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Declaring Independence From The Virus?; Is Tucker Carlson The New Alex Jones?; Examining Biden's Relationship With The W.H. Press Corps; U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan Nears Completion; Running Out Of Words To Describe The Climate Crisis; Will Bill Cosby Speak, And Would Anyone Listen? Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 04, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

This hour, we are going live to Kabul for Anna Coren's reporter's notebook as America's longest war draws to a close.

Plus, here's a question: can you spot the difference between these two men? Is Tucker Carlson the new Alex Jones? We're going to get into that.

And later, what needs to change in the coverage of climate change.

David Wallace-Wells, Emily Atkin, David Sanger, Jennifer Epstein all coming up.

But, first, declaring independence from the virus. And, actually, that should probably more of a question than a statement.

The Drudge Report is marking this Independence Day with a banner celebrating the red, white and boom, noting that travel is surpassing pre-COVID levels. It's a roaring come back, declares today's "Kansas City Star", celebrating the return of the city's air show.

A roaring comeback, the best kind of story to tell. But you know what I'm going to say next, right? Other headlines from the region reflect the pandemic's continued grip, specifically its grip on Americans who are not vaccinated.

On this holiday weekend, it's true, many communities are able to declare independence from COVID-19, but others still are not.

Only 20 states have reached President Biden's July 4th goal of having 70 percent of Americans vaccinated with at least one dose. And let's be frank, they're mostly blue states. Two Americas is once again in full effect.

And brand new "Washington Post"/ABC polling shows a huge divide that exists between political parties. Quote, 86 percent of Democrats have received at least one shot of the vaccine, compared to only 45 percent of Americans. A 40-point spread.

Of course, the government is still trying to persuade unvaccinated people. Apparently, their new efforts are going to kick off this week. But it's not too soon to ask, what went wrong? What's to blame for these disparities?

I mean, the answer is there are dozens of reasons. But let's hone in on five that have to do with media habits, news consumption and filter bubbles. I count five F's that contribute to vaccine rejections -- Facebook, Fox, falsehoods, faith, and fear.

Now, the Fox part is obvious, right? Some of the network's biggest stars downplayed the virus and then stoked distrust of the vaccines. But it didn't have to be this way. Numerous studies have shown that fear is a more powerful motivator of conservatives than of liberals. Now, the headline in the corner there says fear and anxiety drive conservative's political attitudes.

So, you might think that fear of the virus would have motivated red state strongholds, but it's the opposite. In the words of the UC research paper, the distrust of science and public health officials, as well as distrust of modern liberal media sources actually countermanded responses that reflected people's underlying personality traits. So, what that means countermanded, it means folks undid their usual positions. They shook off their instincts in response to the virus and all of the polarization.

The UC findings also suggest that quote that, Republicans would have been substantially more careful had their media environment encouraged them to do so, plausibly saving many thousands of lives and preventing scores of long-term health problems related to COVID infection. The media clearly had a role here, positive as well as negative.

And Fox and MAGA media aren't alone in this. There is also Facebook, with the D.C. attorney general now probing the company for its handling COVID-19 misinformation on the site. Some of the blame is obvious. In other cases, it may take a long time to see the reason for these vaccine disparities.

But in this two Americas dynamic, these competing realms of information about COVID, we see some communities able to recover so much more quickly as a result. This is one of those cases where the impact of media diet is not theoretical, it's not something taught in the classroom. It is practical and affecting all of us in our daily lives.

So, let's talk more about that now with three excellent guests beginning with Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst, professor of medicine and surgery at GWU. Oliver Darcy is also here, CNN senior media reporter. And Sara Fischer, media reporter for "Axios".

First to you, Doctor, and let's start with the good news on this Independence Day. The overall picture of this pandemic has never looked better in the United States.



REINER: This is -- this is really one of the greatest American success stories.


Think about it: in January, in the darkest days of this pandemic, you know, we were having -- we were seeing about a quarter of a million new cases per day, 250,000 new cases per day. We're -- we've dropped that 90 percent. Same thing for deaths. Deaths are down over 90 percent.

We've given over 300 million vaccines. A vaccine created in astonishing record time, and vaccines that work much better than we ever could have hoped.

So, this is really a day for independence. For folks in the United States who are vaccinated, this is really a holiday that celebrates our independence from the fear and the death and the hardships that so many people in this country have faced. It's a story of heroes and a lot of good news.

STELTER: And the media is not always great at emphasizing the great news. So that's why I wanted to start from, with the positive.


STELTER: But how could it have been more positive, Doctor? What -- what could have happened differently in the last 16 months to prevent so much of this death and disease?

REINER: Well, as you said, we developed a red/blue divide now in this country. So if you look at the top 20 states for percent of adults that have been vaccinated, they all voted for Joe Biden. And if you look at the bottom 20 states, they all voted for Donald Trump.

So -- and we have -- we've developed a sort of dishonesty amongst a lot of political leaders representing some of these vaccine-hesitant states. Over 100 members of Congress have refused to disclose whether they had been vaccinated. And we're seeing a repeat --

STELTER: Stunning.

REINER: Yeah. We've seen a repeated disinformation campaign particularly coming out of Fox News. And it's -- it's a campaign that really targets the most vulnerable.

As you said in the open, only about 50 or so percent of Republicans have been vaccinated. Only 54 percent of people who live in rural areas have been vaccinated. Only 58 percent of evangelical voters have been vaccinated.

And this is the audience that Fox News delivers their vaccine denial message to almost on a nightly basis. STELTER: And, of course, they say some shows have been really

responsible. But Tucker Carlson, the biggest star of all, he's the one pushing the most --


STELTER: -- kind of vaccine skepticism stuff that's just totally baseless. And he's not booking expert doctors to talk about it. He's booking his friends.

All right. That's Fox. What about Facebook, Sarah? You cover the big tech every day for "Axios"." How much responsibility is Facebook have here?

Because a couple of days ago, Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, said to Kara Swisher of "The New York Times", Facebook has been a driving force of misinformation. Whenever they talk to folks who haven't been vaccinated, they bring up lies that were spread on Facebook.

So, how much -- how much responsible does Facebook have in this conversation?

SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: They have a lot of responsibility in this conversation, Brian, but not all of it. Facebook is part of a broader media diet that impacts the way that people trust vaccines and the vaccination process.

And so, they might say, look, we're removing -- I think they said 18 million posts related to COVID-19. They said they've connected people to I think 2 billion resources. But it doesn't matter if they're still going to be misinformation on the platforms.

And so, the answer here is Facebook is partially to blame. But to your point at the top of the show, there are other factors combined with Facebook really drive vaccine hesitancy. Whether that's Fox News, whether that's trust in the institutions, et cetera. So, you can't let them off the hook, but they're not totally to blame here, Brian.

STELTER: Right, and these things, they amplify each other. So if you see something on Facebook, then you hear Tucker express skepticism, it back -- it goes back and forth. I mean, Oliver, that's really the definition of an echo chamber.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Exactly, Brian. And I do think a lot of this does flow down from Fox. So, if you have a Fox host setting the agenda and saying, you know, let's say the network can really enthusiastically backed the vaccines, I think a lot of those right wing blogs and those -- the Fox News ecosystem would have probably have done the same thing perhaps online, on Facebook, or at least they wouldn't have gone so far in the vaccine rejection coverage mode.

But because you have the people like Tucker Carlson who really set the agenda on the right who are getting so hard into anti-vaccine coverage, it really incentivizes these other smaller outlets which have big reach on Facebook and social media --


DARCY: -- platforms to -- you know, go that direction as well.

STELTER: Right, that's interesting.

I want to bounce back and forth from negative to positive, though. Back to positive, because you wrote in RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter this week, Oliver, that you feel like sometimes the positive gets the short shrift, that there's a lot of alarmism perhaps about the delta variant and not enough of a big picture sense of what's actually going on. Tell us the argument and what you learned from doctors.

DARCY: Yeah, I think, obviously, the delta variant is a serious story and deserves some serious coverage. But it's not the only story, and I think the hyper-focusing on this delta variant, the media often misses the big picture, the forest for the trees.

The big story is, as you showed earlier, look at that graph. That graph that shows new COVID infections in the U.S., it has plummeted in the last six months.


Deaths have plummeted.

There were -- those several days, you know, in the last few weeks where there have been no deaths reported in major cities like New York. So there is a very positive story to tell, but I think if you were to just watch cable news, you might think, oh, my goodness, the delta variant causing this surge in the U.S. and things are looking not so good.


STELTER: But let's go to the expert.

DARCY: They're not looking pretty good.

STELTER: Dr. Reiner, do you agree with Oliver?

REINER: Oh, yeah, absolutely. There are so many wonderful stories to tell.

Look, I want to hear from the nurses who ran into hospitals filled with people, not knowing whether they were going to bring virus home. I want to talk to the people who vaccinated almost a third of a billion people in this country in only -- in only six months. I want to talk to the scientists and the clinical trial participants who made, you know, this really life-changing, life-affirming vaccine available.

There are so many good stories to tell. People really stepped up, and many people in this country really pulled together, you know, to make this happen. And that's really a great story. Delta is a threat, but it's primarily a threat to the folks in this

country who have not been vaccinated. And largely, with the exception of children under 12 where the vaccine is not yet available, those are people who are making a very affirmative choice not to get vaccinated. But the big story over the last six months is really a revolutionary medical success.

STELTER: Absolutely, and that's the chart Oliver was talking about, about the average of new cases.

By the way, everybody, Wednesday morning, huge parade in New York City, the Heroes Parade. That is going to be another moment where we can all recognize the success story that you were talking about, Dr. Reiner.

Thank you, Doctor. Oliver, Sara, please stay with me.

Coming up, the surprise news about Bill Cosby this week and now, a new question for television networks.

Plus, this is not a game, but it is "I Spy". What exactly is Tucker Carlson spying about?



STELTER: Here we are. We are back. I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

"Choose your own reality" culture is pervading every corner of American life. Choose your own reality. If you want to believe that the pro-Trump riots January 6 were instigated by the feds, you can choose a show that claims that is true. You can choose a TV star who claims that is real.

If you want to believe the NSA is reading your favorite TV star's e- mails, go right ahead. He claims it's true. The NSA denies it, for course, but for Tucker Carlson's fans, that's just further proof of the plot.

Carlson is a conspiracy-monger, but he's far from the first. As my colleague Oliver Darcy pointed out this week, Carlson is sounding more and more like Info Wars host and notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. You can hear the similarities.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The NSA has been reading our emails.

ALEX JONES, INFOWARS: It's not that I think the government spies on me, it's been admitted that they do.

CARLSON: It is a lie to say there are no risks. There are a risk in everything, including in getting a vaccine.

JONES: Everybody has got family that got killed or sick from a vaccine.

CARLSON: So FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on January 6, according to government documents.

JONES: It is overwhelming the evidence that criminal elements the federal government provocateured and staged January 6.


STELTER: All right. Oliver Darcy is back with me.

I think the sound speaks for itself. Is it a stretch to say that Tucker Carlson is the new Alex Jones?

DARCY: It's not a stretch, Brian. Tucker Carlson is the new Alex Jones. If you watch Tucker Carlson's program, and you watch Alex Jones' program, they might deliver a little bit in antics, and the way they deliver their message. But that message to viewers is consistent, and it's pretty identical.

Whether it's talking about vaccine conspiracy theories, false flag conspiracy theories, deep state conspiracy theories, the messages that Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones are sending are the same. They seem to see eye to eye on the biggest issues that they talk about every single night.

STELTER: Do we know anything about their relationship whether they have one? Because let me play two back to back sound bytes. One is of Tucker sympathizing with Jones. But the other one has Alex Jones basically saying, hey, I'm going to let Tucker present this January 6 conspiracy theory first. I'm going to let Tucker present the inside job theory because he's going to do a great job with it.

When I heard that I thought are these two guys in cahoots? Are they friends? Do they communicate?

Let's listen to these two sound bytes and then we'll talk about it.


JONES: I made a decision not get into this until it broke on Tucker, because I thought he'd do a better job than I did. He did, he did a great job in 15 minutes.

CARLSON: Why do we laugh at Alex Jones? Again, sincere question.


STELTER: Are they bros? What do we know about the relationship?

DARCY: It does sound like they're talking to each other, right, Brian?

Look, you don't have to take it from us. Just listen to that clip you played of Tucker Carlson. He's basically saying that he doesn't think that Tucker -- or that Alex Jones's views are out there. That they're crazy. Evidently, he thinks that they are legitimate and should be debated,

and he's bringing them up on this own show. And, Brian, this matters because far right conspiracy theorists, they used to be confined to the Info Wars section on the Internet. You have -- you used to have to seek them out.

I'm not that old, but I remember when the Republican Party and Fox News mocked Alex Jones and said, that guy is crazy, we're not going to touch that sort of stuff.


But now, Fox's face is effectively Alex Jones. The de facto leader of the Republican Party is touting the same stuff that Jones touts on his show.

STELTER: And Fox remained silent about what if -- what would be, if true, abuse of power. If the NSA is actually reading Tucker's e-mails, then that's really disturbing.

DARCY: Yeah.

STELTER: But for some reason, Fox hasn't condemned the NSA. They haven't demanded an investigation. They haven't called for congressional inquiry. Like Fox hasn't said anything. It's like they don't believe him.

DARCY: Right.

STELTER: All right. Let me bring in Sara Fischer of "Axios" back into the conversation.

Sara, Carlson's ratings remained very high, but he's down compared to last year, last every cable news show is down compared to last year. You wrote this week about a quote/unquote, boring news cycle dealing a blow to partisan media. What stands to you from the data that you found for "Axios"?

FISCHER: Yeah, Brian. Usually when a new administration takes over, the opposition media, so that media that represents the other ideology explodes because they have so much they want to say to sort of take down the new administration.

That's not happening this time. This time around the opposition media, which is sort of the far right media, is seeing some declines in engagement. Now, year after year, some outlets are still doing okay, meaning they're bigger now than they were last year. But they're far, far smaller than they were when President Biden first took office, which suggest they don't have a lot to grab onto at this point.

Now, one thing I want to point out is that you're also seeing declines on the left. Far left media is also not getting as much engagement.

STELTER: Interesting.

FISCHER: It could suggest that partisan media does not have a big audience right now.

STELTER: Interesting.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps having these Saturday events, or speeches or rallies. Newsmax and OAN carried them live. Fox is not. In some cases, Oliver, Newsmax is getting a big ratings bump. Not huge, it's not like, it's not five, ten million people, but there is kind of a base audience for Trump's events and Fox is not airing them, which is notable.

Here's a clip from Trump's rally that last night that to me it's like the moment where the magician reveals how he does his tricks. He reveals how he pulls the rabbit out of his hat. This is what Trump said at the rally.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said today, I heard, there's a word disinformation. It's called dis -- if you say it enough and keep saying it, just keep saying it, they'll start to believe you. We can't let that happen.


STELTER: Wait, Oliver, did he just give up the whole game?

DARCY: Yeah, that's exactly what Trump obviously does. He repeats and repeats falsehoods and eventually, it's difficult for the media to fact check him, because, you now, you fact check him once when he first makes a claim again and again and again, but it becomes difficult when you repeat disinformation so many times to fact check, and it just becomes this state of fact in this alternate universe that Trump leads.

STELTER: Back to real news now. "Politico" has a story with 22 anonymous sources about Kamala Harris, about dysfunction inside the vice president's office. Of course, there was pushback from the White House.

But 22 anonymous sources, Sara, this reminded me of the Trump years when we had all those stories, almost every week about chaos in the Trump White House with 20 or 30 or 40 sources. But I think it's important to note, those stories are still being reported out when reporters find evidence of dysfunction.

FISCHER: Absolutely. I think folks on the right would argue there is some disparity between how reporters cover the Biden administration and how they covered the Trump administration. In reality, reporters, especially those at CNN, Kaitlan Collins is a great example of this, have been really adamant about pressing the Biden administration with tough questions when they haven't been as transparent with the press.

The same thing is happening when you see that "Politico" story. They are putting pressure on this administration, in this case, Vice President Kamala Harris' office to be more transparent about what's going on. Is there chaos? Is there not? And so, it kind of pours cold water from the argument on the right

that the mainstream media isn't covering this administration with as much rigor as they did the Trump administration.

STELTER: Yeah, and then Jen Psaki was at the podium saying she doesn't like to comment on anonymously sourced reports. But, Sara, let's both be honest, on both of our beats, people demand anonymity. This is a constant daily issue, whether at media or politics or business, anonymity is incredibly common, unfortunately.

FISCHER: Yes, it is, but I will say this: there is a numbers game here, Brian. I mean, you're not going to go out with one anonymous source. But if you have 22 sources that were coming to you, even if anonymously, that carries a lot more weight than maybe just one or two. Now, obviously --

STELTER: Right, right.

FISCHER: -- you want to strive to get people on the record, but "Politico" is a reputable outlet, and so, if they say 22 people have to come to them, not putting their name forward, I mean, to me, that holds enough water to potentially think that's true.


Oliver, Sara, thank you both. Coming back later in the hour, right?

Up next, did the American media leave up to its responsibility to chronicle the Afghan war? And now, the story is front page news with U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan. We're going to go live to Kabul to CNN's Anna Coren with her reporter's notebook after the break.



STELTER: History is truly in the making in Afghanistan this summer with the U.S. unwinding its presence, bringing an end to the so-called longest war. Let's look at how the press is covering the end of this war and what's to come in Afghanistan.

We're going to take you to two places where the story is playing out.

CNN's Anna Coren will join us live from Kabul in just a minute.

But, first, we turn to D.C. where President Biden bristled at questions about withdrawal on Friday. He bristled and then honestly he snapped.


REPORTER: Sir, as a follow on that -- follow on Afghanistan --

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to talk about happy things. man.

REPORTER: Sir, on Afghanistan --

BIDEN: I'm not going to answer any more questions on Afghanistan.

Look, it's the Fourth of July.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm concerned that you guys are asking me questions that I'll answer next week when I miss the holiday weekend.


STELTER: Of course, questions about Afghanistan are fair game. And it's not a good look for any president to bristle when being asked. But did he have legitimate reasons? Is he going to hold a press conference about the Afghanistan withdrawal?

With me now are two of the reporters that Biden was speaking with, David Sanger, CNN contributor and White House and national security correspondent for The New York Times. And Jennifer Epstein, White House reporter for Bloomberg News. Great to have you both here. David, you were on the receiving end of Biden's annoyance perhaps. What did you make of it? How big a deal was it?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via WebEx): I didn't think it was that big a deal. He did, in fact, answer four questions on Afghanistan. But look, Brian, a couple of things to note here. First, I've covered five presidents, every one of them has a message of the day.

His was recovery from Coronavirus and the jobs report, and here we were asking him about Afghanistan. I can understand why he didn't want to answer those questions. On the other hand, my job is not to go follow the message of the day. It's to ask what needs to be asked. And that morning, we -- the United States have left Bodrum Air Force Base, a place that had been the center of the war for 20 years.


SANGER: I think his central problem, Brian, is this, he's got two different messages, one to Americans that we're getting out, and one to the Afghans that we'll always be with you. And my question to him, what -- are you willing to go save Kabul if it's about to go fall? And he gave a fascinating answer. He said, we'll only be in support of the Afghans. They've got to do the job.

STELTER: Mm-hmm. Jennifer, what about you? What was your reaction to that interaction? And do we think he's going to hold a press conference? He kind of hinted he would deal with your questions next week? Does that mean he's going to hold a press conference? He doesn't like to have those formal press conferences. He doesn't do big sit- down interviews very often. So, do we know he's going to talk more about Afghanistan?

JENNIFER EPSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I mean, I think what he was trying to say is that he wanted to focus on that message of the day and, you know, beating the virus, the economy doing better, right before the holiday weekend. He wanted to keep things upbeat. And we've seen this from him before where he sort of gets frustrated by what he calls the negativity of the press's questions to him.

And it really is that, you know, for something to rise to the level of being worth asking the President about, it's not please tell me what a great job you're doing. It's please tell me about, you know, something that the administration has fallen short on, or a problem in the country or around the world.

And that's what, you know, the questions were about this week, they were about Afghanistan for the same reasons that David mentioned of it just being an extremely relevant, you know, issue for 20 years, hundreds of thousands of American troops were there. 2200 American lives were lost, you know, military.

So, there were -- there were plenty of valid reasons for this to be the discussion. I don't, you know, have visibility of it expecting a press conference this week from him. I think what he really meant was he'll take more casual questions. I mean, he did it again yesterday, when he was in Michigan at an ice cream shop.

STELTER: Right. That's right. I guess the bigger picture, you know, question I have for you, David Sanger is, how would you assess the -- I know it's a huge question, and we could take hours on this. But how would you assess the evolution of coverage of the Afghan war? Is it fair to say that the media loss interest and the public loss interest? Is there a chicken and egg to that?

SANGER: Well, it's a really fascinating question. So, the first years of the Afghan war, and I was covering the Bush administration at the time, I think there was huge interest. We built up a very big bureau there, we still have one, and we'll have one after the American withdrawal happens. But it took a while, I think, for Americans and American reporters to recognize that something very fundamental had happened, that we shifted not only our focus, but our resources away from Afghanistan toward Iraq after the Iraq invasion in 2003.

And in 2007, my colleague, then colleague, David Road and I wrote a really lengthy piece called How the Good War Went Bad that examined that question. And I think in the 13, 14 years that have followed, you've just seen more of that, which is Americans came to recognize that our original reason for going into Afghanistan, which was to root out al Qaeda and so forth, had been achieved.

And yet, we were still there because we had shifting objectives. And I think President Biden, you know, has been very consistent when he was a senator, when he was Vice President, that he just didn't believe that we could go reconstruct the country. He's now hit the moment where he can act on his belief, but the country's really moved on. Moved on years ago.

[11:35:03] STELTER: David and Jennifer, thank you both for that perspective. Let's go to Kabul now, to CNN International Correspondent Anna Coren who's been there covering the drawdown in recent days. And I've seen you reporting on what's been going on in Bagram, and then there where you are at Kabul. I'd like to know from a more personal perspective, how does it feel to be there right now, to be witnessing history?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brian, this is my fourth trip to Afghanistan. I first came here in 2012. And something about this country got under my skin, whether it be covering women's rights, whether it be embedding with U.S. Special Forces, and now to be witnessing America pulling out of Afghanistan.

You know, when those planes flew out of Bagram airbase early Friday morning with U.S. NATO forces onboard, that really was the end of a chapter for America. Yes, they still have troops in country. And yes, the drawdown isn't complete. But, you know, it's a tiny, tiny footprint compared to, you know, 100,000 troops that they had here at the height of the war in 2011. So, look, I think it's a very, very important time to be here, particularly considering the level of fear and uncertainty among local Afghans about what the future holds.

STELTER: And how challenging is it to report from the country and to get around outside Kabul?

COREN: Yes, certainly, it's more difficult. There's no denying. I've noticed that trying to get around is, you know, it's just harder. And I think that's just because of the heightened security situation. Obviously, the Taliban launching huge offenses across the country, particularly in the north. And we've been watching districts full basically on a daily basis.

The Taliban sending through its propaganda videos of claiming, you know, bases and U.S.-funded equipment that they've seized from the Afghan national forces. And, you know, the optics of that are extremely alarming. So, I think, as a journalist covering it, you know, we are still getting out and about and, and are hoping to sort of travel around the country during our stint on the ground.

But certainly, driving around Kabul, you know, we were interviewing Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the peace negotiations or peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban a few days ago, and we were at his residence, and we heard a car bomb explode outside. I mean, this is something that's commonplace. I think the fear amongst certainly people here in Kabul is that there is going to be a serious uptick once American forces fully withdraw.

STELTER: And for local reporters who live this every day, the state of press freedom is dire.

COREN: Yes, absolutely. And it's such a thriving industry. That's what's so sad, you know, people talk about the legacy of America's war. What has America done for this country? Well, one of the amazing things that has done for Afghanistan is, you know, introducing press freedoms, the freedom of speech, human rights, women's rights. These are all, you know, big positives that people do not want to see

evaporate. But certainly, journalists have been targeted. And since 1992, the Committee to Protect Journalists says that 53 journalists have been killed during this war. The most recent, Brian, was last month, the 23-year-old female news anchor was targeted with a car bombs here in Kabul.

STELTER: In the capital of the country. There's no words -- there's no words. That is the threat to press freedom in the starkest of ways. Anna, thank you very much for the report from Kabul. Up next, a bold front page by The Guardian. Nowhere is safe, they say, from climate disruption. Hear from two Reliable Sources on how to cover this crisis, next.



STELTER: Meteorologists and reporters are running out of words, they are running out of words to describe the impacts of climate change. Unprecedented just doesn't cut it anymore. From drought and lethal heat waves out west, the related fires that have been raging in California and in Canada. A recent flooding in Detroit.

These are just a few of the deeply troubling stories that have been linked in various ways to climate change. But how often is that context being included in reports on extreme weather events? How much do you know -- how much do you feel you know about the climate crisis? And is there enough devoted rigorous attention from national news outlets?

Let's talk about that with Emily Atkin. She's the founder of the HEATED Newsletter and podcast for people who are, quote, pissed off about the climate crisis. And David Wallace-Wells is here, New York Magazine editor-at-large and author of the acclaimed book, The Uninhabitable Earth. David, Emily, thanks for being on. And David, we heard from the Governor of Washington this week, talking about climate change as a permanent emergency. So, my question is how does the news media cover a permanent emergency?

DAVID WALLACE-WELLS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I think being honest that we're already living in a state that would have once seemed to us to be, you know, a state of alarmism, and that our storytelling tools need to be commensurate with that fact. We can't shy away from scary projections about the future, or the scary facts as we're living them today.

I think we also need to start thinking a little harder, and be a little clearer in our storytelling, that learning to live in this new future which will continue to get worse probably considerably worse from here is not just going to require decarbonizing, although, that's very hard.

It's also going to require us to be building out more resilience, more measures of adaptation, and hopefully doing that in a way that promotes some rounds of social and climate justice. So, it's not just about cutting carbon. It's also about defending ourselves against the impacts of nature, which we're already beginning to see growing more and more intense.


STELTER: Defending ourselves against the impacts of nature. That's a stark way to put it. What I've noticed, Emily, 10 years ago versus today, there's a lot more climate change coverage on T.V., there are a lot more reporters signed to this beat. So, there's been real progress. But is it enough in your view?

EMILY ATKIN, FOUNDER, HEATED NEWSLETTER: You know, I think it's really great that we've had progress on this issue. But the fact is that we're just not treating it like the planetary emergency it is. I mean, we're not learning the lessons that the COVID-19 pandemic taught us, where we have a global crisis, and the entire newsroom mobilizes to cover that crisis. We understand that it infiltrates every single area of our life. There's no excuse for being a reporter today. Who doesn't understand the basic science of COVID-19? Why is it not the same for climate change?

STELTER: Hmm. Interesting.

ATKIN: Right now, everyone should be a climate reporter. And if you're not a climate reporter right now, you will be, whether you realize it or not.

STELTER: But let's go back to both of you on this. What does it mean, David, to be a climate reporter that everyone has to be a climate reporter today?

WALLACE-WELLS: Well, it means that climate is threaded through every aspect of our lives at the very highest level through the geopolitics and competition of nations, not just over energy resources, but about overland and military, relationships, trade relationships, all the way down to the individual where many people's mental health is being eroded as we speak, not to mention their physical health today, best estimates suggest that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels kills about 10 million people every year, which is dying at the scale of the Holocaust, in fact, larger than the Holocaust every single year.

And yet, we don't see many public health stories, we don't see many moral crises stories addressed to that issue. We need to be threading it through (INAUDIBLE) we talk about absolutely everything.

STELTER: And Emily, this also means, you know, reporters can't be scientifically illiterate. We've got to have the basic knowledge to explain how these stories are linked and how they're related.

ATKIN: Yes, it's not an excuse to -- a climate scientist anymore to include something in your story that says, this extreme heat event was made more likely by climate change, and is a part of our climate change future. And what I would also argue is that you should probably have a sentence in there saying, climate change is caused by fossil fuels. Because climate change is not something that's happening to us. It's something that's being done to us. It's not simply a tragedy, an

act of God. It is an injustice. And it is injustice due to a 40-year campaign to lie and prioritize short-term profit over the health of vulnerable people. So, those are just basic facts.

STELTER: So, what you're saying is it's a corruption story, you're saying it's an accountability beat.

ATKIN: It's always been that way. I think for too long, journalists -- and I've been guilty of this, too. You know, I've been covering this for eight years. And in the beginning, I really approached it out of a desire to be fair, as this environment science story, trying to tell all these sides.

And really, when you start looking at the history and everything that's going on right now, it's a corruption story. And that makes it sexy, to be honest. It makes it a good story to tell. It's not -- there's a myth that it's a hard story to tell. It's a very exciting story if you don't think about how awful it is.

STELTER: And therein lies the challenge, yes. Emily and David, thank you both for being here and breaking it down for us.

ATKINS: Thanks.


STELTER: After the break, has predicted a Bill Cosby media redemption tour. And to that I say, really?



STELTER: One of the week's biggest surprises, the sudden release of Bill Cosby after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction. So, a question now for television newsrooms or other news outlets, is Bill Cosby going to speak? Is he going to give interviews? And if so, should you interview him?

There was a headline from The Hollywood Reporter posing that question the other day saying, to interview or not to interview, calling it a dilemma. Back with me, two media reporters, CNN's Oliver Darcy and Sara Fischer of Axios. Sara, people don't know this. You used to be a production assistant a long time ago here on RELIABLE SOURCES. Uh, so you are the ultimate Reliable Source. Let's go to you first on this. Is this actually a dilemma for television networks?

FISCHER: Absolutely. I mean, you always want to hear both sides of the story, Brian, but in this case, Bill Cosby's case was dismissed because of procedural things. It's not because they are arguing he didn't do the stuff that he did. And so, you're looking at a situation where you have 60 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct, assault, even rape, drugging women over the course of many decades. I mean, they're going to be receiving a lot of backlash from some of

these accusers, who might be arguing that you're giving this guy a platform when we know he did something really, really bad.

STELTER: I suppose the counter argument, and I'll go to you, Oliver, is we interview murderers, right? We interviewed drug dealers, we interview everybody in order to understand them. Is Cosby any different?

DARCY: I don't know if we need to understand him. I mean, look, I think that what Sara said, we know the things he has done. They're really heinous things. And so, an interview with them -- I'm not really sure how you can hold them accountable given that we know he did these things. So, I'm not really sure I understand the editorial value, I guess, in having an interview and the idea of, you know, scoring ratings off of someone like that just seems, frankly, kind of gross.

STELTER: Interesting, I suppose I think he's not going to speak anyway. I -- you know, he has nothing to sell. He has very few fans, it seems. I would be surprised if he ever sat down and gave one of those like national T.V. interviews, even if he's just trying to say he's completely innocent. I would be surprised if he did that. You know who I really want to see an interview with, Sara, Britney Spears. I mean, to think about, you know, the stories in the news. Cosby free, Britney still under this conservatorship.


A New Yorker out with a story this weekend about Britney. I think this may end up being one of the biggest stories of the summer, as she fights for what she says is her freedom.

FISCHER: This is the ultimate media story, Brian, because so much of what led me -- Britney into the situation that she's in was actually the treatment of the media against her when she was in a really rough state, having mental health issues. Now, you see it come around 180, where the media is out there trying to defend Britney, trying to help publicize her side of the story. It really comes to show that, you know, whether or not you're the victim, but you always are going to be dealing with the media when it comes to your personal life if you're a celebrity.

STELTER: Yes. Absolutely. There's so much more to come on that, and we're just scratching the surface. Thank you both for being here. Tonight, one of the best nights of the year on CNN, an extravaganza for the Fourth of July. Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera, all across the country, all night long with music and fireworks.

That's what I'm going to be watching. Once I get my kids to bed. It starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on CNN.