Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Piecing Together Evidence Of Trump's Coup Attempt; The Problems With Tucker Carlson's Hungary Infomercial; Albany Editor On Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Media Playbook; Behind The Scenes Of CNN Conversations About Chris Cuomo; 'Being' A Different Kind Of Interview Show; Bedside Interviews With Unvaccinated Adults In The ICU; Andrew Sullivan On The Reality Of 'Living With COVID-19'. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 08, 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 figure out what is reliable.

This hour, the Cuomo brothers and my new reporting about Chris Cuomo and CNN management.

Also, the real story about the COVID cluster in Provincetown and what the media missed. Andrew Sullivan joins me live from the Cape.

And later, what does AOC think when she watches Fox and all the talking heads are talking about her. Well, we have a preview of the congresswoman's in-depth interview with Dana Bash. Touching on that and a lot more, that's coming right up.

But, first, drip, drip, drip. The details about Donald Trump's attempted coup last winter are dripping out. So, why is this newsworthy now? Why is this lead-worthy more than six months later?

Because most people don't know how close the country came, and because someone might try to do it again.

So, authors and reporters and House and Senate investigators are all piecing together the events of last winter. And in the words of CNN's Zach Wolf, the full picture of Trump's attempted coup is only starting now to emerge.

Trump's pressure campaign was more intense than we knew at the time. It was more insistent than we knew. For example, there's recent reporting that Trump told his Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, quote, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.

He wanted the Justice Department to open the door so that he could walk through it and remain president even though Biden won. It's one of the biggest political stories of our lifetimes.

But it's in the past, so it might not be getting enough attention, enough play. For example, this weekend, we are learning that Rosen and one of his deputies have given explosive testimony, alleging that another Justice Department official named Jeffrey Clark tried to weaponize the department to help Trump stay in power.

After hearing from Rosen, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told CNN's Manu Raju he was, quote, struck by how close the country came to total catastrophe.

So, that's how we are seeing more and more headlines referencing a coup attempt right here in America.

Now, what is a shambolic coup? Sure. Was it a pathetic? Was it not well-thought out? Sure. But still a coup attempt.

The House-led committee proving January 6 still has a lot to piece together about the days leading up to the attack, and the media has a role to play, to look backwards and understand what went wrong, while also focusing on the future and how it could happen again.

With me now is David Zurawik, "Baltimore Sun" media critic, Yasmeen Serhan, staff writer for "The Atlantic", and John Avlon, CNN anchor and senior political analyst.

John, first to you. This is one of those backward/forward situations, right? This happened. It could happen again. There's threats to democracy that are active every day.

And so, when we're covering this story, we can't just treat it like it's history.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & ANCHOR: Not at all, because it is not history. Just because it happened in the past doesn't mean there is still more information to bring out about the present and how it applies to the future. And this is -- this is a civic obligation. We need to engage in a war on apathy here, because there is a sense by some folks, as you have said, folks have heard this before.

Sure, we knew that Donald Trump tried to overturn the election. But we didn't know the extent, the extent to which he used the executive department branch to try to pressure the Justice Department to overturn the election. We didn't know that this is much more than simply inciting insurrection.

It was the mechanics of an effort to overturn our election. And that means an attack on our democracy and the Constitution. And there is nothing more serious in our democracy, in our democratic republic than that.

So, this is all hands on deck. We as journalists need to dive into our full use of -- our responsibility to make important stories interesting.

STELTER: Yeah, that's right.

AVLON: We need to keep the pressure and the focus on this, because it is urgent, and it is not a past concern. It is a present day concern.

STELTER: Yeah, to that point, David Zurawik, how should the media make the important interesting, bring these stories to light?

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMOR SUN: Brian, this is -- this is such an important story. But the problem is, it's very hard to convince citizens who are not engaged in this flight how serious this is.

What I mean by that is people, and especially people who might not have a lot of background or pay much attention to this, grew up in grade school, in middle school, in high school, looking at monuments of America and being told about democracy.


And they think it's rock solid. It's there, it's out there. It will take care of itself.

And one of the hardest things I have with my column is trying to reach people and say how dangerous this moment is in American history. It's not just in our lifetimes. It's in history.

Democracy is totally at stake. And the value here -- I mean, the importance here -- is that Donald Trump is not going away probably in 2022 or 2024, especially. We have to know what he did.

You know, this is this whole thing of sliding -- it's not even sliding. We're kind of walking fast now towards soft fascism with him. We are seeing it in Hungary now, getting a look at it this week with Tucker Carlson. But this is serious, serious stuff when you talk about a coup and law enforcement officers died.

We have to keep emphasizing that. One of the ways to do that is to keep telling the stories of January 6th over and over and over again. But we also have to somehow educate our public about how fragile democracy is at moments like this.

STELTER: Now, let's bring in, Yasmeen, and connect the dots between what is happening between the U.S. and what is happening in Hungary. Last hour, Fareed Zakaria was talking about Tucker Carlson hungering for an almost autocrat Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. And he also talked about the right wing's broader fascination with Orban.

Look at how Tucker Carlson's show was produced in Budapest this week. Look at this, smiling, laughing, seeing excite -- it was a huge infomercial for Hungary, and Orban and Hungarian nationalism. It's a crazy sales pitch for a country that's population of Michigan and the size of Maine. And Carlson went there for a week, like it was the biggest deal in the world.

And, of course, he completely failed to note the autocratic character of Orban's government, the restrictions on the media there, all the reasons that Hungary as an example of Democratic backsliding. Carlson gave a speech there and on Saturday, leaving some believing he wants an Orban-style leader in the U.S.

So, what is this flirtation all about? Yasmeen, you're an expert on all things Hungary. What does it mean

when Carlson and other right-wingers are flocking to Budapest and extolling Hungary's virtues and values?

YASMEEN SERHAN, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, one thing that really stood out to me about Tucker Carlson's week in Hungary is that he was keen on delineating the differences between the United States and Hungary. He described one country as being a near authoritarian state, one where, you know, dissent is simply not allowed, where the media is controlled by the ruling class, where politicians enrich themselves and their cronies.

And then he described Hungary when confesses he doesn't know much about but which he described as being -- or I should say having both a healthier media ecosystem and a robust political system.

And to me, what -- I mean, this description on its own really kind of boggles the mine, I think, of people like myself and others who watch Hungary closely. And that's because, you know, over the last 12 years of Orban's rule, we have seen a piecemeal back sliding of the country under Orban, you know, 90 percent of the media, some estimates, are under the direct or indirect control of his party. He seized control of state institutions, installed loyalists as judges.

Virtually in every -- I mean, it's so dire the situation in Hungary right now that during their last elections in 2018, independent election observers effectively said that elections in Hungary are free but unfair, that they are effectively held on a playing field that privileges the ruling party because there is a blurred line between the state and Fidesz.

So, what I sort of took away from Tucker Carlson's extolling of how great Hungary is, is that he really wants Americans to see that brand of autocracy as something not only desirable, but within reach and something that we should be aspiring to.

STELTER: John, you delivered a really important reality check about this on "NEW DAY" a few days ago, and were one of the first to draw attention why this trip is problematic. Why this propaganda for Orban is so problematic.

Looking at it going forward, what are the consequences, you know, weeks, months, years from now?

AVLON: Well, it's an attempt to open the Overton window, to basically say that democracy is not an essential component to freedom and security. And this is part -- what makes it dangerous is it's part of a general effort to normalize the Orban regime, which is an autocratic regime, which has as you just heard, restrictive freedoms on almost every front. But under the auspices of trying to defend traditional values, anything is excused.


And this effort we've seen that sort of diminish the importance of majoritarian democracy by nationalist conservatives could not be more dangerous. And it draws a line between Tucker's infomercial for Hungary over the last week and what we're learning about Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the election. And the people --


AVLON: -- who try to normalize both.

That is why you've got to keep an eagle eye on this because the more folks -- if folks fly the American flag and think of themselves as patriots, you cannot do so in good conscience while also believing that democracy is overrated and should be restricted in an attempt to hold on to power. Those things are opposites and we need to educate folks about that, because that's what makes America different.

STELTER: Yeah, but -- you are right, it is absolutely related to what we are seeing now about Trump's behavior in the past and frankly what he's still doing every day, promoting these big lies to try to regain power.

ZURAWIK: (INAUDIBLE) if you are watching all of the coverage, the theme that came through is it was not just a celebration of Orban, it was, boy, do we need a guy like this in this country? Hungary is happy, clean -- one of the favorite words of Tucker Carlson, orderly. Orderly country.

America is a mess, all this rioting in the cities. All the violence, this is his -- I'm not saying this. This is him saying this.

We are -- it's embarrassing to be an American when Joe Biden is president is what he is saying.

STELTER: Right, that is the subtext.


ZURAWIK: -- pitch for Trump 2024, his show this week, this series.

STELTER: Everyone, thank you for setting us up here.

Coming up, what you're not seeing inside COVID wards across the country and the physicians who are sounding the alarm.

But, first, a week of shocking headlines from "The Albany Times Union" as Governor Andrew Cuomo fights to stay in office. Hear Albany editor Casey Seiler's firsthand account of how Cuomo's office bullied the media. That's next.



STELTER: Let's examine Governor Andrew Cuomo's relationships with the media --relationships, plural -- from his head pounding fights with editors to the very personal dynamic with his CNN anchorman brother Chris. The Governor Cuomo scandal is at the intersection of #metoo, the international movement against sexual misconduct, and also something newer, something known as mean too, about other abuses of power, about straight up meanness in workplaces.

Reporters have been out in front exposing both of those, and in some cases reporters experienced both issues with Governor Cuomo firsthand.

Casey Seiler's name is in the AG's report that came out this week. He's the editor of "The Albany Times Union" and he joins me now.

Casey, thanks for letting us into the newsroom.

CASEY SEILER, EDITOR, TIMES UNION: Thanks for having me on, Brian.

STELTER: I don't know if people expected the A.G. report to drop this week, nor did they expect it to be so damning. What has your week been like?

SEILER: It's been rather hectic, I think it's fair to say.

But as far as the contents of the report goes, it was -- it was more scathing, I think, than most of us thought. I think the most stunning revelations involved the appearance and the narrative around a state trooper who was added to the governor's personal detail despite the fact that she did not have the minimum, you know, years of service to be on the detail at the time.

And the governor essentially kind of picked her out after seeing her at an event. Then she ended up being allegedly subjected to the governor's harassment.

STELTER: And your newsroom have been investigating this case. There's -- as I described in the report, there is a situation where the governor's aide, Melissa DeRosa, calls up, has a very heated call, yelling. But then the governor calls you playing Mr. Nice Guy.

Is that right? What is it a good cop, bad cop routine to try to stop your newspaper from reporting about it?

SEILER: Well, this emerged from an inquiry that our investigative managing editor and capitol bureau chief, Brendon Lyons, had made back in December and he had sources who told him, hey, you know, the addition of this trooper represented an end run around those minimum service requirements. Brandon asked the state police and asked the executive chamber, Cuomo's office, to comment.

And what resulted was, you know, this incredible pushback in which Melissa DeRosa called me up on a Friday night and went kind of from zero to furious in about five seconds. And you know, it was an off the record conversation. I don't usually discuss those. But since it is described in the attorney's report I think that prohibition has been lifted.

As she herself noted in her testimony, she told me it was incredibly sexist to even ask the question. I responded with line that I have heard Brendon use a number of times, which is don't judge us by the questions that we ask, judge us by the stories that we print in the paper. And it was such a loud argument that I was working out of the attic, of course, during the pandemic, and had been for many months at that point and my wife came upstairs to the landing as if to say, is everything all right here?

And yeah, I got off the phone with her after a very unpleasant exchange. And the governor called. And the governor was as close as he gets to peaches and cream. It was, indeed a kind of sense of getting a bad cop, and then good cop.

But we of course later learned that both the state police and the executive chamber provided us with false information about the circumstances under which that female trooper was added to the detail.


And the state police's response on that was, I think it's fair to say extremely lame and the executive chamber has not yet responded. But, it's -- of course, it's not illegal to lie to the press. But it's not nice.

STELTER: It's immoral. So is this how it normally works in Albany, screaming matches, and then sweet talk and lying to the press? Is this par for the course? Or is what Governor Cuomo and his aides -- is this behavior unusual?

SEILER: No, it is not unusual. It is not constant, as with any relationship, there is an ebb and flow, right? But I would say it is definitely fair to say that I, like many of the hard-working journalists who cover the New York state capital, I would imagine that everyone has been yelled at multiple times by Cuomo press office officials or top aides to the governor, and probably by the governor himself as well.

STELTER: Right. Why was this tolerated for so long?

SEILER: I believe it was -- one of the governor's top aides who said to, if memory serves a Connecticut gubernatorial official a couple of years ago, and it was kind of a famous quote, we have two speeds here. Get along, and kill.

And that was -- that was a revealing statement. And I think it's an accurate description of the kind of first page of the Cuomo playbook, which is that defense needs to be swift, and it needs to be scorched earth.

STELTER: So, I'm wondering if the Governor Cuomo scandal and what appears to be his downfall is evidence of the importance of strong news in state capitols, that we need as many journalists as possible in capitals like Albany?

SEILER: Yes, absolutely, without a doubt, 100 percent in all 50 states, and U.S. territories. The hollowing out of traditional media and the fact that it is expensive and difficult the mount investigative news I think this is an example of the importance of all of that good work. I consider myself lucky, you know, to work at an institution that prizes watchdog journalism, and always has

STELTER: And here's some breaking news. On Monday, his newsroom, "The Times Union" and CBS will jointly have the first interview with a Cuomo accuser who up until now has only been known as executive assistant number one. She is breaking her silence and anonymity, coming forward in a television interview that will air tomorrow morning. She says in the interview, what he did to me was a crime. So, that interview is airing tomorrow morning on CBS.

So, that's one of the Cuomo brothers and ties to the media. But what is going on between Chris Cuomo and CNN? My reporting, after the break.



STELTER: More now on the Cuomo brothers. Chris Cuomo has a lot to say. Right now, he cannot say it.

CNN management has made two things clear to him. One, that he can't talk about his brother, Andrew Cuomo, on TV. And two, that he cannot participate in any more strategy sessions with the governor's aides.

So, if you're wondering why Chris has remained silent about the scandal, well, that is why.

This week, I have been doing reporting on the media angle of this Cuomo story, which has meant talking with staffers here at CNN about Chris Cuomo, and it's one of a kind situation. A TV star in primetime, governor's brother at all times.

Now, let's just be candid with each other. These staffers I am talking with are my colleague, of course. And I assured them they could speak anonymously and candidly.

What I found is a more complicated story than you might think. This has been a conundrum for CNN that has no perfect answer, no perfect solution. Some think CNN made it worse by letting Chris interview his brother when COVID-19 was ravaging New York. But that was an unprecedented time period.

And so is this one. A famous family in the news. A governor who soared to the highest heights last year now soaring to the lowest lows, self- inflicted wounds. And a brother who just wants to do his job, just wants to anchor his show, but can he? That's the key question.

Well, this week, Chris showed that he can. He tuned out the family drama and led compelling interviews during "CUOMO PRIME TIME", all while dealing with has to be one of the hardest periods of his adult life.

Viewers wanted to see him on TV. And let's be honest, this is TV. It's not a totally irrelevant factor. Chris had the highest rated hour on CNN on Tuesday, on Wednesday, and again on Thursday.

And on those shows, Chris made no reference to his brother's troubles. That is by design. My sources say management has made it clear about his position. He is not covering his brother on TV, period, he is not talking about it at all. And you can believe me, I tried. I wanted an interview, and I was

turned down. And I personally believe he should speak out when the time is right. Chris should share his point of view. He is part of the story.

The AG's report confirmed that Chris was actively talking with the governor's aides about how to handle the accusations of harassment earlier this year. CNN management said back in May that Chris crossed a line by doing that, and he apologized to colleagues for it.


Some critics said he should have been suspended or even fired. But I'm going to level with you. Telling a well-off host to hang out by the pool for a couple of weeks is not a real punishment. It's B.S. when Fox sends a host off on vacation during a scandal. Scolding a host in public, saying what they did was inappropriate, that is an actual punishment.

Again, I think Chris should be asked about all this, he should be grilled like anyone else. That's what numerous staffers at CNN said to me this week. On the outside, some of the same critics who slammed him for interviewing his brother about COVID are knocking him now for staying silent. But, you know, tune out that bad faith nonsense.

Here's the logic on the part of management, and you can decide if you agree or you disagree with it. The logic on the part of management is that whatever Chris says about the allegations against his brother will be picked apart. He will be accused of either using his platform to spin for his family, or he'll be accused of betraying his brother, the logic is that he should just stay out of it, he should do the job that the viewers want him to do.

Plus, CNN is so much bigger than any one anchor. What really matters most is how CNN, as a global news outlet, covers the governor's alleged crimes. Now, I asked around about this all week, and I found absolutely no sign that Chris having a show at 9:00 affects the rest of the day.

If anything, it's the opposite. Some staffers have speculated that the coverage has been extra tough on CNN, because of the scrutiny. I think CNN's coverage has been scathing, it has been appropriately in-depth, because this is one of the governors of -- this is the governor of one of the largest states in the country in the middle of (INAUDIBLE) firestorm.

So, I want you all to know, it's not like Chris is walking around the New York Bureau newsroom hanging out with the reporters who are covering the story. He works several floors away. He doesn't have that kind of interaction. Still, there is an optics problem. And that's why I'm dedicating so much time to this here on the show.

This entire story looks awkward for CNN. As one staffer said to me, the lines are just too blurred when it comes to Chris. Some colleagues are ticked off at him. But lots of CNNers also expressed support for him and respect for his anchoring skills. And look, differences of opinion in a newsroom are a good thing. It is a good thing, that people have different opinions, and they're talking about it, and it's being discussed.

The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics instructs journalists to avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived, and to disclose unavoidable conflicts. Clearly, family is unavoidable. And in this case, the conflict is disclosed right in the show's name, "CUOMO PRIMETIME." So, that's not really the issue.

The issue is whether Chris can continue to do his job, continue to be trusted by the audience. Clearly, the leaders of the CNN think so. But ultimately, that's up to you. That's up to the people who tuned in or don't, every night. Trust in this business is earned every day, inch by inch, minute by minute, show by show.

So, here's one thing I know for sure, Chris is going to have a surreal birthday on Monday. He always takes his birth week off, he always takes it off work. But this year, he's going to be absent while his brother is fighting for his political life, trying to stop this impeachment train.

And bad faith actors are going to say Chris has been canceled or something when they don't see him on air on Monday. Don't believe it. I checked resources on his staff, and they confirmed that he booked this time off months ago. It is an actual vacation. But it's coming at a really, really difficult time for Chris, personally.

And that's something that many sources brought up to me. You know, whether they agree or disagree with management's decision, a lot of people feel a lot of sympathy for him. I think that's significant that you all should know. And as for vacation, it seems like everyone could want to use one of those right about now.

Now, our coverage of this story continues in the nightly Reliable Sources Newsletter, and you can sign up for free right now at And when we come back here, what's on Monday at 9:00? Well, I'm going to give you a preview, AOC is one of Fox's favorite boogey women. But now, she is sharing her thoughts on the network's narratives. That is next.



STELTER: We live in a soundbite culture, everything's reduced to a snippet. But that can be so unsatisfying. Frankly, so uninformative, including for the people being quoted. In this culture, the soundbite culture has provoked all sorts of long form counter programming. From multi-hour podcast interviews, the eight-part docuseries. In that space is coming something new from CNN on Monday, Dana Bash is introducing a new occasional series called "BEING."

The first episode is about being Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Dnna sat down with AOC for an in-depth interview and a really personal interview. There's a lot to it. And there's some news in here about Fox that I want to get to. But first, let's talk about what this series is all about. Dana is joining me now with a preview.

So, "BEING" is supposed to be a different kind of interview show. What are you trying to accomplish, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you set it up perfectly, Brian. I couldn't have said it better myself, that, you know, what -- part of the reason why I love my job here in Washington is because I do get to ask the tough questions of people who are in the news. But also, as being a journalist and being around, and getting to know lawmakers and know other people of influence, you realize that there's more to the story often than the time that you have in those critical and very important interviews.

So, you know, who is the person behind the soundbite as you describe it? And this is something I've wanted to do for a very long time. Let it breathe, as we like to say in the T.V. business, and give viewers and our audience more time to get to know the people who are in the headlines that they read every day.


STELTER: And what their lives are really like. Ocasio-Cortez is a constant of, you know, figure on Fox. She doesn't give interviews to Fox, but she's attacked on there all the time. So, you asked her about that. And let's watch what she said.


BASH: Do you ever watch Fox News? Do you watch what they say about you?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Not a ton. Every once in a while, I do. And I think that it's really fascinating. I actually find it to be really, really fascinating because it reveals a lot about the subconscious of folks that are crafting these narratives. And they very often are speaking to these very subconscious narratives about women, or about people of color, or about Latinos or Latinas, and -- or about working-class people, you know, these characters that are developed are not really personal, they are societal.

BASH: So, you can watch that and take yourself, you the human being, out of it?


BASH: You look at it almost from an academic point of view?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, actually, the right-wing take--

BASH: That's seems like it would be pretty hard to do.


BASH: Because you are a human being.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It is. The harder one is the critiques from within the party.


STELTER: So, interesting there, Dana, she pivots to the Democrats toward the end, and says, it's harder to hear the left-wing criticize her.

BASH: That's right. And she talks a lot more about this in this special tomorrow night about the fact that it was more difficult than people realized, again, as a person, as a colleague coming into the United States Congress to be given the cold shoulder by fellow Democrats because she beat a very well-liked democrat, Joe Crowley, and that's how she came to Washington.

But on the Fox situation, and more broadly, the conservative media, Brian, what was so interesting in a different part was that she talked about what she called a through line between the kind of fixation and, you know, denigration and all of the words that you can think of that are synonyms for her and others, and threats against her, real threats against her, not to mention what happened on January 6th.

STELTER: But a through line from all that. That's really interesting. What's your one-line interviewing technique or tip for people who are watching who are interviewers or want to be?

BASH: Listen. Just listen. Listen to what people say, because you might have a whole list of questions, and I certainly do, and I know you do as well when you prepare. But sometimes the person you're interviewing says things that you don't expect and go with it because that's when it's most interesting.

STELTER: All right. We will tune in tomorrow, Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thanks for having me, Brian.

STELTER: The new series "BEING" debuts Monday 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. And Dana is back in a few minutes for "STATE OF THE UNION." Coming up, the new ways the news media is capturing the COVID-19 crisis.



STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES, I'm Brian Stelter. We hear about the COVID surges that are happening almost always entirely among the unvaccinated. We hear about the chaos in some cases carnage in hospitals. But are we actually seeing it? Our national outlets getting enough access to hospitals, our local outlets actually able to show the harsh reality of COVID among the unvaccinated?

That's a question for my guest who's with me to understand this situation. Dr. Nisha Mehta is a radiologist and physician advocate. She runs two physician-focused Facebook groups, with over 130,000 verified physicians as members. And she often sees what's happening inside hospitals before it ends up making national news. Doctor, thank you for coming on. What is the -- what's missing from the news coverage right now? Is it that firsthand look at the suffering?

DR. NISHA MEHTA, RADIOLOGIST: Yes, thanks for having me. I think it's so important that the media actually does cover that on-the-grounds coverage. I think a lot of what we're seeing out there in the media these days, and a lot of what my physicians are expressing frustration about is the fact that we are hearing a lot of press conferences, and we're hearing a lot of the same stuff that we've kind of heard over the last 18 months, which is good to reinforce.

However, it doesn't necessarily change behavior, right? So, what we see and what we are talking about on our communities is that people change what they do when they hear stories that identify with them, or that they can relate to, and people are not seeing. You know, we almost wish that we could take people on rounds in the ICU with us or walk them through the emergency room and have them listen to the stories of the people that are there.

Because, really, I think what people remember about these situations are what we were seeing last March or last April. And what we're seeing today is very different in terms of the demographics of the people that are in the -- in the units and in the emergency rooms and the effects that we're having after 18 months of a population and a healthcare system that's really tired after having dealt with this for the past 18 months. And so, you know, it used to be that people thought about older people and people that were with chronic medical conditions in these units.

And now, what's happening is because a lot of those patients have been vaccinated, it's not that they can't get COVID, there's obviously breakthrough COVID infection, but we're not seeing them as much in the higher acuity settings like the ICU settings, or with the morbidity and mortality.

So -- but what we are seeing is, you know, pregnant patients that are filling up the ICUs, or we're seeing people in their 20s, 30s, 40s who have blood clots or heart attacks or strokes, and all of those sorts of things that people really do identify with. And the patients that are there are telling us, you know, I wish I would have made some different decisions. And people that know --

STELTER: And we are seeing that in interviews. I think it's really remarkable to see these bedside interviews live on CNN from people's cell phones, where you see unvaccinated adults say, I wish I had gotten the shot. So, we are seeing that, but we don't see a lot of the videos from inside the ICU. Is that because of HIPAA restrictions, so we can't bring cameras in?


MEHTA: I think that there's a lot of control in the messaging, right? I mean, and that's the hard part is that everybody is looking to -- there's P.R. issues related on the -- on the hospital side of things. There's confidentiality issues in terms of patient care, and then, you know, the systems are stretched right now. We are down a lot of people in a lot of these hospital systems right now. And we've got physicians that are talking about being not only the

physician, but also the receptionist, and also maybe the person who's taking an X-ray every once in a while. And so, what's happening is, I don't think that there's a lot of focus on getting the story out there. And there's also a lot of concerns about, you know, the access to that information.

But from a public health perspective, I think that people respond better if they see those stories and see, you know, hey, we don't have any beds right now. And guess what, even if I had a heart attack, or I had a stroke, or I got into a car accident right now, I would be waiting until there was care available for me. We've got hospital systems that are diverting because they don't have access to oxygen even, so they're on diversion, or maybe they don't have enough staffing. And so, they're -- even if they have a bed, they're not able to give it up.

So, those are the stories, I think, that people need to really be seeing so that they understand. You know, number one, the people that are in these ICUs could look like me and have had stories like me and are changing their minds. And actually, people that are even outside very publicly saying that they don't like vaccines, or, you know, are vaccine hesitant, have actually seen a lot of these stories or heard of people that have had these situations that they identify with, and then they're coming to their physicians and asking to get vaccinated.

So, I think the more that we do of that, you know, we all live in these echo chambers, where people have kind of made up their mind over the last 18 months about how they feel about the situation. And really, until we can have people see things that they identify with it, encourage them to reach out and ask for more data, you know, it doesn't help very much to have a press conference that reiterates the same things that they've been hearing over the last few months. And so --

STELTER: Right. Sterile boring press conference, I agree with you.

MEHTA: Right.

STELTER: Nisha, thank you very much for being here. So, that's the unvaccinated getting sick, overwhelming hospitals. Let's talk about the vaccinated in places like Provincetown, and how these outbreaks are covered. Andrew Sullivan lives -- has lived for many years in Provincetown. He's the acclaimed writer and blogger.

And I wanted to talk to him about his experience in Provincetown and how it's been covered because, you know, Andrew, there's this outbreak, there's this COVID cluster, gets a lot of attention in July. So, what's the real deal? What did the media miss about Provincetown?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, AUTHOR AND BLOGGER: Almost everything. It is -- it is extremely normal right now, or something like three percent positivity. What happened is that in two weeks, we had 60,000 people to send, after a year of not partying at all, on a tiny town with 900- year-round mailing addresses and overwhelmed the place at a time when it was also cold and rainy. So, everyone was crammed inside. It was like a designed stress test

for seeing whether it could break through. And the truth is, the end result of that was seven people ended up in the hospital. Over -- out of 60,000 people, and no one died. And there were some people who got a little sick, friends of mine, like my next-door neighbor.

But it was like a little cold, a mild few days flu, it was not a big deal. But the story, I mean, this amazing story of all the gays coming to this little town and exploding the virus, it was just too good -- too good a story for journalists to resist. And the result has been this town has been shellacked, it's been absolutely knocked sideways, the businesses, and people have canceled in ways that are irrational. And the businesses here are suffering terribly. And I hope people will realize this is not a dangerous zone, it is extraordinarily safe here.

STELTER: You write in your new book, "Out on a Limb" with selected writings from decades of work, decades of your work. You write about your HIV positive status, and living with a virus. And now, here we all are trying to figure out how to live with a very different virus with COVID-19. It's not going to go away entirely, we're not going to get to COVID zero. So, what are you -- what are you telling your readers of your substack about what it means to live with a virus?

SULLIVAN: It means recognizing that we and viruses, we humans and viruses, we inhabit the same planet. And it's in their interest not to kill us, actually. Because if they kill us too quickly, they can't transmit. So, this actual new Delta variant is actually performing as you would expect, it's not killing people more, it's just transmitting more.

And the point is, after a while you begin to realize it's 28 years that I have lived with a virus in my body, it isn't gone. It's hiding there in the bone marrow. I've been able to repress it dramatically, so it doesn't affect me. But then, I go about my life and I live. You can when you're grappling with a virus, lose perspective and think all I have to do is to kill this virus, it's the only thing that matters in my life. There are many other things matter in your life.


And the goal is to get back to it. The goal is to live with these things, not to have some false triumph over them. And so, vaccination really will help people get back to normal, and in ways that we can then clear our minds and realize we're not really at any great risk. We really aren't. And that's hard to believe. I know it, but we aren't.

STELTER: If we are vaccinated. And so, we have these two countries --

SULLIVAN: If you're vaccinated.

STELTER: -- two countries, and one that is bleak and disturbing, and the other that is safe, and we need to address that. Andrew, thank you. (INAUDIBLE)

SULLIVAN: And that contrast can only help, right? It can only help people realize get vaccinated.

STELTER: Right. Yes. Andrew, thank you. The new book, the new collection is "Out on a Limb," it is excellent, I recommend it. Andrew, thank you. And thanks to all of you for joining us for this televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. We will see this time next week for more.