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Biden Preparing Speech About Trump's Supreme Court Pick; One- On-One With Co-Chair Of Commission On Presidential Debates; Trump Has Been Undermining The Election All Year Long; Debunking Misconceptions About Election Night; New Watchdog Group Tweaks Facebook's Oversight Board; Can Fox And Tucker Carlson Have It Both Ways? Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 27, 2020 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brian Stelter in New York, where we are hearing about Joe Biden planning to give a speech. It may be a rebuttal of sorts to President Trump's Supreme Court announcement.

The Biden campaign has announced a 12:15 p.m. speech, 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time. And this will be his first time commenting specifically on Trump's selection of Amy Coney Barrett. There's no further details about Biden's speech yet, but CNN will bring it to you live when it begins.

Now, turning to RELIABLE SOURCES, and a big list of newsmaker ahead this hour:

Brian Karem is here to tell us about his big question to Trump about the transfer of power.

And since Trump is threatening the election in multiple ways, how are the votes actually tallied? How does it work at the TV networks? CNN's D.C. bureau Sam Feist is here to take us inside the process with everything you need to know before November 3rd.

Plus, a new look at Trump's online strategy of disinformation. Journalist Maria Ressa will join me live from the Philippines to tell us what it looks like from outside the United States.

And later, a curious legal case involving Tucker Carlson.

But, first, this hour, an exclusive look behind the scenes of the first 2020 presidential debate. We are two days away from Tuesday's debate. It will be moderated by "FOX News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. He's off the air today. He's deep in rehearsal for Tuesday's face-off. He's even sporting some Commission on Presidential Debates gear from his home while he's getting ready.

Look, let's be honest about these debates work, they are not likely to change many people's minds. All the polls show that most Americans' minds are made up and have been for a very long time. And already early voting is under way. But these debates matter because of the ratings, because of the audience, because of the audience that tunes in. Look at this from 2016. A record 84 million people tuned in for the

first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. You can see there, the vice presidential debate, never as highly rated, but the second debate and third debate also with massive audiences.

So, in an environment that's incredibly fragmented, in a country that's incredibly polarized, the debates are the only moments when a lot of us, many of us, stop and watch the same thing. We all see the same thing. Then we argue about what we saw and who was right and who was wrong and who won and who lost. But at least almost everyone, at least people stop and pay attention when the debates begin.

Now, do you remember this summer when there was that nonsense whether Trump would go to the debate or whether Biden would go to the debate? There were Trump surrogates predicting that Biden wouldn't show up. That was a waste of time. Remember, there is always going to be a debate. There's always going to be multiple debates.

Remember that next time when we go through those ridiculous news cycles about whether there's going to be a debate. You know, the debates are one of the only traditions we have in American politics.

So, let's get right to it with the co-chair of the Presidential Debates Commission.

Let me bring him in now. There he is.

All right. The co-chair, Frank Fahrenkopf, is with me.

Frank, thank you for coming on.


STELTER: You know, everything changes in politics but debates stay the same. Is that something you all are proud of, that there's -- there's consistency in every four years?

FAHRENKOPF: Yeah. You know, this is something that we've been at since 1988. That's the first debate that we did in the general election cycle and we have done 30 of them. Next Tuesday will be the 31st presidential debate or vice presidential debate that we've done in over 30-plus years.

So, yeah, we're very excited with how much we've been successful.

STELTER: Did you ever think that Trump or Biden might skip the debate or were you always sure they were going to show up?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, you know, a year ago, maybe I had some questions. But we've been in touch with both campaigns now for a number of months. And right from the start, they've indicated that they're going to participate.

So, there weren't really some of the concerns. I would say I had more concerns in 2016 than I have had in this cycle. STELTER: Wish we could take back those wasted days of debate about the


All right. Here's the big question. I asked viewers for questions for you. And there was one dominant theme in the questions. I'm sure you know what it was.


STELTER: It was about fact-checking.

Will Chris Wallace be empowered to fact-check the candidates in real time?

FAHRENKOPF: We -- when we choose moderators, we make very clear to them that there's a vast difference between being a moderator in a debate and being a reporter who is interviewing someone. When you're interviewing someone, if they say something that is in direct opposition to something they said a week ago, your duty is to follow up and say, wait a minute, you didn't say that a week ago.

But that's not the case in the debate. If one of these candidates says something on the stage Tuesday, it's the role of the other person in a debate to be the one to raise that and say, wait a minute, you're changing the position and so forth rather than the moderator.

So, the moderator is a facilitator. And one of the things that we've been successful at doing, if you review what we did in 2016 and 2012, is get the candidates to debate, talk to each other about their positions.


So, we don't expect Chris or our other moderators to be fact-checkers. The minute the TV is off, there are going to be plenty of fact- checkers in every newspaper and every television station in the world. That's not the role -- the main role of our moderators.

STELTER: I think what a lot of liberals would say to that, is what you said broken in an age when one of the candidates, President Trump, lies every day. How do you explain to them that it's okay to do the same old way it's always been in an environment that's entirely different?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, again, that's not the function of the commission. The commission's function is to put on television before the people of the United States the two candidates. They will act as they're going to act. We have no control over that. And it's for them to make judgment based upon what they've seen.

STELTER: The president tweeted this morning about your debate. And here's what he said. He said: I will strongly be demanding a drug test of sleepy Joe Biden. He says that he will also agree to a drug test.

Now, we've been through this for months. He's trying to set expectations. He's trying to claim that his rival has dementia or some other ailment?

What is your response? I hate to even have to bring it up, but there it is from the president. What's your response from the Debate Commission about a drug test idea?

FAHRENKOPF: One of my daughters is a doctor and I'm sure she doesn't want me taking anybody's drug test. So, no, that's not -- that's not within our bailiwick that the commission is going to do or consider.

STELTER: OK. No drug testing, but this is an example of the kind of craziness and nonsense that's going to be thrown against the wall during the debate. So, doesn't Chris Wallace need have to the ability to call B.S. when he hears it?

FAHRENKOPF: You know, Chris is Chris. I think he's one of the most outstanding interviewers and also debate moderators I've come across in years. And he has his own journalistic integrity, which I trust.

STELTER: Some of the topics have raised eyebrows. We'll put the topics on screen. These are picked solely by Chris Wallace, right? So, the integrity of the election, the Supreme Court, of course, an obvious topic. And at the bottom there, race and violence in our cities. Some people saw that and said that, that sounds very Trumpy.

What can you tell us about the choice of the topics?

FAHRENKOPF: He does that, and the moderator, Kristen Welker, who will moderate the final debate --


FAHRENKOPF: -- the one that takes place in Nashville, she will also have the same makeup where she will be able to come up with six subjects that will be focused on during the 15-minute sections that we divide the 90 minutes into.

And so, again, it's up to the moderators to make the decision of what they're going to cover and how they're going to proceed. It's not our -- it's not within our decision-making.

STELTER: Right. When people say climate change is not on the list, it sounds like you're saying, hey, there are three more debates, two more for presidential candidates so let's see what happens in October.

FAHRENKOPF: There's no question in my mind that the debates that are coming up, that will be a subject that well, well-versed and reviewed.

STELTER: Yeah, there will be no drug test, obviously. But what about the COVID-19 crisis, what will happen with the participants of the debate? I know, for example, instead of having hundreds in the audience, there will only be dozens.

FAHRENKOPF: Well, as you know, Brian, we have the great fortune of having the Cleveland Clinic assisting us. Not only are they co-hosting the first debate in Cleveland, but they're advising us for all the debates on such things as medical protocol, social distancing, wearing masks, all of those things.

So, we're very fortunate to have them. You're right. The candidates will be socially distanced on stage. The normal audience, which has averaged over the last 30 years of about 900 people, we'll be lucky to have 60 or 80 people that will be actually ticketholders that will be there and they will be socially distanced.

And so, they will be tested. No one is going to get in that hall without a mask on and they'll be tested prior. I arrived in Cleveland tomorrow morning and the first thing they're doing to me at the Cleveland Clinic is sticking one of those things up my nose to give me the test. And I will be (AUDIO GAP) passing that.

STELTER: And "Politico" says no handshakes, is that right? No handshakes among the candidates?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, we don't announce what they do among themselves. We don't dictate whether they shake hands or not. As you know, you remember --


FAHRENKOPF: -- that four years ago, they shook hands a couple of times but they didn't a couple of times.

STELTER: Yeah. "Politico" also said there's a coin flip and it's been determined the first question will go to Trump. Can you confirm that?

FAHRENKOPF: That's my understanding. That is my understanding.

STELTER: And so, then, we will be off for 90 minutes.

Frank, thank you very much for being here.

FAHRENKOPF: Pleasure, Brian. Any time.

STELTER: Up next, former NBC News exec Mark Lukasiewicz, he's been involved in debate for years. We're going to talk about the fact- checking dilemma. Plus, Molly Jong-Fast and the role of Fox News. And Brian Karem on his head-turning, headline-making question to the president.



STELTER: All right. Here it is. Here is the Trump dichotomy. Earlier today, the president said, once again, that America is rounding the turn on the pandemic. Now, his own experts disagree, but he keeps implying that the coronavirus threat is receding when, in fact, there it is, cases are rising again.

Now, he made this comment today on "Fox & Friends" in a chat with his friend, Pete Hegseth, and this is the Trump dichotomy in action. The vast majority of Americans will not watch this chitchat but those who do watch will take it seriously. You know, for all the talk of Trump's ratings power, media power, his

ratings magnetism, some of his interviews are remarkably low rated. His sit-down with the new WGN America newscast barely averaged 100,000 viewers this week. So, most people are not listening to every word Trump says but there's this online ecosystem where his comments and claims and lies circulate really widely among his fans.

In my view, this contributes to further alienation and even radicalization, because most Americans are not hearing Trump lie about voter fraud every day but his biggest supporters are.


They're arguing it all the time.

On Saturday, for example, Trump told these rally-goers that the only way Democrats can win Pennsylvania is if they cheat. Think about that. The only way Democrats can win the state is if they cheat.

He's saying that all the time. It's a lie wrapped up in an even worse lie. And he's been saying this stuff all year long. I feel like every so often it becomes a front-page story, like on Wednesday when Trump refused to admit to a peaceful transfer of power. There it is on the front page.

But I want to be super clear. He's been doing this all year long. He did do it in 2016 as well. We all remember during the campaign he was refusing to say he would accept losing.

It's much more dangerous now because he is the president. And he's been telling ghost stories about voter fraud all year long. He has used the word rigged dozens of times. The word ballots hundreds of times. He did it again just one hour ago.

Now, most Americans don't describe to his tweets. That's the Trump dichotomy. Most Americans don't care what he tweets about, but his fans do care and they are hearing this with repetition over and over again.

Trump is emboldened and misinformed by pro-Trump media outlets that make balloting out of molehills. And again, they've been doing that for months and months. Taking little stories and making them act like they're the biggest story in the country.

This is the kind of stuff that Trump's base is hearing all the time. I want you to watch this.


DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Their plan is to add millions of fraudulent ballots that can over cancel your vote and overturn the elections. We cannot let that happen. We need every able- bodied men and women to join army for Trump's election security operation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: This is incredibly reckless, irresponsible stuff that most Americans are not hearing. But Trump's fans are. Trump Jr.'s subscribers are hearing that stuff all the time.

It contributes to the sense of an alternate reality where, in Trumplandia, the election is going to be rigged, stolen by evil Democrats, and if we don't pay attention to that every day, then we're missing the size of the threat that's in front of us.

With me now is former NBC News executive who produced a debate back in 2008, Mark Lukasiewicz. Also with me, editor at large for "The Daily Beast", Molly Jong-Fast and senior White House correspondent for "Playboy" magazine, Brian Karem.

Brian, you asked the president about a peaceful transfer of power. It was his refusal to answer you, just to say the basic words, that caused the multiday news cycle this week.

Tell me what it was like for you. You were in the briefing room, asking the question. What was it like?

BRIAN KAREM, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PLAYBOY MAGAZINE: Well, Brian, you made an excellent point earlier. Very few people actually see -- he's talked about this often over the last four years. I mean, since he's got in office. What it was like for me in the briefing room was finally having a chance to put that before a larger audience and a chance for everyone to hear it for themselves what he thought and what he thinks and what he plans to do.

It was very sobering. It's -- I've never heard him -- since 1792, as even Mitch McConnell said in a tweet, we've had a peaceful transfer of power, so win, lose or draw, if he won't commit to that, that's a rather sobering thought for the United States.

I thought it would be a very simple question to answer. I thought he would say, what, are you kidding me? Of course, it's going to be peaceful? And who -- and that would have been dismissed and I would have been called all kinds of nasty names but it was his answer to the question that prompted the multiday media frenzy over it because he scared people, he frightened people, and it's a very sobering thought --


KAREM: -- for the sitting president of the United States to tell people --

STELTER: Yeah, he took what's --

KAREM: -- that he will not commit. Yeah.

STELTER: He took what's happening in pro-Trump media to what his base hears every day, all of a sudden, the entire country was hearing it. And the next day at the briefing, Kayleigh McEnany criticized you and called you "that Playboy reporter".

What do you think is going on there, kind of mocking your outlet?

KAREM: Well, she mocked everybody. Come on, they mock CNN, they mock CBS, why not "Playboy"?

You know, I put it in my twitter bio immediately, that "Playboy" reporter.

You know, if your -- as Helen Thomas told me when you -- when I first walked into that briefing room many years ago, if you're looking to make friends, find a different, you know, way of making a living.


KAREM: This is political -- this is presidential politics. It's not high school debate. This shows us that the president and his administration are nothing more than high school debaters and not worthy of the field in which they are having this endeavor.

And that's -- you know, you're going to get hit with that kind of comment all the time. You brush it off, you do your job.

STELTER: That's right. We have to.


That's what we have to do.

Let's talk about the debates and conversation I was having a few minutes with the co-chair of the Debate Commission.

There's this issue about fact-checking, Molly, and there's this issue about Chris Wallace as well. I think Chris Wallace is an exemplary journalist but he works for a news outlet that's more propaganda at this point than it is news.

So, do you view Chris as having a fox taint or is he affected in some way by working at Fox? Does it matter that a Fox moderator has the first debate or doesn't matter at all?

MOLLY JONG-FAST, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think for a Fox moderator, he's far -- he's the real journalist at Fox. And you can't do better than him at Fox. He comes from real -- he comes from NBC and ABC and he's quite smart and accomplished. He worked at "The Boston Globe."

The problem I think he's going to have is he's from another world where politicians aren't serial -- well, they're -- he's from a different world where people aren't so -- Trump is completely unbound by the truth. He has no interest in it. He's an autocrat.

He -- you know, so, I don't know how you fact check someone who said more than 20,000 lies. And he's going to push back a little bit but I think he's going to feel uncomfortable pushing back as much is going to be needed to push back.

STELTER: As needed. That's interesting. Mark Lukasiewicz, what do you make of this fact-checking dilemma?

MARK LUKASIEWICZ, DEAN, THE LAWRENCE HERBERT SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION, HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think Frank Fahrenkopf is probably going to be disappointed. Anybody who thinks Chris Wallace isn't going to follow up on his questions is living in another world.

I think all of these journalists are good journalists. They're going to follow up. The trick for them is to avoid becoming the debater, right? That's not what they're there for. And Donald Trump likes to make the media the enemy, likes to debate with the moderator.

But there are some differences here. When it comes to the fact- checking, first of all, I think we're all used to this the idea that broadcasters like you and others have people in their ear, a team in their control room helping them. That has not been the case as these commissioned debates. Typically, the commission produces it.

Once that moderator is on the stage, they're not talking to anybody. It's the moderator and two candidates for 90 minutes with whatever they brought with them. So, that's a different dynamic than exists in the primary debates.

And I think the other thing that we have to keep in mind here and that is problematic about debates in general, live fact-checking is almost impossible and generally not terribly effective.

So when someone like the president who is proficient at layering deception upon lie upon exaggeration in a single 60-second span, it is very hard for anybody to bring that to a halt. And I think that is going to be a challenge for Joe Biden.

STELTER: Do you think it matters that it's a Fox debate? I said to a friend of Wallace's, is this a Fox debate? They said, no, it's a Chris Wallace debate, and quote, he's esteemed, masterful moderating record speaks for itself.

But, Mark, there's a big part of this country that says, whoa, whoa, what is a Fox guy doing for that debate?

LUKASIEWICZ: I understand that's a concern. I don't share it. This is not a Fox debate, and I've worked with the Commission of Presidential Debates. They've been doing this for decades. They produce the debate.

The moderator who is chosen works with the team they get to pick preparing their questions. But once they're on that stage, nobody else is talking to them and the commission controls the format.

So, I want to make one other point because Brian's question was so interesting to Donald Trump a few days ago. It's kind of similar to the question that Chris Wallace asked at the end of the very last debate between Trump and Clinton and provoked some outrage then. I'd be very surprised not to see Chris Wallace return to that question on stage this time.

STELTER: And ask it again, interesting. All right. Mark and Brian, thank you.

Molly, please stay with me.

We're going to talk about how the votes will actually be counted. How the results will be assembled on election night because I know a lot of you watching at home have questions about how this is going to work.

We're going to talk with the head of the CNN D.C. bureau about the decision desk, about the process right after this.



STELTER: Election night in the United States is up to the press. I kind of mean that literally because there is no national election commission in America, like there is in so many other countries. U.S. elections happen locally. The votes are counted locally.

And then the major television networks and the "Associated Press" assemble and report the results, gathered from all across the country. You know, then we see the networks and the "A.P." make independent race projections about Senate races, House races and, of course, the presidency.

There are two competing systems for this now. The national election pool, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC, and then something relatively new called "A.P. Votecast" that Fox News subscribes to.

So, you have two systems, two sets of organizations assembling the votes totals and telling us what happened. And all of this matters so much this year given President Trump's attempts to undermine the election and sow doubt about the results.

So, let's talk about why the count is trustworthy, why the decision desks do what they do with CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist.

This is -- Sam, this is, what, your eighth presidential election at CNN, right?

SAM FEIST, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Right. 1992 was the first one.

STELTER: And there's a lot that hasn't changed in terms of the decision desk process. What is the biggest X factor this year that makes you and your colleagues think we need to explain this more about how the election works?


FEIST: Listen, Thanks for having me on to help me bring a little clarity to this process that a lot of people really don't understand. Listen, this is going to be an election like no other. You've heard that over and over. But I'm not sure that the counting or reporting of the votes are going to be a whole lot different. In fact, I think there's every reason to believe it's going to be orderly.

Obviously, this year, because of the mail-in ballots, as a result of the pandemic, it could take a little bit longer, right? It takes longer to count mailing ballots. They have to be opened. They have to be processed. Some states don't begin processing mailing ballots until Election Day, so it could take a little longer.

But I really believe that if we don't have a winner on election night, there's a very good possibility that we're going to know the answer on Wednesday or Thursday because the vast majority of votes will have been counted by then.

STELTER: Let's get into the weeds about the counting. So the local precincts in the states, they count -- they count the votes. And then what happens with the news media, thousands of individuals decentralized across the country that are getting that data and feeding it to you and your colleagues of the decision desk?

FEIST: That's right. Local officials across the country at the county, city, township level, or sometimes at the state level, they count and publicly report the votes. And then all across the country, the national election poll and the associated press, for that matter, send out reporters to learn about and report the votes.

The votes come back to a central tabulating center for us, and then we of course, report them to the -- to the viewers. And that happens throughout the night, and then it will continue happening and always does after election night is over because votes continue to come in. Mail in and absentee votes continue to be received. And that will happen for days after. And then when all the votes are counted, we report all the results, and it's as simple as that.

STELTER: There's some misconceptions about how this works. For example, the exit polls, there are tens of thousands of interviews with voters after they vote to get a sense of why they voted the way they did. But, you know, networks do not use exit polls alone to make projections and close races. So, I think we should -- we should debunk that myth right now.

Also on screen here, the network's do not compete to be first to announce projections. Now, I feel like in the year 2000, there was a concern that that did happen. What about 2020?

FEIST: So, you were right that in 2000, I think that there may have been some competition between networks to be first. But I have not seen that as long as I've been doing this. I've been doing this working on the -- with the decision team since 2004, and there is no race to be first. There's a race to be right, which is not a race at all. It's far more important to be right than to be first.

And I really can assure you that the decision teams at the networks are not in a competition with each other. They're largely in sync with each other. One network may be slightly ahead in one state, one network may be slightly ahead in another state, but it's really the votes that drive the decisions. When there's enough vote in in a particular state to give the decision team the confidence that that person is going to win, then they can announce a projection. So, I you will not see a race this year, nor should you, and that's a good thing for the public.

STELTER: I think it's interesting that there are two different systems, two different groups doing all of this. And that's new in the past few years. You have the National Election Pool, including CNN, and then this competitive -- this kind of competitor on the market, AP Votecast. Maybe it's a good thing, though, this year to have two different groups assembling the results, because it's kind of a check and balance and might give people more confidence in the results.

FEIST: Yes. I wouldn't really call it a competitor. I would suggest that there -- the two organizations are working in parallel, the National Election Pool and the Associated Press. Each will be independently obtaining the vote count from around the country. And I think that they in some ways provide a check on each other because when the public sees that two independent media consortiums, two independent media outlets report the votes and they're very similar, I think that's a confidence builder and that's something that we need in this election. So, I don't really see them as competitors. I see them as working in parallel and that's good thing.

STELTER: Let's take a quick break and then come back and go through some hypothetical scenarios. What happens if a candidate says he has won before the networks declare it? That and more in a moment.



STELTER: And we are back on RELIABLE SOURCES talking with CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist about the decision desks of the major networks and how we know what happens when the presidential election ends, finally ends on November 3rd. Sam, typically 11:00 p.m. is the earliest time, 11:00 p.m. Eastern time that an election will be called because the western states have closed their polls. Is there any chance of a projection at 11:00 p.m. on November 3rd?

FEIST: Yes, of course, there's a chance of a projection. It is possible and we tend to make projections early on election night if the race is not closed particularly in those battleground states, so it is possible. But it is entirely possible that there won't be a projection on election night.

You know, people forget that in two of the last five elections, we have gone to bed without a president-elect. Everyone remembers 2000 where Florida was the deciding state and then it was too close to call on election night, and we didn't know, and it took another 31 days.

But the very next election was 2004, and in that case, Ohio was the state that was going to be decisive and we did not have enough vote in to project a winner on election night, so we waited. And it was midday the next day when enough results were clear in Ohio that George W. Bush won Ohio and was reelected. So, it is not unusual for elections to not be decided on Election Day

especially this year because mail-in ballots take longer to count. You have to open them, you have to process them, and so it could be that we don't know until Wednesday or Thursday or even later. But I think the vast majority of the votes in the country will be counted by late in the election week, so I believe that we will likely know a winner. It just may not be on election night.

And that's OK. That doesn't mean anything is wrong. The public, the media, the candidates just need to be a little bit patient.


STELTER: Right. We need to tell people to pack patients. A slow count is a safe count. But you know, we don't know what's going to happen in terms of Florida or other key states, what's going to happen with the turnout in those votes. What about let's say it's midnight or 1:00 a.m., and Donald Trump comes out and says I am the winner of the election, and our data does not back that up at all, what will CNN do?

FEIST: Listen, if we have not projected enough states for a candidate to get to 270 electoral votes, and a candidate comes out and declares victory, we will make it clear that the facts do not back up that claim of victory. And we'll do it a number of ways. If you've watched CNN's election night, John King at the magic wall spends an awful lot of election night explaining why we haven't projected a winner in a particular state.

And he goes county by county, reveals how many votes are left to come in how many votes have been counted, which counties have not reported much vote. This year, of course, we will layer in absentee vote throughout the night in our conversation. And if we're not ready to project the state -- we're not ready to project the state, that doesn't mean that anything is wrong.

And we will make it clear to our viewers and our readers, that there's simply not enough information to make a projection, and that the candidate, if a candidate goes out and declares winner -- declares victory ahead of time, that they are doing it before the votes have been counted, before -- that is based in fact.

STELTER: Yes, the candidates won't know anything more than the networks. They won't have any magic data that the networks won't have access to.

FEIST: That's correct.

STELTER: Sam, what about Fox? What about Fox News? Is the decision desk at Fox trustworthy given that elsewhere at the network you've got propagandists like Sean Hannity who might try to side with Trump in some sort of election tug of war?

FEIST: Listen, all of the networks have excellent decision teams. These are made up of political scientists and data scientists. Jen Agiesta, who runs a CNN decision team, is our polling director. She's been working with our decision team for many years. And that is true at all of the networks. The public has every reason to have confidence in the decision teams of the networks.

And my advice to everybody, all of the politicians, the partisans, the commentators, the analysts, wait for the projections from the networks and the Associated Press, and don't get out ahead of them. These are the experts that that that the country has come to depend on over the years.

And any analysts that thinks they know more than these decision desks that have been doing this for 30 years is wrong. They just don't. And I would have a lot of confidence in the decision desks. And that they will be patient -- they are going to take their time, and they're not going to get ahead of themselves. So, I would give that advice to everybody on election night.

STELTER: Bottom line here is it's about patience, and about not assuming we know what's going to happen. There's a lot of people assuming the worst, and that's not a good idea. But we should also be prepared for a lot of different possibilities. Is that fair?

FEIST: That's correct. That's absolutely right. And we just have to give the -- those -- local election authorities the time to count the vote. In many states, they may have time to do it on election night. In other states, because of state election laws where they can't begin counting absentee ballots until Election Day, just give them time. It may take a day or a few days. Give them time. They will count the votes, and then we'll all know.

STELTER: But it's good to know the networks have plans. We've been doing this for decades. That will remain the same, even though everything else is different this year. Sam, thank you very much.

FEIST: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: I was thinking about the fact that on election night 2016, it looks like Donald Trump was winning the popular vote. Remember, it took days and days and days to know that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, so more data will come in over time. A quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES, and then journalist Maria Ressa sounding an alarm about Facebook's responsibility with social media disinformation.



STELTER: To put it bluntly, Facebook's attempts to curb misinformation are failing. Manipulated and misleading videos are thriving on the platform like this one showing a moment when Joe Biden was deliberately quoting phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, President Trump's campaign grabbed a clip and implied that he didn't know the pledge. Facebook label the video, but it's still up there. And it's one of a slew of deceptive clips being shared by the Trump campaign and its allies' part of a campaign of disinformation on the platform.

Facebook says its internal oversight board is going to be launching getting going, but you know, now, it has a sort of competition. This is interesting. It's a group of journalists, industry experts, and ex- Facebookers who decided to create their own, what they call the real Facebook oversight board to point out the Web site's failings.

One board member who knows, well, too much about misinformation is Maria Ressa, the founder and CEO of Rappler based in the Philippines, and she joins me now.

Maria, you've been under threat from the government there in the Philippines. They've been trying to shut down your Web site here and there, and Facebook has been used to fuel lies about your Web site Rappler and about you.

You know, at the same time, you know, you're not a critic of Facebook, you're also a partner trying to help them with fact-checking. So tell me how you view this really complicated situation.

MARIA RESSA, CEO AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RAPPLER: Look, the reality right now is that Facebook has, like many social media platforms, has become a behavior modification system and we users are Pavlov's dogs. But remember, Rappler began in 2012 on Facebook. So, I think that we've know it's best, we also -- I personally have felt its worst.

And now I could go to jail for up to six years because of these narratives that have been seated on Facebook, because of these information operations. So, one of the things we want to make sure is that you know you're being manipulated. And if you know that, that's the first step to not being manipulated. And in the meantime, we continue to push Facebook to do more.


STELTER: How do you view what's happening in the U.S. from there in Manila? Is this an attempt at an autocratic takeover by President Trump? Is it that serious?

RESSA: Look, I worried that you can't have integrity of elections if you don't have integrity of facts. And right now, you don't have that. In fact, I would say that the platform is biased against facts. The reality, the data shows us that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than really boring facts.

And you know, the kinds of attacks against journalists that we've felt all around the world, women attack more than men, all of these show that, you know, there are two -- there's two reasons for it. To pound journalists to silence, to kill the credibility of journalists, to make audiences doubt everything so that they have no facts with which to act.

How can you have democracy in that environment? Look, in 2016, Brian, you know this. I actually warned that what you're seeing happening in the Philippines that our dystopian present was your future. And watching in shock what is happening this year in the United States and how it has played out, how influence operations on Black Lives Matter in 2016 has evolved to change reality in 2020. When astroturfing bottom up is met by leaders saying things top down, it changes quickly. And I guess that's -- so I hope you do better because you must.

STELTER: As you've said, and I'll borrow your words, we have to hold the line. We have to hold the line. And it's not partisan or political to defend democracy. Maria, thank you very much. Thank you for what you're doing. Up next here on CNN, a very special premiere tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. It's the television debut of the CNN film's production John Lewis: Good Trouble.



STELTER: He exaggerates, he's nonliteral. In other words, don't believe what Tucker Carlson says. Those were basically the legal arguments made by Fox News lawyers, arguments that ultimately convinced a federal judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Karen McDougal.

The judge said the Fox's attorneys persuasively argued that "Given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer arise with an appropriate amount of skepticism about the statements he makes." These are quotes directly from Fox's defense here. It says, "lawyers said that the general tenor of the show should tell viewers that Carlson is not "stating actual facts" about the topics he discusses. And instead, he's engaging in an exaggeration and non-literal commentary."

So, it basically boils down to this, rhetorical hyperbole and opinion. The judge ruled in Fox's favor, but isn't this embarrassing for the network? Let's bring back Molly Jong-Fast.

What's the big picture here, Molly, about Fox's lawyers say, hey, Carlson exaggerates? I mean, we know that as viewers. I think we all know his us versus them battles are dramatically exaggerated. But they think all the viewers are in on it. Do you think all of Fox's viewers are in on it?

JONG-FAST: No. And I think what's scary about this is, there are millions of people whose faith that Tucker is a real newscaster. And those of us who watched him for a long time know that he's not. And we know that he's very connected to republican talking points, and he's more like an activist that -- or even an entertainer.

The problem is Fox is always, when Tucker gets in trouble, and this happens with Sean Hannity too, they always use this excuse that they are entertainers, they speak in hyperbole. But if you look at the family of Seth Rich, I don't think that they feel entertained. You know, they were targeted by Tucker. They had their lives really destroyed.

And you see this again and again, Tucker will target individuals. And so, I don't know -- I feel like there has to be culpability.

STELTER: Right. Yes. Look, I get it all this in my book "Hoax." For folks who haven't checked it out yet, you can buy a copy at You know, in the book, we mentioned Tucker Carlson, possibly a 2024 candidate. So, check it out Molly, thank you so much. We will see you all this time next week for