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Journalists Covering Protests Face Arrest and Assault; Spasms of Violence in Dozens of U.S. Cities; How Live TV Coverage Influences Protests And Riots; Trump's Smear Campaign Is Hurting An Innocent Family; Trump Exploits Twitter While Claiming Censorship. Aired 11a- 12p ET
Aired May 31, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter, live in New York, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES. We are covering the coverage of twin calamities in America.
Cities are cleaning up after the worst weekend of civil unrest in America since the 1960s. When I say worst, I mean the most widely spread with acts of vandalism in at least three dozen cities since Friday. Protests in some cases have given way to riots, countless injuries among protestors and police officers, disturbing scenes of looting and fires, also some disturbing videos of police aggression at some of these protests.
We have reporters and commentators standing by in Minneapolis, Philly, Baltimore, San Francisco and elsewhere. We're going to show you what David Zurawik, Jane Coaston, Errin Haines, many more coming up in the next few minutes.
But we have to talk first about what we've seen in the past 48 hours, the appalling targeting of reporters who are trying to tell America's story. There's so much that's so wrong about this situation. First and foremost, the video seen around the world, the video of George Floyd's final minutes alive. It's so wrong that it's hard to see, but it is right that we look, it is right that we bear witness. And it is right to see protestors taking action as a result.
But it is wrong to see reporters and photographers and news crews being assaulted and arrested at these protests. Police firing rubber bullets at reporters when the reporters are holding up press badges, that doesn't belong in America. Authorities handcuffing reporters is wrong. That's what happens in authoritarian regimes, not in America.
But yet it happened again last night in Minneapolis and in New York. These threats against the press are not just coming from police.
In recent days, protestors have ganged up on the press in several cities. We've seen photojournalists attacked. We've seen a TV news crew chased out of a park. That is wrong. Rioters destroying TV news vehicles and stealing cameras is wrong.
Almost everybody knows this and it's right to call it out and say that America is better than this. Reporters don't want to be the story. They just want to tell the stories of the protestors and the police, and the residents of these communities that want to be able to feel safe.
Let me show you some of the examples of what we've seen in terms of reporters seemingly being targeted. This for example was on Friday in Louisville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: I'm getting shot. I'm getting --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: This is a local CBS reporter and her cameraman in Louisville, Kentucky, apparently shot with pepper balls while live on the air. Later, the police apologized to the station.
But we've seen other reporters. Here's Dallas, for example, other reporters being hit by rubber bullets, by tear gas. These situations we've seen in a number of different cities. I'll read some other examples to you.
A reporter in Columbia, South Carolina was hit by a rock and had to be taken to the hospital. Here's a freelance photographer in Minneapolis who was shot in the left eye while covering the protests. She says she's blinded in one of her eyes as a result.
In Chicago, a "Chicago Tribune" photographer said looters shoved and stole her cameras.
In D.C., this is in Washington, in Lafayette Park, a Fox News crew was harassed and then chased out of the park by protestors who were cursing and screaming at Fox News and criticizing right wing media. This is deplorable behavior by protestors.
We've also seen in Las Vegas the arrest of two photographers. Police took these photographers into custody. That is completely inappropriate. They were then let out the next morning.
You know, we need to follow up on these cases and make sure that people are held accountable when these incidents happen. Reporters should not be in the story in these cases. But it's happened again in the past few hours, overnight here in New York City, a reporter for "HuffPost" was arrested while wearing a police badge and covering the protests in Brooklyn.
In Minneapolis, a "Los Angeles Times" staff writer had police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at blank range at her, and to a crowd of protesters and journalists. We're going to talk to her in just a moment.
A "Reuters" cameraman also said he was hit by rubber bullets. Some reporters had to seek medical attention. A news crew for KCRW says the LAPD shot at her with rubber bullets as she was holding her press badge above her head. And at least one case, as I have mentioned, we've seen protestors being the aggressors.
This is a reporter for KDKA in Pittsburgh, he says he was attacked by protesters downtown on Saturday, quote, they stomped and kicked me, he said in a tweet from the back of the ambulance. I'm bruised and bloodied but alive. My camera was destroyed. Another group of protestors pulled me out and saved my life. Thank you.
This is what's happening to members of the media in cities across the country this weekend. It feels like targeting. It feels like an escalation. It is deeply disturbing.
And we're waiting for statements about it from the president and from other national leaders.
When about a dozen reporters were arrested in Ferguson in 2014, President Obama spoke out about that and defended the rights of the press. We will see who defends the rights of the press this weekend and in the days to come.
But let's talk with two of the reporters who were in the middle of this.
I just showed you one of them.
That's Molly Hennessy-Fiske. She's a reporter for "The Los Angeles Times" who's got some wounds on her leg. We'll talk to her in a moment.
And Omar Jimenez is here from CNN, of course, famously, iconically arrested live on CNN on Friday morning.
I don't think we're ever going to forget that image, Omar, of you being taken into custody, your hands behind your back. But there's been a lot of news since then.
Tell me about last night and what it was like when police officers were moving towards your crew and you had to seek shelter on Saturday night.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Brian, we expect some of that when you come out to cover a protest like this because part of trying to cover the clashes between law enforcement and those that are coming out is you expect in some ways for things to escalate just based on how previous stories like these have gone.
JIMENEZ: So, our team actually had a plan to sort of watch how this law enforcement team was advancing, go back to our first safe spot, then continue to retreat to our next safe spot, but that didn't stop -- that didn't stop us, even though our camera was rolling, from getting shot at rubber bullets-wise. My producer got hit in the back with some rubber bullets. My photographer got hit in his leg with rubber bullets. Actually, he says that he had a cell phone in his pocket there and he
didn't get any bruising on his leg and he realized the reason was because he pulled out his phone and it was completely shattered and he still has that piece of that rubber bullet as well.
So -- so, in some ways it was the normal aspect of covering protests but in many ways, this one felt just a little bit different, Brian.
STELTER: It sort of looks different.
Same question to you, Molly. What happened to you last night? Is it right that your colleague, a photographer, had to go to the hospital?
MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE, STAFF WRITER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: That's correct. My colleague, Carolyn Cole (ph), photographer. We were both standing -- right behind me if you can see against this brick wall, the Minnesota State Patrol advanced. They told everyone that they were in violation of the curfew and had to disperse.
I was with about a dozen other reporters, cameramen, photographers, and Carolyn, she was wearing a flack vest that said "press" on it. I had my press credential around my neck. I also was holding a notebook because I've been interviewing people.
And when the police advanced on us, they started firing tear gas and we were shouting "press" and I was waving my notebook at them right back there. They just kept following us and firing at us.
Then I started shouting, where do we go? You can actually hear me shouting that on local TV footage because there was a cameraman there, too. And they were not telling us where to go. They were just pursuing us down this wall.
We came around this corner and got stuck if you can see behind that low brick wall and fence there, and there were police back in there behind us still pursuing us. And I had to jump over that wall. Carolyn was stuck behind there. We got separated. We reunited later and she was able to get treatment at the hospital.
But again, we had to drive. Luckily there was a Good Samaritan, a neighbor who drove us, but we had to drive through streets that had police cordons and police blocking them, and at one point, police fired some sort of a pellet or a paint gun at our at the Good Samaritan's car and there was paint on that, the driver side window, they fired right at Carolyn's head.
STELTER: Look, when journalists are not interfering, when they are not disrupting law enforcement, they should not be targeted by law enforcement.
But I wonder, Molly, if you feel like there's an increasing amount of targeting happening. That's what it feels like to me but I'm in a studio. You're actually there.
HENNESSY-FISKE: Well, last night was a very different experience from past stories that I've covered from Ferguson where, at least in my experience, we would, you know, see the police confronting or protestors confronting police and the press would be on the sidelines. I did not get arrested there. I didn't have clashes with police but there certainly was tear gas and there were clashes.
But my -- you know, I wore my press badge the same way there and in other situations, in Baton Rouge, in Dallas, and this never happened.
STELTER: Look, these are issues that date back a long time. You know, it's pre-President Trump, but I've got to think the rhetoric against the media from Trump and other politicians and television stars has got to be a problem that's making a bad situation worse. That's just my personal view.
Omar, what about your experience being arrested and the aftermath? Has it changed how you're operating there in the field?
JIMENEZ: It's changed a little bit because I think I slowly have realized how far that video actually went despite it being on live television as it was unfolding. It was really over the course of Saturday where -- yesterday, where we were back out doing our job at some of the peaceful protests that were going on during the daytime where, as you know, Brian, we're always trying to interview different people on the street just to get a pulse of what's going on.
And sometimes it can be difficult to try and find people who actually want to speak.
And this was, I would say, maybe one of the first times where people actually came up to us and wanted to say stuff. They had recognized us from what had happened. They thanked us for doing our jobs and these are people, again, within the peaceful protest, people that are from here in Minneapolis and just wanted the chance to speak with us.
And so, I would say that was probably the most different experience I've had in regards to other ones and it definitely switched over the course of Friday into Saturday.
STELTER: Hmm. Omar and Molly, thank you both. Please stay safe there.
We're going to be following this across the country. As I mentioned, several other cases of reporters being assaulted, being arrested, and we will be following up.
There's also breaking news out of Chicago moments ago. The Chicago Central Business District now being shut down so that only business owners and residents can enter. That is significant. That is as a result of looting and vandalism in downtown Chicago.
After a break here in Los Angeles, we're going to talk about how widespread this violence is and whether it's overshadowing the peaceful protests.
Later this hour, we're going to talk about President Trump using Facebook and Twitter to stoke tensions. Jack Dorsey is stepping up taking actions. So, what's Mark Zuckerberg doing? We're going to get into that.
And plus, the anatomy of a smear. Why did a 20-year-old lie go viral? We're going to talk about that and much more, and I promise we do have some good news coming up.
Stay with us.
STELTER: When the shutdown of 2020 began in March due to the pandemic, a smattering of stores in New York City boarded up, the way they down South for a hurricane. Now, there's more plywood going up today in Times Square, of all places. I saw this on the way to work. This is the crossroads of the world, boarded up, a precaution against the kind of vandalism that happened in other neighborhoods overnight.
The news coverage of this weekend's fire and fury has focused on big cities like New York, L.A., Atlanta, and, of course, Minneapolis where the original crime took place.
But I think it's important that the press show how wide and far this movement called the "I can't breathe" movement has spread. Peaceful protests have taken place in dozens and dozens of cities from Augusta, Maine, to Anchorage, Alaska, and sadly, riots have also developed. By my count, there has been violence in at least three dozen communities this weekend.
This is a very incomplete list. There were fires from Lincoln, Nebraska, to La Mesa, California, Richmond, Virginia, to Tampa, Florida. There's been looting in Dallas, Texas, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Rochester, New York, and Charleston, South Carolina, and those are just to name a few.
As a "New Yorker" staff writer Jelani Cobb put it, you know we are in uncharted territory when something happens in Minneapolis and they're setting cars on fire in Salt Lake City. It's true. And we owe it to you, though, to show you the full scope of this unrest, especially the really powerful and peaceful actions that we're seeing like this scene out of Denver yesterday where protestors took to the ground for as long as George Floyd was held to the ground.
So, we need to show you this. We also have to address the violence. We need help from historians like Douglas Brinkley who told me America has not seen riots like this since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
More recently, Ferguson and Baltimore are seared in our memories but these disturbances, look, this is Des Moines, are happening in a far greater number of areas, relatively small cities, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Madison, Wisconsin, Wilmington, Delaware.
We've got to face how this spread and we have to put it in perspective, to zoom out whenever we can and show you that in many cases the rioting has been confined to just a couple of blocks in most of these cities. It is still heinous and it's going to be very expensive to clean up but in most of these areas, it's been in a relative confined area.
Unfortunately, in other cities, the vandalism has been more extensive. I'm thinking about Philly, and Grand Rapids, and L.A., et cetera, et cetera. We also need to show you that the rescuers outnumber the rioters. The helpers outweigh the hurt.
There are protestors trying to stop the mobs. There are police officers trying to de-escalate when their colleagues are far too aggressive. Most of all, what we need to do is listen.
So, I'm going to hush and bring in Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox, in Baltimore, media critic David Zurawik, and in Philadelphia, Errin Haines, formerly the "A.P.'s" national writer on race and ethnicity. She's now editor at large at "The 19th."
Errin, parts of Center City, Philly, were devastated overnight. Take us there.
ERRIN HAINES, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE 19TH: Yes, you had protestors trying to peacefully protest again because the focus of this, the reason that we all are here is because of the killing of yet another unarmed black man in America, this time in the midst of a pandemic, but there was violence. There was destruction that erupted in Philadelphia, the cradle of our democracy as seen by many Americans.
You had cars, police cars burning in front of the city hall where some of the Founding Fathers once walked the streets. You had protestors trying to take down the statue of former Philadelphia mayor, Frank Rizzo, himself a former Philadelphia police officer and someone with a very racist legacy, that protestors have long wanted that statue down and this weekend's protest was yet another opportunity to try to make that happen for some people.
And you also had looting in Center City.
STELTER: Yes, a lot of it. What do you want to see from the media coverage both locally and nationally right now?
HAINES: Yes. Well, I covered the Ferguson protests in 2014 and what struck me when I was there on the ground was that I was getting a very different picture than what I had seen on cable news leading up to, you know, me actually flying in and being there and seeing what the protests actually looked like in their totality. And so, I think that that is something that we haven't quite learned from the start of the protests around this issue which has been ongoing, which is to -- you know, certainly the destruction, the devastation, the looting that is happening, that is real.
But, you know, show that, yes, but also center the people who are really the story, right?
STELTER: Yes. HAINES: Center these protestors who are peacefully protesting. That is how -- you know, that's what worked during the civil rights movement when images of people peacefully protesting, black people peacefully protesting for racial progress and justice and equality, showing those images is what moved Americans to try to change things in this country and so that is what we must do now so that we get a different result than we've been getting.
STELTER: Yes, well said.
Jane, one of your specialties is conservative media. I wonder if you're seeing what I'm seeing, which is these dueling narratives, the attempt to slice and dice and create whatever story you want to tell out of what's happening across the country. For example, you see in right wing media a lot of talk about Antifa and radical leftists. Elsewhere, you see talk of white supremacists trying to cause chaos.
Are these dueling narratives the reality of 21st century media?
JANE COASTON, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, VOX: Well, I have to be honest with you, Brian, I don't really care about the dueling narratives.
COASTON: A man is dead in Minnesota and he died as a result of the weaponization of the state that's been taking place since I was in 8th grade. When I was in 8th grade, an unarmed black kid named Timothy Thomas (ph) was shot dead by police in my town of Cincinnati, which resulted rallies and days of curfew.
So, I understand the interest in dueling narratives and how the conservative media is playing this but I think many conservatives when I speak with them or when I pay attention to conservative media, conservative media that isn't just talking about mainstream media to be clear, there's a lot of concern and worry. There are a lot of people writing for hotair.com and "National Review", who are saying this is wrong. What the police have done is wrong.
The overreaction of the state, the freedom that police are given to exact death and revenge on young people who are unarmed because of qualified immunity and because of other policies are wrong. And so, but I have to be honest, I haven't really been watching the coverage because this is all too hard and we've do you know it too many times.
You know, we did it when I was in grade school. We did it in Ferguson. We did it with the murder of Philando Castile in Minnesota also.
You know, I just keep thinking about the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. She was shot by police while she was asleep. You think, you think about the case out of Georgia (AUDIO GAP) against people who chased a man down and shot him.
And so, I think it's important for people to recognize, first and foremost, this isn't the first time that we've done this. We've been doing this for decades. We've been saying that the actions that the police are taking, actions that are supported by both Democrats and Republicans are wrong, actions that are taken against white people and black people. Let's not forget about the murder of Daniel Shaver a couple of years ago.
These actions are wrong no matter your political perspective, no matter whether you're watching this on Fox News later. It is wrong and I think that that's what I really want people to focus on right now.
STELTER: Jane, I'm so glad to hear you say it. I want David to stand by. Let's take a break. Come back with all of you, and have much more in just a moment.
STELTER: This American spring involves pandemic, recession, and racial pain. We are talking about the unrest sweeping the nation with David Zurawik, Jane Coaston and Errin Haines.
David, you're up next in this conversation.
"New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg says this feels like the opening of a dystopian film about a nation come undone. I'm such an optimist. I'm trying to find ways that that's not true, that we should look for hope from the public. What do you say about that?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: Brian, it's very easy to feel that way. It feels Old Testament, biblical, like we're being punished by some higher force. It's a terrible, terrible moment.
But I want to say one thing. Amen to everything that Jane said before that break. But your question about narratives, I don't want people to think narratives don't matter. Media narratives are all important in how we make sense of the world.
I'll give you an example. Last night, I was watching Fox News. And Bernie Kerik and Mike Huckabee as their analysts or their experts, and they keep talking about a few bad apples in the police department. That's a narrative that was very powerful in places like Baltimore where we had real problems with the police and they kept saying, oh, a few bad apples, few bad apples, people on one side of the equation.
After 2015 with Freddie Gray, and after the Justice Department and Baltimore Sun and others exposing a rogue corrupt outfit called the gun trace task force that was robbing citizens, taking drugs, selling drugs. The one -- the few bad apples narrative has quieted down. It was corrupt to the core.
And if we keep saying it's just a few bad apples, we will keep having incidents like this. That's the way a narrative sustains injustice in this world. Narratives do matter. And Fox is pushing that narrative right now. I saw it all night last night while they were doing their coverage around, you know, whipping around the country. It's important. Narratives matter. BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Errin, how do you think live television coverage influences both peaceful protests and also riots? Is there, of course, this risk as we point cameras at burning buildings, it encourages more destruction?
HAINES: I think that is part of the risk. I certainly can understand you know that that cameras are drawn to things like fires and destruction of property. Those are very dramatic images. But again, showing those images without centering the peaceful protesters, reminding people that that is the majority of the reason that protests are happening, that those -- that any incidences of rioting or even looting or a distraction.
I think that what we've learned from the pandemic within a pandemic that is happening in this country right now, is, you know, we learned in coverage of the coronavirus, like returning to the central questions at all times is the way to really cover a pandemic.
That's what's happening with the coronavirus and that's what needs to happen, you know, with these protests, what is the solution to keep black people from being killed by the police and by vigilantes. That is what we should be returning to over and over again because that is the point, not images of looting or destruction of property.
STELTER: And Jane, what do you say is the responsibility of the press during a moment of unrest?
JANE COASTON, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, VOX: I think the responsibility of the press is to explain how we got to this point. You know, I think that it's unfortunate that the Supreme Court is largely close to cameras, and that many of our courtrooms and police precincts aren't believed to be good places for news because the Supreme Court is going to take up the issue of qualified immunity in just the next couple of weeks, you know, which is focused on what police are permitted to do under the Constitution and given, you know, police have been able to run roughshod over the Constitution in many cases.
And I think that adding that context, adding in how we got here, how the power of police unions, how the language about the thin blue line has allowed police to think of themselves not as part of the community but above the community that they police. I think that context is absolutely necessary.
You know, I wish that sports are on right now. I really do. But this isn't a sport. This isn't something we can just observe and then comment on later. We have to add in the necessary context about how we got here, why this is happening, why violence has erupted and how we can do something about it. Because I think it's important to note that this isn't just a one-time incident.
This is a reaction to decades of, you know, bad policing and bad management from Democrats and Republicans alike. This isn't a political cudgel. This is a national problem that we have to do better and explain it. STELTER: And David Zurawik, one more point about this. I think you know this firsthand in Baltimore. When there are peaceful protests and police act violently, and those videos go viral, more people are on the streets the next night, and that is what I fear is happening right now. Because there have been so many videos over this weekend, police in very dangerous situations and I respect they are in serious danger, and I'm worried about that, but they end up in these situations where they drive through crowds, they swing at protesters, and then the next night, there's even more protesters on the streets. Quickly, David.
ZURAWIK: Brian, one last fast thing. Please, let's not leave Trump out of this conversation. What he's done the last four years of encouraging people to hate the press, enemy of the people, scum of the earth, using those rallies. It's a weapon he used, and we see the effects, I think. I'm not totally blaming him, but it's a large factor in the attacks on press that we're seeing on the streets today.
STELTER: David, Errin, and Jane, thank you. And speaking of the President, you've got to hear Rush Limbaugh's new excuse for Trump's egregious behavior. I think it might explain the entire Trump presidency. And during our break, sign up for our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. It's a daily recap of the day's media news delivered at night. It's firstname.lastname@example.org/reliable. We'll be right back with this.
STELTER: Now to the anatomy of a Twitter smear campaign. Asking questions, sowing doubt, spreading misinformation, those are some of President Trump's techniques. And when he uses those techniques, they are sometimes innocent victims.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Trump is just throwing gasoline on the fire here and he's having fun watching the flames.
STELTER: What's on fire is the memory of a young woman who worked for Joe Scarborough 19 years ago.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, MSNBC: The President of the United States sullying this good woman's name.
STELTER: The President seized on the death of Lori Klausutis who died in Scarborough's Florida congressional office in 2001, triggering conspiracy theories from left-wing critics of the GOP congressman like the Daily Coasts. Now the theory has been picked up by the far right.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not an original Trump thought.
STELTER: True. But Trump has been amplifying it on Twitter, suggesting Scarborough is a murderer, calling this a cold case even though it is not. Scarborough was in D.C. when Lori died in Florida after she fell and hit her head. The medical examiner said she had an undiagnosed heart condition.
SCARBOROUGH: Every time they spread these lies, they're hurting the family.
STELTER: Lori's family has stayed silent over the years, wary of attracting any more conspiracy mongers. But her widower Timothy Klausutis recently sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging him to take down Trump's tweets. CNN's Brianna Keilar read his letter out loud.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: My wife deserves better.
STELTER: Twitter expressed sympathy about the pain the statements were causing the family, but said the tweets are staying up. So Trump keeps calling Scarborough a psycho. And some of Trump's fans keep saying they will investigate the 2001 case. And all of this noise just spreads the smear more and more.
Some Republicans like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney have chastised Trump, and so have some editorial boards like the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Examiner.
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Now it wasn't just that Twitter was wrong.
STELTER: But many Trump allies are apparently unbothered.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Maybe those questions should be asked.
STELTER: And according to Limbaugh, Trump is just having fun watching the flames, reminding us of a famous quote from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some men just want to watch the world burn.
STELTER: Just want to watch the world burn. And that quote takes on a deeper meaning this weekend. With me now is David Frum, staff writer for The Atlantic and author of the brand new book Trump Apocalypse. Is that right David? How do I say that crazy word?
DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: That's right. Very good. Very good.
STELTER: So we're in the middle of it here, David. Is that quote basically the Trump presidency that some men just want to watch the world burn?
FRUM: President Trump is a reprehensible person and obviously a person without a lot of regard for truth. He doesn't always act logically as the Christopher Nolan tweet suggests. I mean, I think one of my favorite insights into the Trump presidency was the staffer who said Donald Trump isn't playing three-dimensional chess, he's eating the pieces.
But one of the argument of the Trumpocalypse book is Donald Trump's personality is not the country's only problem. He takes the conflicts and we see them burning through our cities this weekend and he uses them as a political resource. When we get past this Trump era, we have to get -- we have to address those important conflicts in the country and find some way to deprive future Trumps of this kind of resource.
STELTER: I think what we're used to say in a moment of crisis is when will the President speak? Will he address the nation? What will he say? How will he calm tensions? How will he soothe fears? I don't know if those are the right questions anymore. And by the way, the White House just said the President will not appear on camera today. There are no plans for an address to the nation.
FRUM: Well, that's good. The President, this president should shouldn't speak because what could he possibly say? He's already spoken. He's already conjured up the image of -- not just any image, but the image of dogs attacking protesters and one of the most powerful anti-civil rights images this country has. That's what's on his mind. He's identifying with the people who unleashed dogs on protesters.
Donald Trump's authority is slowly draining away. He still has the power of the presidency, but none of the moral authority. But it's not going to be over. And I think the thing I am concerned about and we should all be concerned about as citizens is how do we get some -- squeeze something good out of this lemon presidency? How do we put the country back on a track to being the country that not only Americans, but America's friends around the world believe it to be?
This same weekend, last point, President Trump has been talking about reinventing the G7 by adding Russia and by adding Australia but not talking to China. In fact, stoking a kind of conflict with China. The damage to America's position in the world, that's going to be the hardest thing to fix. And we have to deprive -- we have to deprive America's enemies of the kind of resource that is provided by the Trump presidency.
STELTER: And looking closer to home, we were just talking about Morning Joe and Joe Scarborough. My heart goes out to T.J. Klausutis who, you know, has had his life upended by these conspiracy theories. He -- you know, he's a resident of Florida and none of the lawmakers under the Congressmen and women in Florida came to his defense. They were just silent when reporters asked him for comment about the President's lies about his family.
Is that because those congressmen and women are just so afraid of the pro-Trump media and the scrutiny of the Hannity's of the world? Like, what's going on there?
FRUM: Look, Trump doesn't have a lot of skills. But one skill he truly does have is a genius for seeing weakness, weakness in people, weakness in institutions. And he has used that and he's found the moral weakness in the Republican Party. He's also found an important weakness in American law. Look, if you or I were falsely to accuse someone of murder on Twitter,
we should prepare for a defamation suit that would take away our houses very probably. Donald Trump as president enjoys a certain immunity from defamation actions when he's acting as precedent.
Now Trump has played with that system. When he talks as Real Donald Trump, is he the President of the United States, in which case he's immune from defamation but who would never say such terrible things, or is he Donald Trump, the blowhard and well-known T.V. loudmouth and fool who can say anything but he's using the immunity that that is given to the American president? And he's using it for his corrupt personal ends, as he has used the resources of this country and diverted them to his golf course for his corrupt personal ends.
STELTER: You work so much in these answers. How do you -- you know, your attacks against the president, do practice these?
FRUM: I think about this, unfortunately, more than I would like to. And I think one of the -- I think we all feel exhausted with this. And we're I hope we're at the end of it because we want to think about something constructive and useful.
STELTER: David, thank you for being here. Best luck with the book. Up next, amid national upheaval, social media seems to be causing even more polarization. Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are taking very different approaches. I want you to hear from two insiders next.
STELTER: As political unrest collides with the pandemic, the White House sometimes seems more interested in fighting Twitter. This week the President was fact-checked by Twitter for the first time. The site attached a small label to his misleading claims about mail-in balance. Immediately, the president hit back and signed an executive order about what he called online censorship.
Now the executive order may be toothless, but still politically powerful. Both Twitter and Facebook spoke out against it. But Facebook has been taking a very different approach to the President's content. Mark Zuckerberg is saying he will not be posting the same kinds of fact-checks that Twitter is posting.
And when the President was tweeting about shooting looters the other day and Twitter said that was a violation of policy, Facebook said it was not a violation of policy. Is he just afraid of President Trump? What's going on there.
Zuckerberg says I know many people are upset that we've left the President's posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies. That's the statement from Facebook. Let's get a different view now from Roger McNamee. He's one of
Facebook's early investors, a mentor Zuckerberg, but now one of Zuck's harshest critics. His book is titled Zucked: Waking Up from the Facebook Catastrophe.
I'm also joined by Yael Eisenstat. She's a former CIA officer and Global Head of Elections Integrity for Political Advertising. She used to be the head of a legend integrity for political advertising at Facebook, so she was an insider, just currently a visiting fellow at Cornell Tech's Digital Life Initiative.
Yael, can you explain to us in 30 seconds the executive order and why it would actually be a problem for Trump? Like he would actually be potentially in legal trouble if his tweets and his Facebook posts were -- you know, it could be held liable for them.
YAEL EISENSTAT, FORMER GLOBAL HEAD OF ELECTIONS INTEGRITY FOR POLITICAL ADVERTISING, FACEBOOK: Sure. Thanks for having me on. So, what he essentially is trying to do is get rid of what's called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Now, many of us have been working really hard to reform this and to think about really smart ways, but he wants to completely annihilate it.
And what it really does is it provides protection for internet platforms, for intermediaries to not be held responsible for the content that's posted on their site. It also protects them to be able to moderate content that they deem inappropriate.
And so, as quickly as I can say, what this means is he essentially is actually weaponizing the First Amendment and being backed off of the way by trying his power to shut down private company ability to whether it's fact check whether it's decide what's harmful content. In this case, whether it's to give us more accurate information about voting and not allowing our own president to engage in voter suppression.
But the problem is with him trying to absolutely, through executive order, annihilate this. All of us who have worked really hard to try to think through smart ways to reform this 1996 legislation are very concerned that this is going to ruin the possibility for a smarter way forward.
STELTER: Meanwhile, you know, Zuckerberg keeps saying in different ways, you know, Facebook keeps saying, hey, we just we're not responsible. We're not editors, we're not arbiters of truth. Here's -- Roger, here's what he said about taking content down in October of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: If anyone including a politician is saying things that can cause -- that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm, we will take that content down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, is he falling short of his own claims, Roger?
ROGER MCNAMEE, FORMER MENTOR TO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Everything that Mark says on this particular topic is disingenuous. Facebook does many things to police content. The problem with Section 230, as currently interpreted by the courts, is it provides blanket immunity for essentially anything Internet platforms want to do.
And in Mark's case, his platform is ubiquitous. Everyone uses it. So, he has to align with power in every country he operates in. And that means, in the United States, he needs to align with President Trump. And so there has been a symbiosis that's developed between these two companies from before the 2016 election.
And if you look at it, Mark bends over backwards to do things that basically violate his own terms of service on behalf of both President Trump and the Republican Party. He does similar things in every other country in which he operates. And the issue is that Facebook, as important as it is and as valuable as it could be, is like the chemical companies in the 1950s when they used to pour mercury into freshwater and spewed toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.
Facebook is basically promoting hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories because those things are good for its business.
STELTER: Yael, I have 15 seconds. Is that true? Is it that bad?
EISENSTAT: It is. Because when you have a policy and you don't enforce it evenly across the board, then your policy carries no weight. And unfortunately, it's not about wanting Mark Zuckerberg to be the arbiter of truth, it's about wanting these platforms to be responsible for how they're amplifying and curating really harmful information and nobody's held responsible at all for what they're doing to our civil discourse, democracy, and all of that. And so yeah, I absolutely agree with the way Roger described that.
STELTER: And Roger, 15 seconds to you. All of this is a distraction from 104,000-plus dead Americans in the pandemic.
MCNAMEE: Exactly. And this is the thing. Technology is too important to our economy to be allowed to operate as dangerously as its operating today. We need to work together to fix all of this.
STELTER: Roger, Yael, thank you both. After a quick break here on CNN, a special memorial service anchored by Jake Tapper for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.