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First COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments Are On The Way In U.S.; Trump Recycles "Rigged" Lies In Fox News Interview; Fox Has Portion Control Problem; Parallel Universes Of News About Trump And Biden; When A New Anchor Does The Government's Job. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 13, 2020 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

You are looking live at a flight full of hope, a flight for history. This FedEx cargo plane is carrying the first shipment of precious life-saving COVID-19 vaccines in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This plane's taxiing. We're going to show it to you live.

Shortly before 11:00 a.m. Eastern time, 10:00 a.m. in Michigan, this plane -- sorry. Of course, the same time in Michigan. This plane flying to Memphis -- the beginning of this incredible distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments in the United States. You are seeing this live only on CNN.

And Dianne Gallagher is there witnessing this firsthand. So let's get straight to her.

Dianne, what are you seeing and what does this moment feel like?

We'll get to Dianne in just a moment. We are going to reconnect with her. She has been there all morning watching in logistical supply chain in action.

If you were up earlier watching CNN, you witnessed these packing operations at the Pfizer plant in Portage, Michigan.


Then these vehicles, these FedEx trucks left that plant, headed to this airport in Grand Rapids. And that is where they have now made these preparations to take off to fly to Memphis from Memphis, of course, where there is a FedEx hub.

Then these vaccine shipments will be distributed all across the country. Of course, UPS doing this in the west, FedEx in the east. All 50 states will be receiving this first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.

As I watch this at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, I feel like I am witnessing something in the near future. This is happening live. This is the present day. But we are seeing hope in the near future.

On the same day that we were going to top the 300,000 mark of deaths from COVID-19 in America, we are also witnessing hope as this FedEx flight takes off. This first flight taking off from Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the way to Memphis, on the way to hospitals and clinics around the country, on the way to save lives.

This plane just the first of many that we will see. As you are watching this plane take off in Grand Rapids, there are other planes getting ready, getting fueled up to hit the skies. There are other trucks that are actually getting vaccines loaded in as we speak elsewhere in Michigan. This is an ongoing and remarkable moment in the United States coming just days, of course, after the United Kingdom began to provide vaccinations to the most vulnerable populations there.

It's so important to show the images, to see this happen live because it's an essential part of public health communication, for people to see how this works, to see the vaccines being loaded into the boxes. All of this transparency, all of this information is critical at this point in time so that people can trust the process, to see that it is happening, and to see that help is on the way.

This, again, moments ago. The first flight, the first of many with a U.S. shipment of COVID-19 vaccines taking off from Grand Rapids International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And later this hour, we will have more on the COVID-19 crisis.

We're also going to get to the hour's other big breaking news, that is President Trump and his first on-camera interview since losing the election. He is speaking out to Fox's Bryan Kilmeade, making a lot of bogus claims. And we're going to fact check those claims with one of the country's top election law attorneys. He is standing by in just a moment.

We have a lot of news to get to.

But let me start, as we, you know, take a moment there, appreciate this vaccine news, appreciate the progress and help is on the way. I also want to pause and think about what's happening today, the denialism from the president and his supporter.

What makes this chapter of American history unique from all others? I mean, all throughout U.S. history, the loser of elections have cried foul. Conspiracy theories have been around forever. There were charges of fraud in 2004, for example, when John Kerry lost.

The difference now, though, is in your hands. It's on your phone. This entire media ecosystem available at your fingertips, this hyper- partisan, hyper connected media ecosystem is what enabled this year's conspiracy claims to really take root and reach tens of millions of believers.

Back in 2004, it was just some random bloggers and Kerry did not go along with it. 2020 is so different. Election denialism has platforms over there on Fox and on Facebook, Newsmax and Parler, One American News and Gateway Pundit. And Trump has embraced all of it. His promoter like Jeanine Pirro,

they wrapped themselves in the American flag while uttering words that are profoundly undemocratic. Supporters in D.C. chant "stop the steal" when, in fact, they are trying to steal the election.

And the rallies we've seen in Washington and elsewhere, some of these, you know, kind of supporters, these Proud Boys and others that are roaming the streets of D.C., these crowds are modest in size, but they get live-streamed all across the right-wing web.

It is a radicalization engine in action, and that's what's enabling Trump world's unreality. That's the difference now.

That's the difference with this chapter of history. If you go back a couple of days in American history, go back 20 years ago today, Al Gore conceded. He acceded, he respected democracy.

That's the word that really matters here -- democracy or not. That's what all off this boils down to -- democracy or not.


Do you want a democratic form of government or do you want an autocracy?

Well, the polling shows us what's going on. The news stories show us.

Look at "Reuters'" lead from this morning capturing the state of play. Conservative groups claiming without evidence that the election was stolen from Trump staged protests across the country on Saturday, with one in Washington turning violent at times, as police broke up sporadic clashes after dark.

That sounds autocratic, not democratic. And what we've seen in recent weeks with all these Republicans signing on to Trump's lies is that they are accepting these undemocratic values.

But I want you to know, to those of you watching right now live on CNN International outside the United States, you should know, most Americans are for democracy. Look at the data here if you don't believe me: 61 percent of Americans, a majority of Americans, do trust the outcome was accurate. They accept the outcome. Most Americans believe in democracy.

But the latest Fox News poll also shows us what else is happening in America. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans saying they think the election was stolen from Trump. That's what they say they believe.

It's a vocal minority. It's a minority, but they are vocal. They are used to be the majority in many ways. They are now feeling persecuted and acting undemocratically.

There is a religious zeal to all of this, to this Trump devotion. Indeed, I don't think it can be understood without understanding religion. Just watch how the CEO of My Pillow, Mike Lindell, reacted when Trump

flew over in his helicopter during that "stop the steal" rally yesterday.


MIKE LINDELL, MY PILLOW CEO: There is our president. And this, by the way, if you look up here, the president flying by on Marine One at this very moment. And, obviously, there is our president for four more years. There he is right there.

God bless America! We are one nation under God.


STELTER: There we go. That's the whole story.

Lindell got up on stage and spewed conspiracy theories to the crowd. Others promoted My Pillow for him.

You know, look, Lindell wants to keep selling them pillows. I get it. That's what he is trying to do. He's in it for profits. The grift is real.

But what is he going to be saying after inauguration day? What are all of those folks at the rally going to be saying?

Because the election is over. It's been over for over a month. The Supreme Court reaffirmed, reconfirmed on Friday night it's over. There is the headline. It's over again.

But on the right, it's not over. On the right, it will never be over. And there are basically entire television networks supporting this notion that it's not going to be over.

The president, an outgoing president, enabling -- enabling these theories and lies. And we've just heard from the president in an interview with Fox, there are some new sound bites that I want to play for you in just a moment.

But, first, let me bring in Marc Elias. He is one of the top election law attorneys in the country. He has represented Democrats for many years. And right now, he is a part of Biden's legal team.

Marc, thanks for coming on the program.


STELTER: Let's listen to what President Trump just said on Fox. This is one of his comments claiming the election was rigged and I want you to give us a reality check.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it's not over. We keep going and we're going to continue to go forward.


STELTER: OK. He says we're going to keep going. He has local lawsuits that are going on. Is that true?

ELIAS: No, it's not true. And it's important for the American public to understand it's not true. And as you point out, it's time -- it's well past time for Republican leaders to tell the president and tell the public it's not true.

The president and his allies have lost virtually every lawsuit. They have lost by -- by my count, they've lost 58 lawsuits so far in the post-election. That has ranged from local county courts, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. It has involved judges who have been elected. It has been involving judges who have been appointed, including judges appointed by President Trump.

There is no dispute. The electors are going to meet tomorrow --


ELIAS: -- in states around the country, and then the Electoral College will meet.

STELTER: And we will be off.

But what happens when tens of millions of people believe it was stolen? How do you see this playing out in the months to come?

ELIAS: Look, I think it's very dangerous. And I always knew that Donald Trump would act irresponsibly. I said, you know, he acted irresponsibly for four years as president. So why would it change in the post-election?

What is really, really distressing is to see the other senior Republican officials going along with this. The fact that 18 attorneys general signed on to the nonsense that was filed by the state of Texas, the fact that 126, more than half of the Republican members of the House caucus signed on to this, is shameful in a way we have not seen in our history in recent years.

And it's --


STELTER: I think what raises is, does media coverage have to change if what we thought we knew about the Republican Party is not true anymore?

ELIAS: It does, because, as you said, the problem is that the Republicans doing that have let certain news outlets create an equal side, two sides to this, when in fact there is only one factual side. I think the press needs to -- the media needs to start reporting this for what it is, which is the new birtherism, right? Birtherism was a lie, and it was a lie through and through. And that's

what we're seeing now. We're seeing just the next iteration of birtherism.

STELTER: We really are.

Let's look at more from this brand-new interview of the president. It's the first time he has spoken to an interviewer on camera in more than a month. Of course, the interviewer is a pal of his. There are no sharp questions here from Brian Kilmeade.

But watch what Kilmeade asks in one of these sound bites.




STELTER: So interesting when Kilmeade says the inauguration, Trump says I don't want to talk about that. Perhaps he knows what is really true, what's really coming. But he doesn't want to talk about it.

These words, these interviews, they are airing every hour of every day on right-wing media. Is this a point of no return? Do you see a country that is impossible to unify at this point?

ELIAS: I think it's going to be very difficult. And that's a problem because democracy counts on a common set of understandings and values and norms. And we are seeing this president destroying norms throughout his presidency and destroying the norm of Democratic elections and how we handle peaceful transfer of power is going to be a very difficult norm to restore. I think --


STELTER: It really is. Now, you become -- sorry to interrupt you, Marc, but you have become a boogeyman of the right-wing media. I want to hear what it's been like for you in the past couple of weeks.

Typically, you're a little bit under the radar. You're rarely on television. You're out there fighting these election cases in court.

But here's what's been said about you lately on Fox News.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you want to throw out election integrity, there's a guy named Marc Elias.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marc Elias, the Democrats' best election-stealing lawyer.

LOU DOBBS, FBN HOST: Marc Elias, what -- what don't you guys put together a half-billion dollar and go hire him?


STELTER: Marc, what's this been like for you personally?

ELIAS: Well, it's been wild. First of all, the half-billion-dollar offer never really came through. So --


ELIAS: So -- but, you know, it's been wild because the truth is these election results haven't been close, you know? Like, there are times where you think, OK, the incremental lawyering value makes the difference. That is not the difference maker here.

The fact is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won in a landslide. So, you know, these cases are getting bounced because they are frivolous, not because of the lawyering. But it's been a bit unnerving, frankly, to have, you know, to have drawn that attention.

STELTER: I bet it has been.

Marc, thank you so much for coming on the program and reality checking the president.

ELIAS: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Coming up here, S.E. Cupp and Matt Lewis. Plus, Fox's problem with portion control and how one side dish is being sold as the main course.



STELTER: We are back here on RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

While President-elect Joe Biden stays out of the media limelight this weekend, the outgoing president is lying to Fox and to millions of viewers, claiming once again, he won, et cetera, et cetera.

But he did say one thing to Fox host Brian Kilmeade that did stand out. One thing, very true, he said, quote, this wasn't like a close election.

It was not a close election. Of course, Trump means that because he is claiming he won by many, many millions of votes. But in fact, this was not a close election.

It's weird we are still talking about the results of this election. But it's a chance to show democracy in action. Tomorrow, the Electoral College meeting, you are going to witness them live on CNN, a special day of coverage of democracy in action.

Let's talk about the difference between how major responsible networks are covering this versus the alternative reality of fan fiction, as one of my guests says. You said this week it's not journalism on right-wing media right now. It's fan fiction. What is an example of the fan fiction you are seeing?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, when you look at those polls that you put up in your first segment that show a majority of Republicans believe what is untrue is true, which is that the president won this election or that Joe Biden won it I will illegitimately, you have to wonder where they're getting that from, and they are getting that from their favorite news outlet, Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, where that lie is being perpetuated over and over and over again.

They are either saying it is true, that the president won, or they are saying that it's possible. Both are problematic. Both are bad. And neither are journalism.

And when you purport to be a journalism outfit, your obligation is to tell facts as they exist. Even if they are not what your viewers want to hear.

And whether it comes to COVID or it comes to this election, Fox News and OAN and Newsmax are not telling their viewers what they need to hear.


They are telling them what they want to hear. That's fan fiction.

STELTER: And they are doing a disservice in that way.

Matt, play this out for me, four years. Like S.E., you're a conservative writer. You know this very well. Two, three, four years, will we still be talking about Biden deniers?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we will. Look, one point I want to make, which I think people may not understand, folks watching may not understand -- these conservatives really do believe the election was stolen. Like, this isn't that they've decided that this is their shtick.

I mean, that's what the leaders -- I mean, I think some of the Donald Trump obviously is playing a game. This is a con from Donald Trump. You know, and Fox News and OAN and Newsmax. They know it's a con.

But the average Republican voter, the average conservative out there, millions of people really believe this election was stolen, and to them they are the patriots. And what is happening is their democracy is being stolen from them. It's obviously false, but I want to underscore, they believe that.

So the ramifications of that in terms of preserving democracy and certainly in terms of what is the future of the Republican Party in 2024 or in the future, you just can't get past that belief. And it's sincere.

STELTER: It's a sincere but false belief. No fact-checking can get through to it, I agree. Can anything, besides Trump himself conceding, admitting defeat?

LEWIS: I don't think so. I mean, look, we have this weird thing that is happening. You touched on it already in this show, where two changes have happened in America, right? Number one is Donald Trump. We have never had recent times at least had a leader who was willing to exploit the divisions and the technological changes.

And that's the other thing, is the technological changes. I mean, it used to be in the latter part of the 20th century certainly we had mainstream opinion. And we might argue over perspective and policies and opinions, but we had a shared set of facts. We don't anymore. It is an alternate reality.

And, look, I do have to admit, I think to a certain degree I have long been a critic of liberal media bias. I think it exists and it existed and it's part of the story here. But really, the perpetrators here are the main problem, this new -- I am not going to call it conservative, right-wing media, which isn't just bias.

It is inventing, totally fabricating and making up -- we'll call it fake news for lack of a better word.

STELTER: That is actually the right word in this specific case.

S.E., do you think some of what's happened with the Biden denying, all this hype about voter fraud, is some of it also about providing an alternate narrative so they don't have to talk about the pandemic?

When I am looking at right wing left sites, there is a lot less coverage of the pandemic and the death toll than, say, from "The New York Times" or "Washington Post." Later today, if the numbers continue at the current pace, this country will pass 300,000 dead from the coronavirus.

The true toll is even higher, and we will never know for sure because some people have died and were not tested. And yet when the president back in the spring talked about trying to slow down the spread of the disease, he talked about what would be a good job in a way that clearly is not now an accomplishment.

Let's watch what Trump said six plus months ago and reflect on it now.


TRUMP: If we could hold that down as we're saying to 100,000, it's a horrible number, maybe even less, to 100,000. So we have between 100,000 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job.


STELTER: I think that's a really sad sound bite now months later. By his own words, according to his own standards, he has not done a good job as we are at another milestone here, 300,000.

Do you think all this obsession with election denialism, is it almost a distraction from the bad job?

CUPP: It is. I mean, that paints a very unflattering picture of the president and a very inconvenient narrative for the folks who have, you know, propped him up.

I'm kind of loathe to make this analogy, but I've made it before but it is so fitting. I am watching on HBO the documentary about Heaven's Gate, a cult, and there was an event that happened in the cult history that kind of conflicted with the narrative that the cult wanted people to believe. It was very jarring because it sort of upset the whole premise of this doomsday cult. And they had to really kind of reset.


And I think if you were one of the president's propagandists and you hear him really upsetting the narrative that you've been saying for three-plus, four years, which is that everything is great and this president was right, you really have to -- it undermines everything you have been doing.

And so rather than admit that, you kind of -- you don't -- you want to put it away. You want to ignore it. It's a distraction. It really will upset the whole underlying premise of what you have been doing.

And so I think when it comes to COVID, that's exactly what's happening. They don't even want to talk about it because then they have to admit they've gotten to wrong, too.

STELTER: Right. Yeah, I'm out of words and I'm grateful you're both here to fill them in.

S.E. and Matt, thank you both.

LEWIS: Thank you.

CUPP: Hey, Brian, can I say congrats on your seven-year anniversary today?

STELTER: Oh, thank you. Yeah. I feel like I am starting to get the hang of this show. Thank you both.

CUPP: It's quite an accomplishment. That's awesome. Congrats.

STELTER: Thank you.

I want to give you a plug for our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast as well. Juliette Kayyem is my guest this week on the podcast, we talked about the pandemic split screen and what to expect from the Biden administration.

Up next here on the program, a hero of this pandemic -- what one local news anchor is doing intervening to help thousands of her viewers.


[11:30:00] STELTER: Growing up, my first car was a jeep. I loved my jeep. It was safe and reliable. But sometimes jeeps crash, all kinds of cars get into crashes. So, with that in mind, imagine a TV channel that covered almost nothing but car crashes. Hour after hour, all the evils in the world related back to cars. All of this channel's shows gave you reasons to fear and hate and resent automobiles. I probably never would have driven a Jeep at all.

That is Fox News. But instead of Jeeps, the shows are all about the news media, media bias, media blind spots, media screw-ups. If one car crashes, no cars can be trusted. No, no, no none at all. Now, just like most drivers don't crash, most journalists don't commit the crimes to Fox claims. But on Fox, it is crash after crash after crash. Nothing but crashes all day long. Almost every story somehow relates back to the media.

The word media is uttered on Fox more than twice an hour on average. Of course, I'm someone who covers the media full time, so you think I'd be into this. But even I know that the media is just one of many institutional forces. The media is really just a bunch of people, flawed, stressed out, but mostly good people. And constructive criticism makes those people better.

But obsessing over the crashes 24 seven is not constructive at all. It's destructive, which is what brings me to Fox his biggest story this week. We watched every hour on Thursday and Friday, and more than 50 percent of the hours, more than half the hours on Fox began or led or started with this.














STELTER: All right, that's enough. You get it. The lead story was Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son. The lead, of course, means they think the most important story was Hunter Biden. They led every hour with it more times than not. Now, some Fox show is probably going to use this segment to chastise me, so let me be crystal clear. The news of the Federal probe into Hunter Biden's tax affairs is obviously important.

It's important, which is why CNN's Evan Perez and Pamela Brown were chasing the news for weeks. And when they were almost ready to report it, and they went to the Biden team for comment, the Biden transition team tried to front-run CNN by issuing a statement confirming the probe, which is not cool on the part of the Biden team.

So, yes, the investigation is important. We've been chasing it but so is proportionality or what journalists call old-fashioned news judgment. What is the single most important story? What should be the lead? Well, those decisions are being made every hour every day.

But the Internet has blown up proportionality. On your Facebook feed, everything is the same size. A New York Times expose that cost millions of dollars to produce really hard work, it looks exactly the same size as a picture of my kids at the park.

And look, they're really cute. I'm going to frame that picture. I love that picture, but it's not inherently -- it's not nearly as newsworthy, right? I mean, let me show you another one of my Instagrams. There's a reason why you wouldn't trust Elmo to decide what's news.

But the Internet has blown all of this up. You know, editors and producers think hard about newsworthiness. They figure out the right proportions. And sometimes they are wrong and sometimes they get it -- they get it screwed up, and criticism helps them straighten it out. But we need more constructive criticism and less destructive criticism.

Proportionality is the whole ballgame. Proportionality is what it's all about. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel wrote this in the elements of journalism almost 20 years ago. They liken journalism to cartography, mapmaking, and said any reliable map has to be proportional.

"Journalists who devote far more time and space to a sensational trial or celebrity scandal than they know it deserves just because they think it'll sell are like cartographers who drew England and Spain the same size as Greenland because they knew it was popular."

They may make short-term economic sense, but it misleads the traveler and eventually destroys the credibility of the mapmaker, which brings me back to Fox. These shows destroy their credibility when they lead with Hunter Biden for days on end. Yes, it's an important story, but so is the pandemic, so is the vaccine, so is Trump's denialism.


Look, I know why they do it. I know why they do it. Fox producers believe that their viewers do not want to hear about the pandemic all the time, do not want to hear about Trump leaving office, do not want to face those facts. So, the producers scour the web for sour news about Democrats instead.

OK, cool. Everyone knows Fox is anti-Democrat, but the lack of proportionality is what really gets me. Fox is a non-stop ad for Fox warning viewers not to watch anything else because everything else is biased, corrupt. All week long they said the rest of the media was ignoring the Hunter Biden story.

Now, in part they met Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon's October surprise. Remember in October, the story launder through the New York Post alleging crooked business dealings by Hunter. That story had doubters even inside the New York Post's newsroom. But CNN and the Times and other outlets did try to check it out. They try it hard. Rudy and others only wanted to talk to right-wing media.

Now, there's new information about a federal investigation is totally different. Evidently, it's been going on for years. But dishonest folks on Fox are conflating the two things and pretending like the media is covering for Biden.

To be really honest, this is how it's going to be for the next four years. I can guarantee it. Fox is the media bias channel. It's the channel that tells you that the rest of the media is terrible. It is 24 seven car crashes even though most cars never crashed. And that is why it has a problem with portion control.

The cute pictures of my kids are not as newsworthy as a federal investigation, not as newsworthy as a vaccine shipment, but on your Facebook feed on your Twitter feed, and in certain corners of the networks in the media, they all look like they're the same size. Everything looks like it's the same size now. That is something that's fundamentally broken about our media structure.

And you can see it most clearly on Fox when they obsess over Hunter Biden, a big story that they blow out to be the biggest volcano that's ever erupted. And when they weren't talking about Hunter this week, they were talking about Eric Swalwell. I can barely even pronounce his name. You know, this is another example of a story they obsessed about because they lacked proportionality and portion control.

I suppose it's as simple as what we all learned in school about portions, about proportionality. It is the key to good journalism. And when those fail, when you don't see proportionality, you see a failure of journalism. So, we're going to dig into this after the break. We have two great political reporters standing by. Astead Herndon and Charlotte Alter will join me in just a moment.



STELTER: How does the morass of misinformation impact political reporting? Let me bring in two excellent reporters. Astead Herndon of the New York Times is with me and Charlotte Alter of Time Magazine. Charlotte has this week's Time cover story, the person of the year, two people, Biden and Harris. We will get to that in a moment. Astead, you've been on the ground in Georgia recently reporting on the

Senate races. What is it like when you're interviewing voters? Do you feel like you are on the fence between two parallel universes of news? What is it like?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, one of the, I think, key questions to ask folks right now is where are you getting your information and where are you getting your kind of media news from? And when you hear where folks are getting it, it kind of is a -- it's a wrecked causational understanding of why they feel the way that they do.

I mean, I think that when I was in southern Georgia recently, at the Trump rally, it was amazing to see how many people had said that they were over Fox News, that they were looking only at OAN or looking at Newsmax because they did not -- they thought that Fox News called the election too early and the like. And that's where a lot of that information about the election fraud was coming from.

And so, when you had the president come at that rally, and then play kind of segments from those channels, those were ones that were familiar to the audience and ones that have been informing this kind of sense of election fraud that we -- that we know is not based on facts, which is not based on evidence, and is frankly a huge challenge for democracy going forward.

STELTER: I spoke with Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy this week. He said, look, we are not going anywhere. Look at our ratings. This was the first time back on Monday when Newsmax beat Fox just for one hour and just in the demo, but it was the first time Newsmax knocks the ratings and win. And that's sign -- that's a sign of Newsmax's strength.

Overall, by the way, Fox still has four times as many viewers than Newsmax at any given time, still number one in the right-wing media universe. But it is remarkable to see how Newsmax is gaining ground like that.

Charlotte, you've also experienced this on the road. You wrote some great pieces before Election Day about disinformation on the campaign trail. Do you have a sense after interviewing Kamala Harris this week, after covering the Biden campaign that Tim Biden knows what it's up against? Do they know what this alternative universe is like?

CHARLOTTE ALTER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: I do think that they know what they're up against. I mean, what Biden said in our interview is that, you know, essentially, he thinks, as he said often, the words of a president matter. So, I think they're really betting on the idea that once Trump is out of office, once he no longer has the bully pulpit of the presidency where he can blast these conspiracy theories with the authority of the presidential seal, then that's really going to take a lot of the air out of the balloon of some of these conspiracy theories, and that they may go back to the fringes. That's their hope.

After talking to people in this country throughout covering the campaign, I'm not so sure that that's true. But they are certainly hoping that once Trump is out of office, his words won't have the same authority that they do when his president. They won't be covered by the mainstream media in the way that they are now that he's actually the commander in chief, so that some of these ideas might be relegated back to the fringe.


STELTER: You know, it's interesting, Charlotte, every week I'm worried and I sound too pessimistic and I'm focusing too much on misinformation and disinformation. But I really think, Astead, something is changed in the country. And we can see in the past five weeks, when 77 percent of Trump voters say they believe the election was stolen.

We're in a place we've never been before at least in our lifetimes, at least in modern American history. Never before has a president led this charge in this way. So, do you think about covering politics differently in an environment that is so hyper-charged like this?

HERNDON: Absolutely. I mean, I think that the story, you know, it can be funny, because I think there is -- there is such an attention on Washington, there's such attention on the incoming administration. And obviously, that makes sense. But the -- but there is a real kind of asymmetrical of the way that politics is being played out in the rest of the country. And that story is not chiefly in Capitol Hill or the like. That is throughout America. And it actually informs the way that we understand elected officials are acting.

You know, when we think about the reasons why the House GOP has signed up to that Texas lawsuit that I tried to throw out and subvert the election results, the reason they're doing that is because their base, their voters are pressuring them to behave in this way.

You know, thinking back to that Trump rally on Saturday, when David Perdue and when Kelly Loeffler tried to speak to the audience, and they are shouted down by folks saying stand for Trump, fight for Trump, that is a warning sign that Republican officials have taken in that says, if we do not hem that closely to the President, then the voters will pay -- have you pay a penalty. And that is not a penalty that they're willing to do.

And so, when people ask about profiles and courage or where kind of Republican standing up on this front, they are responding to the pressure that the base has put them on.

STELTER: Right. It's great point. Charlotte, as I mentioned, you were the cover story this week for Time Person of the Year. Was there any chance of the outgoing president getting this name, getting this cover story?

ALTER: I mean, listen, we start this process with all options on the table. It's the whole staff brings every option in and we discuss it. And you know, ultimately, this is about looking back at the year that just happened, but also looking ahead at what's coming next year.

And this is the year that Trump lost the presidency. Biden and Harris won overwhelmingly by popular vote margin not seen since FDR in 1932. And Time has a long history of selecting the recently elected president as the person of the year. And in some ways the story is not just about how they beat Trump this year, but also about looking ahead.

And I think, you know, an important aspect of this is that Trump was the most -- one of the most powerful forces in American politics this year until Biden and Harris came along and beat him. And it is an incontrovertible fact that they won this election and that they will be president and vice president next year. And that's why they're Person of the Year.

STELTER: Charlotte, Astead, thank you both for being here. When we come back on RELIABLE SOURCES, a story you have to see about one local news anchor who did the government's job for them. She's going to join me live from Albany in just a moment.



STELTER: In the words of the Atlantic magazine, this is what happens when a news anchor does the government's job. At WRGB TV, the CBS affiliate in Albany, New York, Anne McCloy has intervened on behalf of thousands of desperate New York residents who were not getting any answers about unemployment. Now, the state Labor Department is taking action, but I want to hear from the viewers in their own words.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you drive your papers here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe you can help me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know where else to turn to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why isn't the government being held accountable?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to wait for another phone call after waiting three months for one phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to laugh or you're just going to pull your hair out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is desperation?



STELTER: Anchor Anne McCloy joins me now. Anne, what broke -- what went wrong in New York State and how have you helped?

ANNE MCCLOY, ANCHOR, WRGB CBS 6 ALBANY, NY: Well, at the beginning of the pandemic, Brian, the DOL was flooded with phone calls when the government shut down the economy and the system was overwhelmed. Eight million phone calls went into the DOL and the computer system crashed. And DOL wasn't able to reach all of these New York New Yorkers for months.

And so we were into May when we started getting desperate phone calls to the news station. And we even had a gentleman show up in our parking lot crying with his unemployment papers asking us to help him.

STELTER: And what is it so far, 4,000 e-mails, letters, calls from people so far?

MCCLOY: Yes. We have almost 3,700 e-mails that we've received to the station from people all across New York State, from all walks of life who didn't go to New York City, they didn't go to other markets, they came to us here at CBS 6 in Albany, and we were able to get them through to the DOL.

STELTER: It's accountability journalism at its finest. What do you want other journalists around the country to know? Maybe they can also be helpful like this.

MCCLOY: Well, I'm actually getting from calls from other states now, from across the country because they saw what we were able to do here in Albany at CBS 6. And our new station is a part of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has 200 stations all across the country.

So, now, I'm working with others and Clara borders to help other people in other states, like in the state of Illinois, where I'm getting e-mails just like the ones that we received in New York saying I can't get through to the Department of Labor. I need my claim. I need my money. Our family is starving, and we don't have unemployment benefits.


STELTER: Incredible. What you're doing his heroic. Thank you for sharing it with us, Anne.

MCCLOY: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: And speaking of heroic, I want to flag. This as a very special day here on CNN. It is CNN Heroes night. Later this evening, Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa host CNN Heroes 8:00 p.m. Eastern time on CNN. We need this program now more than ever. And we will see you right back here for RELIABLE SOURCES this time next week.