Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

News Cycles Are Out, Shock Cycles Are In; Hillary Clinton, Tulsi Gabbard, And Disinformation; Is Facebook Trying To Have It Both Ways On Free Speech?; Critics Blast Facebook For Profiting From Lie- Filled Ads; Trump Getting The Facts Wrong About Troop Deployments; Trump Fans React To Shepard Smith's Exit: Glad He's Gone; NBC Stands By Exec Team Amid Catch And Kill Allegations. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 20, 2019 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter. Welcome to Washington and this edition of 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, there's more and more testimony in the Ukraine scandal that is implicating President Trump. So find out what it's like for a Republican commentator who wants Trump impeached.

Plus, Comcast resisting calls for Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and others. They're call calling on Comcast to launch an outside investigation into NBC News.

The letter was prompted in part by this man, Ronan Farrow, and he will join me live to talk about the fallout.

And a little later, the problem with Mark Zuckerberg's recent speech about free speech. Two experts are here with the missing pieces.

Plus, ABC's egregious Syria error and so much more.

But first, news cycles are out, shock cycles are in. That is what we're experiencing day in, day out. Another shock, another scandal, another period of outrage and then the same thing all over again.

One day, President Trump decides he's going to award himself a rich government contract. His acting chief of staff comes out and tells the press why it's a great idea. And then Trump suddenly reversed himself and blames the media for making it an issue. Shock on top of shock on top of shock.

Now, Trump has been promoting debunked conspiracy theories this week. He's been calling the legal impeachment process a coup. Remember the letter he sent to the Turkish president that came out this week that seemed so informal, some reporters thought it was a hoax.

These aren't news cycles. Not really. These are shock cycles. One set of talking heads says they're stunned, horrified, bewildered. And then another set of talking heads says the rest of us are taking it too seriously. There's shocked about the shock, and they're shocked about shock about shock, and then Trump delivers another shock.

He calls Nancy Pelosi crazy or he accuses her of hating America, or Mick Mulvaney holds a presser and confirms a quid pro quo and then says, get over, and then says, that's not what he said. Boom, boom, boom.

He's getting basic facts wrong about American forces in harm's way. He's calling James Mattis the world's most overrated general. And his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is under federal investigation with new details every day. Shock, shock, shock.

The challenge, I think, for all of us is to break out of these shock cycles and make sure the news is still front and center. Yes, as citizens, we have to retain our capacity to be shocked. But more importantly, we have to recognize why these stories are stunning.

And that's where journalists come in. That's why the news cycle is still essential. A lot of folks these days just hear the shock and outrage and they miss the why. They miss the unconstitutionality of what's going on. They miss the context.

They come way thinking it's just a partisan food fight. But so much of this is nonpartisan. It's constitutional.

The big story continues to be abuse of power. And aides like Mick Mulvaney, they're left just to complain about the press.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You were asked by Jonathan Karl. You've described a quid pro quo, and you said, that happens all the time.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And reporters will use their language all the time. So, my language never said quid pro quo.

But let's get to the heart of the matter. Go back and look at that list of three things. What was I talking about? Things that it was legitimate for the president to do.


STELTER: Once again, the White House telling us not to believe what we see and what we hear. That's been the throw line for the last few years. But it doesn't mean it's not shocking. It is still shocking.

Let me bring in my panel here in Washington. Matt Lewis is a "Daily Beast" senior columnist and CNN political commentator. Olivia Nuzzi is "New York Magazine" Washington correspondent. Krystal Ball is the co-host of Hill TV's "Rising". And Katie Rogers is "The New York Times" White House correspondent, who had to write the story late last night about the Doral reversal.

Katie, what do you think happened?

KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think he had been -- I think the president had been dribbling this idea out for months and months and months, saying this is the perfect piece of property, he got a lot of free media for it. And then when he had Mick Mulvaney come out and finally say, this is what we're going to do, I really don't think they anticipated the amount of backlash that would come from Democrats, but also Republicans.

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was very tepid, but said, no, this is not appropriate, when asked. Congressman Rooney of Florida said, this is not the kind of thing presidents should be doing.

So the White House had to backtrack based on -- it was actually a little bit of a crack in this Republican wall of never criticizing the president.

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Even the "New York Post," which I don't think we can overstate how important the "New York Post" is --

STELTER: A Murdoch property, one of the president's favorite papers.

NUZZI: It's something he reads frequently. I'm sure that he actually reads the content of the "New York Post" more than he reads the content of the papers he's criticizing frequently. And I think it's important that the editorial board of the "New York Post" even came out and said that he should change the property.


STELTER: Matt, you said this is a three-part process. You tweeted out the three parts. Part one is, Trump proposes something crazy or sketchy or stupid. And then, what's part two?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Part two is Republicans rush to defend it and Republicans and Donald Trump apologists. I mean, there was a piece I saw this week about why this was brilliant. This puts Donald Trump at home court advantage. And we should all support it.

And then step three, of course, is Donald Trump sort of pulling the rug out from under his own defenders.

STELTER: And reversing (ph).


STELTER: So two things happened here. A lot of support for it among Republicans, look like fools now. But at the same time, there were some cracks in the usual defense. There was some dissent from Republicans about this Doral move.

You know -- ROGERS: And the issue is so easy for people to understand I think

too, that even voters who might be locked in Republican, still understand that this is the president's family business that would stand to benefit, if not financially, the White House, you know, stressed that there wouldn't be any profit. That is free media. That is people coming from all over the world.

STELTER: Totally.

ROGERS: It's earned media, the president has bragged about being a master of this at length before. This is what the Trump Organization stands to gain, or stood to gain.

STELTER: Krystal, I always say, the Trump White House should have more press conferences. They should have more press briefings.


STELTER: Then Mick Mulvaney holds a press briefing. It's a disaster. He has to walk back his statements.

Am I hypocrite for then saying it's a disaster, or should we be able to have both frequent press briefings and accurate information at the briefings?

BALL: Yes. I mean, that would be ideal, for sure. I mean, I loved your monologue. I think the Doral thing, it was just a shade too shameless, though. But I love your monologue, because it takes a bigger look at what's going on.

I mean, this is not a news cycle of shock/outrage, shock/outrage, shock/outrage. And, in fact, Trump has totally gamed that -- I mean, that's a big part of why he is in the White House to start with. And as long as we keep covering it in this same way of being so shocked and then outraged and so shocked and so outraged, he's going to continue to game that whole thing.

STELTER: And then exhausted. Shocked, outraged, and then exhausted.

BALL: Yes. And, look, here's the reality. I think we all know, Trump is the symptom of a larger problem. Yet, rather than covering that larger problem or even covering the other symptoms, we just cover Trump, like he is the center of the problem.

You have a massive working class movement rising up in this country and rising up around the world. That's what's really going on. So when we fixate on, did he call Nancy Pelosi third rate or third grade, et cetera, we miss those underlying currents that are really driving all of what's happening here in this country.

STELTER: What about Mulvaney having a press conference at all? Do you wonder? I don't normally buy into the idea that he's trying to distract, you know, trying to distract from Gordon Sondland's testimony or something. But in this case, given that he has completely reversed himself about Doral, part of me does wonder if there was an element of, change the story, change the shock? BALL: I would say the Syria thing is actually the worst thing going on for Trump right now. You have military veterans who are saying, this is completely unacceptable. You have essentially a genocide unfolding that, you know, our president green lit. So that's a real problem.

But again, zooming out, you have 70 percent of Americans who say they are furious at the political establishment. You have 40 percent who say they want to burn it all down. And so, when they see us pulling our hair out, when they see Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, et cetera, freaking out, they don't mind that.

The details of the story get glossed over. They like to see the elite institutions breaking down and freaking out. They love that.


LEWIS: I was just going to say, Donald Trump may very well be trying to distract and following up one chaotic thing with one chaotic thing. And I think actually you have a point. It does work. It's catnip for the press.

I think it gets the American public off balance. We don't know what to believe. And eventually, it normalizes things.

But the one catch to that is, and you mentioned the exhaustion. I think Republican politicians are finally becoming thoroughly exhausted with defending this president, day in and day out, and it means defending the indefensible. And we saw them step out in the case of Syria, Mitch McConnell has an op-ed in "The Washington Post," condemning what Donald Trump did there. I think we're starting to see Republicans move away from this president.

STELTER: And, Olivia, you wrote about that this week, some of the exhaustion. Republican aides as well.

NUZZI: Yes. I think the way that the media or liberals have Trump fatigue, that exists on the right, as well. It's just different, because they're not outraged. They're not trying to get rid of him. They're not trying to actively do anything to change the situation.

But they also feel a kind of fatigue. They feel sick of what he's doing. They can't be shocked by anything anymore, because I think they've lost --

ROGERS: Entrenched mentality.


LEWIS: Look at Marco Rubio.

STELTER: Entrenched mentality.

ROGERS: White House likes (ph) that, yes.

LEWIS: Marco Rubio's body language is utterly defeated. NUZZI: But I don't think it's fair to say that it's, you know, we get distracted by the outrage cycle and that that's not quite important. I think that what the president says is obviously news, no matter where he says it, if he says it to the press waiting for Air Force One or Marine One, if he says it on Twitter. It's always news.


And I think we have to treat it as such. We have to treat it as important. Even if he is trying to say, hey, look over there.

STELTER: Even if it's nonsense.

BALL: I think that's fair. I think its' fair, Olivia. Of course, what the leader of the free world says is newsworthy, of course.

But, it crowds out everything else. And so, when we fixate -- I mean, impeachment is a great example, right? I can't stand this president. I can't stand him. I think he's terrible for the country. I think he's terrible for the world.

But I think it's very telling what the media and the elite institutions decide is a step too far. It's when another elite, Joe Biden, is threatened. It's when the military industrial complex's right to send Javelin missiles to Ukraine is threatened.

Like, that's a bad thing. I'm not excusing any of this, right? It was not OK that Trump did this. But he has caused real harm to real people. And that doesn't seem to get the same outrage as when he's, quote/unquote, breaking the norms and guardrails of democracy.


STELTER: Except when I was driving down the highway the other day and there's banners saying, "stop family separation"," there are many people taking action on many issues.

BALL: Of course, of course. But did we impeach film for that? No.

STELTER: But, Matt, you've been a Republican who's spoken out in favor of impeachment. I was wondering what's it been like for you the past few weeks?

LEWIS: Well, it's been great. The water's warm, come on, everybody.

Look, it's easy for me because I don't have to change. I don't have to defend the indefensible.

I thought the Kurds were our allies before. I don't suddenly think that they're worse than ISIS.

I thought General Mattis was a hero and a tough-as-nails general before. I don't have to suddenly think that he's an overrated general. I get to just be consistent.

STELTER: Does that mean you're not a real Republican? LEWIS: No --

STELTER: Your headline for "The Daily Beast", you write this column, says, this is the B.S. you have to believe to be a Republican in 2019. You have to believe that Mattis is an overrated general.


LEWIS: Reagan said, I didn't leave -- Reagan said, I didn't leave the party, the party left me. I think that's what it is.

But I'm just hoping, look, the things I believe in are still conservative. I believe in things like the rule of law. I think -- I remember when Republicans and conservatives thought it was wrong to rent out the Lincoln bedroom during the Bill Clinton administration. Now, Republicans suddenly think it's OK for the president to line his own pockets, you know, down in Florida with his own hotel.

So I think that my position is the conservative Republican position.

STELTER: I see what you're saying.

LEWIS: Hopefully, they'll come back around.

STELTER: All right. Quick break here, more on the panel in just a moment.

Hillary Clinton, Tulsi Gabbard, disinformation, that's coming right up.



STELTER: Quick question for you. Why is this not getting more airtime? On Friday, the State Department released a report into its probe of Hillary Clinton's release of a private email server and found, according to the "Washington Post," no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.

Right-wing media hysteria was going on about this for years, but this to me sounds like a Friday night news dump. Yes, there were some headlines, there were some TV segments, but this seems like a very anticlimactic end to a story that's been raging for years.

The panel is back with me now to discuss that and more.

You know, I suppose, you know, Friday night, what can you do? It comes out on a Friday, it comes out of a Friday, but I think it's jobs of news rooms to bring it back up in days to come to make sure everybody sees like it.

NUZZI: Well, it's kind of like how the correction never gets as much attention as the initial story, right?

STELTER: Right. NUZZI: Anybody who's ever been written about in a way that's not accurate can attest to that. So, I don't think it's particularly surprising. It's also not a particularly exciting story for people right now. There are so many other things going on, as we were talking about in the previous segment --

STELTER: And there are Trump aides using private email servers and getting in trouble for that.

NUZZI: Yes, I don't think this is something that the administration wants to talk about, certainly.


NUZZI: And we are, as we talked about previously, pretty much being dictated by what the administration wants to talk about. So I don't think it's particularly surprising and I think it's a more difficult story for people to understand. And that was part of what the difficulty was initially back in 2016 with the story.


STELTER: There's another Clinton-related story. That's Hillary Clinton versus Tulsi Gabbard. Clinton suggesting on a podcast that Tulsi Gabbard is somehow a Russian agent or something.

Now, this seems to me, Krystal, I know you support -- you're a fan of Tulsi Gabbard, it seems like a disinformation situation, where the Russians want this kind of disinformation out there.

BALL: You mean like from the Hillary Clinton side?

I mean, look, whether you're a fan of Tulsi Gabbard or not, there is zero evidence that she is some Russian plant. And I think it just makes the whole Russian conspiracy thing look absurd, that it's gone this far. That you would, as Hillary Clinton, a major figure in the Democratic establishment to this day, baselessly smear an American veteran who served in the Iraq war as a medic, and still serves in the Hawaii army national guard as being groomed by Vladimir Putin, I mean, that's disgusting and absurd.

STELTER: I just always think to myself, this is what foreign governments want. When there's this kind of vitriol and venom in American politics.

BALL: But that's -- sure, right? It helps our adversaries, but there's also this trend now on the left, of which I'm a part of the left, to smear anyone who dares tell the truth about, you know, ugliness that's happening in America or disagree with the sort of military industrial complex or bipartisan pro-war consensus, to smear those people as Russian plants.

It's happened to all sorts of people online. And that Hillary Clinton, someone that prominent, would take it to this level a presidential candidate, I think it's -- LEWIS: I think the truth is that Tulsi Gabbard does advance some of

the same talking points that Turkey wants to advance right now in Syria. Some of the same talking points that Russia --

STELTER: Tulsi Gabbard, President Trump, they have in common.

LEWIS: They have -- they actually have a lot in common. But the other thing I would say, is I do think it's a bridge way too far for Hillary Clinton to imply that she's an asset. That to me was crossing the line.

STELTER: Let's talk about the vile video that the "New York Times" first revealed was shown at this pro-Trump conference at Doral last week. This is a video that had been online for a long time. It imagines a fake Donald Trump murdering journalists and Democratic lawmakers.

And, Katie, you asked Mick Mulvaney about this video at that famous briefing the other day. What happened?

ROGERS: He -- the first question out of his mouth was, did you ask the president about it. And my colleagues jumped forth to say, we asked him, we asked him, he didn't answer.

My response, you know, is, naturally, why do you have to ask the president what he thinks? Why do we have to shout a question at him or bug the White House relentlessly, which reporters in the White House correspondent s correspondents' association have done all week? Why would he not just come out and say, this is inappropriate, this is awful, I condemn this?

His press secretary, of course, said he hadn't seen the video, but condemned the sentiment behind it. Mulvaney said, you know, well, I didn't like it. But, you know, that's completely different than the leader of the country coming out and say, this was vile and it was at one of my properties and I don't stand for this.


STELTER: And the bigger problem was his rhetoric that makes people think about this kind of violence. Olivia, what's the big picture you think about this rise of anti-media hate?

NUZZI: I think we have an empathy gap. I think we talk a lot about misinformation and who is susceptible to misinformation, but we don't talk a lot about why people are susceptible to it. And a lot of it is that we are all in our own little bubble, we only agree what we already agree with, we only see what we already agree with.

But I think a lot of it is we're so disconnected that it is difficult for anyone to empathize with anyone that they do not inherently like. And so why does a video like that exist? Why is it that Donald Trump is probably saddling not coming out to condemn this video? Because he knows that there are some of his supporters who like it, who think it's funny.

LEWIS: That's part of the problem, that they do like it.

NUZZI: Right.

LEWIS: And to me -- go back to where we were during the last segment, conservatives, social conservatives, people who used to criticize video games, rap music, whatever. I mean, now, to be like cheering on and supporting this sort of perverse, disgusting video, it's just a complete reversal. And it shows you the state of conservatism today.

STELTER: The words I'm taking away, empathy gap. That's what missing is empathy, in many different directions, by the way, the lack of empathy.

To the panel, thank you.

Quick break here. And then, Mark Zuckerberg's free speech getting flak from multiple directions. The Joe Biden campaign just issued a brand-new challenge to Facebook. You'll hear about it, next.



STELTER: Facebook is making it harder to know what's true. Case in point, the company's policy letting politicians lie in ads. This weekend, the Joe Biden campaign is calling on Facebook for a second time, saying that Facebook's policy is deeply flawed and allowing misinformation to spread on the platform.

This is something that's been bubbling up for several weeks now and it comes at the same time that Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook, is out there talking about free speech and free expression. He gave a big speech this week at Georgetown University. He said he talked about how to draw the line, where to draw the line, and how to make sure free expression reigns on the site.

Joining me now is the co-director of Harvard's Platform Accountability Project, Dipayan Ghosh, who after his time in the Obama White House, worked for Facebook as a private and public policy adviser. Ghosh quit in 2016 and co-author this policy paper titled "Digital Deceit", calling on companies like Facebook to acknowledge their role in misinformation. He wrote a column about this on as well that we will talk about.

And here with me in D.C. is Georgetown University Institute of Politics executive director, Mo Elleithee. He organized Thursday's event with Zuckerberg and moderated the Q&A portion.

Mo, thanks for being here.


STELTER: I would love to know what you took away from Zuckerberg's speech, given that it took place right there with you on your campus?

ELLEITHEE: Yes, no, it was interesting. We had a packed house. Students lined up for hours, because they wanted to hear this.

I appreciated it and I think a lot of appreciated his efforts to point out the complexities in a lot of these issues, at a time when we all talk about this as black and white. He came in and said, maybe there's a big gray area.

Having said that, most people walked away from the speech wanting something more. There was something in that speech that offended just about everybody on the ideological spectrum.

STELTER: Interesting.

ELLEITHEE: Conservatives who feel like he did not go far enough in addressing arguments or allegations of an anti-conservative algorithmic bias. And progressives who are going at him for allowing Trump campaign misinformation to appear on their platform, whether it's in ads or in other ways.

I don't think a lot of people walked out of there feeling satisfied by what he says.

STELTER: And is that just because we've never seen a platform like Facebook before, in the history of the world, and so there's no easy answers for what to do with it?

ELLEITHEE: I think that's right. I think that it is incredibly complicated and it deals with how we all consume information in the digital age. But, there are -- what was interesting to me, is we had over a hundred questions submitted by the students in the room. And most of those questions didn't focus as much on policy as they did on ethics.

STELTER: Ethics.

ELLEITHEE: And the ethics of, what is Facebook's responsibility when foreign actors, bad actors are using the platform to facilitate violence against its own people or even genocide. What is Facebook's responsibility when it comes to protecting privacy? What is Facebook's responsibility when it comes to misinformation, disinformation?

Those types of ethical questions are what the students were grappling with and were hoping he would talk about.

STELTER: Let's put on screen some of the bullet points from this speech, especially around political ads, because ultimately, Zuckerberg said, when it comes down to these thorny questions, we're going to err on the side of free expression. He says, tech companies should not be the ones deciding which political ads can run and cannot run.

Here's some of what the rest of what Zuck said.

Dipayan, why did you feel this was off-base. You wrote an op-ed for saying Facebook needs to be regulated, citing some of what Zuckerberg said in this speech. DIPAYAN GHOSH, CO-DIRECTOR, HARVARD PLATFORM ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: This is an absolute commercial convenience for Mark Zuckerberg and for Facebook. I think it is -- it is always a thing that we need to scratch our heads over when we have CEO deliver speeches on policy.

That's not to say that Mark Zuckerberg does not truly believe the things that he said. But what we have to acknowledge is that for Facebook to come out and say that it supports free speech on its platform and on the Internet and that that should influence U.S. public policy making is a commercial convenience for Facebook. It allows them to not have to take responsibility for the harm that is happening in our political circumstance today, in political advertising.

STELTER: Facebook is knowingly accepting money from people who they know are lying. Broadcast television networks do have to accept ads from anybody as well when you're running for a campaign, but the difference with Facebook is that Facebook allows you to reach the most vulnerable people over and over and over again and target them with lies over and over and over and over again. And it's not just Trump that's going to do this. Other politicians will in the future, as well. That's personally why I'm worried.


GHOSH: That is exactly right. I think what -- we live in a new world of digital communication today. Digital communication has absolutely affected our media universe. And what the Russians did is exactly what Trump can do in 2020.

2020 could very well be 2016 on steroids where political campaigns in this country are given a free pass to slice and dice the American population, target our marginalized communities with voter suppression and with all sorts of political lies, which is going to influence our election and potentially even the ultimate outcome of the election.

STELTER: Now, Mo, you're here with your day job at Georgetown, you're also a Fox News contributor. And I wonder what you made of Zuckerberg going on Fox, going on Dana Perino show trying to reach out to a conservative audience.

ELLEITHEE: Yes, well, look, I think we've seen this strategy coming from them for some time. They have been critic criticize on the right for quite some time arguing that the platform has an inherent bias against conservatives.

So you've heard stories about him doing meetings, one on one with conservative thought leaders or in small groups over the past couple of months. I thought it was interesting that he went to Dana Perino, who's a pretty straight shooter, to go to her to make -- to sort of make the case. And you see, that was one of the first questions that he got asked by her was about, you know, is Facebook, you know, biased against Conservatives.

STELTER: And where can people see the full speech from Georgetown?

ELLEITHEE: On the Georgetown University's Facebook page?



STELTER: Yes, it is worth watching them full, I think.

ELLEITHEE: Yes, and just not just the speech, but the student Q&A which I thought really gave a good sense as to sort of the ethical questions young people were hoping he would address.

STELTER: Cool. Thank you both. Thanks for being here. Thank you both for joining me. We did invite Facebook to be here as well and they declined our interview request. Up next here, Trump's ability to lie seemingly hitting an all-time high. Daniel Dale, our fact checker and chief is here in just a moment.



STELTER: Some breaking news now from our team in Syria. Hundreds of trucks carrying U.S. personnel were observed by CNN gathering heading toward the border with Iraq. This is part of the troop withdrawal that we've been hearing about for days. A U.S. official confirming to CNN the ground move is the largest the U.S. has made in Syria so far. Some of those troops now heading toward Iraq.

Let's talk about the President's statements about Syria, the President's misstatement about troops, the President's misspelling of the Defense Secretary's name today, that and much more with my panel here. Daniel Dale is a CNN fact-checker who analyzes everywhere the President says, also fact checks other politicians. Elaina plot is a White House Correspondent for The Atlantic and a CNN Analyst, and Erik Wemple is a Media Critic at the Washington Post.

Daniel, I just want to put as we say, here at CNN facts first. There were some pretty egregious misstatements about troop levels. I mean, this is a president getting the facts wrong about troops in harm's way. What stood out to you this week? We have a full screen that can show one of -- one of the misstatements about brokering a ceasefire deal in Turkey.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Sure. So the President declared over and over that previous presidents had tried for 10 years, 15 years, then more than 15 years to broker this deal with Turkey. And, Brian, that's simply nonsensical. As we know, this is an extremely narrow deal related to the particular Turkish incursion of this month. And it included very concessionary terms that no previous president had tried to offer Turkey. So, the President just made this up.

STELTER: Elaina, what do you make of this week and the reaction from Republicans about what's been going on in Syria? Because it feels different in some ways. This week has felt different.

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's absolutely right. I think that, you know, Republicans are never going to have suddenly a moral uprising over the president lying just, you know, writ large. But what they often say is that what the President does, however, is governed like any typical republican president, Conservative justices, tax cuts.

With Syria, however, this is an, you know, a very rare instance in which he has done something that they actively disagree with. You saw Mitch McConnell with a pretty provocative op-ed denouncing this decision to withdraw our troops.

So I think that this might be one of the first moments -- I hate to use the term inflection point in this presidency, because it said so often, that Republicans are not going to be keen to let him I guess, get away with this one.

STELTER: You know, we're talking about these misstatements from the president. Erik, you wrote something this week that really spoke to me. You talked about how it's difficult to use neutral-sounding language to describe what the President does, because that makes it sound like you have an ax to grind. A great example today, the president misspells a Defense Secretary's name on Twitter. Mark Esper is his name, the President wrote Esperanto. Maybe it was just an autocorrect. I make lots of autocorrect mistakes on my phone.


STELTER: But the President should have a proofreader. And just talking about like this, just neutrally saying what happened, sounds like an attack.

WEMPLE: It does. And this is, you know, we talked about Shep Smith, we talked about CNN gets hammered for this every single day. It's people come on the air and so the Trump just mocked a reporter with a disability. Well, that happens to be the fact.

STELTER: Yes. Back during the campaign, one of the first times were just stating the truth seemed like --

WEMPLE: Right. Or that Trump said -- is on tape saying that his grab -- going to grab or that he had made a practice of grabbing women by the pussy. That also is a very neutral statement from a factual standpoint, and it sounds like the condemnation. The facts double is condemnations under Trump. I think that's -- and that has blown up the traditional model broadcasting because you always wanted some measure to it.

STELTER: Right, and that's neutral. So how do you handle that, Daniel, on a daily basis?

DALE: I think you just call it out every time. I think what a serial liar like Trump counts on is his ability to wear us down, to wear us out. He knows that, you know, we might fact check it the first time or the second time, but he's going to say it 100 times.

Some of these false claims, these lies, he's told 100 times. And if we only -- if we let the other 98 go, then he wins with those 98. STELTER: That's why I like that you keep track of the number of times that he says the same falsehood. Here's another example we'll put on screen is the second facts first graph that we have. He talks about the U.S. deployments in Syria initially being just one month when in fact --

DALE: There was no timetable on it. I mean, the Obama administration and the Trump administration both declared that it would be a short- term deployment, but they never put a 30-day timetable on it like Trump has repeatedly claimed.

STELTER: Again and again. All right, Daniel, thank you. Erik, Elena, please stick around. A quick break here, and then the latest on the fallout of Fox News about Shep Smith. What are Fox viewers saying about Shep leaving the network?



STELTER: All right, Shep Smith has left the Fox building. Fox journalists are still troubled by his departure, but the network has not missed a beat. In fact, loyal Fox fans don't seem to miss him at all. In the words of one New Mexico man, it is great that he resigned.

Elaina Plott and Erik Wemple are back with me. And Erik interviewed Trump supporters from across the country who were here in D.C. this week. And that quote comes from your piece on the Washington Post Web site. There was a woman in Ohio who said to you, I always had to turn Shep off because he upset me so much.

WEMPLE: Right.

STELTER: I thought that said it perfectly.

WEMPLE: Well, you know, the Trump fans sound like Trump. Like, you know how oftentimes Trump used to bash CNN and then say, I don't watch CNN. It's the same -- it's the same dynamic they use. They say, oh, he's -- Shep is awful. He's a socialist. He's a lefty. He's a Liberal. He hates Trump. I never watched him.

That was very common refrain. But these people were actually very, very well informed about what Shep Smith stood for, and what he did, and when he broadcasted, how many years he have been in Fox News. These are extremely media conscious people.

STELTER: Fox conscious people.

WEMPLE: Fox conscious people, I should say. But they knew the other ones too. The point is that I feel that these folks could have really benefited from Shep Smith's journalism, but they were the first ones to turn him off. I think that's a really big deal. I think the other big deal is what you said before. You know, every time one of these cataclysms happens at Fox, some big news, some big bad news, we think oh, you know what's going to happen next and what happens next is they win the ratings.


STELTER: That's right. They roll right along. That's right. Let's talk about the most egregious media error of the week, in fact, one of the most in recent memory. This involves ABC News showing video from a gun range in Kentucky that they said was video of a slaughter in Syria. You can see it was labeled slaughter in Syria. It's actually from a Kentucky gun range.

Now, ABC says it regrets the error, but it has not explained what happened, what went wrong here. Elaina, why do you think that matters that the network has not addressed how this happened?

PLOTT: Because I think like any network right now and any group of journalists, you're trying to point out each day that you know, this President lies often. This President delivers misinformation. You cannot also be a purveyor of said misinformation if you feel your job is to call out the President of the United States for that.

STELTER: Even if it's an accident.

PLOTT: Of course, doubling more so to go above and beyond to explain what happened, the processes behind such an egregious error. I mean, I think it does a disservice to other reporters each day who do feel that their job is to go out and report the truth.

STETLER: Erik, an ABC source said to me, there will be consequences internally, but they won't say what that means?

WEMPLE: No. And I think they won't explain either exactly what happened. Becket Adams at the Washington Examiner has been aggressive really--

STELTER: Did a great work on this.

WEMPLE: Great work on this. And God bless them because this is important pressure to keep on ABC. And good for you for bringing up too because I think they just want this thing to blow over. And I think that they should explain what happened because all sorts of broadcast outlets, all sorts of, you know, YouTube outlets deal with footage and need to know how this mistake happened. Now, some people think it was not an accident, that this was intentional. I don't think true.

STELTER: I see no evidence on that.

WEMPLE: Yes. I see no evidence of that. And if it had been intentional, I don't think they would --

PLOTT: But we also don't have an explanation one way or the other.

WEMPLE: But I don't think they would have bailed on it if it had been intentional. So I do think that it was -- it was probably a mistake, but I think that they should explain how it happened because I think in this industry, journalism can only get better if we all know how the mistakes occurred in the first place.

STELTER: I'll have more on this in the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Erik, Elaina, thank you very much. A quick break here, and then the revelations from Catch and Kill that you haven't heard yet.



STELTER: Ronan Farrow's new book Catch and Kill has been top of the bestseller list all week long. It has a lot in there as you've heard all week long, including new allegations about Matt Lauer and NBC is handling of those allegations.

And now some former NBC employees, including Megyn Kelly and Linda Vester have spoken out. They've also written a letter to NBC's parent company Comcast demanding an outside investigation. Only -- there's been only internal investigations up until this point.

There's a lot more in Catch and Kill so let's get into it with Ronan Farrow. He's joining me right now. Congratulations on the book launch, Ronan. There are questions that I've been watching on television about NBC News about why they let you walk out the door with your Harvey Weinstein scoop. Is it possible this was just the classic extreme example of a push versus pull between you the reporter and your bosses, the editors, they just didn't think you had the goods because that's what NBC claims to this day?

RONAN FARROW, AUTHOR, CATCH AND KILL: So the reporting in the book, Brian, is very careful, it's very carefully fact-checked, and it's laid out in a very measured way that weaves in all of the responses that you've seen from NBC. And I'll let people judge for themselves based on the reporting in the book.

We're very confident, myself and the fact-checking team on this book. And what the book lays out clearly is that this was a company that in a period where they had previously maintained they had no secret settlements with sexual harassment survivors actually had at least seven.

We document how several of those were with executives who stayed at the company, people like Matt Lauer who stayed at the company, years after high-level people at this institution were talking about these individuals being a threat.

And that's bigger than NBC, Brian. That is about patterns of corporate cover-up behavior that allow people to get hurt. And yes, in some cases, both at CBS, which I reported on and you've done wonderful coverage of and at NBC and other companies that use those patterns of covering up behavior rather than addressing it, you something times do see it distort editorial coverage.

And the book lays out very clearly why this institution was so in a corner when Harvey Weinstein laid siege to them, and they did kill this reporting. STELTER: Now, NBC News says your book is a smear and that you have an ax to grind because you used to be a reporter there. My theory is that the reason why NBC is holding so firm on this is because the head of the company, Steve Burke doesn't want to give you a win, doesn't want to make it seem like there's anything wrong at NBC News.

There's been questions all week, why is the president of NBC News Noah Oppenheim still on the job? Why is the chairman Andy Lack still on the job? Well, the answer is Steve Burke, the head of the company still supports them. Are you surprised by that?

FARROW: You know, I'm a reporter and not an activist on this issue. So it's not for me to say what a given corporation should do in response to revelations like this, other than to say that they are very carefully vetted. And this company has now had to admit to things like this pattern of settlements.

They say it's a coincidence they were paying out these women and they happen to have these complaints. There's a lot of euphemisms used, but they've acknowledged things like secret settlements that they previously denied. They've acknowledged things like many, many secret calls with Harvey Weinstein during the killing of this story.

So, look, the reporting has withstood this scrutiny. Other journalists have rallied around it. Journalists within that building have rallied around it. They are anguished. They're wonderful reporters, and they want to see accountability and are asking tough questions.

All I can say is, I'm glad anytime when I rigorously interrogate the facts and put it out into the world. Yes, very often it gets a campaign in the press to pre-butt or undercut, it gets legal threats. You know, NBC Universal's legal department has reached out to the publisher. But all of these tactics fade away. In case of our --

STELTER: About what? What were they doing -- what were they doing by reaching out to the publisher?

FARROW: From square one, this is in the book. This is not a new revelation. NBC was issuing legal threats as well as these threats in the press and these efforts to kind of spin and downplay and put out misinformation. And that's typical. You know, that happened with CBS. It happens with just about every major story that I do.

You saw AMI, issue threats. Dylan Howard, the editor of the National Enquirer not happy about the revelations in this book, also very carefully fact-checked and managed to threaten booksellers in Australia until they withdrew this book from sale for a couple number of days. Now it's on sale there.

But the point being this is a standard playbook to kind of go up against the reporting in this way and see powerful people dig in. And in each case that I broken a story, while I can't say what should happen, Brian, I can say that I've been glad to see journalists cut through all of that and that's what's happening right now.


STELTER: And you're reporting about the National Enquirer and Dylan Howard and the allegation that there were documents shredded right before election day, how do you think what happened in 2016, with the Inquirer supporting Trump could impact 2020?

FARROW: We're at this moment, Brian, where the press is so embattled, many of your guests have talked about it today. We are subject to authoritarian rhetoric that describes us as the enemy of the people far from it. This is a constitutionally protected profession that is crucial to ensuring that people have information as they participate in a democracy. It's crucial to holding the powerful accountable.

And if we want to be a powerful instrument to do that, we have to check ourselves and clean house as well. We have to make sure that we are reporting the truth, that we're not becoming instruments of suppression. And in this last election cycle, we saw that happen. AMI became an instrument of suppression. We've seen that other organizations too and they're now asking tough questions.

STELTER: Ronan Farrow, thank you so much. The book is Catch and Kill. And by the way NBC News and the National Inquirer, they have been invited to be here. I would love for their representatives to join us on a future program.

That's all for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, but we are online at Sign up for our nightly newsletter there. And a reminder for tonight's special program 9:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN, a special report titled Scheme and Scandal: Inside the College Admissions Crisis. That's hosted by Fareed Zakaria. It's tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on CNN. I'll see you right back here this time next week.