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Trump Says NYT Story Is Treasonous And "Not True"; 2020 Contender Andrew Yang On How He Plans To Stand Out In The 10-Person Crowd, And On Handling Media; Scare Tactics And Sensationalism On T.V. News; Watchdog: Dangerous Overcrowding At Border Facility. Aired 11a- 12p ET

Aired June 16, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:28] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for 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 make it better.

This hour, we are counting down to Democratic debates. I'll talk with 2020 contender Andrew Yang on how he plans to stand out in the 10- person crowd.

Plus, this TV meteorologist was fired for speaking out about his station's scare tactics. David Zurawik is here to react.

And later, the fallout from Trump's so-called zero-tolerance policy at the border. We're going to speak with a reporter who tracked down this four-month-old baby and what happened when he was separated from his patients.

But first, a headline in this weekend's "New York Times." Trump's foggy truth meets the fog of war. Right now, Trump is lashing out at this paper once again, even accusing it of virtual treason.

We are so way off the deep end. But we're going to step back a few days and start with something that Trump said in that ABC interview a few days ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like the truth. You know, I'm actually a very honest guy.

I like the truth you know, I'm actually a very honest guy.


STELTER: I like the truth. I think this animation says it all. We had to rewind that one to hear it again. The president saying he's honest and he likes honesty.

But Trump, he often hits the media for lacking credibility. He says the media has zero credibility. But it's clear he's really just projecting his own biggest weakness. When you don't have trust, you don't have anything. And most

Americans clearly do not trust President Trump. This is one of those realities that impacts every single conversation about American politics. It is the foundation of the house. It is the thing that turns the solid ground to swampy mud.

Even some of the president's supporters know he lies all the time. And it really matters at moments like this. Here's "The New York Times" headline as Trump accuses Iran, he has one problem. His own credibility.

As you know, the Trump administration is blaming Iran for these oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. There's been lots of conflicting information and very little concrete evidence. So trust, credibility, it's most important at times like these.

But Trump has squandered 10,796 times in a row. Of course, his biggest fans don't think they can trust the TV anchors who are pointing this out. That is what's called polarization in action.

That's also partly due to people like Sarah Sanders. She's also been part of this problem. She's now leaving the job after nearly two years and she's leaving a big void, just literally leaving an empty White House press briefing room. It's been 97 days without a daily on camera press briefing.

So, what's the impact of this lack of access? What's the impact of this lack of trust?

Let's talk about it now with our panel who is joining me here in New York. Sam Vinograd was a former senior adviser of the National Security Council under President Obama. She's now a CNN national security analyst. "Washington Post" columnist Max Boot is here. And media columnist for "The Washington Post", Margaret Sullivan, is here.

Margaret, first to you, in one sentence what is Sarah Sanders legacy?

MARGARET SULLIVAN, MEDIA COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Brian, she tried to mislead reporters. And in doing that, she tried to mislead the American public. That's the very opposite of what she should have been doing because it's the American public that actually employs here.

STELTER: Right, so we lose out.

Max, what's your one sentence?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Sara Sanders said that her legacy was going to be she was transparent and honest. In fact, it is that she was opaque and dishonest. She was a liar representing a liar.

STELTER: And, Sam, yours?

SAM VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Who is Sarah Sanders? I thought Donald Trump was press secretary. STELTER: Let's come back to that in a moment. Do you think,

Margaret, the death of the White House briefing matters? I've been talking a lot about it. But do you think it matters?

SULLIVAN: I do. I think that's an opportunity for reporters to bring up subjects, try to hold the president accountable. I mean, it certainly became less valuable, but it was an important thing and it should be returned to.

STELTER: So who is going to be press secretary? Look at a few of the contenders that have been out there in the past few days. You know one of them, Sam, Morgan Ortagus is now the State Departments' spokeswoman. She has been talked about this job, so have a number of others, including Hogan Gidley is there at the White House right now and some others.

Any sense, Sam, of whether it should be Morgan or someone else?

VINOGRAD: I think Morgan is very happy where she is at the State Department.

[11:05:02] But I just say about Sarah Sanders, what does it matter who the new press secretary is? Donald Trump briefs the press every day multiple times by tweet. Last night, we had him saying that reporters should be executed for doing their jobs. Whomever actually decides to take that position is irrelevant.

STELTER: You're talking about his tweet involving "The New York Times" and treason. Let's put up on screen. He accused "The New York Times" of a virtual act of treason which is a death penalty offense.

He's referring to a story in Sunday's "New York Times" all about Russia. The headline in print, U.S. buries digital land mines to menace Russia's power grid.

So, Sam, sum up the story for us. It's about the U.S. basically using cyber security techniques to undermine Russia's power grid. Is that what the story is?

VINOGRAD: It is. And it's to level the playing field. Russia launches cyber attacks against the United States in our most private places, election infrastructure as well as our electric infrastructure and even residential homes. So, the president authorized the Pentagon, the Department of Defense to level the playing field by launching similar attacks against Russian infrastructure.

But my question coming out of the story and the tweet the president issued last night, who is he worried about upsetting? He's tweeting about executing journalists when --

STELTER: He's not literally doing that.

VINOGRAD: No, he's saying --

STELTER: He's said "The Times", virtual act of treason.

VINOGRAD: Yes, but treason is punishable by death and it's a dangerous statement to make.

My question again, Brian, who is he worried about upsetting with the story? The United States is launching these operations to try to protect our country from further attacks. And he's weeks away from seeing Vladimir Putin. Is he worried that Putin is going to react negatively to the story or is he worried about the fact that buried in that story it says his own team is worried about briefing him because they're worried he's going to leak the information?

He's lashing out at 'The Times" rather than lashing out at Vladimir Putin or any other enemies.

STELTER: The quote from "The Times" says two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about his efforts due to possible concerns that he would share it with Russia or something like that.

Max, what were you going to add?

BOOT: Well, I think that's actually in many ways the big news here, Brian. It's not so much that we are taking steps to potentially sabotage the Russian power grid.

The real story is that Donald Trump's own defense and intelligence officials don't trust him. They don't necessarily think he has the best interests of America at heart.

And by the way, his claim that "The Times" was guilty of tree on is absurd. It's bogus. If you read the story itself, it says they ran these charges by the National Security Council. They ran the story by the National Security Council and the NSC had no problem with publishing, because, in fact, I think this is part of a messaging campaign by the U.S. government to essentially deter the Russians.

But this is the U.S. government acting essentially independently of the president of the United States which should be cause for alarm on multiple levels.

STELTER: Here is the statement from "The"New York Times". It begins by saying accusing the press of treason is dangerous. We described the article to the government before publication as our story notes, President Trump's own national security officials said there were no concerns.

So, Margaret, your reaction when the president uses extreme language like this?

SULLIVAN: Well, you know, just when we think it can't get any worse when he uses terms like enemy of the people or fake news on that kind of thing this ratchets it up.

And the other point I would make is that in almost every case in which the president has attacked press or said that's fake or the press is corrupt, the story turns out to be true. And we know that from the Mueller report. So many things that he had said were not the case turn out in the Mueller report to have been economy solid. So, you know, his credibility is shot.

BOOT: And look at how incoherent his tweets are, because on the one hand, he's saying that "The New York Times" is guilty of treason. Oh, it's not actually true. How could they be guilty of treason if it's not true?


VINOGRAD: How could he know if it's true if he hasn't been briefed? I mean, I worked for Obama, I worked for President Bush. Both presidents regularly got briefed on what we were doing against active hostile foreign powers. So, not only is the national security team trying to have to manage the president. He's not even asking to be updates on some of the most important operations that we're undertaking against our biggest enemies.

STELTER: All of this is pretty frightening to be talking about especially in the context of escalating tensions with Iran.

Max, what is your advice for the press in the coming days and weeks as we hear all about the U.S. versus Iran?

BOOT: I mean, I think you cannot take whatever this administration says at face value. That is tragic but it is a reality. This is a president we have documentation that he has lied almost 11,000 times since coming into office.

We know they have tried to manipulate intelligence. Donald Trump routinely disregards --

VINOGRAD: The president has tried to manipulate intelligence. I don't know that the intelligence community has tried to manipulate it.

BOOT: No, not just the president, but also the national security adviser, but there was a story about how John Bolton tried to blame Iran for an attack in Kabul which was claimed by the Taliban.

[11:10:06] So, it's very hard to take at face value what they're saying.

Now, all that said, I do think it's most likely the case the Iranians were behind these attacks in the Persian Gulf. But you have to be skeptical with anything coming out of this administration. And I think that is the cost of not having any credibility.

STELTER: Yes, that's exactly right. We need evidence, journalists have to demand evidence.

Panel, please stick around.

Much more after a quick break.

We are monitoring the mass demonstrations in Hong Kong. Let's show you the pictures coming out of that city right now. These are yet another day of these incredible inspiring protests, citizens there protesting a proposed extradition bill. We are monitoring it and we're keeping a close eye on what's going on

there in Hong Kong.

Coming up, President Trump's willingness to accept dirt in 2020. What about American newsrooms? What will they do the next time a foreign power tries to interfere in an election? That's next.


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

So, this scene from Trump's interview with ABC has been dominating the news for days. It's Trump saying he's open to hearing dirt from foreign governments about his opponents in 2020.

But are newsrooms prepared to answer the same question? What should we do the next time stolen documents show up at the digital door? Because we all remember what happened in 2016 with WikiLeaks.

The panel is back here with me now.

And, Margaret Sullivan, you've been on the front on this, writing about this in a column earlier this year, what should journalists do when hacked, stolen data shows up designed to disrupt an election?

[11:15:06] You say, number one, don't publish weaponized gossip. What do you mean?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think there has to be an exceedingly high bar for anything that actually makes its way into our, into, the public eye through us. And anything that's gossipy or doesn't have extraordinarily high news value should be discounted immediately.

And the other really important thing here is to make it clear where anything is coming from. That's actually is the story. I mean, we don't know what the information might be and --

STELTER: You also wrote in your column, you know, we've got to nail down and emphasize the source of the hack. That's exactly what you're saying here. We got to make clear the motivation of the hack.

SULLIVAN: And maybe not publish anything at all.

STELTER: Sam, how big of a failure was this in 2016 when this Russian attempt to interfere with the election was spread through news outlets, through media outlets.

VINOGRAD: Well, we know from the Mueller report that the Russian intelligence service tried to launder weaponized information, stolen information through reporters. The GRU, the Russian investigation services, again, according to Mueller, pushed this information to reporters because they viewed the U.S. media as a Laundromat for stolen information.

And the key point here is reporters should know their source. The Russian government isn't trying to inform the American public with this information. They have a strong bias, Brian.

They're pushing this information out as part of their longstanding agenda to undermine the United States. It's not meant to inform. It's meant to confuse and demoralize.

STELTER: This story, of course, we're talking about it because of ABC's interview with the president. George Stephanopoulos really won the week journalism-wise by having two days with President Trump, repeated interviews will air in a special later today.

Max, there's been a reaction from some on fox news saying why would President Trump talk to ABC at all? What do you make of those kinds of reactions?

BOOT: Well, because they don't like what he has to say or it's embarrassing and they're trying to blame the messenger rather than the message. I mean, this is preposterous as if somehow George Stephanopoulos tricked Donald Trump into saying he would make use of foreign election interference in the future and not call the FBI.

Stephanopoulos did not make him say that. No normal candidate would say that. I mean, this is the president saying he will not uphold his oath of office, he will betray the country, he will not guard our national security. That's on Trump.

The reaction of the people on Fox and elsewhere is just gaslighting. They're trying to pretend that the Democrats are relitigating the election or there is no different from the Clinton campaign hiring Fusion GPS to research Donald Trump or somehow that this is no different from Trump talking to the queen of England. I mean, this is all so preposterous.

And I don't know what's more offensive the fact Trump does not have our national security at heart or the fact that he has so many willing accomplices who are willing to just make stuff up to defend him no matter what.

STELTER: You mean all these people in the conservative media industrial complex --

BOOT: Right, exactly.

STELTER: -- as you referred to in your column, all of those.

BOOT: Exactly.

STELTER: We did see the Trump TV feedback loop in action twice this week, Margaret. The first time on CNBC. He didn't like what the Chamber of Commerce said. So, he picked up the phone, he called Joe Kiernan, he called into CNBC.

At the end of the week, he called "Fox and Friends' to try to clean up his ABC mess.

Here's what happened at the end of the "Fox and Friends" interview. Here's what Steve Doocy I said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: Appreciate it. Thanks so much.

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: All right. We thought that interview might go 10 minutes. It went 50 minutes and 20 seconds. So --


DOOCY: We appreciate the president taking time-out to explain all that stuff to all of you.


STELTER: It did last 50 minutes. But there wasn't much news made.

SULLIVAN: No, I mean, the odd thing about this been was you actually saw "Fox and Friends" trying to wrap the president. You know, well, Mr. President, we know you have a very busy day and it's your birthday. And so, you know, so long. It's really an odd sight to see.

STELTER: It really is.

There is no polling this week about impeachment. NBC and "The Journal" had a new poll actually out today that shows a split about impeachment among American voters.

You see here, 27 percent say yes, there should be an impeachment hearing right now. Another 24 percent say maybe later, once there are more investigations. And 48 percent of Americans say no, the president should finish out his term. There should not be impeachment proceedings.

Striking numbers from this poll, and I wonder what you all think -- I admit a provocative question. Is the press rooting for impeachment? Do journalists want to see the president impeached?

Now, I always have a caveat before I go into further. The press have different views, different news outlets and media outlets. Is there something to the idea, Sam, that newsrooms, journalists want to see impeachment hearings?

VINOGRAD: I don't think so. I think the journalists report the facts. That's what journalists do.

And they report what Congress is doing and what various political constituencies are thinking.

I'm not a journalist. I'm an analyst. I'm paid to provide my opinion on air. That's one thing.

And journalists are doing their jobs and reporting facts. So, I don't think that putting the press in one basket is helpful in this way. Trump does that, but we shouldn't do that.

STELTER: Right. Trump does do that. But there have been a number of prominent congressional Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, who said, it's the media making all this noise, Max. For example, she says the media really focuses on pro-impeachment Democrats and interviews them quite often.

[11:20:08] Do you think that's a real critique that she's making?

BOOT: No, I think that's again blaming the messenger. I mean, the real impetus is coming from a lot of liberal members of Congress, especially a lot of Democratic presidential candidates who are appealing to the base and I think there is a split in the media. There's not a monolithic view.

I mean, leaving reporters aside who are supposed to be reporting the news but even looking at analysts and opinion-mongers like me, personally I'm ambivalent about it. I mean, I think that on legal and moral grounds, yes, Trump needs to be impeached because he has broken the law. He has betrayed the Constitution.

But I'm also cognizant of the political reality he is not going to be convicted by a Republican-controlled Senate. He could use that to claim unfair exoneration. So, it's a very difficult balancing act.

And I think what you see is even among commentators who are very critical of Trump like me, there is a split, because some say let's go forward with impeachment, others are saying on pragmatic grounds, no, we shouldn't. And clearly, Pelosi is on that, no, we shouldn't camp, at least, for the moment.

STELTER: Let's look at the data. Cable news conversations, the number of mentions about impeachment have clearly been on the rise. You could see it here, the spring of 2017 versus the spring of 2018 versus this spring.

What is that -- what do you attribute that to, Margaret?

SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, it's in the air. I don't think the media put it -- what President Trump has done, the release of the Mueller report, all of these things add to you know, the political and cultural environment that brings impeachment to the fore. But I do not hear talking to straight news journalists that there's a push. I mean, that's just really anathema to the way we do business.

STELTER: What about the business model, though? Don't websites want those clicks? Don't television networks want those ratings that would come from impeachment hearings?

SULLIVAN: Well, they may but I don't think that that's a reason that -- I have not heard journalists talking that way. So, you know, that may be going on in the background or in corporate offices but I don't think that journalists even really think that way.

STELTER: Back to Sam's point, it's important to separate between commentators, liberal commentators who do want impeachment or advocating for it, liberal journalists at left-leaning magazines advocating for it versus newsrooms, versus journalists and newsrooms?

SULLIVAN: Right. I mean, I do think, as Max said, you have to draw a distinction between commentators and news reporters. And there's a big difference there and we ought to honor it.

BOOT: In a sentence, Brian, I would say it's not the media pushing for impeachment. It's reality that's pushing for impeachment.

STELTER: You know you're going to show up on Fox for that bite. That's going to be a bite they're going to use against you now, Max.

BOOT: Help yourself, guys.

STELTER: All right. To the panel, thank you.

A quick break and we're going to talk with one of the 2020 contenders who has earned a spot on the debate stage. Andrew Yang joins us in just a moment.


[11:26:21] STELTER: Ten days out from the first Democratic primary debate and now we know the lineup. Night one and night two, we're going to see these candidates on night one and then the mix for night number two.

One of the candidates in that second night is Andrew Yang. He's going to be on stage with Joe Biden and others and he's here joining me right now.

Andrew, you've had a lot of interesting momentum behind your campaign. Certainly a lot of social media attention behind your campaign.

What's your strategy to stand out on the debate stage? Because you made a thing about wanting to be next to Joe Biden.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. So, we're still at a point where most Americans are getting to know me and the campaign. So, the goal is to introduce myself, my vision for the country and let people know the reason why Trump is our president is we automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that automation is going to spread to retail, transportation and other parts of the economy.

STELTER: Why on social media you have been saying you want to be literally next to Biden?

YANG: Well, because his name recognition is sky high and mine is the opposite of sky high. So, if you have me next to Joe Biden it's hopefully going to make it so that many Americans are Googling the Asian man next to Joe Biden.

STELTER: They'll try to find out.

YANG: Yes, it would be like, who is that guy? Because I'm sure I'd have the same reaction. And most Americans just tuning into the 2020 election, most people have not heard of the majority of candidates.

STELTER: What else are you trying to do to gain more exposure? You have a book called "The War on Normal People." I think it's interesting. It's the kind of title that captures people's attention. It makes you wonder what's in it.

What else have you been trying to do using non-traditional media outlet to gain attention?

YANG: Well, as you know when I first announced, most cable networks weren't that excited to have me on immediately. So, I did a series of podcast --

STELTER: Were not excited. We're not that excited?

YANG: Were not that excited, because, you now, I understand I didn't have a national reputation. I wasn't a senator or governor.

So, I did a series of podcast interview has have pushed me to a point where I'm 3 percent in South Carolina and other states, one of the top eight candidates by any objective measurement closing in on 130,000 donors.

And so, now, the news networks are excited to have me on. But it's certainly not that way in the beginning

STELTER: You think the podcasts did it help you to catapult you a little bit.

YANG: Yes, and this is something that many -- and for the subject of the matter of show, but the top podcast audiences now are significantly larger than cable news viewership. And so, certainly, the Joe Rogin podcast has been seen on YouTube three million times alone, just on YouTube seen millions more times in audio format and others.

So, podcasts truly are this new form of getting your message out to the public that have been instrumental for my campaign.

STELTER: Yes, it is the podcasting primary, as we're seeing on screen.

What about this MSNBC graphic kerfuffle a few days ago? I know some of your fans were tweeting MSNBC saying, why is Andrew Yang not showing up on this graphic of all the other candidates? What happened here?

YANG: It was confusing to me because I'd been on MSNBC a number of times. And, obviously, NBC is hosting a debate that I'd qualified for and I've qualified not just yesterday, but I qualified awhile ago.

So, my supporters were rightfully confused why are you listing literally two dozen candidates and omitting a candidate that's in the top eight or top ten by any measurement. I've already qualified for the debates. And so, there was a lot of the both confusion and anger on the part of my supporters. I frankly didn't know what to tell them, because it's not like I had a

line into MSNBC to tell them. This was the standard they're using.

STELTER: But they have now adjusted it. I think that is an example how viewers can make a difference. If there's a mistake, an innocent mistake, call it out. Let them know.

[11:30:00] Your so-called "Yang Gang", though, has been criticized. There's been a lot of concern that they're too aggressive, too nasty on social media. Do you have thoughts about that or are you trying to make sure the temperature remains relatively cool?

You know, I haven't seen that. When I interact with folks online --


YANG: Maybe this is just me because like you know, maybe they're not like directing like harsh comments towards me. But like it's an extraordinarily wholesome, positive, pro-social energy and vibe. And I sincerely apologize if any journalists or anyone else is encountered anything different online. Certainly, that's the last thing I'd want from my campaign and supporters.

STELTER: And you're not the only candidate that has this issue about what the social media mob or what trolls do in the candidate's name. Bernie Sanders has had a similar issue. Tell me about the American journalism fellows proposal that you've made. You were -- you were out with this very early before anybody was paying attention to 2020 race and you're suggesting government investment for newsrooms.

YANG: Yes. If you look around the country, over 1,200 local newspapers have shut their doors. And studies have shown that if you don't have local journalism, then voting becomes more polarized and extreme. And it makes sense, like you don't have any local news, you're just going to vote along your party affiliation.

And so if you believe in a vibrant democracy or even a functional democracy, then you have to believe in local journalism. And local papers used to rely upon classified ad revenue to survive and now all that revenues disappeared to the Internet and Craigslist.

So as a society, we have to say do we believe in democracy. And if so, then we have to find ways to support journalism around the country. So I have a local journalism fund, I have the American journalism fellows. We need to help more of these communities transition to sustainable models of journalism if we want people that hadn't know what's going on and be able to vote accordingly.

STELTER: And for the voters who say I don't want the government paying for news because that taints the news. What do you say?

YANG: Well, in my framework, they'd literally just be giving matching funds to local organizations so it's not like there's any federal say in terms of what the heck gets published. But you have to look up and say we've gone through this fortunate period where the market could support journalism and now we are leaving that period. And so, if you want local journalism to survive which I think is a must then there are all limited sources of funds and the federal government is to me the most sensible one.

STELTER: As you gain more momentum, so comes more media coverage. That includes more media scrutiny, some more critical coverage. There's been some headlines about that recently. How are you handling that? What's that like for you as someone who hasn't been in the public eye to this degree before?

YANG: Well, again, most Americans are still just getting to know me and I'm excited whenever anyone decides to turn the spotlight on me in the campaign because then you dig in. You dig into our vision for a trickle up economy, for freedom dividend of $1,000 per American adult per month for an economy that revolves around making us healthier and stronger and not this phantom GDP measurement.

So any press at this point in my mind is good press and I don't offend very easily. So if anyone said something you know, not like 100 percent positive about me, I'm like well, you know, someone digs in. I believe in the discernment of the American people. The Americans are very smart that. They can figure out what candidates are about.

STELTER: Andrew, thanks for being here. Great to see you.

YANG: It's a pleasure. Happy Father's Day.

STELTER: Thank you. You, too.

YANG: Dad, has a two-year-old.

STELTER: Hey, dad right here too. You said what, three and six.

YANG: Six and three, yes.

STELTER: Six and three, amazing.

YANG: It's commitment.

STELTER: It is. Thanks for being here. A quick break here and then talking about a story you may have seen on social media this week about Sinclair. One of its local stations had a meteorologist speaking out against the station's scare tactics. So what happened? Sinclair fired him. We're going to talk about what his message was and why sensationalism is such a problem in television news with David Zurawik next.


[11:35:00] STELTER: You know the story about the boy who cried wolf? Well, here's a T.V. station who cried code red. Joe Crain is a popular meteorologist. He was at WICS in Illinois. That's a station owned by Sinclair.

He was fired a few days ago after taking issue with the station's code red policy. They were told they had to call out these code red weather alert days when there was possibly severe weather anywhere nearby.

So he called this out on the air. He expressed his regret over what he called a corporate initiative. Here's a part of what he said.


JOE CRAIN, METEOROLOGIST, WICS: When you hear Code Red, you think the -- as they say the thesis is about to hit the fan. Behind the scenes many of us have tried to dissuade it for the last few months.


STELTER: He was never on the air after that viral video happened. Now he's been sacked and it's been a Code Red for the station because the community is upset. Let me bring in David Zurawik now from the Baltimore Sun. We've talked about Sinclair in the past but I think this story is not unique to Sinclair. This is about sensationalism and scare tactics in television news and those are far too common, David.

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: No, you're absolutely right about that. And weather is one of the key parts where that happens. You know, I'm -- in Baltimore, if you say there's going to be a snow, you know, three inches, people freaked out and they go and buy toilet paper and clean out the grocery stores.

I'm from Wisconsin. It's got to be 30 feet I think before. But it always -- it always struck me that -- and this is in fairness to Sinclair. Everybody does it, Brian, in T.V. news because it's so easy to do. But here's the larger thing that I think is really dangerous about it and nobody does it to this extent where your meteorologist stands -- goes before the camera and feels he has to call you out on it and you use something egregious as Code Red.

If journalism as we've talked many times it's supposed to give citizens information, they can use to make good decisions about their lives. In T.V. news weather is one of the most important of those realms. Because if you see you're in Florida and there's a hurricane coming or you're in Tornado Alley or you're in the Upper Midwest and there's a storm, it's life and death information. You have to have it.

So when stations aired a little bit, I always said, well better to err on the side of saying it's going to be worse than it's going to be. But this is different. When you do it to this extent, you completely -- it's as you said in your setup it's crying wolf and when the wolf -- and when the real wolf comes, nobody pays attention and people can get killed. This is really dangerous.

STELTER: Right, when the real wolf comes. Yes, I've got a viewer named Margo, tweets of me and says, all right, talking about sensationalism. What about the breaking news banners on CNN and other cable news channels? And I think she's absolutely right. You know, national cable news networks' overuse the breaking news label.

There are a lot of examples of this of hyping the news that we always got to think about pulling back on and be sensitive about.

[11:40:04] ZURAWIK: Absolutely. And it is a problem for T.V. news. You know, when -- they use live a lot. When you know, somebody's standing in front of the school board building at 10:00 at night or 11:00 at night, it says live because the person is live but there's nothing live in that building at that hour.

STELTER: Right, right. Hey, what did you make of Jon Stewart on Capitol Hill earlier this week advocating for 9/11 heroes who need health care? This scene of course made national news in part because the hearing room was almost empty. He really knows how to use his celebrity power to move Congress, doesn't he?

ZURAWIK: Yes. And look, all power to Jon Stewart. God bless them for having the sense of righteousness, the social conscience and coming on with this kind of moral authority. And we're in desperate need of moral authority especially when it comes to Washington so we do have a strong reaction to it.

And there's no doubt that this hearing, his words in this hearing helped further the cause of getting that money cleared for first responders. But here's the danger I think in our culture today. We think T.V. hearings is going to change the world totally.

You know, we heard Christine Ford talk about the high school -- her allegation that she was raped by Brett Kavanaugh and a friend and they laughed at her. That was an incredibly powerful, moving, testimony by her. I can't remember being that rocked by a T.V. hearing. And yet when it was all over, Brett Kavanaugh was on the Supreme Court and we moved on.

This is -- this is a danger. It takes more than T.V. hearings and hashtags in social media to change this culture. Sometimes you have to march in the street. Sometimes you have to knock on doors. You have to join political movements and we've lost that. We believe so much in "oh I saw it on T.V. it moved me, it must have changed the world." It doesn't.

Meanwhile, the Mitch McConnells and those folks are still sitting behind closed doors making the deals that put people on a Supreme Court. We're moved by the hearings, they're moved by what they can achieve the way Lyndon Johnson used to do it. I always think of Mitch McConnell as sort of the evil Lyndon Johnson which is really bad if you think about what Lyndon Johnson was.

STELTER; I'm sure McConnell will love that. David, thanks so much. Great to see you.

ZURAWIK: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Up next here, reporters trying to get answers about family separations.


[11:45:00] STELTER: On this Father's Day, we still don't know exactly how many children have been separated from their moms and dads at the U.S.-Mexico border. It's been about a year since the Trump administration appeared to reverse course on that disaster is so- called zero tolerance policy. But here's the thing. Breakups are still happening and there are more headlines and more Twitter threads every day describing the dire conditions at the detention centers where most of these families are being held nationwide.

A recent report from a Homeland Security watchdog described dangerous overcrowding and unsanitary conditions during four unannounced visits last year. And reporters about a very hard time gaining access to these facilities, also gaining access to basic information about what's going on.

Let's talk more about that with Caitlin Dickerson. She's an Immigration Reporter for "The New York Times" and a CNN Analyst. She has a documentary airing tonight on FX about one of these cases. Caitlin, thanks for being here.


STELTER: What is the biggest hurdle in covering this beat right now? There are breakups sometimes at the border and then families are sometimes sent together to these detention facilities. What do we not know? What are we not seeing?

DICKERSON: There's a lot that we don't know. I mean, I think the biggest hurdle is that there's so much changing in the immigration landscape all at once. But if you want to take family separation in particular, you alluded to this a little bit. So the federal government acknowledged last summer that family separations were taking place. But we now know that for almost a year beforehand, they were -- they were also going on who really in secret.

Then as you said, the government reversed course and we need to try to account for those separations that took place in that intervening year. And yet now, separations are still taking place. And the big problem is that to this day, we still don't have a binding policy for who should be separated and who shouldn't along the border.

So these are discretionary decisions that are being made but from individual border agents. And so that's why you continue to see these stories and Twitter threads bubble up with separations that appear to be sort of dubiously justified because there's just no rules even to this day.

STELTER: No rules. So some of this problem is we're not getting information from the government. In other cases, they don't have anything to tell us because there's no policy.


STELTER: And when you do get information, is it accurate? Is it truthful? Can you believe what DHS and the other government agencies are telling us?

DICKERSON: So as somebody who's been covering immigration for years, I've really you know, come up against for a long time faulty data that can affect our comprehensive our ability to get a comprehensive understanding of what's happening at the border.

Again, you look at family separations specifically. We learned under -- because of a sort of a federal court lawsuit and judgment, we learned that a lot of the separations that took place between 2017 and 2018 weren't documented at all. So the government didn't have records to give us.

And we do run into problems when we're looking at other questions you know, how many people are seeking asylum. That's a really hard question to answer. How many people are caught trying to sneak into the country versus how many actually walk up to border agents and request you know, to be -- request protection which is a legal thing to do? The records really are quite muddy --

STELTER: And the faulty data, that may be innocent. It doesn't mean that someone is trying to intentionally confuse the public. But faulty data is faulty data.

DICKERSON: That's right. I mean, I think you know, look at -- look at immigration policies like the travel ban. To me, there were a lot of parallels there where when you're going to make a really big change like blocking people from coming into the United States or like separating parents from their children, when you when you unroll that policy, you might want to have a plan in place for how you're going to do it and how you're going to record it.

STELTER: Is there actively a misinformation campaign about these subjects going on?

DICKERSON: I wouldn't go as far as just to put it that way. I think that you know, this is a political issue and it very much behooves the administration to make it seem like there is a really significant crisis on the border to justify changes that it wants to make.

I mean we do have huge backups of people along the border and we have a lot of issues from medical care, to space as you pointed out, to you know at just adequate amenities across the board. But certainly the way that the administration communicates that to the public is going to be done in a way that's to support what you know, the president would like to do.

[11:50:40] STELTER: What he wants. You've been working for months on a documentary that premieres tonight on FX, tomorrow on Hulu. It's part of this new "New York Times" called The Weekly. And you've been able to track down and find the youngest child that was separated from their parents. How did you do that and how long did it take?

DICKERSON: It took me months to find Constantin Mutu. So I mentioned a federal court case earlier that had to do with family separations and that prompted ultimately the reunification of separated families. And while I was looking through those court records last summer, I found mention of a four-month-old baby.

I've been really interested in separated babies in general and immediately thought this is probably the youngest child and quickly learned that he was. But because all of the individual records in that court case were sealed and because you know, as we talked about, the government data was really limited. It took a long time to find him basically just calling everybody in the country to see if anybody heard of a four-month-old baby had been separated and ultimately we did.

He spent five months separated from his parents. He's almost two now and he's still not able to walk or to walk on his owner to speak.

STELTER: Four months old when he was separated. And you think about the parents and why they decided to come, and you think about the government that broke them up. Caitlin, thank you.


STELTER: I appreciate it.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: We'll be right back.


[11:55:00] STELTER: All right, before we go today, a plug for our podcast. In this news article for "The New York Times," Kevin Roose writes about the making of a YouTube radical, explores how the YouTube recommendation engine radicalizes people. He's the guest on our podcast this week. You can check it out through Apple, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, or whatever app you use for podcasting. We also have a full story up on

Tonight brand-new episodes of the "REDEMPTION PROJECT" with Van Jones, that's at 9:00. And "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with Kamau Bell, that's at 10:00. We're out of time here but I told my two-year-old, she gave me this hat this morning for Father's Day. I told her I would wear it. So here you go sonny. I'll be home in a few minutes. And we'll all see you right back here this time next week on RELIABLE SOURCES.