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The Pro-Trump Media; America's Dysfunctional Democracy; The Importance Of Health Communication; Reporters Want Biden To Be More Accessible; What Is President Trump's Endgame? Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 15, 2020 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES. This is our weekly look at the story behind the story, about how the media world works or doesn't work.

This hour, the latest on America's exploding COVID-19 crisis and how it's being covered at the local level.

Plus, could losing an election be good business for the Trump family? We have new insight into the grift that's underway.

And later, President-elect Biden biking past the press. I'll tell you what the reporters assigned to cover Biden are saying about him.

But, first, I think we should be honest about America's supply and demand problem. And why democracy is in a perilous place right now.

The 2020 election is over even though President Trump is still in denial about that. His claims of voter fraud are the fraud.

Thus, reliable news sources are mostly moving on to cover President- elect Biden, to cover the transition instead.

But there is an entire constellation of websites and talk shows that are in denial just like Trump. They are supplying disinformation about the election results, and wherever there is a huge supply, there is a high demand.

These crowds in Washington over the weekend proved the point. These crowds are being deceived about the election, but there is demand for it. There is demand for a fictional universe.

You know, I don't want to call it an alternative reality anymore because it is not reality. There is nothing real about this. But in this fictional, parallel universe, the election was rigged. It was stolen out from under Trump, and Trump was the rightful winner.

This is the new birtherism. We are going to be reckoning with the consequences of these lies for years.

Now, I don't know what you thought after the election. I kind of thought this stuff would start to subside by now, nearly two weeks after Election Day. But think again, it is actually getting worse. These made-up stories and claims about voting machines and other fraud, they are airing all across Fox and other parts of the right- wing media world.

Trump lawyers like Rudy Giuliani are being given free rein and lots of air time to spread these lies to millions of people.

Those lawyers are losing in the courts. So instead, they are fighting in the court of public opinion. They are fighting on Twitter. They are fighting on Fox and on channels even further to the right than Fox, and there is a great terrible supply of this content that's true, but it's time to wrestle with the demand problem. Supply and demand.

Now, to be sure, take a page from economics 101, supply sometimes creates demand and social media algorithms sort of fuel it. But as Jay Rosen said right there, the demand is an important part of the story. There are lies about voter fraud all across social media these days. These lies would not be nearly as popular if there were no demand for it.

These marches that Sara Sidner was at yesterday would not be attracting thousands of people if there was no demand for this parallel universe. It's the result of a poisonous stew of social alienation, negative partisanship, severe distrust of news sources and I'm sure there are other factors as well.

Look, the Trump supporters in my life, the people who voted for him two weeks ago, they don't believe the election was rigged. They're moving on. Most people are moving on. Most Trump voters do not buy all of the baloney that's being sold by Rudy and by Trump and by these others.

But some do. It's hard to know exactly how many. But I think we can confidently say as I look at the ratings reports and web traffic reports, that millions of people are buying into this parallel universe.

Something remarkable has happened the past week, something I have never seen happen in the right-wing TV world. Fox has dominated right- wing TV for 20 years, but that, that situation, that monopoly control is starting to break apart. Newsmax and One American News, channels that are further to right than Fox, that are claiming Biden is not the president-elect, these channels are seeing a ratings surge.

And some right-wing media viewers are expressing their frustrations with Fox. Why? Because Fox called Arizona for Biden early on and because Fox is identifying Biden accurately as the president-elect.

I want you to listen to a few of the comments we picked up on this week from Trump supporters.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't trust Fox News.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't even watch Fox anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even Fox News is crooked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How bad is Fox News now? They are the enemy of the people.


STELTER: This is real. This is something real that's happening. Not among all Fox viewers, the network's ratings are still very high. But there's a balkanization going on, a breaking up of right-wing media with some Fox fans giving up on the channel and going elsewhere instead.

Where are they going? Well, they're going to One American News, but they are definitely going to Newsmax. We can see that in the ratings, I'll show in just a moment.

But, first, I want you to hear some of the B.S. that's being broadcast on these channels.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fate of the republic hangs in the balance here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump won the election. He'll win the recount. He'll win in court. He won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is going to be done with being president in four years.


STELTER: Do you see what he did there? Greg Kelly is the highest rated host on Newsmax. He is claiming that Trump will prevail and that he will be president for another four years.

This is not reality. This is not an alternative reality. This is a parallel universe of disinformation. It's a fantasy being sold, being supplied.

And there is demand for it. Let me show you the ratings for Newsmax. I have never seen anything like this in the 16 years I have been covering Fox News. I have never seen a channel pop like this going from, I don't know, 100,000 viewers a day on a good day.

Greg Kelly is now getting a million viewers a night. Fox has never seen competition like this in its history. So, what you have going on is this right-wing audience that's ticked off at Fox News for not being pro-Trump enough. I've never thought I'd see it.

Even Trump is telling his Twitter followers to try Newsmax, to try One America News. He is tapping into that anger at Fox News. But you know what? He's trying to have it both ways. He's also

promoting Rudy Giuliani appearing on Fox. He is promoting Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity.

Trump doesn't want news. He wants propaganda and that's why he shares the propaganda videos that come off of Fox at the same time he suggests that his fans look elsewhere.

This is all about supply and demand. In this country, there is a lot of demand for straightforward, accurate news about President-elect Biden.

Most Americans want to know about the transition. They want to know what's going to happen next. But there's also a demand for this fictional universe where Biden is not president-elect, where Trump has not lost, where the fight continues, where the election continues -- and millions of people are demanding this content.

I know we talk a lot about the supply, right? I talk about Rudy Giuliani. I'm saying he is out there spreading B.S. on Fox. That's the supply.

But we need to talk about the demand. Why is there a demand? Why do so many people want to consume these lies?

So, that's where we start with this hour with. Let me bring in three excellent guests to talk about it.

Carl Bernstein is with me. The former FOX News contributor and Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky is with me. And the long-time ABC News White House correspondent Sam Donaldson is here as well.

Julie, you have been inside the FOX News base. You know it better than most.

What's your impression of what's happened in the last 12 days, this, you know, intense situation where some Fox viewers are criticizing the channel and going off to other channels instead? What's going on, do you think?


Well, something that never would have been allowed to have happened under Roger Ailes' watch, and so far as nobody, including the president of the United States, would have been more powerful than the network.

What Fox has allowed to have happened over the last several years is that Donald Trump has actually become more important to these people than what they're watching on TV, so that if Donald Trump says to them, Fox is awful, turn off the channel, go to One American News or go to Newsmax, they'll follow him. That never would have been allowed to happen under the Ailes regime.

And what you're seeing today is a combination of journalists at Fox who are trying to report the news, the Chris Wallaces of the world, competing with the much higher rated opinion hosts who, Brian, you've written a lot about, who are absolutely giving Trump and their viewers the crack that they want. This is the tail wagging the dog. This is Fox --


STELTER: Did you just say crack?

ROGINSKY: Well, I hate to say it, but it is a drug. They are literally giving a drug to the viewers. The viewers are determining what they want to hear, and in order to get ratings, some of these, quote/unquote, journalists, which they really not, are giving their viewers what the journalists themselves know is fallacy.

They know full well that this is absolutely untrue, but yet because their social media demands it, because their ratings demand it, because their superiors apparently demand it, they allow this to go on. It's absolutely as toxic for the viewers as drugs would be.


It is the wrong thing to do for democracy.

It's also the wrong thing to do for their own viewers who need to learn directly from the people that they trust that this is a fallacy, this election was not stolen. Donald Trump will never be president in a second term in January of next year.

But yet they don't expect their view ers to do anything other than regurgitate a cyclical talking point to each other.

STELTER: Yeah, the reason the drug comment stood out to me, and I want to be really careful and says, I'm not trying to over -- over- extrapolate here, but I have found in the last few years watching Fox News, it's as if sometimes they are seeking a stronger form of the drug, right? They are looking for a higher high in order to stay addicted.

And I am not trying to over-generalize here. There are obviously experts at Fox who called the election for Biden. They knew the truth.

And yet there's also Maria Bartiromo indulging lies from Trump's lawyer at every pass.

So, Carl Bernstein, this supply and demand problem, how does America reckon with the demand for this kind of content?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a reason that there is such a demand for this kind of content, and that is that for 30 years or so, we have had a cold civil war in this country. And under Donald Trump, he has poured fuel on the fire of that cold civil war and ignited the cold civil war, and that includes a civil war of untruth conducted by untruth by the president of the United States and those who follow and enable him. So the question becomes, how can that untruth be contradicted? And we

have to keep doing our job as real journalists every day to put the truth, real facts, real context out there as our agenda.

But there is another factor that we're not covering well enough because there is one institution that continues to enable this disinformation, disproportionately, and that is the Republican Senate of the United States, because I can tell you having talked to the senators, members of their staff, the Republicans, perhaps half of the Republican members of the Senate despise and disdain Donald Trump. They were happy to see him lose as long as they could hold on to a Senate majority.

And it's time that we start calling these senators out, perhaps by name in terms of what they really believe, what they tell us as reporters on background, because they have enabled part of this disinformation campaign, and even some of them are talking about a, quote, coup, end quote, that Donald Trump is trying to initiate here and hang in the office by challenging legislatures and the Electoral College, et cetera, et cetera.

They know what's going on. They won't speak out. The dirty secret is perhaps these Republicans in the Senate, and we have to figure out a new way to cover them and what they are really saying to each other.

STELTER: That's a great point. The banner on the screen: Many GOP leaders are still supporting this fraud, 12 days in.

BERNSTEIN: Well, it's time we cover it, and we have to cover it a different way. We have to say as journalists --

STELTER: I thought it was notable --


BERNSTEIN: -- what we know --


STELTER: On "Meet the Press" this morning, Chuck Todd said he tried to book every Republican senator and not a single Republican senator was willing to come on his program, which is notable. I think the same has been true, there's a booking problem across the networks.

Sam, I mentioned Maria Bartiromo. I just want to give our viewers a taste of the crazy that's going on on Fox. Fox is a complicated place. Journalists there are telling the truth about President-elect Biden, but these are these right-wing talk shows are perpetuating the voter fraud lies.

Here's -- I'm not going to play because it's just atrocious. But this is a quote from one of Trump's attorneys on the air an hour ago with Maria Bartiromo saying, Trump is going to win, he won by millions of votes. They are blaming this voting software problem.

This claim has been discredited. But here is what Maria asked. She said, can you prove this? You know, how are you going to prove this?

And she, well, I can prove it but I'm not going to go on national television and prove it. I just can't do that.

This is the kind of stuff that's going on in right-wing media right now, Sam. These daily claims of fraud, no proof. It's -- they are constantly telling the viewers to stay tuned, hoping someday they'll have evidence and there's no evidence for this.

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, but that's what the viewers want to hear, that massive Fox viewers, people who are going to Newsmax, that's what they want. They want 100 percent purity. And when Donald Trump says they're not 100 percent pure, they'll leave Fox.

And there is something delicious about that -- those who die by the sword, live by the sword, and it comes around.

So what do we do? Carl and others had said, we've got to wean people from this kind of media. We've got to bring them back to media that says we are trying to find the facts. We want to give you the facts. When we're wrong, we'll try to correct it.

But then you can use the facts to look at the world around you, not the world that you wish were there, the fantasy world, it's not there.


So how do you get them to be weaned from Fox or Newsmax or One American or what-have-you?

I don't know the answer, because let's face it, that's what they want to hear. They will believe that from anyone.

It doesn't have to be a Hannity. He can go, or Ingraham, or Carl -- it doesn't have to be them. Someone will supply them with the false narrative that does not exist because, as Richard Rorty wrote in 1999, remember, someday people who feel aggrieved in this country, who are tired of having the elite with their college educations tell them how to live, someday they will look for a strong man, and they will find him and they found him in Donald Trump.

So, I -- this is a long way to say that you are all right about Fox and those fine journalists like Chris Wallace and Brit Hume and Bret Baer and, of course, Shepard's gone. But they're not the ones who bring an audience to Fox. The Fox audience tolerates them so they can hear the Ingrahams and the Hannitys.

STELTER: Right. They absolutely do trust the propagandists more than the journalists.

All right. Everyone, please stay with me. This just in here, President Obama's action to all of this in just a moment.



STELTER: To counter every lie about the election results, tell the truth.

Here's the truth: A live look at Georgia where a full by hand recount for each county is underway. And look at the transparency provided here by Fulton County, so that folks can see it for themselves. That's what we need, to help people see the reality.

Back with me is Carl Bernstein, Julie Roginsky and Sam Donaldson.

At the same time, there is this dysfunction underway. I do think this is a perilous for democracy, because some Trump fans, not all of them, some Trump fans are going deeper down this rabbit hole of voter fraud belief, of conspiracy theory.

And, Carl, ultimately, that's what this is -- a giant conspiracy theory, right? If this election had been as rigged and Trump actually won by millions of votes, what, thousands of people would have to be in on it.

BERNSTEIN: Of course, it's a conspiracy theory. But we have to look at who is making the conspiracy plausible to so many people. And that's why I come back to our coverage, not just of the instant moment, but I think in Washington particularly and in the country generally, we have to start rethinking in mainstream media some of our coverage.

One is let's take the fact that for three years, those closest to Donald Trump in the national security bureaucracy, whether it was Bolton, whether it was Kelly, whether it was Mattis, they all knew and we knew that they believed that the president of the United States was a danger to the national security of the United States and they believed Kelly, Mattis, Tillerson and on, that he was unfit to be president.

We needed to find a way to report that, get it into our websites, get it on the air much more powerfully than we were able to. And concomitantly, we have in the country this former cold civil war now ignited.

We need to start covering the country. What is going on with the people of the United States? It might not be as sexy as covering something in Washington or in L.A. or New York. We need to have reporters out in the country and change our agenda about what people in the country are saying and doing, how they live.

It might reduce ratings. It might cut into profits. But if we're going to do the mission that we are supposed to fulfill, we need to start covering both Washington and the country with a different perspective and perhaps start changing some of our own rules, particularly allowing those close to the president, whether it's Trump or the new president, whoever he is, and in the Congress of the United States to talk to us on background, tell us what they think is really going on, and then somehow we continue to give them the cover of anonymity.

We've got to find a better way to do it to get the truth out there, and the same with the country at large --


STELTER: Yeah, and when covering the country, that includes profiles of Biden voters, since there's been so much interest in Trump voters in the past four years.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely.

STELTER: Let's take a look at Barack Obama. There's brand-new interview.

Obama starting a book tour for his book "A Promised Land" which comes out on Tuesday. It's going to be the bestselling book of the year most likely.

Here's what he told Gayle King about Trump voters.


GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS: Seventy-two million people voted for Donald Trump. What does that say to you about the state of this country?

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIODENT: Well, what it says is that we are still deeply divided. The power of that alternative world view that's presented in the media that those voters consume, it carries a lot of weight.

KING: Are you worried about that?

OBAMA: Yes. It's very hard for our democracy to function if we are operating on just completely different sets of facts.


STELTER: And when I hear that, Sam, I think it's an environment that, you know, it's so different, so much more poisoned than the years you were covering the Reagan White House, for example, the first Bush White House, the Clinton White House.

Former presidents didn't have to deal with this parallel universe problem that Obama and Trump and now Biden will have to deal with.

DONALDSON: That's true. And reporters didn't have -- the press didn't have to deal with this universe, which I think was always out there, but always kind of underground, until Donald Trump gave it voice, until Fox gave it voice, Newsmax gave it voice.


And if you say we have to do about better, who's the "we"? "Washington Post"? "New York Times"? There is always room for improvement no matter where you think you are.

But are we going to say to Mr. Murdoch, look, stop it, fulfill that false promise of fair and balanced, bring balance into your organization, you'll feel better, you'll lose money, but don't worry about it? Are you kidding?

And Newsmax is now enjoying the fact that it's now seizing the Fox audience, it's upset Fox because of 10 percent deviation. Are we going to say stop it, you are going down the rabbit hole even farther, help America, don't plunge it further into discord?

I hope so, but I don't think I'll hold my breath. I believe in the First Amendment. I say unfortunately because I do believe in it, that I think everyone on this program believes in it.

But how do you stop these organizations that can make money and also propagate the falsehoods to viewers and listeners who want it? Can you say to the great Rush Limbaugh, you started this, please recant? No. He says no masks, still to this day, no masks.

If there is blood on the president's hands, as some people suggest, because -- not just of his inattention, but of his deliberate effort to keep the scientists like Tony Fauci from telling us how to keep ourselves safer and our neighbors safer, if there is blood on his hands, what about the blood on the hands of the enablers in the media who also know better?

Yet, there is the First Amendment. There is a due process in all of that. I am blathering about this not because I think I'm wrong, but because I don't have an answer. I don't have a quick answer to turn the country around through the media reforming itself everywhere --


DONALDSON: -- and through people, therefore, reforming themselves.

STELTER: But I appreciate your candor, that there is no easy answer to this.

Julie, last word to you, because there's a social media aspect to this as well. On Fox, there is a lot of promotion of the new platforms like Parler, these social media sites that are catering to conservatives or at least trying to appeal to conservatives by saying they won't be censored on these platforms.

Twitter and Facebook, of course, are not censoring. They are just trying to clean up the craziness that happens on their platforms. But what do you make of this idea that we're also going to increasingly see an echo chamber of social media where some folks are on one side, using one set of apps and other folks are using other sets of apps -- meaning we won't even have a common virtual global square, public square anymore?

ROGINSKY: Don't underestimate how much these social apps and the social media influence which you see on TV. Look, when I was growing up --


ROGINSKY: -- I used to watch Sam on "This Week" every week. And if I didn't like something that he said or if I didn't like something that George Will or Cokie Roberts or David Brinkley would say, I'd yell at the TV. Sam wouldn't hear me yelling at him. I'd just yell at the TV.

Today, you have a more direct way to yell at somebody, you can tweet at them. You can repeatedly tweet at them.

And don't underestimate how influential that is to the people that you see on TV. They are getting pressured from their viewers. And that's why I say the tail is wagging the dog on social media, that then transfers over to the TV screens in ways that never happened in the '80s or the '90s, but it is starting to happen today and continues to happen today, and that has a tremendous influence on the information that you receive.

It's the same way that Carl was talking about Republican senators. I worked on the Hill. They are incredibly responsive to what their constituents write.


ROGINSKY: They get X number of emails every day.

And so, this is the equivalent of that for news anchors, the equivalent of that for people on TV.

And what ends up that happening is that ends up bifurcating or balkanizing our environment in ways that none of us ever anticipated when we all rejoiced at the advent of social media, at the advent of the Internet. It benefits people like Vladimir Putin.


STELTER: -- anti-social media.

I'm so glad you pointed out, though. It is ultimately about the audience. This supply and demand issue, it's about the audience.


STELTER: And these Fox hosts who are going down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes, they're feeling it from the audience in an hour by hour basis.

Julie, thank you. Carl, Sam, thank you all for being here.

Coming up, in the words of the "Detroit Free Press" today, it is time to sound the alarm. Dr. Seema Yasmin is here with advice for the press and the public as the COVID-19 surge continues.



STELTER: OK, pretend you have not watched the news in a month. Nothing's happened, right? Let's look back to mid-October. On Friday, October 16, Johns Hopkins reported 69,000 new cases in one day. Now just four weeks later, on Friday the 13th, 184,000 new cases in a day. This is the surge that's underway as communities grapple with rising COVID-19 cases.

The story is front and center on local newspaper front pages. Look at California, a map of deep reds and purples showing this spread in that state. Here's Illinois, a photo of a long line of cars, people waiting for tests. And in New Jersey a front page this weekend say now is the time to quarantine.

Let me bring in Dr. Seema Yasmin. She's a CNN Medical Analyst and former disease detective, also the author of the forthcoming book Viral BS. Dr. Yasmine, local news, what's the power and potential of local news to get information out to people who may not trust what they're hearing?

SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It all comes back to local news, Brian. I talk a lot about the press of being the immune system of democracy. And we spent a lot of time talking about massive news networks and cable news, but so much of the power lies in local news.

And in the U.S., sadly over the last 15 years, we've seen one in four newspapers shut down. 1,300 communities across the U.S. live in news deserts and they don't have access to this news. What we see is that if you live in an area where your local news organization shuts down, government salaries go up, tax hikes happen. There's likely to be more corruption. That's the correlation. That's the strength of local news.


And of course, the thing that I study is the overlapping of news deserts and health deserts because in the same way that we talk about, not everyone is equally vulnerable to COVID-19. Black Americans, indigenous Americans are more likely to die. But some of us are also more vulnerable to the spread of misinformation and disinformation about science and health. Those of us who live in news deserts are disproportionately likely to be people of color and communities of color.

And so, what we see is a lot of the news coming from the coasts, we see so much misinformation and disinformation spreading via news. And it's not news that's tailored to the needs of specific communities. And that's really how you end up with not just a pandemic, not just a virus spreading, but also a myth infodemic. So, you have this contagion of the pathogen, but also of the false news about the pathogen which fuels them the spread of the disease.

STELTER: Right, right. I've seen a lot of headlines about fatigue lately, COVID fatigue. I completely understand it. But what do you think we should do about it, Dr. Yasmin? I keep thinking, this COVID winter that's coming, this has got to be a season of creativity. The media can play a vital role in being more creative, coming up with new programming to bring people together to combat isolation and alienation.

I want special Thanksgiving shows. I want live interactive game shows on television. I want call-in shows. I want ways to make us feel closer when we are apart. What ideas do you have with regards to that? YASMIN: I was thinking about this during the election when we were all hooked for like the longest week of the year looking at the map show on TV and seeing what was happening in which state. And I was thinking that historically, the U.S. has been galvanized around crises even when there's been differences around ideology, there's been this idea that we can unite, and we have a common enemy. That hasn't happened this time. In fact, it's been the exact opposite of that.

So, I wonder if there's a way that without belittling the seriousness of this, if there is a way of bringing people together to say, hey, look what's happening in North Dakota, the rates are going down. Hopefully, that will happen. Look what's happening in this area, really get people onto the same page about how the virus is spreading and kind of unify and have this community sense about how we're all in this together in the fight against the pandemic.

I hope the media can do that. And I think we do need creativity, as you said, because right now it's so polarized. It's just even difficult to have a conversation about wearing a mask or getting vaccinated.

STELTER: Right. The Trump administration has failed us. The Biden ministration is still months away. We need solutions in the interim here, including from America's media. Dr. Yasmin, thank you so much for being here. Now is a great time to sign up for the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Sign up for free right now at

Coming up here on the program, vice -- President-Elect Biden and the press, what are his plans for being accessible to the media? Are we going to see more press conferences? We have more on that in a moment.



STELTER: During the 2020 campaign, Donald Trump was accessible but deeply pervasively dishonest. Joe Biden was more honest, but less accessible. So now what? Will the President-Elect hold more of these, more press conferences like you did on Tuesday -- this one was pretty brief -- or will he continue to lay low?

I'll tell you, there's already been some grumbling among Biden beat reporters about his inaccessibility. Politico's Ryan Lizza wrote the other day that the press is being kept in the dark about what exactly the President-Elect is doing most of the day beyond vague descriptions of internal meetings.

Well, here's a recap of the President-Elect week, including a couple of well-deserved days on Delmarva. We'll show you that in a moment. Just now, we received video of the president-elect being back in Wilmington and heading to church as his Sunday tradition. He attended church this morning at his local church in Wilmington, and he has now headed back to his home.

As we show you the video of the President-Elect heading to church, let me bring in Molly Ball, national political correspondent for Time Magazine, and Michael Kruse, senior staff writer for Politico. Molly, this issue about the president like being accessible, is there actually a little bit of truth to the Sleepy Joe nickname that guys like Sean Hannity use?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Well, you know, during the campaign, the fact that Biden was not particularly visible, not particularly accessible, was used by Trump and his campaign to sow doubts about his stamina. And of course, there was a perfectly logical political explanation for him not wanting to be in the spotlight in order to keep the election a referendum on the incumbent.

But he doesn't have that excuse now. And I think as President-Elect, Americans do want to see him and want assurances that part of the normalcy he's planning to restore includes more transparency. As you said, Trump is always talking, but that doesn't mean that we have always gotten satisfactory information or honest information about what's happening in the White House.

And so, you know, if Joe Biden wants to turn the page and have a more open and transparent administration, people are going to want to see him more.

STELTER: It is so refreshing after four years of golf clubs to see video of the President-Elect going to church every Sunday. Michael, let's look again at the schedule for the President-Elect in the past week. I mentioned there was this press conference on Tuesday. That was really it in terms of press interaction. I understand that desire for vacation. I have the same desire right now.

But as this goes on week by week, is this going to matter? Do you think voters care about the president elects availability or unavailability?

MICHAEL KRUSE, SENIOR STAFF WRITER, POLITICO: Not really, at least not right now? And I personally have trouble addressing this as a first order issue, at least at this point. The issue here is the pandemic, the issue and President Trump's colossal mismanagement of our national response.

To me, there are three major super stories we will be reporting on for the rest of our working lives. One is climate change, two is this info civil war that you've been discussing to this point on this program, and three is the pandemic and the ripple effects. It is hard to think about the damage it will read for years, if not a generation to come. And so that is what I'm thinking about as a -- as a reporter, as a citizen, as a parent. I am infuriated. So no, I'm not thinking too hard about the lack pressers that --


STELTER: Well, you raise an interesting point, though. The Biden COVID advisors have been all over TV, including this morning, and that's a good sign that his team is available for interviews. That's a positive step. I still think we should expect daily press briefings from the transition team. We should expect the President-Elect to take questions from the press. I think it will matter in the weeks to come. Michael, you said to me off the air, Biden is letting Trump win the

attention war. Can you tell me what that means, the attention war?

KRUSE: Well, to me, he won the White House by losing the attention war. He and his campaign vision at some point very early on to not fight President Trump on his terrain. And judging from the result of the election, it was the appropriate strategic decision.

STELTER: Right. That's very interesting. Why don't we do a quick break here, come back and talk about the outgoing president and what his media strategy is? More with Molly and Michael in a moment.



STELTER: He won, Trump said this morning. He won, talking about Biden, but the election was rigged. That was the outgoing president's claim on Twitter. What is this election denialism really all about? Is it all about grift? Is it all about profiteering? Are these protesters going to become consumers? Are they going to go from being voters to Trump streaming service subscribers?

Well, that's one possibility. Axios mentioned the other day that Trump has been talking about wanting to launch a digital media company to take on Fox News. But that is a whole lot easier said than done. Anne Applebaum, writing for the Atlantic said, "Trump's loss may well increase the loyalty of his most ardent fans and become the customer base for Trump TV." As Forbes put it here, "Losing helps Trump make money for his businesses."

Michael Kruse, Molly Ball are back with me. Michael Kruse, you wrote about you know what this plot is all about, this election denialism is all about. Is it about capitalizing? Do you think Trump is just trying to create a new base of consumers?

KRUSE: No question, to retain his current base of consumers. Donald Trump always does what's best for Donald Trump, period, always has, always will. And what that means right now is to spin this vast tail of fraud to retain that bond he has with his base. And we think about it as a political base, but really, it is a fan base. It is a customer base.

So, what he is trying to do here is not to win a second term in the White House. It's not even to win the argument. The facts just are not on his side. He's trying to win his post-presidency to set it up. He will decamp to Mar-a-Lago.

And as long as he has that base on his side, he has a way to make money, and he retains some no small amount of political currency which is key because it will keep him in the limelight, it will continue to give him the attention he craves and needs, and it will allow him to talk about the possibility of running again in 2024, of course, something he's been doing since literally 1980 talking about running for president, then he was president. And when he's not president anymore, he will start talking about it again. STELTER: And as you said in your headline there for Politico, it's a successful conspiracy theory. It's working with at least some of his base. Molly, your article for TIME says, you know, "Is this attempt to stall the transfer of power, is it a crisis or is it a farce, crisis or confusion? What is it, crisis or farce, Molly?

BALL: Yes, I think it's both. And I think like so much of the Trump era, I think this has been sort of the frame since 2015, really, that a lot of the things Trump does would be kind of amusing if the consequences weren't so serious, right? These things have real-world consequences. It is potentially damaging to not have the President- Elect able to begin the transition and able to begin the process of transferring power.

However, does it mean that we're going to descend into anarchy, civil war, and or constitutional crisis? It doesn't appear to me or to the experts that I've been speaking with that it has reached this point -- that it has reached that point. But you know -- and it does -- it seems to me like that tweet that you read really contains the place that the President and his supporters are really going to end up, Joe Biden won the election, but the election was rigged.

And he can keep saying that, as he you know, leaves the White House and moves back into Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, or wherever, and his supporters can keep believing that. It will still be the case that he has moved on and the nation has moved on and Joe Biden is president.

STELTER: Right, that most people will have moved on. But, Michael, in my last 30 seconds, there will be long term consequences. So, all this lying by Trump, by Kayleigh McEnany, by Rudy Giuliani, this kind of lying as just this is how it works every day, I'm afraid this is our new normal.


KRUSE: I share your fear. And the two words in that warning that everyone called out as he won, to me were not the most important word. The most important word was "because." Because what followed "because" was all of the frog talk which is incredibly corrosive to democracy. On the way out, he is contributing to lasting damage to our democracy. And it will continue once President-Elect Biden becomes President Biden on Inauguration Day. I'm quite sure of it.

STELTER: Michael, thank you. Molly, thank you. I'm just thinking to myself, Hillary Clinton won by the same number -- I'm sorry -- lost by the same number of electoral votes, right. There was a flipped on the map. She won in the popular vote. There were no networks claiming she won. There was no talk of a rigged election. What a simple time back then.

That's it for our televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. We'll see you online at and right back here this time next week.