Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Maggie Haberman On The Final Chapter Of Trump's Presidency; How To Cover Extremism Without Amplifying It; U.S. Capitol Violence Raises Safety Concerns For Media; TV News Realignment: Fox News Slumps, CNN Surges; What The Press Can Expect From Biden's Press Shop. Aired 11a- 12p ET

Aired January 17, 2021 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and we figure out what is reliable.

This hour, we have brand-new polling showing the impact of unreliable sources, showing Trump's big election lie is widely believed. What are the consequences? We're going to get into that.

Plus, how should the press cover this pro-Trump insurgency, this online radicalization that we can see on social media. Well, Chris Krebs is here with answers about that.

Plus, reporters deployed to the state capitol with bulletproof vests. This is gear they used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they need it in America. "USA Today" editor Nicole Carroll will tell us how her reporters are staying safe in the field.

And, later, the absolutely scorching statement from Rupert Murdoch's son and big moves at Fox News. David Folkenflik is here with analysis. But, Sara Sidner, and many more in the coming minutes.

But we begin at the end -- the end of President Trump's term in office. With three days until President-elect Biden's inauguration, let's analyze the wars that he will inherit. These are conflicts that are part of Trump's legacy. Though, he and his allies claim otherwise.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud to say with just a few days left in this administration that this is the first administration in decades not to get America into a new war.


STELTER: Mr. Vice President, you are wrong. I know what you literally mean about foreign engagements, and I appreciate that you are symbolically filling in as president this week trying to show leadership because Trump can't, trying to reassure the world that America is okay. We are not okay. We are not okay at all. We are not at peace. There is

a new war, a war at home.

Look at Washington this morning. There is a red zone and a green zone and a massive military presence. We have just received these incredible aerial images from a CNN drone flying above Washington, D.C. this morning. You see barriers outside the White House, outside Black Lives Matter Plaza.

You see troops walking down some of the city's boulevards. The streets otherwise mostly empty, closed off to traffic in ways that are really crippling the town for residents of Washington, D.C., for people that want to move around downtown, D.C.

You can see preparations for Biden's inauguration there at the White House. Amazing images of the CNN drone of a city in crisis, a city in lockdown.

And this is how the world sees America now. Just listen to how foreign correspondents from other countries are describing D.C. right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The threat which still remains is turning this normally calm capitol into a militarized zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thousands of National Guard troops are panned out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington is in lockdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call this the green zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Security is being winched tighter now in the U.S. Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a capitol under siege.


STELTER: It is so jarring to hear that, jarring to see the coverage from around the world. But these are the scars of the Trump years. These are signs of the war at home.

Remember the left-wing protests in downtown D.C. on Trump's inauguration. Remember, there was a limousine set on fire. Maybe this fire set by left wing radicals was foreshadowing what was to come.

In general and especially now, I think we should all be restrained with war metaphors given the unique terror of true combat. But war has kept coming to mind these past four years with the president waging a war on the truth. And lately, it seems a war on reality itself. That's what some of this is felt like, a war with reality, a country at war with ourselves.

Look, on January 6th, that riot of lies, some of those rioters pretended like they were at war. They dressed for combat. They fantasized about a new Civil War. Thankfully, they didn't get it. But that's a big part of the legacy of these years -- a war at home.

With me now is one of the most accomplished White House correspondents of all-time, Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and a CNN political analyst. She knows Trump like no other.

Maggie, thank you for coming on.



STELTER: You reported that on January 6th, the president was watching the riot. He was engrossed in the coverage, maybe even intoxicated in the TV coverage that day.

Is that what he's doing now, his final weekend, just watching TV? Because we haven't heard from him.

HABERMAN: Well, we haven't heard from him in part because he has no Twitter feed. And once he lost his Twitter feed, he didn't really want to use any other method of communication to talk.


HABERMAN: He had basically pivoted away from using television himself as a way to talk to people once those coronavirus briefings were calamitous during the year in 2020.

But what he's doing is, look, he has not accepted that he lost, but he has accepted the fact that he is not going to be president after noon on Wednesday.

So, the White House is being packed up. He is taking farewell pictures with a lot of aides. He is still working the phones to talk to people.

He is also still, and I think it's important to say, according to people I've spoke to, still telling people that he won. You know, he's still maintaining this. So, the idea that he has accepted the loss, he is not there yet, if he is ever going to get there. And I think the question remains, Brian, what we have seen him do.

He spent some of Friday in the Oval Office in a meeting, or at least in the White House, in a meeting, with the secretary of defense, talking in part about what this sendoff would look like on Wednesday where he's going to get a 21-gun salute, where they're talking about a flyover. There's going to be a military band. He wants to feel it like an event.

We'll see if he ends up delivering remarks. That had not been the plan as of the end of last week.

STELTER: He wanted a military parade in downtown D.C. and he's kind of getting one now --

HABERMAN: Right. STELTER: -- as a result of the riot.

What about his media habits throughout the four years?

I remember in 2017, people doubted you, Maggie, when you reported that Trump watched four-plus hours of TV a day. It was shocking when he reported that. Now, of course, it is obviously true and we saw it for years on his Titter feed. We all know the president is a TV addict.

But people didn't believe you back then. I wonder if you thought about then versus now, the start of the Trump presidency versus the end and how it took a while for folks to realize how unusual he really was as a president.

HABERMAN: No. I think that's right, Brian. Look, I think there were two things. I think it took people a while to realize how different he was and it took people a while to accept the office was not changing him. If anything, he wanted to change the office. And I think that he succeeded in many ways.

I don't think that some of those changes, if any, are going to be permanent. I think Joe Biden is showing that he is going to try to restore the office to some semblance of normalcy of the modern presidency.

But, look, there was a lot of doubting about reporting about what he was doing and what he was up to. You had people, you know, discounting it from the political left and then you had Trump's allies on the political right trying to undermine it. I think that time has proven what we described to --


HABERMAN: -- as his media habits are just what they are. And if anything, four to five hours was a conservative estimate.

And the other thing that I would mention in terms of his viewing habits, the TV was often just on in the background, Brian, whether it was in the residence or whether he was sitting in that dining room off the Oval Office where he had a huge flat screen TV put in early on. It was background noise and if he heard his name mentioned or some other topic that he wanted to hear about, he would stop talking and start paying attention.

STELTER: Right, he would fast forward through the non-Trump segments on "Fox & Friends" and then watch the Trump segments.

By Mark Knoller's final count --


STELTER: -- Trump gave 119 interviews to Fox News during his presidency.

Put on screen the graphic here. All the other networks had fewer than 10 interviews. And CNN stayed at zero the entire time, which is remarkable given that in CNN's history, every president from Jimmy Carter onward had sat down with CNN.

Trump very purposely had a presidential snub for CNN in his four years.

Now, he apparently has no plans for a farewell address, or an exit interview, or any of those kind of television events that we would come to expect from an outgoing president. As you mentioned, he's been largely absent from the press since election night, barely granting any interviews and rarely speaking with the press corps.

I suppose my question is, why?

HABERMAN: Well, I think one thing that we can't ignore, Brian, is that he's also the first president who is going out after being impeached twice because of his role in a -- in a rally that of his supporters that happened right before a riot at the Capitol that left five people dead. So, there's that first two, and I think that --


HABERMAN: -- his advisers are aware that he is in -- he -- look, part of how Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, was able to get the president to say something, to try to stop the rioters as this was happening, which the president insisted on doing on January 6th, was telling him he had legal exposure.

That was -- some people believe that that was overstated, some people think he doesn't really have much legal exposure, if not criminal, he certainly is likely to face, and they think, I'm basing this on what they're saying, civil suits. And so, I think the feeling is, if he goes out and talk more, he is simply going to add fuel to the fire.

The only time we have really heard from him in the last couple of days was this pre-recorded video, which we have seen many videos this president gave, you know, under duress and it was clear that he didn't want to be doing it in his delivery, this one did not sound like that where he talked about, you know, basically urging his supporters not to engage in fresh violence next week.


That video was heavily scripted by two of the lawyers in the White House counsel, Cipollone was one of them, and his speechwriter Stephen Miller.

That's part of why we are not hearing him, as people are afraid of what he will say, people meaning his advisers, what he will say off the cuff in an interview.

STELTER: That's a scary situation, and I suspect we'll find out these final days were even scarier than we know right now.

You know, Trump always made it personal with you, Maggie, attacking you on Twitter, but also seeking your attention and affection and news coverage. Can you tell us when the last time you spoke with the president was? HABERMAN: I don't talk about that, Brian. I'm sorry. And I would take

issue with the word "affection". I think the president looks for affirmation from "The New York Times" and his --


STELTER: Affirmation, that is probably the better -- yeah, that's the better word.

HABERMAN: For a specific reason, yeah. And specifically, I get under his skin in terms of my coverage.

But I think that, look, he is -- "The New York Times" holds a unique place in his psyche. If people didn't listen to it, I would urge you to listen to the taping of the daily that A.G. Sulzberger did or at least that Michael Barbaro did around an interview that Peter Baker and I conducted with the president with our publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, in the room because the president had tried to get AG Sulzberger to meet with him off the record and he wouldn't.

But if you want to understand the role "The Times" plays in Trump's mind, it's a worthwhile listen.

STELTER: What will you remember? What will you tell your, hopefully someday, grandkids about this experience covering Trump?

HABERMAN: I -- I need a little distance from it before I do.

STELTER: Do you?

HABERMAN: I can sum what would -- what would stand out to me, the lack of sleep would probably be a part of it. I will -- I will say that the -- this is -- this is a very minor point, but just the constant sense of something is about to happen --


HABERMAN: -- which he created with the Twitter feed. But also because of the firings and the, you know, sort of calamitous policy decisions and the back-and-forth on things. You know, I think that's -- I think that what stands out to me is just -- there was just this constant sense of incoming.


HABERMAN: I will probably have something more profound to say down the road, but that's what --

STELTER: Save it for the book. I know you're working on a book.

You know, all week-long, I heard the media is obsessed with Trump. That we can't quit him, that we don't know what we're going to do when he leaves office.

Do you feel that way a little bit? HABERMAN: I certainly think that Trump has a point when he says that

he has been good for business. I think that is just objectively the case that people sort of consuming more media around him. I don't quite think that it's what people who are saying that on Fox mean, which is that people are interested -- I mean, I bristle at that because for the last four years, he's been president and he's been president in a way that's very unusual and done things that are very unusual for the -- for the presidency.

So, yes, that got coverage, and that should get coverage. But I do think it's going to be a test of how the media handles him going forward, particularly absent his Twitter feed --

STELTER: Yes, yeah.

HABERMAN: -- because, you know, those were -- those were rationals that people pointed to as to why they were covering him. I did not think that every tweet was newsworthy, but some people did.

You know, I do think that it's going to present a challenge in terms of how he's covered going forward because his ability to just snap his fingers and get attention as president is obviously gone. He is still a dominant figure in the Republican Party regardless of the tensions that exist now after January 6th. He still has a majority of support among Republicans, and he is reluctant to close off any avenue where he could run or something like that if he's -- if he's under duress.

So I just -- I don't know what it looks like. I think that we're all addicted things is a -- is a clever construction, but I don't think that's reality.

STELTER: Yeah. I think going forward after Wednesday, he will be a story. But obviously, Biden is a much bigger story, and that's where attention now shifts.

Maggie, thank you so much.

HABERMAN: Correct, and should be, and should be.

STELTER: Yeah, and should be, that's right.

Thank you --

HABERMAN: Thank you.

STELTER: -- so much for helping us all understand the Trump years.

Now, Joe Biden will take office on Wednesday with a huge political disadvantage. Many Americans will insist that he is not really president, that he didn't really win or that he stole it from Donald Trump. CNN's brand-new polling out this morning asked Americans if Biden legitimately won enough votes to win the presidency.

Ninety-nine percent of Democrats said yes. But only 19 percent of Republicans said yes, Biden legitimately won. That means 75 percent of Republicans say they don't think Biden really won legitimately. And of that group, more than half say there is solid evidence of cheating, even though courts and news rooms all looked and looked and found nothing material. NPR and CBS asked the question differently in their poll, but the results were the same.


Only 12 percent, 12 percent of Trump voters in that poll said they trust the results of the election.

So, the pro-Trump media's fraud has worked. This is not a fringe point of view on the right. Disbelief in the election results is the mainstream position of Trump believers.

So what is that? It's a breakdown in trust, a breakdown in social bonds. That's one of the story lines here. So many Americans, especially Republicans, said they have little or no faith in the media and other U.S. institutions.

And, by the way, right wing media stars are constantly shouting about reasons why they shouldn't trust anyone or anything. A breakdown in trust softened the ground for Trump's election lies. That's what January 6th was, a lie yacht of lies. It was also an awakening about far right radicalization, extremism in America. Rioters in D.C. said they believed Trump's lies and some say they felt directed to the Capitol by Trump.

And so, now, the experts who didn't get enough air time or attention before January 6th are getting lots of calls now and talking about the riot as the beginning of something, not the end.

So what does the press need to know about covering extremism? What do you need to know?

Here with some pointers are the partners of the newly formed Krebs/Stamos Group. Christopher Krebs was, of course, fired by President Trump from his post as a top federal cybersecurity expert for attempting and actually achieving this, fact checking false election claims. And Alex Stamos is the director of the Stanford University Internet Observatory and he's a former Facebook chief security officer, a former Facebook insider.

Thank you both for coming on and talking us through this.

Chris, what are the different ways that you frame this story of extremism in America?


And, Alex, good morning to you over on the other side of the country.

Well, you know, when you see last week's events and we think about what might be happening in state capitols across the country right now, it is important to realize that we're not talking about a single block of activists and insurrectionists. There are factions. And, so, the framework that I think about with the current challenge

is there's a set of actors or players on the field that are engaging. There's a set of influencers that are driving them, that are seeking their own objectives. There is a series of mechanism they're using to coordinate and communicate.

And then lastly, there's a separate set of outcomes they're trying to achieve. And so, through these four different lenses or approaches, you can get a better understanding of really what's happening.

So with those actors, there is a spectrum that goes from really intensity of intent, and that's the Boogaloo boys types, the accelerationists that really want to change the political dynamic and reset the political system and in moving through white supremacists, white nationalists, militias, conspiracy theorists, and then ending up in just the disaffected voters that unfortunately have been -- have bought into the big lie that the president has bought -- been selling over the last several months.

STELTER: Right. So, there's a wide range. And you are saying different people want different outcomes, right? Some just want to feel like they're being heard. Others do want civil war. There is a wide range.

KREBS: Yep. And then on top of that, there's -- there are these influencers, including the president. You know, he's on one hand trying to fund-raise and continue the long con and the grift.

And then on the other side of this, and this is an uncomfortable reality that we're in is that there are still state actors that are fomenting unrest here in the United States. There is the Russians, for instance, according to a report out from the U.S. government earlier in -- this past week where the Russians are trying to confuse who is actually behind it and continue to push that Antifa, in fact, was the group that stormed the capitol.

Yet, the Iranians who want at all cost it is president of the out White House, and then the third, that you have the Chinese who continue to contrast their style of government against democracy that they see as inherently corrupt and, you know, on an unsound foundation.

So we have domestic actors as well as foreign actors. And that's why, again, you have to think about the different players, the different influencers and ultimately what do they want to get out all of this.


Alex, what is your answer to how the press should be covering extremism right now?

ALEX STAMOS, FORMER FACEBOOK CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER: Yeah. Like Chris said, there is a couple of different groups here.

To me, one of the enduring images of January 6 is going to be that line of men in matching green tactical outfits with their hands on their shoulders snaking their way through the disorganized mob. And that is effectively what we are facing online, and that you have a large number of people who are angry and aggrieved, and who have been lied to by the right-wing news ecosystem, as well as online influencers about the election, and who want to show that anger and they want to feel like they're part of something.


And then within that disorganized mob, you have a small number of people who are highly organized and who really want to create violence.

And so, I think one of the things we have to do is we have to careful to try to separate those out and to not allow that small group of organized people to speak on behalf of everybody. That is one of the problems I think we'll have around media coverage of this, is that the 3 percenters, the Proud Boys, folks like that that they will be given an outsized influence and their messages will be amplified over and over again because their messages are extremely scary.

Those groups need to be treated like ISIS effectively, right? There is a history here of both between law enforcement and social media companies of being able to reduce the online presence and the influence of those groups. And then we have to work on the broader disinformation problem to try to turn down the anger that you see from that huge percentage of Republicans who believe that the election was stolen.

STELTER: It's -- yeah, Biden denialism is very real and widespread, so is riot denialism with people claiming that it was Antifa and all these other crazy lies instead. Both are happening. Both are happening from the same platforms in the same pro-Trump media outlets. Both are problematic.

Chris, what do you say to the following? We have to be clear-eyed about what is a domestic threat, but also very careful not to exaggerate it, not to overstate, not to create undue fear in this country right now?

KREBS: I think that's absolutely right. We've got to be very careful here. Just because someone may believe that the president did not win the election or the President-elect Biden did not win or that someone believes in QAnon doesn't mean they're going to go pick up arms and go riot.

And this is the challenge that we're facing. I don't think that as a society, certainty the current administration hasn't done enough to really study and understand and consider this challenge, and that's in part what we're trying to accomplish at the Aspen Institute with the Commission on Information Disorder that I'm going to be chairing, is look at the different factors from the federal government side, the international community side, the private sector, civil society and academia.

What are the various roles and responsibilities, levers, that we can pull over the short-term and the long-term to restore some sign of normalcy back to the information space. STELTER: Is that possible, Alex? Will there ever be a solution, real clear, full solution to this information crisis that has been perpetuated in my view by platforms like, the one where you used to work, Facebook, as well as Twitter and others?

STAMOS: It's really hard because what's happening is people are able to seek out the information that makes them feel good. That is what's happening. People have so much choice now. They can choose what their news sources are. They can choose what influencers they want to follow and they can try to seal out anything that helps them question that.

And I think that gets to a really core issue with how our freedoms as Americans in the way we have treated press freedom in the past is being abused by these actors in that we have given a lot of leeway both in the traditional media and on social media to people to have a very broad range of political views. It is now in the great economic interest of those individuals to become more and more radical.

And I think one of the places you can see this is on the fact that you now have competitors to Fox News on their right.


STAMOS: OANN and Newsmax, which are carried by all the major cable networks who are trying to outflank Fox on the right because the moment Fox introduced any kind of realism into their reporting, immediately, a bunch of people chose to put themselves into a sealed ecosystem.

And they can do that both on cable. They can do it online. And that becomes a huge challenge in figuring out how do you bring people back into the mainstream of fact-based reporting and try to get us all back into the same consensual reality.

STELTER: And can you? Is that possible? It seems that's an open question.

STAMOS: It's hard. I mean, I think we got to do a couple things. One, there needs to be an intentional work by the social media companies collaborating together, to work on violent extremism in the same way they worked on ISIS.

When I started on Facebook in 2015, the number one challenge from a content perspective was the abuse of social media by the Islamic state. And there was a collaboration between the tech companies and law enforcement to make it impossible for them to use the Internet to recruit and radicalize mostly young Muslim and at the same around the world.

Now, we're talking about domestic audience in the United States. And the challenge is going to be partially that ISIS did not have a domestic constituency in the United States Congress, but there is over half of the Republicans in Congress voted to overturn the election. And there will be a continual political pressure on the companies to not take it seriously.


So, I think, first, you have to focus on those violent extremists, and those companies have to be brave in that way. And, second, we have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences. There are people on YouTube, for example, that have a larger daytime -- larger audience than daytime CNN, and they are extremely radical and pushing extremely radical views.

And, so, it is up to the Facebooks and YouTubes in particular to think about whether or not they want to be effectively cable networks for disinformation. And then we have to figure out the OANN and Newsmax problem, you know, these companies have freedom of speech but I'm not sure we need Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and such to be bringing them into tens of millions of homes.

This is, you know, allowing people to seek out information if they want to but not pushing it into their faces I think is where we're going to have to go here.

STELTER: Alex and Chris, thank you both for looking ahead with us.

KREBS: Thanks, Brian.

STAMOS: Thank you.

STELTER: Coming up, you saw during the insurrection on January 6th members of the press became moving targets. I'm going to tell you about new security measures to keep reporters protected.

Plus, some breaking news about the Biden's first press briefing. I'm going to tell you when it will be.

Plus, why Kamala Harris is front and center in the news coverage of the new White House.



STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter. At least nine members of the media were assaulted during the pro-Trump riots on January 6th, and others were threatened and harassed. Now, we are seeing news organizations take unprecedented steps to protect their crews in the field, from bulletproof vests, to buddy systems. This is happening in national and local outlets, TV and print, all are stepping up security measures. I'm hearing about it every day from journalists across the country.

Two leaders joining me now to discuss these new measures. Nicole Carroll is the editor in chief of USA Today and Dan Shelley is the executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association, a nonprofit that just unveiled a training center with resources for reporters who are covering this unrest.

Nicole first to you, what are you doing to take care of your crews, your reporters in the field? I know we don't get too detailed about security, but in some cases, armed bodyguards, other steps What are you doing?

NICOLE CARROLL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, USA TODAY: Thanks, Brian. You know, we take this threat very seriously. Last week during the riots, they scrubbed murder the media in the Capitol, and on social media this week, there have been calls for extremists to target journalists. So, we take the threat seriously and we take the protection seriously.

We have consulted with professional security to make sure we have the right equipment and communication. We've done quite a bit of training with our teams talking about the buddy system, you never go out alone. You're constantly in touch with us. You're constantly in touch with your partner.

So, we're taking it seriously, but we're not going to stop doing our jobs. This is risky to go out, but it's more risky to not go out. It's more risky to let misinformation spread. So, we're prepared and we're careful and we're going to do our jobs.

STELTER: Dan, what are you hearing from local stations and other journalists? I'm hearing examples of newsrooms not doing live shots in the field. Instead, they're doing tape segments. I'm hearing about microphones -- you know, taking the logos off the microphones, taking logos off of news trucks, all of those sorts of steps to try to make things safer. What are you hearing?

DAN SHELLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RTDNA: I'm hearing many of the same things, Brian. And I would also add to what Nicole said, this is the most perilous time for journalists in the field in the modern history of the United States. I know that saying a lot, but that's the reason behind the safety resources we just launched in partnership with several of our other press freedom groups that we work with.

This is really pervasive. And it's not just the U.S. Capitol, it's not just state capitals, it's in communities large and small in all 50 states.

STELTER: Tell us where people can find those resources, Dan.


STELTER: Yes. And Nicole, I think the big picture point is, journalists aren't going to back down. This is about trying to do jobs as safely as possible, but make sure we are witnessing what's happening, especially these state capitols where there's real concern about attacks and violence.

CARROLL: Absolutely. We've got folks all across Washington D.C., of course, but we're also all across the country. The threats have been made to capitols across the country. So, we're in more than 40 state capitals right now. We're particularly paying attention to Arizona, Oregon, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Again, we're there to do our jobs. We're there to tell the truth. I thought your intro about the war on reality was great. It's true. And we're the ones who present reality. We're the ones who tell reality. That's making us a target. But it also shows why our jobs are more important than ever.

STELTER: What was it like this week, Nicole, seeing the USA Today designers are creating a front page and said impeached again, you know, a second impeachment. It feels like we're living years of history every week right now.

CARROLL: It's true. You know, we thought, you know, with 2020 behind us, things might slow down. That's not the case. We are living history. For us, you know, we recognize the seriousness of it. And we're constantly working on the exact words. We're working on how we present this, because we want to make sure that even though it seems like there's something new every day, these are very grave actions, and we need to represent the seriousness of them.

STELTER: It's a great point. Dan, the big picture point here is local news plays a key role in helping people gain and regain trust. You know, if you don't believe CNN when we say that Biden was legitimately elected, maybe you'll believe your local news anchor or your local paper.

CARROLL: Well, and public opinion has said that for some time that -- it's kind of like the old analogy. Everybody says they hate Congress, but they love their own member of Congress. That may not be as true today as it once was. People say they hate the media in the aggregate, but they sure like John Smith who gives him the local news at 6:00 on channel two. So, there is a difference between perceptions of local media versus national media.

And I think it's up to the local media to take on this burden of special responsibility because the people who report the photojournalists in local communities, they're the neighbors, of the people that they're reporting for. They're serving the public. They're serving their neighbors. They're dealing with the same local issues that the people on whom and for whom they're reporting deal with.

And I think that's an important distinction to make that journalist -- this sounds trite, but journalists are people too, and journalists are there to serve the communities in which they live.


STELTER: Trite but I like it. Dan, thank you. Nicole, thank you very much. We're going to have more on this subject. Kerry Flynn has a story coming out for about safety and security. You can get it in the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Sign up for free at

When we come back here on the program, Trump leaving the White House, Fox News losing its grip, how the network is struggling in the ratings like I've never seen before. I'll show you next.


STELTER: I'll tell you what, a historic shift in cable news is happening right now. The Fox News Channel audience is, well, demoralized and in some cases tuning out. For the first time in 20 years, the network finds itself falling behind CNN and MSNBC in overall television viewership. Really remarkable changes in the ratings.


Look at this graphic that tells the story. This is the year to date. This is the first two weeks of the year. Fox is the red line. And normally that red line would be very high up at the top. CNN, however, is now number one in the total viewer race going on at least nine out of 10 days now. You'll see MSNBC also surging, but not to the same degree as CNN.

So, what does this mean? What does it say? Well, I think it's a signal that people are looking for real news about terror and about the pandemic right now. They're not looking, at least not as often, for Fox's pro-Trump opinion. Now, there's a lot of factors here.

It's not just CNN surging. It's also Fox feeling pressure from Newsmax, pressure from the right. You'll see there. Newsmax is saying the Fox is on the run. Rupert Murdoch is reasserting himself at Fox according to my sources. And that in part explains why the schedule at Fox is blowing up starting tomorrow.

7:00 p.m. anchor Martha McCallum has been demoted to the 3:00 p.m. hour. She was holding one of the only hours of news coverage in a prominent position on Fox News. Of course, her news coverage leaned dramatically to the right. She had a conservative newscast, but it's still counted as news according to Fox News. Now, that program is losing at 7:00 p.m. time slot, and they're putting full blown right- wing opinion there instead.

Let's talk about this, the cable news landscape and more with a panel of experts. Nicole Hemmer is here. She's an associate research scholar at Columbia University and the author of Messengers of the Right. David Folkenflik is here, a media correspondent for NPR News. And Eugene Daniels is here, a White House reporter and the new co-author of Politico's morning newsletter, Playbook.

Nicole, what do you make of this 7:00 p.m. change? Fox putting right- wing opinion starting with Brian Kilmeade, others like probably Maria Bartiromo will be hosting the 7:00 p.m. hour from now on.

NICOLE HEMMER, ASSOCIATE RESEARCH SCHOLAR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think it's a pretty clear sign that fox news sees Newsmax as its big problem right now. Their 7:00 p.m. hour with Greg Kelly has been drawing a lot of viewers. And so, what they want to do is they want to compete more in that opinion space. And so, I suspect what we'll see going forward is less of the kind of Bret Baier, Chris Wallace Fox News and more of that opinion hour and a more of a Newsmax term for Fox.

STELTER: Yeah, that's a -- that's what the tea leaves indicate. Let's look at, Folkenflik, your recent story for NPR. It's titled, "After the deadly capital riot Fox News stays silent on its stars' incendiary rhetoric." What do you mean? DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR NEWS: Well, you've seen an accounting or at least a discussion first out in corporate boardrooms that are pulling back on donations from politicians who wanted to invalidate or delegitimize President-Elect Biden's electoral victory in November.

You've seen that within the Republican Party. You've seen that on social media platforms that have yanked accounts from people who are essentially propagating what's now being called the big lie about the election. And that helped to foster the circumstances of the protests that turned so deadly January 2nd.

Where you haven't seen it? Fox News. A place which has served both through some of its more extreme hosts, and particularly through the guests that it selects has amplified and promoted to both claim that this election was fraudulently stolen from President Trump and his supporters and also urged them with almost a battle cry, rhetoric, talk of betrayal, talk of treason, you know, that really I think helped to incite the kinds of emotions that we saw swirl and coalesce in the Capitol on Wednesday. You haven't seen that acknowledged on Fox News at all.

STELTER: Here's what James Murdoch said to the Financial Times the other day. James Murdoch is the youngest son of Rupert. He is liberal. He is supportive of Joe Biden. He had a message I think for his dad. He said, those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years. I hope that those people who didn't think it was that dangerous now understand and that they stop. You wrote a book about the Murdochs, David. Is this a message from son to father?

FOLKENFLIK: I think from son to Father. I think from brother to brother. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are running Fox Corp, the parent company, and Fox News itself to a significant degree. And they haven't really created parameters or guide rails of what's acceptable too often. They haven't done it in this moment of national crisis and this moment of a kind of crisis of conscience for Fox News. Does the word news deserve to be upended? This is a moment where that could be asserted.

And James is also offering I think, in some ways, to the public an alternative view of what a Murdoch future could look like. It's not clear that the Hunger Games are entirely done for what happens when Rupert Murdoch finally relinquishes control of the Murdoch empire in destiny. And while Lachlan Murdoch is the presumed heir apparent, he has the same number of votes as his brother James when it comes to that Murdoch family trust. And you know, it will still be a little bit of an open question.


STELTER: And Fox News' name makes less and less sense the more they prioritize opinion and the more they diminish the news coverage out the network. Eugene, let's talk about the appetite for real news coverage. I think that's what explains the high ratings for CNN, but also, interest in the nightly newscasts, huge web traffic all across the board, including for Politico.

You're going to be running the new political playbook starting in a couple of days. How are you thinking about the American appetite for news? What do people want right now from Politico reporters?

EUGENE DANIELS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, me and three of my colleagues are going to be helming Playbook. It's going to be a completely different Playbook. And I think the reason why we are looking at it differently is because people want a more holistic look at what is going on in Washington D.C., and therefore what's going on in the country.

The way that we're looking at it, and the way that people are telling us is that they want to hear from different people. They want to not just hear from the people that are holding the power, but they also want to hear from the people who are trying to get power.

And that power struggle and those power -- that friction is going to dictate how these next four years for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris go, and for the rest of the country, because that's going to be so important as we watch and see what's happening. That's going on on the left and the right. And that's how we're looking -- that's one of the big reasons we're doing a lot of different things on Playbook.

STELTER: Yes. All right, everyone, please stay with me. I do have some news to break after the commercial break about the Biden administration's first press briefing, what to expect from the press shop. Stay with me. We'll have that in a moment.



STELTER: We're back here on RELIABLE SOURCES. Looking ahead to Wednesday at the inauguration, and I can now report, the first press briefing of the new administration. The incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who you see here announcing on Twitter, the Biden White House will reimplement visitor logs, so we know who's coming and going from the White House.

She will also reinstitute daily on-camera press briefings. This will happen on Wednesday, according to the Biden transition team. She will be on camera taking questions. It's a reminder that everything this incoming White House is going to do is a contrast to the current White House. In the case of the press secretary, live filled briefings and very few press briefings from the Trump White House.

Let me bring back the panel for more on what to expect from the Biden press shop. Eugene Daniels, David Folkenflik, Nicole Hemmer all back with me. Eugene, what are you expecting from the Biden press shop and what are you noticing so far?

DANIELS: So far, we're seeing and expecting more of a more kind of normal interaction with the press, right? We're not being called the enemy of the people by anyone that work for president -- or President- Elect Joe Biden or Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, so that's good. But also, one thing that I'm thinking about is we're going to have to

be a lot more creative on covering this White House because the leaks were not going to --

STELTER: Did you mean that we're not going to have a live Twitter feed of what he's thinking at all hours?

DANIELS: Exactly. That's a huge part of it, right? This is going to be somewhat where Joe Biden, you know, he's going to do his job from the Resolute Desk. He's not going to be tweeting and firing people from that. And so, we're going to have to be more creative because even now asking questions, they are running a tighter ship than the Trump administration, to say the least.

STELTER: Yes, definitely. David Folkenflik, what are you anticipating from Jen Psaki and from the other comms staff? We'll put on screen some of the faces that viewers are going to come to see in the coming weeks. Is this going to be a reset?

FOLKENFLIK: I think it's the effort to be a reset. I don't think it magically makes -- disappear what's happened over the last four or five years in terms of the way the White House dealt with the press. But I think that Biden was, you know, known in the Senate as sort of a gaffe-o-matic, is actually trying to show the kind of discipline he showed during the general election, of course, this campaign. And his campaign was quite disciplined as well, professional, competent. They were able to get their message across and yet not have too many distractions.

I do think that they're going to have to show through a lot of efforts like the visitor log reinstallation, that they are interested in transparency as a greater good for the country and for the way the civic society works, even if at times, it's uncomfortable for them, because it will invite greater scrutiny.

STELTER: Yes, they will. Nicole Hemmer, last word to you.

HEMMER: So, what the Biden administration is going to have to do is do more than a return to normal. They're going to have to rebuild norms. And the press has a role to play in that as well in not turning the briefing room into a spectacle, but into a place of information for the public.

STELTER: Yes, that's right. It's going to take a long time, but at least enemy of the people won't be a constant attack line. At least this hate movement won't be coming from the White House. Eugene, David, Nicole, thank you.

As I mentioned, you know, we're going to see a lot about Joe Biden and the Vice President Kamala Harris. Tonight, Abby Phillips -- Abby Phillips -- what am I saying -- Abby Philip has this special report at 10:00 p.m., a sit down with Kamala and her husband. That's Making History at 10:00 p.m. eastern time here on CNN.

We're going to take a quick break and then come back with some really remarkable thoughts from CNN's Sara Sidner about covering these twin American crises, COVID and now possible terror. We'll be right back.



STELTER: By Inauguration Day, America is likely to have endured 400,000 plus deaths from COVID-19. The death toll is a daily reminder of the country's failures to contain this virus. And all of that bubbled up when Sara Sidner's rage turned to tears on live TV earlier this week.

She was there covering the crisis in the hospitals in California. Now, she's in Michigan at the state capitol covering extremism, another American affliction. Sara, how do you juggle these American crises simultaneously?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You do it because it is the work that we do. And these are stories, they're American Stories, they're stories that are important to all of the citizens in this country, including those who have extreme views. And we need to be able to hear from the American people no matter which side of the aisle they're on or what their beliefs are.

I think it's important that the entire country know what is going on in this country, not just in their bubbles, Brian.

STELTER: That is absolutely true. We have to tell their stories and make sure people know what's actually happening in the country. These are not in some cases fringe views, even though we're dealing with big lies that are leading to violence in some cases. How do you handle the emotions of it all?

SIDNER: Clearly, I didn't feel like I handled it well when it came to Coronavirus. But some of that was just the overarching problems that are happening in this country. And I want to give you an example. This gentleman here right behind me. He's being interviewed right now by another network. But you see him there.

He's standing there with an AR-15. He is a member or was a member of the of the National Guard. And he says he's a libertarian, but he also says he's a Boogaloo boy and he says look, you know, I am here because I feel like they are putting laws in place that are -- that are against the constitution and I want to stand here and protest that. But he says he's peaceful.

Now, we also know that the Boogaloo boys, some of them have been quite violent and with violent rhetoric. But he's an American and he has an opinion and, you know, sometimes we just -- we need to listen to what people are saying, Brian.

STELTER: Absolutely. Sara, thank you very much. And by the way, to hear more from Sidner, turn to this week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast, on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Time is almost up, 72 hours until the end of the Trump presidency. In the words of the AP's Calvin Woodward, the truth finally caught up to Donald Trump after years of giving chase. The lies were finally too much. The past four years have proved that

the American press is stronger than any demagogue. For the past four years have also proved how many people can be swayed by a man calling real news fake over and over and over again. Shared reality, it's gone. Can it be restored? Can it be rebuilt? Those are the questions we will start to ask this time next week. Thanks for joining us.