Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

A Non-Partisan Virus Is Spreading In A Partisan War; Bernie Sanders' Problem With MSNBC; Bloomberg Ramps Up T.V. Presence Ahead Of Super Tuesday; They Are Terrible: Trump Threatens NBC And MSNBC; How Facebook Is Handling Coronavirus Information. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 01, 2020 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story.

In this hour, the headlines are about Joe Biden, his victory in the South Carolina primary. It has changed the narrative of the Democratic race, at least for a day.

But Michael Bloomberg is countering with some big TV hits and an even bigger pot of money for TV ads. I'll be joined by senior staffers from both the Bloomberg campaign and the Bernie Sanders campaign.

You know, Team Bernie is continuing to blast MSNBC. They say the candidate is being slighted. What's really going on there? We're going to get into that.

Plus, Trump's legal stunt. He's suing "The New York Times" for this opinion headline. My guests have some opinions about that.

Lots to get to.

But first, as this morning's "Los Angeles Times" says, Saturday's news of the first U.S. death from the coronavirus marks a turning point in the United States. Television screens are filled with maps like this one showing the virus spreading around the world.

But let's remember that fear is a virus, too. And it can be just as damaging. News outlets have a really important job to do right now, conveying accurate information, and part of the job is to tamp down on undue fears.

Unfortunately, this virus has infected the political arena in ways that are truly jaw-dropping. Pro-Trump media stars are defending Trump's handling of the outbreak by accusing news outlets -- I can't but -- they're accusing news outlets of rooting for the virus.



RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.

STELTER (voice-over): Recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh, one of many cooking up partisan conspiracy theories about the coronavirus.

Chief among them, it's the news media's fault.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They think this is going to be what brings down the president. That's what this is all about.

STELTER: Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney making the shocking claim that the media is somehow using the virus to take down Trump.

Mulvaney picking up right where Fox News' Sean Hannity left off, blaming Democrats for making this political.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Sadly, politicizing and weaponizing an infectious disease, in what is basically just the latest effort to bludgeon President Trump.

STELTER: These talking points are bouncing back and forth between the Trumps and their TV surrogates, portraying the president as the victim in chief, and going so far as to say the president's perceived enemies actually want people to die.

DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Anything that they can use to try to hurt Trump, they will. But for them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump's streak of winning is a new level of sickness.

STELTER: This is not the first time the Trump machine conjured up a conspiracy theory narrative, full of misinformation and fearmongering. But this time, the backdrop is a public health emergency. Still, irresponsible claims abound.

LIMBAUGH: Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. You have dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.

STELTER: Experts have debunked that, but it's all part of a Trump defense strategy, fighting a virus by playing politics.


STELTER: And the thing is this virus has no idea what political party anybody is in. It doesn't care. It's a non-partisan illness but it's spreading in a partisan war.

Let's break it down with "Washington Post" Opinion Columnist and CNN political Commentator, Catherine Rampell.

And associate professor of communication and political science at the University of Delaware, Dannagal Young. She's the author of the book, "Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear and Laughter in the U.S."

And in Washington with us, senior -- in Washington, CNN reporter and fact checker extraordinaire, Daniel Dale.

Daniel, we'll get to you in a moment.

But, Dannagal, I want to ask what you think is going on with the crazed conspiracy theories from right-wing media. What is this about?

DANNAGAL YOUNG, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE: So, this poses a unique challenge to the conservative media landscape because their base, which constitutes social and cultural conservatives, generally on average tends to be more concerned about issues related to pathogens and hygiene and cleanliness.

And I know that this is a hard pill to swallow, but there's a lot of research from political psychology that actually suggests that those kind of concerns may actually result in attitudes and behaviors that are socially or culturally conservative, like on matters of race, sexually, immigration, et cetera.

STELTER: Look, let me make sure I make sense.


STELTER: You're saying political science finds that conservatives have more of a disgust reaction when they hear about something like a virus?

YOUNG: Yes, correct, exactly right.


YOUNG: OK. So, now, what that means is that you have a base, you have an audience for whom that is something that's really salient and they're going to be naturally very concerned about that kind of thing.


So what do -- what does one do if one is Hannity or one is Rush Limbaugh?


YOUNG: So, what they've done is they've done two things, right? On the one hand, they've downplayed the severity of the threat, right? Referring to it as the common cold. Trump suggesting that, you know, he refrains this 15 number, 15 people, just 15 people, right? Even though, at this point --

STELTER: Well, yesterday he said 22, even though we're in the 60s and 70s. Clearly, there are more cases that haven't been found yet. That's a reality.

But you're right, Trump has been down playing it all week. And his supporters have done the same. YOUNG: Correct. So you have the down playing, which from a public

health standpoint is really problematic because the goal of messaging in the context of a health crisis is really to increase people's awareness of the severity and susceptible to the illness --


YOUNG: -- so then they are motivated to take actions that are adaptive, functional responses like, OK, I'm more aware of this mow now. I will wash my hands. I won't touch my face. I won't touch railings, those kinds of things.


YOUNG: Right?

So, now, there's -- that -- that has been interrupted by sort of downplaying the issue, which then makes people not as motivated to then seek out information or engage in these potentially adaptive responses, which can have really bad consequences.

The second thing that they've done in addition to the downplaying is the reframing of the virus altogether, which I think is fascinating. So, if you have an audience for whom that virus and pathogens are going to make you fearful, what can you do? Well, you can reframe it as something that's been weaponized by an out group.

STELTER: Oh, so don't fear the virus, fear the Democrats?

YOUNG: Correct.

STELTER: Fear the media. OK.

YOUNG: The threat -- the threat then changes. So, the treat becomes the Democrats and the media, and when you think about that language, weaponizing the virus -- where is that housed in our minds psychologically? Where is that schema housed? That's related to biological warfare, terrorism, right?

So, the natural extensions in your brain when you hear weaponized virus are really dire and really, well, kind of prime that in group, out group feeling.

STELTER: Hmm, so they've got to defend the president by demonizing Democrats.

Catherine, does this make sense to you? Does this add up?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think so. I think what you're seeing here is that Republicans, right wing media are resorting to the say playbook they have done with everything else whenever there's unfavorable coverage of some kind for their guy, Donald Trump.

They refer to the Russia scandal as a hoax. They refer to every other previous scandal as a hoax. That made sense in a way, right, that if you can convince the public that something is fake news, that they can't independently verify, maybe they will brush it off as indeed untrue.

However, I'm not sure that this strategy is particularly potent when we're talking about a public health risk. Not only because, of course, it doesn't lead to adaptive behaviors that we need, that it can -- it can actually increase the spread of a virus. But as a political strategy, it's very confusing to me why they would think that this would be worthwhile.

Like you can't -- you can't independently verify, you know, the facts of a political scandal, but presumably if grandma gets sick and dies, people will start to notice.

So, it's a little bit bizarre to me. It's, frankly, baffling to me that they think that this particular, this same strategy would be just as potent this time around --


RAMPELL: -- and I think you will see them eventually adapt because once you -- once it becomes impossible to deny the facts on the ground, they just can't maintain this conspiracy, I would think, that the Democrats or the media or whoever is inflating the risk here, right?


RAMPELL: You know, it used to be that the right wing media would say facts don't care about your feelings. Well, pandemics don't care about your political grievances.

STELTER: No, they do not.

And, Daniel, this idea of, you know, making it about media bias, it's the easy thing for the president and his allies to do. It's this kind of the cheap, easy solution. Are you seeing that happen this week?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. I mean, I think with any story that is bad for the president, I think the simplest thing for opinion media to do to attempt to protect him is to say, look over there. Don't look at the president. Look at what they are saying about the president.

They know that these types of sentiments feed into the preexisting grievances of the people who are watching opinion shows on networks like Fox. They know that these messages resonate because they've tested it with Russia with impeachment and so on.


DALE: So, this is -- this is the go-to response, no matter what the facts on the ground.

STELTER: And, look, it brings me no joy to say that the president doesn't have credibility. He just doesn't, though. And that's the -- the heart of this entire story politically is that people don't know if they can trust what the president is saying.

How have you viewed the press briefings in the past few days and how -- he's been bringing experts out with him?

DALE: I think -- so he has brought out, for example, Dr. Tony Fauci of NIH's -- the NIH entity, I'm sorry, I forgot the name.


The entity that deals with allergy and infectious diseases. He's a renowned expert.

And what you've seen interestingly from Dr. Fauci is comments that have been more nuanced, less rosy than the comments we've heard from the president himself and the political team.

And so, I think there are people at this point who are appearing with the president who I don't think we have reason to distrust. But the rest of the people on the stage, Trump, Pence, et cetera, we have great reason to distrust.

STELTER: Dannagal, am I right to say that credibility is a gas tank? And the president can fill it up if he chooses, like every day he can choose to get it right and be more careful and get the facts right. Is that fair?

YOUNG: I think that's fair. I also think we have right now a presidency that really capitalizes on the construction of spectacle, and the assumption that perceptions on the part of the public can be constructed through spectacle, and through mediated spectacle. That works in the context of issues and phenomena that are very distant from the lives of everyday Americans. That works in the context of issues like terrorism, which is far away or threats of immigration, which are far away.

Where it might not work so well, like Catherine said, is in the context of something like an illness that may come to your town and it would affect your direct life.

STELTER: Right. Dannagal, thank you for being here.

Daniel, Catherine, please stick around.

The World Health Organization says this outbreak is an infodemic, the first ever social media infodemic. We're going to speak with the WHO official about the steps they are taking to combat that and we'll explore best reporting practices while covering this story. That's next.



STELTER: The World Health Organization is addressing the coronavirus and they say it does have pandemic potential. But they're also combating misinformation, what they call a massive infodemic. It's really an interesting term.

They define it as an overabundance of information. Some of it accurate, some of it not, that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it. Now, to counter this, the WHO is pushing helpful into infographics across social media platforms. Offering the basics like the importance of handwashing and how to make sure you get all your hands, also dispelling a bunch of hoaxes that have been spreading on social media, providing these infographics as a way to rebut the lies.

Joining me to discuss this is Aleksandra Kuzmanovic. She's the social media manager for the WHO. We're also joined by Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former CDC disease detective who is now the director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative.

Alexandra, thank you for coming on. You've been working with social media platforms to address this infodemic. What are the solutions?

ALEKSANDRA KUZMANOVIC, SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Thank you very much for having me. And, yes, indeed, we are in close collaboration with different social media and digital platforms to ensure as many people as possible are having success to reliable information regarding the COVID-19 or coronavirus. So the first step was when people are searching for information, they are on their platforms, they would be redirected either to WHO or the national public health system or ministry of health, or Centers for Disease Control. So these are the first reliable sources they would see.

However, to this collaboration, companies are taking steps further and even now putting up front already boxes with information and links to those reliable resources, even if users are not searching for it, or creating dedicated pages to COVID-19 on their platform so you actually see the latest updates either from WHO or ministry of health or combined, which is also great because then people can see information in their own language, because also reading information in a foreign language can create some additional misunderstanding. So we are really trying to gather sources in all different ways.

STELTER: Yes, all around the world. There's the social media sphere and the traditional media sphere.

Dr. Yasmin, how would you judge the mainstream news media's performance thus far? Are we living up to the task about informing people of what's going on?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, DIRECTOR, STANFORD HEALTH COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE: Well, Brian, the science and health journalists of the world really have their work cut out. Unfortunately, newsrooms have not been supporting scientist journalists adequately and there's been such a pullback in terms of journalists in general.

And times like this, and, unfortunately, we're going to see so many more epidemics that are bigger and badder, more frequent, more urban (ph), really show us how important the work of science and health journalists is in helping the public pass through all this information that's been shoved to us every day and just trying to understand what's real, what's not and what we need to do.

And I think it's great that we're highlighting some of the work of the World Health Organization, but it needs to be called out that WHO has been depressingly slow to the table in terms of addressing misinfodemic. It's great they're using the term now, but they have been slow in addressing the fact that the spread of misinformation, the spread of disinformation, pseudo science, the anti-vax movements really threaten democracies and threaten the public health efforts to stop contagion.

And it's only now that we're starting to see WHO step up to that. And we need journalists to keep holding this agency, the planet's health agency and other officials as well to account, to make sure they are doing all they need to do to stop the spread.

STELTER: Aleksandra, do you feel like the WHO has been late?

KUZMANOVIC: So it's not the first time that we are facing misinformation in an outbreak. So, this is -- since ever we are facing different rumors and misinformation. And this particular case with coronavirus because of growth of social media the platforms in recent years, then information is spreading faster than the virus itself.


So, we started beginning of the outbreak working with these companies and with different networks as well to address misinformation in various ways and to ensure that people are accessing reliable information as mentioned before.

YASMIN: If I may interject though --


STELTER: Which reminds me of Facebook for being late --

YASMIN: Sorry, Brian, I just want to interject that this --

STELTER: -- you know, Facebook not doing enough in 2016 with election misinformation.

Go ahead, Seema.

YASMIN: Right. Sorry, I was just saying to say, this isn't new and WHO is making it sound like a new phenomenon. Social media has been here. We've seen the spread rumors and anti-science messages during Ebola, during the Zika. The anti-vaccine movement is not new.

And WHO's response often has been all these are really bad outbreak of measles in Eastern Europe, it's OK, we're going to disseminate pamphlets. That's not enough when the anti-science messages are sophisticated, targeting vulnerable populations and really tailoring anti-science messages to groups that believe them.

STELTER: Hmm, let me ask, Dr. Yasmin, what you think newsrooms should be doing in this scenario? What are tips to responsible reporting? YASMIN: Yes.

STELTER: I think you said the other day one of the issues here is uncertainty is the story. Not knowing what's going to happen has to be acknowledged.

YASMIN: I said that in a webinar for journalists with USC's reporting on health the other day. Stick with the uncertainty. Yes, we want to grapple with what's known, but you need to be honest about what's unknown. Make sure you're vetting your sources.

Often what you hear during the beginning of an epidemic, of the loudest voices, not necessarily the most expert voices. So, make sure you're giving a platform to people who know what they are talking about.

STELTER: Thank you both, for all that you're doing. Thanks for being here.

After the break, a turn to the Democratic race and the simmering feud between, strange, MSNBC and Bernie Sanders. I'll talk with the senior adviser of the campaign in just a moment.


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

Democrats are barreling through to the first Super Tuesday of 2020. Fourteen states are participating. You can see them there.

This is where the closest thing the United States has to a national primary and it gets underway on Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, in South Carolina, Joe Biden scored a much-needed victory on Saturday. You can see the total there is. But Bernie Sanders is still in the lead when it comes to the delegate race.

Now, amid these primaries, in between these primary nights and these victories, Sanders has been slamming a surprising news source. He's been going at it really with allies, has been going at it with MSNBC for what they say are disparities and unfairness in MSNBC's campaign coverage.

Now, you'd think MSNBC, with its progressive bent in primetime would be a friend to the Sanders campaign, but Sanders' folks says the network is way too establishment. Primetime host Chris Matthews had to apologize the other way for his comments about Sanders' win in Nevada and another contributor was benched for smearing Sanders' staffers.

Let's talk about that more with Bernie 2020 senior adviser, Chuck Rocha. He's joining me right now.

And, Chuck, I saw you on MSNBC yesterday. So, things must not be that bad, right?

CHUCK ROCHA, BERNIE 2020 SENIOR ADVISOR: No, it's not that bad. I mean, I think that we all have bad days and I think that a lot of the coverage of the campaign overall is really not being fair if you have to bench one of your people and somebody is apologizing.

Ain't nobody got no boycotts going on. I showed up in South Carolina yesterday and I got treated very fairly by Ari. So, like, I don't think it's a blanket case for everybody.

STELTER: Right, but what is the heart of the issue that's been going back months? For several months now, the Sanders campaign has been charging MSNBC with bias.

ROCHA: Well, I don't think it's just MSNBC. We've -- we've won the first three contests, and if you're watching certain networks, you would think we'd been behind in every one because we get little coverage.

And I just want to make sure that the American people are finding out all they can find out about our movement, about our people, because the people and the movement and raising $50 million, $60 million from all these people are news. And we should be talking about changing democracy in the way we fund campaigns.

STELTER: You know, the number you all put out this morning is striking. What was it? $46 million raised in February. And that's grassroots. That's the opposite of a billionaire-backed campaign.

ROCHA: And that's the key. And one of the biggest numbers that jumped out at me, Brian, is 350,000 of those are new donations, A. B, 1.4 million of those donations came from Super Tuesday states.

As we spring-board into Super Tuesday, it's going to become a lot more diverse, as you were just saying, more like a national primary, with these big, huge states like California and Texas, Southern states like Alabama and Arkansas and Tennessee, and even northern states like our greatest state, Vermont.

STELTER: Look, what is -- what is the narrative that you see after the South Carolina win by Joe Biden? The media loves narratives. Campaigns love narrative. What is the story that you think your campaign is telling now?

ROCHA: We don't really worry too much about narratives over at the Bernie Sanders campaign. We have millions of people online.

Let me tell you the narrative that we really care about, it's actually going into districts, going into states and having conversations with voters. People are always coming up to me going, Chuck, how does Bernie Sanders do so good with Latinos? And I'll say, well, we ask them for their vote.

I know it's a unique concept, but most Democrats and Republicans don't take the time to do that. That's how we got 73 percent of the vote in Nevada. And if you go into Colorado, you go into California and Texas, there's a lot of Latinos there, and they all love Bernie Sanders.

STELTER: Your prediction for Super Tuesday? What's going -- go ahead. ROCHA: It's going to be a big day. So, when you think about just big puddles, big, big groups of delegates. So, California has 448 delegates. So, you could come out of there, we could come out of there with 100 delegates.

You go into Texas, if we win Texas, that's more delegates. If you start winning smaller states, you just got to watch this delegate math, because it all adds up.

But look at the spending.


Look at folks who are spending money. And Michael Bloomberg will have an affect on Super Tuesday because he has spent a whole barn load of money.

STELTER: Well, so does -- so does Bernie Sanders' campaign. Bloomberg spending $1.5 million on big T.V. ad thing tonight. Sanders can afford that too.

ROCHA: Right. We're going to do both things. We do blocking and tackling on the ground doing the grassroots and we also run T.V. ads. That's what the combination is. Most campaigns get this wrong.

They talk about having grassroots this and grassroots that, when they normally don't have grassroots. But then you also have to have the air cover to compete with the other folks, for your old mama and papa who there in the evening watching an evening news, seeing some T.V. commercials. You got to be competitive at every single space.

STELTER: Chuck, thank you very much for being here. I'm grateful.

ROCHA: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: We mentioned Bloomberg and we're going to talk to a Bloomberg spokesperson in just a moment because the reality is, Bloomberg's money and this T.V. ad war is unique, it is unprecedented. And we might find out if it was worth it. Bloomberg's side next.


STELTER: Michael Bloomberg and his money taking the T.V. primary to new heights ahead of his first actual primary on Super Tuesday. Let me show you these numbers. We made this chart to show you. It's a record- breaking $501 million that Bloomberg has spent in this campaign to date. You can see just how far he surpasses his rivals. We had to make this chart bigger to show you the effect.


Look, the total ad spending in this primary season has now surpassed $1 billion. That includes all of Trump's spending, all the Democratic candidates, etcetera. It's an extraordinary amount of money. It's a different primary than we've ever seen before as a result. Look in politics, T.V. ads are known as paid media since you're paying

for it. Bloomberg is also seeking out earned media which refers to news coverage. That's how you earn by being newsworthy. So he's on 60 Minutes tonight reaching a big audience on the country's biggest news magazine. He's also booked for a Fox News Town Hall on Monday and he'll be on CNN Monday night. So we're seeing a multi-prong strategy here.

For a peek behind this strategy and what it's all about, I'm joined by Michael Bloomberg's 2020 Senior National Spokesperson, Sabrina Singh.

Sabrina, thank you for being here.


STELTER: Doing something really interesting tonight that we haven't seen before. It's a three-minute-long presidential looking address to the nation. What is that about?

SINGH: Well, so as we're seeing with the handling of coronavirus, this administration has been pretty set on lying to people throughout the entire time that Donald Trump has been in office. And so what we need is someone that's going to address the facts and take on coronavirus for the, you know, pandemic that we are seeing it to be.

And so, in the address tonight, like you said three minutes running around 8:30 on CBS and NBC, we're having Mike talk about the facts, having Mike also talk about how this is affecting the economy, but laying out how he is a leader who can actually get things done. I mean, this is someone that took over as mayor right at the -- when 9/11 happened. He's dealt with the Ebola outbreak before.

So we -- this is showcasing leadership and this is showcasing who Mike is and the leadership that he would bring to the White House.

STELTER: The strategy is make him look like he's already president giving a speech to the nation. Why CBS and NBC? Who makes the decisions about who -- where you're buying ads?

SINGH: Honestly, it was more about who had the time and the schedule to allow us to take up a three minute-block as that's a lot of time. So, unfortunately, some networks I think, including CNN was filled for Sunday, but that's OK. You know, we're also going to put it online and digital. And, you know, you can see it on Mike's social media channels and platforms as well.

STELTER: It's a unique strategy. Look, beyond just what's happening tonight, $500 million net spending has changed this race. We're seeing -- there are certain local stations in California that are making multiple millions of dollars just from Bloomberg ad vice. And look at the New York Magazine Cover that's coming out tomorrow. It says he's buying.

You think this message, this message that he's the one spending all this money, is it damaging? Is it bad for your candidate? SINGH: Well, what I will say is this. Mike is his only donor. I mean, he doesn't take money from anyone. And so, the money he's spending is the money that he has earned and the money that we're putting out on air. I mean, really got into this race late. I mean, Mike only entered the race late in November. So we have a lot of time to catch up to all the other candidates who have been running for a year, year and a half plus.

STELTER: And what does it mean to see Joe Biden with such a decisive victory in South Carolina? I understand Bloomberg was not on the ballot. But what does that tell you about the campaign's state of play?

SINGH: I think that race is still very unsettled at this point. I mean, Joe Biden has only won one state, which is South Carolina, but we saw him -- you know, he had three other opportunities to win those states and sweep those states up. And with one victory yesterday, I don't think that we have a decisive leader yet. And so we are super excited that Mike is going to be on the ballot on Tuesday in the Super Tuesday states.

STELTER: And let's say he doesn't go on Tuesday. Is it -- is it -- he has mentioned that he'll continue to run through March 10th, but are you all thinking past March 10th?

SINGH: We are right now laser-focused on Super Tuesday. I mean, of course, we are focused on Super Tuesday and beyond in terms of where Mike is campaigning. I mean, he is going to be in Florida Tuesday night which is one of the next big states coming up after Super Tuesday. But look, I mean, the race is still unsettled. This is going to be Mike's first time on the ballot. Let's see what happens on Tuesday.

STELTER; His newsroom that he owns, Bloomberg LP is his media company, Bloomberg News is his newsroom. Journalists there remain uncomfortable about this unprecedented situation. We haven't seen this since the days of William Randolph Hearst where a media mogul is running for president. Does Bloomberg feel that anxiety in the newsroom? Does he care about it?

SINGH: I mean, of course, we care about our staff and how people feel. I mean, of course. But you know, journalists have the integrity to report the news and they're doing that. And I think at the end of the day, I mean, look, Mike is crisscrossing the country, meeting with tons of reporters and press and, you know, doing rallies in different states to get his message out to voters. And I think at the end of the day, that's where we're focused is making sure our message is heard by voters all across the country.

STELTER: And the campaign is said that he'll sell Bloomberg LP if he's elected. Is he starting to look for a buyer? Is he that serious about it?

SINGH: I mean, he has said he will sell the company but I don't think we've started to look for a buyer yet. We haven't even started voting yet on -- you know, we're -- he's on the ballot on Tuesday. STELTER: It's just not a lot of people who can buy a $60 billion-plus

media company. So that's why I wonder.


SINGH: Yes, well, I mean, if you're interested, let me know.

STELTER: Sabrina, thank you very much for being here.

SINGH: Thank you.

STELTER: Good to see you. Up next, a turn from Democrats to Republicans. And what I'm about to say is sadly, not an exaggeration. The President is threatening use the powers of his office to destroy the image of one of America's biggest media companies because he doesn't like the news coverage. See it for yourself next.


STELTER: While dealing with the coronavirus crisis, President Trump has found time to escalate a feud he has with NBC and the network's parent company Comcast. He says he will do everything possible to destroy their image.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NBC, I think is worse than CNN. I actually do. And Comcast, a company that spends millions and millions of dollars on their image, I'll do everything possible to destroy their image because they are terrible. They are terrible. They are terrible. They're terrible group of people.



STELTER: Back with me now or Catherine Rampell and Daniel Dale.

Catherine, I just can't let this one slide. He is threatening -- actually more than that, he is vowing to destroy a media company because he doesn't like MSNBC and NBC News.

RAMPELL: Yes, it seems like Republicans have left their pocket constitutions at home and in particular, the First Amendment. But look, this is not particularly new for Trump.

He has gone after every independent source of accountability there is whether it's the media, or law enforcement investigators for that matter, and he has weaponized his office or attempted to, at the very least, many times before through antitrust, trying to intervene in any case and a merger between Time Warner and AT&T because he dislikes CNN. He has reportedly tried to use federal procurement to punish Amazon which owns -- or who's CEO --

STELTER: Yes. That is still ongoing. It's a very interesting case. RAMPELL: -- who's CEO, Jeff Bezos owns -- personally owns the Washington Post, which I write for. You know -- and he's tried to weaponize law enforcement to go after other political enemies media- related or otherwise. So this is not particularly new for him.

STELTER: It's more of the same. We both also used to work in the New York Times, and the Trump campaign filed suit against The Times this week, a libel lawsuit for an opinion piece that they say was defamatory. Is this a serious lawsuit?

RAMPELL: No. There is no sense in which this -- they have a serious legal case here. This is really about whipping up his base because he hates the media, and of course, trying to get perceived political enemies to use money and resources to fight frivolous lawsuits. Again, not particularly new for Trump.

It's also at odds, of course with other legal stances that Trump himself has taken about whether he can participate in any sort of state lawsuit. He had -- you know, there was a there's a lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, one of the many women who has accused him of sexual misconduct. And he has said while he is president, he doesn't have to participate in discovery. He doesn't have to participate in any sort of state filed lawsuit. That is at odds with this particular case in which presumably the New York Times would ask for discovery in this.

STELTER: And The Times has basically said, bring it on. Let's take this to court. Let's go back to the Republicans -- from the Republicans to the Democrats. And Daniel, you did something interesting this week. You fact check an entire Bernie Sanders speech. Now that he was clearly the front runner at the time, you're like, we got to dig into this, and not just check Trump and what he says, but what the Democrats say. What were your findings?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: So I'll give you the specific finding and then my broader thought. The specific funding was as of -- out of 27 claims that we checked, we found 18 that were true are basically true, six where we couldn't render a verdict because an exact figure isn't known, and three that were false, inaccurate.

One of those wasn't really Sanders' fault. He was given a bad figure by a think tank. One was one of his favorite exaggerations that he's been repeating for a decade without changing his wording, and the other one was an inaccurate depiction of something in Trump's tax law. My broader thought is that this matters, all inaccuracy matters. Ideally, all politicians would be at zero inaccurate claims per speech.

But it struck me while doing this checking how different this was than fact-checking a Trump speech. For one, Trump averages 21 false claims per rally by my count. And many of those are egregious total fabrication. He's making stuff up. Sanders' dishonesty, to the extent we had it, was traditional spin. He was stretching a little bit, taking a real finger and adding an inaccurate spin on it.

So the nature of the dishonesty in addition to the frequency, it's just no comparison between Trump and anyone in the Democratic field. STELTER: And do you intend to keep doing this for the Democrats all season long?

DALE: Absolutely. Especially once we have a real Democratic nominee. I plan to count their false claims just as we count Trump's because it matters from both sides.

STELTER: You know, Catherine was saying we're seeing from Trump is more of the same. He attacks Comcast, he threatens this, he sues that. Are you still surprised when you're watching the rallies and you hear something truly egregious?

DALE: I'm not surprised anymore. I still think is noteworthy. I'm not so cynical --

STELTER: It's still important, yes.

DALE: Yes, it's still -- I think we have to resist fatigue, resist being beaten down by the frequency of dishonesty, and resist the urge to say oh, that's old news. Everyone knows Trump lies. Everyone knows he makes up stories in their entirety. We have to point this out and treat it as news every time because it continues to matter as long as he is the most powerful man in the world.

STELTER: In the world. One more story before we go. And Catherine, I wonder what your reaction to this is. The headlines about the CBS debate, the final debate before Super Tuesday, were scathing, the reviewers the T.V. critics just blasted CBS for poor moderation. Do you agree?

RAMPELL: I think that they did not acquit themselves particularly well. I think that they did have a challenging task before them, partly because this was the last shot. Some of these candidate --

STELTER: Yes. These candidates were desperate. They were desperate to talk.

RAMPELL: There were so many on the stage. And so that is not conducive to necessarily a substantive debate. But I think there were also too many moderators, frankly, and so --

STELTER: Yes, five moderators.


RAMPELL: Five moderators. And so that kind of diffuses the responsibility for keeping candidates in line when they're talking over each other, when they're not really answering the question. So I think that was not helpful. A number of the questions themselves were not particularly well-targeted. But you know, I have to acknowledge that it was a challenging task. So --

STELTER: Yes, it definitely is. It's is a hard thing. The next debate seems really far away. It's not until the middle of March here on CNN. Who knows how many candidates will still be in the race at that point. Daniel, Catherine, thank you very much. Coming up here we're going to unpack

the role of social media platforms in spreading fear and misinformation, but also helping try to guide people to what's true. Steven Levy is the author of Facebook: The Inside Story. He will join me live in just a moment.



STELTER: What are social media companies doing to sort of fact from fiction amid the coronavirus outbreak? Well, actually a decent amount. They're doing a lot. YouTube is embedding links to information from the World Health Organization when videos about coronavirus pop up. Twitter is offering a prompt to know the facts from the Center for Disease Control when you search for the virus. And on Facebook, there are similar disclaimers as well as some decisions to remove content that is peddling disinformation.

Let's talk about this and more with the author of a great brand new book about Facebook. Steven Levy is a Wired editor at large and author of the book Facebook: The Inside Story. It's brand new out on bookshelves now. What do you think of Facebook's choices to remove content that is making up stuff about the coronavirus? Facebook wouldn't have done that, what, like five years ago. They wouldn't have done that, would they

STEVEN LEVY, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WIRED MAGAZINE: No, they wouldn't. As what I write on the book, I talked about how in 2015 some people tried really actively to try to get them to take down the anti-vaxxer stuff, and it did not resonate with them. They weren't dealing at all with any of the constant of what we now call fake news.

But now they're much more sensitive. And what seems to happen is that when there's enough of an outcry, when Facebook's practices are exposed clearly enough, people say, wow, this can happen. F1acebook will step in and say, I guess we have to make an exception for this. And now, when you -- if you search for coronavirus on Facebook -- not many people use search in Facebook anyway. There'll be a message coming up from the World Health Organization.

And also, Facebook is going to just dig in and try to take down those posts and they have in several categories looking at things that people won't tolerate any more on Facebook. The general fake news, that's still OK for people to circulate, and Facebook has ways to try to minimize that. But it's still OK to put that up on Facebook.

STELTER: So if I make up a story about you, you don't have the right to get it taken down?

LEVY: No, I don't. I can get it back. checked. And Facebook might show, if you know how to look for it, that you know, you don't have a publication. Wait a minute, this looks like the New York Times, but it's like a made-believe, you know, the Brian Stelter Gazette or something like that, which doesn't exist. And this was all result of the way Facebook grew. Facebook didn't have

to be this way. So what I do in the book is trying to chart the decisions that Mark Zuckerberg made that changed the course of Facebook from something that you use to stay in touch with your friends and your family, and people you knew from high school or your neighborhood, to something which was your source of news, and how news from non-publications looks exactly like news from real publications.

STELTER: Yes. There's so much dependence on this platform, and there's so much distrust at the same time. And I don't want to give away the ending of the book, but toward the end, you say, why would anyone trust Facebook with their money?

That's been the question that all these regulators are asking. But Steven, advertiser aren't asking that question, are they? Advertisers are pouring more and more money into Facebook. So as much as we hear about disinformation and fake news and all these problems on the site, it keeps growing and succeeding.

LEVY: Yes, it's a split seen scenario.


LEVY: While Facebook stock is blue chip, its reputation is penny stock.

STELTER: And what do you think the biggest threat to Facebook is? Is it its reputation issue, is it the regulation, prosper regulation, what's the biggest threat?

LEVY: Well, you know, certainly is going to have to spend a lot of energy fighting off this regulation antitrust and specific. I talked at length about how Facebook got companies like Instagram, and WhatsApp to curtail competitive threats. And they're looking at that now. They have this amazing playbook to do WhatsApp and Instagram what Mark Zuckerberg refused to let be done to him which was, you know, when Yahoo tried to build buy-in for a billion dollars.

So that's one threat. And the other threat is always the next wave of technology will come put you out of business, which is why Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus because he thinks in 10 years, we're all going to be walking around with V.R. headsets, and he wants to own that technology.

STELTER: Right. So even though Facebook is a behemoth, they still fear startups that come up with a new thing?

LEVY: That's right. You know, and now with the scrutiny, they can't buy this next startup anymore, because the government is probably going to put a stop to that.

STELTER: Right. That's good point. It's an amazing book. Steven, thank you for being here.

LEVY: Thank you. STELTER: The book is Facebook: The Inside Story. We're wrapping up

here on television, but I want to give you a plug for our weekly podcast. We gather the CNN media team together for our podcast this week, and we talked about Bob Iger's surprise exit from Disney, and all the rest of the week's news on the RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. You can find it at on Apple, and Spotify, or wherever you prefer your podcasts.

A quick plug as well for CNN's Sunday night hit. This is the biggest new show on the cable news on the weekends. It's The Windsors. And tonight's episode is about Queen Elizabeth taking the throne and facing scandals and rumors involving her sister, her marriage, and the role of the monarchy. That's The Windsors, Inside the Royal Dynasty. The new episode is tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.

And we will see you right back here, this time next week.