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Bob Woodward's Book "Rage" Revives Scrutiny Of Federal Government's Failures; Amazon Data: Mary Trump Is 2020's Top-Selling Author; Trump Demonizes Democrats At A Saturday Rally; The Life Of A War Correspondent; Netflix Boss Explains 'No Rules' Rules. Aired 11a- 12p ET

Aired September 13, 2020 - 11:00   ET



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, details from Bob Woodward's book "Rage" that you have not heard about yet. Plus, the ethical debate about withholding Trump's early February statements until September.

We're also going to talk about the real power of a tell-all book. This year's best-selling author of them all, Mary Trump, will join me live.

And later, CNN Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward is here, sharing her love letter to journalism.

Plus, we're going one-on-one with Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and ABC's Jonathan Karl.

But, first, the sad stories that intersect. America careening from one crisis to the next crisis, failing to put out one fire while others erupt, sometimes literally.

This morning's "Los Angeles Times", it's a remarkable front page. Look at this. The headline says: California's climate apocalypse. Read right below, it says -- saying, fire, heat, air pollution, the calamity is no longer in the future, it is here, now.

That newspaper making no bones about it, making clear that climate change is the story. Of course, the Western wildfires are competing for air time with other crises, like America's political crisis.

When you look at some of the things the president said at his rally last night, it is clear the country is in the throes of a political crisis. And the coronavirus catastrophe exacerbates all of these crisis -- crises.

Take note of the date, September 13ths, it's been six months since America shut down in an attempt to stomp out the virus. It's been six months of this. Six months of adapting to new ways of working, living, socializing, coping, grieving, new ways of giving birth and new ways of burying the dead. Everything changed six months ago. And it's still changing. In the coming days, the United States will

surpass 200,000 known deaths from COVID-19. And we must always note the true toll is even higher. The press must do its part to capture this awful milestone. Make sure people don't lose sight of it.

"Time" magazine did a great job of this, this new issue on stands has the number 200,000 and a black border around its cover. "Time" has only replaced its signature red border with a black ribbon one other time and that was after 9/11.

So, let's go back six months, back to March 13th. Six months ago today, "The New York Times" front page reported the worst rout for Wall Street since the 1987's crash. Alongside a headline that says, testing remains elusive in the places most in need.

Here's "The Washington Post" from that day: Outbreak begins to upend life across the United States. The sports page simply read: Full stop.

On March 13th, there were only 41 reported deaths from the coronavirus. But the banners on CNN's NEW DAY signaled what was coming. Here are some banners, shutting down over coronavirus fears, millions of U.S. students affected by school closings, ventilators and supplies in high demand.

Americans struggle to adjust to new reality. And let's focus in on the one that says, coronavirus crisis becomes defining moment of Trump presidency.

Six months ago today, Trump had this to say about his handling of the virus.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't take responsibility at all.


STELTER: I don't take responsibility at all. That was six months ago today. And that has stuck as his motto of sorts.

So, why am I bringing this all up now? Why this time capsule?

Because Bob Woodward has brought the failure of the federal government's response to the virus right back front and center. It is all in his new book "Rage". The details are even more painful when you read them with six months of reflection.

You can see there those headlines. Woodward himself is under some scrutiny himself about what he knew when while he was trying to find out what the president knew.

So, there's a lot to talk about here. We're going to get into the ethical debate and much more. Let me start by bringing in my guests here this morning. Sam Donaldson, of course, is the veteran ABC News journalist. He was

there at the White House for decades. He's seen it all. He's with me, along with Bill Carter, former "New York Times" media reporter, now CNN media analyst. And Seema Yasmin, Dr. Seema Yasmin, the former CDC disease detective, now a CNN medical analyst.

Sam, you've been reading about the details, the revelations in "Rage." What stands out to you most?

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, these tapes, of course, of Donald J. Trump, to his own mouth we hear how much of a liar he is and how much of a liar he has always been. And what he puts first in his mind this year, and that is his re-election, not the safety of the American people.


To hear that from Trump himself -- well, it's not really a smoking gun because we knew he was a liar. We knew he wanted his re-election to be number one. As this pandemic has gone on in this country, we've seen he has no empathy towards blacks. He hates the generals and calls them names.

That's the Trump we all know. Some people don't care. I care. And I think the majority of the American people probably do.

STELTER: And most Americans do care. And I want to show a brand-new ABC poll. This data came out this morning showing we are not a 50/50 country on issues like the federal government's handling of the coronavirus. We are more like a 1:3 country. One out of three Americans are with Trump no matter what.

If we can put the full screen up there, some data that really points this out, about 68 percent, 67 percent of Americans say they do not trust the president when he talks about the virus. Only 35 percent of the Americans approve of Trump's handling.

Again, we are not a 50/50 country. We are a 1 in 3 country or two- thirds country when it comes to Trump's failures, a two-thirds country that sees it for what it is.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, you have been outspoken about Woodward's ethical responsibility. You say that when Woodward heard Trump say in February say this virus is deadly, it's a killer, much worse than the flu, he should have told the public then and not waited until now.

Tell us your case.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: Absolutely, because Bob Woodward himself is saying the president of the U.S. has a duty to warn, that's correct, but so do you, Bob, so do I, and so does every journalist who signed up for this job. If you have information that can save even one life, let alone close to 200,000 lives, then you have a journalistic duty, an ethical duty to share that information.

We should not be learning that now, 7-1/2 months after you first sat down with the president when we've lost so many people, because I think the public response to this and the perception to this could have been drastically different, Brian, if we had learned this information early. I know that Bob is saying, well, I don't know if would have made a difference. Of course it would.

If you had told us earlier, look, your president is saying one thing to me in private, the opposite thing in public and he's admitting to downplaying the seriousness of this public health risk from his top advisers, that could have drastically shifted the way many Americans perceived of and prepared for this pandemic. Instead, we were denied that opportunity to interrogate this information.

Bob is saying, well, I didn't know it was true. I needed time to check it out. That's even more reason to share this with beat reporters back in February and March. Think about what was happening then on the East Coast. There were hospitals that had refrigerated trucks outside operating as morgues outside their facilities.

STELTER: Yeah, yeah.

YASMIN: That's how bad things were. That's how bad things still are now. We should not have waited 7 1/2 months for this information.

STELTER: Yeah, those of us in New York will never forget those trucks.

Bill, what's your view of what Woodward's responsibility?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, I completely agree that it's perfectly reasonable thing to say, he should have come forward. And, you know, from a moral point of view, it's hard to argue he shouldn't. But whether or not it would have changed something, I do think, is an open question because we have never seen anything like what Trump does.

And Woodward would have come forward, presumably, and said, oh, he's saying this and private, and Trump would do what he's doing now, which is turn it around. Turn it into war against the press, attack the press. And his people would not have chained their point of view because they're not changing the point of view now, even after Woodward -- even after anything else that even happens.

So, I don't know if really that would have been a significant change. And now reporting it now, does it have more impact? It probably has more impact because we've seen Trump lie again and again and again. We have constant tape of him lying. And still bringing out people, mobs of people without masks on, and still trying to rig the statistics, get the CDC, you know, use his information instead of the real information.

So, it's -- I think it's at least a fair question to ask whether or not it would have changed anything if Woodward had come forward, although from a moral point of view, it's very hard to say you should even argue about one death he could have saved. Obviously, if that had been the case, you would do it.

STELTER: As someone who has actually finally finished "rage" this morning. It's painful to read, essential to read. It will be out for everybody on Tuesday.

Here's my take on this argument. Woodward seems to be trying to help Trump, help Trump manage this crisis. I mean that in a positive way. We can debate if that's journalistically appropriate.

But here's an excerpt from page 306 of "Rage", where Woodward is on the phone going through a check list with Trump, 14 issues that he's been told from his expert sources Trump needs to address in the springtime. Woodward says, I'm telling you as a reporter, I'll emphasize this again, they are saying they want a sense of World War II mobilization.

And Trump says, all right, I got you. I understand. I got you. I think we're doing a very good job but I got you.


So, in this conversation that Woodward prints verbatim, Woodward is trying to help Trump get us through this crisis. I think perhaps from Woodward's point of view, he was trying to do his part not just as a journalist but as a citizen in those terrible weeks in March and April.

So, that's an interesting part of this, that Woodward is on the phone with Trump so often, almost trying to coach Trump like he's a leadership coach. I wonder in the coming days as Woodward gets interviews on his book tour if he will say that was part of his rationale for what he was doing.

Here's another excerpt from "Rage" people have not noticed yet, it's on page 294. Trump talking to Woodward saying: Well, nobody knew a thing like this could happen. The best decision I made was Europe and China, closing our doors. Of course, Trump did that far too late in the case of Europe.

But they claim nobody can see this coming is so at odds with the facts. I think one of the public services Woodward is doing with the book is forcing all of this back in front of us, making us recognize just how terrible the federal government's response was to this crisis.

Hey, Sam, let me ask you about something a little different, which is one of the president's comments this week where he was trying to deflect attention from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He was talking about all these -- the grievances he has and how Fox News covers them for him. He read off all the shows he watched on Fox News the night before.

And Joe Biden campaign reacted with an ad, we would put on screen, ticking through the number of airtime, just how many hours of Fox News Trump is watching on any given day. We'll drop the banner and you'll see there's a ticker in the Biden ad that counts up the hours and hours of television coverage.

Do you think it's still shocking to Americans, to anybody, that the president is a TV addict? DONALDSON: No. I think it's not very shocking to Americans that the

president is anything we see him to be. Some Americans don't care. Some Americans may not know, but so they've been living with Rip Van Winkle in a cave in the Appalachians.

This question about whether it would have mattered if Woodward came forward, here are the tapes, last February, a time when Tony Fauci, who I have great respect for, was not yet certain how dangerous it could be and not saying we should all wear masks. Remember a different time to say, well, Woodward should have known what was going to come.

Let me tell you what was going to come. When Republican governors who to this day, some of them, refusing to order masks for their states, Florida being an example. Would they look at the tape saying, my goodness, I've been following this charlatan. I'm going to follow Fauci and science? No, they wouldn't.

His base, which would follow him to the gates of hell, maybe even in if necessary because he says to, would it have suddenly realized, no, what am I doing voting for him? It would not have changed a thing.

I agree with Bill, which is, the impact of those tapes will probably have more impact, if any, on the 5 percent of Americans we're told still thinking they'll vote but they don't know who to vote for now than if they played them last February. To make Woodward the bad guy is to turn topsy-turvy the situation.

STELTER: Interesting. Bill, it is ultimately all about power. Go ahead, Bill.

CARTER: I'm sorry? Brian?

STELTER: Ultimately, this is all about power. All of these stories we're seeing about Trump appointees trying to change information from the CDC, it's all about power.

CARTER: It's all about maintaining power. And in order to do that, they have to push aside all the facts. They're not acknowledging it. They even are saying that the 200,000 dead are not really because of COVID. They're trying to argue that so many of them would have died anyway.

This denial of reality is all about, we don't care about the facts or the truth. We're only interested in maintaining power.

And it's been effective with, you know, at least 40 percent of the population. They don't want to change power. And he's made them afraid of a change. And it's really a staggering thing we've seen.

Do you think, Brian, a Democratic president would have his supporters with him after all of these scandals, these outrageous scandals? It's quite a remarkable thing he's been able to maintain this support. It only has to be because people want him to remain in power.

STELTER: It's a reason to have more interviews with voters, both Trump voters, Biden voters and nonvoters. Dr. Yasmin, last word from the doctor, the president is on Twitter

this morning downplaying the virus again saying cases are falling steadily and fast. Deaths and hospitalizations are way down. It's true, the numbers are moving in the right direction but they're coming from a painfully high place.

What's the reality check on the president's words here?

YASMIN: We're heading into flu season. Kids are starting to go back to school in person in some places. So, this has all the potential to get worse. That's what we need to be really mindful of.

I do want to say it's not Bob Woodward's job to be a leadership coach to the president of the United States. It's his job to be a journalist. I hope his journalistic duties align more with the public than with a book launch, but also, his full judgment on this has now become a defense for the president saying, well, if I what I said was so important or had legitimate public health impacts, then, of course, Woodward would have shared this with editors at "The Post" earlier and they would have published it.


But also, Woodward has done this before in 2005. He sat on information from a Bush administration official about a CIA operative and had to apologize for not going to his editors two years sooner. So, this raises questions about who do journalists and journalism have allegiance to, especially, Brian, in the context of a pandemic that has disproportionately hurt and killed black Americans, indigenous Americans and people of color.

We really do need to point the finger at ourselves as journalists, as journalism professors and remember, this can be quite a cozy journalism ethics conversation. I'll certainly be talking about it in the classroom with my journalism students.

But the point is, there are 200,000 Americans who are dead, who cannot have this debate, because they died from a virus and a viral pandemic that was not managed responsibly.

STELTER: Woodward will be able to take on this debate himself starting tonight. He's on "60 Minutes" but it was pretaped. So starting tomorrow the "Today" show, Colbert, he'll be all over and asked about this for sure.

To the panel, thank you very much.

Coming up next on the program, the best-selling author of the year, Mary Trump. Hear her reaction to this newest book, next.



STELTER: Here is a cartoon that perfectly sums up this week. It was created by Matt Wuerker for "Politico". It shows Trump facing a wave of books about to crash down.

And here's a sample of just some of the Trump-related books that have hit stores and e-readers in 2020. On "The New York Times" bestsellers list this week, four Trump books take up the top slots in nonfiction. Yes, my book "Hoax" is one of those.

But look up higher at books like -- Michael Schmidt's and many others that have been making a lot of news.

And here's another data point. This week on Amazon, the top three bestselling books were Bob Woodward's book "Rage", Peter Strzok's book "Compromised", and Michael Cohen's book, "Disloyal."

The Trump book industry is huge.

Now, let's go wider and look at Amazon's top books not just for this day or this week, but so far this year. You can see that two Trump books dominate. John Bolton's "The Room Where It Happens" has been a huge seller, but the number one book in the country this year, according to Amazon, is Mary Trump's book "Too Much and Never Enough." That's right, the number one seller out of all of them.

So, let's dissolve to Mary Trump. Here she is. Along with being a bestselling author, she's also a clinical psychologist and Trump's only niece.

Mary, thank you for joining me.

MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH": Thanks, Brian. It's really great to be here, and congratulations on the success of "Hoax." It's awesome.

STELTER: Well, you know what's happened to a lot of these books, mine, yours, a lot of others, they've had to go out and print more copies.


STELTER: And that just goes to show how much interest there is.


STELTER: Why do you think there is so much interest, 3 1/2 years in, in these -- in these books about Trump?

MARY TRUMP: It's extraordinary. And, honestly, you probably had the same anxieties before your book came out, there's no way to know how something is going to land. So it wasn't until a few weeks in that I -- I understood for the first time what a hunger there is out there for the truth, you know?

People in this country have been gaslit for so long. There's so much cognitive dissonance on a daily basis that I think people are just desperate to put everything into context that they haven't had before.

STELTER: Full disclosure, your book and my book were both published by Simon and Schuster, and so is Bob Woodward's book "Rage." Woodward at the very end of "Rage", he says Trump is the wrong man for the job. Pretty rare for a journalist like Woodward to come to that conclusion.

What's your reaction been to the excerpts that have come out so far from "Rage"?

MARY TRUMP: Nothing in them surprises me. It doesn't at all surprise me, unfortunately, that Donald would say something in private in which he actually acknowledged the severity of the situation and then turn around and publicly either deny he said it or completely contradict himself because he felt it benefitted him more to lie.

And as for why Mr. Woodward didn't release them sooner, I'm not going to wade into that, because that is to change the subject. What we need to focus on is what Trump actually said and we can deal with the Woodward issue later.

STELTER: There is so much the president says, and I want to ask you about a couple of his new quotes. He was on Fox last night with Jeanine Pirro, lying about Joe Biden, suggesting that Biden is using drugs to enhance his performance.

Now, you obviously raise questions in your book about Trump's fitness, about his health. You know, do you think Trump is projecting when he brings it up about Biden?

MARY TRUMP: I can't speak to the issue of Donald's drug use or, you know, his not using drugs. I have no information about that at all.

STELTER: Right, right.

MARY TRUMP: I do know, however, that he projects about almost everything. And, you know, he's -- he's known for that.

So, I don't know -- one, I don't know where it's coming from. I've never heard such a thing said about Joe Biden. I think, partially, it's Donald's desperation. He's grasping at straws at the moment.

But other than that, I'm not entirely sure what purpose he thinks that serves, but it is odd.

STELTER: Right, but it is about Biden being front-runner. It should be framed that way. This is the number two candidate trying to go after the number one candidate. Maybe it is desperation.

You obviously argue that your uncle is unfit for office.


I wonder if you think the press has been too timid about raising questions about his fitness for the past three and a half years.

MARY TRUMP: I'm extraordinarily glad you asked that question.

One of the reasons the American people are suffering from so much cognitive dissonance is because they see what's happening with their own eyes. They see Donald being racist. They see Donald saying racist things. And yet, to date, the media in general do not call him a racist. They

still continue to pull these punches. So, it's very difficult for a lot of people who maybe don't consume as much news as certainly I do or you do, to under -- to make sense of what's going on without a guide.

And the media, I believe, in general, not across the board, but fall down when it comes to these extraordinarily important moments in which Donald and his behavior need to be explicitly defined based on things he says and does. You know, we're not talking about theoretical issues or hypotheticals. We're talking about calling it what it is.

STELTER: Here's an example from the weekend again. He said, mail-in balloting, that's so unconstitutional. And I think the banner on screen should say, Trump doesn't seem to know what's in the Constitution, right? He doesn't seem to know what's constitutional. You say in your book that's because he never reads, he doesn't read anything.

But when the press doesn't highlight these crazy things that are said at the rallies and in interviews, we actually make everything seem more normal and okay than it is.

MARY TRUMP: Of course. And normalizing him, which has been going on for decades, is one of the reasons we're here, you know?

And I would actually take it a step farther. I think, yes, of course, we need to point out the fact that clearly the man in the Oval Office has no idea what's in the Constitution, but much more to the point now, considering there's an election in less than two months. We need to point out that by saying that, he's cheating.

By undermining the legitimacy of an election that hasn't even happened yet, and in which not one vote has been cast, he is cheating.

STELTER: I'm going to pick it up right there where you left off in my next segment.

Mary, thank you so much for being here.

Check out our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter for more on all of this. You can sign up for free at

Quick break here on the program. When we come back, we're talking with ABC's Jonathan Karl. Those four words he asked Trump the other day, why did you lie? Karl will take us inside the briefing room, next.



STELTER: And we are back here on RELIABLE SOURCES. We were talking before the break about the President's claims involving election rigging, some of the craziness from his rally. I don't know what else to call it besides craziness. I want to show you why that word does apply. Here are some of the claims, an incomplete list of what happened in Nevada last night.

Trump claimed the Democrats are going to rig the election. He said he's probably entitled to serve more than two terms because of the way we were treated. He says, Biden would allow violent mobs to burn down your business. He called Biden pathetic and weak and all that. Let's go to the next page because it goes on and on.

He said Democrats want to destroy the suburbs, a little bit of racial dog whistle there. He said Democrats want to indoctrinate your children. He brought up Hillary Clinton. He said her lawyers should go to jail with her which is an interesting quote. Then he mocked Comcast by calling at Con-cast. He attacked some reporters. He got some facts wrong. He called the evening news corrupt for not reporting that he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

I think all of these matters because when we tell you he just had a raucous rally, right, when we tell you we said some controversial things, we are missing the big story. Now, there are moments where I think all of this noise does get addressed. There are moments when reporters can break through the nonsense.

Let me show you one of those moments from one of the President's press conferences this week. ABC's Jon Karl brought up the reporting and the revelations from Bob Woodward's book and asked Trump this direct question.


JON KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Why did you lie to the American people and why should we trust what you have to say now?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's a terrible question and the phraseology. I didn't lie. What I said is we have to be calm. We can't be panicked. And the way you phrase that is such a disgrace. It's a disgrace to ABC Television Network. It's a disgrace to your employer.


STELTER: It's the opposite of a disgrace. Let's talk about it with Jonathan Karl, the ABC News Chief White House Correspondent and the author of Front Row at the Trump Show. Jon, thanks for coming on. What's that moment like when you say to the President, why did you lie?

KARL: Well, Brian, I've resisted using that word for five years of covering Donald Trump as a candidate and as President, but I went in there feeling that there was no other way to put it. This was a case where, thanks to the tapes of his talks with Bob Woodward, we see that the President knew what the truth was, and in fact, explained to Woodward his reason for not telling the truth. That is by definition a lie.

So I just felt that I needed to ask the question as directly and as plainly as possible. His insult to me, calling me a disgrace to the ABC News television network, I mean, at this point, I've gotten kind of used to it.

STELTER: Right. It's a day that ends in why. Let me play devil's advocate. How much is really revelatory from the book Rage? We all saw the president in public view downplay the pandemic from the very beginning.

KARL: Well, what's different is knowing his intent, knowing what was inside his head. What did he know at the time? So you have the two critical aspects of the Woodward interviews. The February date where it's very clear that he knows just how deadly this virus verses, he knows that it's a lot worse than the flu, and then he comes out and he says it's just like a flu.

So that's a lie. He knew one thing, he said another thing. And in the March conversation where he explains to Woodward his rationale for not being upfront with the American people.

So that's what's different. We knew that he was saying things that were not true. With Woodward, we know that he actually knows the truth, and has a reason for not telling it.


STELTER: I think one of the biggest stories overarching all of this in the next two months, of course, is the President trying to sow doubt about the election, trying to suggest that it may not be legitimate. We were in this exact spot four years ago. This is -- we were saying the exact same things during the 2016 campaign. The difference now is the person saying it has control of the government.

How are you and your colleagues at ABC preparing for what could be a week long election night and for the chaos that could ensue?

KARL: Well, first of all, it's in many ways doing exactly what we've done following the returns, following the results, sticking to the facts, to the numbers. You know, that's what matters, the vote count. Obviously, there's going to be a lot of concern because of what the President has said, and also, because you have such an increase in mail-in voting on questions of the integrity of the vote, so we will have a team that is looking at all of that.

But I've got to tell you, Brian, and I've covered a lot of races. I've covered local races. I've covered congressional races, I've covered presidential races. And virtually every race I have covered, the person -- the candidate that complains about irregularities and fraud is the candidate who is losing. There's an exception to that rule, which was four years ago with Donald Trump.

So, you know, I think you just have to stay focused on exactly what's going on. And I will, in terms of how long this is going to go, look early in the night, early in the night on election night. Florida is a state -- despite what happened 20 years ago, Florida is a state that actually seems to have had its -- have its act together. And does a lot of mail-in voting, has done a lot of mail-in voting. It won't have a dramatic increase this time. It'll be very similar to what's happened before. And they're -- you know, if you remember, we called Florida -- the

network has called Florida before 11:00 on election night four years ago. And if Donald Trump doesn't win Florida, you know, it's not a very long night.

STELTER: OK. Jonathan, thank you so much for being here. Good to see you. This is like a RELIABLE SOURCES book club edition. The next book -- we have so many books we're talking about. We're talking about Rage, now we're going to talk about Clarissa Ward's new book On All Fronts, her advice for journalists covering this dystopian time in the United States.



STELTER: Hey, welcome back. Political news takes up so much time, so much oxygen, but most reporters are working every day on other fronts. For example, these historic overwhelming fires in the western United States. These are, of course, one of the most important stories in the world right now. The air quality is horrendous. We need to stay focused on these fires.

There is news on all fronts these days. And that brings me to CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward. She's been on the front lines of many stories for the past decade-plus, and she's out with a brand new book titled On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist. Clarissa, thank you for coming on with me.


STELTER: There's a lot I learned in your book included about your early days where I didn't even realize this, you worked at Fox News. You describe the ups and downs of working at Fox including sexism and misogyny. So tell us what happened that you hadn't revealed until now?

WARD: Well, I had never talked about the fact that I think there was a lot of pressure at Fox. And this doesn't come as any surprise to anyone to look a certain way. So I was sent an e-mail by a very well- intentioned anchor while I was in Baghdad covering the U.S. occupation and insurgency that was raging there, basically telling me that I should try to wear my hair down because that's how Roger liked girls to wear their hair down.

I'm sure you can appreciate, Brian, the absurdity of being in Baghdad, being in a war zone and getting an email telling you that you should be wearing your hair down. I didn't even have a hairdryer needless to say.

STELTER: I've heard stories from other Fox staffers. They're similar about that focus on appearance. You know, you've moved around many networks over the years. You pretty much worked everywhere, but NBC at this point. Why that kind of hopscotching around?

WARD: I think that I always dreamed of working for CNN when I was first starting out. And then it just took me a really long time to get here. And I got frustrated at ABC News, even though I worked with some amazing journalists because there just wasn't a huge amount of focus on international stories. CBS was a wonderful place to work, but there was this kind of dysfunction between 60 Minutes and the news division. And that made it very difficult to be someone who was divided between both sides of the street there.

And then CNN came with this incredible offer and opportunity and I haven't looked back and I will not be going anywhere else, Brian.

STELTER: So why do you think people -- what is it that people need to know about covering conflict zones like Syria for CNN? What are the most important stories in your book about that?

WARD: I think that people need to understand a few things. First of all, I think there's way too much of a taboo still about talking about issues of trauma and covering war and the absolutely, you know, inevitable toll that that takes on an individual. We need to be much more outspoken about that and kind of get rid of this idea that war correspondents need to be tough as nails. No, we don't need to be tough as nails. We actually need to be extremely compassionate and extremely open to the trauma and the horror that we're processing.

But I look at the next generation of journalists, Brian, and I think they've got their work cut out for them because we are kind of slipping into this post-truth world. And it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to kind of navigate the line between journalism and activism and when do you respond to the attacks of when do you ignore the attacks? It's a -- it's a really difficult atmosphere.


STELTER: It is. And the way through it is to keep telling the truth and learn from people like you. Clarissa Ward, the book is On All Fronts. I highly recommend it. Thank you for coming on.

WARD: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next on the program, my one on one with Netflix co-CEO, Reed Hastings.


STELTER: You know, if it feels like we're talking a lot about books this hour, well, there are a lot of great books out right now. And book tours are opportunities to interview people who are otherwise hard to get like the Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, who's out with this really revealing new book called No Rules Rules about Netflix and the culture of reinvention. He co-authored it with business school professor Erin Meyer.

Earlier I spoke with Hastings and I asked him both about culture as well as about Coronavirus era T.V. production.

[11:50:11] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REED HASTINGS, CO-FOUNDER AND CO-CEO, NETFLIX: We don't write about rules, we write about freedom. We write about inspiring people instead of supervising them. And the lessons are really for any kind of creative organization, as opposed to an industrial organization. But a creative organization wants to inspire people to come up with new ideas.

STELTER: Right, and it's the same thing that you see in major newsrooms, you're bringing the best people, retain the best talent, give them the freedom to go out and break stories, the same kind of values and ideals of what you described in Netflix for the past 20 years.

I was struck by your description of radical candor, of creating a culture of candor, because in my field in journalism, far too many journalists get defensive when they make a mistake. They don't like to be candid about what went wrong sometimes. There's this discomfort with being candid. How do you create a culture of candor?

HASTINGS: Well, in journalism, that may be because you're under attack all the time, but maybe you have a unique situation. But I would say within the company, people give each other feedback because they want to grow and get better. And feedback can hurt, just like exercise hurts, but it makes you stronger. And so we really encourage people to be very honest with each other and to help each other by being very direct.

STELTER: I think people might hear about this book and say, are you giving away Netflix's secret sauce to its rivals including CNN's parent Warner Media?

HASTINGS: Well, that is an unfortunate aspect, but we want to get it out to help new candidates who are thinking about coming to work at Netflix to all read it, so they know whether it's a good fit for them.

STELTER: Right. How has the Netflix culture been affected or upended by the pandemic when most people are not in their offices? I wonder if it's easier or harder to give route, you know, honest feedback to be radically transparent when you're on Zoom calls all day. I don't know. Maybe it's actually easier, not harder.

HASTINGS: It's probably -- it's probably always a little bit hard. It might be a touch harder, because it depends on relationship. And we're coasting on the relationships that we formed before locked down, so, you know, which will lessen over time. So the key part is you want a balance of some video conferencing and some in person.

STELTER: Right. Right. That's a great point. We are all -- we're taking from that bank where we all made deposits pre-pandemic, and we're spending now but it's someone that's going to run out. And that's true for content as well. What about Netflix and producing content amid a pandemic?

HASTINGS: Well, we're very fortunate that we produce all over the world. So, we're producing in Canada, in the U.K., all through Europe, through lots of Asia, Korea, Japan, and some in the U.S. We're trying to get the enough of the right testing and getting the protocols right, so we're seeing some growing success there. But it's tough going because this pandemic is just a nasty virus.

STELTER: How far ahead do you all think? Is it two or three years ahead in terms of a pipeline of content to feed the service?

HASTINGS: You know, we think many years ahead, but generally, it's a year from production to being on the service.

STELTER: Yes. So, do you think in the -- in the short to medium term, Americans are going to watch more shows produced outside the U.S. because it's harder to produce television in the 50 states?

HASTINGS: You know, I think we've got more original content coming next year than we had this year. So, we're going to have a great service next year and the year beyond despite all of these challenges.

STELTER: You obviously have enough on Disney and on Disney Plus and on the launch of Mulan recently. Do you think that these streaming services that have launched recently, Peacock, and HBO Max, and the others, will they all be around in 10 or 20 years or will only the strongest survive?

HASTINGS: Well, for sure, HBO and Disney will be around. We'll see what happens with the others. You know, there'll be some consolidation. But you know, if you think of newspapers, in the heyday of newspapers, there was a lot of them. T.V. networks, there's a lot of them in the heyday of cable. So, you know, there's room for a number of great players if they produce amazing content.

STELTER: May the best shows, may the best movies win. I always think it's important to read your quarterly shareholders letters. You talk about the competition, the competitive set. People are often surprised when you say for example, that TikTok is a competitor, right? That anything you spend time doing on your phone is a competitor to Netflix.

HASTINGS: More narrowly, we think about it as the substitute competitors are often the ones that get firms. So the more direct competitors you know of, say us and Disney and HBO, we have similar values, you know, we'll split the market at various proportion depending on our execution. But then you get the substitutes, YouTube, and TikTok, and video gaming that our other forms of entertainment. And we can't compete with them by -- or generally don't compete with them by doing what they do. We have to compete with them by making our art form stronger and stronger.



STELTER: A really key insight there from Reed Hastings. After a quick break, we have some breaking news about a Trump event coming up later today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: President Trump's defiance of social distancing guidelines, his denialism about the pandemic is forcing news outlets to make some tough decisions about how to keep their staffers safe. T.V. reporters have been attending his outdoor events like the one yesterday in Nevada.

Well, later today, thousands of people are set to attend a Trump event inside a manufacturing facility in Henderson, Nevada. No social distancing, chairs so close together that they will be touching. That's why some if not all the major TV networks have decided not to send their camera crews inside because they feel it will not be safe enough. It's not wise to go along with the President's loosey-goosey approach.

Our T.V. news executive source tells me that there will still be a pool camera at the back of the venue to capture the event, but you will not see the usual contingent of correspondence from networks like CNN.

I'll have more on this in our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. And for more on this topic of the President's denialism, check out podcast as well. My guest this week is Slate's Will Saletan. You can check it all out at And we will see you right back here this time next week.