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Trump Denies Reality In First TV Interview Since Election; Front Pages Feature Sick Patients, Stressed Doctors; How Politico's Newsroom Is Preparing For A New President; Biden's Role In Restoring Press Freedom Leadership. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 29, 2020 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter in New York.

And this hour of RELIABLE SOURCES begins with some breaking news. President Trump breaking his silence, the president wrapping up his first TV interview since losing the election. He had a phone call with Maria Bartiromo on FOX News for the better part of an hour.

President Trump breaking his silence and refusing to accept that he lost the election 26 days ago. Yes, 26 days ago.

He is, I'm sorry to report to you, he is delusional about the state of the election and about the result of the election. He is making claims that are dangerous, completely false, and doing so with an interviewer who is not an interviewer at all.

This was not hardball. This was not even softball. This was tee ball.

Maria Bartiromo once a feared and acclaimed journalist, best known for working the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, forcing CEOs to tell the truth, now sits behind a desk and invites the president to lie and lie and lie, to do it for more than half an hour, to do it 26 days after the election. Twenty-two days after Fox and all of the other major networks called the election for President-elect Joe Biden.

You might have thought after a week or after two weeks the president would start to accept the reality that he lost. You know, he hadn't given any interviews for three weeks. He had not even called into "Fox & Friends" or called into Newsmax. So, it was a big deal that he gave his very first interview to Maria Bartiromo just an hour ago, his very first television interview since the election.

And I would sit here and tell you he was defiant and he vowed to fight on, but those are words of strength. And what we are seeing from the president is delusional weakness, unable or unwilling to accept reality.

So, we're going to blow up our original plan to start this program and bring in two experts who understand the media and understand Fox.

Oliver Darcy is CNN's senior media reporter, he's with me here. Along with Amanda Carpenter, CNN commentator and the author of "Gaslighting America", a book that is very relevant to this topic right now.

So, Oliver, I want to try to summarize this interview without repeating the lies that are being spread. Why don't you start off and tell us why this was so disturbing?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: You know, history will not remember people like Maria Bartiromo very well. In the last interview that she just did, you know, with Trump, is an example of why not.

You know, I was trying to think of a word that would describe that interview and I don't think there is a word in the English dictionary to describe how reckless and irresponsible and dangerous that interview was. It wasn't an interview. She was inviting him to lie and lie and spin fantasies on her program suggesting that he won, which is just delusional at this point.

And she was interviewing him like she was interviewing someone who is not spinning lies, who's not spinning conspiracy theories. You know, it was irresponsible. It was reckless.

STELTER: That's the problem, Oliver. You are absolutely right. He is -- Maria Bartiromo is taking the president seriously when he is spinning up delusional stories about mass voter fraud, about machines being rigged, about the DOJ and the FBI being in on it.

And this is -- what's so screwed up about the way Fox treats Trump, they act like he is serious and telling the truth when they know he is full of you-know-what, when they know he's full of B.S. And it's gone on for four years now.

And, Oliver, it's not excusable. It never was excusable. But it sure as heck not as excusable now when millions of people end up buying into these lies.

DARCY: Right. She is not being a journalist. She is being a propagandist. That's what Fox news employs.

You know, Brian, there would be outrage if Fox News hired someone like Info Wars' Alex Jones to be anchoring a show on the network. Frankly, there is not much daylight between Maria and Alex Jones. She is accepting the same delusional conspiracy theories that the president is spinning. And she's actually encouraging him. She's -- she is acting shocked like, wow, I couldn't believe that. Can you confirm this?

And he spins another lie and she acts shocked and said, wow, people don't believe the election results. Well, gee, I wonder why.

STELTER: This is so sad. It's really so sad. It's sad for the president who is about to leave office and this is going to be the last chapter of his administration and it's sad that a journalist like Bartiromo, who had a storied career, is now not a journalist at all.


She is now on there teeing up the president to lie to the viewers. I don't know if it's for ratings. I don't know if it's for her own career. She has a long-term contract. She shouldn't be worried about the next week or month. She can do the right thing.

But instead, she sits there and she goes on and on. For example, Trump said world leaders are calling him and telling him how messed up the U.S. election is. Bartiromo didn't ask who. She didn't say which world leaders. She pretended he was telling the truth.

Trump said, quote, they stuffed the ballot boxes. Bartiromo didn't ask who what he meant by they. She just sat there and listened.

He advanced all sorts of lies about a voting machine company, voting technology company called Dominion. She's just out there pretended like it was reality.

So, Amanda Carpenter, let me come to you. What stood out to you in this -- not an interview, but this dialogue, really more of a monologue, the president delivering a series of speeches on Fox, vowing -- claiming that he won the election?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, well, I think Oliver hit the nail on the head when he described this as propaganda. That's what we witnessed last hour between Maria Bartiromo and the president. And so, you know, you asked, why is she doing this?

This is her choice, Brian. I think this is a choice that many in the right of center media are making. They no longer see it as their job to deliver the news, to ask tough questions, but to act as a function of Trump's Republican Party.

This is a dynamic I think has been on a slow boil over time. But when you see Fox, this isn't just Maria Bartiromo. The Fox News network decided to give the president almost a full hour to lie, not just a regular lie, but about our elections, and a way that will affect the incoming administration.


CARPENTER: And so they are playing with our government and our politics and not -- it's not just Donald Trump. It's what Maria did, it's what Fox gave her the platform to do. I don't see any rolling this back.

But it's important that we diagnose this. This is not news. This is propaganda. If the RNC, if the Trump campaign produced a commercial, Brian, it would be more constrained by the truth to go on the airwaves than what transpired that hour.

STELTER: Right, it is embarrassing conduct by Fox, by the Murdochs. It's ultimately about the Murdochs because they are in providing this platform for Trump to come on and not be challenged whatsoever about the reality of the election.

Oliver, think about the timeline here. Earlier in the week, the government -- the GSA did go it ahead and accept reality and begin the transfer of power -- begin the transition planning. So, that is all happening. President-elect Biden gets to name and appoint staff members and aides and officials, all of that is happening.

And yet also this week, Trump brought reporters in and took questions for the first time in three weeks. He yelled at some of the reporters and made up lies about voter fraud. And now here he is giving his first phone interview and doing more of the same. This suggests to me not someone who is going through the five stages of grief, getting closer to acceptance.

This suggests someone who is actually digging in. If anything, doubling down on the grift, trying to raise money off of this lie about winning the election.

DARCY: Yeah, and I actually wonder how much he is going to maybe now engage with some members of the media now that he has gone on Maria's show. He's engaged with reporters in the past few days, maybe he is planning to spin these lies more and use media apparatus just to so.


DARCY: And convince more Americans that the election was supposedly rigged, I'm not sure.

But news organizations and I think Fox claims to be one have a responsibility, you know, in this moment in American democracy where the president of the United States is trying to overturn the election, trying to undermine the integrity of our system. They have a responsibility to be very clear with viewers about what's going on. And you are not seeing it on Fox. What you are seeing is executives sign off on people like Maria to go on air, to lie to the viewers, to spin conspiracy theories, and it's dangerous --


STELTER: I don't know what's worse. I don't know what's worse. If Bartiromo knows he is lying or if she believes it? Watch at one point how she reacted to what Trump was saying about fraud.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): This election was a fraud. It was a rigged election.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: This is disgusting. And we cannot allow America's election to be corrupted.


STELTER: Sometimes she seems like she believes this stuff. To be clear, the real fraud is the president's claims about fraud. America has this wonderful decentralized system of elections.

Things are not handled federally. They are handled at the local level. These votes have been coming in from the local level. It's all working according to plan.

Trump has tried to sue. He sued -- filed his -- his campaign filed dozens of cases, he and his allies, dozens of cases. They have lost 20, 25, 30 times in the courts.

So, Amanda, the system is working, and that is causing Trump to claim the system is rigged.

Now, let me ask you this -- Amanda, you have a great family like I do. If I were on television talking this way, my wife would take the phone away. I am not kidding about that. Like if I was tweeting the kinds of crazy stuff that the president's been tweeting for four years, my wife would take the phone way, my executive producer would get on my ear, my producers would change the password.


Why is it that has no one been able to successfully intervene in the president's delusions?

CARPENTER: Well, you talk about family. And I think it's because the people surrounding him don't love him. They fear him.

STELTER: Really?

CARPENTER: They fear him. And so they cower in his presence.

If you love someone, you would direct them to a better path, right? Your wife would take the phone away and say, Brian, this isn't good for you. This will not end well.

No one does that because they live in fear of him.

And I was watching Senator Roy Blunt on "STATE OF THE UNION" earlier today.


CARPENTER: And he is generally viewed as a responsible member. And Dana Bash was asking him, do you accept the election results? Is Joe Biden the vice president-elect? And he couldn't bring himself to say this. He kept going back to this thing --


CARPENTER: -- oh, we are going to wait for certification, and allowing that time to transpire, they give Donald Trump more runway to air these lies because no one will stand up and say, of course, the election is settled, of course, we haven't found widespread voter fraud. We accept the results.

And so, when everyone cowers to him, they give him more air time like we saw this morning to question the integrity of the election and destroy trust in government which is really the biggest problem we face right now with the pandemic.

STELTER: Right. Fundamentally, that is what this is about. It's about destroying trust in the election system. It's about delegitimizing Biden's presidency. And, Oliver, it's happening right in front of our eyes. You know, this is something that maybe I naively thought would be over by the end of November. But we are living this zombie election because Trump won't accept reality.

DARCY: Right. We can come on here, and I think we have been doing this for years, saying that Fox is being irresponsible, they're being reckless, pumping out propaganda. I feel almost like even though it's getting worse and worse and worse, people may not realize it, but, you know, we need to be clear and explain to people. I don't know. Might need to be another word to describe the behavior we saw in the last hour.

This is just insanity. This is not -- this is craziness that's coming from the president, and again, Fox News executives, the biggest microphone in the country, they are letting him spin these lies. It's outrageous. I don't know what else to say about it. Frankly, like I said, I am out of words. It's frustrating to watch.

STELTER: It is frustrating to watch. It absolutely is. And as our colleague Jim Sciutto just pointed out on Twitter, many members of the GOP are echoing or indulging this 26 days after the election.

Oliver and Amanda, thank you both for setting us up here.

I have greatest guests standing by to talk more about Trump attacking reality, Jonathan Rauch is coming up, also, the top editor of "Politico", and the heads of the two top press freedom advocacy groups in America.

Also this question: Can President-elect Biden undo the years of damage done by Trump's anti-media attacks? We're going to get into that.

And later, walking away from accountability. Which governors are avoiding the press amid the COVID-19 crisis and why?



STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

I remember a day early in the Trump years when there were all these debates about whether to say the president was lying. Remember that? Was he lying? Was he just fibbing?

I remember Jeff Greenfield saying, Brian, there is something worse than a lie. There is something worse in a lie. There's a delusion.

When you are lying, you know it. When you are delusional, you don't.

He wanted to remind me there is something more dangerous than a liar, someone who is delusional. What do you think is going on now? What do you see happening with the White House, with the Trump White House? Is it delusion? Is that what's happening?

Well, my next guest says that the president's behavior, the outgoing president's attacks against the election integrity are attacks on reality itself. Jonathan Rauch wrote this back in 2018. He was early onto this. He

called it "The Constitution of Knowledge". He is now turning it into a book, and he joins me now.

He's a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributor for "The Atlantic".

Jonathan, delusion, I've always been afraid -- not afraid. I've always been sensitive about using that word, cautious about using that word in the Trump years, not wanting to know -- not wanting to assume I know what's going on in the president's head.

What do you see? What do you see? Is delusion a fair word for these election lies?

JONATHAN RAUCH, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: No, actually, I don't think it is. It's hard to know, Brian, what's going on in the mind of the president, but you don't really need to.

What you need to know is that what he is running right now is a classic Russian-style disinformation campaign of a type known as the fire hose of falsehood. And that's when you utilize every channel, not just media, but also the bully pulpit, even litigation, to push out as many different stories and conspiracy theories and lies and half- truths as you possibly can in order to flood the zone with disinformation.

And the goal here is to confuse people. He is doing very well at that. This is classic propaganda tactic. He is very good at it.

It doesn't matter what's going on in his head. What matters is what he is doing.

STELTER: And you are saying it's very effective. Is information warfare the way to think about this correctly?

RAUCH: Yes. Information warfare is exactly the way to think about this. Information warfare is about manipulating and organizing the social environment and the media environment to confuse, discombobulate your enemies, to isolate them, to demoralize them so that they think they don't know what's true or false anymore, they get very frustrated.

We just heard on your show the intense frustration. How do we deal with this? That's the point. You get demoralized. You cede the ground to the people who are running this campaign.


STELTER: And a single lie can be debunked. A massive conspiracy theory, the kind the president is alleging, he's alleging a conspiracy that involves thousands of people who rigged an election, which clearly didn't happen. How can those be debunked? Or can they?

Isn't conspiracy theorizing really about collective identity so millions of people are buying into a theory because it's the in group, it's their identity?

RAUCH: So, there actually is no theory here, Brian. In a fire hose of falsehood campaign, it's not about having one idea and pumping it out consistently. It's about throwing spaghetti against the wall.


RAUCH: It's anything and everything. It can be wild. It can be random. It's to create confusion and epistemic chaos. And that's what we are seeing.

And that's very hard for democracies to deal with it. Traditionally, we dealt with it by not doing it. It was unthinkable before Trump for anyone to run this kind of disinformation campaign from the White House against the American public.

Once it happens, I think the best defense to start with is for people, at least a lot of people, to understand what's going on, to realize what's happening here. That's why this show is very important.

STELTER: Well, fire hose of falsehood, is the GOP now the fire hose of falsehood party?

RAUCH: I don't know about party. You know, we'll see. Trump is going to be out of office. He is going to continue using these tactics.

A lot of Republicans I think have realized these tactics are effective and can work and the electoral penalty for them is small to non- existent. So now we have got a group in American politics, there are certainly more on the Republican side than the Democratic side, that have figured out that disinformation and confusion can be effective in politics.

Trump is a master at using these tactics. I think he is better than Putin. He is better innovator. He's adapted these things to the American social media climate masterfully.

I don't think anyone else in the party is that good at it or that motivated. But we'll see if this is going to become a standard tactic from now on.

STELTER: But zooming out even more widely, this idea that reality itself is under attack, tell us about the funnel that, you know, traditionally, knowledge is gained and knowledge is obtained and knowledge is shared, and how that seems to be under attack.

RAUCH: So, every society has what you might think of as an epistemic Constitution, which is a way people in not community try to figure out what's true and what's false, come to some sort of public agreement about that and settle disagreements of opinion. And a lot of societies, that's authoritarian, a book, the bible, it can be a preacher.

Our society is different because it has this elaborate system of social institutions and networks, science, journalism, law, intelligence community, medicine, much more that are all sorting through this massive outflow of hypotheses, most of them wrong, ideas, and sorting them out and figuring out through criticism which ones are the right ones. That's the funnel.

You take massive amounts of free speech, you pour it in and only a few precious ideas come out, the ones that meet the test. That depends on having systems in place that do that work, professional systems, places like the National Institutes of Health, for example, Tony Fauci, people like that.

What disinformation tries to do is discredit all of those institutions. So, it's trying to take out the funnel and just open the world to a flood of disinformation.

STELTER: Right, where anything could be true or anything could --


RAUCH: Could be true, could be false, who is to say? Who even knows if there is such a thing as truth?


RAUCH: Ultimately, when this kind of disinformation works, it makes us all confused whether there even is truth.

STELTER: Can the Biden years restore any of this normalcy or are we too far gone, Jonathan?

RAUCH: I don't know. I don't know, Brian. We'll see.

It's clear that I think President-elect Biden has done a good job of doing something very important, which is not rising to the bait of every single conspiracy that's thrown out there.

One of the things that the trolls do, disinformation do, is they plan your outrage circus. So they say this crazy stuff. They want you to rise to the bait. They want you to debunk it because debunking it repeats it and the more often people hear it, the more they think, well, actually, that might be true because I'm hearing to all over the place.

And one of the things we have to learn to do is tamp it down. The media needs to deal with disinformation without repeating it, without saying Trump said "X," but just say what reality is.

Biden is doing very well about not rising to it, not playing the outrage game. But we will see. We have never seen these instruments, this information warfare used in America the way they have been. Is the genie out of the bottle? You tell me.

STELTER: I wish I could. Jonathan, thank you very much.

RAUCH: Thank you.

STELTER: I'm going to link to Jonathan's most recent piece in our nightly newsletter tonight. [11:25:00]]

Sign up for free at Our nightly media newsletter, we'll get to you in our inbox for free later tonight.

Up next, what you need to know about COVID-19 data, the charts, the graphics, the cases, the hospitalizations. What you need to know about the data this holiday season.


STELTER: On this post-Thanksgiving weekend, the administration's COVID-19 task force members are all over TV, trying to prepare Americans for the hard winter ahead. Administration officials were on all the major networks today, saying, yes, infections are going to get worse, so hunker down, hang on.


STELTER: Be careful, a vaccine is insight. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams made a revealing admission on Fox. He said he wished that this pandemic had not been superimposed on top of an election. He said there would have been more focused on science less on politics. And he's right. It's a tragedy that compounded the tragedy. I mean, we will never know how these graphs would have looked if this was say COVID 21, meaning in the year 2021.

But here's what we do know. This is new confirmed cases every day since Labor Day. And with those rising cases come the highest number of hospitalizations. I think it's helpful to look at this data since Labor Day to see that rise just since the fall set in.

Now, on the Sunday show, some of the task force officials expressed concern about the recent spike in Thanksgiving-related travel. But how do people around the world view America celebrating the holiday season? Well, here's what the Washington Post said. The Post said that "International news outlets and foreign journalists covered Thanksgiving travel in the U.S. extensively with a mixture of concern, bewilderment -- and bewilderment, and schadenfreude."

So, that's how we're being seen around the world. Other countries saw American celebrations as a risk-filled endeavor. But back stateside, let's look at some papers across the U.S. this weekend. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes hospitals pushed to the limits.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune shows hospital staff trying to help a man breathe. And in Wisconsin, front pages across the state feature hundreds of roses representing the state's losses in just one week. "They had plans, they had dreams, and potential we will never see."

So, what do all those front pages have in common? Well, they get the politicians and the talking heads out of the way. And they focus instead on the patients, the nurses, the doctors, and the families that are suffering through this crisis.

With me now is Jacqueline Alemany. She's a political reporter and the Power UP anchor for The Washington Post. And Jacqueline, you just wrote in your newsletter about your own experience with COVID-19. How are you feeling, first of all?

JACQUELINE ALEMANY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hey, Brian, I'm doing so much better, one of the lucky ones. I got hit with a moderate case and didn't require hospitalization. But thanks so much for asking.

STELTER: Tell me about why you decided to write about this experience. Because some public figures some journalists have decided to keep there's a secret. There's this guy over at Fox and Friends Todd Piro, who got sick. There was a lot of concern inside Fox about whether others have been exposed.

And he didn't really talk about his COVID-19 illness until the media found out and a reporter was about to write about it. So, tell me about your choice. Why did you decide to share your experience?

ALEMANY: Yes, well, as I was, you know, laid out on the couch, I spent the majority of my time recovering sleeping. In between those naps, I was really struck by the dissonance between my conversations with Republican sources who were texting me, checking in to see how I was feeling, and the continued public rhetoric that we're seeing from a lot of Republican leaders like the governors of Missouri, you know, South Dakota and Oklahoma, and how they were lamenting to me, you know, the fact that the losses still weren't taking the virus seriously.

A GOP source on the hill told me, encouraged me to write about my experience with the virus because his bosses still didn't think that the virus was real. But look, I actually --


ALEMANY: But as I emailed you, you know, the night before we published the piece last -- earlier last week, I was running through my reporting and decided to call a Trump campaign source to wrap up some loose ties, and then just sort of sort of self-consciousness, I think any reporter gets a little nervous before publishing something about themselves, just ask the source what they thought I -- you know, the -- how Republicans would receive the peace.

And the source responded that one, you know, hearing from the mainstream media, an account about the Coronavirus probably wouldn't change their minds about whether or not they believe the virus is real and deadly. And then two, you know, that people will perceive me to be weak. And for some reason, my immediate reaction, I chalked it up to the COVID brain was that, wow, I probably should scrap this piece. I don't want to be perceived as weak until I finally snapped out of it, you know, an hour later.

If you recall, our own president was actually medevaced from the White House to the hospital because he was so sick and fatigued with COVID- 19. And actually, in retrospect, this exchange, I think, really distilled why it's so important to talk about the virus and emphasize that it is real and truth tell about it. Because it just shows how pervasive corrosive and dangerous truth decay, which you talked about extensively on your show has become in our society.

STELTER: Yes. Some folks definitions of weakness and strength are all screwed up these days. How do you think it's going to change the way you cover politics day to day? You know, every week we see reports about the economy. Here's the latest headline about unemployment claims on the rise. Phil Mattingly of CNN pointed out the other day that, you know, Congress still unable to reach a deal here.

For an institution that hasn't exactly covered itself in glory in recent years, the inability of Congress to reach COVID relief agreement stands out as a particularly colossal failure, even by its own very low standards. Is that on your mind in a different way now that you've been through this personally?


ALEMANY: 100 percent. I mean, all I kept thinking about over the past few weeks was just how lucky I am as a white privilege person with health care and amazing employer and a boss who actually insisted that I take two weeks off. It just, you know, really drove home just how fortunate I am and how so many other Americans are actually in dire condition who don't have access to the health care and the support that I have.

And I think that the press cannot cover enough just what a failure Congress , you know, is right now that a stimulus deal has eluded them for months, and 5.8 million Americans are potentially facing an eviction Cliff by the end of the year, if they're not -- if Congress is unable to reach a stimulus deal.

And, you know, millions of Americans are reporting that they're starving, they can't put food on the table, and that they're hungrier at this point in the pandemic than any point before this time. So, I think that, you know, again, reporters cannot drive home enough just how in need Americans are for an additional package right now.

STELTER: That's right. That is our job. Jacqueline, thank you so much. Thanks for coming on.

ALEMANY: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: You're going to notice, in the charts, in the graphics, showing COVID-19 cases in the coming days is going to be some lumpy data. The data is not going to always make sense. Here's why. This is guidance from CNN that's really important for reporters to share widely.

COVID-19 cases are expected to rise in the weeks after Thanksgiving. But the stats are probably going to show a dip, followed by a surge in cases. This is because of the government agency's lag in reporting data over the long weekend. Similar patterns happen after the July 4th holiday and Labor Day, something important there to keep in mind as you see news coverage in the days ahead.

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, how are newsrooms preparing for Trump withdrawal? I'm going to ask the editor of Politico about how she's preparing to cover the Biden transition. That's next.



STELTER: All right. President-Elect Joe Biden is on the way back to Wilmington after a weekend down the shore. Wilmington basically the White House and waiting to this point. Many reporters camped out in Wilmington. But Biden and Trump are sharing the news stage right now. They're oftentimes a double feature in headlines, especially since Trump is still in denial about the results of the election.

Biden did give his first TV interview since winning. That was NBC's Lester Holt the other day. I wonder what it's like for newsrooms that are now making this transition at the same time Biden is and at the same time Trump is transitioning out.

With me now is the top editor of Politico, Carrie Budoff Brown. So, transition time, is it's also a transition time for a politics themed newsroom like yours, Carrie?

CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, EDITOR, POLITICO: Absolutely. The transition, it's a big moment for us. And we're the -- as you said, we cover politics and policy solely. And so, we've invested deeply for many years and sourcing within federal government agencies and departments. And so, when there's a transition of power in Washington, like this is a big moment for us, it's a Super Bowl, it's a cliche, but it's true. That's what we do.

And so, we have you know, playbook newsletter. It's one of our most popular newsletters. Until Election Day, we only had two playbook newsletters a day. We expanded that to three to focus solely on the transition because of the consequence of this and because our audience is hungry to understand what's happening next. And we're here to provide it given that we have invested deeply in reporting in the federal government and other power centers. So, we're here and you know, we are ready.

STELTER: A recent addition to playbook quoted Brendan Buck saying Biden compared to Trump is delightfully boring. Is that fair? And what's that going to mean for the news media?

BROWN: I think Brendan is right. You know, and we have to take it compared to what we've seen for the last four years.


BROWN: I think it's changed, right, like everything, comparatively speaking. We had to have a 24 hour a day, almost seven day a week vigilance around covering President Trump. And that's largely because of his Twitter feed, Brian, as you know, any hour of the day or night. And already in the past three weeks, we've seen a big difference in terms of how President-Elect Biden is choosing to make news. It's very traditional, very conventional.

I covered President Obama for six years. It feels very similar to that, in that he's going to hold back us the weight of his office and his voice much differently than President Trump. And the side effect of that, Brian, as you know, is that journalists may be able to take a weekend every now and then and not worried -- be worried about being jolted out of bed with some major announcement practically at three in the morning. We're probably not going to see that. And I think for journalists that is somewhat welcomed.

STELTER: Yes, versus Trump having a press avail on Thanksgiving. But the flip side of that is, has Biden been accessible enough in recent weeks? Is that a frustration for your staffers?

BROWN: I mean, I think it goes back well into the campaign, Brian. This is -- you know, Biden is not somebody who has made himself incredibly accessible. There's been a lot of criticism. As a journalist, I would say, no, he's not been accessible enough.

It reminds me of back when again, I covered President Obama and I see Biden using that playbook in that, like I said, he's going to go to maybe non-traditional outlets, hold back on interview until he gets interviews with favored reporters. And you know, the White House Press Corps or the reporters who around him are going to have to fight for that access.

And that is definitely how, you know, we're seeing him operate. At the same time, Brian, it should be said that my newsroom is also not going to sit back. We put an accountability driven lens on President Trump's administration. We are going to do the same with Biden. It just probably means that us we're going to have to work harder as well the rest of the media, we don't have that direct filter or that direct line into the President's head with Trump like we will with Biden. That's a reality.

And you know what? The job for the media will be tougher because we're going to have to penetrate these closed meetings, closed circles. Biden is known to be very leak free. And that makes the work on my team and the rest of the media, I would say, more challenging than under Trump.


STELTER: That's really interesting. We've heard so much about leaks in the past four years. This White House is so leaky, and it's going to be something different in the next four years. Carrie, thank you very much. Best of luck.

BROWN: Great to be here. Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Now, let me show you all something we noticed this week in the Miami Herald. The paper reported that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is basically in hiding, refusing to hold press briefings. Instead, he's relying on video messages, pre-taped stuff to inform the public about COVID-19.

Now, this got us thinking, what other governors are staying silent in the midst of the pandemic. CNN did the research and found out that DeSantis is actually the only governor to hold zero briefings in November. But there are 14 other governors that have only held one press briefing all month long.

And some of these are in such hard-hit states, awful COVID-19 surges in some of these states, and yet the governors are avoiding questions. You'll notice the majority of those governors are Republican and fewer Democrats.

Now, with Thanksgiving this week, with more holidays to come, the public needs leadership. Governors need to provide leadership. They need to be front and center informing the public on what they need to know to stay safe. And they need to answer questions from the press on behalf of you the public.

A quick break here on the program, and then we're talking to two press freedom advocates about what the Biden administration should do to try to undo some of the damage to the Trump years all of these anti-media attacks. What can Biden do to restore press freedom leadership? That's next.



STELTER: Should President-Elect Biden appoint a special presidential envoy for press freedom? That's an interesting proposal that we'll get to in just a moment. The outgoing president, of course, has been hammering at the press for the past four years. He's been using that sick phrase "enemy of the people." In fact, he did it again earlier today in that phone call with Maria Bartiromo.

If you tally up all the times Trump has claimed fake news over the years, you'll see there, it's happened more than 2,000 times according to Factbase. And that kind of poison has done damage, not just in the United States but around the world. The question now is whether Biden can repair some of this damage.

Our guests now are both press freedom advocates who have been writing and thinking about this. Joel Simon is the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists and Suzanne Nossel is the CEO of PEN America. You can see her piece for Foreign Policy says Biden must restore America's reputation as a beacon of press freedom. So, Joel, to you first. How can Biden do that?

JOEL SIMON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALIST: Well, some of the damage that Trump has done, Brian, you mentioned is the sort of erosion of public trust erosion of democracy in the United States. But a lot of the damage is globally, it's around the world.

We've seen record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world during the Trump administration. And one reason is because authoritarian leaders haven't embraced the Trumpian rhetoric of fake news. They prove -- they've actually enacted laws criminalizing fake news. They put journalists in jail, and they've cracked down during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning they restricted the flow of information globally at a critical time.

One way that the Biden administration can reverse some of the damage is to speak out consistently, whenever journalists are jailed or they're threatened, or their censorship incorporate the defense of press freedom into its foreign policy. One way they can achieve this is to create a new position of a special presidential envoy for press freedom, who would be empowered to speak out whenever journalists are under threat, and ensure that U.S. foreign policy is focused on defending journalists and their rights around the world.

STELTER: So, that's your proposal -- one of your proposals is let's have an envoy to elevate the importance of this. Suzanne, you also mentioned to me off air, there's a better proposal for congressional commission to see what can be done to support local news. Tell us about that.

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CEO, PEN AMERICA: Yes, look, I think what we've seen is that the press freedom and the role of the media is so essential to democracy. That's why President Trump went after the media on this systematic campaign. It was part of his larger effort to undercut our democracy, challenging the outcome of the election.

And so, Biden administration needs to push back. We need to rebuild the healthy information ecosystem. Part of that is the President's relationship with the press. Part of that is the handling of agencies like the U.S. Agency for global media that has been gutted and discredited. But part of it is local journalism across the country which has been decimated.

We did a report losing the news. That is just a heartbreaking tale of newsrooms that are slashed, shuttered, in many cases, a complete absence of investigative reporting in state houses across the country. So, we've called for the creation of a congressional commission. And we have some important support. Senator Schatz, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Bennett, talking about the need to examine this issue holistically.

There are philanthropic aspects of the solution. There are new business models that need to be invented. And we have to relook at public funding for local media. Local media is the most trusted so we want to think about how to pull back trust and truth and fact-based discourse in this country. It's an essential pillar.

STELTER: Right. It is the way to regain trust. Joel, last 30 seconds to you. Can Biden make more of an impact internationally or domestically?

SIMON: They have to work together. Obviously, the United States needs to set an example for the world. And the way to do that is to incorporate some of the suggestions that Suzanne made to be transparent, to be open as we heard from your last guest, Carrie, talking about the challenges that Politico is facing.

Som you need a transparent open administration domestically to set an example for the world, and then you need to stand up everywhere where journalists are under threat.

STELTER: Joel and Suzanne, thank you both for all that you do.

NOSSEL: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Finally, today, you know, I mentioned Factbase. This is great database of all the President's tweets. They'll be doing the same for Biden, of course. Let me show you what they've noticed in the past few days. President Trump is losing followers. This is the first time it's happened since 2015.


Trump has been building followers for years. But he's been losing followers every day for the last 11 days. The incoming President, Joe Biden, as you can see, has gained more than a million followers. So, why is this relevant? I know it's just Twitter. But even Twitterverse know that Trump lost even though he is still in denial about it.

And his denial remains an important story. We must call it out. We must understand why those lines are appealing to people. We must stay on the side of truth especially, especially when it's confusing out there.

Thanks for joining us on this week's program. We will see you online at And a quick reminder for tonight, Lisa Ling's this is us. The new season premieres at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN. We'll see you back here next Sunday.