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The Coming Days Are a Test of Democracy; Fox Viewers Are Being Misled About Trump's Chances. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 01, 2020 - 11:00   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter for this special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, counting down to Election Day.


And in the next few minutes, we're going live to the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Plus, CNN's D.C. bureau chief Sam Feist is here it answer your questions about election night.

The coming days are really a referendum on President Trump. So what is the Fox News base saying? What are viewers hearing? We will get into that.

And later, the difference between these past election live shots. See how close they are sitting together versus this year's pandemic era plans.

This hour is all about what to expect on Tuesday night and beyond. But let's zoom out first.

The coming days are a test of American democracy. The world is watching live through this network and others. America passes this test by staying tied, tethered, secured to the truth. America may fail this test if lying politicians and propagandists drown out what's true and replace it with what they want to be true.

Failure means succumbing to fantasy and conspiracy theory and hate and division, and there is already too, too much of this that.

Distrust is already so high, distrust in polls, in politicians, in the press, in each other. This country needs a trust injection, a trust infusion. Maybe it starts right here, in these lines.

One of the many, many things this election is about is the truth. If you feel like you are living through a war on the truth, you are not alone. The last four years have been a daily assault. I could spend this entire hour simply fact-checking and debunking the past week of presidential mendacity.

Trump is like an improv actor, making it up as he goes along with these rallies, oblivious to the truth. He is addicted to TV shows that tell him he is right when he is wrong. So, he gets misled by Fox and "Fox & Friends", and then he misleads everyone else. As Peter Baker wrote this weekend: Dishonesty has defined the Trump

presidency and the American system has never figured out quite how to respond. It's true.

But I know one thing. Staying on the side of the truth is essential. May we follow it wherever it goes. So in the coming days, look out for bad-faith actors spreading disinformation, look out for domestic disinformation, look out for Twitter armies that try to make a fringe idea seem really popular.

Look out for argument by anecdote tactics, meaning when people grab a story here, grab a story there, they try to claim voter fraud is widespread when it is not.

As "Politico" recently noted, the president and his allies are making a sport of plucking minor incidents from local news feeds and distorting them into data points of a grand conspiracy.

Indeed, Trump sees conspiracies everywhere. He keeps telling his fans that Joe Biden cannot win unless the Democrats cheat. That smelly little lie is fundamentally why this election is a test for America, and a test for the American media.

Truth is on the ballot. Truth is actually always on the ballot. And Biden has leaned into this fact by using the slogan "truth over lies."

But Democrats don't own a copyright on the truth. Democrats have lied to us before. They will do it again.

And you know what? The media's adversarial approach that you've seen during the Trump years, demanding truth from power, calling out lies, that approach serves us well no matter who holds high office.

Of course, different degrees of deception deserve to be treated differently. A delusional president is a much bigger deal than a candidate who merely dodges questions. But in all cases, the media must challenge power and the media must stay on the side of the truth.

Edward Luce recently said this. He said it's a bad sign for democracy when trust is gone.

He said: Fear is the glue of autocracy and trust is the lubricant of democracy. Without trust, he said, you're in trouble. That's the principle feeling I have from this election, that had has been conducted with very little trust and at least on one side, no good faith whatsoever.

That's Edward Luce, the columnist, the national editor for the "Financial Times."

Trust is in low supply right now, but it's in high demand. May this election help rebuild trust and be guided by truth rather than even losing more of it.

Now, we all know America is anxiety ridden right now. Some nervous excitement out there, lots of fear as well. So, what should the press be doing in these crucial hours to instill confidence and certainty in the election results?

Let me ask Susan Glasser, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and CNN global affairs analyst. She's in D.C.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, Philip Bump, national correspondent for "The Washington Post."

And in Atlanta, Olivia Nuzzi, the Washington correspondent for "New York" magazine.


Thank you, everybody, for assembling to start this hour.

Susan, I hope you can tell us what reporters are saying privately, right. We are telling one story publicly and then sometimes there is a little more honesty when you are off the record or you're talking to your friends, not at a bar anymore, but on a Zoom call.

But what are reporters saying privately in these closing days of the campaign?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, thank you, Brian. It's the age of the confidential text and slack message. Look, the bottom line that journalists and political analysts see these polls and the October surprise here was that there was no surprise. This has been a remarkably stable race.

We have the final pre-election polls and at a national level, they are strikingly similar to how we began the fall. Biden with a strong but not overwhelming lead. I think the averages are around eight points.

You know, journalists have to make plans. If it were anything other than the Trump era, they would be planning and in their heads I think they still are planning for the idea of a Biden victory. The battleground state polls are close, but there is a clear and discernible edge for Biden in those as well.

The thing is, is that the shadow of 2016 looms so large. What I have seen is that journalists privately mirror the public anxiety of feeling like, but somehow, you know, but 2020, but, you know, we have to refight the last war and maybe these polls are all wrong.

And so I think there is a questioning of even basic assumptions that has taken hold in newsrooms as well as in the American public.


STELTER: And on one level that's a good thing. Good to question your priors, can challenge your assumptions. Anything is possible, right? But Biden is probable based on the data we have.

So, that makes me wonder if journalists are overcorrecting from 2016.

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: It's a totally fair question. I mean, I think that the core lesson of 2016 and one we try to append in the analysis we do right now, yes, things could change. I mean, if you look, for example, FiveThirtyEight, their current average, Donald Trump is about -- his odds of winning is about a third of what they were on election day four years ago.

But there is still a chance, essentially a one in ten chance, which is not that crazy a chance. So it's something I think we try to internalize.

I think part of the challenge in 2016 was there was that sort of broad confidence publicly and privately that this was likely to be a Hillary Clinton victory, that we didn't properly couch those sorts of odds. I mean, the odds are lower for President Trump now than they were then. So the couching is less warranted, but it's a lot more common simply because we internalize that.

We need to make sure we say, OK, yes, this is where things are, but we need to also be cognizant of the fact that doesn't mean we know where things are going.

STELTER: Where they are going.

By the way, I said you are in Scranton. You are down the road in Pittston. Shout-out in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

BUMP: Yes, sir.


STELTER: What are you hearing -- what are you experiencing this weekend from voters in Pittston?

BUMP: Well, I actually was up in Scranton. So, I can speak to Scranton, too.

But one of the things I am trying to do is I'm trying to see how -- what actual -- what the campaign's called field looks like, the actual effort to turn out voters. So, I was in Scranton looking at the Biden campaign and Trump campaign, what they're trying to do.

The Trump campaign would not let me in. I tried to walk into a Trump campaign headquarters to find out if there is a media contact and the guy sort of looked at the security guard who started to get up and want to show me the door.

You know, the -- two very different campaigns. I managed to talk to some voters. I'll be writing about it for "The Post". But it's -- honestly, I was here four years ago. It's a different vibe. There is a lot more energy around Biden than I saw around Clinton four years ago.

BERMAN: So, you are up north.

Let's go south to Olivia Nuzzi. Olivia, you have been on an amazing road trip in the south of the United States. I have been following it on Instagram. What have you experienced in the past few weeks in the Sun Belt and what are think journalists are saying in private about this race? OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, you

know, it's interesting. You were talking about Trump being like an improv actor and I was thinking that the last four years have been defined by a single principle, it's the principle of "yes and".


NUZZI: Anything crazy that has been thrown at the public and at the press, we have responded yes and anything seems plausible. And so I think there is a tendency to overcorrect for 2016 mostly because if we learned any lesson, it's the craziest possible thing very well might happen.

So I think that there is a tendency on the part of the public and voters and the part of the media to be distrustful of any narrative. And I think that the media, just as the trust in our institutions has collapsed over the last four years, the media has kind of learned maybe not to trust itself.

And so there is kind of a reluctance to believe the overwhelming story that the polls are telling us, which, as Philip said and that Susan said, it's much more solid. Biden's lead is much more substantial, much more solid than Hillary Clinton's was at this point certainly in 2016. But I think there is a reluctance to come to any grand conclusion about how things might go on Tuesday.


STELTER: Right. Let's count the votes. By all means, that's what the next few days are about. Let's just count the votes and not try to predict.

You mentioned trust. Trust has polarized. Let's look at this, an example of the media -- trust in the media, down and down and even lower when it comes to Republicans. Trust among Democrats in the media actually rising in the Trump years as the press has tried to challenge all the deception.

Do you think -- do you pick up on this when you are interviewing voters, when you're traveling the country, this polarization of trust?

NUZZI: You know, not really. It's interesting. I have been to, obviously, dozens of Trump rallies the last several years. And even now, even as Trump continues to kind of stage these rallies like they are a play where the two main characters are Donald Trump and the media, the people that you talk to are very happy to talk to members of the press usually, even if they boo you, hiss at you when the president orders them to turn around and look at you.

When you go up and approach Trump supporters, they are all too happy to pose for a photo or speak into your recorder and I find that's the case on the left and among Democrats as well, but the juxtaposition between how the Trump supporters talk about the media, how they react when Trump mentions the media during his rallies and how they actually talk to the media one-on-one face to face is very different. STELTER: Great point. We need to always remember that, that when you

are there at the rally they want to take selfies and ask about the press.

Let me go to Susan Glasser on what you wrote, Susan, for "The New Yorker" this week about the president and his attacks on democracy because, ultimately, the next few days are all about this, what you wrote for the paper, for the magazine.

You said: An American attacking American democracy by sowing doubt about the results, in advance of the election that's simply never been seen before. And he continues to do it every single day.

Is that what journalists are privately worried about? I ask you what they're privately saying. Is this what members of the media are privately very worried about? We talk about unrest, buildings in downtown D.C. being boarded up.

Is it fundamentally because the president himself is attacking the election?

GLASSER: Brian, I have covered American elections since 1990. I have never seen a situation where not only journalists, but a broad swath of the American public doesn't trust in what the outcome is going to be on Tuesday night, doesn't trust, you know, that our system fundamentally is going to hold up. And that has been a purposeful strategy of the president of the United States.

And I would say that, you know, let's hope for all of our sake, Democrat and Republican, that the system holds and that there is a clear cut outcome, that it's accepted by both sides.

I would say that the damage has already been striking and notable and already been done. We have never had a president who has been willing to attack the legitimacy of our institutions of American democracy in this way before and he has not been condemned by his party in doing so.

And I just, I think that, you know, even in a best-case scenario, we will be assessing the damage from this period for a very long time.

These are things that were literally unthinkable. And people talk about Bush v. Gore in 2000. The truth is, when it was all over and throughout the process, you had both President Bush and Al Gore who were believers in the system. Gore gave a gracious concession and Bush gave a gracious acceptance in which they both ultimately came together.

I think the fear here is that that might not happen this time.

STELTER: Right. And in 2000, there weren't buildings being boarded up in major cities.

Now, look, let's be honest, probably that's happening, Susan, because, you know, some business owners are worried about liberal protests in the event of a Trump win. But there is also this dynamic of fear of unrest in the event of a Trump loss. So, Susan, we're talking about trust in media and this polarization of trust.

It's not just Democrats where trust in the media is up. It's also independents. So it's Republicans that have lost so much trust in many institutions, including the media. You mentioned the party a minute ago. That is really the key to this. Not just about Trump.

It's about the Republican Party. Is the word radicalization the right word to apply here?

GLASSER: I think it is, Brian. Remember that this was a purposeful political strategy on the part of President Trump from the very beginning of his tenure. In fact, he was talking about the fake news media -- the first use of the term enemy of the people for the media came in February of 2017, just weeks into the Trump presidency.

He has been running to erode the trust in the media as an independent source of facts, information, and analysis about him from the very beginning of his tenure. And, you know, you've seen the Republican Party follow that attack in a very notable way, and the same way that their views switched radically on Russia and Vladimir Putin when Donald Trump, you know, essentially told them to.

And again, I think that's why people are so concerned regardless of what the outcome was, that win or lose, we have seen a large swath of Americans, and remember even if Trump loses, something like 45 percent of the American public will still have supported him even after everything that has happened.


So, you know, it's hard to imagine that we could just walk away and pretend this never happened.

STELTER: Right. Everybody, please stay with me. Philip and Olivia are coming back in the moment as well.

Coming up here, a hurricane of election disinformation is hitting the shore. We're going to show you how to track its path amid the chaos to come.

Plus, "Anonymous" revealed. Why did "The New York Times" describe him as a senior administration official?

And Trump America's most trusted outlet of information. Will Fox News, will Rupert Murdoch tell the truth on election night?


STELTER: And we are back here on RELIABLE SOURCES.


As you may know, major news outlets sometimes prepare obituaries for public figures in advance. Just one month ago when President Trump was hospitalized with coronavirus, one month ago, remember that? Some newspapers refreshed their obituaries of the president just in case. Now a month later, papers are preparing, well, political obits for

Trump, recognizing that no one knows what will happen, but there is a possibility of a serious defeat on Tuesday night.

Look, here's what's important to recognize. The pre-election horse race polls have Trump trailing Joe Biden badly nationally, even, here it is, the most recent Fox News poll.

If Trump squeaks out a victory, it won't change the fact that majority of the American people strongly disapprove of him. But -- here's the important media story, but on Fox, it is all about that so-called silent majority of Trump support.

The poll I just showed you, it barely gets any attention compared to the hours and hours of pro-Trump talk on Fox, leaving viewers with the distinct impression that he is a lot more popular than he really is. And this matters because Fox viewers are being misled about Trump's chances of winning the election.

Now, if he does lose, it will prove that Fox and his flacks like Sean Hannity did him a huge disservice these past four years by protecting his ego, providing a safe space, guarding him in and his fans from the truth. For the so-called "Fox & Friends," this is the business model. They don't want to tell the audience something the audience doesn't want to hear.

So they end up making executions for Trump, covering up the news instead of covering the news. And again this matters because Fox is the only big outlet that Trump's America believes. Fox viewers are coming away with the impression that this race is a whole heck of a lot closer to 50/50 than it actually is.

Taking it a step further, and this is one of the reasons why Trump's base might believe any Biden victory is a crime, a trick, a hoax.

Susan Glasser, Philip Bump, and Olivia Nuzzi are back with me.

Philip, you write about Fox quite a bit. We have these studies that show how Fox is the Trump base. What kind of responsibility do Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch have in the coming days to tell the truth to the audience no matter how much it helps or hurts?

BUMP: Well, I think they have a strong moral responsibility to do so. I mean, I think that we -- that there is a great profile, I wish I remember what outlet did it, that looked at the guy at Fox News who makes the calls, who makes the calls -- I believe he is a political director, makes the calls when they call states and elections. He indicated that he always operates with complete autonomy, that he doesn't feel pressure. And I think that probably will still be the case.

We have seen in years past, for example, the famous incident in which Karl Rove was trying to fight against the fact that Fox News called Ohio for Barack Obama in 2012 unsuccessfully obviously. I think they do have that history of independence on election night. But to your point, the question is, what happens the next day on

Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and on Sean Hannity? Because they are going to echo whatever the line is coming from the president.


BUMP: And if that line is, oh, the Democrats are trying to steal votes by counting them, that's going to be what the viewers hear.

STELTER: The Murdochs must not allow Fox to devolve in a conspiracy and civil war talk. I just want to be blunt about this. Suzanne Scott, the head of that network, must not allow this devolving into, you know, conspiracy and hate. It is on the bosses to make sure that the talent on that network, you know, do not make a bad situation worse in the coming days.

Now, of course, there are a lot of different scenarios here. We don't know what's going to happen. But I have noticed an uptick in media bashing from Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity in recent days, an uptick, even higher than the usual amount.

Let's take a look.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Reporters hate Trump with an all- consuming mania. They hate him so intensely, that at times it's amusing to watch.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The mob, the media is more unhinged than ever, spewing more hatred, lies, smears, besmirchment against Americans that do support Donald Trump.


STELTER: Is this a preparation, Susan, for a possible Trump loss, that it's going to be all about blaming the media? Is that pretty predictable?

GLASSER: Absolutely, Brian. You know, your book captured it very well. The mutually reinforcing echo chamber has moved into high gear. I watched Trump's rallies yesterday, several of them, and he also has increased his blame.

He is particularly seeming extremely frustrated that the media outside of his self-reinforcing echo chamber has not amplified his accusations against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. He has become even more much the media critic in chief.

Remember this: That Donald Trump, without these folks, like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, it's just a man screaming into the wind. You know, it's his enablers that have made Donald Trump and that, of course, means we are in very dangerous situation now because the president has spent months attacking the legitimacy of the election in advance.


And I think what we are hearing potentially is excuses for a loss, but potentially, it's excuses for fighting the legitimacy of the outcome.

STELTER: Yeah. Let me turn to one other bit of news. This week, we found out that the face behind "Anonymous", that famous "New York Times" op-ed is the former Trump administration official Miles Taylor. He became a CNN contributor in September.

At one point to Anderson Cooper he lied about being Anonymous, he said he was not the writer of that op-ed and the author of that book. He later came clean and talked about it with Chris Cuomo on the air a number of days ago.

Here's a question for Olivia Nuzzi. Does it -- did "The New York Times" mislead the public by saying that he was a senior administration official? That seems like a misleading use of the word "senior" to describe somebody working at DHS, the Homeland Security Department, working for the -- working for the secretary there. What do you think, Olivia? You deal with anonymity all the time.

NUZZI: Right. Well, there is no actual rule book that says what you should call people with specific titles. I think every organization reaches their own conclusions about that.

But this is the problem with these sort of titles is that when you are an average reader, reading that, they hear senior administration official they picture someone familiar, whether they picture Mike Pence or they picture Hope Hicks or they picture someone who seems to have power and who they know about. They don't picture some bureaucrat they've never heard of deep within the agency somewhere.

And so, there is a kind of inherit trickery, I think, inherit deceit when you -- when you use anonymous titles as we all do sometimes, especially covering this White House when that is sometimes the only way to get a version of the truth.


NUZZI: I don't think that "The Times" deceived readers on purpose. But I do think that -- that can be sometimes bring the unintended effect of using some of these vague titles that they are really just meaningless in the end.

STELTER: Right. I think people were misled by it.

Hey, Olivia, what's your top one-sentence bit of advice for the press in the coming days?

NUZZI: I drink coffee. I don't know. I have no advice. I think everyone's just trying to be very cautious and is worried about getting it wrong. But that shouldn't make us not note the obvious when it's happening either.

STELTER: Yeah, Philip Bump, your one line, your one sentence? BUMP: Yeah, just go slow. Just take your time, see what's happening

and be as accurate as possible without being influenced by the pressures that are undoubtedly going to come down particularly from President Trump.

STELTER: Right, they definitely. Susan, your one-liner?

GLASSER: Keep calm and carry on, Brian. Keep calm and carry on.


STELTER: There we go. Thank you, everybody.

Up next here on the program, what you need to know about election projections. CNN's Washington bureau chief Sam Feist will join me to go inside the D.C. decision desk right after this.



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: The end of this election season reminds me of my three-year-old daughter when we were on our road trip kicking my seat saying, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" Most people just want this to be over. In fact, most Americans who will vote this fall have already voted. More than 91 million Americans have cast their ballot according to this data.

As this morning's New York Times has said, an astonishing number of ballots have already been cast. And exit polling is actually already underway. It's been going on for weeks. All of this means that election night coverage will look and sound different. Here to tell us more is the CNN Washington bureau chief leader Sam Feist.

Sam, exit polls, you've been doing these for weeks already. How different does that make me mean -- how different does that make in election night actually?

SAM FEIST, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, this is going to be a very different election night, Brian. It's going to be different because of what you just said 90 -- over 90 million Americans have already voted, many of those who voted by mail. And the reason election night is going to be different is because it takes longer to count those mail-in ballots. You know, they have to -- literally election officials have to open up the envelopes, open another envelope, check a signature process that ballot and that takes time, it takes a lot of time.

And for those states that aren't able to open those ballots until Election Day, we can expect them not to finish counting until Wednesday, Thursday, or even Friday. So, that's going to make election night different. It may be slower. But we have to be patient with the people who are counting the ballots and our viewers have to be patient with us, because it's just going to take a little bit longer.

STELTER: Right, patience, patience, patience. With that in mind, is there any chance that people will go to bed Tuesday night knowing the next president?

FEIST: Yes, there is -- there is a chance, maybe less of a chance this year than in other years. If, for example, we know the results and there's a clear winner in Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, these are all states that are likely to finish their count on election night, we could very well know a winner.

But if the election comes down to Pennsylvania, for example, which we know will not be able to finish counting its mail-in ballots until perhaps much later, if it comes down to Pennsylvania, there's a really good chance we're not going to know a winner on election night. But that's where we go back to that word patience.

STELTER: Yes. And let's put on screen our map of some of the battleground states and the differences in how these states handle mail-in ballots. You mentioned Pennsylvania. It's one of the states that does not count mail-in ballots before Election Day. However, two states on this map are in green, North Carolina and Florida. They do count mail-in ballots before Election Day. Tell us why this difference matters.

FEIST: Sure. So, Florida and North Carolina have been counting mail-in ballots for weeks. They have already been processing those ballots. As I mentioned, the process, you open them up and you check the signatures. That's been going on for a long time. And at the very beginning of election night, those states are going to put the -- going to dump their early vote into their results. So, we're going to know the results of the mailing and the early vote in Florida, North Carolina, at the beginning of the night.

But those Midwestern states that are up on the map, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, they are not allowed to begin processing their mail-in ballots at all until Election Day. And in Michigan, in some of the larger counties, they can only start the night before. So, the election authorities in those yellow states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin up there, they have a lot of work to do, and it's going to take them a while.


STELTER: So, given the Democrats are more likely to have been using this mail-in voting option, we could see from my blue shift to a red as some states will shift from red to blue, others will shift from blue to red. Is that right? Is that we expect to see?

FEIST: Well, those first two states that you had up, the states of Florida and North Carolina, they close in the 7:00 hour. Because we know that Democrats are much more likely to vote by mail and vote early and because of those votes are going to be reported at the beginning of the night, we can expect that Joe Biden is going to -- is likely to come out with an early lead in Florida and North Carolina, because at the beginning of the night, they're going to put those -- dump those early and those mail and votes right into the vote count.

And so, Joe Biden is likely to have an early lead. And then as the in- person voting and the Election Day in-person voting continues and continues to be reported, then Donald Trump's vote total will catch up with Biden. I can't tell you who's going to be ahead at the end of the night, but there will -- there will certainly -- we would not at all be surprised if Biden has an early lead in those states.

And the opposite is the case in those Rust Belt states. So, because Pennsylvania, for example, is going to report only Election Day in- person voting at the beginning of their vote count, and because we know that is likely to favor Donald Trump, that state is going to be read for quite a while and maybe all the way through election night until some of those mail-in votes are added in.

And we know those votes may not be added in on election night, so Donald Trump could have an artificial lead in the state of Pennsylvania, which will shrink as the mail-in votes are counted and we'll find out at the end of the process who's actually still in the lead.

STELTER: Right. Let's squeeze in a quick break and then keep talking. We are listening in, by the way, for any news out of Trump's rally in Michigan this hour. Trump continues to use these rallies to stoke distrust in the election. So, what happens if he prematurely declares victory on election night? I'll ask Sam Feist in just a moment.



STELTER: You've been e-mailing me your questions about how the networks cover election night. And CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist has the answers. He's back with me now. T.V. networks and the Associated Press make projections based on raw vote totals and exit poll information. Will any states be projected on election night, Sam?

FEIST: Yes. Lots of states will be projected on election night. We will -- the states that are not close or not going to be close, we will project those on election night sometimes even at poll closing. But I suspect that we will be later with many of our projections, all of the networks and the Associated Press because of what we talked about in the last segment, those mail-in ballots take longer to count, so the state election authorities are going to be later in reporting some of the votes.

So, yes, we will make projections of states. Will we project the winner on election night? Nobody knows at this point. It depends. If you have a number of those early states that are not close, then we might have -- might project a winner. But there's -- it's entirely possible that we won't project a winner at all.

STELTER: President Trump keeps claiming that late means crooked. Here's a blunt question from a viewer named Richard who wrote in and asked me. "How are the networks preparing for Trump telling huge lies, denying everything the networks say, constructing a completely made up and separate reality, and using all of his surrogates and partisan new media to magnify his voice and drown out reason and reality?"

Thank you, Richard, for not holding back. What's the answer to that issue? Let's say the president comes out and declares victory at 11:00 p.m. and it's completely premature, what will the CNN of the world do?

FEIST: One of the great things about election night is that once you start counting and reporting the votes, the spin and the time for spin is over. On election night, we're going to talk a lot about numbers. We're going to look in great detail at the numbers where the votes are coming from, how many of them are mail-in ballots, early in-person Election Day ballots, but we're not going to spend a lot of time paying attention to spend, we're really going to focus on the data.

And it's really important to remember that this is a different year. In a different year, it takes longer to count ballots that are coming in by mail. Millions of Americans have voted by mail more than ever before, and we need to let the election authorities count. Just because it takes longer doesn't mean that anything is wrong. And we have to all remember that.

As those counters, those election authorities in Pennsylvania continue to count Wednesday night into Thursday, Thursday night, even to into Friday, they're going to do it methodically, and it doesn't mean anything is wrong. And we will wait until we have enough votes in to report the winner.

STELTER: Is it fair to say that if the president and anybody else wants a faster counting of all these votes, we just have to fund our local and state election boards with more money, they need more resources. Is that right?

FEIST: Well, it just all depends on the rules that are set for those election boards. So, for example, in the state of Florida, the state legislature has allowed the state of Florida election authorities to start counting over three weeks ago. They've been counting for weeks and weeks.

But in the state of Pennsylvania, the state legislature did not allow election authorities to start counting early. The governor asked for permission to begin to count those mount mail-in ballots to at least begin to process them, open them, check the signatures, but the legislature said no. So, because the legislature said no, those ballots can't be opened until Election Day. So, we have to give them time to count. It doesn't mean anything is wrong, it just takes time.


STELTER: So, at CNN, we have several days' worth of plans for this live rolling coverage, but it's going to look pretty different. Let's show 2016. Everybody knows what election night normally looks like. Lots of folks crowded around the desks. What are we doing differently, Sam, given the pandemic and, and social distancing?

FEIST: Well, let me start with what's going to look very similar. Here at CNN, you'll see John King in front of the magic wall going through the county by county results doing a deep dive into each of the states. So, John will be at the magic wall, Wolf Blitzer will be in front of the big board announcing the results as you have seen. They'll be in the same studio, but they may be a little farther apart than usual. On some of our other sets, we've actually taken our panels and put

them in different studios so that the -- to allow for social distancing. And you'll see more distance on the sets than we've had in the past but there'll be the same faces you've seen in the past. John King, Danna Bash, Jake Tapper. Wolf Blitzer, Abby Phillip, the whole crew, Anderson Cooper with his panel, you will see them all, they'll just be a little farther apart than they usually are.

STELTER: Right. And networks, including CNN, have been taking so many precautions in recent weeks to make sure we get to this point where everybody is healthy. You know, look at Fox News the other day. They had to have some anchors quarantine because of a COVID scare there.

Sam, thank you so much. Great to see you. Best luck on Tuesday and beyond.

FEIST: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Next, from the decision desk to CNN misinformation watch. Oliver Darcy and Donie O'Sullivan are standing by to share insights from their battle plan for bogus election posts.



STELTER: A quick update on the candidates this morning. While President Trump is holding a rally in Michigan, Joe Biden is preparing for two events in Philly this afternoon. Moments ago, Biden departed his local church in Delaware, a Sunday tradition for the Biden family. Let's just say this, lots of Americans saying lots of prayers this morning.

Let's get back to RELIABLE SOURCES now. The news has never been more real. Yes, we are living through the fake news age. Fake news, President Trump has used that term more than 2,000 times since January 2017 morphing what was a real problem on the internet and still is real made-up stories. Trump turned it into a fever pitch slogan.

I could dedicate this entire hour to debunk individual false and misleading claims, but let's zoom out. I think there is a single quote, the most memorable quote of the Trump years, and it was uttered by Steve Bannon in early 2018. He said, "The Democrats don't matter, the real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with, you see there, bull."

Now, in 2020, reporters are finding new ways to keep up with all the disinformation, describing tsunamis of disinformation, and a flood of falsehoods, etcetera, etcetera. Look, this is a list of sources of disinformation, and President Trump belongs at the top of the list. So, let's talk about that flood the zone strategy and how reporters can combat it with CNN, Oliver Darcy and Donie O'Sullivan.

Oliver, flood the zone with bull. That really describes the last four years. OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes. That's been the core strategy of the Trump White House. It's like we've been walking through this blizzard of disinformation. And unfortunately, that blizzard has intensified in the final days of this election and it's going to probably intensify in the days after this election.

And that's what I'm actually most worried about, Brian, is that's when disinformation can be -- can thrive and it's also an environment where disinformation is dangerous, right? If people feel that the vote is being stolen, if they feel the election is being rigged, that's a dangerous environment and one where disinformation thrives.

And one other quick point I'll make is we often talk about foreign meddling, foreign disinformation, and that's obviously dangerous full stop. But we have disinformation network in this country, right? You know, the top cable news channel is at its core at disinformation network. We have people with large online followings who push disinformation on a regular basis.

And I'm hoping that cooler heads can prevail in the days after the selection. But if the last few years or anything, to give us an indication of what might happen, they'll probably set fires, they'll probably pour gasoline on those fires. And when the emergency personnel comes to put those fires out, they'll probably attack them as well.

STELTER: You know, there's a lot of made-up stuff out there. Some of it comes from Democrats, a lot more of it comes from Republicans right now. Let's look at this new study showing repeat offenders on Twitter, and you'll see some familiar faces from the Fox News universe there. Donie, what will you be watching for on election night and beyond?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Brian. I mean, President Trump really has home advantage on Election Day when it comes to social media, it can be difficult for the facts to break true. The past few cycles, I've been working on what's called the election integrity desk here at CNN. It's where we work with all of our many reporters out in the field and also our people back in bureaus and now working from home this cycle, looking for any instances of irregularities at polling stations.

People are having difficulty voting, sometimes, you know, often we'll start seeing videos of malfunctioning voting machines that can go viral on Election Day. That's happened the past two cycles. And those videos quickly gets thousands of views. Sometimes they're uploaded by a real voter who just misunderstood how the machine works, sometimes they're put up by more nefarious actors.

But anytime we've looked into these, it's always been a case of them saying that -- election officials saying, you know, this was a misunderstanding. What's different this year around, of course, is that President Trump, there's a receptive audience there for those videos.

[11:55:47] STELTER: Right. It's absolutely right. Donie and Oliver, thank you. Everybody can follow Oliver and Donie's updates from our CNN media team through the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Now is the time to sign up, special editions every 24 hours all week long covering the campaign coverage. You can sign up at

That's all for this hour. But CNN's live all-day, all-night, non-stop coverage the election continues. The official special coverage starts Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. And Fredricka Whitfield picks up right here in just a moment.