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Risk, Reward, And The Rhetoric Around COVID-19; What Are The Downstream Effects Of Trump's Delusions?; NBC Facing Many Hurdles While Covering The Olympics; Lessons From Julie K. Brown's Dogged Reporting; "Jeopardy!" Is About To Pick A New Host. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 25, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter, live in Providence, Rhode Island, today. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and figure out what is reliable.
This hour, the pandemic Olympics brought to the U.S. by NBC. Will the networks sink or swim in its coverage?
Also, the connection between narcissism and election lies. We have brand new audio from a former president that you need to hear to believe.
And later, a really important new book. It's about the landslide of reporting on the Jeffrey Epstein case and the, quote, perversion of justice. The woman behind it all, Julie K. Brown, she joins me live in just a few minutes.
But first, risk, reward, and the rhetoric around COVID-19. If you think about it, life is just one big, long set of calculated risks -- crossing the street to the park, driving the car to the store, boarding a plane for a trip. We all take some risks every day. And if we didn't, we wouldn't be living.
The COVID-19 pandemic is all about risk. It's about how risky is it, how much of the vaccine reduce the risk, how much risk is acceptable to you? What's your risk tolerance? What about the risk of passing the virus on to others? What's the cost-benefit analysis?
COVID requires constant risk assessments.
But those nuances don't always come through in the media coverage. And I would argue that the public health officials that we've all come to know over the past 18 months have not talked enough about risk assessment, either. Quality news coverage and careful public health messaging should help you assess risk and make thoughtful decisions.
We all have to think more like risk calculators. For example, the current COVID surge in the U.S. is real but very unevenly distributed. The risk is very low in some places and quite high in other places.
For fully vaccinated Americans, the risk of serious illness is supremely low. But for the unvaccinated, it is significant -- significant risk. People keep saying this is another instance of two Americas. And it is.
It's almost like we need two kinds of newscasts or two versions of the weather report. The forecast is pretty sunny for the vaccinated, but it's quite bleak in some states for the unvaccinated.
This headline sadly says it all. Nearly all COVID deaths in the U.S. are now among the unvaccinated.
But are those facts, are these figures reaching people? Everybody is making risk calculations. We do it all the time. But in order to do that, we need accurate information. We need reliable data to then make risk assessments.
Eliminating risk is not possible, not during this pandemic. This story is all about minimizing risk. People who are vaccinated have already done that.
Instead of eliminating risk, it's about minimizing the risk of COVID. That's the way the story should be told.
With me now are three guests who are going to help us unpack all of this, including Dr. Nicole Baldwin who is at CNN's town hall with the president earlier this week. CNN's Oliver Darcy is also here.
But let's turn first to Andy Slavitt, former senior adviser to the Biden White House's COVID response team and author of the book "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response".
Andy, how should this current delta surge be framed by the national news media?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE TEAM: Well, Brian, we all think about risk quite differently. You know, some of us would be more than willing to go out into the pouring rain without an umbrella, some would carry an umbrella.
I think that's really the equivalent of what you're talking about this morning is, if you carry an umbrella out, meaning you're getting vaccinated. It's something you're not going to get risk, after you get that (ph) -- may not get a little bit wet, but you're really protecting yourself in a dramatic way.
And so, look, this is all an emotional experience for us as much as it is an intellectual one. And so, when we hear about case counts going up, when we hear about parts of the country where hospitals are filling up, you know, we do get empathetic, we do -- we do get a fear response.
But I think that's important to state is there's 180 million Americans who've been vaccinated, very, very few are getting COVID breakthrough cases, but some will. Some will get wet, they'll take that risk. And the more we cut down on our risk, the less likely it is that it will happen, that's why people are recommending wearing masks and so forth.
And so, it is a process we're going through, but it's very unlikely that if you're vaccinated, you're going to get sick, and it's even much more unlikely that something serious will happen to you. And that's -- that is this dichotomy you speak of.
STELTER: So, with that in mind, do you think some of the news coverage has sounded fearmongering, has sounded excessive for vaccinated viewers?
SLAVITT: I think not purposely so, but I think it does create that impression because, you know, as you say, you can't talk to everybody at the same time and everybody's experience at the same time, and, you know, it's not such a good chyron to say, this for you but this for you.
So, look, I give everybody the benefit of the doubt, or most people, the benefit of the doubt during the course of trying to cover something like a pandemic where there's things we don't know, there's things we're just learning. There's an odd study here and an odd study there.
So, I think, you know, we're always in a situation where maybe it's a little too much and a little bit too little.
STELTER: Yeah. What about the coverage of breakthrough cases, whether at the White House or anywhere else? There's all this talk about breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals who are coming down with COVID, they're not really getting sick or dying, but they're having a tough few days with the flu.
Are those cases getting too much news coverage because, again, they create a kind of a sense of hype or panic?
SLAVITT: They do because -- they're news because they surprise us. You know, if you've been vaccinated, you may walk away thinking, I've got a zero chance of getting COVID.
And that's untrue. Of the 180 million people who've been vaccinated, there will be a large, a relative -- small relative to that number, but a large number of people we know will get -- will get cases. The question is what is newsworthy about that, or is it something that is expected?
And it is expected. It's not that it shouldn't be monitored, because it's important to remind us that this is not a perfect blanket of protection. But it is important for us to --
SLAVITT: I'd put it in context.
STELTER: Right, right. What do you want news outlets to be doing differently in the weeks ahead as it seems like these cases are going to keep growing in these states where, you know, they're showing up red on the map. I want to be really clear. I think we should be showing maps of
different states and different case counts, because it's a very unevenly distributed situation right now.
SLAVITT: Look, I think -- I think there's probably a counter that would show how many -- if we show breakthrough cases and we really compare that to the amount of cases that happened among unvaccinated people, so people can really see the difference.
SLAVITT: We've been hearing about a vaccinated case in isolation. If you ever a chyron next to you right now, Brian, or someone else at CNN did, it would just show those things in comparison. In this community, there have been 50 breakthrough cases and there have been 5,000 or 400 or 4,000 other cases are helpful for people to see, because that is reality. That is -- that's data we don't all have access to.
But it's that kind of thinking --
SLAVITT: -- I believe will be helpful.
And then, one final thing, I think we all ought to -- we are all anxious for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, but I think the media as a whole, lumping them into a category of people that are defiant or stupid or some other thing is probably not helpful. It only seeks to alienate people further.
And I think we ought to probably try to understand that group of people better if we want to really bring them into the dialogue and to the participation process.
STELTER: Right, no vaccine shaming, except maybe of the misinformation producers.
Andy, thank you so much for being here.
Now from accurate information to the scourge of misinformation. With me is Dr. Nicole Baldwin, a pediatrician in Cincinnati, Ohio. You might have seen her at the Biden town hall here on CNN earlier in the week.
Dr. Baldwin, you asked the president this pivotal question. Let's play it and then talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NICOLE BALDWIN, PEDIATRICIAN: What is the White House doing to combat medical misinformation and to restore America's faith in science?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're doing is, number one, to restore America's faith in science is listen to the scientists. (END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Then Biden talked about Facebook and about Fox. Were you satisfied by his answer? Do you think the Biden White House is doing enough, Doctor?
BALDWIN: I was actually disappointed that he didn't give a more concrete answer to how they're planning to hold these individuals and these platforms accountable for the misinformation that they're spreading. So, while I appreciate that he wants to leave science to the scientists, we really need a better plan for how we're going to hold people accountable for this misinformation they're spreading.
STELTER: What kind of people are you talking about?
BALDWIN: Oh, goodness. So we know that there are 12 individuals that are spreading 65 percent of the misinformation that people are seeing online. So, them as well as, you know, we're seeing conservative media, we're seeing elected officials that are putting out false information that is misleading the public and, truthfully, causing harm.
STELTER: You're a Republican. You pointed that out on Twitter during -- after the town hall. So, you know, how do you explain to other Republicans that some of the news sources they consume -- some of the media sources are literally making them sick?
BALDWIN: Well, first of all, I'd like to clarify that I am a Republican on my voter registration card. That does not necessarily lump me into a category. So I want to be clear about that.
However, I think what's -- I think what's important is that for anyone who remains unvaccinated, we know that them hearing from their friends, their family members, their coworkers who've already been vaccinated, that's what's going to help move the needle. I think each of us has a responsibility to talk with our friends who maybe have questions, and that is what we know can help change their minds.
STELTER: Let me ask how you do that as well with social media, with TikTok. You've been making these videos, talking to people for months.
What's the -- what's -- tell me about the value there. Or is it -- is it that it's an intimate technology, it's -- you know, someone watching on the phone and it's like face to face? What is it about TikTok that's worked for you?
And I think we lost her just at the worst time. That's okay. We'll try to get the doctor back.
In the meantime, let me tell you about a follow-up to a story we told you about this time last week. Remember, I was on here talking about Facebook and talking about a hashtag called "vaccines kill". It was a hashtag right there on the platform, easy to find, just a quick search, and you could pull up all this disinformation about the vaccines by searching for the hashtag.
I wondered, why is this sitting out here for everybody to see? Well, we mentioned that here on CNN this time last Sunday, and by the end of the day, we logged back onto Facebook and it was gone. The hashtag has been blocked.
It's yet another example of the game of whack-a-mole where nobody wins, nobody has fun doing it, where you end up finding misinformation on these platforms, reporters point it out, it gets belatedly taken down and then the misinformation moves to another place. But that's a follow-up from last week's show.
Now let's turn to right wing media, as the doctor was saying, and whether there's been any change in tone on Fox News, for example. You probably heard this week about Sean Hannity and other hosts urging vaccinations, or at least telling people how to get information about where to get vaccinated. Fox News kept reading off the url.vaccines.gov, the government website for information.
And Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy penned an op-ed praising Biden's vaccine rollout. This was happening at the same time that some GOP lawmakers did a better job of telling the truth about vaccines.
You probably saw the town hall as well. Biden was talking about the Fox host changing, having an altar call on this issue.
But how much really changed? Did anything really change this week?
Let me bring in CNN's Oliver Darcy for more on that.
Oliver, we've been writing about this in the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter and trying to add some skepticism to the news coverage because there wasn't actually a dramatic change in tune or tone on Fox this week. Was there?
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: No. You know, like Sean Hannity, for instance, got a lot of praise this week for, you know, saying in a 30-second clip that he is pro-vaccine. But like you pointed out, a couple days later, he walked that back and said to viewers, I'm not actually telling you to get a vaccine.
And so, what you see in right wing media is this general anti-vaccine rhetoric, whether it's someone like Tucker Carlson pushing actual vaccine disinformation on his show, to the rest of the Fox and right wing media. They talked, for instance, Biden going door to door trying to give you a vaccine, as if it's creepy and authoritarian.
Or, you know, anti-vaccine passports coverage you see on Fox, even though they've instituted a system, you know, pretty similar to a vaccine passport. And so, that's the coverage you see in the right wing media.
STELTER: So, at Fox News -- to get into the Fox News building, you know, there is a vaccine passport concept but then their hosts are against it.
All right. Let's look at what Sean Hannity did this week, because he did come out there pretty boldly, saying -- you know, do your research, talk to your doctor, take this seriously. And he got so much press for that, days and days of attention for a little snippet on Fox News.
But then later in the week, this is what Hannity was saying on the radio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": Well, first of all, I'm not urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine because I'm not a doctor. That is not what I said. I said to take it seriously. It can kill you. I said to do a lot of research.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STELTER: Oliver, what happened here?
DARCY: All I think about, Brian, when I see that clip where he says I'm not a medical doctor, I'm not telling you what to do, is where was this sort of thinking back when Fox was promoting hydroxychloroquine every 15 seconds?
You know, we know that the vaccines are safe, effective.
They were developed under the Trump administration. And yet, you see this sort of, "I'm not a medical doctor, I can't recommend you actually get one, do your research" -- you know, it's not very -- it's not very enthusiastically promoting vaccines there.
And I just wish that Fox would promote vaccines as much as they did these other miracle drugs under the Trump administration.
STELTER: That weren't miracle drugs at all. Yeah, I mean, that's the bottom line.
DARCY: Right, right.
STELTER: This is an interesting tension, right, because there is a lot of people out there saying, hey, even if it's belated, even if Fox is belatedly coming around, it's better late than never, welcome.
I think we really have to follow up in a month. Let's see what these talking heads are saying in a month. Let's see if this is a real sustained change or not, because so far, it's not.
Oliver, please stay with me.
Coming up here, NBC poaching one of ESPN's stars right in time for the Olympics. Hear the story in that. Plus, breaking overnight, a new interview with Donald Trump -- he says something he's never said before. We're going to analyze it with legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, in just a moment.
STELTER: Narcissism is a personality disorder. It is not a term to throw around lightly. It's a serious thing. It exists in the realm of psychology, not politics. Yet sometimes the only way to understand politics is through psychology.
When I hear people on TV confused, perplexed about Donald Trump's continued promotion of the big lie. When I hear commentators saying, this doesn't make any sense, why is he doing this? Well, it does make sense when viewed through the prism of narcissism. It's not political. It's psychological.
And to give credit where it's due, I keep hearing political reporters talk about Trump's delusions. Not just lies, delusions. Google that word and you'll see lots of references to mental health or lack thereof.
So, what are the downstream effects of all this? Where are we heading as a country?
You've probably noticed that Trump has found at least three ways to reach people after being banned from Twitter and Facebook. He's releasing lots of statements which are shared and read and taken seriously on far right TV. He's given lots of interviews for books that are coming out all the time, and he's giving lots of speeches that are carried live on Newsmax and One America News. And they're not Fox, by the way.
In OAN land, election rigging is still a daily theme. Imagine that, right? It's been months and months and months, this is still a top story on channels like OAN. And Trump is on the air this weekend saying that election rigging, fraud -- what he calls the fraud -- is the biggest issue among the GOP base.
Listen to him call out the, quote, unquote, RINOs who don't get that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of the RINOs don't realize it yet, a lot of the leaders of the -- guys like Mitch McConnell, they have no idea how big an issue this is. This is the biggest issue with the Republican Party and the Republican voter. When I get up and speak, all they want to talk about is the election fraud because it was the crime of the century and people are dying and our country is going to hell because of a rigged election, and it's a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: On one level, Trump is right that this is the animating issue of the GOP right now -- one man's narcissism wreaking havoc with an entire political party.
With me now is Carl Bernstein, the legendary investigative journalist and CNN political analyst.
I find myself, Carl, after a week of full of Trump delusion headlines wondering where we're heading as a country. Where do you see us heading?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we need to slow down a bit and deconstruct some of the things that you've just laid out there.
The first thing is I'm not a psychiatrist, and God knows all this may have a degree of narcissism, but when you're talking about Trump, we're obviously talking about a kind of delusional madness such as General Milley was talking about that is on a scale and a scope that we have never experienced in an American president in our history.
I think we need to calmly step back and maybe look at Trump in a different context. He is America's -- our own American war criminal, of a kind we've never experienced before. What he has done --
STELTER: You just said war criminal. What do you mean, war criminal?
BERNSTEIN: I did.
Well, in international law, there have been, quote, crimes against humanity. I think what we're talking about, Trump's crimes as a war -- an American war criminal in his own country that he has perpetrated upon our people, including the tens of thousands of people who died because of his homicidal negligence in the pandemic, putting his own electoral interest above the health of our people as they were slaughtered in this pandemic.
Looking at his actions in terms of fomenting a coup to hold onto office in which the head of the American military, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has now compared Trump -- not the press, not reporters comparing Trump to Hitler, but rather the head of the American military comparing him and his movement to brown shirts, to the Reichstag fire.
This is a huge wake-up call to this country when General Milley, the head of the American military, has said this. And it fits as a piece with something so extraordinary in our history, it's not political. Trump is not just political, he transcends the political, and we need to start looking at his crimes in that context.
STELTER: You're going to get heat for talking about war crimes, because there's -- you know, it's not as if the ICC is setting up a panel or anything, taken any action.
BERNSTEIN: I want to be careful in using -- in trying to say we need a new context, a war against both our people in terms of what the effects of his policies and selfishness -- if you want to use the word narcissism brought -- okay.
It is something in itself that we had never seen in a president before. It's not about just impeachable offenses. It's about a different kind of crime in which the humanity of the people of the United States was relegated to the floor by the president of the United States who uplifted only his own narrow political, financial and personal interests above that of our people, of our country, of our Constitution.
All I'm doing is saying, whoa. Let's look at Trump's crimes in a different context. Yes, war crimes. These were crimes against our people.
STELTER: Let's go a little bit deeper, Carl, as you stay with me.
Let me bring in Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She is the author of a book called "Strongmen". She's also professor of history at New York University, specializing in threats to democracy.
But, Ruth, that title, "Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present", clearly, you believe Trump is one of those strongmen. Tell me how narcissism factors into this and how -- what Carl is saying factors in to what you study every day, Ruth.
RUTH BEN-GHIAT, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: So, the frame -- we do need a different frame to look at Trump, and that frame I've always thought is authoritarianism and strongmen rule. Trump was one of many strong men who either had criminal records. They are criminals. Hitler and Mussolini had criminal records, and Trump, like Putin and Berlusconi in Italy, was under investigation when he came into office.
So governance is not about public welfare, any normal presidential goals. It's about keeping immunity and staying -- amassing as much power as possible. And so, Trump is highly unstable, deeply destructive, but he's also crazy like a fox. And he has the same personality traits as many of these leaders I've studied -- massive ego, megalomania, only I can fix it, all of this.
But it covers up a deep insecurity, so they become obsessed with humiliating, and controlling and dominating everyone around them, and what better domination game than to make millions of people believe in an alternate reality that benefits you by depicting you as infallible, I am your voice, and keeping you -- ideally keeping you in office.
STELTER: You're saying something really interesting about the big lie. The big lie is a power trip. It's a power move. Every time he tells his fans to believe that the election was stolen from him, he's gaining power because they're all believing that lie together, right? Or saying they do. BEN-GHIAT: Yes, it's the ultimate power trip. The other thing he did,
and every step of the way he was just confirming, which is why I wrote the book. The Trump White House was very similar to the governing structures of many authoritarians. They create these inner sanctions surrounded by the sycophants and flatterers and family. There's usually family in there.
And these people will not push back. They will not tell them the truth. They will keep his secrets. They will repeat his lies in public, and he did the same to the GOP and civil service.
And once that happens overtime, Trump wasn't there very long, but they can begin to believe their own propaganda, and that's where the delusional can come in.
STELTER: So then I come around and go back to Carl on -- where are we going? Last night in Arizona, Trump said, quote, in my opinion, there is no way they win elections without cheating.
In other words, he's saying no Democrat can ever hold office without cheating. These are the crazy lies that he's spreading every night, and though we're not airing them on CNN, or MSNBC or ABC, but they're being heard by millions of people.
So, Carl, where -- where are we going?
BERNSTEIN: I think we have to realize is that this movement and this madman, this authoritarian demagogue has been embraced by one of the two political parties. They are enthralled to him. The Republican Party of McConnell and of McCarthy are enthralled by Donald Trump and this movement to disenfranchise the American voter who may vote as a Democrat.
This is an authoritarian, demagogic movement that now is represented in one of our political parties and its leadership to the top. We need to start looking at our country as journalists, especially, to see how did this happen here?
We need to take the focus off Trump of his psychology and all the rest and look at his movement and how it is seized tens and scores of millions of American voters who have embraced his lies and his pathology and these war crimes.
STELTER: The downstream effects of the delusions. Carl and Ruth, thank you both.
When we come back here in RELIABLE SOURCES, a surreal start to the Summer Olympics, with the press sometimes the only spectators in the stands. So, can the Olympic broadcaster NBC draw a crowd? The race for ratings gold, that's after the break.
[11:35:14] STELTER: Will NBC be one of the winners or the losers of the Summer Olympics? That's one of the questions as the games get underway after a one-year delay in Tokyo. NBC Universal shelled out billions of dollars for a decade's worth of Olympic broadcasting rights. NBC is known for its Olympic coverage.
But this year, this in the next couple of weeks, there are several hurdles ahead, beginning with the difficulty of staging a dramatic show when there are no crowds in the stand. And when there are intensive COVID-related precautions in place in Tokyo. We've already seen some big-name advertisers like Toyota drop out of the games. And there's also curiosity about whether NBC is going to be able to use these games to promote its streaming platform, Peacock.
But here's what we know. This weekend, the numbers are in for the opening ceremonies. The ratings from Nielsen are in. You can see there, NBC says about 70 million people tuned in to the opening ceremony broadcast. That is down dramatically from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Now, it's not a surprise, the ratings are down, they're down across the board for all big live events, as more and more people watch on demand or on streaming, et cetera. But the numbers dropped maybe more dramatically than NBC or advertisers expected.
So, let's talk about that and more with Claire Atkinson, the chief media correspondent over at Insider. Claire, these ratings, tell us how to view live event ratings in a streaming world. How much do they matter nowadays?
CLAIRE ATKINSON, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, INSIDER: So, they matter a lot because advertisers put $1.3 billion dollars behind the Olympics and they want to see what they paid for, they want the viewers. Obviously, there's been a huge decline in traditional T.V. viewing. Nobody expects there to be the same number of people viewing as they were in 2016.
But I just texted an advertiser, and I asked them what they thought so far, and they said, look at these numbers. This is not good. It's the lowest number in 33 years. I'm sure if that continues, Madison Avenue will be baying for blood.
Having said that, NBC won't just be judged on the advertising performance. They'll be judged also on whether this is a big success for Peacock which is their big entrant into the streaming arena, launched last year, they were hoping to launch it with the benefit of Olympics.
And so, you know, how many people sign up to Peacock, how many people just watch on television or through the NBC app? There's a lot of different places to watch the Olympics, I have to say. You know, all sorts of different channels to see the games, it can feel a little bit confusing at times as to where to go to watch. And so, I think that's an issue.
The other problem is a common problem to all sports and that you can watch the social media clips, and Tokyo is -- there's a 13-hour time difference. And that could result in folks saying, you know what, let me just see who won. Let me just watch the highlights. That's, you know, problem with every single sports events.
But then you have this kind of on with the audience saying, you know, the Super Bowl was down, the Grammys and the Oscars and a lot of events have been affected by the pandemic this year. So, I think we have to give NBC almost like the benefit of the doubt a couple more days and see where the audience hits. But I think they'll be hitting the panic buttons if it's all, you know, 30 percent down.
STELTER: It sure is strange to see the broadcast with these -- no crowds in the stands. It does affect the television coverage, because --
ATKINSON: It does, yes.
STELTER: -- you're used to hearing people cheering, you don't hear that. And that's, of course, way out. NBC's hands. To your point about the confusion, I find it quite confusing to know when and where and how to watch. I picked up my Comcast Xfinity remote. I said Olympics.
It gave me all these strange options. It's -- you know, what we're not seeing yet is that synergy that I think we can imagine someday where you can actually watch anything, anywhere at any time. We're actually not quite to that point yet with the Olympics. We're getting there, but we're not there yet.
ATKINSON: Yes. I think we need a little handholding and a little guidance and curation of what -- what's the -- what's the best thing of the day to watch. Obviously, they have highlight shows and I've been checking that out.
STELTER: But that is one of the challenges. There's a myriad of challenges for NBC. But if there's anything that can unite people, it is these games.
Claire, thank you so much for being here.
STELTER: More from Claire in a few minutes. Meanwhile, for the latest on the ratings, the coverage, or a sign-up for our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter, you can get it for free at reliablesources.com.
Up next here on the program, a perfect storm for conspiracy theories dogged Jeffrey Epstein reporter turned author, Julie K. Brown is up after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) STELTER: The biggest bombshells are sometimes the result of a single determined reporter, one person's persistence. Take the case of Jeffrey Epstein. Investigator at Miami Herald reporter, Julie K. Brown, fall to expose every aspect of the Epstein story from the allegations, the attempts to silence, or soften the allegations, ultimately into the cases reopening.
And now, Brown is out with a new book called "Perversion of Justice," that expands on her reporting and touches on the larger issues facing local journalists.
Julie, thank you for coming on. You essentially were covering a cold case. This was something many members of the media missed. So, what are the lessons for the media in your new book?
JULIE K. BROWN, AUTHOR OF "PERVERSION OF JUSTICE: THE JEFFREY EPSTEIN STORY": Well, I think since this story happened, you know, it was over a decade ago that this -- that Epstein was first charged, that, you know, the world has changed a lot, thankfully, and I think the media is starting, you know, to recognize, you know, these kinds of stories need to be covered in a different way than they had before.
You know, that women should be listened to, you know, that they are, you know, to be believed, really, when it comes to these kinds of allegations.
STELTER: Do you feel like, you know -- I know that one of the stories within your book that I really struck by was, what it was like inside the Miami Herald, the lack of resources. And that's not the fault of the editors, it was really the fault of the hedge funds, and the bankers, and the owners, and the infrastructure. So, what's the local news message you want to share?
BROWN: Well, I think -- I think that the general public isn't often aware of how important local news is to their community. Reporters that live in their own neighborhoods and who work in these small towns are watching your government leaders and making sure that they're not stealing your money or that they're not doing other corrupt practices.
And once these papers disappear, and the journalists -- local journalists disappear, I think that the community will be more prone to having corrupt leaders. And so, that's one reason, for example, why we need local newspaper reporters and local news.
STELTER: It also lets conspiracy flourish. The lack of real news reporting on the ground lets conspiracy theories flourish. You write about that in Perversion of Justice, you say Epstein is the kind of story where conspiracy theories, you know, have festered and festered. Do you see any solutions to that other than to save local news?
BROWN: Well, I think the elected leaders have to do more to make sure that they don't -- that there are rules that prevent prosecutors, for example, from stealing information. I think there's a huge problem still with the story about information that we aren't -- that it hasn't been made public. And I think as long as you're hiding the truth, there's going to be conspiracy theories festering out there.
STELTER: Right. This is your work on the Miami Herald website which, of course, had such an incredible impact. Now, there are many other reporters covering Epstein, covering the fallout. And I heard -- I saw you quoted saying, you're thinking about moving on to a new story, right? Rather than be part of the pack, you might want to go find something else that no one else is covering. Is that the highest value add you can have as a journalist?
BROWN: Well, I tell an anecdote in my book about when I covered the downing of JFK Jr.'s plane and how -- well, I had a stage editor tell me when you see a pack of journalists running, go the other way. And the point is that the story isn't always with the pack.
The story sometimes is -- it's the story that isn't being told. And I think that that's why this story resonated so much because it really hadn't been told in the way in this way before. So, yes, I, kind of, think there are other stories to be told.
STELTER: And the new book is Perversion of Justice. Julie, thank you very much for writing it and for coming on the program.
STELTER: When we come back here, what is going to happen on Jeopardy!? Who will the new host be? LeVar Burton starts tomorrow. We're going to handicap the choices, coming up.
STELTER: It is one of the biggest jobs in television, one of the most beloved shows on all of television, it is Jeopardy!. And this week, Reading Rainbow host, LeVar Burton, is going to have his shot as the guest host. Yes, he's been a fan favorite. His fans have been cheering for him trying to get him an audition on Jeopardy!.
And now he has it. Of course, many people have filled in in recent months, including CNN's very own, Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper. We've also seen talent from other networks like Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos filling in. All of this, though, is coming to a head rather quickly, because the new season starts in September and the producers need to pick a host.
Let's talk about it and why Jeopardy! matters on T.V. with Oliver Darcy and Claire Atkinson. They're back with me. Oliver, do you know it's going to be?
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: That's the million dollar question right now, Brian. And it's such an important job and we just really have no idea who it's going to be, you know, like you said, Burton is a fan favorite.
But look at Ken Jennings, he's also a fan favorite and had really high ratings at the start of the show when they started doing these guest auditions. So, it's going to be really interesting to see who the producers go with when they make their final selection.
STELTER: Yes. And I'm told they're going to pick any day if they haven't already, because they're going to start taping these episodes in August.
Look, when Alex Trebek passed away, we all talked about how he was such a legend. He stood up for truth and facts and knowledge, all those things that we care about in the news business. So, I feel like there's an affinity for Jeopardy! for that reason.
And, Claire, from a business point of view, this is also an important show for broadcast television.
ATKINSON: Yes. I feel like Jeopardy! is one of those shows that's loved by everybody. You know, celebrities talk about it a lot. The final episode with Alex Trebek rated 14 million viewers. That's pretty astounding in broadcast television these days. So, I think all the chatter about their hosts will can only help interest in the show.
STELTER: Right, it just creates more interest and then curiosity about September when this new season starts. Claire and Oliver, thank you both. Our version of final Jeopardy! is after the break.
STELTER: We strive to be a reliable source, that when we screw up, we try to fix it right away. Earlier in the hour, I said that Toyota had pulled its advertising from the television broadcast in Olympics, but I describe it incorrectly. Toyota only pulled its ads from Olympic theme programming in Japan. So that decision does not apply to the U.S. and you're going to see lots of car commercials during the Olympics on NBC on all its platforms.
So, thank you to Joshua and others viewers who tweeted at me and let me know about the mistake. Newsrooms have to be able to hear from you and know we when we get it wrong so we can get it right.
On that note, follow me on Twitter, @brianstelter, e-mail me at, @firstname.lastname@example.org. And we'll see you right back here this time next week.