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The Atlantic: Trump Called American Service Members Who Died In World War I "Losers" And Suckers"; White House Cancels Federal Race Sensitivity Training Sessions; Political Ads Pose Major Fact-Checking Challenge; What Is Facebook Doing To Regulate Reckless Election Ads?; Military Newspaper Faces Funding Deadline. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired September 06, 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. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story.
This hour, three big stories you will not see anywhere else. 'The Atlantic's" Jeffrey Goldberg is here, so is Carl Bernstein, and so is Nick Clegg, one of the top executives at Facebook. In many ways, this coming election is the Facebook election. We're going to ask Clint about the company's plans.
And later, it is not just Facebook that lets political ads lie, so do local TV stations and it's because of government policy. I will show you why in just a few minutes.
But first this question: what do the people closest to President Trump know about his conduct and his misconduct? Why do so many of them remain silent while he remains so loud? What do America's four-star generals know? What do the retired generals know?
Hey, what do Trump's friends like Sean Hannity know? What do they know about his fitness? What do they say in private, and why won't they tell the rest of us?
Jeffrey Goldberg's story for "The Atlantic" brings these questions back to the forefront. Trump said Americans who died in war are losers and suckers. Now, that's the headline. The story is worse. It's up on theatlantic.com.
Trump world, of course, denounced the story and many news outlets focused their follow-ups on Trump's denials. You see all those headlines. They led with the denials.
Why? Well, it's easy to do. It's kind of automatic to do in journalism.
But why confer credibility where it doesn't belong? I mean, fool me once, shame on you, fool me 20,000 times and -- well, shame on all of us. Why keep acting like things are normal after 20,000 false and misleading claims?
This week the lies continued, especially about COVID and ways that were disturbing. The president said hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have declined radically over the past week.
We wish. Wouldn't that be wonderful? But that's not true.
While downplaying the death toll, Trump even got the numbers wrong. He said the U.S. death toll was 175,000. The death toll had actually surpassed 186,000 at the time he said it. Those are thousands of dead Americans who he left out.
He also retweeted kooks who engage in death toll denialism.
And, look, he lies about news outlets all the time. He proves his words are meaningless the journalists who covered him.
This week, Trump said, quote: CNN reported I had a heart attack. That's not true. CNN never reported that. Go to CNN.com and try to find it. We never reported that. Why would we ever report that?
So, he lies about news outlets all the time. He tweeted this week that "The Atlantic Magazine" is dying, which it is not. He called editor Jeffrey Goldberg third rate, which makes no sense.
All the name-calling, though, does sort of back up the claims in Goldberg's story about Trump calling vets losers. I mean, Trump has used the word loser hundreds of times.
More importantly, multiple outlets, including CNN and most notably, Fox News, have corroborated key aspects of Goldberg's report, about disparaging veterans.
So, the focus should not be on toothless denials from a pathological liar or those who are complicit, the focus should be on the claims and corroboration and on the open secrets that are sometimes spilling out.
As David Ignatius wrote of "The Washington Post" this weekend, he says: It has been an open secret in Washington that many prominent retired four stars have regarded Trump with growing horror as he assaulted the traditions and discipline and professionalism that are bedrocks of military life.
An open secret. Why is it so a secret then? Why don't they speak out? Why do they leak instead?
It's complicated. I get it. But here's what happens where anonymous sourcing reigns (ph). You know, pro-Trump noise-makers want to argue about "The Atlantic". They want to argue about Goldberg's use of anonymous sources instead of the substance.
Trump does this, too. He attacks the sourcing, even though as I point in my book "Hoax", he is an anonymous source himself. Trump feeds the stuff to Sean Hannity and then Hannity shares it with millions of people citing a source. A member of Hannity's inner circle said to me, when Sean says sources, he usually means the president.
So, Trump routinely implores Americans not to trust anonymously sourced reporting, he claims that we make it up, but he is Hannity's number one anonymous source. Do you follow? What does Hannity know that he's not telling us? What do Trump's other
confidants know? What do the generals know?
It is put up or shut up time. Two weeks -- sorry not two weeks -- two months until a presidential election.
Let's talk about this with the aforementioned Jeffrey Goldberg who has been getting a lot of heat in the last few days and also a lot of accolades for this painful reporting in "The Atlantic".
I mean, Jeffrey, your story, it hurts. It hurts to read these quotes allowed from the president of the United States disparaging veterans.
Can you take us too your reporting and why you felt confident publishing this?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I felt confident publishing it because I had multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of the president's views and comments. That's the only reason to publish anything.
And I thought it was important to publish because in my experience, in our collective experience, I don't think we've had a president who has contempt for American soldiers, wounded veterans, people who've been killed in action. And so, it is -- it's incredibly novel.
It's one of the -- it's one of these things that's in a category of shocking yet not surprising and I say not surprising because to borrow your term "open secrets" or David Ignatius' term "open secret", in 2015, Donald Trump did something that nobody in public life had ever done before, mocked John McCain for getting captured. That in ordinary times, and according to the rules of ordinary politics, that should have ended a candidacy. It didn't and we've been living in that reality.
And so, I've just been fascinated by his attitude toward the American military and toward people who --
GOLDBERG: -- people who serve generally, not just in the military, but people who provide selfless service to the country. It's not -- it's not something that he seems to understand very well.
STELTER: Have you gone back to these sources since Thursday? Are some of them considering speaking publicly?
GOLDBERG: I don't want to go into that too much. I would say I'm in a conversation with a large number of people, as are other reporters as you noted at the top of the show, and I think there is -- "horror" is the right word across the national security complex of people who have devoted their careers to protecting the United States. There is a sense of horror about the way he acts and behaves and talks. And so I would fully expect -- let me say it this way -- I would fully expect more reporting to come out about this and more confirmation and new pieces of information in the coming days and weeks.
STELTER: Yeah. But why grant anonymity in the first place. Help viewers understand how this works.
Obviously, these sources are not anonymous to you. You know their names. You know why they are credible. And you're attaching your own credibility to them by granting them anonymity.
GOLDBERG: Right, of course.
And as Jennifer Griffin on Fox said and I thought this was a great quote, these are not people who are anonymous to me. I mean, yes, we know if you're a good reporter and you're going to quote somebody anonymously, you better have faith in what -- in what they're saying.
It's a complicated thing as you -- as you well know. We all have to use anonymous sources, especially in a climate in which the president of the United States tries to actively intimidate journalism organizations and people who provide information to journalism organizations.
But the formula is simple. What you do is you have to say, does the public's right to know or need to know a particular piece of information outweigh the morally complicated and ambiguous qualities of anonymous sourcing.
And so, most of us, most of the time, don't rely on anonymous sourcing for most things because there are difficulties there. But in this climate, with information that we judge the voters to need, we are going to use anonymous sources because we think the public has a right to know. Especially when you have four or five or six sources, primary sources, corroborating sources telling you the same thing, and so --
STELTER: Speaking of the climate --
GOLDBERG: -- this is just an issue of what does the public need? Yeah.
STELTER: Right. Speaking of the climate and the president's attacks, here is his latest broadside against you and your magazine and the majority owner, Laurene Powell Jobs.
He writes: Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing radical left magazine -- again, the magazine is not failing -- run by a con man, that's you apparently, that spews fake news and hate. Call her, write her, let her know how you feel, four exclamation points.
That seems ominous to me. Do you interpret that as a -- as a threat?
GOLDBERG: You know, I spent a lot of my career covering dictatorships in the Middle East and so, I'm -- I'm familiar with this kind of discourse. It is a threat. It is meant to intimidate. I would only say we are
neither failing nor radical left, and I would say, and I'm not speaking for the ownership or the management of the company, I would say that we have excellent owners who value editorial independence and integrity.
And I would just say that we are not going to be intimidated by the president of the United States. We're going to do our jobs and I think that is true for a large number of outlets.
His intense frustration which comes out in these -- in these outbursts comes from the fact that unlike dictators and other countries, he cannot simply shut down media outlets that -- that he doesn't like. And so, it's our duty to continue to pursue the truth no matter what he says about us. And I would say that at "The Atlantic" and many other organizations including yours, there is unanimity of feeling that we -- we have a responsibility and we're going to do it regardless of what he says.
STELTER: Yeah. Absolutely.
Jeffrey, let me bring in Carl Bernstein, who knows a thing or two about anonymous sourcing, of course.
Carl, I want to add to the conversation to see how you think "The Atlantic" story fits into this puzzle that is the Trump presidency.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it fits in perfectly because, first, we have to recognize almost everything we know about the truth about Donald Trump and his presidency comes from reporting, great reporting, by news organizations including "The Atlantic", CNN, "Washington Post," "The New York Times", and that reporting is almost uniformly based on anonymous sourcing in part because that's the only way we can get to the truth.
The people who are on the scene who know Donald Trump, who are participants in his presidency, and are telling us the truth about this man, his actions and real words as in this case.
The same thing happened in Watergate. We used anonymous sourcing at "The Washington Post," Deep Throat. Almost all 200 of our stories about Watergate were based on anonymous sourcing. That's the only way to do this.
And we must continue in the press to do our reporting day by day by day because that's how we know who this president, what this presidency really is. The fake news is the president's news. We're doing the real reporting.
STELTER: And we're going to hear a lot more in terms of accounts of the Trump presidency from three books in the next few days.
BERNSTEIN: That's right. STELTER: Michael Cohen's book "Disloyal", of course, his account of
being Trump's fixer. There's a book by Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent, coming out on Tuesday, and then Bob Woodward's book, "Rage", which I think is the most anticipated of all these, Simon Schuster expects it to be such a big deal, it's already printed more than a million copies.
Do you knowing anything, Carl, about your former colleague Bob's book?
BERNSTEIN: I'm not going to say what I know. Obviously, Bob and I, you know, we're very close. We talk. But we're also very careful not to overlap in our reporting. Mine for CNN.
BERNSTEIN: His for what he's doing.
At the same time, I think that we can expect that once again, Bob Woodward has gone to the real sources and that those sources, some of whom I'm going to assume are going to be anonymous, perhaps most, but the record will be there just as it has been in all of his books. And we are going to once again learn about the reality of this president and this presidency. Just as we did in part from this story that Jeffrey has reported.
Let me add one more thing about anonymous sources and Jeffrey's story for that matter. This is not about one anonymous source. Look what we did in Watergate. We insisted that we have second sources, third sources -- that's the way you do it.
Then let's look at the real record of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the big lie. He is the big lie. His presidency is the big lie.
Those 20,000 catalog smaller lies add up to the reality of the lie and how do we fight against the lie? We simply report the truth wherever it takes us. And that's what we've been doing.
And the reason the American people know what the reality of this president and presidency is and have the basis to make their own decisions like him or not like him, is because of the great reporting and almost all of it, the crucial stuff, has been based on anonymous sources.
STELTER: Which then is sometimes, oftentimes actually, verified later on the record by others.
Jeffrey, last word to you.
BERNSTEIN: Well, context.
STELTER: Yeah. Jeffrey, last word to you.
GOLDBERG: Well, I agree with what Carl said. His framing is very interesting that Trump is the big lie.
One of the tactics that they use, people in the White House and supporters, is to harp on irrelevant details and try to create an echo chamber effect, which is just fascinating to watch.
There have been no denials of many of the items I reported on in my piece, including the fact that Donald Trump -- Donald Trump has called George H.W. Bush a loser for being shot down by the Japanese in World War II.
You know, not a word about that. Not a word about any of these things. Because I think inside the White House, they know how Donald Trump thinks and they know how Donald Trump feels about the military and about veterans.
STELTER: Jeffrey, thank you. Carl --
BERNSTEIN: And how he talks.
STELTER: Yeah, that's right.
BERNSTEIN: The language is really important here.
BERNSTEIN: And we have a record of the language.
STELTER: We do. Yeah.
Carl and Jeffrey, thank you very much.
Later this hour, did Goldberg's report prompt Trump to defend the military's revered newspaper "Stars and Stripes"? Why the about-face?
Plus, the fed's moved to block white privilege training. Why does Tucker Carlson get the credit or blame for that move? The answer is next.
STELTER: The Fox News/Donald Trump feedback loop affects everybody, whether you watch Fox or not. Let me show you a brand new example of this.
The Trump White House is canceling race-related training sessions at federal agencies. This memo says it's come to the president's attention agencies have spent millions training government workers to believe anti-American propaganda.
It came to the president's attention. How? You know how.
The memo cites press reports and right wing media outlets have been talking about this subject, harping on it for months. This Laura Ingraham segment is from July. Websites like "Town Hall" and "The Washington Free Beacon" have been publishing reports about it. "Breitbart" has been hyping it with stories throughout the month of August.
Much is linked back to Chris Rufo, who tweeted in August: My goal is simple, to persuade the president of the United States to issue an executive order abolishing critical race theory in the federal government. Well, he's almost succeeded on his mission.
You know, Chris calls it toxic and racist ideology. He was on Tucker Carlson's program on Thursday, talking about this, pushing the story, you see it right there. Two days later, an administration source told Fox News the administration was doing everything it could to stop these types of training.
So Tucker's show gets results. No more talk about white privilege, no more examination of systemic racism, the Trump administration doesn't want it inside federal agencies. Even though 2020 is being defined in part by this long, overdue reckoning about race. Trump doesn't want it to happen.
So, Friday, Saturday, Trump's been tweeting about this, dozens of posts saying critical race theory is a sickness, it must be extinguished and retweeting all about this, retweeting Tucker's segment and on and on.
Saturday, for example, the president kind of went on a Twitter storm. He posted at least 19 times tweets and retweets about this subject.
So, why was this catnip for Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham?
I think former Fox contributor, former Fox Host Eboni Williams explained it best. I quoted her in my book, "Hoax". Here's -- here's what I wrote.
I said: After she left the network, Eboni Williams, who is black, decried Fox as racist and fear-based. The entire programming strategies, she said, was to address conservative fears of the intrinsic devaluation of whiteness in this country. White identity politics in other words.
It all comes back to that. It all comes back to whiteness and the backlash to a browning America. And the president, he eats it up and the feedback loop spins round and round.
Columbia University scholar Nicole Hemmer knows all about this. She wrote the book, "Messengers of the Right", and she's with me now.
Today, Nicole, we see the president tweeting about "The New York Times'" 19 -- 1619 Project. This is, of course, Nikole Hannah-Jones and her colleagues arguing the country's founding is based on slavery and that's been the project for the past year. He says this should not be taught in schools. It's, again, linked to what Fox is telling him on the TV all the time about race.
NICOLE HEMMER, AUTHOR, "MESSENGERS OF THE RIGHT": That's exactly right. I mean, I don't think any of us believe that president has deep thoughts on critical race theory or he's read the 1619 project. These have really become watch words for what the right sees as anti-white racism and Tucker Carlson is the perfect place to get that message across because remember, he's the host who says white supremacy is a hoax. So, this is the place you go for this message.
STELTER: I noticed you said on Twitter today that the GOP's 2020 message really mirrors the 2018 midterms message about an invasion, a caravan of migrants invading the country which obviously wasn't actually happening.
How do you see it happening in 2020?
HEMMER: Yeah. This time, instead of it's migrants invading the country, it's minorities invading the suburbs. This idea of a suburban invasion is one of the throw lines of the RNC and now the president's campaign message going forward to both scare particularly white suburban women and bring them into the fold.
STELTER: Right. It's pretty clear and all this talk about the riots are going to come to your town, the fear-based strategy, it all relates to that notion of white identity politics, reinforcing might whiteness, protecting white conservative Christians. I just hope people see it for what it is.
Nicole, thank you very much.
I do want to thank everybody for your support of my book "Hoax". It is on all the bestseller lists this weekend and I'm grateful to all of you for putting it on there. You can buy a copy at buyhoax.com. We are working on printing more copies right now.
Quick break on RELIABLE SOURCES, and then something that has been sorely undercover, a reason why candidates feel free to lie in TV ads.
We're going to show you and talk with that reporter in a moment.
STELTER: Political ads are at the heart of a huge challenge this election cycle. It's about how to handle disinformation on local TV. These ads that take over local news casts, they have more power than you think because legally they cannot be shut off. Watch.
STELTER: Local stations are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC rules require commercial broadcast stations to provide reasonable access to candidates for federal elective office. The rules say that stations are prohibited from censoring ads that are paid for or sponsored by legally qualified candidates and their authorized organizations. These rules apply to Senate and House races as well. The result, the Trump campaign can buy ads and fill the airwaves with falsehoods like this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden says --
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That means middle-class families, small businesses, and seniors pay higher taxes.
STELTER: That quote was used way out of context. The full quote shows that Biden was referring to raising taxes on the wealthy, not on everyone. And Biden has asserted that he is not going to raise income taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. But according to Axios, that ad has aired in key battleground states, Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, and more.
Trump has been unprecedented as a truth-challenged president. And not surprisingly, his presidential campaign is taking advantage of a system that can't stop claims that are grossly misleading or worse. Cable networks such as CNN and MSNBC have rejected some false Trump ads and cable networks can make those judgments because political advertising on cable is not regulated by the FCC.
But since broadcast is regulated, the stations have no choice and Trump's falsehoods continue. There is one exception to this though, as FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told CNN, "campaigns have the right to ask stations to remove third-party advertisements with false and fake stuff. Third parties like the super PAC behind this anti- Biden fracking ad which was not produced by the Trump campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fracking in a Biden administration.
BIDEN: No, we would work it out. We would make sure it's eliminated.
STELTER: This week Biden addressed that claim head-on.
BIDEN: I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.
STELTER: Biden has also leaned on Pennsylvania T.V. stations to remove the PAC's ad, saying the news programs shown to your viewers have debunked these claims. Yet, you continue to accept advertising dollars to allow America first action to spread them further. This incongruent is a disservice to your viewers and a misleading business practice.
However, local T.V. stations are incentivized to air these ads because PACs pay more money for airtime than campaigns do. Why? Well, again, the answer is in the FCC rules. The rules say that stations cannot charge legally qualified candidates anything more than the lowest unit charge. This is the amount that they charge their most favored commercial customers.
As ABC News highlights here using CMA g data, pro-Trump efforts have booked about $173 million in ads from September through Election Day. Pro-Biden efforts have booked about $151 million. All this spending is a boon for local T.V. stations that need the money, but it is a burden for viewers who don't know what to believe.
STELTER: So that's the problem. Are there solutions? Let's bring in CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp, and Senior White House Correspondent at HuffPost S.V. Date. He's the author of the new book, The Useful Idiot: How Donald Trump Killed the Republican Party with Racism and the Rest of Us with Coronavirus.
Shirish, that's one heck of a title. Trump is the idiot in your book title. What's the useful part?
S.V. DATE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, HUFFPOST: Well, the useful part is there were a number of folks in our country and outside of our country who wanted him elected for certain particular things. And by and large, they got those things. You know, that includes folks who wanted judges appointed. That includes Vladimir Putin who wanted to wreck our alliances with Western Europe. So that's the useful part, useful for them.
STELTER: You've been so critical of what you call the White House ministry of untruth. You said lying is the defining feature. Do you think that the press has just been ineffective and calling it out, and that's why it continues?
DATE: The problem is that we, as human beings, want to give the benefit of the doubt to people. You know, you meet someone, and they tell you something, you want to believe it's true. And Donald Trump has taken advantage of that, not just as president, he has been lying as his primary method of dealing with other human beings for about 50 years.
So, you know, this goes back to when he was in New York, and then, you know, run on the apprentice, and, you know, the most useful thing probably he's ever said was to Billy Bush, when he said, Just say it, they'll believe you.
STELTER: Yes, that's right. That's right. So I guess what I wonder, S.E., is will our political culture ever snap back to normal, or is shamelessness and asymmetric lying and, you know, that problem of T.V. ad I just showed, is this just all here to stay you think?
DATE: That's up to us, right.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, unless you want to -- unless we want to take on the laws, you know, political speech like this including lies is protected. It's perfectly legal. And it's been challenged as recently as 2006. The Congress passed a law making it illegal for candidates to lie about their military service. That went all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled no, you can do that. You can lie as a political candidate.
What doesn't make any sense I think to most people is we have laws protecting consumers in commerce against false advertising. We don't have any laws protecting citizens in politics against lies in politics. And believe me, I am a free speech hawk. When it comes to free speech, I'm warheads on foreheads. But this does not seem to be protecting citizens and voters in a way that is ultimately benefiting society.
STELTER: Yes. It just shows how you can take advantage of a system if you're shameless enough.
CUPP: That's right.
STELTER: And that's what we've seen in recent years. To S.V. and S.E., thank you both. For more on this influx of election disinformation, sign up for our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Sign up for firstname.lastname@example.org/reliable.
Up next here, this conversation continues. We're moving from T.V. to the digital side, to social media platforms like Facebook. Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg is standing by. We have questions for him in just a moment.
STELTER: What will Facebook do on November 1st if President Trump's campaign tries to buy an ad full of lies, stoking fear and hate of Joe Biden? What will Facebook do if on November 4th or fifth the President denies the results of the election? Let's say Biden is ahead in a landslide and Trump claims he is the winner, what will Facebook do?
These are questions that are being asked every day and Facebook does now have some answers. Here's a headline from CNN's Donie O'Sullivan and Brian Fung this week. Facebook will limit some advertising in the week before the U.S. election. But note the rest of the headline. It will let politicians run ads with lies.
So, Facebook is taking some actions, but there are some loopholes. So I thought we should talk directly with Facebook about this. I asked Nick Clegg to join me. He's the Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, and he is back on RELIABLE SOURCES now.
Nick, tell us about the change in policy. So, I can buy an ad before Halloween that's full of lies if I'm a candidate, but I can't buy it in the week around the election. Is that right?
NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATION, FACEBOOK: Well, it depends who you are. So if you're a PAC or a super PAC, your ads will be fact-checked and are on a significant scale. We have more fact-checkers who work with us than any other tech company. But for the ads from a speech, indeed generally from politicians themselves, very much by the way in keeping with -- in fact, it's actually keeping with the law that you alluded to in your piece --
STELTER: In local T.V., yes.
CLEGG: -- which covers broadcast in this country. We, in fact, no tech company has sought to try and sort of, you know, arbitrate between the exaggerations and miss caricatures and selective facts that politicians always use about each other. What we've done is we have said, however, that for the last week of the campaign -- and this is an unprecedented step, because this is an unprecedented election.
It's, you know, an election like no other, a time like no other, the pandemic, immense polarization in the country, and candidates also, question marks being raised by people about the legitimacy of voting, which is very damaging to people's confidence in voting.
So, what we've seen is in the last week of the campaign, the campaigns will not be able to run new ads. And that's in order to make sure that you avoid the problem of having an ad, a divisive, false polarizing ad run literally in the last minute, in the last 24, 48 hours, and there isn't then time for you in the media to scrutinize it, and for the other campaigns to reply. So, there isn't simply time and space for the speech in counter speech to play out.
But it's part, by the way, of a suite of extensive new proposals that -- new actions that we set out last week, including we will label any claim by candidate where they prematurely claim victory, we will remove obviously content where it's asserted that if you go to vote, you'll get COVID. We're expanding our voter suppression policies to remove certain misrepresentations about how, when and where to vote, either direct or indirect misrepresentations.
And crucially, we will label much more aggressively than we have until now posts which seek to question the legitimacy, that is the very legitimacy of methods of voting, like mail-in ballots and so on.
STELTER: But allowing those claims to stay on -- I saw one of the President's lies on Facebook about mail-in voting, and then below there was a box from Facebook that said, you know, it's trustworthy. But seeing that contradictory claims just left me saying, well, how am I supposed to know what to believe, the President or Mark Zuckerberg? Why is it that just putting a label is enough you think?
CLEGG: It's not Mark Zuckerberg. If you look closely, you'll see it comes from the (AUDIO GAP) policy center. That's very important. So we've worked with the Bipartisan Policy Center. It's bipartisan as the name implies. Users see that very prominent. You can't see that in that post that you're referring to.
You're not able, as a user, to see that post without sort of seeing the label as well. It very clearly shows that there's alternative points of view, in this case, about mail-in ballots. We've never done this before. We're not going to do this much more forcefully between now and November 3rd.
STELTER: Isn't that a scandal that you haven't done until now? Isn't that a scandal that you haven't done it until now?
CLEGG: I think we're moving with the pace of the election campaign. We have been tightening our policies. This is not the first time that we've announced policies on election campaigns and how they play out on our platform. We're constantly iterating, this is the latest series of measures that
were taking place to try and play our role as responsibly as we can to ensure free and open speech, often vigorous, aggressive, speech to play out because, of course, democracy plays itself -- plays itself online as well as offline, but also to put guardrails in place. And these are new guardrails in place in order to make sure that people are confident and safe and secure when they come to cast their vote.
STELTER: Breitbart was the top-performing news page on Facebook earlier this week. Right-wing content is going so viral on Facebook as Kevin Roose and others have documented. Does that concern Facebook that there's so much hyper-partisan content that's the most popular on Facebook?
CLEGG: It's not -- forgive me, it's actually genuinely misleading (INAUDIBLE). These posts are often most engaged with. So, in other words, the people who are interested in that content might engage with comments and shares. It's actually deeply misleading to suggest that's what most people see. It's a tiny, tiny fraction.
In fact, the pages that most people see, which is done technically through, you know, the developer impressions are not the type of bottles and pages at all. So I think there is a -- there's been -- and by the way, we know down to a fault here because we publish through a tool called CrowdTangle where we allow people, researchers, such as Kevin Roose you just mentioned earlier, to use that tool to look at the content (AUDIO GAP). We should of course match that with a much more accurate picture of what actually human beings, eyeballs -- the number of eyeballs here in around the world see, and they will find a completely different picture.
STELTER: And of course, what's going to happen after the election is if Biden wins, Trump fans are going to blame Facebook, right? They're going to say, you all tried to swing the election. Are you all prepared for that scrutiny no matter what direction of the election goes?
CLEGG: I think Facebook is well accustomed. We've talked about it on this program before. Well accustomed on getting in the neck from both sides, if I can put it like that. You know, here in terms of content, so there's a -- there's a consistent drumbeat of criticism from the right who feel that Facebook takes down and moderates too much content. There's a consistent drumbeat of criticism from the left saying that we don't do it enough.
Of course, we understand. By the way, that is right and proper. It is right and proper that a company like Facebook where in a sense, we have to as a private company try and hold the ring on the way in which a lot of these publicly highly important and highly charged debates take place, we have to take decisions which are not there to favor one side or the other.
STETLER: Right. CLEGG: Not there to try and make one side more happy than the other.
And in a sense, we accept that we might make both of them unhappy. What we are is to serve the American people -- is to serve the American people, and in this case, to serve them on Facebook as well as we can.
By the way, through our voter information center which is -- which is the (INAUDIBLE) you will see soon almost every single day between now and November 3rd, very, very prompt information about how to vote, where to vote, when to fill in your vote, your mail-in ballot. We're trying to register four million Americans, the biggest registration drive ever undertaken in this country.
So, we're trying to do our bid. We're doing this on a very ambitious scale. But of course, I accept people will criticize from every direction.
STELTER: Of all the elections Facebook is trying to help, you know, monitor and try to eliminate interference, is the American election the hardest one?
CLEGG: It's certainly I think, right now, by far the most polarized one, the one with the greatest consequences, not just for this country, but for the world as a whole. But, you know, there'll be 200 elections since 2016 -- since the last presidential election. We've had some major elections and some very -- some very fought circumstances in places like Brazil, in India where there's been, quite rightly, a lot of focus on how our apps are being used there for political purposes.
In the European Union last spring, where, you know, we put a lot of additional measures in place, a lot of additional resources in place. And the outgoing president of the European Parliament after that election acknowledged publicly that we've done a much better job than we have done in the past.
STELTER: Nick, thank you very much. Please come back soon.
CLEGG: Yes, thank you.
STELTER: Coming up here, another American institution under threat. This time, it's Star and Stripes, the military newspaper. We're going to take you inside the fight to keep it printing next.
STELTER: Stars and Stripes as the editorially independent newspaper funded and produced by the U.S. military. It has been serving the country since the Civil War. It is a lifeline for members of the military and their families. But right now, its funding is at risk. What will happen in congressional budget negotiations? Why is this newspaper being challenged at all?
Let's ask Stars and Stripes' ombudsman, Ernie Gates. He is here with me now to explain what's going on. So, the President the other day, Ernie, said "I'm going to make sure Stars and Stripes keep publishing." But it's really up to the Senate, is that right? The Senate needs to provide the money.
ERNIE GATES, OMBUDSMAN, STARS AND STRIPES: Ultimately, Congress is the arbiter of the budget, right? But it's very good to have the president directing the Department of Defense to -- were sending the order to shut down Stars and Stripes. That's what we've been after. That's what the supporters in the Senate and in the House have been after.
So when we get to Congress, again, on a conference on the budget, I hope we'll see the same kind of support. And in the meantime, is very important that the Department of Defense follow up and rescind that shutdown order.
STELTER: Right. We are tight on time, but I want people to pay attention to this because this paper shouldn't have been threatened in the first place. And yet now, as months of drama involving this, are you confident that we'll have a satisfactory outcome?
GATES: I think there's a lot of support in Congress. And the real question now is after the President's tweet, let's see what the Department of Defense does officially, not in tweet language but in something firm to resend the order and commit to funding Stars and Stripes through the period of a continuing resolution which is very likely, and then let Congress do its work, settle on the FY21 budget and make the funding for certain stripes ironclad.
It's an unduplicated source of news and information for troops and families and even civilian Defense Department employees all around the world. Nobody else does what it does.
STELTER: Right. That's absolutely right. This is yet another example of the failure of Congress to meet this moment. We're in the midst of a pandemic. There's so many people suffering, and there are all these unanswered issues, unanswered questions about the budget that just are hanging out there in the meantime.
Ernie, thank you very much. We will keep an eye on this. And thank you all for joining me for this week's RELIABLE SOURCES broadcast. Join us online for our podcast, of course, at reliablesources.com and our nightly newsletter. I'll see you right back here this time next week.