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"Dueling Narratives" But Only One Is Fact-Based; Cancelled For Criticizing Trump On The Radio?; Is It Irresponsible To Speculate About Civil War?; Trump's Trip To Hospital Surprises Press Corps; Fox's Pete Hegseth Pushed For Controversial Pardons; Knight Foundation And Gallup Release Local News Study; J-School Dean: Time For A Campaign Of Media Literacy. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 17, 2019 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look of 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, President Trump's surprise trip to the doctor raises new concerns about his health and his staff's credibility. We're going to get into that.

Plus, a conservative radio host who says he was pulled off the air mid show because he was criticizing the president. He's going to join me for an exclusive interview about what happened.

And later, a sneak peek on a brand new report about local news and how to pay for the news that we all need.

But let me start with something positive for a change. Check out these inspiring words from a federal courtroom this week: Truth still matters. That's what a prosecutor from Trump's DOJ said in the closing arguments of Roger Stone's trial.

Michael Marando said, quote: I know we live in a world where Twitter, tweet, social media, where you can find any political view you want. However, in our institutions of self-government, courts of law, or committee hearings, where people under oath have to testify -- truth still matters.

Truth still matters, and the jury agreed and it ended up convicting Trump's longtime political adviser on seven counts.

Now, these prosecutors are just another one of those dedicated public servants that have been in the news this week. Of course, in the news, in the impeachment hearings, three of them, three government officials testified in the Trump impeachment inquiry. Many more coming up in the days ahead.

And right now, there are competing narratives about impeachment -- dueling echo chambers, "Axios" says; divergent worlds, "The Washington Post" says. But let's be clear about one thing. The narratives are not equally

true, not equally valid.

There are facts over here, like transcripts. And then there are some elaborate fictions. One narrative is grounded in witnesses, testimony under oath, transcripts, receipts, all of it. The other narrative is propped up by conspiracy theories, and grievances and a desperate desire to support President Trump 1,000 percent no matter what.

The witnesses have been debunked in some of these fictions, but to little avail. CNN's Daniel Dale sort of making a list and came up with 45 ways that Trump has been dishonest about Ukraine and impeachment, 45 different ways. That's remarkable.

But watch out for the false equivalencies. These are not equally valid narratives that are out there. Yes, there are alternative universes of information. Yes, they are these competing narratives but they are not equally true.

Don't take it from me. Take it from that DOJ prosecutor, truth still matters.

So, let's talk more about the truth and why it matters and what's been happening in the impeachment inquiry coverage. We have an incredible panel here in New York with me to talk about right wing media's reaction and so much more.

Nicole Hemmer, Dan Rather, Abigail Tracy are all here with me.

And I got to start with you, Dan, because you are our senior correspondent today. You've been watching history, along with the rest of us.

Do you feel that anything changed after these first two days of televised hearings?

DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV'S "THE BIG INTERVIEW": I think one thing has changed. It's becoming increasingly apparent that truth is closing in. Truth does matter. And there's been this feeling that the White House with this alternative narrative, a false narrative and with its allies in prime time on Fox was at least in a standoff with truth.

I think we've seen the last few days -- as you say, truth is beginning to close in. Facts are beginning to matter. The difference between facts and the truth, people under oath and the false narratives that have been put out in way of defense is beginning to tell.

Now whether it's making a deep enough impression on public opinion to convince enough in the Republican Party in power to begin to say to themselves, look, we have to fall in behind the truth, I have some doubts, which is to say the Republican Party as a whole and in particularly members of the Senate and the House in and Republican Party are standing with the president. They're complicit in what he's doing.

And as long as they are, then this false narrative in which it's very easy to give false equivalence --


RATHER: -- to the false narrative may yet reassert itself.

What I come back to -- for the first time I've had the feeling that truth is closing in. Facts are closing in. There's still a lot we don't know. I think in the succeeding, say, two to three weeks before Christmas, it's going to be decided whether there's a breakthrough with what we don't know yet that swings public opinion with enough pressure on enough Republicans to make this really interesting in the Senate, or whether it's a done deal, the House passes impeachment, Mitch McConnell and company kills it in the Senate very quickly and we move on.


STELTER: And let's see if we can come back to McConnell, because "SNL" has some jokes at his expense last night, but also some of the tactics from Trump's defenders, from right wing media.

Nicole Hemmer, you wrote the book "Messengers of the Right". You've studied this world.

I've been noticing from Fox this week, on the prime time shows, is a whole lot of name-calling, you know, the kind of stuff that will get you in trouble on the schoolyard.

Here are some examples of how the witness were attacked and taunted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bunch of professional nerds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're two homeless guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They look like people who sat by themselves at recess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marie Yovanovitch is not a victim. She's a professional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the end, the hearings sounded like a therapy session or an extended meeting with the HR department, the definition of hell.


STELTER: Is this the strategy, this basic name-calling?

NICOLE HEMMER, ASSOCIATE RESEARCH SCHOLAR AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I mean, it's one of the strategies, relying on ad hominem because you can't do anything about the facts to counter them. Others are to call the impeachment hearings boring, right?

If you're part of a network and an industry in which truth is conveyed as a form of ideology and a form of entertainment, then calling impeachment hearings boring is a basically to say like this isn't true, this doesn't matter, stop paying attention to this.

STELTER: Interesting. Yes, Eric Trump said on Fox, nobody watched. No one was watching. Obviously, many, many tens of millions of people consumed some parts of the hearings and we know that any average minute on the day on Wednesday, at least 13 million people were watching.

But, you know, they come up with these lies. They spread them. They say it's either bogus or like you said boring. The president is saying fake impeachment for a very real criminal inquiry -- political inquiry that has criminal ramifications.

Look, Nicole, you know, you wrote an essay for about this boring thing. Why do you think Fox, in particular, is pushing the notion that it's boring, because they do want people to tune in, don't they?

HEMMER: Right, and they know that people are going to tune in. So they're going to continue to air the impeachment hearings. They're going to continue to put things up on the screen to counter and discredit the witnesses during the hearings. So, they know people will tune in.

But if you call them boring, you say there's no "there" there, right?


HEMMER: People are waiting for the big bombshell moments like during the Watergate hearings. So, if they can convince you there's nothing new here, then why should anyone follow through with impeachment and removal?

STELTER: There's another tactic I've noticed, and that this reluctant -- this reliance on the single phone call. We keep hearing folks say it's all about single phone call.

Here are some examples we've seen on Fox this week of that claim.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, if this is all about the phone call where the president said, you know what, you're not going to get the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A different staffer claiming that the hearings won't make sense to regular people. No, because they read that there's nothing wrong with the phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not going to be that interesting because it's about a phone call. It's about a president doing his job.


STELTER: But as the banner says, this is much more about than a single phone call. You've been writing about this for "Vanity Fair's" "Hive". Why do you think there's this insistence on saying read the transcript, it's about a phone call when, in fact, this is about a month's long plot?

ABIGAIL TRACY, STAFF NEWS WRITER, VANITY FAIR'S HIVE: Well, exactly, this has been a pattern of behavior and arguments that you've seen coming from the GOP because they're refusing or, you know, choosing not to engage on the substance and particularly, you know, this massive deluge of revelations that we've seen come forward in these closed door testimonies and, you know, over the last week. You've really seen, you know, this narrative being built about this month's long pressure campaign that grew more and more insidious to try to pressure the Ukrainian government to try to help Donald Trump domestically in his political aspirations.

And so, it is a strategy, absolutely, to try to keep it narrow, to try to say it's just about this phone call when really we've seen this, you know, mountain of evidence just building over time, particularly over the last week.

STELTER: So, we have to keep repeating the basic facts in response to these fictions.

Let me show you "SNL" from last night because there was a joke about Mitch McConnell having already reached a conclusion about this. Here's how they portrayed McConnell.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, and the Senate has voted. Acquitted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This matter isn't even before the Senate yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sorry for the spoiler. Just tell me when I'm supposed to say it. Acquitted.


STELTER: Yes, exactly. Look, the fate of the Trump presidency is in Mitch McConnell's hands. We all know this is going to end up in the Senate.

Dan, you tweeted something that might be related to this. You said the other day, I've covered many cults. Some end with a bang, others with a whimper, but they invariably end. The question is how much damage they leave in their wake.

Is Mitch McConnell part of the Trump cult?

RATHER: Yes. I think the short answer is yes. And I'm not the only one making this observation that, increasingly, President Trump's support seems cultish. It's all about him. It's not about a policy. It's not about the standards of politics.

You know, Ronald Reagan had a very solid following but he stood for something in terms of policy.


Franklin Roosevelt, same way.

That these cults, it -- cults don't generally end well. There were people saying, well, it's too much to say it's a cult. But I don't think so, because the further we go, it is always all about him. It's not about a policy.

And, by the way, on the issue at hand, the impeachment thing -- this gets down to question of did he or did he not try to bribe a foreign government? Did he or did he not try to intimidate witnesses?

When I say history is closing in on him, and facts are closing in, I think, increasingly, people who pay attention, even people who really like him and people who perhaps were part of the cult have to say, yes, you know, it does look like he tried to bribe this foreign government. It does look like he's trying to intimidate witnesses. Whether that's enough to have a real trial in the Senate or not, I have my doubts.


All right. To the panel, please stand by, everybody. A quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES.

And then the top editor of "The Atlantic" magazine, he is standing by to talk about his new issue, which is titled "How to Stop a Civil War".

We're also going to go live to Denver to hear from a radio host who was fired 24 hours ago. Hear his shocking story, next.


STELTER: So what just happened in Denver? Salem Media's radio station 710 KNUS in Denver has some explaining to do.


On Saturday morning, a prominent Colorado lawyer, Craig Silverman, was hosting his usual Saturday morning show. Then, all of a sudden, the show stopped. Management cut off the show when he was in the middle of it, and he was essentially canceled. His website for the show has now been removed.

Now, he's got a day job. He loves being a lawyer, but this is intriguing, because he says he was cut off for criticizing President Trump. And we know that Salem Media has pressured some other radio hosts to toe a pro-Trump line. That's been the direction of the business.

So, let's talk about what's going on in right wing radio and what happens when you try to dissent. Craig Silverman is with me now from Denver. Craig, so you were cut off, you believe, because you were criticizing

the president?

CRAIG SILVERMAN, FORMER RADIO HOST, 710 KNUS: It's a little more complicated than that. I wrote a column expressing frustration about the things you were just speaking about.

STELTER: It's about impeachment?


SILVERMAN: -- inability of -- well, about my colleagues to not address this impeachment hearing. They would not address the facts and I wanted to do that.

Three hours every Saturday, I was covering the case. I had other media opportunities. I'm an independent contractor with Salem. And I took those.

They were frustrated about that. I was frustrated that we couldn't talk about the facts of the impeachment case and it all came to a head as I was excoriating Donald Trump on my show yesterday.

STELTER: But who was saying you couldn't talk about the facts of the case, about the impeachment?

SILVERMAN: Well, look, every host makes a decision about the content of their show. When you try to have a discussion, you come into words like sham, hoax, or let's talk about Horowitz, Huber or Durham. I said that's interesting. You can get that plenty elsewhere.

But on my show, we're going to talk about Ukraine, impeachment and the facts that the president is saying that does not add up.

STELTER: The president on Twitter, of course, saying that the impeachment is fake and all of that. There has been an attempt to ignore the story, I think, among some radio hosts. Look, we're living in a world where "The New York Times", impeachment is a six-column banner column headline. You listen to the radio and impeachment is boring, unimportant and doesn't matter.

It sounds like you were resisting that effort to downplay the importance of this historic event.

SILVERMAN: Absolutely. I thought Taylor and Kent were great. They laid the base.

I'm a trial attorney. I'm a former prosecutor. I know how to put on a case.

And Marie Yovanovitch, she inspired me. She was an outstanding witness. If nobody on radio talks about it, how are the American people going to understand?

STELTER: What's that about? What do you think that sort of attempt to put on the ear muffs is all about in right wing radio? SILVERMAN: I think they take their cues from the president. Rush

Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, they're the biggest talkers. At Salem, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager. I'm surprised they don't want to address the facts of this important and consequential matter.

And then the president of the United States has indicated certain words that need to be used.

Every week on my show for the five-plus years it was on, I would give an award for the best call of the week. I've given it for about six straight weeks for the president and his perfect call.


SILVERMAN: He keeps wants hosts and American people to say it's a perfect call. And I make fun of that, because it wasn't a perfect call. It's not a hoax. It's not a sham.

I'm really disturbed by words that could lead to violence like coup or civil war. Come on, people. Let's just analyze the facts.

STELTER: Hmm. So, I reached out to Salem Radio. I asked for comment, like 3:00 in the morning. I haven't heard anything back.

Have you heard from your former bosses?

SILVERMAN: No. I mean, it was pretty startling while I'm talking about the association of Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Roy Cohn. Right while I was making my points about that, the show went dark, program director came in, said, you're done.

I want to talk about these things and thanks for the opportunity to do it here. I'm sure I'll find another forum.

STELTER: You know, they have my email address if they want to get back to me for comment.

In the meantime, Craig, thank you so much. Best of luck with what you do next.

SILVERMAN: My pleasure.

STELTER: Up here next on RELIABLE SOURCES, Jeffrey Goldberg, the top editor of "The Atlantic." His issue is titled, "How to Stop a Civil War".

We'll talk about it, next.



STELTER: The American divide is a subject of this new issue of "Atlantic" magazine. Take a look at what's on the cover of the magazine. It's, by the way, a brand new redesign. But the real headline is at the bottom, saying "How to Stop a Civil

War." That invocation of a civil war is something we've heard quite often in the Trump years. To be clear, "The Atlantic" doesn't think it's 1850, that was the decade the inaugural issue was published. Their editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, says this is not the 1850s, but the divide is real, there's a sense that the nation is drifting apart and it needs to be addressed.

Jeffrey Goldberg is joining me now from Washington to talk about this new December issue and a lot more.

Jeffrey, the invocation of civil war, which we do hear quite a bit these days on both the left and the right, there's an argument to be made that it's inappropriate to even talk this way.

Why did you all feel it was worth pursuing now?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: Oh, I don't think it's inappropriate at all. I mean, we did this, in part, for historical reasons. As you note, we were founded in 1857, at a time of intense national fracturing, to deal with the issues that were causing that fracturing.

Abraham Lincoln was one of our first subscribers. So, we're very mindful of the history and meaning and purpose of "The Atlantic" to sort of be the magazine of the American idea. And so, you know, as you note correctly, we don't think it's 1861 right now.


We don't even think it's the 1850s. But something has gone off the rails here. And I think to acknowledge that is not to exacerbate it. I think to acknowledge it is to actually begin to deal with the underlying causes because as I argue in this in the editor's note at the beginning of the issue, this is -- this is bigger than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a symptom of a larger issue, of American disuniting, of mutual contempt that has replaced mutual respect, the idea that we share a common narrative and even as you point out on this show very frequently, a common set of facts.

And so, we recruited, you know, 25 or so great writers to go at this issue from all angles, everybody from Jim Mattis to Lin-Manuel Miranda to Tara Westover -- really, really smart pieces. Yoni Appelbaum, Daniel Allen from Harvard.

Brilliant pieces and I hope everybody reads them and has a better understanding of where we are.

STELTER: In your interview with Westover, she talks about an experience gap in American life that's become an empathy gap.


STELTER: What is the experience gap?

GOLDBERG: The experience gap is this. She comes out of Idaho, obviously. She lives in New York now. She's in a perfect place to understand how both sides don't understand each other.

And what happens is parochialism sets in, not just on the rural side of the divide, but on the urban side, too. She argues to me that New Yorkers are more parochial in some ways, than people in Idaho. They don't know anyone who is not like them, is the point.

And what happens is you begin to lose, first, a sense of what other people's lives are like and then the natural follow-through is that you begin to lose empathy with their stories and their hardships. And so, you reduce everyone to one or two qualities -- one or two qualities that you might learn about them on, let's say, highly partisan cable news shows, you know, on certain other networks.

And then there you are. You no longer feel like your country is their country and vice versa. And so, and so, one of the arguments in this issue is, you know, we have to begin to replace contempt with some level of understanding and some attempt to understand why people think the way they think.

STELTER: We've got to stop viewing each other as caricatures.

And social media is a part of that problem. There's also a piece in this issue that I want to highlight about how social media warps our democracy and there are three suggestions here at end of the piece, three types of reform the writers propose, number one, to reduce the frequency and intensity of public performance so people stop dunking on each other all day.


STELTER: Number two, reduce the reach of unverified accounts that often times are trolls or bots. And number three, reduce the contagiousness of low-quality information. I wondered what you thought about that, low-quality information and how it spreads on line, the idea that the lie spreads faster than the truth.

GOLDBERG: Right, right, the lie escapes into the atmosphere before you know it existed.

Look, we are living inside right now James Madison's nightmare -- Madison, the framer of the Constitution, right? He was extremely worried when he was writing the Constitution, working on the Constitution that our cognitive capacity is we're going to be overwhelmed by the coming rise of the daily newspaper, that once a day delivery of information was too much for us and that one of the things that worked in favor of indirect democracy, representative democracy was geographic dispersal.

It took time for people to get information, process information, to think about the information and then make decisions about it. Now there's no time at all. We are instantly able to communicate with everyone around the world in a flash. There's no time for thought. There's no time for verification.

And so, it's very sensible piece is arguing that -- and, you know, we've talked about this on the show in the past. Social media platforms, are they merely the telephone company or do they have some kind of responsibility to keep bad information, information we universally understand to be bad for individuals, bad for society and bad for democracy -- a way to tamp that down so good information can rise?

STELTER: And it's a struggle, and it's daily struggle. And, you know, whether the forums are doing enough is a very open question.

Jeffrey, thank you so much. The December issue of "The Atlantic" is out on newsstands now.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

STELTER: Quick break here and then a question that I wish we didn't have to ask. Can we believe anything this White House says? We'll talk about why that matters, next.



STELTER: It is times like these when the White House really needs to have credibility. Times like these when the President suddenly turns up at Walter Reed Military Hospital, sparking concerns about his health and rumors about what's really going on.

This was a Saturday afternoon visit to Walter Reed. It was not publicly announced ahead of time, nor was it scheduled in advance, the source tells CNN. So it surprised the press and it also evidently surprised the medical staff. So there are some serious questions here.

Trump returned home after a couple of hours. Maybe the White House is telling the truth, the whole truth by saying this was just a routine checkup, just a jumpstart on his annual physical. Now that sounds unusual, but maybe that's the truth. Maybe Trump is in great shape. Hopefully, that is the case. Hopefully, all as well.

But the White House squandered much of its credibility at the very beginning of Trump's tenure, and hasn't regained it by any stretch. So we can't cover these stories like it's business as usual. This is not business as usual. This is an administration that makes up crowds and draws squiggly lines on maps and tells you not to believe your own eyes and ears.

Just this week, we found out that April's press release about Trump's first call with the newly elected President of Ukraine was inaccurate. The press release knows a readout claim to the two leaders agreed to work together to root out corruption. But the rough transcript of the call showed that there was no mention of corruption.

And now there's a fight over who was at fault for that. But the point is that the White House gives us new reasons to distrust almost every day. So skepticism is not just understandable, it's not just acceptable, it is necessary. At this point, it is actually irresponsible to just take Trump at his word. He gets numbers and facts and names and words wrong and he actively

misleads the public and he expects his aides to do the same thing. This is all disappointed, I know. But as the Daily Beast's Sam Stein wrote this morning, "When you've burned all of your credibility on big, medium, and petty matters, you will lose the benefit of the doubt on the important stuff." Yes, important stuff like the wellness of the Commander-i-Chief.


Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is why public officials shouldn't lie to you. And right now, Stephanie Gresham says she is not lying. She keeps going on Fox shows instead of briefings. She was on with Jeanine Pirro on Saturday night. She told Pirro that Trump is healthy as can be.

When I tweeted out a quote from the show with Grisham saying this was just a routine visit to Walter Reed, Grisham replied to me. Here's what she said. She said, "Thank you. Thank you for helping me get the correct information out. Further speculation beyond the extensive and honest info I've put out is wholly irresponsible and dangerous for the country."

You know what else is dangerous? This administration's culture of dishonesty. Let's talk about that now with the panel here in New York, Nicole Hemmer, Dan Rather, Abigail Tracy back at the table. Abigail, this situation with Walter Reed, again, I don't definitely do not want to speculate. I know there's ridiculous conspiracy theories on Twitter that are bunch of bull.

We got to hope everything's fine, and maybe everything's fine. But this White House makes it hard to trust. That's the problem, I think.

TRACY: Absolutely. There's absolutely been an erosion in their credibility time and time again. We've seen this where they issue a statement that then later proves to be false. So I do think everything they say or do does require that scrutiny and does require that microscope.

And, you know, moving forward, I think it's reasonable that journalists are, you know, putting that scrutiny on the White House.

STELTER: Yes. I think they can -- they can answer some more questions and perhaps provide doctors to talk about why he's doing this annual physical early. Dan, does this remind you of anything from past presidents?

RATHER: It does. When the Watergate news was really tightening on Richard Nixon (INAUDIBLE). He leaked out that he had an examination for flu virus in his way. It right at the moment when history was catching up with him, when truth were closing in on him, and he had this strange flu virus incident which they leaked out was an obvious effort to get sympathy.

That was in Nixon's time. With President Trump, you've hit it right on the head. The Press Secretary can't argue about, well, listen, take us at word when she and the rest of the White House, including the President himself, have been so untrustworthy, so loose with the truth, and opposite of the truth. You can't have it both ways.

And I'm reminded with Lincoln's word, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

STELTER: All the time.

RATHER: Which is what President Trump has been attempting to do.

STELTER: Let's turn to a couple of other stories that I think when a little bit under-covered because of all the impeachment news. Nicole Hemmer, the headline about the President issuing pardons to these accused war criminals, Fox's Pete Hegseth was one of the loudest champions of these pardons and he's been celebrating them all weekend long on Fox.

We can put up some of the headlines about Hegseth wanting to see this happen. What do you make of this Fox feedback loop when it comes to pardons for members of the military?

So this has actually been incredibly important. Hegseth hasn't just been talking about this on Fox News, he's been talking about it in private meetings with the President. He's another of the President's Fox News advisors who's talking to him behind the scenes.

HEMMER: And other people have gone on Fox News to appeal for pardons as well and have gotten them like Scooter Libby and other folks who've been pardoned throughout the administration. So it's quite a regular. It cuts out the Office of the Pardon Attorney. And it just shows again, the power of Fox News and the governing role that Fox News has taken on.

STELTER: Yes. Speaking of pardons, Roger Stones fans are now lobbying for a pardon for Stone. One of his biggest fans is Alex Jones on Infowars, was actually urging Infowars viewers to call the White House switchboard. What do you make of that Abigail?

TRACY: I think it's, you know, part of the same pattern. People have recognized that the best way to get the President's ears are through these platforms, whether it's Fox News, but also through Alex Jones' show. And you really sort of seen that part in pipeline happening and these people making these please for these individuals. So I think it's absolutely expected. You know --

STELTER: Yes. Roger Stone's daughter was on Tucker Carlson show --

TRACY: Right, exactly.

STELTER: -- asking the president right into the camera asking for a pardon. It's upside-down world, but I guess it's normal at this point.

TRACY: Yes. It has absolute Fox News and Infowars have really become this informal platform to pitch the President on pardons. And I think it's undeniable at this point.

STELTER: And the last --

RATHER: Just think about it, if I may, this question of can the president pardon himself, is a question that's not being asked nearly often enough, because the answer is a little vague whether the President could indeed pardon himself.

STELTER: Well, let's put that out for a minute and contemplate that. I want to ask you about one other story, Dan, that I hope doesn't get overlooked. And that is the Southern Poverty Law Center obtaining these e-mails from Stephen Miller, now a top Trump aide, back when he would e-mail stories to Breitbart and trying to get anti-immigrant headlines out there.

He was picking up on white nationalist Web sites. He was sharing links from really racist Web sites. And the White House is basically just shrugging this off.

RATHER: Well, they attempt to shrug it off at the same time they say don't pick on the president, don't say that he's racist himself. But racist is as racist does. And they can -- again, this business of trying to have it both ways it worked for a while. But again, I think this is the beginning where we're very thin and beginning to come back to haunt them a bit.

These kinds of revelations of which we didn't have for a long time come right back to you. You right these kinds of things. You have to expect that people want to question where you stand on race. And if you are president and you have these kinds of people around you, you can expect people say you are employing racist people to implement racist policies.


STELTER: Dan Rather, Nicole Hemmer, Abigail Tracy, thank you all for being here. A quick break and then a RELIABLE SOURCES exclusive about something that matters to all of us. We have the first look at a new survey about how to help local news survive.


STELTER: Do you value local news or grown up by this way? Are you willing to pay for it? According to a new study by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, only one in five Americans currently subscribe or donate in some form to local news outlets.

Now most Americans, 76 percent in this survey do say they need the local news in order to be informed. But look, we all know it, print papers are shrinking and shutting down in this digital age and there are growing concerns about how to meet the information needs of communities.

So let's talk more about that. We have a sneak peek at this new report. Jennifer Preston is with me now. She's the Vice President of Journalism at the Knight Foundation. And she happened to be my cubicle mate at the New York Times back in the day. Good to see you, Jennifer.



STELTER: So we've talked about this for a long time, how to help local news thrive in this digital age. And this new report from Knight and Gallup which is going to actually come out tomorrow, it finds that most Americans know that local news is important, but they also think that these businesses are doing better than they are there. There's a lack of awareness about the perilous state of local news. So what is the problem? How do we help people understand it?

PRESTON: Well, the first thing that we need to do is for people to understand that local newspapers are vanishing across the country. Since 2004, 1,400 newspapers have disappeared. 200 counties across the country have no newspaper at all. And we know that newspapers have traditionally provided the original reporting that local communities need to hold local officials accountable, to be informed about how they should vote.

STELTER: Yes. Look at this -- the result from the polls. It's 59 percent of those surveyed say they know that their local paper is an important source and symbol of civic pride. So what efforts are underway that are really inspiring to you, the Knight Foundation is helping fund in some cases, to try to restore local news?

PRESTON: Let me give you three great examples that have just happened in the last few weeks. Number one in Utah, the Huntsman family won a historic ruling from the IRS that allows Paul Huntsman to turn the Salt Lake Tribune, 148-year-old newspaper into a nonprofit organization. That is a precedent that is going to create a future and a path forward for many newspaper owners.

STELTER: OK, I understand. So other papers may go nonprofit in that way. So what are they up to?

PRESTON: Absolutely. So want November 1st. This is a matching gifts campaign for more than 200 nonprofit news organizations across the country. And what newsmatch does, it matches donations to these nonpartisan, independent, nonprofit organizations that are filling critical gaps.

STELTER: I just pulled this up. This is actually really cool. I have not used this before, So you can donate to these outlets, and it's matched.

PRESTON: Absolutely. You can find 200 outlets there to support and foundation sections Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, the Rita Allen Foundation will match that contribution.

STELTER: So I think what you're saying is there are some reasons to be optimistic or be hopeful, even though we all -- we all see our local papers shrinking. PRESTON: I think it's very important for everyone to understand that there's a real crisis in local journalism. And most people believe that the best journalism serves communities. And what is the answer for the community, to support the journalism.

STELTER: Jennifer, thank you so much. Great to see you.

PRESTON: Thank you.

STELTER: Your report from Knight and Gallup will be out tomorrow but I have a story about it up on And after the break, another story about papers, this time about campus newspapers, two controversies recently. Hear from the Dean of Northwestern University from the prestigious J school there who says it's time for a campaign for media literacy.



STELTER: So why did this student newspaper apologize for doing journalism? The stories about this article from Northwestern University's paper, the paper covered on-campus speech by Jeff Sessions. There were lots of protesters there. And the protesters were angry that their photos were published by the paper and shared online. The activists said this was harmful to them. The paper got so much hate mail and ended up apologizing just for committing acts of journalism.

Now, this apology went viral on social media, the backlash was on media, journalists across the country slammed the decision to publish an apology. And that's when administrators at the university stepped in, the well-known J-School Medill is there at Northwestern. And the Dean of the middle school, Charles Whitaker wrote an incredible long open letter defending the student's rights to you know, make mistakes, to be students, to learn from their mistakes. Here's what he told me about what was going on on campus.


CHARLES WHITAKER, DEAN, MEDILL SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: I wanted to remind people of what journalism is and I wanted to invite the protesters who were so vicious online to the students to engage in a conversation with us about what journalism is and about what they can expect when they decide to mount a very public protest. They should expect to be covered.


STELTER: Yes, they should. And this is not just about Northwestern either. You know Harvard's legendary campus paper, the Harvard Crimson recently came under criticism for its coverage of a student protest at Harvard's Campus, a protest against ICE. The Crimson asked for comment from ICE and that is what ticked off activists.

Now, the Crimson's editor has issued a letter defending what they do, defending their work, and the journalistic standard of requesting comment. I asked Whitaker if he sees connections between these two cases, and he said, yes.


WHITAKER: It actually underscores the need for us to embark on a campaign of media literacy. I think the public is quite unaware of what journalism is, what our processes are, what it means to be balanced.

The public thinks of journalism as advocacy and many of our students when they start thinking of journalism as advocacy as well. And we quickly try to disabuse them of that notion. But the public thinks that, you know, I think in this era where so much of our media is balkanized and partisan and very much perspective driven, the public thinks that that's as it should be, and you're either with us or against us.

And if you somehow turn to someone who may have an opposing opinion, then that means you are siding with them and you are against us. Or again, if you are depicting images that don't present us in the best light no matter how accurate they are, that somehow is an intrusion and a violation.

We've got to work at doing a better job of educating. And it starts -- maybe it starts with our campuses. It probably starts even in elementary school. We've got to do a better job of explaining to people how journalism works. We think people understand it. They actually have no idea.



STELTER: I think the dean is right about that. And I think his letters really important. It's up on the Northwestern Web site. Clearly, these student editors made a mistake, but college papers are for that. They are labs for learning. That's what they should be. When national news outlets start screaming about campus craziness, they're just making a bad situation worse.

It's important to let students be students and learn from their mistakes and try to guide them in the right direction, rather than just making fun of them and dunking on them. Anyway, you can check out my full conversation with Dean Whitaker on our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. We talked about it in great depth and it's up on

That is where our media coverage continues all the time. You can sign up for our nightly newsletter there as well. It comes out six days a week. It's totally free, wrapping up all the world's media news. And quick reminder here, the CNN coverage of what is a White House in crisis continues here at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Chris Cuomo is anchoring this Sunday night special, White House in Crisis, The Impeachment Inquiry. We'll see you right back here this time next week. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)