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This Is Why "Foxmania" Matters; Trump Allies Are Trying To Erase The Shame Of The Capitol Riot; Obama And Trump Justice Departments Both Snooped On Reporters; Revelations From Brad Stone's New Book "Amazon Unbound"; Reporters Trying To Stall Alden Deal With "Project Mayhem." Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 09, 2021 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. I'm Brian Stelter live in New York. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES. Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all of the moms tuning in today.

On this program, we examine the story behind the story, to try to figure out what is reliable.

Well, this hour, "The Washington Post" revelation, just how far did Trump appointees go to catch leakers. I'll speak with a reporter who broke that news.

Plus, pro-Trump media outlets trying to stuff the January 6th riot right down the memory hole. But how does memory work exactly? A leading expert will tell us what to remember, coming up.

And later, reporters from two Tribune newspapers are trying to find buyers for their publications. We're going to talk about why, what's going on, in just a few minutes.

Brad Stone is also here for the first interview about his new book about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

But, first, is the USA suffering from a bad case of Foxitis? And is it hurting America's pandemic recovery?

That word, Foxitis, it was coined by a lawyer defending one of the suspects in the pro-Trump riot. It's almost Fox News made me do it. Foxmania the lawyer said.

He said his clients lost his job due to the pandemic and then watched Fox constantly for next six months. Quote, he believed what was being fed to him.

Indeed, many Fox viewers came away with a distinct impression that President Trump was robbed, that the election was rigged. But that is just one of the symptoms of Foxitis.

Other possible symptoms are fear of the unknown, fear of a diversifying America, anger about cancel culture but only when conservatives are affected. Believe that Democrats and news outlets and tech firms are all radical villains.

Perhaps one of the symptoms is even the ability to forget what you've seen with your own eyes.

Fox mania leaves folks prone to conspiracy thinking, hostile to change. Maybe there needs to be a warning label.

I mean, this whole Foxitis has become a punch line now, all over social media, with people saying the COVID vaccine has made them immune to Foxitis. And that right there, the vaccine rollout, that's why Fox mania matters. That's where it matters toast right now.

While the COVID picture is thankfully improving all across the country, public health officials say many more Americans still need to get the shot to keep case counts low and protect everyone. America is clearly hitting the vaccine wall now and polls show that a lot resistance comes from Republicans, those Republicans who view Fox as their trusted source.

Now, I want to be fair and balanced here. Some Fox shows and stars have been responsible. They've been using their platforms for good. They've been sharing their own vaccination experiences.

But Murdoch world's most popular shows have popularized some dark, disturbing, damaging narratives about COVID. First, downplaying the virus last year, minimizing the risk, and now, by sowing confusion.

When I've tuned in lately, I've heard complaints about triple masking, three masks, even though that's not a real thing. I've heard claims that we are well past herd immunity even though most experts say the opposite.

On Fox, I've heard people are being forced to take the vaccine, which is clearly false. And worst of all, I've heard Tucker Carlson repeatedly say that many Americans are dying after getting the shot. And he says it with the implication that the shots are to blame with no evidence at all, he's scaring his audience so recklessly that even some of his own colleagues called him out for it on Twitter.

Carlson acts like he knows some secret truth that's been covered up by some shadowy enterprise. You know, maybe you should be writing some junk movie of the week for Netflix or Tubi. Maybe he should go write horror novels for a living because he's clearly not responsible enough to have a show that purports or pretends to be news.

Just listen to this. Listen to how he talks about life-saving vaccines like they're some sort of government plot to drug us all into submission.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: But no one should ever be forced to take this or any other medicine against their will. And unless they speak up now, unless they resist this, they'll be getting this shot whether they like it or not and a lot more shots after this.


STELTER: And a lot more shots. What is he talking about?

Look, rank-and-file staffers at Fox know that Carlson's anti-vax stuff is irresponsible and embarrassing.


They are embarrassed by it.

There are plenty of people at Fox, including on-air talent, including medical experts who could debunk and correct and educate Tucker Carlson and his audience. That's not what Carlson wants. That's not who he books on his show.

He claims to be pro-vaccine and says that he's just asking questions but he's not seeking the answers. So the rest of us have to. That's -- that's what we have to do, right, when Foxitis is hurting a lot of people.

If we're not going to reach herd immunity in the U.S., we need to reach nerd immunity. Yes, nerd immunity. Enough of us have to be well- informed enough to safely come out of the pandemic coma. Nerd immunity, it's -- I guess it's whatever the opposite of what Foxitis is.

So, here now with their analysis, Susan Glasser, staff writer for "The New Yorker"; Amanda Marcotte, politics writer for; and David Zurawik, "The Baltimore Sun" media critic.

Susan, first to you, happy Mother's Day to you.

You're -- you've been writing this week about the GOP, the civil war and the GOP. Do you think it relates to this Foxitis concept and what's going on with vaccine and COVID as well?

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, thank you so much, Brian. I think, you know, you're right to connect this to the sort of conspiracy theories and essentially the institutionalization of not just one big lie, but multiple big lies.

STELTER: Multiple, yeah.

GLASSER: Exactly. I mean, it seems to me that, you know, when you're talking about COVID and the vaccine rollout, this is one of the things that's going to be remembered by history about this pandemic is the politicization not just of our dysfunctional public space in terms of our elections, but also in terms of even public health.

You know, mask wearing became a defining political issue during the 2020 election campaign, and I think in 2021, we're seeing a vaccine rollout who is distinguishing characteristic might be unfortunately the resistance of one particular political party.

And I'm told by people who are expert in this and who are trying to work on the vaccine rollout, that is the Trump supporters who are the most resistant to, you know, basic factual arguments and information about why the vaccine is safe and necessary for public health.

STELTER: So, with that in mind, David Zurawik, what do people do? What should they do if they catch Foxitis?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Listen, you know, Brian, some folks are joking about it but it really is, when you break it down and you think about this lawyer's case. Now, I'm not saying it is a great case, and lawyers will do anything sometimes, you know? So, it is laughable in one sense.

But in another sense, this man, as he gives the fact, person loses their job which threatens their sense of identity, which makes them very vulnerable to propaganda kind of messages that might make them feel better. And here they get these messages 24/7 on Fox and at that time from the pulpit of -- you know, the big pulpit of the United States government, that you are a -- you are patriot if you oppose this election because of Joe Biden.

That gives him an -- that gives a person an identity and that leads I think, to them marching on to the Capitol in this really awful act. So that's serious. And I think when you get these messages, coming at people telling them that if you wear a mask, you are submissive, those are the same kind of messages that go right at identity, and give Fox viewers an identity. That's really dangerous.

What should people do? Look, I think we should even in the media, we should stick with the most conservative, safest advice. For a long time and I still do but I don't know about others, believe Dr. Fauci, you know, when they say keep wearing a mask, try to do things outside with people.

Look, I don't believe we -- we don't know all of answers to this. Every medical professional I've dealt with in the last year has told we don't know all of the answers, from the doctors I go to. But you try to take the safest course of action to protect yourself and taking off a mask and going to crowded venues, especially indoors, we know that's not safe.

So no matter what Tucker Carlson tells us about its child abuse to make a child wear a mask, or you're being submissive to this big brother government of Joe Biden, if you wear a mask, you have to avoid that. And we in the media have to counter it as I think we're go doing on this show today.

STELTER: And let's get into the shifting coverage of COVID and shifting coverage of restrictions. Amanda, tell me if you've seen what I've seen.


I've seen a dramatic change in the past few weeks in the coverage of COVID, and the questions about the restrictions. Interviewers are calling out overly cautious guidance.

They're not being conservative. Instead they are calling out the really conservative guidance. Why is that and is that an improvement?

AMANDA MARCOTTE, POLITICS WRITER, SALON.COM: I think it is an improvement. I think that what happened under Trump was that it was really obvious there was a lot of political pressure on the CDC to downplay the pandemic. And so the tendency then was to think that the CDC wasn't being cautious enough.

But now, many months under Joe Biden, it's becoming clear with a lot of public health critics speaking out about the CDC being overly cautious in some regards, that the media is feeling a little bit more empowered to ask hard questions about, do we really need to all wear masks inside, do vaccinated people need to really be acting as if they weren't vaccinated. Is it sending a bad message in some cases for vaccinated people to act as if they were weren't vaccinated or is it sending a message that the vaccines don't work?

I'm not saying that I have all of the answers but think it is important to ask these questions because the CDC is a political institution as well as a health institution, and I think sometimes having the discourse could improve the advice they give.

STELTER: I think that's true. I think what the former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb is on CNBC saying it's time to rethink indoor mask mandates, that helps shift the goalpost and get us to somewhere that makes sense, overtime, gradually and with everybody doing what makes them feel safest. We're moving from a -- you know, a collective sense of responsibility to a personal choice.

Susan Glasser, I heard my wife yesterday asking the same question, shout out to the other mothers watching. She said, is it time to unlearn some of the habits we've learned for the past year. We have to unlearn certain behaviors about the pandemic. And that's really hard to do. And it seems the media needs to model behavior in that regard.

GLASSER: You know, Brian, I think -- I'd love to revisit this conversation in September or October of this year, because I suspect that for a lot of people it is not going to be that hard to you know, unlearn certain things. I hugged my friend yesterday for the first time when she came over and I told my son it was like really normal and really great.

And I think a lot of people when offices are reopened, when fears and Broadway is reopening in the fall, schools are back. First of all, they're not happy when traffic jams return to big cities and some of the unpleasant things --


STELTER: I've been in some bad traffic jam this is week and I had forgotten what it felt like.

GLASSER: That is a good forgetting.

STELTER: I guess so. That's true. I guess that's true. David Zurawik, how do you view this? We're talking about the

importance of listening to the Fauci's of the world, of paying attention to the guidance, I think different folks are going to be moving at different speeds and we need to respect each other with this process.

ZURAWIK: Yes, Brian, I agree. I totally agree. But you know, and I want to embrace the upbeat message of more things opening and getting back to normal. But I think psychologically, those images we have seen over the past year of people with COVID dying alone, of wards of hospitals overloaded, those don't go away. They burn your way into your collective unconscious and it is there. You can't just say okay fine, let's have a party.

And, you know, the images from India, the terrible sad images that we've had out of India in the last few weeks, just reinforced that. It makes us -- the stories we told and God bless the journalists who told those stories who went into the wards but those are in our memories and you're not going to just go out and start partying with your -- I'm not going to. Maybe some folks will, but not me.

Those are inside of my head and every time I think about going to meet someone for coffee or anything now, that's there.

STELTER: Amanda, final word to you.

MARCOTTE: Well, I come from a background of being a sexual health reporter and so I think a lot of my way of thinking of this is shaped by the HIV crisis. And what happened there was without that counterpoint message of condoms and other medications can lead you to -- back to a normal life where you could be happy and have fun again, people sometimes became fatalistic and actually ended up taking risks they didn't need to take.

So I think we need to have hope in order to get people to make positive choices that get us out of this pandemic.

STELTER: Just now on screen, we showed "INSIDE POLITICS" back at the table, "Fox and Friends" back on the couch.


I think it's important to be modeling that behavior, model the new normal but also in the case of "Fox and friends," let's give them credit where it's due, they said they've all been vaccinated. And they said that's why they're able to be together without masks in the same room. So they are modeling the behavior but frankly it is the Fox base that we need to catch up to and have people catch up to those norms.

Everybody, thank you. David, Susan, please stick around.

Coming up here, a Bloomberg's editor new reporting about Jeff Bezos and how he managed an out with "The National Enquirer."

But, first, MAGA media working to rewrite history, aiming to forget the Capitol riot. But will that work? I have an unforgettable guest, an expert in narrative psychology and he is next.


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

In the week ahead, Congresswoman Liz Cheney will likely face a vote from her colleagues to oust her from power.


Why? Well, let's let Laura Ingraham of Fox News explain it all in 12 short seconds.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: She just can't quit talking about the Capitol riot, she calls it the insurrection. The Republicans want to move on. But Cheney refuses to. She's a woman obsessed.


STELTER: Republicans do want to move on. They want to erase the shame of the riot. And Cheney has been making it hard harder to do that.

The riot, of course, an attack on the Capitol, an attack on American democracy, recorded and shown live.

And remember what happened after January 6th as we saw more and more videos, we realized it was even worse than it looked live. We are still learning more every week about just how bad it was. As more of the suspects are brought up in court as more of them are arrested.

We are still learning more about the attack and by the way, the bomber is still on the loose. There is a lot of news about the riot every week. But Fox barely mentions it. Newsmax barely mentions it on the air. Look at the difference between CNN and those right-wing channels on the bottom.

So we are going to see Cheney sacrificed to the big lie. It could happen in just a few days.

So, if that's MAGA media's plan, to try to bury the riot down the memory hole, to change the narrative, is it working? Could it work and does it matter?

With me now is Dan McAdams. He's a professor of psychology, education and social policy at northwestern. He's the author of the strange case of Donald J. Trump, a psychological reckoning.

Susan Glasser of "The New Yorker" is also back with me for the conversation.

Professor, is it that -- riot denial is a real thing. I can see people try to deny the riot. But mostly it's about downplaying the riot, saying it was no big deal. It's a bunch of patriots that got out of hand. So, what is that from a psychological perspective? Is it they're trying to change the meaning of the riot, change the story that's told?

DAN P. MCADAMS, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, HUMAN DEVELOPMENT & SOCIAL POLICY, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: Yeah, it's about changing story. You know, memory, it's a work in progress. It is always evolving and changing. It's not like you take a snapshot on January 6 and it stays in your head. But it keeps changing and getting updated.

And I think part of what Fox is doing it trying to encourage us all to sort of change the early -- that episode in our head, change the way it looks and the meaning and then maybe it wasn't so much an insurrection. It was a riot and maybe it wasn't even a riot. Maybe most of the people were peaceful and we should cut them all a break and move on, put it behind us.

STELTER: So, (INAUDIBLE) pro-Trump outlets make people forget the riot. It's more about -- it's more about changing the meaning of it, downplaying the meaning of the riot.

Do you see this happening elsewhere in politics, Dan?

MCADAMS: I think we do it all of the time. I think we're always having an impact on meaning and so forth over time. And in a sense, we're all kind of rewriting history as we move forward. I think both sides of the political spectrum do this.

But the right wing has really kind of latched on to this and gone in really extreme ways I think to sort of really undermine what people saw at -- in the original event. I mean, it's really hard to say that that was a peaceful demonstration. I mean, you see the footage. You see people knock on the windows to get into the Capitol. You see the Confederate flag being, you know, sort of paraded through the Capitol and so on.

It doesn't look like a peaceful demonstration to most people. But then again, maybe, well, we could change how we think about it and say to ourselves, well, they were upset. They felt like they got the election stolen from them. So, you know, that's okay. I mean, you know, they're acting out, but they're doing it for a good reason, perhaps. And then we kind of downplay it and so on, and try to move ahead.

STELTER: That does seem to be what's being attempted in right-wing media.

Susan, there's a debate about whether Sunday shows should book GOP lawmakers who backed the so-called sedition caucus. CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION", Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, they have not booked any of those lawmakers since January 6th. But other big Sunday shows have.

Margaret Sullivan of "The Washington Post" wrote about this issue recently.

What is your read on it? Should sedition caucus members be booked on TV? Should they be interviewed as if everything is back to normal?

GLASSER: Well, I would say, look, you -- it's very important when they are interviewed because regardless of whether I say they should be or not, they are going to be, Brian --

STELTER: They are, yeah.

GLASSER: -- by some news outlets. And to me, it is most important that there be accountability in questioning and the way in which this is presented. I think -- you want to talk about the memory hole, what is amazing to me is that, you know, this is a classic case of it seems to me sort of inversion by Trump and his supporters saying that Liz Cheney, you wouldn't stop talking about it.

But let's ask the question why did 147 Republican members of Congress vote to overturn the election results after -- in the immediate hours after the Capitol riot. It is not just something that they were forgetting about.


If they really wanted to forget about it, you know, they would say, well, we were wrong about the election and we've moved on and we accept Joe Biden as the president. And so, you know, in a way it is a fascinating example of think Trump's propaganda skills.

He and his followers have been very good at turning the story around, right? You know, Donald Trump took the term fake news, which was applied to him and the enormous number of lies and untruths that he said on campaign trail in 2016, he turned that around into his own slogan. And he's doing the same thing with the big lie right now. And so --

STELTER: Yes, he is.

GLASSER: -- so I think to have accountable when people are interviewed.

You know, many PACs said they wouldn't money to these people. Now, they are quietly resuming it. That's not getting as much attention. I think that's something that journalists should call out and point out as well.

STELTER: Dan, also this makes the case for an independent 1/6 Commission, which Cheney talked about in her piece at "The Washington Post" this week, having a commission, having a fact finding expedition helps to keep memories -- help to keep memories alive. Is that fair to say?

MCADAMS: Yeah, I think it does. You know, it's an interesting thing with memory. If you push a particular point of view and nobody kind of like reinforces it, they kind of ignore it and so forth, you'll start to forget it, right? I mean, they don't even have to attack it. They could just say, yeah, yeah, fine, fine, you could keep thinking that.

And, I mean, this even happens with people's personal memories. If you tell something again and again and people say, you know, I don't get that or they kind of ignore you, it goes away. So, there's -- there is a real danger here that the meaning of that event in terms of the insurrection and so forth could get lost without some kind of sort of independent assessment of it that kind of burnishes it as a moment in history that we cannot forget.

STELTER: Dan and Susan, thank you both for being here and highlighting this.

Speaking of the Capitol riot, that's the beginning of the new paperback edition of my book "Hoax". It comes out in paperback June 8, and you could order it online right now at

But up next, "The Washington Post" is calling this deeply troubling. Trump's DOJ snooping on reporters who were covering the Russia probe. Details, next.




STELTER: Now, here's an interesting question, how much is still unknown about the Trump administration's use or abuse of the levers of power? How much is still hidden underneath the water, underneath the surface like an iceberg, where you only see the top?

Take "The Washington Post's" revelation this week, that Trump's Department of Justice secretly obtained the phone records of three Post's journalists who are reporting on Russia's role in the 2016 election. The Biden-era DOJ informed the Post about this, but also defended the practice and we're going to get into that. This news was so significant that even the Post's rival, the New York Times also put it on the front page the next day.

With me now is the reporter who wrote the story. Devlin Barrett. He covers the FBI and the DOJ for The Washington Post. And he's the author of "October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election." Devlin, thanks for coming on.

Three of your colleagues were snooped on by Trump's DOJ. You reported this happened last year, sometime in 2020. What is the significance of -- because it is a legal process, right, to obtain a subpoena and get phone records? So, what did the DOJ tell you about why this happened?

DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the Justice Department says this is a rare but sometimes, in their mind, necessary legal move to take the phone records of reporters, in this case, three of our national security reporters: Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Adam Entous, take their phone records and see if they can use those records to find some of their sources. And obviously, that's very, very worrying and troublesome.

STELTER: Does it strike you that it's the Biden DOJ defending what the Trump DOJ did? And before it was the Trump administration, the Obama DOJ was engaging in this kind of subpoenaing a reporter phone records. In other words, whether it's Democrat or Republican, when you're in power, you use that power?

BARRETT: Right. I mean, one of the things that I think is difficult sometimes for people to wrap their heads around is like, well, it is true that the Trump administration did decided to do this in 2020, this is a thing that happens regardless of who is in power. And it happens -- you know, it's rare, it happens, you know, almost one case a year, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more, but it does happen. And the practices is obviously as big a concern as any particular case.

STELTER: Does this -- does this count as, you know, one of the stains on Bill Barr's legacy? Because there was also news this week about a secret Bill Barr memo saying not to charge Trump. A federal judge said that memo needs to come out. So, in other words, we keep learning more about the Trump years. And I wonder how you juggle that with your coverage of the Biden DOJ.

BARRETT: So, it is true that a lot of the time -- what we are seeing at the Justice Department right now is, you know, sort of the aftereffects, or if you want to call it, the cleanup, of things that were done in the Trump administration at the Justice Department. I think within the Trump-era, that's particularly newsfield because they -- the Justice Department was such a -- at times, chaotic and divisive environment, where so many intense decisions and controversial decisions were made.

But this does happen from administration to administration. You see that in multiple turnovers, but I think this one is particularly intense because of the type of Justice Department that Donald Trump had.


And is it possible that other news outlets, other reporters were snooped on by Trump's DOJ and we just don't know yet. And the Washington Post happened to be notified this week. But what about others?

BARRETT: I think it's certainly possible. I also think to your earlier point, there is a culture of leak hunting that has just been growing and growing inside the government for a long period of time. And this is the latest example of that.

And obviously, there are some Trump-specific things to this example. But this broader institutional push, this desire for control has existed within the Department of Justice for a while now, and it's been growing.

STELTER: "Washington Post" reporter Devlin Barrett, thank you for being here. For the latest on all of this, by the way, sign up for our nightly Reliable Sources Newsletter. You can sign up for free at Coming up, news about the Washington Post's owner, one of the most powerful men in the world, Jeff Bezos owns the post. He's now searching for a new editor. We have new reporting coming up.


STELTER: He runs Amazon, he launches rockets, he owns a newspaper, and he is the world's richest man. Jeff Bezos is the subject of daily headlines about everything from his net worth to his plans for space, but he deserves a deeper dive. And that's what Bezos biographer, Brad Stone is coming out with on Tuesday.

The new book is called "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire." And there's a lot in here with Stone filling in details about Bezos versus the National Enquirer. Remember that? There's also news about Bezos's face offs with Donald Trump, and how "The Washington Post" factored in.

Brad is normally the senior executive editor of global technology for Bloomberg News. And he's with me now. Brad, great to see you. I've been thinking about this, you know, how do you cover the world's richest, most powerful people? How do you pierce the Bezos bubble to learn more about him?

BRAD STONE, AUTHOR, "AMAZON UNBOUND": Right, well, it's not easy, Brian, as you know, that is a secretive company, and he's a secretive person. I have some history. I wrote another book about the early years of Amazon called :"The Everything Store" in 2013.

But what happened over the past few years is the company totally changed, right? 30,000 employees to over a million, $100 billion market cap to 1.6 trillion and products like Alexa and Prime Video and all the rest. And of course, Bezos has ownership of the Washington Post and its tangles with Trump.

And so, I knew I needed to do a sequel and I simply approached them. I mean, the answer is kind of just doggedness. And, you know, fortunately, there's a lot of turnover in Amazon. And there's a vast population of employees who are kind of willing to talk and describe what they saw at the revolution.

STELTER: That's interesting, right? So, you look for former people. Does Bezos ever talk to reporters directly?

STONE: It's been in infrequent recently. He's really only done a handful of public appearances, usually with a kind of friendly questioner, and nothing recently, you know, and of course, he's retiring as CEO of Amazon later this year, but he's got a lot of channels to go directly to his customers and to his, you know, fans. Recently, he wrote that remarkable last investor shareholder last month, which kind of describes his legacy. So, no, he hasn't done anything recently.

STELTER: In your book, this wild e-mail that you obtained between Bezos and Jay Carney, his spokesman, it talks -- it's from 2015, talking about Trump criticizing Bezos, and Bezos writes to his spokesman. Let's get into it. Let's come up with a response.

You know, it's a useful opportunity to do my part to deflate this guy who would be a scary president. So, you have Bezos there concerned about Trump during the campaign in 2016. Obviously, he then tangled with the Trump when Trump was in office, how did the Washington Post and Bezos's ownership of the Post factor into that? STONE: Yes, that was really interesting. And it's really a thread running through the new book. You know, I think that Jeff probably got more than he bargained for when he acquired the Post in 2013. And in 2015, when he sent that e-mail to Jay Carney, you know, yes, he wanted to stop Donald Trump, I think he sort of felt left out a little bit by Trump's critique of other sort of wealthy media figures.

And he kind of gets into it with Trump. And then, the next four years, he's kind of subject to this blistering attack on Amazon's relationship with the Post Office. And its pursuit of a Pentagon contracts. So, you know, interestingly, and this is, again, a theme in the book, his ownership of the Post did end up hurting Amazon some really interesting ways.

STELTER: And now, Bezos is looking for a new editor of The Washington Post. Marty Baron retired a couple of months ago. What do you know about how involved Bezos is or is not in the search for a new boss?

STONE: Right. Well, this is a process that publisher Fred Ryan has been running. But last week, I understand that Bezos was in Washington and interviewing some of the finalists for that role of executive editor. I mean, we have to admit, the turnaround of the Post has really been remarkable.

I mean, this was a newspaper and kind of melancholic decline seven years ago, and now, you know, 3 million digital subscribers, 3X where it was a couple years ago. You know, part of it was the good fortune of being a D.C. newspaper in the age of Trump.

And certainly, Jeff and the new editor of the -- of the Post will have some challenges post-Trump and with a very active guild. We know that Jeff really doesn't care for (INAUDIBLE) so that will be interesting. But you know, the job he has done to the Washington Post has been remarkable.

STELTER: Brad, we're just scratching the surface of all Bezos's world because Amazon affects all of us. What should everyone think about when they -- when they're ordering the one-click, when they're getting the next-day package? What do we remember about Amazon's role in our lives?

STONE: Well, this is really why I wanted to write this book. I mean, I want people to kind of understand the tradeoffs. Look, I'm an Amazon customer. I'm a -- I'm a Prime Member. I'm an Alexa owner. I generally do think that the impact of the company has been positive, but you know, its relationship with its workers and its fulfillment centers, its evasion of taxes, the impact that it is having in our communities.


I mean, you look outside and Amazon vans and trucks are crawling our roads. So, I think just having a better understanding of what this company does, how it operates, and its impact on competition, particularly the kind of smaller mom and pop shops in our community is going to be really important.

STELTER: Definitely. Brad, thank you so much for being here. The book is "Amazon Unbound."

Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES with a deadline looming, local reporters are taking desperate measures to stave off hedge fund ownership. We're going to speak with two of them right after the break.



STELTER: Please buy this newspaper, meaning the whole thing, the whole operation. Those are some of the desperate please be initiated by reporters at the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune. Those are two of the papers owned by Tribune Publishing.

Right now, Tribune is set to be sold to Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that is widely feared by reporters in the papers because of its cost-cutting tendencies. So, we're talking about papers from the Hartford Current down to the Orlando Sentinel, and many in between all that could be affected by the sale later in the month.

Reporters have organized against Alden. They call it Project Mayhem, trying to find local owners for these beloved newspapers. We all know that local communities benefit from having strong newspapers. But will anyone step up to buy? Let me bring in Liz Bowie, she's the Project Mayhem, Co-founder.

Normally, she's the Education Reporter at the Baltimore Sun and Larry McShane is here, he's a New York Daily News Reporter who wrote a column titled, "Please Buy This Newspaper" just the other day. Larry, did anybody reply? Did anybody reach out? Will there'll be a local owner of The New York Daily News?

LARRY MCSHANE, REPORTER, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: We heard right away from one, I can't use any names, but one wealthy New Yorker who expressed an interest immediately. We heard from some political folks, so there was a bit of an instant reaction. Yes.

STELTER: There has been an effort in Baltimore, as well, Liz, as you well know, to take the Baltimore Sun make it a nonprofit. But it seems right now the hedge fund is winning, and the local owners are losing. What can you tell us about the status of Project Mayhem?

LIZ BOWIE, EDUCATION REPORTER, BALTIMORE SUN: The reporters throughout Tribune Publishing company have for the last six months been working to find local owners in each of the cities where Tribune has a newspaper. And we have been very successful, we now have people who've stepped up in almost every city except Chicago.

And now, we're looking for someone in Chicago to partner with Stuart Bainum, who's a Maryland businessman, who's willing to buy the entire company if, if he can find somebody who wants the Chicago Tribune.

STELTER: So, is that still active right now? Is there a chance Alden will lose? BOWIE: I think there is a chance that Alden will lose. I'm betting on Stuart Bainum. I think that there are lots of efforts going on right now. And I think that Stuart Bainum has really kind of flipped the switch on local news; he's get -- he's really focused attention around the nation on the need to save local news. And I, there's been twists and turns in this saga every bit of the way. And so, I'm not going to predict what might happen.

STELTER: We've been trying to book these guys like Bainum and Alden, we will definitely want to keep trying. Larry, what about the, the, the, you know, what's the reason why viewers should care whether they're in New York or not about the state of these papers? What's your sales pitch, so to speak to a local owner?

MCSHANE: Well, I think the sales pitches, you know, the newspapers, I mean, all media, hold politicians accountable, investigate and report on things you might not otherwise hear, you know. Local news is inherently local. And if we don't provide it, where are you going to get it?

STELTER: It is that simple. It is, and yet, you know, you would think that there'll be lots of interest from local buyers, and there hasn't been is that just because structurally, these businesses are in decline? Printing. The actual printing of the paper, is, is in decline. And so, it's been hard to get the billionaire class to step up, you think?

MCSHANE: Well, I think it's complicated to buy the idea that all the newspapers are being sold as a package, you know, you have to buy the whole thing. And as Liz referred to, you know, we're trying to find local owners for all of them. So, that's kind of where we're at, at this point, you know, we're less than two weeks out and I'm trying to stay optimistic.

STELTER: Liz, last word to you.

BOWIE: I think that we, we have owners who are willing to buy each of the papers as long as Stuart Bainum is successful in buying the entire company. He wants to turn the Baltimore Sun into a nonprofit, and plow the, the money that we earn now the profits back into the news operation, which would make it a much better paper.

And I think we really need just one person in the country to step up and say, with, with and join with Stuart Bainum and say, yes, this is important, valuable commodity for our cities. Really, when, when, when our papers go away, we lose, we -- there's really good research that shows that taxes go up and voter, voter turnout goes down and you're more likely to have that's watched her blog journalism that uncovers corruption. So, there are lots of reasons why our communities need it.


STELTER: Absolutely. And in the meantime, we can all subscribe and help out in that small way. Liz and Larry, thank you both. More RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.


STELTER: Before we end this hour. Two programming plugs for you. This week's RELIABLE SOURCES podcast features the Mumbai based journalist Rana Ayyub, we talk about the perilous state of the pandemic in India and how it's being covered there.


Later tonight here on CNN, the second episode of "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT," all about the Johnny Carson age. Some incredible stories tonight on "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT" 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Donna, my mother-in-law, Helen, my wife Jaime, who amazes me every day. And I promise, I'm on the way home right now to go take care of the kids.