Return to Transcripts main page
Trump's Toughest Interview of the Year?; Daily Beast: Fox News Facing Internal Revolt Against Racism. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 19, 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. It is our weekly look at the story behind the story.
And we have a lot to show you this hour, including Fox's Tucker Carlson problem, and why the Murdochs don't think it is a problem. David Zurawik is here to weigh in.
Plus, Bari Weiss leaving "The New York Times", Andrew Sullivan leaving "The New York Magazine". The so-called "cancel culture" debate is raging. So, what's really going on in newsrooms? We're going to get into that.
And most importantly, we have a tribute to the late, great John Lewis. We want to share with you some words from his extraordinary memoir.
That's all coming up, plus Tim O'Brien, Anne Applebaum and many more.
But, first, President Trump has just wrapped up what was probably his toughest interview in months. He usually just speaks with sycophants, but he has agreed to sit down with Fox News moderate -- Sunday moderator Chris Wallace.
The interview has just aired. We've gone to the one-hour long transcript. And all hour here, we're going to show you the highlights and the lowlights.
Here is the worst news on top of all the bad news about the summer spike in COVID-19 illness, President Trump is still in denial about the pandemic's devastation. In the Fox interview, he defaulted to his favorite coronavirus lie, that is the rise in cases is all due to the rise in testing.
With Chris Wallace, he immediately complained about America's high levels of tests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: -- the surges are 6,000 in the whole European Union --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They don't test. They don't test like we do.
WALLACE: Is it possible they don't have the virus as badly as we do?
TRUMP: It's possible that they don't test. That's what's possible.
We find cases. And many of those cases heal automatically. We're finding in a way we're creating trouble. Certainly, we're creating trouble for the fake news to come along and say, oh, we have more cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Lying about the fake news in the midst of a pandemic as the death toll rises and rises. What's so scary about his words is that he talks about the virus like it's no big deal when you catch it, like it's just the sniffles. He refers to the sniffles. He says most people get better right away.
We keep hearing about people suffering for months after contracting the virus. You know, it's bad enough that the hospitalization rates are rising. It's bad enough that the morgues are filling up. It's bad enough that elderly Americans are suffering in awful numbers.
But even the folks who get the virus and then start to recover, they still feel terrible weeks and months afterwards.
And there's no acknowledgment of that the president. Instead it's, we're testing too much. And he's been saying this for months. We went back and did an anatomy of this lie.
If we didn't test so much, we would have very few cases. It's something that he's tweeted essentially more than a dozen times. That's happened for months now.
Countless reporters have pointed out this is nonsensical. It's like saying if you don't get tested for cancer, you don't have cancer.
So, where did the president get it from?
Well, let's go back to March -- March 6th during a tour of the CDC, the president was asked about docking the Grand Princess cruise ship where American passengers contracted the virus they need to get off the boat. Remember he said these words then?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers doubled because of one ship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: It's always been about the numbers. From the very beginning, the president's been worried about the numbers.
But I want you to remember back in March, the president was not claiming there was too much testing. Obviously, the lack of testing was a devastating problem in this country. The United States suffered dramatically because we were not testing to find out how much virus was spreading.
But, remember, back in March, Trump actually pushed governors and states to be doing more testing. These are some of his tweets from March, urging the increase in testing. Now, it was starting in April that he changed his tune. He started to claim that America was showing more cases, only because the testing was so much better than in other countries.
Now, that has been fact-checked, has been debunked many times, but the president does keep saying it. In fact, we found that on May 14th, he really started bringing this up again.
Coincidentally or not, Rush Limbaugh made the same argument that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: The more you test, guess what, the more cases you have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: OK, so there we go -- Rush Limbaugh says it in the afternoon, Trump repeats it at night. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people.
If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases.
(END VIDEO CLI)
STELTER: Here we go. This is how it's going to go.
So, again in June, the president hears this on "Fox & Friends". Ainsley Earhardt said it on the morning show. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS HOST: Keep in mind, more people are getting tested now, getting that antibody test and testing to see if they have COVID-19. If they do, obviously, the numbers will go up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That was June 15th. And then on June 15th, same day the president tweets about this idea again, and then he says it over and over again. The president had a new mantra.
Once he finds something he likes, a talking point he likes, he sticks with it, no matter how nonsensical it is. So, the right-wing media feedback loop is clearly in play here. The
president's disregard for public health is also in play here. He goes on and on in these interviews on Fox and elsewhere talking about too much testing.
He says, I know it's a good thing but it's bad, it's bad as well. It's trouble. It creates trouble.
He says this over and over again, wasting time that could be spent talking about masks, vaccines and other solutions.
Let's talk more about this with White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and CNN political analyst April Ryan, and two staff writers for "The Atlantic" who interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci this week, Peter Nicholas, who's also a White House correspondent, and Ed Yong.
Ed, you are a science expert. So, start us off, all this stuff about testing. I keep reading CNN reporters and anchors who have to wait a week or two to get their damn test -- results back. We still have a testing crisis in this country but the president seems to be implying it's too much.
ED YONG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I mean, we obviously have a testing crisis. This is ridiculous. Testing is not causing infections. The infections are caused by a virus because there is a pandemic going on.
We need to do more testing. This is one of the richest countries in the world, and seven months into a pandemic, it cannot test enough citizens to work out how many are actually sick. So, we have 3-point- something million infected people. That is the bare minimum. We do not know the actual number.
YONG: And to argue if we did less testing, the numbers would look rosier is like saying there's danger afoot and you put blinders over your face so you can't see it coming. And therefore, it's better. It's not.
You know, we need to do much more of this. Like you say, the testing still has an incredible lag that, you know, even the testing that we are managing to do is like delivering results within a time frame that would actually make a difference for controlling the pandemic.
STELTER: CNN White House producer Betsy Klein just tweeted out she had to wait 11 days to get your negative result. If you have to wait 11 days, the test is worthless.
April Ryan, what do you think was the big headline from this Fox interview? Did the president say anything new about COVID or was it the same kind of lying?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he didn't say anything new about COVID, but what he did do, shed a bright light in a very dark space. What we're finding out is potentially this was his thinking at the very beginning as to why we weren't seeing a lot of tests, as to why Maryland's governor had to go overseas to get a bunch of testing kits.
RYAN: So, this may have shed a bright light in very dark spaces. But it also plays into his campaigning. The Trump campaign is saying that they're hoping they can get a handle on the numbers of COVID/coronavirus so that he can look better in the polls and could possibly win re-election.
So, this shed a bright light on yesterday and moving to the future.
STELTER: Yes. Let's take a look at where the White House medical experts are. Where are the government's top experts on this? Because Dr. Anthony Fauci was basically forbidden from going on television for more than a month. We can put the calendar on screen that shows how long he was forbidden by the White House from agreeing to television interview requests.
Fauci was very clever. He went everywhere. He went on webcasts, radio shows, podcasts, did print interviews. He came to your conference at "The Atlantic", Peter Nicholas, a summit that "The Atlantic" held earlier this week. Finally, now, Fauci was allowed back on TV. He was on PBS NewsHour on Friday, and apparently the block is over.
But what do you think is going on here, Peter, about the country's top infectious disease doctor not being allowed on TV for a month?
PETER NICHOLAS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it's interesting. When I asked him about that during our interview, he was pretty cleared that -- he was not denying that he was being blocked. He said, I think you know the answer to that, Peter, and you wonder about why this is happening.
And as you point out, Brian, he was allowed to do all kinds of other interviews. I wonder if the reason he was barred from TV is because White House staff did not want Trump to see him. That Trump is an avid consumer of TV news, as we know, and I wonder if the motive was to keep him away from Trump's view because Trump might see him and get aggravated.
Now, I wonder if that's now (ph) what was going on here.
STELTER: Yes, and that's part of a larger attempt to downplay this pandemic.
A little (ph) fact-based produced for us, fact-based website that tracks every word the Trump says or retweeting posts. So far in July, the president more tweeting about Biden, Fox News, the radical left. The pandemic, much lower on that list.
I know this isn't new, Peter, but I think we just have to keep pointing out what he's not doing. He's not talking much about the pandemic in public.
NICHOLAS: Well, right. And I think you have to look at the campaign for that reason. Unemployment is 11 percent, induced by the pandemic. That's higher than it was in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan. That's higher than it was in 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton.
So, the pandemic is not something -- it's not good news. The president wants to put out the message that it's under control. The virus is in retreat. The economy is recovering.
So, he doesn't really want to talk about these numbers and bad news. He wants to change the subject and he's talking about culture wars. I really wonder if that's going to work. I mean, he needs suburban voters, he needs women voters.
Are they going to be motivated by whether we're tearing down Confederate era statues or not, or are they more motivated by health care and concern about the virus? It would seem to be that the best political play would be to control and contain the virus.
STELTER: One more note about that. In response to the Sunday interview, the president did have positive things to say about Dr. Anthony Fauci. So, he wasn't, you know, criticizing Fauci. He kind of distanced himself from Peter Navarro who wrote that "USA Today" op-ed attacking Fauci.
What's remarkable is that after "USA Today" published that op-ed, "USA Today" said it did not meet the publication standards, but that was after it was published. Go figure.
Ed Yong, last word to you. Is this an episode of "Idiocracy"? Is that what we're living through?
YONG: That's a good way of putting it. We are seven months into this and losing badly. Worst of all, we don't seem to be able to learn from our mistakes. Like Peter said, one of the best -- if you want -- if Trump wants to do well with his electorate, if he wants to beat -- if he wants to make it look as if he's beating the pandemic, one really good way of doing that would be to actually try and beat the pandemic --
YONG: -- and he's not doing that.
Like, if we actually had a coordinated national plan, if we have solid leadership, we have testing and tracing, like many other countries, fewer resources than America has have managed to do, then we would be in a much better position. You can't distract your way out of the pandemic. You actually have to deal with it.
STELTER: Here's the -- there is good news, if there's any good news in the segment. The president is golfing right now, but he tends to watch Sunday shows on the DVR later in the day. So, Ed, he may hear your comments in a couple of hours. Ed and Peter, thank you. April, please stay with me. April, you're up
first after the break.
Ahead in this hour, Anne Applebaum in what she calls the seductive lure of authoritarianism and the enablers who promote the autocrats.
And next, why are these two FOX News anchors reportedly seething at network management? Accusations of rampant racism at Fox coming from inside the company. That's next.
STELTER: Fox News is now facing an internal revolt against racism. That's according to reporting from "The Daily Beast", which details a heated phone call in early June where some black staffers slammed the Fox executives for the network's coverage of race and police brutality.
Now, the staffers especially criticized Tucker Carlson. Of course, you'll remember last week, CNN's exclusive reporting of Tucker Carlson's top writer using a pseudonym to post racist and sexist comments on online forum. Carlson sort of addressed the matter on his show Monday might, basically sidestepped it, and then announced he was going on vacation. That's curious.
According to "The Daily Beast," Rupert Murdoch's son, the Fox News -- the Fox Corporation, Lachlan Murdoch, personally approved what Carlson would say on the air that night, which really speaks to the support that Carlson has from upper, upper management, even though some staffers are really disturbed by Tucker's rhetoric.
As I mentioned, that vacation did come as a surprise, to go on vacation after a Monday show. "Vanity Fair" says it could have been a way to smooth things over at Fox.
Carlson is expected to be back on the air on Monday, but I haven't heard that officially from the network yet. So, we will see.
I do want to point out, I do have a book coming out about this very topic, Trump and Fox News. The title is "Hoax" and you can preorder right now at buyhoax.com. It has a couple of chapters worth of material about this issue inside Fox News.
Back with me is April Ryan and joining the conversation is David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun."
April, this reporting from "The Daily Beast" about, you know, internal concerns about what rhetoric airs on Fox News. I think it's noteworthy that there's concern internally, but if it doesn't change what actually airs on the network, does it matter that much?
RYAN: Oh, yes, it matters. It matters to those inside and to the greater public. At the end of the day, I am not a fan of cancel culture because a lot
of times, intent and context are lost in its abruptness, but there are certain issues where I feel like cancel culture is important and race is one of them.
You have Tucker Carlson, who had his head writer is -- is a white nationalist. That's a problem.
And then you have an outcry, a continual outcry, from black staffers, reporters, anchors, et cetera, at Fox.
In this case, one plus one equals two. There is a race problem there. Fox News says it's not racist. But the racist thinks they're racist, so there's a problem here (ph).
STELTER: David Zurawik, your headline about this for "The Baltimore Sun" was titled, Carlson and Hannity, they almost make me pine for the era of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly.
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: No, as bad as O'Reilly and Beck were, Beck talking about Nazis all the time and O'Reilly dividing the nation, driving that division between pinheads and patriots. They were bad. Ten years ago was really bad.
But this is worse. This is worse in this sense: ten years ago they were -- Fox News was the kind of opposition party to Barack Obama's historic presidency. Fox News is now the -- not just the enabler for Donald Trump, it's hand in glove with him.
And the thing about Tucker Carlson that's so troubling right now about these -- the racist -- racist rhetoric that he -- that he traffics in, is that I believe his -- it's not I believe. It's obvious.
As President Trump bases his re-election strategy now on saying America's dangerous, if Joe Biden is president, you're going to be in danger, those urban people are going to be coming for you in the suburbs -- Tucker Carlson is preaching that to his base on his show. A lot of it is through subtle kinds of comments -- or not so subtle with these guys. They're not -- that's what's dangerous. You now have him running point.
Tucker says Biden will ruin the suburbs and then Trump says the same thing.
ZURAWIK: Yes. Yes -- STELTER: Let's look at this from the "Fox News Sunday" interview with
Chris Wallace. The president twice this week has, when asked about the murders of black people, then brought up the killings of white people.
Here's how he did it with Chris Wallace. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Blacks are twice as likely, fewer in absolute numbers but in terms of per capita, blacks are twice as likely to be shot and killed by police as whites are.
In Minneapolis, over the last five years, police used force against blacks at a rate seven times that against whites.
Can you understand why blacks would be angry at that?
TRUMP: Of course I do. Of course I do. Many whites are killed also. You understand that.
WALLACE: I understand.
TRUMP: I mean, many, many whites are killed. I hate -- it's sad (ph), but this is going on for decades.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: And then he talked about Portland and got totally off topic and did not answer the question.
And so, I think there's multiple problems here, April. One is this instinct to talk about whites right away. And then, secondly, he doesn't answer the concern about blacks being killed by police.
RYAN: Exactly. He dismissed the problem of the disproportionate number of blacks being killed by police, whether shot, chokehold, what have you.
Black America is part of America. And there is a moment that is a movement that he fails to pay attention to because he's trying to rally his base as his poll numbers are going down.
And if you really think about it, this president has never really dealt with the issue when Colin Kaepernick was taking the knee. He kept -- he came out with this lie, this narrative of, oh, they're disrespecting our soldiers and the flag. Now, that's want be true because the blood of black people has been built into that flag, the blood of black people have been in the military, the blood of black people are in the policing units as well.
So, he has walked away from a segment of America that is hurting. A segment of America with the highest numbers of negatives in almost every category, and yet he's still focusing in on white America.
And also we have to remember this, black America wants a solution, not just this -- the bills that are going through the House and the Senate, but they also want community policing again -- something that he's not for.
One more clip from the interview. This is about "The New York Times" 1916 Project. Mike Pompeo attacked it earlier this week, and now, Trump is attacking it, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Now they want to change 1492 Columbus discovered America. You know, we grew up, you grew up. We all did, that's all what we learned. Now they want to make it the 1619 Project.
Where did that come from? What does that represent? I don't even know.
WALLACE: It's slavery.
TRUMP: That's what they're saying, but they don't even know. They just want to make a change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Zurawik, real quick, I think he's saying the writers are dumb or stupid. They don't know what they're writing about. I think that's what he's kind of implying.
ZURAWIK: Brian, one thing -- one thing I really want to point out quickly is, you know, the brass at FOX News said, oh, this is horrific. This is terrible. This is reprehensible, what -- the writer on Carlson's show was fired for.
But then they let him dismiss it in 91 seconds, make no apology on the air and use half of his time to attack people who reported this story.
There's a difference between actions and words. Fox News is famous for this little dance they do, where management denounces something but they don't really punish the people doing it because, probably, they either approve or they can't control their talent.
That's a real problem. And I'm really -- I get so angry when I see the CEO and the president saying -- condemning something and then their actions totally undercut what they did. If you're going to talk the talk, walk the walk. Fox News never walks the walk on race.
STELTER: It is all related. I'm glad you brought it back to Fox. Everything we're talking about with Trump and Fox is all related. What he is saying is directly linked to what Tucker is saying.
April and David, thank you both.
STELTER: Coming up here, April Ryan mentioned cancel culture. Is that what newsrooms are fostering? We're going to get into it, next.
STELTER: Clashes over so-called cancel culture are roiling some newsrooms right now. This letter signed by more than 150 journalists, authors and academics criticized growing intolerance of free expression. One of the signees, Bari Weiss, quite "The New York Times" this week and blasted the -- quote -- "illiberal environment" of the paper writing, "Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor."
She's referring to this idea of woke mobs criticizing people. On the same day "New York Magazine" columnist Andrew Sullivan announced he's leaving the magazine and relaunching his own blog because of a lack of diversity opinion. He says, "If the mainstream media will not host a diversity of opinion then the nonmainstream needs to pick up the slack."
What's going on here? Is there growing intolerance in newsrooms? Is this all about power? With me now is Jill Filipovic, columnist for CNN.com and author of the forthcoming book "OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind," and Amanda Carpenter, CNN political commentator, columnist for "The Bulwark" and author of "Gaslighting America."
Amanda, I think this is a very much -- extremely online conversation that people who are Twitter obsessives are having all the time. And I don't know if it's reaching the rest of the public, so break it down for me. What is so-called cancel culture? What do you think is going on?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Cancel culture means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but broadly it's about who gets to say what and where and whether they will be punished for it or not. And I think when covering this issue, we have to draw a distinction between professional writers who do this for a living and say other people who might say an unsavory comment on Twitter and aren't given the grace to apologize or explain what they meant for it.
And so I see a lot of people twisting those two things together. And also claiming cancel culture when they're just being criticized. And so we can go a lot of different ways with this conversation, but broadly, that's what we're talking about here.
STELTER: Jill, is there growing intolerance in American newsroom? Is what people like Bari Weiss -- is what they're pointing to a real and serious threat?
JILL FILIPOVIC, WEEKLY COLUMNIST, CNN.COM: Yes, I do think that there is a growing intolerance of opposition of political views. I think where we get it wrong in this conversation is looking at mostly mainstream and progressive outlets.
The reality is places like "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," CNN, host a really wide variety of perspectives. "The Post" and "The Times" have conservative columnists there's really not a day that goes by that you can't find conservative perspectives on those Web sites. You really can't say the same thing about Fox News, about Breitbart, about Web sites like Townhall.com. It's really conservative news outlets as well as conservative institutions like religious colleges where you're lacking diversity of opinion.
And what I see happening here is, yes, pointing to something that is a frustrating problem, but by honing in on -- quote -- unquote -- "liberal outlets," I think you really miss the fuller story. And the ways in which I think the right is kind of working the ref on this one.
STELTER: OK. But what about what some on the right say about the dynamic in -- let's take what Andrew Sullivan's critique or other critiques says which is, if you say the wrong thing about race or gender, then you're going to be canceled. You're going to be cut out of the public square. People are going to call for you to lose your job.
Is that -- that is real to some degree, isn't it, Jill? That does happen, doesn't it?
FILIPOVIC: It does happen. And I think it's important to distinguish, like Amanda did, really loud, vociferous criticism, and losing something -- and losing your job or having a workplace investigation of you. You know, obviously you have professionals with professional consequences. And I would argue this also gets a little more complicated when your job is to be a person who shapes public opinion, as Andrew Sullivan's is, as all of ours is.
When we start calling for people's heads professionally, I think that's a different thing than having a bunch of people yell at you on Twitter, which sucks and this has certainly happened to me and it's uncomfortable, but that's not being canceled. That's being a person who's participating in, you know --
STELTER: In the public discourse. Yes.
CARPENTER: Yes. Brian, I think we would be remiss not to acknowledge some of the things Bari Weiss said in her resignation letter. And I -- have complains about the way she did that in a very public manner. That's her decision.
But "The New York Times" does hold itself out as bastion of tolerance and she made some pretty serious allegations through legal terms saying that a companywide slack people were calling her names and putting axe emojis by her name.
Now, I don't think that should be tolerated at any workplace. Let alone a place --
STELTER: I agree. That's a problem.
CARPENTER: -- where they communicate for a living at "The New York Times." And so I think it's a bit unfair when "The New York Times" says, we want conservative writers but once you're here, we're not going to support you, we're going to let you be harassed internally and we'll just see what happens.
STELTER: Right. Leaders need to have backbones. When Bari Weiss says Twitter is the ultimate editor of "The New York Times," she means that in a non literal sense but the point of that is don't let it be the ultimate editor of "The New York Times," right? Get off Twitter. Don't give into the mobs. Don't pay so much attention to the Twitter chatter, which I know is easier said than done, but the most important thing here is to ensure diversity of thought in newsrooms, on the right and the left. Sorry, Amanda, you were going to say one more thing.
CARPENTER: Oh, I lost my train of thought there. Sorry.
STELTER: Sorry. Well, then I will wrap it up right there. I think what's most important is we just ensure diversity of thought in newsrooms. And, you know, if Andrew Sullivan, you know, can do that better off on his own blog, maybe that's better for him. I don't know.
Jill and Amanda, thank you. For all the day's media news including the latest on all of these stories sign up for our nightly newsletter, CNN.it/reliable. It's free. You can sign up right now at CNN.com.
Coming up here, Mary Trump's condemnation of her uncle is just the latest Trump tell-all book to top the sales charts. Tim O'Brien is here to unpack this lucrative pipeline, next.
STELTER: Fox's newest presidential election poll has Joe Biden ahead of President Trump by eight points, among registered voters. Chris Wallace broke that news to Trump in the interview that just aired on "Fox" and here is what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But at this point, you're losing.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I'm not losing because those are fake polls. They were fake in 2016 and now they're even more fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Must be a lot of fakery going on then because this is the 10th time, there have been 10 -- more than 10 polls since June that show Biden beating Trump. In fact, so many polls now show him beating Trump by double digits that we couldn't fit them all on screen. Here's the newest one. The Washington Post-ABC News poll showing Biden leading Trump 55 percent to 40 percent, a 15-point lead. That Fox poll is actually better for Trump. It only has him losing by eight points.
Let's talk more about this with the senior columnist for "Bloomberg Opinion," Tim O'Brien. Tim, (INAUDIBLE) we don't take these fake lies seriously. He says fake news, fake polls. He's alleging a vast conspiracy by all of the country's major scientific pollsters to Reagan election. Like, that's crazy but we just reported like, oh, yes, he says the polls are fake again.
TIM O'BRIEN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, because he's been saying everything has been fake for so long, Brian. There was the fake Russia investigation, there was the Ukraine hoax, there's the coronavirus hoax, and now we have the polling hoax. And I think the reality is that the facts and the world around Donald Trump now have him in a hammerlock. And he can't really talk his way out of these because there are litmus tests.
I think the American public sees right in front of them what's happening with the coronavirus pandemic. And regardless of where Trump plays the polls right now, he's going to be reality-tested in November.
And I think, you know, he's -- a lot of us got it wrong in 2016 in terms of the polling back then, so he's coming from a position where the polls radically underestimated his performance back then. I think the pollsters have changed their game this time around.
In 2016, I think, voters with a high school education were undercounted and voters with a college education were overcounted. I think the pollsters have gotten that under wraps in this upcoming election.
I think in the last election you had a muted turnout for Hillary Clinton among voters of color. I think that could be radically turned around in the upcoming election. And that's just not something that he can stave off forever, obviously, because November is right around the corner now.
STELTER: And need I remind everybody, you worked for the "Bloomberg" campaign. You know the numbers don't lie. Eventually there are real votes and he has to take votes seriously.
Let me ask you. You have got the perfect back drop for my next question. What a beautiful bookshelf. I want to ask you about Mary Trump's book. You reviewed it for "Bloomberg."
Mary Trump's tell-all, just the latest one of the series of tell-alls but it has sales figures off the charts. Simon and Schuster says it's setting a record for first week sales. There is still an appetite for new information about the president.
What do you think was the news in Mary Trump's book? Because I saw some people saying, what could we possibly still learn at this point about the president? O'BRIEN: Well, I think it was largely journalists saying that. You know, clearly saying, what could we possibly learn?
STELTER: Clearly, people wanted to buy it.
O'BRIEN: And being a journalist -- I'm not trying to discount our profession. But we're around this in a deeper way on a more regular basis than the average American probably is. But even among all of us, you know, I've been following the Trump literature for a long time now, decades. And this is a notable book.
And I actually think tell-all underserves it somewhat because it's not gossip for gossip's sake. It is really a window onto this hot house, emotional and psychological environment that Donald Trump grew up in.
Obviously, had he not become president, no one would care as much but the reality is that he did. His relationship with his father, in particular, shaped who he is. And the book also isn't just a clinical observation of his psychology, it's a richly embroidered narrative about the world Trump grew up in and it's very disturbing.
STELTER: It's a great point about choosing our words carefully.
It is not just a tell-all. It is a condemnation of the president from his own niece. Tim, thank you very much.
A quick break here. I want to talk to you about the recently demoted Brad Parscale. He has some despicable words for the media.
Plus, we're going to talk about the president now. He's pulling moves straight from Erdogan and Putin's playbook. Anne Applebaum is a moment away.
STELTER: Take a look at this. The recently demoted Brad Parscale, previously the president's campaign manager, attacked the media on Friday alleging -- quote -- "The media is a criminal network." He called journalists, "America's biggest enemy." It's despicable, Brad.
Now, let me show you how it might be linked to what's happening in Portland, Oregon. We have seen in Portland, Oregon. We've got federal agents on the streets in Portland, Oregon going after protesters. Some of these protesters are violent. I would call them anarchist.
Because of these ongoing street skirmishes that are happening in Portland. There's a lot of concern locally about the arrival of federal agents.
Take a look at how "The Oregonian" newspaper has been covering this. Saying right-wing media and the feds are trying to paint Portland as a city under siege. But the truth is only a couple of hundred or fewer protesters and scores of police officers are out in the city downtown.
Look at this map they posted on the Web site for the newspaper. Tiny little red dot is where the action happens at night. All these fires and other problems. And, look, there are real problems. I'm not claiming otherwise. There are real problems in Portland.
But it is made up on Fox News like it's this raging fire out of control and that is a gross exaggeration. It just is. It's a gross exaggeration.
So, let's talk about what is going on in Portland, how it connects to the rhetoric from the Trump campaign and whether these are kind of authoritarian impulses that we are seeing in action in America. I'm joined by the author of a brand new book, "Twilight of democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism." The author is Anne Applebaum, staff writer for "The Atlantic." She is joining me now for her first T.V. interview about the book.
Anne, do you see connections between, you know, the media is the enemy and sending in feds to Portland, are all these linked in some way?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. Look, it's absolutely true that authoritarian leaders all over the world attack the media, attack the independent press, and actually attack all kinds of other independent institutions which are capable of showing them to be lying, showing them to be corrupt or showing them to be unjust.
It's, you know, Trump didn't make it up. It's done by Putin. It's done in Erdogan in Turkey calling the media fake news. Saying it's untrue. Seeking to promote the idea that nothing is true and that you can't really know what's going on. This is well known.
I mean, the use of the police sort of unmarked federal officers, apparently they are customs officers to control rioters is also disturbing in a slightly different way. I mean, I think you actually were getting to it in your introduction. This looks a lot to me like something like performative authoritarianism. In other words this is being done partly for the photographs.
So, (INAUDIBLE) Trump is showing, look, our police, our federal forces are beating back against these protesters. That will then be a clip that can be used whether in ads or whether on Fox News or somewhere else to show that the president is imposing law and order.
And this is also a way of kind of messaging that we are in charge. We're doing something. We're restraining these forces of violence that you see all around them. That's designed to appeal to a certain kind of voter who wants to see this kind of control put onto contemporary events.
STELTER: Totally and there are some anarchists in Portland. There always have been. This has always been a problem. It's a small problem but it's a problem. But when I saw Sean Hannity leading his show the other night, I thought, OK, there's something going on here. This is a re-election play. Anne, why should people read your book? Again, the title is "Twilight of Democracy." Give us the reason why people need to understand in America what's happening in Europe and elsewhere.
APPLEBAUM: So, the book is partly about America. It looks at several different countries and it looks really at intellectuals, spin doctors and actually journalists who begin to see -- who become interested in -- this is exactly what we're talking about, this kind of performative authoritarianism -- how to use it to win elections. In other words, how to send messages and how to incite people and inflame people, anger them and energize them. And it's about the appeal of doing that and the appeal of the ideology itself.
And I think for too long Americans have been very complacent. You know, we think we have a wonderful democracy. It's been around for several centuries. There's nothing that can harm it.
And we have forgotten first of all that it has fallen apart before. It fell apart -- that was where the civil war was. And second of all that democracies do often fail and they fail through the neglect of institutions and through the rise of demagogues who attack neutral institutions, independent institutions and the independent media, and we are not exempt.
I mean, if there's a message in my book it's that Americans are not exempt from these trends. We see them in other places and we should be hyper vigilant about understanding them.
STELTER: When Trump aides are calling the media a criminal network, you know there's a problem. And I love what you wrote for "The Atlantic" in your excerpt from your book about Laura Ingraham. You talked about Laura's apocalyptic pessimism. And that is exactly what I see on air on Fox at night. Its apocalyptic pessimism. The country is so broken, according to this prime time host and that's a change from where she was decades ago.
Anyway, Anne, thank you so much. I hope everyone buys your book. It's called "Twilight of Democracy." Quick plug here on CNN.
Tonight Kamua Bell is back with a new season of his program "United Shades of America." He examines how the idea of white supremacy shapes American laws, language and societies to this day. The episode premiers at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.
In a moment we're going to leave you with the words of the late great John Lewis.
STELTER: Let's end this hour with the words of Congressman John Lewis who died on Friday, a monumental figure of the civil rights era. Lewis wrote in his memoir about the importance of the presence of the press at the protests.
In the extraordinary book "The Race Beat" you hear more from Lewis about this. The book actually concludes with the following observations by Lewis. The civil rights movement had succeeded, Lewis concluded, because we had a group of men and women who were prepared to get up there, to write the words and shoot the pictures, capture the sound? Lewis said, quote, "If it hadn't been for the media, the print media and television, the Civil Rights movement would have been alike a bird without wings, a choir without a song." And the struggle continues today.
God speed Congressman Lewis.