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NYT: Trump's Campaign To Undercut Democracy; What Will Election Coverage Look Like This Fall?; Is Biden's Low-Profile Media Strategy Working?; How Biden Is Dodging Trump's Punches With Silence; Messaging Divide During A Pandemic Can Cost Lives; DHS Promises To Investigate Surveillance Of U.S. Journalists; James Murdoch Resigns From News Corp Board; Fox's Rating Dropped During John Lewis Funeral. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 02, 2020 - 11:00   ET



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

Ahead this hour, why misinformation about miracle cures is just worsening America's pandemic pain.

Plus, new reporting about one member of the Murdoch family making a dramatic break from the family business.

And, later, what is the GOP doing? Why are they claiming the Republican National Convention will be closed to the press? What is going on? A new statement from the party coming up in minutes.

But first, an election mess in the making, with three months before ballots will be counted.

Picture all of us Americans in a car together. President Trump is the driver. And he is trying to drive us off the road. He is trying to crash the car.

In this analogy, the car is our democracy. It is old. It's got a lot of miles on it, but it's still running strong. It's been well- maintained. It stays humming along. It stays on the road through voting, through elections.

But the driver, ever since 2016, I don't know, either the he wants to go offroading or he wants the car all to himself or he doesn't know where he's going. Something's going on with the driver. He's trying to crash the car. But all of us are along for the ride.

The president's rhetoric about the coming election is the equivalent of trying to crash a car. Through his tweets, through his statements, he is eroding confidence in the democratic process, making a crash more likely, and he's doing it for no good reason. It's just his own ego. And his media pals are helping him do it.

So everybody else, besides Trump and the pro-Trump media, everybody else, all the responsible newsrooms, elected officials, civic leaders, everyone else has a huge responsibility in the next three months.

You know, this fall's election, culminating with a big broadcast on November 3rd is probably not going to look like these past elections. You know, we all think about election night in America. You sometimes know the outcome by 11:00 p.m., a little later at night in 2016, of course, 2020 was the anomaly.

Well, 2020 is now an unprecedented situation. We're not going to be seeing balloon drops in massive convention halls and arenas. You know, we're not going to be seeing campaign stops with huge rallies in all these different states.

And that's largely due to the pandemic, due to mail-in voting and other reasons, Election Day will be more like election week. That's the way to think about it. In fact, television networks like this one are already planning for much longer vote-counting coverage.

We're probably going to see long lines, short -- short staffed, poorly funded precincts. We're probably going to hear concerns about mail-in ballots not getting delivered and counted on time due to Postal Service problems.

And the president is going to keep lying about the likelihood of voting fraud. Fact-checkers are going to keep debunking those lies, but lots of people will be left confused, not knowing what to believe or maybe not even knowing how to vote at all.

So, in November, in December, they will be left wondering if the whole thing was legit. That is the car crash. And the president is behind the wheel.

Keep in mind, there's an entire universe out there designed to make Trump's claims seem true or, you know, at least truish, true enough. He's taking a lot of his talking points from Fox, including that tweet which was spurred by "Fox & Friends."

Keep in mind, Fox News calls its election coverage "Democracy 2020". I hope they'll live up to that word in 2020. Democracy -- because we are witnessing creeping authoritarianism in America.

"The New York Times" called it Trump's campaign to undercut democracy. And you can say it was just a tweet and you can say he was just kidding. It is still creeping authoritarianism, even if the guy is joking.

Of course, the good news this week is the Republicans did immediately challenge Trump's musing about delaying the election and more good news, news outlets did a good job truth-squadding right away, immediately, pointing in the headlines that Trump didn't have the to either to delay anything anyway.

But it's August 2nd. The election's November 3rd. There's going to be three more months of this -- three more months of the lies, three more months of the sowing doubt, of the delegitimizing the election, three more months of this.

And the president still has the keys. He is still behind the wheel. His words still have power in this looming car crash.


So, that's where we're going to start the program and go in depth about the next three months and about what news outlets need to prepare. We have standing by with us the executive editor of one of the world's biggest newsrooms, Sally Buzbee of the "Associated Press". She will join me in a moment.

But let's begin with "New Yorker" staff writing Susan Glasser. Also, Erin Geiger Smith, author of the new book, "Thank You for Voting: The Maddening, Enlightening and Inspiring Truth About Voting in America". And Rick Hasen, chancellor's professor of law and political science in UC-Irvine, he's the author of "Election Meltdown."

And, Rick, your book is subtitled, "Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy".

What is the biggest threat today?

RICHARD HASEN, CHANCELLOR'S PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, UC IRVINE: I think the biggest threat is we're not going to have a fair elections or we're not going to have an election that voters -- a good chunk of voters will accept as legitimate.

We've got a lot of challenges, we have a lot of challenges before the coronavirus hit, but now, it's going to be harder for a lot of people to vote. A lot of people are going to vote by mail, have not done it before. The rate by which ballots might be disenfranchised is going to be higher, unless voters are educated.

But on top of that, you have the president making statements that undermine the legitimacy of the election. I'm worried about a nightmare scenario where we hold the election, many more of Trump's voters have switched to voting in person, and Trump is ahead, say, in Pennsylvania.

That's a key Electoral College state on election night. And then a week later, Biden is declared the winner. Is Trump going to say, as he said in 2018, only accept the votes that arrive on Election Day and try to claim that he's actually the winner when he's the loser?

The kind of statements he's making are really undermining the public's confidence in the fairness of the vote count for no good reason because there's not good evidence that there's any massive voter fraud problem with the mail-in ballots that are going to be coming in.

STELTER: So, this could go sideways a dozen different ways. It's important to game out the scenarios and think about what could go wrong between now and November.

Susan, you wrote for "The New Yorker," that Trump is the election crisis he is warning about. So, you obviously are not in the camp that says, oh, he was just kidding, he was messing around, he was just having fun on Twitter. SUSAN GLASSER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Brian, you and I both

remember very clearly back to the beginning of the Trump presidency when people who said, listen, he'll become more presidential, don't pay attention to the tweets, pay attention to the policy. That actually was a sure-fire way for misreading the Trump presidency and the actions that followed those words.

And I -- here's what I would say to you: Donald Trump, to follow your analogy, he drove off the cliff this week. He's not just taking us there. Trump has actually hundreds of times in his short-lived political career attacked the legitimacy of elections, rigged elections, that sort of thing. That's been his playbook since he entered politics.

What's new is that this is the very first time we've ever had a president of the United States suggest that we should delay the election outright. It was no coincidence that just a day later after that tweet, the Chinese leadership said they were going to postpone Hong Kong's elections because of the coronavirus, using that as an excuse.

That's the dictator playbook, that's the authoritarian playbook. Elections have survived since the civil war of the United States, the world wars in the United States, and this is driving over the cliff for the president of the United States to question even having an election.

STELTER: There he goes, Erin, right? He gets us all fired up, people like me all concerned.

Is this a distraction from the actual truth about the vote this coming fall?

ERIN GEIGER SMITH, AUTHOR, "THANK YOU FOR VOTING": Well, I think that what the constant talk of these baseless voter fraud claims have caused, as Rick said, is a lot of confusion. And so, what's so important for the media to do, as we move forward, is not just to address those issues and push back on false claims, but we have to do our jobs and let the voters know about the part they can actually control, which is voting. So, we really need to educate on how vote by mail works, what the voter can do to make sure their own vote counts.

It's not the sexy part. It's the brass tacks part. But I really think any story that we write talking about the problems has to also answer the question, am I giving the voter the information that they need to make sure their vote can count? Because there's very little that voters can do about funding the election or getting the USPS more money.

They can push their senators to do that. They can volunteer to be poll workers. When it comes down to it, they need to know how to vote by mail in their state and whether vote by mail is the right choice for them. So, we have to get that basic information to people.

STELTER: It's a great point. Let me get Rick and Susan as well. Number one thing the press should be doing between now and November. Rick, first to you?

HASEN: I think the president needs to educate the public both about how to vote, especially in places where -- you know, in Georgia they have 36,000 people vote by mail in 2016 in the primary compared to 1.2 million.


People are learning. So, how -- first, how to vote? And, second, to not knock down these conspiracy theories about voter fraud and things that are going to convince people that the election is not being done fairly.

People in the media should be letting the public know that a slow count is a fair count. And that trying to rush things is just going to create sloppiness. We don't want that. We want something people are going to accept in November.

STELTER: So you're saying election week, instead of election day, that's a good thing, right? It's actually -- it may be better. It means we're getting a more accurate count.

Susan, your shot on what the press should be doing between now and November.

GLASSER: Brian, I think the hardest thing throughout the Trump presidency has been screening out the noise --


GLASSER: -- and trying to understand what makes this presidency uniquely different from that of either a Democratic or Republican predecessors.

And, for me, I think you come down to two things. One is (AUDIO GAP) the other obviously is the president's unique character and willingness to behave in ways that no leader ever has in the United States. So, keeping a relentless focus on that, truth-squadding is not in and of itself the substitute for meaningful action but it's crucial at this moment in time to do it in real time and to be very, very clear in the face of an assault on the truth, insisting upon it as independent. It's not partisan to tell the facts.

STELTER: And, finally, Erin, this came up most prominently with former president Barack Obama and his speech at the funeral -- at his eulogy at the funeral of John Lewis. He talked about poorly funded voter boards and these basics of democracy that get overlooked. That's what we need is leaders to point out about the basics of democracy.

GEIGER SMITH: It's very true. I think I think we shouldn't look at voting rights and access to the polls with convenience as a partisan question. It's not. We want everyone who can vote to do it and we need to make it convenient for them to do so.

We've got a lot of big questions and we just have to do our part to give voters all the information they need to make sure their vote counts while also handling all these other major issues of funding and everything else. But there's an education of the voter -- focus moving forward.

STELTER: Right. Yeah, three months, one day until Election Day, the beginning of election week, apparently.

Susan, Erin, Rick, thank you very much.

Coming up, what are newsrooms going to be doing about these problems. We're going to ask one of the most powerful editors of the world, Sally Buzbee of "The Associated Press".

And later, it is really poison on the airwaves. A dangerous conspiracy cult called QAnon is seeping into the mainstream. We're going to show you how, coming up.



STELTER: We are back on RELIABLE SOURCES, talking about the looming presidential election. Why it will be so different this year and how it will be covered by the press.

"The Associated Press" has a 50-state network of local reporters, an entire infrastructure for counting the vote. It's been doing that, of course, for more than 170 years. "The A.P." is out with a story this week, a guide to how they are planning on tackling this election and the inevitable delays.

The headline there says delayed election results may be, but not because of fraud, an important distinction to make in the coverage. Sally Buzbee is the executive editor of "The A.P." and she's joining me now.

Sally, you used to head the D.C. bureau. Now you run the whole operation.

What's happening now, three months before Election Day or week or month or whatever, what's happening now to prepare for this?

SALLY BUZBEE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, obviously, many states are still setting their laws. President U.S. election system is very decentralized. The presidential election is run by -- you know, each state runs its own election.

Many still have primaries that are still set to happen. Many of them are still setting their laws around how much mail-in voting they're going to allow and things like that. So, what we're doing is doing an enormous amount of research to make sure that we understand how each state is going to handle its elections, what is laws and procedures are going to be, how they're going to handle mail-in voting and things like that so we can communicate that to our customers and the news organizations that depend on us for that vote count on election night. So that everyone can have as clear and factual and transparent of an idea of how this election will work is possible.

The pandemic means that many more states are doing mail-in voting.

STELTER: And with regards to that, and the vote counting part, do you expect it will take weeks? Is that your planning?

BUZBEE: You know, we don't really have -- I mean, with are preparing for it to go beyond election night. And the reason it really doesn't have anything to do with fraud or anything like that. The pandemic and other forces in the country mean that more states are doing more absentee and more mail-in voting.

There has been absentee voting and mail-in voting very successful mail-in and absentee voting for many, many years. Washington state, Oregon state have run incredibly clean elections with all mail-in votes.

So, it happens but there are going to be, you know, additional states this year that are dealing with this for the first year. And it probably means they will go slower. It does not at all mean there will be necessarily fraud or anything like that.

Those two things are not connected. But they probably, to be careful and to have accurate vote counts, will probably tabulate the results more slowly. So, we are anticipating for that reason that the vote will probably be slower this year.



Sometimes also there are differences -- you know, people who vote ahead of time and people who go to the polls may be different types of voters.

And so, you know, one of the things we all need to be very cautious about this year is that if the early vote shows one trend and then later that changes, that's also not a sign of fraud. That could just be different groups of voters in the state voting at different times and their votes being counted at different times.

STELTER: And, of course, if there's a landslide in any direction, it's a lot easier to know it happened right away. But if there are close races, it's going to be tougher.

Let me try a theory on you, and maybe this is far-fetched but I grew up watching election night like everybody else. Isn't it really "The A.P." and major networks that show the company -- show the country what happened? Like, yes, there are these institutions and there's an Electoral College and everybody agrees on the result. But isn't it basically a bunch of major networks and "The A.P." that affirm the result and cause the country to believe the result?

I bring that up because we're in this age of distrust now, where these fake news lies have hurt media trust. I wonder, you know, are people going to trust the networks and the "A.P." on election week or election night?

BUZBEE: So, yes, there is a very decentralized system in the United States. There's not a federal elections agency. Each state runs its own vote.

What we do and what other news organizations do is we pull together that vote. So, we gather what California has reported and what Florida has reported and what Ohio has reported.

You win the presidency in the United States by winning the Electoral College votes. Whether we like it or not, whether it's the right system is not for me to say, but that is how the system works.

And so, what we do is tabulate those, you know, you win Florida, you win this many electoral votes.

So, we count it. We the associated press count it and we declare it, OK? So, why should people trust us?

We have been doing this since 1848. We have done it through the Civil War. We have done it through the Pony Express. We have done it through the troubles of the '60s. We did it through World War II.

On election night in 2016, we were the first people to declare that Donald Trump had been the winner. We did that at 2:26 a.m.

We did it based on facts. We did it based on accuracy. We did it based on no fear, no favor.

We are completely nonpartisan. And what we do is we report the facts. And that's why people can trust us.

We will be entirely transparent on election night. It is not our role to say who should with in this election. It is our role to factually report to the United States and to the world what has happened. And that is what we will do. You have our pledge.

We're also totally, totally willing to talk about how we do this. We put out research reports that explain exactly how we do this. We educate news organizations. We are here to be transparent.

STELTER: A simple mission statement but so important to articulate it, when there's so much noise about what the media does in this.

Sally, thank you very much.

One tag about this, you might have read stories in headlines over the weekend about the RNC saying the GOP convention in Charlotte will be closed to press. What the heck is going on?

Now, they're claiming this is because of social distancing. Here's a new statement we just received from the RNC saying that: No final decision has actually been made and we are still working through logistics and press coverage options.

So, that's the statement from the RNC saying this is about the pandemic and social distancing. But, come on, the Democrats are finding a way to make it work, finding a what I to make sure press -- members of the media are in the room where it happens, are included in the process.

It would be unprecedented and it would be unacceptable for the Republican National Committee, for the Republican National -- for the party and the convention planners to keep the press out during the convention. That would be absolutely unacceptable.

We'll keep you up to date on this and the rest of the news in our nightly newsletter. Sign up for free at That is our nightly newsletter. It is free. You can sign up and we'll have the latest on this convention nonsense and all the rest.

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, every time I hear Trump surrogates saying Joe Biden is hiding in the basement, I think to myself, it's more like he's smashing through the roof. Have you seen the polls lately?

Look, TJ Ducklo, Biden's national press secretary, is going to join us live. We're going to talk about the press strategy in a moment.



STELTER: President Trump sucked up all the oxygen in 2016. Think back to that election season. Everybody was talking about Trump, and it worked to his favor.

But now, it is hurting him. He is still sucking up all the oxygen, but it is to his detriment.

Take a look at this data from NewsWhip. It shows social media interactions with Joe Biden. Now, let's add Trump to the graphic, and you'll see that there's far, far more social media chatter about Trump than about Biden.

Now, just for fun, here's what 2016 looked like. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were much more evenly matched in terms of social media interactions. But tweets are poor substitutes for polls. In the polls, Biden is way ahead.

And, look, "make America boring again" is a logical strategy. It makes sense.

"The Washington Post" calls it a less-is-more campaign by Biden. NBC calls it a do no harm strategy. "Politico's" Jack Schafer says the media's biggest favor to Biden was ignoring him. Which isn't obviously literally true but there's a grain of truth to it.

So, let's not ignore Biden. Let's bring in TJ Ducklo. He's the national press secretary for the Biden campaign.

TJ, here's what I want to know -- when you read headline saying you have a less-is-more campaign and a do no harm strategy, does that offend you all at the campaign or are they right?


TJ DUCKLO, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT: Well, look, Brian, we are 93 days from Election Day. And our job is to present a clear choice for the American people.

Do we want four more years of the kind of erratic behavior, the kind of divisive rhetoric, the kind of failed leadership that we see every day from Donald Trump or do Americans want something different? Do they want the experience that Joe Biden brings to the table? Do they want a leader who can lead with compassion and empathy, who knows how to get this virus under control, and to make government work for people?

You know, we have had hundreds of surrogate events across the country led by folks like Mayor Pete, like Senator Warren, Senator Harris. Our field teams and our thousands of volunteers are making calls and texts to voters, talking about the issues that folks care about, but also making sure they know how to vote.

And, look, we're also being creative about how we're reaching people. Like a lot of your viewers probably saw the video with President Obama and Vice President Biden, that was a video that got 10 million views in its first four hours. Twenty-five million views over two days.

It was also an organizing tool. We added tens of thousands of names to our email list. But we are getting his message out there. We are being creative and finding new, compelling ways to get Vice President Biden's vision for America out into the country and I think that's what you're going to continue to see us do.


STELTER: -- the contrast about the amount or number of interviews he's doing, TV interviews? You're getting a lot of heat from Trump world about the lack of TV interviews.

We counted about 15 interviews by Biden in June and July. This is local and national. Mostly local for Biden. Thirty-plus interviews by Trump this summer so far.

Is that one of the contrasts? Shouldn't you be providing Biden to the press more often?

DUCKLO: Well, we had a press conference this week, Brian. I think CNN was the first question on that press conference. And, look, since March first, Vice President Biden has done nearly 100 interviews with every network, including Fox News, with cable, with local media, which during an emergency, as folks know, is where a lot of people turn to get their news. With other platforms, folks like Desus and Mero. He did Peter Hamby's Snapchat show.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to talk to Fox News and to friendly outlets. And one interview with world renowned journalist Donald Trump Jr. mixed in there. Brian, I think the last time Donald Trump was on your --

STELTER: That's fair but look what Trump said on -- go ahead.

DUCKLO: I think the last -- Brian, I think the last time -- I think the last time Donald Trump was on your network was over four years ago, in July 2016. So, we are very comfortable with our interactions with the press. Particularly up against the president, who routinely attacks journalists for doing their jobs.

STELTER: It is true that the president has not agreed to speak with CNN in an interview, in a sit down interview since taking office.

Look what he said to Chris Wallace a couple weeks ago. He said, look, let Biden sit through an interview like this, he'll be on the ground crying for mommy. Now, of course, Biden did do an interview on MSNBC the next day. So, the idea that Biden can't do an interview is a lie. That's a lie by Trump.

But he's going to keep lying. He's going to keep saying it for the next three months. So, why not prove him wrong every day by having daily press conferences and giving daily interviews?

DUCKLO: Brian, as I said, we had a press conference earlier this week. He took questions from every network. We are constantly getting the vice president's message out there. As I mentioned, over 100 interviews since March first. And, look, I think President Trump could take a lot more questions and do a lot more interviews with outlets that are not Fox, Fox business.


STELTER: Sure. He absolutely could.

DUCKLO: Some of the other friendly outlet that he --

STELTER: I think what your candidate is doing is he's dodging Trump's punches with silence, which is probably an effective campaign strategy. I just think that Biden owes the public access all the time, even in the midst of a pandemic.


DUCKLO: Well, look, we will continue as I said to -- we -- I think we are, absolutely. And I think we are drawing a contrast for folks, that this election is a choice. It is a choice between two candidates. And Donald Trump -- or excuse me, Joe Biden is the polar opposite of Donald Trump in every way in his experience, in his character, in his empathy. And we are drawing that contrast extremely sharply in everything we do, including our interviews with the press.

STELTER: Can you tell us what date of just plan on being around for VP selection, before you go?

DUCKLO: Look, Brian, no announcements on that front today. But, you know, we are winding down a very thorough and robust process. So, we look forward to sharing that news with the American people very soon.

STELTER: TJ, thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.

Up next, here on RELIABLE SOURCES, the media, of course, marks the day when America's coronavirus death toll surpassed 50,000, then 100,000 and now 150,000. How many more miserable milestones are there going to be?

"The Daily Times" now putting pages and pages of obituaries. And this morning the North Carolina News & Record newspaper showing new grave sites on the front page. Yet some commentators are still wasting time talking about ineffective treatments.


We are going to call that out next.


STELTER: Two-front war on the truth these days -- politics and the pandemic. And hydroxychloroquine connects the two fronts.

As you know, the malaria drug known as HCQ is still being touted by right-wing media as a miracle cure for COVID-19. They're doing that through things like this video. There was this press conference held in Washington with these doctors.

Doctors who are not representative of opinion or of medical fact of scientific fact, but because they were out there promoting this drug, Fox, Breitbart, latched onto this and precious days were spent debunking this nonsense.

Don't fall for this video, Kaiser Health news wrote. Study after study has shown that HCQ is not effective in dealing with COVID-19. That's what Dr. Anthony Fauci said. At least he's being allowed to go on television and say it these days.


But Trump's media outlets, his allies, continue to tear down Fauci and claim that Fauci is part of this elaborate crazy plot to keep the country locked down to help the Democrats. And 5 million viewers watch that stuff and they hear it every day.

Trump keeps getting fed terrible information from people he believes, like the man who runs "One America News," that Fox News wannabe channel. He was hyping HCQ in a phone call with Trump earlier in the week. Fox is plugging this kind of fringe or exception to the rule studies that argue that somehow this drug is effective in treating patients. Again, the government's own experts say it is not.

But, of course, the GOP's Louie Gohmert said, when he diagnosed positive for COVID, that he was going to take the anti-malaria drug. Anyway, that's what he told Hannity as soon as he went out there and said he was testing positive. Every day there is some new BS narrative that is supposed to make Trump feel good and is supposed to deflect blame from the rising death toll. When the U.S. surpassed 150,000 known deaths from COVID-19, and remember, the real number is higher due to testing failures and people dying at home, but at the 150,000 mark, news outlets pointed out that America is in far worse shape than other countries.

And ever since then, ever since Trump read those stories or heard those stories, he has been talking about rising case counts in Europe and other parts of the world. Distract, deflect, every bit of this disinformation is a waste of time. It is a waste of breath. Things we cannot afford to waste right now.

But this alternative universe, it is strong. We've got to know what's happening in it because it does affect the president and his political choices.

Now, let me bring back Susan Glasser. She was here earlier in the hour, "New Yorker" staff writer and CNN global affairs analyst. And, Susan, I just think to come back to this key about the pandemic and what the president chooses to do with his time, just feels to me like the media, we had to go ahead and look into these doctors and find out about the doctor who believes in alien DNA and explain how she was such an aberration from what's the norm in the medical universe. But we have to do it because the president is spending his time on it.

GLASSER: Well, Brian, I think this is an excellent point. What's different? There's always been conspiracy theories, there's always been, you know, the world of promoting alternative facts, especially in a public health crisis, in a pandemic. What's different is that the president of the United States is the one personally spreading the misinformation.

I was looking at Robert Draper's new book about the starting of the Iraq war by George W. Bush. And, you know, propaganda and misinformation existed at that time. In fact, there was a moment in time when a majority of the American public believed incorrectly that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

The difference is that George W. Bush had people surround him who were saying things that were untrue. They were walking the line. He himself never directly said this untruth about Saddam Hussein and 9/11. But created an atmosphere in which people believed it.

Now you have Donald Trump even getting rid of that and going directly to spreading the untruth and the propaganda himself. And so, I think that's the line that has been breached very definitively in the Trump presidency, especially with this pandemic, with people's lives on the line. You will never hear the president offer genuine condolences more than 150,000 dead.

I mean, you know, we've almost lost our capacity to be shocked. What I would say to people is, you don't have to be surprised to maintain your sense of shock. And I do agree with you, it's very important to cover this universe of misinformation and lies that is being hoisted on the American people and the accountability for Trump and his advisers for spreading it is something that is really different in our politics right now. It's astonish --

STELTER: Yes, we all wanted hydroxychloroquine to work. The studies have proven --


STELTER: -- it doesn't. We need to move on, unless there are more studies that suggest that it is effective after all. But the science is pretty clear.

By the way, Draper's book is titled "To Start a War." It is brand-new. It is excellent.

Let me get your reaction to another troubling story. This is from "The Washington Post" which obtained Department of Homeland Security intel reports that were about two journalists -- quote -- "noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about DHS operations in Portland," during the protest. So, of course, the DHS, the department is embarrassed now. They are reassigning one of the people that was involved. But what's the significance of this?

GLASSER: Look, if you tell the American public and your own employees for years that journalists are the enemies of the people, and specifically target them and call them out, eventually bureaucrats will (INAUDIBLE) and they will do what they think pleases the president, pleases the political masters.

Another lesson, by the way, of that Iraq war buff, you know, the bureaucracy is very attuned to picking up signals from the top which is why leadership matters and why, in fact, people like the president do play an outside role in affecting things with their own words.


And I think this is a very clear-cut example of that. You know, we're going to find a lot more examples when the history of this administration is ultimately written.

STELTER: Yes, I have the same feeling. What else we don't know yet. It's mind-boggling. Susan, thank you very much.

Coming up here on the program, what a moment of unity actually reveal about the media divide.


STELTER: Some new intrigue in the house of Murdoch this weekend. Rupert's younger son James has resigned from the news corporation's board, nixing his finally formal link to the family media business. James cited disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions. Strategic decisions means the company's financial struggles, but disagreements about editorial, that's about racism, xenophobia, ignorance, climate change, denialism.

[11:50:07] Look, James has already left Fox side of the business. Now he's leaving the publishing side too. Papers at "The Wall Street Journal." Lots of papers in Australia, et cetera. So, what does it all mean?

Errol Louis is here with answers. Errol, does it mean anything to have James breaking off from the family business?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it means quite a lot actually. The stated reasons, I mean, we called it climate change, denialism, but what happened in Australia where the Murdoch papers are dominant was a real travesty, where they were editorializing and putting fact information on page four in some cases, in the case of their Melbourne papers, even as the country was burning.

It's a travesty what happened down there. And I think James Murdoch decided that this was just too much for him, that he wasn't going to watch such a radical disservice of the viewers and the readers of the Murdoch media companies be something that he was going to be in charge of.

STELTER: Right. Yes.

Let's talk about one of the most important events of the week. This is the celebration of life for John Lewis which included this extraordinary funeral service in Atlanta on Thursday.

Every channel was live, all the broadcast networks, all the cable channels, but I saw something in the ratings that blew me away. And I don't usually talk about ratings, but look at this from Wednesday. This is a typical day on cable news. OK? Typical daytime cable news ratings. You'll see Fox is on top, CNN and MSNBC are a little below.

Now, go to Thursday. This is during the funeral. The red line is Fox. The ratings fall off a cliff. Fox's viewers didn't want to watch the funeral. Fox went from about 2 million viewers before the funeral down to like 400,000, 500,000, 600,000 during the funeral. And then right after the funeral, right after Obama, Fox's viewers came back.

This is stunning. I know people aren't surprised by this. They say Fox's programming doesn't appeal to African-Americans or the minority groups, but have Democrats been so demonized by Fox News that even the celebration of life of a civil rights legend is something they don't want to watch?

LOUIS: I mean, this is what we're dealing with. We talk about a polarized America, this is your proof positive.


LOUIS: This is something that we should be teaching in journalism schools. I mean, when people see that three living ex-presidents are all speaking and so forth then they still decide I'm going to watch soap operas, I'm going to turn it off, I'm going to look at something else it sort of confirms -- it confirms -- and you really have to look for something else because it really was across all the channels.

STELTER: You did.

LOUIS: It really sort of confirms that this is, you know, Fox News is basically functioning as an adjunct of the Trump White House press operation and the Trump campaign. And it was distasteful, it didn't fit the narrative that they're (ph) fed (ph) 24 hours a day and so they couldn't make sense if it, didn't want to see it and just moved on to something else apparently.

STELTER: Yes. And to Fox's credit at least it carried the funeral live like everybody else but the viewers turned the channel.

LOUIS: Well, you have to -- you have to.

STELTER: Yes. You definitely have to. Definitely have to.

But speaking of Fox, Errol, this thing about a week ago but I still want to bring it up because I think it's so troubling that Fox's Jesse Watters was promoting QAnon on his weekend Fox show. He later claimed that he doesn't QAnon, but he was on the air saying, QAnon has found a lot of great stuff about the deep state and Jeffrey Epstein.

QAnon is a cult that has predicated on the idea that Democrats and other elites eat children, abuse children, have massive sex trafficking conspiracy networks and there is Jesse Watters promoting this cult. I mean, this is a group that has been labeled a domestic terror threat by the FBI. Is this the mainstream --


STELTER: -- of QAnon? Is that what's happening? It's a fringe idea that's becoming known to millions and being mainstreamed?

LOUIS: Yes. How that craziness gets laundered into the mainstream is a mechanism that you've certainly done a lot of reporting on and something that we have to call out at each and every opportunity. And Jesse Watters can sort of play cute as if he's (INAUDIBLE) the controversy.

He's talking about a debate or something like that, but it's nothing of the sort. It's really more akin to frankly of the coronavirus, you know, just like in that case, we have to have social distancing, we have to stop the spread, we have to warn people that this can happen, and we have to do everything we can to find a vaccine.

STELTER: It's a great point. That's a great way to view it. We've got multiple congressional candidates running on the GOP ticket that espouse QAnon beliefs. So, unfortunately this is going to continue. We're going to see this get more and more mainstreamed and folks have to stand up to it.

Errol Louis, thank you so much for being here.


STELTER: Great to see you. Go ahead. Go ahead. LOUIS: Real quick, kudos to social media for kicking off thousands of people who were spouting that nonsense. We have to do more of the same.

STELTER: That's an interesting point. Yes. Twitter took down thousands of QAnon accounts and that's what ticked off Jesse Watters to begin with. But we're going to see more of these takedowns by these companies.

Errol, thank you. We are T-minus three weeks until "Hoax."


That is my book about these past five years. Go to to order your copy right now. The book is full of scoops about Trump, Fox and the dangerous distortion of truth. And if you preorder now at you can enter a special sweepstakes for a virtual happy hour in September.

All right. More to come on that later. But before we go a quick plug for this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. Streaming expert Peter Kafka talks about the Netflix effect and how Netflix has really bended the world to its will. Listen on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you find your pod.

And last but not definitely not least, Kamau Bell is back on CNN tonight with a brand new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." This season has been absolutely stellar. Catch it tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern time on CNN.