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Fox Is Mainstreaming A White Supremacist Theory; From Pro-Trump Media To "Post-Trump Media"; How Journalists Are Advancing The Matt Gaetz Story; Widespread Criticism Of "60 Minutes" Segment Of Florida's Vaccine Rollout; Clarissa Ward Addresses Criticism Of Her Myanmar Reporting. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 11, 2021 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Fareed, I just want to share the CNN family's deepest condolences to you and your family.

I think as viewers, we are all so grateful to your mom for giving you the education that you are now paying forward by teaching all of us. Her life was such an inspiration. And may her memory be a blessing.


STELTER: And here we are live in New York. I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

So let me tell you what we have coming up in the hour ahead.

We are taking a special look at parallel political universes and what the left is up against with the right's intensifying anti-media rhetoric.

Amanda Carpenter, Philip Bump, Katie Benner, Robbie Soave, and Matt Gertz are all standing by.

Plus, "60 Minutes" missteps. The unresolved questions about the disputed CBS story targeting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. We're going to get into that.

And later, the controversy over Clarissa Ward's trip to Myanmar. She is going to answer the critics, coming up.

But, first, an exclusive interview with the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Look, the beginning of the Biden years is not the end of Trump's war on truth. The factures, the fault lines of the Trump era are very much still with us. I'm talking about the mainstreaming of conspiracy thinking, the demonizing of others, the gaslighting that's going on.

Trump himself can't tweet any more so he's not quite as visible, and lots of folks don't want to hear about him at all any more. And he's apologists say everyone just move on and forget about his years of misconduct. But it's not over. It's not in the past. He's lying about the last

election right now, this weekend, at Mar-a-Lago.

Besides, it's not really about him anymore. It's about his acolytes now. The Trump era war on truth is being waged every day by his lieutenants.

And I know some temper -- some are tempted to tune it out, and I respect that.

But you don't know what's happening in American politics right now if you don't know about the lies. You can't make sense of politics without wading into the nonsense. You can't possibly make peace with a family member espousing fringe beliefs if you don't know where they heard it from.

And that's ultimately what this is about. It's about whether we could talk to one another, whether we can have fact-based big debates about big issues without conspiracy theorists getting in the way, without, you know, and anti-immigration crap getting in the way.

And right now, that's almost impossible, because so many millions are being seduced and being deceived by an alternative reality. Trump is not really the leader of this anymore. Tucker Carlson is. From downplaying the pro-Trump riot of January 6th to mainstreaming a white supremacist conspiracy theory.

And I know, Tucker has been here. I mean, remember when he said white supremacy was a hoax.

But his comments this week, on Thursday, were another new low as he identified the so-called White Replacement Theory by name. This is something that's fringe, off on racist websites, but he played it out for his viewers to her.

And it's been played a lot. I know the Fox segment has been replayed repeatedly, so I'm not going to air it here.

But Tucker knew exactly what he was doing. Look at the quote. He even predicted that people would be disturbed by his argument, which made him all more delighted to make the argument anyway.

He said Democrats are trying to, quote, replace current voters with, quote, more obedient voters from the Third World.

You know exactly what he's talking about. Of course, then he said he wasn't talking about White Replacement Theory, but that's like saying you're not eating an apple while you're taking a bite out of a Granny Smith.

Tucker's defense is that he was talking about voting rights. But, ironically, he spoke against the rights of a majority of voters just a couple of days earlier when he downplayed the insurrection, that attempt to overturn the lawful election.

And he acted like the rioters were on a field trip. He bashed the government and said the rioters with were prosecuted for expressing their political opinions in public, when they're actually being charged from everything -- for everything from unauthorized entry to assaults to conspiracy.

And the feds, some of them tracked down the bombing suspect and everyone is for getting there were other uprising in other cities that day in state capitols. There was a bloody insurrection three months ago and so-called law and order conservative channel folks are trying to make you think it was a picnic. Good thing I brought apples.

This is the Trumpian war on truth that are still waging. It's raging because guys like Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch encourage it. It's raging because men like Paul Ryan sit silently on the Fox Corporation Board of Directors.


Murdoch knows better. Ryan knows better. They know Tucker is cynically preying on his audience's fears -- their fears of being replaced, fears of a changing growing America.

But the show goes on. The profits go on. They act like Tucker's invincible. They seem to think he's the boss, when in fact they are the bosses.

But some people are speaking out. While the Murdochs stay silent, while Fox is not commenting on Carlson's behavior, some people are speaking out, including my first guest here today.

With me for an exclusive interview is Jonathan Greenblatt. He's the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Thank you so much for coming on.


STELTER: You penned a letter to Fox News media CEO Suzanne Scott on Friday saying Carlson has been race baiting for years and it's time for him to go.

Have you heard back from Fox yet? What has Fox said back to you since Friday?

GREENBLATT: Well, look, it's Sunday morning. We were closed yesterday for Shabbat and we sent this out Friday afternoon. So, we haven't heard anything yet.

But I'll tell you why if we step back, this is so problematic. As you pointed out, Tucker Carlson has a history of sanitizing stereotypes and of spreading this kind of poison, but what he did on Thursday night really was indeed as you put it a new low.

The Great Replacement Theory as it's known is this toxic idea that there are a cabal of Jews plotting to overrun the country with immigrants, Muslims, black people, et cetera, and commit what they call white genocide. It is literally, Brian, a staple of white supremacist and extremist ideology.

So when Tucker Carlson introduces it to his 4.5 million viewers, he's serving as a gateway to one of the most damaging and dangerous conspiracy theories out there and when I say that, again, let me be clear, this has real consequences.

From 2017, unite the right rally in Charlottesville where this phrase was invoked, remember, Jews will not replace us, and Heather Heyer was mowed down and murdered. To the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 where 11 worshippers were killed; to the shooting the following year in Christchurch where 51 people were killed, Muslim shippers; to the murders in El Paso where 20-some-odd Latino people were killed.

Again and again and again, it is the Replacement Theory that's been invoked by these extremist murderers.

So when Tucker Carlson invokes it on his show, when he dismisses it, right, it is so dangerous.

And I think as you pointed out, the question is really from Fox management, to the Fox board, to Fox shareholders, how can they countenance their network being used to mainstream the most violent and toxic ideas?

STELTER: As you say, there is a long history of Carlson's racist comments. I was about to say racially charged, but there is no need to beat around these bushes.

GREENBLATT: No, that's right.

STELTER: Let's put a scroll of some examples from the past. Remember, his top writer resigned last year after secretly posting racist and sexist remarks in an online forum. So there are some other examples on screen here.

I put these up to make the point that Fox has promoted him. They've elevated him. He is the biggest star on the channel, the highest rated host.

So what do you actually expect Fox to do?

GREENBLATT: Well, look, Father Coughlin got great ratings in the 1930s with anti-Semitic and racist rants, until he was taken down, right?

And, you know, people like Lou Dobbs on the Fox network, or Glenn Beck before him got great ratings with their wild, racist and ugly conspiracy theories.

So what do we want Fox to do? I mean, first and foremost, Tucker has got to go. Again, it is a risk not just to the corporation, it's a risk to our society to be promoting these anti-Semitic and racist myths that literally were used by people on January 6th to try to not just interfere with the election, but to murder lawmakers.

I mean, I think we've really crossed a new threshold when a major news network dismisses this or pretends like it isn't important. This has deadly significant.

So, number one, Tucker has got to go. And I think, secondly, Brian, Fox needs to look at their entire primetime lineup and finally ask themselves, does this work?

Because at the end of the day, let's acknowledge, Fox isn't alone in this. They have advertisers, they have affiliates, right? There are cable companies who carry their signal.


If Fox won't act, it may be time for the advertisers to act. It may be time for again the affiliates and the cable companies to act to finally once and for all say that America is, simply put, no place for hate. Why does this even (ph) in a debate anymore, Brian?


STELTER: But you know how it goes. Tucker just says, I'm talking about voting rights, and then the Murdochs will say, we don't cancel people. They'll say, you're trying to engage in cancel culture.

That's what -- I can actually hear them in my ears because that's exactly what they would say.

GREENBLATT: Well, look, this is not cancel culture. Let me be -- let me be unambiguous about it. There has always been room for fringe ideas in America. That's a function of our First Amendment and I embrace that.

The question is does Fox -- Fox should take the fringe ideas and put them where they belong, on the fringe. Not place them in primetime where they serve as a gateway drug to tens of millions of Americans, right? To literally conscript them into this conspiracy theory of violent white supremacy.

We can't afford to look away any longer, Brian. It's incumbent upon, again, from advertisers, to the cable companies, to the shareholders, to say there is just too much risk in his racism and he's got to go.

STELTER: Look, my worry is always, my elderly neighbor who is watching Fox morning, noon and night, who's a great gentleman. But, you know, think about what millions of people are hearing without realizing that it comes from white nationalists, white supremacist texts, right, because they hear their friend say it.


STELTER: Tucker is their friend. They trust him. They love him.


STELTER: And that's where this is scary. That's where this is dangerous. But I'm at the view point --

GREENBLATT: Deeply dangerous. STELTER: -- the Murdochs have given up on it, they think Tucker is

in charge. You know, someone needs to remind the Murdochs, they pay Tucker. Tucker is their employee.

They're allowed to sanction him. They're allowed to, you know, give him some guidance.

But it doesn't seem to ever happen. There is a lack of leadership that is emphasized by the fact that Lachlan Murdoch is basically --


STELTER: -- living in Sidney, Australia, now, what is that? Fifteen time zones away from Fox News headquarters ion New York.

So, you're giving them the benefit of the doubt saying, well, it's only Sunday, they haven't replied yet, but I think they have plenty of time to reply to your letter if they were going to.

GREENBLATT: Well, I got -- yeah, I mean, look, it's -- there is a reason why people like Richard Spencer or David Duke, you know, praise Tucker Carlson because indeed he's taken their talking points and literally used his primetime platform to mainstream them for millions of Americans.

So, as you put it, there are the questions, where are the Murdochs? Where is -- where is the rest of the board at Fox? Again, where are the shareholders?

The institutional investors, right, who have large positions in the company need to ask themselves, can they really continue to ignore this kind of intolerance? Anti-Semitism and racism has consequences. January 6th made this abundantly clear. The body count is high enough, high enough, Brian, that finally we've got to take a stand.

STELTER: Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you for coming on. Please let us know if you do hear back from Fox News.

GREENBLATT: Look forward to it.

STELTER: People always ask me, does Tucker really believe what he says? I was getting this question from you via email, a lot of viewers asking me in the past week in light of these recent controversies.

Look, I worked on this book called "Hoax", I interviewed Tucker's colleagues, he really does believe it. He has been radicalized by, you know, folks like Alex Jones and he really does believe this stuff.

But don't take it from me. Take it from Tucker. Here is his 2003 book. He wrote this at the time.

He said he always gets this question and always amazed by how many people assume that talk show hosts are really pretending to be outraged or interested in the things they talk about. "You don't believe all of that stuff, do you?" I've been asked the question dozens, maybe hundreds of times. Actually, this is Tucker, actually, I say I believe every bit of it. Sometimes more than I say on the air. People hate hearing this, talking about liberals, but it is true. In fact, I do believe everything I say.

Okay. I rest my case. He really believes it.

Now let me bring in two more voices in this program. Philip Bump is a national correspondent for "The Washington Post", who's been writing about Tucker this week, and Amanda Carpenter is a columnist for "The Bulwark" and a CNN political commentator.

Amanda, John Boehner is on a book tour. He's out there saying that Fox News made his life miserable, that Fox's commentary is toxic. Paul Ryan succeeded as speaker of the House and Ryan is on the Fox board of directors and never talked about these issues. He never addresses in public the Fox problem.

Why is that?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, maybe thinks he won't be persuasive enough. But I do think a lot Republicans are deeply concerned about the events of January 6th. And I want your viewers to take notice of is how well this White Replacement Conspiracy theory fuses with the big election lie.


It's really the same idea, that Democrats in the media are conspiring to import new voters in illegal and malicious ways to displace the white Republican vote, okay? These are not separate subjects about immigration and voting rights, it all goes together in a powerful nationalist way that Republicans should reject. But if you let the strongest voices in the room like Tucker control the conversation, it's only going to get more radical.

STELTER: Philip Bump, you wrote about Tucker and what he's saying is ahistorical. What's your view?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, I mean, it's not only ahistorical, it's dumb to put it frankly. It doesn't make any sense. No illegal immigrant is trying to seek -- you know, stay away from the federal authorities who is going to go out and cast a vote illegally, just, you know, cast one vote out of millions. It just doesn't make any sense.

And over the long-term, the thing that we've seen, and the reason it is ahistorical, you look at folks like Cesar Lombardi (ph) who came to the United States in 1860 from Switzerland, he only spoke Italian. He moved to New Orleans and he was teased because he only spoke Italian.

Twenty years after he arrived in New Orleans, one of the biggest lynchings in American history occurred, 11 Italian immigrants were murdered on the streets of New Orleans. Cesar Lombardi was Tucker Carlson's great, great, great grandfather. And it shows how the history of America has for people for certain parts of the world have been able to just simply incorporate new Americans as Americans. The term for someone who is a second generation immigrant in the United States is American. These are American citizens and what Donald -- or what Tucker Carlson, pardon me, what Tucker Carlson is doing essentially is trying to leverage fear to the extent that he can, while ignoring the country's history.

STELTER: Right. The banner says Carlson's preying on his audiences fears being replaced.

But how to folks break through that fear? What is the -- Amanda, what is the antidote, what is the response to this ongoing white lash?

CARPENTER: Well, it's going to be a long process. I mean, it really has to be combated among the Republican right in many ways. And maybe -- I'm optimistic that maybe we're coming to the end of this because Tucker is very smart. Most people would agree with that.

Fox News realizes that they have a problem. They are losing older voters and they need to cultivate a younger audience and they're doing that by chasing, you know, people that are addicted to Donald Reddit threads and adopting that kind of language, literally lifting the same narrative and talking points and putting it on Fox News.

While that may gain viewers in ratings in the short-term, I think it is a long-term problem politically when it comes to power and you can see that by the results of the 2020 election.

STELTER: Finally, Philip, let's just all recognize the ultimate immigrant success story is Rupert Murdoch, right?

BUMP: Yeah, no, exactly. This is the thing, I mean, over time, over the course of American history, the thing that we've seen repeatedly is that immigrants broadly become assimilated into the American population and the thing that most Americans pride themselves on is the fact that America is the land of opportunity for everyone from around the world.

You know, we still have these weird debates now focused on immigration, on the border with Mexico, which fails to recognize who is arriving at that border which is mostly families with kids that are seeking to escape violence and seeking political asylum.

That's not the narrative we have about immigration and that misnarrative about immigration broadly helps feeding the things like the big lie around the election and Tucker Carlson's language because people aren't aware or simply failed to recognize that this is the story of American immigration over the course of the past 150 years, including for people like Mr. Murdoch.

STELTER: You got it. Philip, Amanda, please stay with me. You're coming up later.

Tonight on CNN, by the way, is the premiere of a four-part series, "The People Versus the Klan", 9:00 p.m. time here on CNN. A look back at a time that is quite timely today.

Coming up, media outlets showing that the COVID vaccines are safe and easy shots, but have you noticed who is not doing their part.

Plus, a new look at the Trump administration in TV exile. We will speak with Matt Gaetz, no, that's Matt Gertz, he is next.



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

There has been so much attention here and elsewhere on the pro-Trump media, but now, what about the post-Trump media? Fox News has certainly been known for its steady stream of Trump campaign administration hires and people going to the Trump White House. But now, now that Trump is down in Mar-a-Lago, the revolving door has been in the other direction.

Fox has picked up, you could see here, nine folks from the Trump family, from the Trump White House, from the Trump campaign. At least nine paid contributors and in some cases Kayleigh McEnany, now a co- host on Fox News.

Matt Gertz has been keeping track of all of this. He's a senior fellow for the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, and he's been making the list of all these hires.

Matt, I'm glad someone is keeping track, because, you know, it's good to know what Fox has chosen to do. These are all choices by the network, right? The network could have chose tone break with the Trump years and move on, treat these folks as persona non-grata but instead, Mike Pompeo is now a Fox News commentator.

MATT GERTZ, SENIOR FELLOW, MEDIA MATTERS: Yeah, I think the timing here is pretty important. If you recall, after the election, Trump got very, very angry with Fox for he believed not doing enough to help him stay in office after losing. And so he was telling his supporters to switch to go to OAN, to go to Newsmax.

And so, I think within Fox's halls they understood they needed to keep Trump supporters on board.


And the best way to do that was to put familiar faces from the Trump administration, from the Trump family on the network. As you say, this is a choice. I mean, you are not hiring Donald Trump's daughter-in-law for her sterling commentary, you're hiring her because you want to hire Donald Trump's daughter-in-law --

STELTER: Yeah, that's right.

GERTZ: -- for what that says about your network.


Matt, here is some good news that might seem unrelated to your job at Media Matters, but I'll try to show you why it's related. COVID vaccinations are hitting another record this weekend, 4.6 million shots recorded on Saturday. That's a half a million above the prior Saturday and, you know, I think it's really important to see all of the TV anchors, personalities showing themselves getting the shot.

We've seen a lot of vaccine selfies from lots of folks at different networks. It's been really inspiring to see. You know, "The Today" show even brought the co-host outside for a live group vaccination this week.

And Rachel Maddow on Friday on MSNBC talked about how she was fearful of the needle, really worried about and yet it was important to get the shot and she did, and there she is talking about it on air.

So I say all of that to make the following point. Where are Tucker and Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham? Where is Ainsley Earhardt and Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade? Where are the biggest stars on Fox getting vaccinated?

I get it's a personal choice. I get that's between, you know, the host and their health care provider. But everybody else is doing it, right, Matt? I mean, all across television, all those anchors are rolling up their sleeves.

Why do you think we hadn't we seen the biggest stars on Fox News get vaccinated or show us their vaccine selfies.

GERTZ: I don't know. And I think that Fox has a really unique responsibility here.


GERTZ: I mean, the network hosts have been telling viewers for decades that they cannot trust any other network. They can't trust CNN. They can't trust the newspapers. The only people who are telling them the truth, they say, are the people at Fox.

And so, during a public health crisis, the network is the only way to reach its viewers with information like that. And they are the ones that the viewers trust. And so when instead of telling their viewers, look, go get the shot, it is in your interest, it is safe, it is incredibly effective, it will get us back to normal, they are raising questions about its effectiveness, raising questions about whether it is dangerous. That does a lot of damage.

Steve Doocy should get vaccinated live on "Fox and Friends."

STELTER: Absolutely.

GERTZ: It would save lives. It would save the lives of his viewers. I don't understand why they won't do that.

STELTER: By the way, it happened in Friday and it is April. Where are they? And, you know, again they're making a personal choice. Fox will give you a little of all of the personalities that have said they've been vaccinated. You know, some of their news anchors and commentators.

But the biggest stars are the ones most trusted by the Fox audience and they're choosing not to spread the word. It's a really curious choice.

Hey, Matt, I almost called you Matt Gaetz by accident early. It is a running meme on Twitter, that people are mixing you up with Matt Gaetz.

What's like to be mixed one that congressman?

GERTZ: It's a little weird. I mean, Matt Gaetz is someone who knows that he could gain power by finding the spotlight, when he finds the spotlight he gets a positive attention from right-wing people and he gets negative attention from left-wing people and some of that kind of spills over on to me from time to time.

I like to have fun with it. You know, it's misplaced aggression, at most. And I like to bring a little bit of humor to twitter which could be kind of a miserable place from time to time. But, you know, I do wish that things would calm down a little bit in my mentions.

STELTER: It reminds me of my friend Elizabeth Holmes, not that Elizabeth Holmes. Sometimes you don't choose your first or last name, you ever really.

Matt Gertz, not Gaetz, thank you very much.

Up next here, who knew the Venmo app could be a reporter's best friend. Hear how reporters are advancing the Matt Gaetz story. Hear how they are uncovering lurid and new details about his behavior.

Investigator whiz Katie Brenner will tell us how, next.




STELTER: Now, for a little Investigative Journalism 101. The coverage of Congressman Matt Gaetz just keeps flooding in from word of an associate expected, to plead guilty, to the House opening an ethics investigation, to report to staff members leaving his office, to The Daily Beast reporting on Gaetz's questionable Venmo transactions.

That's right, some of this is just happening out there in public view. So, let's talk about how investigative journalists are advancing the story. Katie Benner is on the Justice Department beat for "The New York Times." She's been breaking stories about the Gaetz scandal, and Philip Bump and Amanda Carpenter are back with me, as well. Katie, what's the journalism story here?

How have there been so many leaks, so many revelations about this sex trafficking investigation against Gaetz?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: One of the interesting things about this story is that from the moment we reported that the Congressman was under investigation, it's clear that people involved in the investigation, people who've been talking to the FBI were not taking seriously the investigation itself.

They were not locking down their social media accounts. We saw payments that were made over Apple Pay, we saw receipts were made over Venmo, over Cash App, and The Daily Beast had an extraordinary story about that very thing. And so, it was really easy in some ways to track down potential sources.


And then if you look at the investigation itself, it involves characters that all feel incentivized for various reasons to talk to the press. It stands in such stark contrast to the other big political investigations we've seen over the last couple of years, especially the Mueller investigation, where nobody was incentivized to leak, and nobody really did leak. This is a much different, different situation.

STELTER: Are you surprised by how much has been available in public view? I mean, what Gaetz has written in his book and the Venmo transactions the Daily Beast found?

BENNER: Yes, I mean, it's been really shocking. It does feel like if people had thought they were really doing something wrong, they would have paid in cash, they wouldn't have used Venmo, Cash App and Apple Pay. It does feel like if people really understood the gravity of what they were doing, they wouldn't have sent text messages saying, meet me here at this hotel, there will be $1500 in it for you, or whatever, you know, some of the text that we've reviewed.

So, yes, that has been shocking. And also shocking is that people had not locked on their social media accounts, even though we know that the FBI started investigating and started interviewing people in December. When we started working on the story in March, all of those things were in plain sight.

STELTER: Wow. Philip, this is one of the first post-Trump scandals, right, if you think about this situation for Gaetz. And Gaetz is trying to follow the Trump playbook. Here's what he said to his supporters.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I may be a canceled man in some corners. I may even be a wanted man by the deep state. But I hear the millions of Americans who feel forgotten, canceled, ignored, marginalized and targeted.


STELTER: He sounds like a 2024 candidate, not a congressman under investigation who might be in really big trouble. BUMP (via Cisco Webex): Well, he sounds more like a 2022 potential House candidate who needs to hold on to his base, right? I mean, I think the idea that Matt Gaetz has any significant future beyond the House has been pretty significantly tarnished. I mean, he comes from a district where it's like plus 30 Republican, he doesn't really need to worry about that, assuming he isn't, you know, face a significant primary threat.

You know, to the -- to the point you're just speaking about with Katie, it's sort of fascinating to see the echoes between what happened with Matt Gaetz and what happened with the January 6th rioters, right? I mean, there's this sense when you post on social media that you aren't being seen by the outside world, that it is just you speaking to your small community.

But we've seen multiple examples in which really, really sorted or questionable behavior has been unearthed simply because people aren't treating social media as what it is, which is this internationally viewable format for information.

STELTER: And have you noticed, Philip, what's happened on Fox News? This was Gaetz's top channel, he was on all of the time, practically an on-air commentary -- commentator on Fox. He has disappeared from the channel. And so of most mentions of Gaetz. We compared CNN, MSNBC and Fox, and viewers can see what a difference it makes.

BUMP: Yes, I mean, Matt Gaetz for the year prior to this March was averaging 90 minutes about of airtime on Fox News each month. That's essentially a three-minute hit every single day, which is a lot of airtime for someone who isn't actually an employee. But yes, you're right. As soon as the scandal hit, it tapered right off.

STELTER: And Amanda, let's show this for coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. Of course, CNN and MSNBC have been showing the testimony. It was like going to medical school this weekend, and it was very, very important to see and hear. But Fox is barely avoiding -- barely covering the trial. Why do you think they're avoiding it?

CARPENTER (via Cisco Webex): Well, I mean, I think they like to pick their news coverage. And a lot of their bias is displayed in just the stories that they pick, but I just have to push back a little bit on the idea that Matt Gaetz is following the Trump playbook. He's following the playbook that a lot of men who are accused of sexual misconduct follow since Bill Clinton.

It can be Roger Ailes; it can be to an extent Andrew Cuomo. I mean, name the guy, and it goes like this. First, they go out and deny the allegations to the fullest extent, they try to control or fight the investigation, and then they hide behind the wall of women. You saw that Matt Gaetz issuing a statement from the women of his office, parading -- pushing photos of him as -- and his fiancee, and then being hosted at an event for Women for America First.

And so, Fox News is, you know, not covering any of the Matt Gaetz stuff. They're not covering Derek Chauvin, but this idea that, you know, sexual misconduct allegations belong to a particular person or party is just false. It's a bipartisan problem, and they have the men have bipartisan solutions.


STELTER: It is a bipartisan problem. That's -- yes, that's right. Amanda, thank you. Philip, Katie, thank you all for being here. Coming up, Amanda, we're going to talk to the Clarissa Ward about her track to Myanmar, what she learned on the ground. And after the break, did "60 Minutes" give a fair shot to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.



STELTER: "60 Minutes" is one of the most popular news programs in America. So, what it decides to cover matters. It matters a lot. So, do its editorial choices and editing practices. And that's why this segment from last Sunday is under so much scrutiny.

The story questioned Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' vaccine rollout strategy, specifically the deal with grocery chain Publix, suggesting there could have been a link between that partnership and campaign donations. Media critics like Poynter's Tom Jones questioned "60 Minutes," saying the program missed the mark. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple said, the story relied too much on innuendo.

So, for more on this, let me bring in one of the writers who called out "60 Minutes" before practically anybody, Robby Soave is a senior editor for Reason Magazine. And he wrote that the "60 Minute" story was wildly flawed. Robbie, thanks for coming on. I know folks can read about this in detail at But tell us the 30-second version of what "60 Minutes" should have done differently.


ROBBY SOAVE, SENIOR EDITOR, REASON: Sure. Well, very importantly, they allege this kind of serious matter of corruption involving the governor that it was a kind of campaign kickback for Publix, the supermarket chain to be handling vaccine rollout because they donated to DeSantis' campaign. And that's a very serious thing to say. And that's what "60 Minutes" claimed.

But it turns out, they didn't provide any additional evidence of that, anything to substantiate it. And actually, when they talked to DeSantis about it, he gave pretty reasonable explanations for it. He said the decision didn't originate with the governor's office. Florida Dem -- several democratic officials have backed up this assertion have said that the emergency managers office wanted to do it. And it really wasn't DeSantis' thing.

And it makes -- it makes sense. There's 800 Publix locations in Florida. And also, CVS already had was doing some kind of vaccinating, as well. So, it really just didn't hold up. And when DeSantis explained that, they cut it, they didn't use the clips of him actually explaining that. And that was bad practice, as well.

STELTER: I think the concerns about inequality in the vaccine rollout are real and important. Right? This question of, are some people being disenfranchised, not getting access? These are important. But the way that 60 told the story, opened it -- opened the program up to a lot of criticism.

And then, when people like you and CNN's Oliver Darcy started to call this out, what did 60 do? They put out a statement saying we stand by our story. The story speaks for itself. And Robbie, isn't that a mistake in this climate? Just to say, well, just our story speaks for itself. We're not going to defend it. We're not going to explain it. We're not going to respond.

SOAVE: Yes, I mean, they -- no, they should have -- they should have put out a statement apologizing, probably someone should have gotten fired, specifically for the decision not to air the legitimate defense that DeSantis made. It was a really, really misleadingly stitched together.

And you know, this in -- this causes people -- so, trust in the press is -- has just plummeted among Republicans, but also Independents. And it's this kind of thing that feeds into it when the media, you know, on occasion, the mainstream media gets something very wrong, you know, a very -- a very famous and well-respected outlet like CBS, like "60 Minutes."

And then, when they don't -- when they don't reverse course, when they don't make up for it when they get it wrong, I think that causes people to have a lot of -- to lose trust in the mainstream media, part of the story of declining trust in our institutions over the last several years. This is an example of that phenomenon.

STELTER: Is it fair to say that, you know, this instance, which again, CBS is still defending, that they think more is going to come out, then they're more reporting is going to continue to reveal issues here. But is this -- is this a win for DeSantis from a political point of view? Because in a possible run for president 2024, he is now positioning himself against CBS, against the media.

SOAVE: Yes, and right in this case, it's kind of deserved, because it was kind of a -- it was a really bad hit job. So, this, I think, has raised his profile because the attack on him was so weak.


STELTER: Oh, that's interesting. So, these kinds of things can raise the profile. This headline from FiveThirtyEight says, being anti-media is now a part of the GOP identity. Do you think that's fair or an overstatement?

SOAVE: No, I think being anti-media is probably the single thing that unites all conservatives and Republican type people. There are disagreements on policy and other things and who they want to see lead the ticket moving forward or who wants to be the national spokesperson for republicanism and conservatism. But everyone agrees that the media is unfair to the right. And in cases like this story, you see why people come to that conclusion.

STELTER: Robby, thank you very much. Thanks for coming on. We're going to keep seeing this.

SOAVE: My pleasure.

STELTER: 2024 candidates in the GOP calling out the press for various reasons. When we come back, CNN's exclusive access in Myanmar. Clarissa Ward is here to discuss this sensitive story. Don't miss it.



STELTER: Now, for the truth about what it takes to get to the truth in a place like Myanmar. As the death toll rises in the Southeast Asian country, there are hardly any journalists able to operate. Newsrooms have been rated. Reporters have been arrested. Internet connections have been mostly cut off. What we do see is usually from citizen journalists or activists who are able to get video out.

All of this, all these scenes are because the military is in control. The pro-democracy protesters want their country back. That's why it's vital for journalists to supply the world with firsthand accounts of the situation. Vital but incredibly difficult.

CNN's Clarissa Ward, Brenda Swales (PH) and Scott McWhinnie pulled it off this week, under far from perfect conditions. The military allowed the CNN team into the country, escorting them everywhere, controlling their movements. But still, the CNN journalists were able to see and hear the resistance. Brave calls for democracy. And some of those citizens were detained just for speaking to CNN.

This reporting trip was quite controversial in some quarters. So, let's hear the story behind the story now. Clarissa Ward is back in London, and she is joining me. Clarissa, when you arrived there, there started to be news stories about you being there. This is pretty unusual that, you know, you were noticed. Myanmar citizen spread the word about you being there. And some were worried that you were there doing the military's bidding, basically, how did you approach this?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, I think -- listen, it's always a difficult situation when the only way to get into a country is to go through the brutal, oppressive regime that is responsible for the massacres that are happening. So, you have to ask yourself, what are the potential merits, what are their potential pitfalls?

And this is a situation we find ourselves in, Brian, over and over again as journalists, whether it be in Syria, whether it be in North Korea, we're often faced with this very difficult choice. In this case, we felt it was so vital to go into Myanmar, to have the opportunity to directly confront the hunter with their brutality.


Because those local journalists that you mentioned who have been doing extraordinary work, who are braver than I could ever imagine being, the one thing they can't do for their obvious security reasons, is to sit down with the senior leadership of the military and say, how can you call this a cycling accident when you're showing them a video of some man being shot dead in cold blood?

And so that's why we made the determination that it was worth going. And you have to be transparent about the way in which you're going there. And you have to be sure that you hold feet to the fire. What I had never anticipated, Brian, was that the minute word spread among the Myanmar people that we were there, it went viral.

I suddenly was getting thousands and thousands of messages on social media from people saying, Listen, we know you can't see us, but we hope you can hear us. And that was incredibly moving. It was incredibly intense to have that level of scrutiny. But certainly, for me, I think all of the team felt like we have to rise to this occasion, we have to do justice to these people's story, because they're watching closely, and they deserve better.

STELTER: What about the residents who were detained? When they spoke with you, you were walking to these markets, people were coming up to you wanting to speak, and you must have been weighing this risk reward of whether they were going to be in more danger because they were talking to you.

WARD: So, you know, obviously, it's every journalist's worst nightmare, OK, that somebody talks to you and faces a reprisal for doing that. So, we were so cautious. When we were out in this market, we did not approach a single person. We were not even expecting people to approach us.

The first thing we did when people started coming up to us was to say, are you aware of the fact we're here with the military? We're completely surrounded by security forces? And they said, yes, we are, we know, and we're not afraid. And we want to tell our story. And at that point, you have to make a very difficult decision, Brian, because is it my job to deny these people their chance to have their voice heard, they are grown adults, they understand the risks.

And by the way, once they approached us to talk to us, even if we hadn't recorded those conversations, there were probably going to be consequences to pay for it. So, what we felt was the right thing to do was to give them that opportunity, to tell their side of the story. And then, the minute we knew they've been detained, we did not stop lobbying for one minute to get them released.

We sat across from that General, and we said to him, you must release these people. We had him concede on camera that no crime had been committed. And we continue to follow up with them on a daily basis to make sure they're OK. And to make sure they don't face any further reprisals for doing such a simple and small, but incredibly brave thing as saying, we want democracy.

STELTER: And unfortunately, Myanmar is not the only country where we're seeing democracy threatened, where we're seeing repression of these populations. This is happening around the world. So, it would seem to me that what you're describing, this, you know, reporting process is going to have to continue in various places in the same way it has the North Korea in the past and other countries.

WARD: Yes. And I think what's really important to keep in mind, Brian is, you know, this is just one part of the puzzle, right, we went in on the ground, the first journalists be able to fly in since the coup began, but our colleagues at CNN, Paula Hancock, Ivan Watson, they have also been doing extraordinary reporting on Myanmar.

While we were on the ground, they were doing pieces, heavy hitting pieces, incredibly damning to the Myanmar military junta. So, no one was pulling any punches here. And whenever you're covering a conflict, whether it's Syria, you might have me and Arwa Damon, and with the rebels, Fred Pleitgen in with the regime in Damascus. You have to approach it from multiple angles. That's how you go about doing good reporting and giving a fuller picture to a story.

STELTER: And that's what we have to do. Do you hope you'll be able to go back to Myanmar someday?

WARD: I very much hope I'll be able to go back. I have been completely overwhelmed and profoundly humbled by the incredible outpouring from people there who are so grateful to have just one opportunity to have their voices amplified across the world, particularly in the U.S. They want people to be engaged with what's happening.

They want people to care. They want people to really try to put pressure on their governments, to try to do something to resolve this terrible situation. It's unlikely I'm going to be invited back by the military after this last trip. But you can be sure that all of us at CNN will keep reporting this story and keep holding their feet to the fire, Brian.

STELTER: Clarissa, thank you so much. And by the way, for more on the investigative reporting experience, I do highly recommend Clarissa's recent book, "On All Fronts." Quick plug for our podcast edition of Reliable, one week, our topic is global news coverage, next week, it's culture or climate change.

This week, it is about the future of the Jeopardy franchise. And who might be the next host of the game show. My guest is author Claire McNear. Check it out whenever you tune into podcasts, and we will see you right back here for more RELIABLE SOURCES this time next week.