief.
ABRAMS: Frank setting forth the dangers as a introductory way of saying it's likely to happen again. So, whether it's CNN suing or the next company suing, someone's going to have to bring a lawsuit and whoever does is going to win unless there's some sort of reason.
I mean, if the White House position is he choked or touched this woman, that's a very good reason. It seems to be untrue. But that's the sort of reason that can be sustained in the courts.
STELTER: Sam, back you to in a second. But, Frank, remind us about a previous lawsuit that CNN was involved in with the White House. CNN had to sue its way into the White House press pool, right?
SESNO: Once upon a time when CNN was a start-up cable operation.
SESNO: The White House didn't want to recognize it. Sam remembers this because we were there together. Well, actually, it was just before I went there.
SESNO: And CNN sued its way into the so-called press pool, that small group of people who are on Air Force One traveling with the president or in the Oval Office where there is a single representative from each, you know, print, magazines at the time, broadcasts at the time and CNN was excluded from that. So, it resorted to the courts. And the courts said, you are a legitimate news organization, you have a legitimate right in.
CNN may have to face the reality that it's going to have to do this again. But CNN hey may not be alone. You know, you heard the president of the United States said, yes, I may kick some other people out there. The White House correspondents association is going to be challenged, to see whether it joins that lawsuit, and every other news organization, including Fox News, by the way, which has been on the news side rather supportive of this is going to see where it is. The president is in an untenable position here, and unfortunately for
him, as we've heard so many other times on so many other things, there are so many other things to be talking about.
SESNO: He chooses to focus on this and bring this, you know, firestorm down upon himself.
STELTER: Well, that's my last question. Sam, back to you on that. On one level, doesn't the president want this fight? He wants a media fight, especially in the wake of his losses in the midterms?
I think it was notable CNN did not cover this a lot on TV this week. We didn't try to play into it and take the bait, but we do have to be sensitive to this issue of distraction, don't we?
DONALDSON: We do. I hope I'm not mistaken but it's my understanding that CNN and Acosta have sued, that there will be a court hearing on Tuesday on this very --
STELTER: Not that I know of.
DONALDSON: That we've been discussing.
STELTER: Not that I know of. But you may be ahead of me.
DONALDSON: I've been told that because I've been asked to give an affidavit which I prepared to be submitted to the court.
You know, Harry Truman had it right. He had advice for all sorts of public officials, and that is when they heard things they didn't like, uncomfortable questions, a pesky press corps and all of that. Remember this, he said, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
STELTER: It sometimes is that simple, isn't it? For any president, for any politician.
DONALDSON: Well, the president -- the president seems to believe that if he wants to doing some, it should be done. Constitution aside, even Congress aside, certainly other than his base the American people aside, and it doesn't work that way. And he's not going to get away with it.
STELTER: Sam, how is this going to end? How do you see this period in history ending?
DONALDSON: I think it ends with a change in -- I hope the president's attitude. I believe in forgiveness and redemption of sin. But, it's going to change because he and people who enable him to do what he's trying to do and has done so far are not going to be able to prevail.
His small base, and I think they're a minority, who believe if the Nazis and protesters are on both sides, there are good people on both sides, his small base is not going to run this country. They don't now and they never will.
STELTER: Thanks for being here. Floyd, thank you to you as well. Great to see you. Frank, stick around.
We'll take a quick break here and then bring in one of the reporters that Trump called out by name this week, April Ryan of CNN and American Urban Radio Networks. We're going to talk about why the president continues to insult the intelligence of black female reporters. April's coming up right after this.
[11:18:27] STELTER: As you know, President Trump tangled with many reporters. His supporters say he's an equal opportunity offender, but that's not quite true. His exchanges with women and people of color take on a different tone. He's prone to questioning the intelligence of women and African-Americans. We saw that all week long.
One recent exchange, this was at Wednesday's post-midterms press conference between the president and reporter Yamiche Alcindor illustrates just how nasty the interactions have been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, REPORTER: On the campaign trail you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalist. Now other people are saying --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATS: I don't know why you say that. That's such a racist question.
ALCINDOR: There are some people that say the Republican Party is supporting white nationalist because of your rhetoric. What do you make of that?
TRUMP: I don't believe. That's such a racist question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: It was a question about racism. It wasn't a racist question, it was a question about racist.
Let's talk about this with one of the other reporters the president targeted. That's April Ryan, she's a CNN analyst, of course, and the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
April, I don't want to play the sound, but the president called you a very nasty loser this week. Do you think he was just having a bad day or do you think there's a racial component to this?
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: It's personal. The president made a personal attack. And, you know, there's not a coincidence that three African-American women within a span of two or three days were singled out and targeted so harshly. [11:20:02] You know, the president has gone after other reporters,
that's true, and he's gone after others. But when it comes to black women, it's very personal. I mean, I think back about how he went after Congresswoman Frederica Wilson when Sergeant La David Johnson died along other soldiers, valiant soldiers in Niger. I think about how he continues to go after Congresswoman Maxine Waters saying low IQ and other things.
And then the words he used against me to place the target on Yamiche's head by saying her question was racist, no, it wasn't, it was a legitimate question. And to say that Abby Phillip asked a stupid question, trying to say she was stupid, which she's not.
It's very personal. He goes in on personal attacks and, yes, I do believe black women. I will say it's racial. I will say that.
STELTER: Let me take a look at that exchange with Abby. We wanted to view it from a different angle so you can see both Abby and the president. Here's how it went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Do you expect Matthew Whitaker to be involved in the Russia probe?
TRUMP: That's up to him.
PHILLIP: Do you want him to rein in Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question. But I watch a lot, you ask a lot of stupid questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: You know, just a very uncomfortable situation for any reporter when you watch that happen.
RYAN: And finger in the face. Yes, finger in the face.
STELTER: And I think, April, I think the context here is that newsroom diversity is a problem across the U.S. and even in the White House press corps. There are not enough female correspondents or especially not enough African-American or Hispanic correspondents. As a result, when the president really seems to focus his ire on people like you, it really stands out and I think there's no more denying that this is a problem he has.
RYAN: Yes, it's a problem.
And I want to go back to a tweet that I received yesterday from former White House press secretary Mike McCurry. He was there, he was my first press secretary I've ever covered under Bill Clinton in 1997. And he said, you know, I tangled with April Ryan quite a bit. But one thing I did learn from her questions is more about issues of race and poverty. And those questions, when we ask questions, it's real, it's
legitimate, it's about people, it's not about us. And this president has made it about us instead of about the American people, the issues that are on the table for all America.
And, you know, it's interesting listening -- remembering back what the president said about me Friday -- well, I'm going to say this, I'm a winner because, you know, at that first press conference the president had in the East Room at the White House, he thought I was so much of a winner and had enough gravitas to be able to pull together a meeting between him and the Congressional Black Caucus when his staff couldn't.
STELTER: He asked you do it.
RYAN: Yes, yes, he sure did and it's on tape and it wasn't a doctored tape. And I was so much of a winner that this administration pulled me in for a meeting with first son-in-law Jared Kushner on issues of prison reform and put me on a phone call with him because of my winning, OK? Because I have that kind of gravitas and understand what's going on in the black community.
So -- and I can go on and on. And I wrote a book with this. You know, I wrote a book about the reason why this administration comes after me.
You know, I'm not perceived to be their base and they want to use me as an example. But this has gotten personal for no reason. And whatever the disdain they have about me or the issues I ask, it's on them. This is about America.
STELTER: Are you concerned they may try to suspend your press pass next? Because when Trump raised the prospect of suspending other credentials, he brought you up out of the blue with no good reason at all.
RYAN: Out of the blue. Out of the blue was no reason at all. I was on the president's mind and I wasn't even there. It's interesting, they may try -- why would they try to suspend my press pass?
I understand that they've been angry with me more so since I asked the question in January about Mr. President, are you a racist? And there was a reason for that because of the alleged S-hole comments he was making. And then after Charlotte and everything else. It didn't just come out of the air.
So they have been angry with me about that since then. And then that the last press con conference, the day after the midterm election, there were issues and videos and comments and reports about voter irregularities in various states. I threw the question out in that pregnant pause moment when he finished answering a question and going to another reporter, I said, Mr. President, what about voter suppression? And he responded and therefore I stood up out of respect thinking he was going to do an interchange with me.
Then he tells me, he sees who it is and tells me to sit down vehemently with the venom of disdain, with disdain towards me.
[11:25:00] And I sat down, but then he started saying, oh, you know, yes, I got voter suppression for you, those CNN polls. And then I stood back up and said, no, Mr. President, I'm talking and this was all off mike. I'm -- my reporter colleagues heard me.
I'm talking about voter suppression in Florida, voter suppression in Georgia, North Dakota, and Texas, and other states. He proceeded, sit down, sit down. And that was a legitimate question.
Thankfully, another reporter from NPR, Ayesha Rascoe, another African- American followed up and he was very flip with her about voter suppression as he's claiming voter fraud is happening. And there are more cases of voter suppression than voter fraud.
STELTER: So many more.
RYAN: Real issues. If they want to suspend my pass over that, it just -- it's not logical. It's not logical.
STELTER: No, it is not. April, thank you so much.
RYAN: It's beyond -- yes, yes. Thank you, Brian. Thank you.
STELTER: I agree with you. Thank you so much.
I'm up against a break, but I want to show something from two years ago that I think is really important in this conversation. We're talking about one president revoking one reporter's press and threatening others. Well, in June of 2016, the now president promised he would not do that. This was a phone call, phone interview I had with the president.
Back then he was boycotting -- was not allowing certain reporters and certain news outlets to go to his rallies. He wouldn't let "The Washington Post" in, he wouldn't let "BuzzFeed" in and other outlets.
So, I got on the phone with the now president. And I said, are you going to do this if you're elected? Are you going to revoke credentials? I want you to listen to the audiotape of what he told me then?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: All I want to do is be treated fairly, Brian.
STELTER: If you are elected, will you try to revoke the press credentials of media outlets at the White House?
TRUMP: No, it's a different thing. In my case, I'm a person running for office. I rent these large arenas. I rent them, and so I have an option. When I'm representing the United States, I wouldn't do that.
TRUMP: But I would let people know if somebody's untruthful. (END AUDIO CLIP)
STELTER: OK. So I just want you to keep that in mind going forward, he was very clear two years ago, he would not strip credentials from White House reporters. Another broken promise from the president.
All right. Quick break here, more on RELIABLE SOURCES, including that group of activists threatening Tucker Carlson right outside his home. Disturbing video from the scene and the latest from the D.C. police right after this break.
[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: All right welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. This week a man in Arkansas was arrested in charge of making harassing phone calls to CNN even allegedly calling in death threats. MSNBC reportedly received some calls as well. Meantime, in Washington, at Tucker Carlson's home, a left-wing group of self- described anti-fascists, Antifa, chanted threats knocked, on the door, made a commotion. And here's the police report the resulted. Carlson wasn't home but his wife was she hid in the pantry until police arrived.
Listen, I think a lot of what Tucker Carlson says on Fox News is awful. I think it's hurtful to his viewers, I think it's harmful to the country, but it is absolutely inappropriate and unacceptable for protestors to show up at his own home to try to make him feel threatened where he lives. So I asked Neil Patel, that's Carlson's friend and co-founder of the Daily Caller what exactly this experience was like for Tucker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL PATEL, CO-FOUNDER, THE DAILY CALLER: You know, Tucker was at a show prepping for a show. I think one of the things that's most troubling about this is everyone knows when Tucker shows on. These people targeted his house and his family when they probably knew he wouldn't be there because he was prepping for his show. So he's sitting there and all of a sudden he starts getting texts from people saying there's some problem at your house and I think you know, he was you pretty worried and pretty shocked. You know, you don't expect to hear that there are you know, there's a mob sitting in front of your house.
STELTER: Do we know anything more about what actually happened to the home?
PATEL: Well, his wife Suzy was home alone, luckily his kids weren't there. But Suzy was there and was preparing to go out to dinner. She's in the kitchen and she all of a sudden hears this giant commotion and people start pounding on her door and throwing themselves at the door to the point where the door actually cracked. She thought there's some kind of home invasion or sighing going on and she took off and hidden in a closet or pantry and called the police.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: So, a little context here. D.C. police say some of the protesters did break the law by defacing public property. The police are now investigating and as of this morning, they say it's an open investigation. So I asked Neil what his message would be to these protesters, or these activists. Here's why Neil said it's unfair to even call this a protest in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATEL: Let me just point out one thing. I don't think it's fair to call this a protest because if you look at what they were saying, they're saying we will fight, we know where you sleep at night. Brian, what does that mean to you if someone said that to you, we will fight, we know where you sleep at night?
STELTER: Right, to me that's a very clear threat.
PATEL: That's a threat. That's not a protest, that's a threat. So they're trying to intimidate not just him but even worse his wife and his children. And so I think it's not legitimate to call that a protest. There are many ways you can protest, many legitimate ways you can protest. This is an act of terrorism.
STELTER: Well, here's the counter-argument which I do not subscribe to, but what these activists say they were trying to do is make Tucker Carlson's family feel some of the terror that let's say kids separated the border feel. That's the argument, I don't agree with it, but what's the counter?
PATEL: What Tucker does is he gets up and he talks for a living, OK. He gets up and he gives his viewpoint on things. So if someone wants to debate Tucker, they can get up and give a different viewpoint. In fact, he has a debate on his show every night. All of that is legitimate. Going and targeting somebody's family and terrorizing them because you disagree with their dad or their husband's viewpoint is insanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: All right, that's Neil Patel, Tucker Carlson's friend and business partner. Let me bring in David Zurawik and bring back Frank Sesno now. David in -- there was a reaction to this. Fox News said the incident was obviously reprehensible, the network went on to say in this statement which we can show you, "We as a nation have become far too intolerant of different points of view. Recent events across our country clearly highlight the need for a more civil, respectful, and inclusive national conversation. Those of us in the media and in politics bear a special obligation to all Americans to find common ground. Zurawik, your reaction.
[11:35:26] DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: I totally agree with it. I wish Fox actually acted on that instead of ratcheting up the polarization with shows that instead of you know, Brian, instead of a conversation of democracy, instead of saying I disagree with you, often on Fox you have shows where people go you're an idiot, you're a moron. You know, and again, I totally agree. I'm delighted that one thing we can all agree on today in the press is that what happened in Tucker Carlson's house is wrong. But Tucker Carlson is so one of those people who does a show that mocks, that taunts, that ridicules some of the guests when he argues with him, when he debates with them. There's another way to debate that's nicer.
I'm not saying in any way that justifies it. Please, don't misunderstand me. But we in the media have a responsibility and part of this, Brian, is technology. Facebook loves emotional, visceral arguments. It generates more traffic for them and their algorithms are a key to that.
STELTER: Yes, Twitter too.
ZURAWIK: Yes. That's one thing. And then on the other end, you have President Trump attacking the press, ratcheting up the dialogue, using tactics of 1930s Europe to not just dehumanize members of the press but to give people who are susceptible to such messages perhaps license to act on that. You have this terrible boiling situation. You know, we call it the conversation of democracy. It's more like gangs in an alley armed with clubs swinging at each other calling each other names. That's where our discourse is today and we all have to bring it down.
We can't control the president. Obviously, he's going more in that direction. But every time one of us writes a story and we turn the language up a click higher, you know what I'm saying, instead of saying this is a bad situation, we say this is a disgrace, it's the worst it's ever happened. I think we have to bring it down a little on our end too. But we're being driven to that by social media and digital media where that stuff gets you traffic and clicks.
STELTER: Frank Sesno, your view on this. I mean, you used to be the CNN D.C. Bureau Chief. Did we have these kinds of problems, these kinds of threats, these kinds of protests you know, a decade ago?
FRANK SESNO, FORMER CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Not like this. I mean, I think we've --
STELTER: It's getting worse?
SESNO: It's getting worse. We're in a place as David says where the rhetoric has been turned up, the heat has been turned up, it's been turned up in the political world, we see that with the President all the time and others, and in the media world. And it's not just Fox, it's lots of talk radio and talk television, at times this network included where we have people screaming at one another, accusing one another, demonizing one another.
STELTER: And on the far-left, I mean, look at what happened with Tucker's house. On the far left, there are people that are convinced he's a racist who is supporting a white nationalist movement and that's what they're told on Facebook and Twitter and they show up.
SESNO: And showing up at someone's house and banging on the door and driving his wife into a pantry is not the way to go. And I fear that there's going to be more of this and there's going to be more of this across the board. You know, if anybody listened to Ted Cruz's victory speech. Ted Cruz called for a more civil dialogue, a more civil discourse. Well, politicians, Ted Cruz included, and media, this network, Fox, others included, need to take David's comments and Ted Cruz's comments to heart because people do listen, and people are triggered by these things, and we are in danger of hearing much, much more.
We have a responsibility to convene smart, tough, provocative hard- edged debate and discussion, fine. But it also needs to be within the realms of civil discourse and we can lead the way on that and should.
STELTER: All right, stand by both of you. A quick break here and then the Midterms. The Democrats making major gains. In fact, they're stacking up every day. Did the media initially miss the strength of the blue wave? That's next.
[11:40:00] STELTER: Did the news media under appreciate the strength of the blue wave in the House on Tuesday night? Five days later, it sure looks that way. Back on Tuesday, wave spotters said the Midterms were not delivering the huge repudiation of President Trump the Democrats wanted to deliver. There was lots of talk about the red wall. This was the day after narrative on Fox News, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not the blue wave that a lot of people predicted won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With regard to the blue wave, I feel more like I got purple rain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: It's a good line right and it reflects the Democrats disappointment about Beto O'Rourke coming short in Texas, and the challenges in Georgia and Florida, but the election still isn't over. Votes are still being counted in Arizona, in California, in other states and recounts are taking place. So it now appears the Democrats will pick up at least 35 seats in the House. I mean, here's the map already. They're already far ahead of the 23 they needed in the House. Day by day the Washington Post notes the outlook for Democrats in the House has improved.
Now, obviously, the Senate is a very different story. There was no blue wave in the Senate. We can debate how the governor's race is performed, but in the House, something big happened but we didn't know it necessarily on Tuesday night. For example, here's CNN's Van Jones on Tuesday night versus Saturday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:45:07] VAN JONES, CNN HOST: This is heartbreaking though. It's heartbreaking. It's not a blue wave but it's still a blue war. In the end, this blue wave was actually bigger and bluer than actually
looked at -- look like at first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: He's right. That's the story now. It's becoming more true every day. Think about it this way. In 2006, the last time a Republican president faced a Midterm referendum, the Democrats picked up 31 House seats. George W Bush came out the next day and said it was a thumping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, this is a close election. The -- if you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not to close, it was a thumping.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: This year, the Democrats are going to pick up at least 30 seats, likely 35 or more -- sorry, they've already picked up 30 seats, likely to end up picking up 35 or more. President Trump spun the results though as a big win for his party. It was nonsense but do people really know what the real results were? Let's bring back Frank Sesno and David Zurawik. I wonder, Frank, if this is about resource allocation. We spend so much time, so much a focus on Tuesday night but we're still counting votes in parts of the country. It's kind of like this is a slow-rolling Midterm cycle and the narrative of Tuesday night is not the narrative now.
SESNO: Well, sometimes covering the news in real time is treacherous, dangerous for your health. So covering it real time, you follow the poll closings, you start in the East. So it was Florida and Georgia and some of these key races where it was tight but not so tight and at the end of the day the Democrats didn't burst out at least not at the gubernatorial and Senate race. That took time. Then it rolled across the country. And some of these races as you point out are still being counted. And so the early narrative was really kind of hemmed in by those real-time realities.
The other thing was, is that -- is that there were two separate narratives right? They the Senate was on a very favorable -- was on very favorable terrain from the outset for Republicans and we talked about that a lot, the House less so. So we ended up with these conflicting stories and at the end, Donald Trump comes in, the President at the bully pulpit says great victory. And so I think that you know, it was a false narrative or let's not say fall narrative but an incomplete narrative early on.
STELTER: Yes, I don't think journalist made a mistake on Tuesday night necessarily --
SESNO: That's what was --
STELTER: -- it's just that the story was still happening. SESNO: That's what was happening. And so there was all this talk and
all this expectation of blue waves which suggests that it's going to sweep everybody away, that's what waves do, they wash everybody away. Well, that's not how that it works and it's not how it worked in this case. If you look at what the Democrats did in the House, in the governor's mansions and state legislatures, even in Beto O'Rourke losing that he came that close in a state that is so solidly Republican, that -- you know, whether it's a tsunami, no. Is it a wave, looks like it.
STELTER: Yes, this is interesting, David Zurawik, kind of cool. CNN on Tuesday is going to have another election night. It's going to be a three-hour primetime special called like election night America continued in order to reassess and look at the new results and look at the races that are still being counted and look at these recounts. I think that's a part of the solution to this issue about Tuesday night's narrative versus now.
ZURAWIK: Totally. That's a great idea. I'll tell you something else, Brian, that's interesting about this, is Trump again on Wednesday so quickly change the narrative. Listen, I was in my editor's office Wednesday afternoon pitching a Thursday morning print -- Thursday morning online Sunday print piece analyzing the role of political T.V. advertising in the governor's race in Maryland, and people were sticking their heads in going Zurawik, you got to see this press conference. Trump is totally off the rail. You get -- you know, halfway through my pitch, I said, forget it, I'm writing about the press conference. And it was right. He changed it.
And also Brian, it's the nanosecond news cycles we now have. Listen, I remember the days and I love them where you spent a week evolving through -- sifting through the results of a Tuesday night election so the Sunday peace made perfect sense. Not anymore, we're off and running any he fire Jeff -- he got rid of Jeff Sessions on Wednesday. That changed the narrative in an even bigger way. Yes.
STELTER: All right, yes, it is a nanosecond news cycle isn't it? David, Frank, thank you both for being here. Much more RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.
[11:50:00] STELTER: To understand President Trump, you have to understand framing. When there's bad news and there's tragedies, quick to come up with excuses thereby creating a brand new frame for the story and for the media. He says Republicans who lost in the Midterms lost because they didn't accept his help. With regards to the devastating forest fire -- not forest fires, the devastating fires in California, Trump is claiming it's mismanagement of the forests. After the deadly shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, he said the synagogue should have had armed guards. This is his framing at work but the media has to reject these frames when they're based on lies.
George Lakoff is a renowned linguist and a big critic of Trump. I talked to him for this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. He said we shouldn't fall for Trump's frames. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Obviously, there are some news outlets that are oppositional to the President but most journalists are not, they're just trying to report what's going on. But he succeeds in turning it into us versus them, turning it into a warlike footing. How do we get out of that?
GEORGE LAKOFF, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, U.C. BERKLEY: You have to undermine it. You can't negate it. I've written a book called Don't Think of an Elephant. If you just negate it and say no we're not doing that, you're just going to repeat what you're not doing, right, you're just going to help them, as in don't think of an elephant. The main thing you have to do is positively reframe it yourself giving your understanding of it and you have to repeat it. You have to set it up in a way where it can be repeated because whenever your frame is repeated, it gets strengthened in the brains of people who hear you.
[11:55:03] STELTER: So instead of saying we're not anti-Trump, we're pro-truth which accepts his frame, what should we be saying instead?
LAKOFF: We are responsible reporters reporting the truth.
LAKOFF: We are doing our job and we're doing it well. And in doing so we are serving the American people because that is why we have a free press. You're talking patriotism, you're getting patriotism on your side. This is what the freedom of the press is about. This is why we have freedom of the press in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: You can check out my full conversation with Lakoff on the RELIABLE SOURCES podcasts. And before we go, a really important programming note. Tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on CNN is the final episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN." It's a final chance to say goodbye to Anthony Bourdain. We'll see you then.