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War On Truth In The Time Of Coronavirus; Bogus Claims From The White House; How To Report Death Toll Data When Reporting Is Spotty; The Importance Of World Press Freedom Day; Pro-Trump Media's Role In Spreading Virus Disinformation. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 03, 2020 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter, live in New York City, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story.

Ahead this hour, President Trump's new press secretary takes to the podium and vows not to lie. Has she already broken her promise?

Plus, how heads of state are marking World Press Freedom day. Some wonderful messages there, but there's one Trumpian exception.

And later, meet two of the most important number crunchers in the world right now, the women behind this indispensable coronavirus tracker. They are coming up along with Carl Bernstein, Olivia Nuzzi, Ryan Lizza and Jake Tapper.

But, first, a note about uncertainty. Hard times like this call for hard truths. The hard truth is that COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time. Until there's a cure or vaccine, it is going to pose a unique threat. Experts are talking in terms of years.

No one wants this. No one likes this. But everyone needs to know the truth, the hard truth.

The leaders who are acting like this is almost over aren't leading at all. They are failing to tell the hard truth. That's irresponsible. I'm looking at you Jared Kushner.

He recently said the federal government rose to the challenge. He called it a success story. The hard truth is anyone who talks about this pandemic in the past tense is lying to you. This is present tense crisis. No amount of propaganda can change that.

But it can confuse people. It is confusing people and that is reckless. The hard truth is that shutdowns and social distancing measures have slowed the spread of the virus, but the virus is still winning. Someone in America died from COVID-19 every 44 seconds in April. Start your timer. Those are just the deaths that we know about, more than 66,000 so far.

The true toll is even worse. Some people are succumbing to COVID-19 at home, without being tested or counted. The data from the CDC indicating the American death toll is, quote, far higher than reported, the headlines this week. As one physician told CNN, what we're seeing is the tip of an iceberg.

There are signs of progress, but look at what Trump's former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said this week, and he said even as more economic activity is restarted, COVID is expanding in many states. He says, we face a persistent plateau of 30,000 daily cases and 2,000 deaths a day.

He pointed out a lot of the spread is clustered in disadvantaged communities and in at-risk environments. It's been 44 seconds. Another death. Another agonizing loss for another family.

All loss of life is tragic, of course, but causes of death like car accidents and cancer are not contagious. Viruses are, and that is what creates so much uncertainty.

The challenge for the news media right now is in communicating that uncertainty. There are so many known unknowns. Like how many people are infected with COVID-19 right now? We don't know because we don't have the testing capacity. All of the counts are under counts.

Another thing being undercounted is the economic damage, the American carnage. We don't have a full picture of the unemployment disaster because so many systems and states are swamped.

So the news coverage needs to reflect that. It's not 30 million unemployed. It's at least 30 million unemployed. And it's been another 44 seconds.

So we need to keep noting what we don't know. We have to keep saying the true total is even larger than we know, but we don't know how much larger, because the thing is people can handle uncertainty. People can handle hard truths. We have to hear them.

We're all adapting, right, right now. We're all adapting. We're all figuring out what level of risk is acceptable to each of us and to the people around us. This is all a risky calculation. But as we do that, as we gradually open back up, we create more uncertainty.

And leaders like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx know that. Leaders like Bill Gates, and Laurie Garrett and Gavin Newsom and Mike DeWine, they're talking about the risk of calculation. They're help us understand it, and they're emphasizing the uncertainty.

They're showing the people who pretend they are certain are actually just deluding themselves. They see the numbers, they see the uncertainty.

So, meantime, what numbers did the president tweeting about? His poll numbers. And he's exaggerating his approval.

The hard truth is he's not preparing the public for the coming months of illness and waves of infection. He's just not.

And there's some signs he's punishing truth tellers, like the Health and Human Services watchdog who warned about supply shortages and testing delays. The White House is trying to replace her.


So, where are the truth tellers in the administration? Well, thankfully, Fauci and Birx are there urging caution. They are taking the long view. But experts in the CDC are rarely seen in public. The same is true for other federal agencies.

And today's "Washington Post" reports that the West Wing wants its economic leaders front-and-center on TV. Meaning fewer appearances by the doctors, more spin about reopening the country.

At a time when we need hard truths, we're getting a war on truth instead.

With me now to discuss that and more is legendary investigative journalist and author, Carl Bernstein.

Carl, war on truth, pandemic episode, is that what's going on right now?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. And you can't successfully wage a war against the coronavirus while simultaneously waging a huge war on the truth, which is what Trump continues to do. And the cost of it is really measurable in lives. That's what we're talking about.

And that's why his scientific advisers are so exasperated, they'll tell that you in private. That the economic reopening is being done in such a way through the Trump White House and its plans as to ignore to a large measure what the scientists are recommending and putting us in a premature position in the way that we're opening and costing lives.

Telling the truth -- let's look at Germany. Let's see what Merkel did. She told the truth to her people.

In England, in the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, after his horrible brush with almost death, is now telling the people of the United Kingdom the truth about this virus and why they have to stay locked down for longer. We need the same here but it's not happening because the president, as the "Washington Post" reported today, keeps -- as I've talked to numerous people in the White House about -- he's front and center with his re-election campaign rather than front and center with defeating this horrible or dealing with this horrible virus, particularly through meaningful testing.

STELTER: And do you see it as something pathological, meaning he's incapable of feeling empathy? Do you think is that -- that severe of a problem?

BERNSTEIN: I do not. I think that Trump -- and I know this from people around him, that Trump is very effected by loss of life. The national security people who have been his aides and have left because of his recklessness say the one thing about him is that he does have a huge feeling about loss of life. But when confronted, as in this horrible episode with huge loss of

life, he retreats to recklessness, dereliction of duty, putting front and center questions about his re-election that should not be primary instead of responding in such a way as those who give him the science tell him he needs to respond.


A couple of political stories have broken through this week amid this pandemic. It seems like newsrooms are having to juggle the health crisis with a couple of very interesting and important investigative stories. The first involves Michael Flynn and these newly released FBI notes and memos. Tell us what the significance is of the Flynn memos.

BERNSTEIN: The significance is that Trump and those around him have seized on these handwritten notes from a high level FBI official as showing supposedly that Flynn was entrapped by the FBI into lying. I've talked to top officials in the FBI and they say, no. What's clear from the notes as well as what happened is Flynn lied to the White House chief of staff, to the vice president of the United States, he still worked for a foreign power, Turkey, going up to the point when he was the national security adviser. He lied and lied and lied.

And what the notes show is standard operating procedure of a discussion about how to interview a witness.

What is important, though, is because the Trump White House and others around him are saying this is more evidence of the deep state, we need to cover this story. We need to be putting people like, say, Preet Bharara on the air, on "60 Minutes", on our air, who have great experience and know what that interview was about.

And we can keep an open about it, but so far, I think the evidence is this is yet another red herring by the president of the United States and his supporters who keep saying this was all about the deep state with the Russian investigation.

STELTER: It's certainly a popular narrative in pro-Trump media.

We're also seeing a lot of energy in pro-Trump media attacking what I would describe the rest of the media, and it's coverage of Joe Biden. There is, of course, this assault allegation from Tara Reade that she says occurred in 1993. She used to describe it as harassment. She now says it was an assault that happened in 1993.

This week, Joe Biden went on MSNBC and he talked about this for the first time. He denied this allegation.

We're seeing these two separate news worlds. On the right, you'll see headline after headline, story after story, saying the press is burying this, that there's media bias, it's Democratic double standard, and then we are seeing actually every day, more and more coverage of this from the rest of the media.

What's your impression of what's going on here, Carl? BERNSTEIN: My impression is, on Biden's story and the allegations that

we need to put our reporters on the story and see if we can find out something that there's some paper trail perhaps, if she really filed a complaint. I think we need to put her on the air, to air her allegations. And yet, at the same time, I think we need to approach this purely reportorially and also cover it as a political story in which indeed the White House is trying to make hay out of it. But it's a serious story that needs covering.

I want to come back for one second to this whole question of a war on truth, especially about questions of our readiness to deal through this pandemic and what we failed to do, and particularly what we continue to fail to do in terms of testing and the president's lying about testing, because he's lying about testing and what our capacity is, according to the scientists, has cost us lives and continues to if we act precipitously about the way we reopen.

Look, we have the Army, we have the National Guard. It is said we need 300,000 people to do the correct contact tracing, call up the National Guard, Mr. President. Use the facilities of the United States Army. Do what Franklin Roosevelt did in World War II.

Mobilize this country, and unite this country rather than feed the fuels of the cold Civil War by continually being dishonest about what is really going on, what the statistics are, and focus not on your re- election but focus instead on helping Americans unite, instead of more divisiveness, though it's an impossibility as we've seen through the Trump presidency, unfortunately to think seriously about that he would overwhelm his instincts and that he would be able to try to unite the country rather than purposely divide it at this terrible moment.

STELTER: Cold Civil War indeed. And I feel you do. I think the Biden story matters. Tara Reade is being heard, Biden is being heard, but what matters most is this 50-state disaster. And that's ultimately why it's the top story every hour.

Carl, thank you very much for starting us off this hour.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with us.

STELTER: Coming up, Washington correspondents Olivia Nuzzi and Ryan Lizza join me to discuss the rampant misinformation coming from the White House and what it was like at this press conference with the president.



STELTER: Now to briefings, blusters and bogus claims from the White House. We saw for the first time in a year, an official on-camera White House press briefing by a press secretary. This was the first time in 417 days.

And that's because there's a new press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, former Fox producer, turned CNN commentator, turned Trump reelection supporter, and now, she's there behind the podium, at least once. We don't know how often she'll hold these briefings.

But on Friday, she made this promise to journalists.


REPORTER: Will you pledge never to lie to us from that podium?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.


STETLER: But then she proceeded to deceive, misquoting FBI notes regarding that former national security adviser Michael Flynn we mentioned a few minutes ago. She also downplayed comparisons between President Trump and Joe Biden when it comes to issues involving sexual harassment and assault. She implied that Trump had not been accused of sexual misconduct in years, leaving out E. Jean Carroll's allegations that surfaced about a year ago.

Maybe "The New York Times" put it best in this headline printed on Saturday, new press aide vowed never to lie, that was the first lie.

With me now are two Washington correspondents who are working at home, living at home together, "New York Magazine's" Olivia Nuzzi and "Politico's" Ryan Lizza.

What is it so -- now, you're joining me on the webcam together. Thank you very much.

You all were both at one of the president's press conferences earlier in the week out in the Rose Garden. You both asked him questions.

And, Olivia, you received a lot of blowback for your question. Let's play it first and then talk about it.


OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: If an America president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be re- elected?


STELTER: Some GOP operatives and pro-Trump media allies acted very offended by that question. Why do you think it was important to ask?

NUZZI: Well, I think it's important to put the question directly to Trump and to learn how he is thinking about these things. And to his credit, obviously, he will often attack the person asking the question, he doesn't like it, he'll deflect that way by creating a fight with the media, he did not do that in this case. It was the last question of the briefing, maybe he wanted to get it over with, but he did seem to take it seriously, although he did not answer it directly, and he did not appear to be offended at all. So, I was very surprised when many of his allies in the right-wing

media came after me for that --

STELTER: A little bit of shakiness on the shot. We'll see if we get it back. For the past six weeks, most of us have been trying to use webcams trying to keep in touch with people.


Let's see if we've got her back.

Can you guys hear me now? Not sure if we have it or not.

Ryan, let's see if you can hear me?


STELTER: Yes, it sounds great. I love that you have a fire going behind you. This work from home life, you know, for those of us lucky enough to have work right now is quite interesting.

Look, Ryan, I wonder if you think it matters that Kayleigh McEnany held a press briefing. There's all this attention about the briefings, whether they're happening. Did it matter that she was up there for the first time in over a year since Stephanie Grisham never held a briefing during her tenure?

LIZZA: I think, look, I'm -- there's a big debate about these briefings. I think it's always better to hear from White House officials than not. The debate over whether you should broadcast them live is a separate issue.

But it's always better for us to have the opportunity to go in the White House and put questions to the people in power and the people who represent the president. Whether you get the answers you want is a separate question, but it's certainly better to have access, responses and have the ability to ask anything you want.

STELTER: Olivia --


STELTER: These should be broadcast wall to wall because if we only show sound bites from the president, we actually make him sound more coherent than he actually is. I mean, I hate to say that, but I think you're right, Olivia.

NUZZI: Yes, you and I were talking about this on the show in November of 2019, when this "Guardian" editor wrote a column I referenced in my so stunned when she saw Donald Trump in full for the first time at press conference because he sounds so less coherent than he does when he is filtered through news print and news coverage. Just by design, but the way we report the news, we have to make him sound more coherent than he is sometimes. And when you were forced to sit through a two-hour, 2-1/2-hour

briefing, so it's difficult to discern the actual meaning of his words, and I believe we are actually helping him articulate a message. This argument that airing the briefings live is somehow helping his campaign, it's free media, I don't really buy it. I think if it worked for another candidate, you could make that argument. With Donald Trump, I think sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I heard from Donald Trump that both of those things cured diseases.

LIZZA: Brian, can I just --


STELTER: Yes, please?

LIZZA: Can I add one point on the blowback that Olivia got and I and others have gotten from the questions that you ask at these briefings. I've been to three of them recently. I'm always surprised by the social media reaction, especially on the right.

Right now, there's this view that we as reporters who go to the White House and go to these Trump briefings, the only thing reporters are supposed to be doing there is getting more information, right, about the coronavirus response. And it leaves out this whole set of categories of questions about accountability and some of the -- one of the issues that Olivia raised.

And there's sort of policing right now on the right that -- an argument that reporters only -- you're only there to, you know, find out a little bit more about what state is opening, some very technical specific informational question, and the broader more, hey, you said this, now you're saying this why did you change your mind or questions of accountability, that's also now showboating or not real journalism.

And that's just wrong. That has never been the case since I've been covering the White House.

STELTER: Oh, it's great point.

Olivia and Ryan, thank you both for joining me. By the way, Olivia and Ryan are both subscribers for our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. How's that for a plug?

You just sign up for free right now at It's our daily, actually, nightly newsletter, full of the day's media and tech news all in one place.

Quick break on RELIABLE SOURCES.

And up next, one of the best weapons in the fight against this COVID- 19 infection is data. We need more of it. So meet two of the people running this indispensable tracking map right after this.


[11:28:41] STELTER: And this just in from New York state. Governor Andrew Cuomo will hold his daily COVID-19 briefing at noon. That's coming up at noon Eastern and CNN will carry it live.

We're told Cuomo will be joined by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, perhaps talking about a regional approach to gradually reopening this part of the United States.

Turning now to the data, to the cold, hard numbers behind this pandemic. I know you've seen this map before. It's the COVID-19 dashboard operated by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems, Science and Engineering.

For many people, this map, this data is a lifeline. These pages get billions of interactions a day. Politicians, the press and the public all rely on this tracker as they think about how to take action, whether to reopen, whether to return to work and visit relatives.

So, let's talk about the data, where it comes from and how we know it's reliable. I mean, the country's response to the pandemic is only as good as the data we have. That is true for every country dealing with this invisible enemy. And we know there's an undercount when it comes to the number of dead.

But exactly how do we know that? And what should we say to people who conspiracy theorize about an over-count of the deaths?

Joining me now for the first time on TV together are two of the most important people behind the scenes of this COVID-19 tracker.


They're both from the great city of Baltimore, from Johns Hopkins. Beth Blauer is the executive director at the Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact, and Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo is an epidemiologist and senior scholar at Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Welcome to both and thank you for being here. Doctor Nuzzo, how do we know, how to average people know that the daily death toll, the daily stats that we see are reliable?

JENNIFER NUZZO, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: Well, the death stats that we see are only as good as what's being reported from the states. And we know that the states are doing testing of people who have died to count them as a COVID-19 case. So we should very much believe that the death numbers that are being reported reflect people who have died of COVID-19.

That said, there are probably numbers of deaths out there that have not been tested, that are not being included in those numbers. So if anything, we may see that the true number is actually larger than what's been reported and not the other way around.

STELTER: I see a lot of conspiracy theorist stuff going on, especially on the far right-wing, some on the far left as well, saying, actually, these numbers are overcounts. These people aren't all dying from COVID, they're dying from other diseases. How do we know that that's BS?

NUZZO: Well, right. So that's goes back to testing. In order to be counted as a confirmed death, states are testing. And therefore, we have laboratory evidence that the person who died, died with COVID-19 infection. We do know that in many places, testing is constrained and people are -- not everybody is being tested, and it is highly likely that there are deaths out there that are also not tested.

Some hospitals have actually collected specimens to test later. So the likelihood that the deaths are being over-reported is just frankly not true.

STELTER: Yes. Beth, tell me about the creation of the tracking map and how it's being used. Because this does seem like a moment for public data, the importance of public data that's unparalleled in our time.

BETH BLAUER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTERS FOR CIVIC IMPACT: That's right. The map which was started by our colleague, Dr. Lauren Gardner in the School of Engineering here at Johns Hopkins University at first was just meant as a resource for researchers. Dr. Gardner has spent her career looking at the ways that we can track disease. And so she just sort of turned on the engine as she has with measles outbreaks and other disease outbreaks and started tracking very early on in January, the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

What we've learned very quickly though, is that there are no real tangible good public data resources that track disease in this way. And so as our (AUDIO GAP) continued to grow and we started building on our ability to get new and more confirmed and validated data into the resources, we realized that we were really managing a huge public resource and that the data was very difficult to obtain and to validate and to verify. But by putting the system in place created a very valuable asset that now billions of people have seen.

There's calls on the data at the same level, and it's an incredible -- it's an incredible moment for data and disease surveillance.

STELTER: Yes, I mean, CNN, for example, relies on the Johns Hopkins data for our updates. So, you know, it's a database now that so many different parts of society are relying upon. Dr. Nuzzo, what other -- what parts of the data, like what sets of the data are most important to trying to plan for the future. Because, obviously, you know, we're talking about the death toll, the death toll is gutting. But there's a lot of other data that you all are bringing in and could arguably be more important for figuring out what to do next.

NUZZO: Yes, so I really give a lot of credit to our colleague, Dr. Lauren Gardener, for putting together this map and for tracking cases and it's still the best place to get up to date case numbers and to see global trends as well as we've now added to the site more detailed breakdown of U.S. trends and particularly at the county level, I think it's really useful.

But a new initiative that we launched is around COVID-19 testing because as Beth said, the data are only as good as what's being recorded. And we know that across the U.S. testing is so constrained. And yet in order to be thought of as a case or in order for a death to be counted, it has to be tested.

So in order for us to understand whether the reported cases and deaths are a reflection of reality, we need to understand what level of testing is being done in the states. And in particular, states may be looking at declining case numbers, they may be tempted to want to reopen, but if they're not doing sufficient testing, there's a good chance that there's a whole lot of infection out there that they're not counting and not factoring into their decisions as to whether or not it's time to reopen.

STELTER: Yes, there's a quote in today's Washington Post from Tom Frieden saying, "it could get a whole lot worse, and anyone who doesn't recognize that it's really fooling themselves." You know, meaning, states reopen, businesses get back to normal, and then so many people are going to get sick.

And we're going to need this data to know if that's actually happening or not. Beth. Jennifer, thank you very much for joining me.


NUZZO: Thanks for having us.

STELTER: Up next, something you'll definitely want to hear. How the U.S. response to the pandemic is being viewed from other countries. Katharine Viner, editor in chief of the British paper The Guardian joins me next.


STELTER: Today is World Press Freedom Day every May 3rd back since the 1990s. The U.N. and advocacy groups have used this day to promote and preserve press freedom, to promote the importance of a free press all around the world.

Now it's notable this year at this time in the midst of an emergency and much of the world involving the Coronavirus, whenever there's a crisis, some countries try to use the crisis to curtail news coverage or access to information and we are seeing it right now. The so-called Coronavirus crackdown has been happening in some countries, with journalists feeling the pinch being affected by this.

Alan Miller, the CEO of the News Literacy Project, wrote about this in a new op-ed for He talked about the pattern of dictatorial regimes using COVID-19 to quash press freedom. We need to sound the alarm about that, make sure we know it's happening and call it out. It's all a part of these broader efforts to promote World Press Freedom Day.

The Guardian, the newspaper based in Britain is out with its own ad showing support for the press. It says, just like food facts are essential supplies. Katharine Viner, the editor in chief of the Guardian joins me now. Katharine, your reflections on why World Press Freedom Day matters?

[11:40:44] KATHARINE VINER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE GUARDIAN: Well, I think it always matters. But as you said in the introduction, Brian, I think it matters more than ever. Whenever there is a shock to the system, governments will try to use that. Unless we keep an eye on them, they'll try to use that to crackdown. And it's essential that try and stop that happening, or at least draw attention to the fact that freedom of expression and freedom of the press is crucial to any democratic society.

And I think transparency matters a lot right now when good information and how you come to -- how you come to it, how you come to the facts, can really help save lives.

STELTER: Yes, it can. So tell me about your perspective from London running the Guardian covering this pandemic around the world, right? Because in the United States, it's a 50-state disaster. But all over the world, this is you know, it's 100 country disaster, right? This disease is popping up in more and more places around the world. So how do you allocate resources to keep up?

VINER: Well, it's -- because we are -- although were based in London, we're a truly global news organization. We had 366 million browsers in March. It's gigantic. A huge chunk of those are in the United States, I have to say. And I think one of the things that's most interesting about the crisis is that the global threads, that it somehow reveals something about countries around about cultures about power in all of these countries.

And so we have a four-pronged approach to the crisis. And the fact -- the International nature of it is an important part. The other three just briefly is that I believe that we should be holding governments to account, the authorities to account wherever they are. So that might -- it's usually governments, but it might also be health authorities.

We have to ask difficult questions, even if people don't like it. We have to show empathy and humanity for the victims of this really frightening disease and tell their stories. Often these are from very marginalized communities. And we -- and we try and give visibility and humanity to them by, for example, in the United States, we've got a series called Lost on the Frontline. We're aiming to tell the stories of every single health worker who has died from coronavirus.

And then finally, I think we need to look at how the virus is changing how we live. It's changing everything so rapidly, and we can't be in denial about that. And of course, all of that is underpinned all time by complete respect for science and for the facts.

STELTER: That's so old fashioned. Respect in science. Go figure.

VINER: It's more important than ever. I mean, we find that we really have to be leaning into the science, especially when some world leaders are turning away from it, or in fact, fighting against it in a sort of culture wars kind of way.

STELTER: So speaking of that, I wonder from your perch, how is the American response to COVID-19 being perceived outside the U.S.?

VINER: I think people are finding it quite frightening, to be honest. I think the President's comments about bleach and so on were very disturbing to people. And people are very frightened by the idea that health care -- I mean, we share lots of worries all around the world, human worries around the virus but something Britain -- people in Britain don't share is that it's a fear of not getting health care because there is free universal health care in Britain.

And the idea that your healthcare should be tied to your job, and then you lose your job, and we've seen the huge unemployment figures in America as elsewhere in the world, but only in America is your health care tied to your job. And that looks very frightening indeed.

STELTER: It looks very strange to people in other countries. It definitely does. Real quick, Katharine, you know, the Guardian has a membership model. You all urge people to become members. Many newspapers are asking people to subscribe to try to keep them alive amid this economic downturn in the United States. What's your message to people about the importance of subscriptions?

VINER: So our policy is we are -- we don't have a paywall. We're open to everyone because we believe that everyone should have access to good quality fact-based journalism. And in order to do that, we ask that if you can pay you do pay, sort of you pay so that someone else can read it for free. And that's been incredibly successful.

We've got more than 900,000 people in a regular paying relationship with us, a huge chunk of those in the United States because we do have our own edition in the Guardian in the U.S. which I highly recommend to your viewers, the

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


VINER: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: And a good point there. A quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES. Jake Tapper is next with a preview of his special looking at the President and the pandemic.


STELTER: Early on in the pandemic, before we knew it was a pandemic for sure, right-wing media's downplaying of the potential threat affected millions of people including President Trump. That's just one of the angles explored in this brand new CNN special titled The President and the Pandemic. It's airing today at 10:00 p.m. here on CNN, and it's hosted by CNN Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper. Here's a look at the media angle from the special.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is everyone panicking?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Then there was the pro-Trump media which turned the pandemic into a conspiracy.

JESSE WATTERS, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: I'm not afraid of the coronavirus.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: They just look for any and every way possible to bash President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're basically accusing the rest of the mainstream media of fearmongering. They're saying that, you know, Democrats and the media are just blowing this up because they want to create more chaos for the President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am far more concerned with stepping on a U.S. heroin needle than I am getting the coronavirus.

TAPPER: This disinformation took such a hold on a segment of the public. New polling data began to worry leaders in the President's party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the polling showed was that Republicans were taking this virus far less seriously than Democrats were. And what news circulated to Republicans was that their tone and their message had to change on coronavirus because denial was not going to be true for survival.


STELTER: Indeed. And Jake Tapper joins me now with a further preview of the special. Jake seeing those video clips is just mortifying. You know, think back a few months to their rhetoric on Fox and elsewhere. Why do you think it's important to look back?

TAPPER: Well, look, we should note that it wasn't just Fox. In January and early February, there were a lot of voices in the media including on CNN saying that nobody should panic, that this did not look like it was going to be something that affected everyone. And in fact that the seasonal flu at that point was more deadly.

But then the facts changed and health experts changed what they were saying. And by the end of February, it was clear that this was much more serious and had the potential to be much deadlier and much more easily spread than the virus -- than the -- than the regular influenza virus.

So all those clips that we just aired, those are all from March. And this is an important distinction because at this point, it's become clear that Americans were dying and that this was spreading. It was not contained. And there were voices not just on Fox, but throughout the right-wing media, including Rush Limbaugh and others, saying that this was just an attempt by the media and others to bring down President Trump, that there was nothing to be concerned about, that there were -- there were no criticisms that were valid of the president, that this was all politics. And that just was not true. A lot of people, Democrats and Republicans

were sounding the alarm because there were serious concerns about the pandemic and about whether or not the administration was doing everything it needed to do to protect the American people.

STELTER: And this is where that feedback loop between right-wing media and the President can be so troubling because he's hearing it, he's hearing people downplay it, and then he's doing the same thing. Is that really the heart of the special that you're doing tonight at 10:00 p.m.?

TAPPER: No. I mean, this is just one part of it. The special -- we just -- we just did the media angle for it because you do a media show. But generally speaking, we're much more focused on the policy and how governors, how the World Health Organization, how the Chinese government and most importantly how President Trump handled the pandemic in terms of communication, in terms of policy, in terms of PPE, testing, ventilators, and all the rest.

Now, the media part of it is important because there was this gap, these several weeks where President Trump had bought himself some time by that partial travel ban of foreign nationals coming from China, where there could have been serious steps taken to protect the American people.

And a lot of people, as Sara Murray says in in the piece, a lot of people, health experts look at that time with despair that more was not done.

STELTER: Right, on the federal level, also on the state level, right, in New York State. What would have happened if action have been taken three or two weeks earlier? It's a terrifying thing to think about. It's so sad to think about. Jake, thank you very much. And again, that the special report is the President and the Pandemic. It airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. here on CNN.

Coming up in just a moment, a special message about everyone who is keeping the newest going and making it possible for you to stay tuned.



STELTER: Since March, most T.V. news anchors, they've either been broadcasting from home or working in small remote studios like this one, where the camera is robotically controlled. Producers and almost everybody else work from home these days. But these cameras still have to be operated, the control room still has to be staffed.

So I'd like to take a moment to thank all the people who are keeping T.V. networks on the air, keeping newspapers printing, keeping Web sites running. To the engineers, the tech operators, the master control personnel, the printing press supervisors, thank you.

Let's take a look around. Here are some footage from the Washington Post staff. This is a printing plant in Springfield, Virginia, making copies of the morning paper. There's no way to do that from home. And here's the New York Times printing facility in College Point, Queens. Departments of the times have been taking turns covering meals, providing meals at that facility.

In D.C., NPR still hard at work on the radio. Eight staffers on hand to broadcast the programming, empty desks and cubicles everywhere else. And at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, directors, banner operators, audio technicians and camera technicians are keeping these control rooms up and running pretty much all day all night long.

At CNN in New York, the TPM, that's what handles all of our video feeds has just a handful of people coming in including Carolina who helps make sure this show stays on the air. But you can see there, the rest of the newsroom is dark. Everybody's at home. In our D.C. bureau, similar story with editors and newsgathering teams working on the political front, but a few people still coming into work keeping the operation up and running.

So again, to those of you working, coming into work so the rest of us don't have to, thank you. CNN Leadership says this will most likely be this way until at least Labor Day. That's the plan. Through September with this work from home model just to give you a sense of how it works but the news wouldn't happen if some of us weren't coming in.

So to all of you behind the camera and all of you in the printing presses, thank you. That's a wrap on this week's Reliable Sources. We'll see right back here this time next week.