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Impeachment Reinforced Two Competing Universes Of Info; Will Hannity Fumble Super Bowl Sit-Down With Trump?; Impeachment Overshadowing Iowa Caucuses?; Blind Spots In Beltway Coverage Of 2020; Maintaining Trust In Political Polling; Traditional News Values Versus Social Media Chaos. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired February 02, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: New Canadian fathers do indeed get paid leave. Our bad.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. This is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, on this Super Bowl Sunday. We have a sneak peek of Sean Hannity's big Super Bowl interview with Donald Trump.
Plus, the pivot to Iowa. How impeachment has taken the limelight away from the Democratic race. We're going to go live to Des Moines with three reporters who are there on the beat.
And, later, how the news coverage of Kobe Bryant's death is sparking a necessary conversations about journalistic ethics and also about Twitter etiquette.
Lots of news coming up.
But, first, the ayes have it -- impeachment and Iowa are competing for attention.
Trump's trial in the Senate is expected to end in the coming days. It's going to end in a whimper, not a bang, with GOP senators saying the proper remedy is at the ballot box, not in the form of removal from office.
The news coverage reminds me of this guy. Yes, this guy, because today is aptly Groundhog Day, perfect timing. Just as Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again in the classic 1993 film, it seems like we are going to be reliving this political dynamic every single day until the general election.
So, what did we learn of the Senate trial? Well, for one thing, stonewalling works. For another thing, those leaks coming from John Bolton's forthcoming book, well, they did stoke preorder sales, but they didn't change many senators' minds. We learned a lot of things. We learned the Democrats are pretty
effective at counterprogramming talking points by going on TV. They were all over Fox News actually, trying to win in the court of public opinion even though they were losing inside the Senate chamber.
We also learned, speaking of Fox, that right wing media, the same outlets that fed Trump those Ukraine conspiracy theories that led him up to the impeachment cliff, those same outlets also kept him from falling off. They protected Trump and pressured GOP senators to stick to party lines. That's what this is all about. Sean's message to Mitt Romney, that's what those all about.
At the same time, they focused on Joe Biden. They focused on the Biden family. Media scholar Nicole Hemmer explained this so well in a recent op-ed. She said it's all about scandalizing and minimizing.
Right wing hosts, they minimize Trump's misconduct and they scandalize his opponents, over and over again. That's why on right wing radio, you'll hear all about the, quote, Biden crime family, and you will keep hearing it for as long as Biden is on the campaign trail.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham vows to keep it going. He said, this is just the beginning of oversight of the Bidens.
So, what have we learned? Well, we've learned that -- no, we've (ph) learned, we're relearned that two Americas are coexisting, uneasily, into totally different information universes. What you learned about Trump and Biden depended on what you read, and what you read depended on what you ultimately cared about most.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy wrote about this. He had something to say about this to "The New York Times." He said: This trial in so many ways crystallized the completely diametrically opposed threats that Democrats and Republican see to the country.
Murphy said: We, meaning Democrats, the Democrats perceive Donald Trump and his corruption to be an existential threat to the country. Now, he says they, the Republicans, perceive the deep state and the liberal media to be an existential threat to the country.
He went on to say: That dichotomy, that contrast has been growing over the last three years. But this trial really crystallized that difference. He says: We were just speaking different languages, fundamentally different languages when it came to what this trial was about.
Murphy concluded by saying: They, Republicans, thought about it was about the deep state and the media conspiracy. We thought it was about the president's crimes.
Is Murphy right? Is that what this is about?
Let's begin to talk about it with a incredible selection of guests, beginning with the professor of political history at Princeton University, he's a CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer. Also here with us, journalist, lawyer and weekly columnist for CNN.com, Jill Filipovic. And legendary journalist Sam Donaldson, ABC's main Watergate correspondent. He was, of course, at the White House during the Clinton impeachment as well.
Sam, your reaction now to the end -- almost the end of the Trump impeachment.
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know it to be this way. I mean, there's no surprise here. I think from the very beginning, Nancy Pelosi was right. Let's not have an impeachment which is going nowhere, thanks to the Republican senators. Let's have an election and put all the effort into that.
I think no one is going to be surprised by what happens this coming week -- they're going to vote, they're going to acquit him, he's going to trumpet it that his victory is sincere and complete. And the people watching Fox will believe that, and the people not watching Fox will not believe that. And that's where we are.
STELTER: Same as it ever was.
So, Julian Zelizer, is that -- what history is going to say?
What are the history books going to say?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's going to say two things. One, this is an important chapter in the imperial presidency. We just -- we see how aggressive a president can be if they want to go there. And at the same time, we're going to see where partisanship has brought the Republican Party. In the end, this is a story not just about President Trump. It's about the Republicans in the Senate, who lived with this, they accepted this, and ultimately, they protected the president. And we will remember that a hundred years from now.
STELTER: Jill, what are the top media takeaways, I mean, about how this trial has been covered?
JILL FILIPOVIC, WEEKLY COLUMNIST, CNN.COM: Yes, I think one thing that I'm troubled by is discussing this as if it's kind of a both sides problem.
FILIPOVIC: You know, you have a right wing media apparatus, you have a liberal media apparatus and what you believe depends on where you get your news. I'm not sure that's right.
I think we have a propaganda apparatus, and I think we have a media apparatus that is trying to tell the truth and tell the whole story.
And what I think is particularly fascinating is how much that right wing propaganda apparatus has become so deeply intertwined with Trumpism, that it only primed the audience for Trump to rise to power, but it's now repeating the kind of Trump-Roy Cohn playbook of lie, disseminate misinformation, you know, like the quote that you had on the screen, you know, minimize, deny and essentially project what you're doing onto someone else.
And to see how tremendous and effective that has been and to see not only right wing media but now also Republican senators and Republicans politicians also jump on board, it's terrifying. And I don't know where we go from there to come up -- you know, to come to this kind of universal, national agreed upon truth.
STELTER: But do you think Chris Murphy has a point when he says -- when the senator says, look, you know, everybody is afraid of something in this situation, Democrats are afraid of President Trum, Republicans are afraid of what they think is the deep state and a media conspiracy? It is a -- like that's real. Murphy is right, is he?
FILIPOVIC: I think he's absolutely right.
But I think when you look at -- which fears are legitimate? To me, Democrats are looking at, you know, we have a president who I think is honestly quite hard to deny has done some serious acts of wrongdoing in office.
And then you have Republicans who are essentially fearmongering about this kind of -- sort of, somewhat invented deep state and liberals that are undermining our values and immigrants who are coming in, and we need to build a wall. And there are so much -- trying to win on this politics of fear of change.
Whereas, Democrats are looking at the state of the country and saying, how can we make sure that our republic maintain its values, how can we make sure that we live out our obligations to our Constitution?
But they're two really, really different things and very different motivations -- yes, both sides fear something. Those fears are not equally legitimate.
STELTER: Sam Donaldson, in that environment, what's your advice for the press?
DONALDSON: Well, the press has to keep on doing its job. I mean, all of the press that tries to find facts.
Many, many years ago, "The Herald Tribune" in New York was a newspaper for the Republicans, conservatives. They took the facts and said they mean this. And "The New York Times" took the same facts and said no, it means that and we had an argument.
Today, we still have journalists, thank goodness, who look for facts and occasionally make a mistake, try to put them out to the public, and say, please, look at this and use them.
And then we have Fox and we have Alex Jones, and we have, hey, Facebook, non-journalists putting out the same type of propaganda based on nothing.
So, there's no equivalency and I'm just saying to the journalists who are looking for facts and distribute them -- keep fighting, keep going and don't be afraid. (CROSSTALK)
STELTER: Sam -- Julian, go ahead.
ZELIZER: I mean, the press was very relevant in the gap between the House voting on impeachment and the end of this trial. A lot of the news came out of the news.
STELTER: Totally, the leak about Bolton's book.
ZELIZER: And they shut down the information-gathering process. That's what happened. They didn't want to hear the information.
But the Parnas interviews, the stories about Bolton reminds us that the press still plays that Watergate era role and we shouldn't forget of its power, even with all the dysfunction we see every day.
STELTER: Everybody, standby. Let's continue the conversation in just a moment here.
We want to get to London for some breaking news out of south London. The Metropolitan Police are confirming that a man had been shot by an armed officers and what they are calling a terrorist related incident.
Let me tell you what we know so far from CNN's London bureau. The man, who was shot, this suspected terrorist, had been announced dead.
The police say, quote: At this stage, it is believed a number of people have been stabbed. The circumstances are being assessed; this incident has been declared as terrorist-related.
It mentioned that this person was shot dead, there are images of him dead on the street.
And we just have this from the Met Police as well, saying they believe there have been two other injuries. So, two injured victims who were apparently stabbed by this perpetrator, on a very busy shopping street there in London. This happened in the early afternoon in London, and police are now on the scene.
CNN will continue to monitor this story. We'll have updates on CNN.com as well.
Up next here on this special day, it is 02022020.
We're going to look at the Super Bowl Sunday interview, it is a tradition for the president to sit down with the journalists. But this year, he sat down with Sean Hannity. We'll have a clip in a moment.
STELTER: All right. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. We are counting down to the Super Bowl. We got a lot of shot there of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
At the same time the Super Bowl is being played, this final impeachment trial vote is looming on Wednesday.
And what we are seeing is political football brewing. Let me tell you why. There will be campaign ads during tonight's big game. There will be a pre-show chat between President Trump and Sean Hannity.
And here's why that's notable. Here's why it's notable that Hannity is the doing this year's Super Bowl Sunday pre-show interview with the president. It was Barack Obama who started this tradition more than a decade ago, and Trump kept it going, and he sat with Bill O'Reilly in 2017 back when O'Reilly was still on Fox. And last year, he sat down with Margaret Brennan of Fox.
So the job usually goes to news anchor.
Yes, O'Reilly was a Trump pal, but he at least kept a little distance and asked Trump some difficult questions.
Hannity is different. He and Trump are allies and buddies and collaborators. Hannity is a provocateur, an entertainer and frankly a propagandist on behalf of the president. That's why he's landed so many of Fox's interviews with President Trump.
But this right now is a pivotal moment for Hannity to be sitting down with the president.
Let's bring my guests back in, Julian Zelizer, Jill Filipovic and Sam Donaldson.
We have a clip from the chat and we'll get to that in a moment.
But, first, Sam, to you, the kind of -- the notion that the president's first big interview after the Senate decides no to call additional witnesses is going to be with Sean Hannity, how does that sit with you, Sam?
DONALDSON: Well, what a witches' brew we have here -- Trump, Hannity and the Super Bowl. I mean, nothing like this like the ancient Roman and Roman circus have we seen, and what're going to have is exactly that. Hannity being a sycophant, and Trump will preen, he will -- if he gets really upset, he'll get unhinged.
I think people who watch him who might still be in the middle, not on the one side or the other, will say, what's happening here? Who's this? It is a strange fellow. They may not vote for him.
STELTER: That's interesting. You know, I do think -- I don't have any expectations that Hannity is going to ask tough questions.
But there was a clip that came out this morning. This is the first clip decided to release, and it's of Hannity doing a lightning round with Trump where he names various people and has Trump make fun of them.
Here's a clip about Mike Bloomberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Michael Bloomberg?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very little. I just think of little. You know, now, he wants a box for the debate to stand on. OK. It's OK. There is nothing wrong.
You can be short. Why should he get a box to stand on, OK? He wants a box for the debates. What should he be entitled to that? Really? Does that mean everybody gets a box?
HANNITY: I guess that they (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Well, the other thing, it's very interesting, Cory Booker and all these people could not get any of the other things Bloomberg is getting. I think it's unfair for the Democrats. But I would love to run against Bloomberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: OK, there is a few things to say. Number one, this is one of my all time favorite banner, Sam, despite Trump's claim, there is no evidence that Bloomberg is asking to stand on a box and there's nothing wrong standing on the boxes, by the way. Some of the candidates do that debate so that the camera angle makes sense.
And let me say one more thing which is, is this the state of the GOP where we sit there and make fun of other people, is that all this is now?
DONALDSON: Can I just say a word about Bloomberg? People say to me, he's trying to buy the election with all of his money.
Yes, in a way, like Sheldon Adelson and all the fat cats who are putting money, thanks to Citizens United, into organizations trying to get the election for Donald Trump.
Money talks. I rather have Bloomberg's money straight from him and no corruption rather than the money from Sheldon from gambling in Las Vegas.
STELTER: You know, Karen Tumulty of "The Post" jokes that Bloomberg could stand on his big pile of money and that'll be his way of gaining some heights.
Look, I think what's going on, Jill, is president had seen Bloomberg's ads, Bloomberg is putting so much money on TV, Trump has seen, and it's getting under Trump's skin. The president tweeted three times about Michael Bloomberg.
And Bloomberg isn't going to be on the Iowa caucus, you know, it's an option.
So, is this just kind of proof that the president is so obsessed with TV that he reacts to these TV ads? Is that what this is really about?
FILIPOVIC: Yes, I think that's a big part of it. I mean, this is an incredibly thin skinned president who prioritizes being out in front of audiences, cheered on, enable, being kind of patted on the head, like, you know, like a child.
And so, to see, you know, this phase where he feels like he's doing this pre-Super Bowl interview, he should be the star, to see someone else coming into what he seems to view as his territory, of course, it's throwing him off and, of course, it's making him angry. It is so sad and pathetic to see Fox News enabling this very small man to go on television and sit down with his pal and kind of makes fun of the other guys.
STELTER: Yes, make fun of them.
CNN's Cristina Alesci is texting me saying that Bloomberg campaign put out a strong statement. Here's Julie Wood, the Bloomberg press secretary said: The president is lying, he's a pathological liar, he lies about everything, his fake hair, his obesity and his spray on tan.
I mean, it is only February 2nd and we have a long way to go in this primary process.
Julian, we're going to see these campaigns during the Super Bowl tonight. Bloomberg has got a 30-second ad, Trump had two 30-second ads, which means they're both paying 11 million bucks a piece to be on the Super Bowl.
What does it say, historically, all of a sudden, these campaign ads during, you know, America's informal holiday, you know, a day where everybody enjoys football.
ZELIZER: It's not an informal holiday anymore. And it's going to be a political arena.
I would add, don't underestimate what he's doing.
We just had a discussion a few days after the president went through this impeachment trial, is still waiting to formally be acquitted. The Iowa caucuses are about to happen and what are we talking about? Him making disparaging remarks about Mike Bloomberg and his physical being.
That's what he's going to do now between November, and I do think it's something Democrats are going to have to figure out. And so, tonight is the launch of his campaign and he is going to do it on the Super Bowl, and he will do it with Fox. And this is the kind of campaign we're going to see.
Democrats might talk about policy. He's going to talk about exactly what we're hearing.
STELTER: Yes, it's going to be long.
Panel, thank you very much. Thanks for being here.
I want go give you an update on our lead story from last week, that was the State Department's targeting of National Public Radio.
You will recall that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bristled at NPR host Mary Louise Kelly's questions about the Ukraine scheme, and then berated her and curse and challenge her to find Ukraine on a map.
After that blowup, the State Department then decided to remove NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kelemen from Pompeo's big trip this week. She was no longer given a seat on the plane.
The group that represents State Department reporters protested the move and said it seems like retaliation, which it obviously did some like that.
So, on Monday, NPR sent a letter to Pompeo demanding answer, wanted to know why this happened, who decided, provide the documents, et cetera, et cetera. The head of NPR says: These are serious issues at stake, access to those in power is fundamental to our ability to do our jobs. That's bigger than NPR. It's about the role of journalism in America.
He's right and that's why I want to make sure you have the latest on this because Pompeo did leave for his trip. He's been traveling all throughout Europe, et cetera. NPR was not on board. In fact, there were no radio reporters on board.
And when Pompeo was asked about this, he brought up Kelly and said he hopes that Kelly finds peace. This came on the heels of President Trump basically backstopping Pompeo, praising Pompeo's toughness. I guess that's what we thought it was.
Now, as of today, it's now Sunday, this has been going on for a week. NPR tells me they still have not heard back from Pompeo about Kelemen was removed from the plane. Still no words, still no answers, even though, of course, this is all with your taxpayer money.
Look, the big point here, is that, you've got the situation where the president, some of his supporters, want to see these media attacks happening. It's ridiculous. And we got to continue to call it out.
Reporters always find a way. Let me tell you, look who broke the news on Friday about former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch retiring? Who broke the news about that? NPR'S Michelle Kelemen and Mary Louise Kelly. Scoops are the best revenge.
All right. Quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES. We're going to get out to Iowa in a moment, live to Des Moines for a pivot to primary and caucus coverage asking this question, how is the impeachment trial affected coverage of the Iowa caucuses? Three reporters on the ground will join me in just a moment.
STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.
We call that thing at the corner of the screen the gizmo. There it is, Iowa caucus coverage being previewed. But up until now, Iowa has been completely overshadowed by the impeachment drama or a non-drama in D.C.
Just look at this data, up until this weekend, Monday's caucuses barely made national news on the nightly newscast. Andrew Tyndall keeps account of the network nightly news broadcast. He shows that the race for the White House have been getting a minuscule amount of time this year versus past election cycles.
And in Iowa, even the state's most influential newspaper, "The Des Moines Register", is only now pivoting back to campaign coverage after it dedicated its front page to impeachment almost all week long.
So, how has the spotty coverage affected voters and viewers?
Three reporters are with us in Des Monies to discuss that. "New York Times" national political reporter, Astead Herndon, "Axios" political reporter Alexi McCammond, and Art Cullen, the editor of the locally owned newspaper, "The Storm Lake Times".
Art, so, you're the author of the new book, "Storm Lake: Change, Resilience and Hope in America's Heartland." You've been covering the caucuses for many years there in your backyard. What's different this year? Is there -- is impeachment the only difference this year?
ART CULLEN, EDITOR, THE STORM LAKE TIMES: Well, one big difference is that -- is just a size of the political press corps that comes in to Iowa -- and welcome to my friends and colleagues here from "The New York Times" and "Axios." And this is much bigger press contingent than what we saw in 2016.
And that's one difference. And the other differences that there just wasn't much attention because Hillary Clinton really didn't show up that much where I am in rural Iowa and neither did Trump.
STELTER: Hmm, right. Look, there are a lot of reporters in Iowa for sure, but I get the impression that there's not as much news -- the amount of, you know, actual attention has been smaller because of the impeachment.
And I wonder, Alexi, do you think that affects the candidates? Like are any of the candidates hurting because they may not be getting as much press?
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, I think that's interesting question.
One thing that we can look to is several newspapers or publications, including "The Axios" and "The Times" and others that are sort of trying to figure out in the past two weeks how Democratic senators who are also running for president have been doing this balancing act where they are participating in the Senate impeachment trial but also trying to campaign in Iowa.
So, in some ways, I think that those senators got even more attention that might have taken away from folks like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, who are here in Iowa trucking along, while those senators were stuck in D.C.
But the interesting thing about the big picture of this coverage is that, you know, if you think back to the first public impeachment hearing in the House in November, that earned something like 13 million viewers, which is a lot, but I don't know if that number has been sustained since then.
And because of that news organizations are sort of figuring out how to do their own balancing act because of the viewership in the public impeachment trials.
STELTER: Right. Astead, what do you think?
ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do think it's had an effect? I mean, on the most literal point, the senators including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar have had to split their time on haven't physically been in the state. Of course, that is going to drive some of the conversation. But we as we know, Iowa is such a retail political state. Other candidates like Buttigieg and Biden had been able to do more of those events.
There is a question of energy, but that's one that's different here in this state. They have had the year of hearing candidates of seeing candidates. Their T.V. airwaves are overloaded with ads. They have volunteers and door knockers and contact with campaigns and text messages so much that while the national conversation may be driven toward impeachment, while the newspapers and their front pages may be driven towards impeachment, the Iowa Democrat is very aware of their responsibility come Monday night, and I think that that's something that is still really true locally even as the national conversation that's different.
STELTER: Yes, they feel the responsibility. And Art, your paper endorsed Elizabeth Warren. I will put the headline up on screen. Your newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize a couple of years ago, a few years ago for editorial writing on a different subject, but there it is editorial endorsing Warren. It does seem like Warren, Klobuchar, these are the names that have been getting key Iowa newspaper endorsements, not so much Biden or Sanders, am I right?
CULLEN: Excuse me, could you repeat the last part of that? Not so much who?
STELTER: Who's winning -- yes, who's winning the editorial board race? You endorsed Warren, 1other papers have as well. CULLEN: Well in Iowa, it would appear that Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren both got the most endorsements. I see the Iowa City Press- Citizen, I think, just indorsed Klobuchar, and that's probably the most Liberal community in Iowa, home to the University of Iowa. And the Quad-City Times indorse Klobuchar and the Storm Lake Times, of course, was the first newspaper to endorse any candidate. And we went with Warren, and the Des Moines Register went with Warren, and I understand there's a newspaper out east that also endorsed Warren and Klobuchar, The New York Times. So --
STELTER: Right, both.
CULLEN: But I don't think that newspaper endorsements play that bigger role. They're fun to do, and they may help with some undecided voters, but I'm not sure that they play that big a role in the Iowa Caucuses.
STELTER: It's quite honest to hear that from a newspaper editor about the limited value of endorsements. Let's, let's get into break Alexi, Astead, Art, the three A's, stick around. More from Iowa in just a moment.
STELTER: Selzer and Company is the gold standard for political polling in Iowa. The company has been working with CNN and Des Moines Register on polling all season long. And there was one final pre-caucus poll that was supposed to be released on Saturday night. But there was a big hiccup and then a big surprise, the poll was scrapped.
CNN said in a statement that a respondent, and one of the people who was called by the pollsters, raised an issue with the way their interview was conducted, which could have compromised the results of the poll. CNN said we were unable to ascertain what happened during this respondent's interview, and cannot determine if this was a single, isolated incident or not. And so that's why the polling was scrapped. This was an expensive decision, but it was all about trying to ensure that the poll was accurate, and that it can be reported with integrity.
This is really interesting, and it was a big shock in Des Moines. So let's go back to Des Moines. Astead Herndon of the New York Times is there, Alexi McCammond of Axios, and Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times. Astead, how big a deal was this last night?
HERNDON: That was a huge deal. This poll was certainly the most anticipated the Des Moines Register-CNN poll, as you mentioned, conducted by Seltzer is what -- is the gold standard of polling with come so quickly -- so closely to caucus day. This was going to be considered the kind of expectation setting poll. And then when it was news that it was scrapped, it kind of reverberates it immediately throughout the state.
There are so many political hangouts here, particularly in Des Moines. You can kind of feel it ripple as the news kind of trickled out. But what we do know is that kind of anecdotally, people have a good sense of what where the race is. The race feels fluid among the top tier. There's a sense that Bernie Sanders may lead among kind of the most committed supporters, but that's not a firm thing.
And so whether the poll comes out or not, the campaigns are saying largely it would have said what we already know which is that it's going to a close race. It's going to come out as some kind of motivation and turnout. But make no mistake, among politicals in Iowa and across the country, this was a big deal last night.
STELTER: And Art, you tweeted about this. You said, CNN and the Des Moines Register decided not to release the poll shows a commitment to accuracy. So you're saying this should be celebrated even though it might be embarrassing.
CULLEN: Absolutely. This is why people need to read newspapers because we'd really do try to get it right every day on every story, to spell people's names right, to get the numbers right. And so when you pick up the Des Moines Register, The New York Times, or the Storm Lake Times, you know that we're doing everything we can to get it right.
And so I congratulate them. It raises my estimation of CNN and the Des Moines Register as outfits that strive for accuracy. And if you want to get the straight scoop, you got to go to a local newspaper. You got to go to your newspaper that's going to get it right for you.
STELTER: Accurate information, yes.
CULLEN: And so it's a great moment in journalism.
STELTER: Accurate information versus, on the other hand, there have been some warnings about misinformation during the Iowa caucuses. The Iowa Secretary of State spoke out about this and he was concerned. Alexi, have we seen any signs of that of, you know, the kind of B.S. manufactured stories that were affected the 2016 election starting to affect 2020?
MCCAMMOND: Well, we know that the right-wing media operation is hard at work both here in the U.S. and abroad to spread disinformation online and misinformation online with respect to our elections and what's going on with the Democrats. We see the ways in which they paint different Democratic candidates like Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg, and others in a negative and false way.
We have also seen a way in which they've sort of laid off of Bernie Sanders, which calls into question what is this underlying operation going on that might be working to help someone like Bernie Sanders to ultimately become the nominee against President Trump.
But to Art's point, you know, people are picking up newspapers and really trying to stay informed especially here in Iowa. I mean, the Iowan voters here are so media savvy, they're so informed about what's going on. They know how to talk to you about different issues at length and thoroughly. So I'm hopeful and heartened by the conversations I've had with voters for Axios here in Iowa throughout the state. But there is certainly a misinformation campaign happening basically all the time, it seems like, online.
STELTER: Yes, in different ways. Astead, last word to you. What's your advice for people as they read and watch caucus coverage on Monday night? What should they watch out for?
HERNDON: Yes, I think that the unique thing about this year's caucus will be the amount of information that we have. Kind of for the first time we'll have rural vote totals, we'll have second alignment totals, there'll be delegate totals. And so that's going to allow campaigns to really paint a different narrative about who's winning and who's losing, and allow the spin kind of ratio to be a lot higher.
The Times today put out an explainer saying how we are going to talk about winners, specifically around delegates because that's how the nomination is chosen. And I think that level of transparency will be good for readers and media outlets alike for us to tell voters, here's the information we know, here's the decisions we're making, and this is how we are arriving to those decisions.
I think that what Iowa --what comes out of Iowa is storylines, and narrative, and momentum, but we should not allow our own biases to color that. We should be transparent about how we are arriving to those conclusions and not letting this one particular state, though important, color the entire narrative of a race which millions of millions of people still have to vote it.
STELTER: Absolutely. To the three A's, thank you so much. Enjoy tomorrow. A quick plug here for this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast as well. My guest is Politico Chief Political Correspondent Tim Alberta who started a new series to put voters' voices front and center. He's writing letters to Washington from the rest of America. Check out the podcast online.
And don't go anywhere because we need to talk about Twitter ethics when news is breaking. David Zurawik is here to weigh in on what went wrong at the Washington Post. That's next.
STELTER: And we're back here on RELIABLE SOURCES, I'm Brian Stelter. When TMZ broke the news that Kobe Bryant was dead in a helicopter crash last Sunday, people hoped it was not true. They saw the news on social networks like Twitter, then they came to outlets like CNN and the L.A. Times for confirmation, again, hoping that it wasn't actually true.
Big old-fashioned newsrooms with old fashioned traditions increasingly needs to be that confirmation layer for all the unconfirmed stuff that's swirling around social media. But in this case, TMZ had it right and had it first. TMZ usually is right about these celebrity deaths. Kobe was dead and everyone had a reaction. In these moments, especially, Twitter can be reporter's best friend,
and also their very biggest enemy. So let's talk about that with David Zurawik, the Media Critic for the Baltimore Sun. I'll get the Twitter in a moment, but first, what about TMZ's decision to report the death so quickly? I mean, the county sheriff scolded TMZ, and said, I understand getting the scoop, but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It's very cold to hear of the loss via the media. David, your reaction?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: Well, Brian, look, we get information, we verify it, we publish, we disseminate it. That's our core mission. But along with that, in terms of legacy media, which I preferred old fashioned media, but legacy media, we also have compassion for victims.
We don't name victims of sexual assault unless they come forward. We don't name certain children in certain cases. We have compassion for victims. And if we lose that, Brian, and social media does cast that aside, whereas the legacy values don't, if we lose that we are in danger of becoming a little bit the kind of people President Trump says we are.
We shouldn't lose it. There comes a point where you have to publish but I think you can take the time to let the family know -- to wait until the family is officially informed in a case like this. As for TMZ, yes, they're often right, but I don't think they care about those values.
STELTER: You know, there was this controversy at the Washington Post in the media aftermath of Kobe's death. Reporter Felicia Sonmez posted a tweet referencing the 2003 sexual assault allegation against Bryant. So the reporter was suspended, then reinstated. There was a kerfuffle in the newsroom of people siding with Sonmez. And editor Marty Baron sent a memo to staff about Twitter use saying that social media might become a distraction. I don't want it to distract from the true tenor of our coverage. What happened here?
ZURAWIK: Well, I think it's -- this is a bigger story in this sense. Legacy newsrooms again, have a set of values of verification. When Marty Baron says show care and restraint on social media, those are legacy values. Those are not the values of social media. When he says this desire for self-expression should always be overridden by the reputation and the -- reputation of the paper. That's also not a value.
Social media says, oh, you're angry, express yourself, say anything you want. Oh, if it's horrible and you get blowback, we'll just take it down and move on. We live in this tension. Look, if legacy media could figure out how to behave in social media, the first thing we'd all do is figure out how to make money because that's existential. That's survival.
So I don't think we're going to sort this out. But we need clarity as reporters because here's the tension. They say, get a big social media following because it helps us promote your work, right? But don't do anything that's going to tarnish the brand or the reputation. And social media is a mud wrestling pit, so it's very hard to get attention.
You know, you remember when Tomi Lahren was on here, she had tweeted -- I was on, we got in a fight. She tweeted something that said, Black Lives Matter is the new KKK. That'll get you attention. That will get you a big following. I thought it was so reprehensible my head was going to explode. There's a tension there. And we haven't been able to resolve it like a lot of issues in social media for legacy institutions.
So I see where Baron is coming from, and it's really a corporate issue. You work for this company, what are they going to let you do?
STELTER: Right. But they tell you to get up on the high wire, right, and then tell you not to fall.
STELTER: David, I'm out of time. Thank you for being here. Stay with us, everybody. I have something to say about the F-word, about fear. We'll be right back.
STELTER: The famed spy novelist John le Carre posted this question at a recent award ceremony. He said why is it that at a time when science has never been wiser, or the truth more stark, or human knowledge more available, why is it the populist and liars are in such pressing demand? This is the key question.
We have more access to more information than ever before in human history and yet some people here in America, even some government officials get tangled up in knots trying to please a president who rejects their knowledge. Fear of President Trump is affecting and hurting important institutions in this country.
Remember hurricane Dorian and Trump's sharpie-gate fiasco when he claimed that Alabama was at risk when the state was not at risk. Well, BuzzFeed, and the Washington Post, and other news outlets used the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, to find out what was happening inside NOAA at that time, and the results are fascinating.
Remember, NOAA is the government agency charged with providing us all with accurate information about the weather, especially when a hurricane is making landfall. So, you can imagine what it was like inside the agency when Trump was misleading the public about the storm, but until now we can only imagine. But thanks to FOIA, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, the government did release a trove of e-mails from the inside. This all came out on Friday night.
And the e-mails showed that NOAA staffers were outraged and panicked over Trump's false claims about the hurricane. One of them call the situation crazy. There were e-mails going back and forth about what to do and how to respond to journalists who were pushing for the truth.
In fact, RELIABLE SOURCES showed up in the e-mails. You can see an e- mail here from the document dump. This is our booking producer, asking NOAA officials to come on the program and talk about what was going on. You'll see small fun here, but the response internally was they don't do it. Don't go on T.V. Please decline and refer this to the White House.
Now, thankfully, reporters keep rooting this stuff out, rooting out examples of government agencies and institutions fearful of the president, trying to avoid his misinformation, trying to avoid his wrath. Look at the Washington Post breaking stories on this beat twice in a row now.
The Library of Congress in the corner this news story. The Library of Congress abandoned a plan to showcase a mural-sized photograph of the monumental 2017 Women's March in D..C because of concerns that would be perceived as critical of President Trump. Maybe he would get ticked off if he found out that was at the Library of Congress.
This falls on the heels of the reports of the National Archives had originally altered photos of the march blurring out Trump's name so it didn't say God hates Trump, so as not to engage in current political controversy.
These stories will keep coming and coming, drip, drip, drip. This degradation of trust has been going on for a long time. And let's be fair, it's been going on well before the Trump years. Think back 100 years to all the reasons why Blacks, and Native Americans, and other minority groups were right not to trust what government told them.
Governments lie to protect existing power structure. They lie in wartime, they lie during emergencies, and yet America has come a long way. There is a professional class in these government agencies that cares about the truth and cares about the public. These agencies, though far from perfect, are a lot more accessible and a lot more transparent than they used to be.
People can generally trust what the National Weather Service and what the CDC say. Of course, sometimes the forecast is still wrong. But there are good people at these agencies trying to get it right. But Trump sometimes gets in their way. The current president's conduct a reputation puts this trust, this trusting relationship at risk. That's what those e-mails from NOAA are getting at.
And Trump is causing more and more people not to believe they can trust these government institutions. And why is it matter? Let's put up the New York Times headline from this morning. It matters on emergencies like the one that's unfolding right now.
According to "The Times," early missteps and state secrecy in China probably allow the coronavirus to spread farther and faster. People there don't trust their government, don't trust the authoritarian government. Let's hope that never happens here in the United States. We'll be back this time next week.