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Did Mueller's TV Moment Change Anything?; One Year Since Pentagon Spokesperson Had a Televised Briefing; "Daily Beast" Names Maker of Misleading Pelosi Video. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired June 02, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:12] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES. This is 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, "The Daily Beast" uncovered the maker of that misleading Nancy Pelosi video, and the editor of the site is here to explain.

Plus, one of the stars of "Handmaid's Tale" is here to talk about this -- all these Hollywood studios saying they may pull out of Georgia due to the state's very restrictive new abortion law.

And later, Bill Nye the Science Guy is here talking about this skit from the John Oliver show.

And the most intriguing news item this week -- UFO sightings.

But, first, let's question the conventional wisdom from this week. Did this television moment really matter that much? Of course, all of the networks went into breaking news mode and rightly so when Robert Mueller made his first TV appearance since the launch of the special counsel probe.

Mueller tried to clean up months of misleading and straight-up false claims about his report. He practically begged people to read the report for themselves. And he said, now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak in this manner.

In other words, he doesn't want to be back on TV. But a parade of commentators came out and said Mueller's statement was so powerful, it showed why he should be back on TV, why he should testify in front of Congress. People don't read, they said, people watch.

Well, we do know one person who always watches and seemingly never reads, and he seem really upset about Mueller's on-camera statement. For President Trump, television is the cornerstone. It is his guides. He hires people off of TV, sometimes he fires people based on what he hears on TV.

And he shapes his policies and makes very expensive decisions based on TV. Remember the government shutdown?

He also picks up talking points straight from the TV banners. See here from the other day -- Trump directly quoting the banner on screen on Fox, and then tweeting out the quotes.

This is common. This has become an everyday occurrence in the Trump age. It also relates to why his aides rely on maps and charts and other visual aides for Trump. It is all about the visuals.

But he's also proven himself to be incredibly, cynically effective at hammering home a message. At moments like this, when he shows up in front of the cameras and takes a few questions. Sometimes he just lies over and over again like water erupting from a fire hydrant.

For example, he said or tweeted "no obstruction" at least 36 times in May. That's more than once a day, even though Mueller supplied plenty of obstruction-y evidence.

Trump also said "witch hunt" at least 26 times in May. And journalists usually, dutifully repeat this stuff, sending it out further. Yes, sometimes fact checking it, sometimes not.

Here's my point, though -- nobody else in the public square is even coming close to matching this fire hydrant. And public opinion is so hardened that I don't see many minds being changed by a day or two of Mueller reading out loud from his report.

This is new CNN polling showing a slight uptick in support for impeachment between April and June. Now, don't get me wrong, as a reporter I would like to see Mueller questioned. I'd like to see a lot of people questioned in front of Congress.

But this idea that hearing Mueller's voice makes all the difference, mark me down as skeptical, because even when he does speak, he's whispering. And the president is shouting at the top of his lungs.

But, look, here to tell me if I'm right or wrong, Sarah Ellison, staff writer for "The Washington Post." Noah Shachtman, editor and chief of "The Daily Beast," and White House correspondent for "The Atlantic," Elaina Plott.

Thank you, everybody, for being here.

I was struck by how much attention Mueller received. He did make news in his statement the other day.

But, Sarah, do you think ultimately it had a significant impact on the public debate?

SARAH ELLISON, STAFF WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it had the beginning of an impact for sure. I mean, you even had Brett Baier on Fox News coming out immediately afterwards and saying it was a very different message than what people had heard from William Barr.

So, it was a short statement. You know, we were all sort of geared up for something very explosive. I do think it was a significant and important thing that he said. And so, we can't judge just whether he should have done that or whether -- how many minds were changed. It was the beginning of the conversation.

STELTER: The beginning, not the end.

But, Elaina, the idea that the president is screaming while everybody else in the public sphere is only kind of quietly talking, am I right about that, am I wrong about that? That Trump's voice is so much louder than everybody else's?

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you're right. But I think we're going to have a conversation about how Trump is so driven by visuals and the power of television, we have to have a conversation, too, about how Democrats so clearly were moved by Mueller's statement.

I mean, think of the number of Democrats -- Democratic candidates who after that were so insistent on calling for impeachment.

STELTER: Cory Booker and others for the first time said impeachment.

PLOTT: Right, but the point is that Mueller didn't say anything that was not already in that report.

[11:05:00] So I think it casts credibility questions about those calls for impeachment.

STELTER: That's interesting. Do you agree, Noah?

NOAH SHACHTMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I do agree because, look, right after Mueller talked on TV, you saw the president say for the first time in a tweet that, oh, Russia did help him win the election. I thought those two things were not exactly coincidental.

So, I do think there's enormous value in Mueller getting up and being questioned. And, look, even some of the most ardent followers of every twist and turn of the Russian investigation I think heard something new with Mueller's statement.

STELTER: Let's ahead to tomorrow. The president heading to the United Kingdom for a state visit. Let me show how the Comcast-owned Sky News is promoting the coverage of the visit.

This is remarkable. It's a promo video they've been using both on television and online. You'll see how it rolls out.

To prep, President Trump has given two interviews two papers owned by Rupert Murdoch, there's definitely some news made in these interviews. But just look at this promo here, you can tell where Sky News is coming from, it says something about where the British population is with regards to Trump.

With regards to those two interviews the president gave, he clearly made news in the first. He talked about Meghan Markle. He was asked by a reporter about Meghan Markle's past criticism of him. Then the president said, quote, I didn't know she had been nasty in the past.

Incredibly, Trump's re-election team put out a tweet saying he did not say nasty. It seemed that CNN and other outlets were saying it was fake news, using the name nasty. Now, today, the president himself is saying he didn't use the word nasty.

I don't think this is a big deal, but here is the president saying the word "nasty" on tape. Let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't know that she was nasty.


STELTER: There it is. For the record, the word came out of his mouth. I don't think it's the biggest deal in the world. But want? This one of those cases of the president trying to challenge people, believe me versus your own ears?

ELLISON: Yes, let's say there is not a big deal. Ly did say a lot -- he did say a lot around that nasty word. To play devil's advocate, he said a lot of nice things about Meghan Markle.


ELLISON: She said and he was prompted by the interviewer saying she would move to Canada if he was elected. He was drawn into this --

STELTER: By a reporter for "The Sun".

ELLISON: He did say the word. I don't know why you would die on that hill that you didn't say that word. Just let it go. It's not that big a deal. So, anyway, here we are.

STELTER: I think it's only a big deal if you apply it to the destruction of truth category.


STELTER: You can't believe your own ears. I think this is the kind of story all sides -- I hate to say this, all sides win. Trump allies say, there goes the media being mean to our guy again. They're promoting fake news.

We come back and say, here's the real news, the video, and everybody ends up being more polarized.

PLOTT: I agree with Sarah. What I also don't understand is why if this is the hill Trump is going to die on, why his team would not be a bit more explicit, maybe argue he wasn't calling her nasty, he was calling her comments nasty.

If they're going to do that, delineate it properly. But -- but instead they've just tweeted, no, he never said it.

STELTER: The flat denial, that's crazy.

PLOTT: Yes. STELTER: Noah, I was struck by something that "Reuters" published about how the Trump administration has been changing the health care system, making tweaks to regulations that affect millions. Here's a quote from the article, from the head of the Club for Growth.

He said, one of the benefits of Trump's Twitter approach is that it creates headlines, and that's what it's intended to do. And underneath those headlines, everyone else in the administration can go about peacefully doing their job. For example, HHS has released significant regulations that have changed the nature of Obamacare, of health care, with very little coverage in the press.

David McIntosh quoted there from the conservative Club for Growth. Of course, he's happy to have the changes happening on the surface while there's all this attention about the tweets.

But isn't it a critique of the press to say there hasn't been enough coverage of the regulatory changes?

SHACHTMAN: It's absolutely a critique of the press and it's absolutely kind of a nightmare scenario for Washington, D.C., coverage. While the circus in the White House goes on, the shady deals, the backhanded agreements with lobbyists, you know, the regulations slipped in in the middle of the night go uncovered.

Those are the kind of things that during the Obama, Bush, or other years would have been diligently covered, in, you know, by our press corps, and because of Trump's gravitational pull, it really is hard to get those stories out.

STELTER: And there is great reporting happening. But because of the gravitational pull, the focus ends up being on Trump and on the scandal of the day.

Let's take a break and come back in a moment. We want to explore the Pentagon's disappointing milestone of silence. More than a year without a Pentagon spokesperson speaking on camera, you know, the way briefings worked for decades.

CNN's Barbara Starr ahs the story just after this.


[11:13:34] STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Unfortunately, we're now past a year since the Pentagon has had a spokesman come out to the cameras and hold a press briefing.

Remember, we've seen these for decades throughout Republican and Democratic administrations. Both defense secretaries and their aides using the briefing room to inform the public about issues of war and peace.

These days the defense secretary does sometimes take questions from the press including on his trip now. As you can see, it's been more than a year since we well one of those regular briefings. Again, there is similar to what's happening at the White House, the

lack of the White House press briefings. It's happening at the Pentagon and other government agencies, as well. So, what is going on? Why the drought of briefings?

Here's CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with the answer.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kiss front man Gene Simmons was in the Pentagon briefing room last month. For the last year, no Pentagon press secretary has appeared on camera to answer reporters' questions.

A former military spokesman says televised briefings are vital for the military's credibility.

COL. DAVID LAPAN (RET.), FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: There's a huge difference in having a person on camera where people cannot only hear the questions asked but listen to the answers, see the individual delivery those answers.

STARR: The last televised briefing was may 31st last year. Then Press Secretary Dana White was asked about everything from Syrian chemical weapons to the military's involvement on immigration.

[11:15:02] DANA WHITE, FORMER PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We are very open to providing facilities.

STARR: Several senior officials say televised briefings stopped because of worry TV watcher-in-chief, President Trump, would get angry if he saw something he didn't like.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The people who have been trained in public affairs or the military commanders or whoever is standing up in front doesn't want to cause any disruptions and cause the wrath of the commander-in-chief. And to me, that's -- that's near cowardice.

STARR: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan regularly takes reporters' questions and says he wants a good media relationship.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: We want you to like write good stories, get good backdrops, all those good things.

STARR: But he often uses media for his agenda.

SHANAHAN: What I thought today is talk going up and visiting folks on Capitol Hill.

STARR: That was about briefing Congress on Iran. A later press conference, off camera.

The Pentagon says in a statement: criticism is unfair, the department has facilitated numerous on and off-camera press engagements on a variety of topics in addition to written press statements, social media posts, and other products.

GERARD BUTLER, ACTOR: Hello, everybody --

STARR: But using the briefing room backfired when Gerard Butler agreed to promote his movie.

BUTLER: We had the script for many, many years.

STARR: Butler had just canceled a trip to Saudi Arabia after "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The administration wasn't saying much about the murder, but butler did.

BUTLER: We were informed of what was happening, and it just didn't feel like a good time to be getting involved -- getting involved with that, it would have felt incredibly insensitive to go to Saudi Arab

STARR: National security news made by a film actor.


STARR: Shanahan said he will start the briefings again but he hasn't said how soon that will happen.

So, for now, reporters on the Pentagon beat have challenges getting information on a timely basis and holding officials to account, making sure that powerful officials have to answer the questions that reporters pose to them. But make no mistake: restrictions are nothing new for reporters, and like always, we'll just work our way around them -- Brian.

STELTER: All right. Barbara, thank you.

Again, the defense secretary does hold gaggles. He answers questions to aides. But on-camera briefings, yet another custom that's been canceled by the Trump administration.

Still to come here, I'll be sitting down with an executive producer and one of the stars from Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale."

First, "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff is coming out with a sequel. It's called "Siege," and it's already under siege for factual mistakes. The details coming out next.


[11:21:10] STELTER: Michael Wolff's first book about Trump, "Fire and Fury", was a sensation. But the sequel is called "Siege" has kind of been met with a shrug so far. Journalists are being very cautious, very skeptical about the claims that Wolff makes in this book. It comes out on Tuesday, but journalists have some advanced copies.

The biggest news item right now was an allegation that the Mueller team drafted an indictment of Trump on obstruction of justice charges. Mueller's spokesman came out and said the documents that Wolff described simply do not exist. My panel is back with me now to discuss this and some other media


What do we make of the idea, Elaina, that Wolff comes out, claims there was this draft indictment, and then the special counsel's office which almost never confirms or denies anything says the document isn't real? That's what they're implying.

PLOTT: I mean, the fact that we have to wait until after the publication of a book like this to hear about this as opposed to Michael Wolff putting within the text the special counsel's office denied this to me. However, these are the reasons that you, the reader, should still trust is me -- especially in a in a moment when Trump is, and his team, are on the lookout for every slipup in the press.

I mean, it's not only an irresponsibility to the public but also reporters across the country who are trying to cover this White House accurately.

STELTER: You mean by not asking for comment? Because this is not just the special counsel's office, the Trump White House also says that it was not asked for comment from Wolff before the book comes out.

PLOTT: Well, this idea that as a reporter, you have one source and you believe them credible enough to where you're not going to give the other side the luxury of hearing what you're about to publish.

What strikes me as odd about Wolff is that he says because he is not institutionally bounds, he doesn't work for, say, "The Washington Post", or "The Atlantic", or "The Daily Beast," he doesn't have to do that, as though reporters are only calling for comment because of the dictates of the institution they work for, as opposed to it just being the ethically sound thing to do.

STELTER: Noah, what if books like this get the mood music right, you know, that Trump is erratic and that he might be unstable. What if they get the mood music right, but they have lots of factual mistakes? Because the reviewers so far point out lots of errors in the text that undermine the entire book.

SHACHTMAN: Yes, correct. The mood music is not good enough. It's got -- the facts have to be right, too.

So, at "The Daily Beast" we talked about this last week, about how we should treat "Siege", like how we should cover it. And the sort of dictate that we came up with, the guidelines that we came up are, treat this as a series of tips and rumors from a semi reliable narrator, somebody who may be getting the mood music right, but on each individual fact may not be accurate.

STELTER: So, use it as a beginning of something and then try to confirm it yourselves?

SHACHTMAN: Yes, or look for the denials, look for the confirmations, sure. Don't treat it as a -- as a true statement by itself.

STELTER: I notice, Sarah, "The Washington Post," in its review of the book, described cringe-worthy errors. So there's been a lot of attention around there.

Wolff, we've not heard from. It's one sided right now because the book comes out on Tuesday. He hasn't given interviews yet. So, we're only hearing from his critics.

Is there a pro-Wolff argument here?

ELLISON: Well, he did give one interview to "The New York Times" and said that he's able to sort of know that he doesn't need to go for comment because he really trusts his source. And that's just a laughable thing to say on the face of it if you're trying to be a journalist or if you're even parading around as somebody trying to get to the truth.

I mean, I think that there is sometimes a sense when you're calling for comment, you know you're not going to get anything. But sometimes you really hit the jackpot, and you get a lot of good information. So, it just -- I think it's a tip sheet.

I think that Michael Wolff has put out gossip, and now we can have a conversation about whether or not it's true. And real reporters can actually try to figure out and credibly confirm the information.

[11:25:00] But I don't think that anyone can treat it as gospel.

STELTER: Yes, confirm or debunk the information.


STELTER: Let's turn to your scoop this weekend, Noah. "The Daily Beast's" Kevin Poulsen reporting on the possible, seems, the creator of the Nancy Pelosi dumb fake video. This is the one that made her appear to be drunk, slurring her words. It's got a lot of attention a week ago.

So, you all are trying to figure out who created it?

SHACHTMAN: Right. I mean, look, this is a video that was a hoax that reached up to the highest, highest levels of power with Rudy Giuliani himself pushing it out. And so there's a lot of speculation about who might or might not be behind this.

And so Kevin Poulsen was able to track down the kind of network of fake news sites that were pushing this, and then the person that first uploaded the video.

STELTER: And what we learned from the story is that there's a profit motive here, that you can put up a lot of these videos on Facebook, you can make a quick buck. Didn't the guy say me (ph) $1,000?

SHACHTMAN: Yes. I mean, but look, that's -- it might have been a lot of money to him, but I don't think it was a pure profit motive. It was a matter of ideology. He's a big Trump supporter. Ands, you know, one of the things that was interesting to me was you don't need some sophisticated operation in order to publish fake news or publish a hoax that will grab the country's attention.

STELTER: It doesn't take a Russian bot farm. It's just one person with video-editing software tricking people.

SHACHTMAN: Yes, exactly. I thought that was the real key to this story and the reason it's so important --

STELTER: And the people saying you shouldn't have named him because he's a private citizen. I'm seeing a lot of people on Twitter saying you all are irresponsible for outing him.

SHACHTMAN: Yes, I don't think that's accurate. First of all, I think he outed himself, you know, by attaching his name to several fake news sites that then pushed the video.


SHACHTMAN: And then he spoke to our reporter at length and on the record for an hour and a half. Then we also withheld some information that he didn't -- that he didn't want out there, that he felt would impinge on his privacy.

So, I -- I am glad that these people want to protect the privacy of this man. But I think our actions in this case were right on the money.

STELTER: It does feel that dumb fakes are everywhere these days.


STELTER: Elaina, there was a big blowup this time last week about Ian Bremmer. He's a writer or sometimes publishes his columns for "TIME". He's a political scientist. Put out this fake tweet -- this fake quote from Trump. You look at the tweet, it could have looked like a real comment the president said. He says he meant it in jest but the president criticized him for it.

The problem I think with a tweet like this is, it's a respected person on Twitter making up a quote from the president, and a lot of folks fell for it.

PLOTT: I -- to echo what I said earlier, I think that in the Trump era, always but more so today than ever, reporters have to see their actions on Twitter not just as representatives of who they are and what they believe and what reporters should do ethically, but also as responsible to the institutions they represent, other reporters.

I mean, reporters have to see themselves when they use Twitter in these fast and loose ways as not just jeopardizing their reputation but the reputation of the press at large. And for Ian Bremmer to do that, it's not just hurting him. It's hurting all of us.

STELTER: Even if he thinks he's just joking. PLOTT: Exactly

STELTER: It's safer to keep things high when everyone else is low.

All right. To the panel, thank you very much. Quick break here, and then much more ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, including the entertainment industry taking action, taking a stand against these effective abortion bans that some states are trying to put into law.


[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm sure you saw the headlines this week. Major media companies, virtually all the country's biggest Hollywood studios from Netflix to Warner Media which owns CNN, from Disney to NBC saying they will likely pull out of Georgia, stop producing movies and T.V. shows in the state if that new anti-abortion law actually goes into effect.

You know that that law has been passed, now it's being challenged in the courts. The issue is that Georgia is the epicenter in the south for T.V. and film production due to very generous tax incentives. Lots of Hollywood studios love to make movies and shows there. But stars, producers, other Hollywood talent, they're not going to want to go to Georgia or other states where these draconian laws have been put into place.

And as a result, the studios are saying we're going to have to think about leaving Georgia. Again, only if these bills, these laws actually go into effect. What's really going on is these media companies expect the laws to be challenged in court, expect an outcome make sure these laws don't go into effect. But if they do, Disney, Netflix, etcetera saying they'll take action.

Now, of all the T.V. shows, of all the movies that explore issues involving women's rights, The Handmaid's Tale is number one. If you watch the show on Hulu, you know what I'm talking about. It's now owned by Disney, Hulu now owned by Disney. It's set to release the third season of The Handmaid's Tale in just a few days. It's going to be streaming on Wednesday.

The Handmaid's Tale is based on the Margaret Atwood novel. It is set in a totalitarian America renamed Gilead ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as properties. It's in a world where infertility has become the norm and as a result, a few fertile women left are treated as slaves used to repopulate the country.

Let's talk about this fictional representation and what's going on in the real world with Ann Dowd, she's one of the stars of The Handmaid's Tale, she played Aunt Lydia, as well as the show's Executive Producer Warren Littlefield, he is also here with me both in New York. You are out promoting the third season of this show that I love to watch on Hulu and you're getting a lot of questions about real life about these abortion bands. Ann, what's your view about what's happening in Georgia and these other southern states?

ANN DOWD, ACTRESS: My view is that it is unconscionable. And not just because no one including middle-class and upper-class old white men have the right to choose for a woman, no one does, but because these laws would hurt as usual the poor and the marginalized who if they are forced to have children they cannot support, they cannot educate, they cannot nurture in a way that says life is good. Who has the right to make that decision for anyone?

We are all pro-life. There's a difference between pro-life and pro- birth. Pro-life means you take responsibility for all of those children in this world who are suffering, anyway.

STELTER: Right now the Handmaid's Tale mostly produced in Toronto, right, mostly in Canada?


STELTER: If it was produced in state like Georgia, would you, Warren, want to move the show out of Georgia or one of the other states where these bills effectively banning abortion are trying to go into effect?

LITTLEFIELD If these bills became law in Georgia, I would not go near there. I think -- Handmaid's Tale of course, what the heck would they be doing there. But Ann is absolutely right. We now have many studios who are standing up and saying this doesn't feel right, they really issued a warning right, Bryan?

[11:35:22] STELTER: Yes. It's an economic warning to this state.

LITTLEFIELD: It's an economic warning. So a season of a single series dumps tens of millions of dollars into a local and state economy. Now you're talking about entire studios, the entire -- for film and for television, massive, massive amounts of money and they will feel it. So I think this is a very effective message to be sending.

STELTER: And everyone, as they watch Handmaid's Tale, thinks about what's happening in this country right now. How close or how far do you think America really is to the fictional hellscape of Gilead?

DOWD: A heck of a lot closer than we were season one, which is terrifying.

STELTER: Only a couple of years ago, and the country has gone backwards.

DOWD: When I -- when I saw what's going on in Georgia, I literally thought this can't be real. It stunned me the degree of what's going on in the anti-abortion world. I just thought this cannot be America. I mean, I don't know. It was scary in season one, but then Trump of course -- and then suddenly we thought, well, let's get real here.

STELTER: In this -- for season one, there was a "make America great again" reference, it was taken out, right, because you all didn't want to make it seem like you were trying to talk about --

DOWD: It just got more and more serious as we were shooting the pilot. This is happening and then of course, it did. So as June says, by the time we put our phone down, it was too late.

STELTER: And one of the flashback scenes right, which is describing life before Gilead.

DOWD: Before Gilead and stay alert, you know, stay aware and --

STELTER: Warren, what's your view?

LITTLEFIELD: Well, Margaret Atwood wrote a speculative fiction 35 years ago. However, she created that world, the world of Gilead all by using historical fact. And of course, it felt to us like this is a warning. It's a really important warning we were seeing the rise of the alt-right. Brexit was certainly on the horizon. We were feeling that things were changing.

And now a few years later we're feeling it's arrived. We're on a very, very slippery slope to Gilead right now. And I think that's what Ann and I are feeling. That's certainly what we feel when we do the show.

We went to Washington this year for the show. We shot on the -- on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And it was chilling because as we were trying to do content that is about human rights and protecting women's rights, over in the Rose Garden they were talking about eliminating them.

STELTER: Ann, if you could say something to the lawmakers who've been passing these so-called heartbeat bills, what would you tell them other than maybe to watch the Handmaid's Tale, what would you tell them?

DOWD: I would say reconsider your point of view and what pro-life really means. Because what it really means is looking after the hundreds of thousands of children who have no one. They should be at the border protesting the treatment of children and separation of children and family. To really consider the teachings of Jesus which is what they base their beliefs on, love one another, take care of the poor. Go back and look at the basic values of what you are saying to us.

And keep in mind, we are all pro-life. We are not careless about abortion. It is not something anyone wants. It is sometimes a necessity and stop treating it as though it's some horrible brutal assassination or execution as Trump said which was disgraceful.

The suffering of people and this kind of rhetoric is very damaging. I would say look again deep in about what it really means to be pro- life.

STELTER: Ann and Warren, thank you both for being here.

DOWD: What a pleasure. Thank you.

LITTLEFIELD: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: A quick break here and then a book that I really want to recommend to you. It's a new book about inequality. The author suggests if you want to understand America, you got to go to McDonald's. Chris Arnade is coming up after the break.


[11:40:00] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Earlier this hour we were discussing Michel Wolff's latest book. It's out on Tuesday. But there's actually another book coming out on Tuesday that I think deserves your attention, I think more of your attention. It's called Dignity: Seeking Respect In Back Row America.

Writer and Photographer Chris Arnade traveled the country for years. Using his camera as an introduction, he's been capturing forgotten -- the so-called forgotten men and women of America. People struggling to bridge the ever-growing economic gap. It's a subject Arnade knows well. He's a former Wall Street trader who quit his job in order to do this, in order to document poverty and addiction and people who feel they don't have dignity.

Chris is here with me now for his first national interview about the book. Chris, this strikes me for a number of reasons. Let's start with front row versus back row. For people who haven't heard your idea behind this, you describe yourself as someone who's in front-row America. What's the back row?

CHRIS ARNADE, WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER: People who don't have education beyond high school, and if they do it's generally community college, trade schools. They generally stay in their town. They generally live in communities that to use a buzzword, being forgotten, left behind, distanced, places that we tend not to talk about a lot.

STELTER: And you purposely sought out these communities. What reason?

ARNADE: To learn basically. I mean, I had been on Wall Street as you said and I experienced a financial crisis. I was partially responsible for the financial crisis and I kind of did some realization that a lot of what we had done in Wall Street was so wrong and I wanted to basically learn about the blips on the screen that you know, the consequences of our actions.

STELTER: And when you said the country has been split into two worlds. You know, you can tell where you are, what neighborhood you're in based on the -- in which these two worlds are in. Who is ultimately responsible for that split?

ARNADE: I mean, both of us, everybody, the whole country. I think ultimately I blame the front more than I blame the back row only because we're the ones currently in power. We're the ones who hold political office. We're the ones who run Wall Street. We're the ones who run CEOs, lawyers. I think we have more -- we have more power. Simply put, we generally create policy.

[11:45:16] STELTER: So I think your book Dignity has some for reporters, lessons for journalists about covering inequality. Inequality is one of the stories of our time and yet it's easy to lose sight of it amid all the Twitter tirades. In chapter one, you say if you want to visit the country -- sorry, if you want to understand the country, visit McDonald's. Why?

ARNADE: I think how people view McDonald's is kind of a test on what they think about if their back row or front row in general. People in the front row, myself included, in the past kind of generally looked down at Donald's are these places that you know, have a lot of problems. They serve bad food, I haven't think -- I've learned now the food is pretty good.

STELTER: It is. It is.

ARNADE: But once you go there, you realize that you know, because I was spending time with homeless addicts they went there. And they went there because it provides them a community --

STELTER: Safety.

ARNADE: Safety. And also it's basically a community center. They allows them to charge their phones, allows them to use the restroom, it allows them also by the way, to gain a moment of dignity, to rejoin society without any real rules. And you know, if they go on the University campus, they get kicked out. They get kicked out you know.

If they go into so many institutions, they're merely ejected. But in McDonald's they can just you know, they can kind of hang there.

STELTER: And you would go there you bring your camera. And how did you use your camera as a way of starting conversations?

ARNADE: In general, I started the conversations. Often they would ask me about what I'm -- often I was the sole white guy in the place and so I got questions that way. But in general, the camera bought questions to me and then I started the conversation from that.

And then eventually, the last thing I would do is ask people to take their pictures because I wanted them to make sure -- and then I would really say like are you sure you want to do this, you know. To make sure that that's really what they want to do.

And the other thing I think I want to make -- be clear is one of the things fascinating is I allow people to pose the way they wanted to pose. So you know, so very rarely do addicts or homeless or the working class and aggregate are given the kind of dignity to choose how they want to be photographed.

In general, it's usually from a distance and it's not very nice pictures. And so I try to give them -- let them go into the bathroom and put on makeup, fix up their hair, you know --

STELTER: And give them dignity.

ARNADE: Yes, and give them dignity.

STELTER: And this is not a book about how Trump won or why Trump won. But what do you want reporters covering politics to learn from your experience?

ARNADE: A few things. One is as much as they try -- as much as a try, they're still in a bubble and that's not their fault, that's the industry's fault. They have to work in places like where we are here now to succeed. And I think with the death of small-town media, that's a really, really hurt.

You know journalists have to be in these big centers. And despite the great intentions of most of them, it's really -- you just lose touch with where you came from. And a lot of them came from back row America. And so you know, a lot of these pieces have been done recently, this kind of parachute journalism, I think misses that you just have to be there.

STELTER: Be there, live there, and visit the McDonald's.

ARNADE: Right.

STELTER: Chris, thanks for being here.

ARNADE: Thank you very much for having me.

STELTER: Great to see you. And the book is Dignity. It's out on Tuesday. Coming up here, Bill Nye, I asked him about UFO sightings. You're going to want to see what he said after this break.


[11:50:00] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I sat down with Bill Nye, the Science Guy to talk about climate change coverage and UFOs. But first, he told me about making this viral swear-laden video for John Oliver's HBO show.


BILL NYE, HOST, SCIENCE RULES PODCAST: The planet is on (BLEEP) fire. You're not children anymore. I didn't mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12, but you're adults now and this is an actual crisis. Got it?



NYE: The writers had this premise and my performance was heartfelt. But keep in mind you guys, that I've been trying to get people interested in addressing climate change since long about 1993. And my first kids book as the demonstration about the greenhouse effect but at that time I literally didn't want to scare the children.

STELTER: Literally?

NYE: Yes, so it was about the greenhouse effect rather than the consequences of human activity amplifying the greenhouse effect. So that was -- in other words, that's a long time ago. And I've been fighting this fight or bringing this to people's attention for a long time.

STELTER: You didn't want to scare the children. Now you do want to scare the adults it seems.

NYE: Yes. It's time to get -- you guys, it's time to get to work. Quit messing around.

STELTER: Have you found effective ways to get through to climate deniers?

NYE: Well, climate change deniers to me are like astrology people or haunted house people. It takes a couple of years. In other words, you have to present the argument, let them think about it for a while, present the argument again, let them think about it. It takes a couple of years for people to change their minds. So I'm not saying lower your expectations, just keep at it.

STELTER: Look at the front page of the New York Times the other day, the headline was Trump administration hardens its attack on climate science. What's your reaction when the Trump administration doubles, triples down on this approach?

NYE: Well, I just think it'll catch up with them. I mean, you can't go around saying the world is flat and still do commerce.

STELTER: Let's talk about space. The New York Times has been writing about Navy pilots experiencing these strange circumstances in the air, these unidentified flying objects, UFOs. It's got a lot of people on social media talking about aliens this week. Where do you come down on this?

NYE: One part of the government doesn't tell the other part of the government what they're doing. And by the government, I'm talking about the military. If the naval reconnaissance office is messing around with some airborne gizmo, they don't tell the Air Force what they're doing. They certainly don't tell the other parts of the Navy what they're doing.

STELTER: I see what you're saying.

NYE: And so, I worked with guys that went to Groom Lake every day or regularly, Area 51, this Air Force Base in Nevada where are these planes especially are developed. They're secret. So I wouldn't be surprised if they observe some secret test that nobody wants to talk about and they're just -- the story's being exaggerated now.

STELTER: So these are UFOs because the people seeing them don't know how to identify them.

NYE: Yes.

STELTER: But they're not extraterrestrial life. That's your -- that's what your gut tells.

NYE: Well, almost certainly not. I mean --

STELTER: Why almost certainly not?

NYE: Because extraordinary claims --

STELTER: You give us some hope.

NYE: Well, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. So if an alien shows up, I'm all for it, man. Let's go. But it's probably one part of the military not telling the other part -- other part of the military what they're up to for a good reason.


STELTER: Very interesting. And I want to show you one more thing Nye had to say. I want to end this hour on a hopeful note. Watch.


NYE: You know, as screwed up as things seem to be, for the average person, things are better than they've ever been in history.

STELTER: It's getting better.

NYE: As the saying goes, if you couldn't pick where on earth you would be born, you couldn't choose that but you could choose when, this would still be the time. As messed up as you might -- as many mass shootings as you -- as there are, as many wars are being conducted around the world, there are a lot fewer wars than the bad old days strangely enough. So this whole pessimism, we can't do this, wring your hands, run in circles screaming. It's just not my style.

STELTER: Right, that we can't solve these problems.

NYE: Yes. But this idea of denying science is incompatible with solving problems.



STELTER: You can hear the full conversation with Nye on this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast and we'll see you right back here this time next week.