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Former President Clinton Leaves Hospital; Threats To American Democracy Should Be Front-Page News; "Peril" Co-Author On How To Cover Threats To Democracy; Fox News Media CEO Says 'I Sleep Well At Night'; Why Bari Weiss Moved From NYT To Substack; Netflix Resisting A 'Cancel Culture' Campaign? Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 17, 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. This is RELIABLE SOURCES.
We begin with some breaking news. You are looking live at UC Irvine Medical Center. In just a few moments, former President Bill Clinton will be leaving the hospital.
We're told from CNN's Jamie Gangel that Clinton is leaving the hospital shortly and heading home to Chappaqua. Jamie citing a source familiar, saying that a statement from the president's doctor is about to be released. This follows what we were told about his treatment needing approximately three to five days of antibiotics. So, we'll be hearing momentarily from the former president's doctors. They'll be issuing a statement.
But we know, actually, I think we see on our own camera on screen, Bill Clinton walking out of UC Irvine with Hillary by his side.
He's been there over the past few days. Remember he was initially in California speaking for a public appearance when he was feeling ill and checked into the hospital there. You can see the former president shaking hands with some of the doctors as he leaves.
We'll just pause here for a moment.
President Clinton's spokesman saying, Clinton discharged today, his fever and white blood cell count normalized and he will continue home to New York to finish his antibiotics. On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to threat him and we'll continue to monitor him and monitor his progress.
That's a statement from the chair of the department of medicine there at the hospital, provided by Bill Clinton's spokesman.
So good news this Sunday morning, President Clinton out of the hospital, heading back to New York.
Now this is RELIABLE SOURCES. We examine the story behind the story and tell you what's reliable in this wild world.
This hour, two top Democrats blaming the press for budget ignorance. But are they just passing the buck?
Plus, Fox divides families. That's the slogan on the poster at this protest outside Fox News headquarters. We're going to be joining by the author of the book about "Brainwashing," who was there at that protest.
And later, a week of headlines about Dave Chappelle and Netflix. What does it say about Netflix that the streaming giant is not budging amid calls to take Dave Chappelle's special down? We're going to talk with Matt Belloni coming up.
And I also have a very personal story to share before threats against journalists.
But, first, democracy dies in darkness, yes, but it could also die right in the light. While President Biden is urging people to face the truth and warns about democratic principles being under assault around the world, his predecessor is leading that assault in the United States.
Donald Trump's latest delusion is mail-in ballots in one Arizona county were, quote, rigged and thus a new election should immediately retake or the past election should be decertified and Republican declared the winner.
So Trump is basically saying, make me president again, as if this is some sort of reality TV show where the host will just come out and say, never mind, we're rewriting the rules.
Of course, the big lie is a never-ending, present tense story, as this NBC headline pointed out, the Trump stolen election lies on the ballot in 2022, as so many Republicans are being pressured to agree with his falsehoods and to take anti-democratic actions.
With this as the backdrop, "Peril" co-author Robert Costa will join me in just a moment.
But, first, a media critique from a former Democratic voting rights attorney. That's Marc Elias. He's the founding partner of Democracy Docket. And he wrote this week about how peddling these lies can topple democracy. He says we are one, maybe two elections as way from a true constitutional crisis.
Marc, thank you for coming on the program.
MARC ELIAS, VOTING RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thank you for having me, Brian.
STELTER: You've been critical of CNN at times. You were critical of this show last week. So, I want to hear your number one critique is of how the news media is or is not covering threats to democracy.
ELIAS: Yes. So, first of all, thank you for having me on. And I am usually more praising of your show than critical, I want to be clear at the outset of that. So, the problem with the media is that it treats certain aspects of democracy as sacrosanct.
So, for example, any encroachment on the First Amendment right to publish newspapers or curtail the media or to take action against the media is uniformly denounced by the media in absolutist terms. But when it comes to free and fair elections, there tends to be more of a nuanced and sliding scale that the media has.
So, for example, this morning Jake Tapper did a great job in asking Adam Kinzinger about his opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. So, kudos to Jake for doing that. His an -- the answer that the congressman gave was that he agrees with the decision in Shelby county to undo preclearance, and opposes the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Now, in 2006 that was such an extreme position that 98 Republicans in the Senate -- I'm sorry, 98 senators voted in favor of reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Not a single dissenting vote in the Senate.
It was signed into law by a conservative President George Bush. And yet, here we are in 2021 and Adam Kinzinger actually marks kind of the midway point in the press coverage of democracy because of his position on -- on the January 6th Commission, rather than representing a still extreme position in opposing voting rights.
So that's really my main critique is that -- is that the goal posts have been moved and for everything other than the press' coverage of press freedoms.
STELTER: So the press takes its own interests very seriously, but then doesn't do as good a job with the rest of it you're saying?
ELIAS: I think that's exactly right.
STELTER: So what should we be doing differently?
ELIAS: I'm sorry?
STELTER: What should we do differently in concrete ways? It feels like every day there's a slow, gathering storm. We see this democratic backside happening. What should the nightly news and the newspapers and the AP and the Reuters do on a daily basis differently?
ELIAS: It should cover that on a daily basis. That's my point, is that, you know, there was a -- a couple weeks ago, there was more coverage about the failing of a news outlet I had never heard of, quite frankly, and suspect most Americans never heard of.
ELIAS: Yeah, and less about the backsliding of democracy.
So rather than treating it as a one-off story here or there, treat it like we treat COVID coverage. Treat it like we treat other major stories that pose existential risks for the country by covering it in every day in a clear pro-democracy slant, not an unbiased slant, a pro-democracy slant. STELTER: There's a new book out by Mollie Hemingway. She's a FOX News
contributor. It's called "Rigged". It's supposed to be the intellectual argument for how the election was stolen, you know, through big tech and through the media putting its thumb on the scale, et cetera.
And Hemingway has been all over Fox in the past week and she has been calling you out among others because you are viewed as this Democratic lawyer boogieman who is out to, you know, in their minds, steal elections.
So, how do you handle that, you know, intense scrutiny, that coverage, that criticism from right wing media?
ELIAS: So, as you can tell, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I tend to take it head on because I think that ignoring it and this is one the things, by the way, your show does extremely well and, frankly, I wish all of the media did what your show does, is you don't ignore the right wing misinformation just from -- you take it head on.
So that's really what I try to do. I try to call it out. I try to point out the inconsistencies and absurdities of it. But otherwise, we just need to keep our eye on the ball of focusing on protecting democracy going forward.
STELTER: Yeah, I appreciate what you said about this program and about, you know, some people are trying to call attention to this every day, every week. I think CNN every day is sounding these alarms.
And one of my fears is that other networks, other major outlets are not, and they're going to regret it years from now, right? Isn't this ultimately about -- let's not have regret 20 years from now?
ELIAS: That's exactly right, Brian. I don't -- I can't speak to what it means for ratings tomorrow or next week. What I do know is that ten years from now, 20 years from now, when your children and grandchildren look at this moment in time, they will celebrate those people who spoke forcefully and called this out, and they will be ashamed of those people who hid in the shadows and created a sense of both size.
So I agree with you.
BURNETT: Marc, thank you four coming on.
ELIAS: Thank you for having me.
BURNETT: We were talking about the problems, maybe we can also talk about the solutions. I mentioned Robert Costa. Let me bring him in. He's co-author of "Peril," the huge best-selling book. He's also a national reporter at "The Washington Post."
You're on leave right now because of "Peril," Robert. And you told me that "Peril" or the work for "Peril" started to make you think differently about your beat.
So what is the beat now these days for political reporters?
ROBERT COSTA, CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": At first when we began this project, Bob Woodward and I saw Donald Trump on January 6th as a passive figure, watching television as the insurrection happened on Capitol Hill. But after spending nine to ten months digging into the story, it became evident that democracy itself here in the United States is in peril, and it's because president Trump when he was president was anything but passive, and Donald Trump now out of office is aggressive.
And it's easy to look at first as a reporter at the cascade of tweets and statements now with him out of office and just see words, but the reporting bears out action. He used power when he was in office to test democracy to the extreme. He's doing it again inside the Republican Party, to pressure Republicans to say the election was stolen.
This is such an important beat, democracy. It's not just red versus blue anymore. It's not just follow the money. It's follow the money, cover politics, but most importantly, cover democracy.
STELTER: So it sounds like you're going to bring that back to "The Post", you know? That political reporting is not what it was 10 or 20 years ago. We have to approach it differently.
COSTA: Both sides or rest versus blue, Republican or Democrat, is only a surface-level prism for understanding American politics in this fragile moment. You have to see how power is being used not just in the halls of the capitol but outside.
And our book shows people like Steve Bannon wielding power now, weaponizing it, to try to push lawmakers, push state officials and you see now a real effort afoot inside different states to have Trump allies who think the election was stolen to now hold positions of power.
And with the demise of local media, which is a very unfortunate story in many parts of this country, more accountability at both the national and state level is necessary from a reporting standpoint.
STELTER: Your critique of the mainstream media's approach to this, is it that we -- I mentioned CNN and others are trying to take this very seriously. You're clearly taking it very seriously. Is it that others are -- they don't see what's happening or they're afraid to call it out or they don't have bosses who will let them call it out? What's your impression of what's going on?
COSTA: It's not so much a critique but sense of urgency, that these are serious times, and whether it's a spending debate on Capitol Hill, it's not about personalities, about Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema versus President Biden, this is about issues, policies, money, democracy. And to have the media -- the media has one great thing in its favor, the pursuit of truth and when you pursue that truth, want to have as much integrity as possible. So, my statement here is not a critique at all but just a sense of
urgency after doing this book with Bob Woodward, who throughout his entire career has tried to hold those in power accountable for their decisions.
STELTER: You have -- I want to say this the right way -- you're a product of conservative media, but maybe you would say it differently, you have roots in conservative media. You use to be the Washington editor at "National Review".
And throughout "Peril", you see the impact you see the impact of right wing media. At one point, General Mark Milley worrying about extremism right underneath his nose in the United States.
How have you seen right wing media evolve in the Trump years and beyond?
COSTA: I wouldn't use the word product, Brian. I'm a reporter. I was a reporter at "National Review" and I covered the right seriously as a beat for about four years. What I saw then, Brian, up close with somebody like Donald Trump using birtherism to gain power inside the Republican Party.
And I'm glad I covered that beat in an intense way for years because I saw birtherism up close. I saw the Tea Party movement up close. I saw Bannon rise as a top propaganda filmmaker on the right to then become a leader at Breitbart and ultimately leader of the Trump campaign.
You have to not avert your gaze as a reporter of things that are happening on the fringe. I covered it as a reporter when it was the fringe. Then it became the source of power in the Republican Party.
STELTER: Right, because that's -- that's the endless debate, how much to cover Trump, how much to cover Marjorie Taylor Greene if she is the fringe of the party. But you're saying that fringe is moving towards the center?
COSTA: It's not about giving enormous air time. I'm not a television producer.
COSTA: But as a reporter my argument with Trump has always been he actually needed to be covered more. That you need to have more delving into the finances of a candidate, more about their conduct in the past, that more reporting is always the answer.
It's not about not covering them.
It's about covering them in a way that gets at who these people are, how they will use power if they win it.
STLETER: I love that phrase, the answer is always more reporting, absolutely. Robert, stay with us. I want to ask you about Katie Couric back in the
news for all of the wrong reasons.
And later, an in-depth interview with Bari Weiss about leaving "The New York Times" and exposing what she calls self-censorship in media.
STELTER: Nancy Pelosi's comments this week begging the question, what is the role of the press?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you think you need to do a better job at messaging? And going forward, how do you sell this if, ultimately, you have to pare it back?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think you all can do a better job of selling it, to be frank with you, because every time I come here, I go through a list.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: A red flag there. Pelosi saying, you all and the media can do a better job selling the Build Back Better Act.
Well, look, the press is not responsible for selling that bill or any Democratic bill.
But the Democratic frustration is real and it's not just with the speaker. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also pinning blame on the media as this "Axios" reporter points out. This is a statement from Friday saying the press has done an exceptionally poor job of covering the bill and, thus, people don't know what the Democrats are trying to advance, what's in this spending agenda that right now is, you know, slowly making its way through the Congress.
Back with me now is Robert Costa, the author of "Peril" and reporter for "The Washington Post."
So, Pelosi, Sanders, both of them complaining about the press this week. What do you think, Rob?
COSTA: Brian, whether it's a Democrat who's in Congress or Republican, we can expect their opinion and they can have their view, but it shouldn't be guiding coverage. That said, this is one of the most significant pieces of spending we have seen in recent decades being debated on Capitol Hill, and it deserves immense attention and scrutiny, in-depth coverage.
Just as we discussed democracy deserves accountability across the board, so does coverage on Capitol Hill. And this is vital thing for the press to cover, so people are informed about the details of legislation, where their taxpayer dollars are going, and to bring it beyond a debate about the filibuster.
COSTA: In the sense of covering things beyond where people stand on the filibuster.
STELTER: But is it the media's fault that the average voter may not know a lot about what's in this massive spending bill? Is it the media's fault?
COSTA: It's not the media's fault per se but the media, collectively speaking, and I'm speaking for myself here, we can always do a better job of providing readers about ways that make this kind of information on policy in spending accessible. And that's a challenge for the media every day, how do you get over something that's details and numbers- oriented --
COSTA: -- and make sure you're packaging it in a way that actually connects with an audience.
STELTER: Yeah. You know a lot about relationships between journalists and sources. Let me ask you about a journalist/source and scandal this week that's getting a lot of attention, especially from right wing media.
Katie Couric has a book coming out and in the book, she admits a lot of things. She admits that she omitted some comments that the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made during an interview years ago with Couric.
So, let me read part of the book to know what the context is. She says, I faced the conundrum when I asked RBG what she thought about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the anthem to protect (ph) the police of killings of black men. I think it's dumb and disrespectful, she told me, and then she went on.
So, she felt torn. A Supreme Court aide called and asked her not to air that part of the interview. She did air a portion of the interview but she took some out. Here's what she said, she left the difference. She left in Ginsburg's harsh characterization of Kaepernick's actions, but left in, quote: It's contempt for government that has made it possible for their parents and their grandparents to live a dangerous life.
So she omitted a key part of the interview with a Supreme Court justice and she's getting a lot of criticism for this.
Robert, Couric said she still wrestles with the decision she made. Did she make the right decision to take out that quote?
COSTA: I have note read Ms. Couric's book but based on what you just described there, it reminds me of the Trump era when interviews with Trump were detailed in articles but ultimately many news organizations, including "The Washington Post" decided to put out transcripts of those interviews because when you're dealing with people in power at the highest positions, whether it's a president or member of the Supreme Court, readers, citizens deserve to have as much information as possible, and full transcripts, if you can provide them, really help readers get behind the scenes of the reporting.
So, Couric as a reporter or journalist can decide how she edits a package together. But when it's done in a way -- when it's about a subject as important as a Supreme Court justice --
COSTA: -- people deserve to know what was said.
STELTER: Yeah, this contributes to a decline in trust in media. When she admits years later that she basically covered something up, even if she says, you know, I didn't know if I did the right thing and I'm wrestling with it and I'm trying to be transparent now, it contributes to a lack of trust in media.
And here's the headline from "The Week," Joel Mathis of "The Week" saying this adds to America's misinformation problem. Is that fair?
COSTA: Trust and integrity, that's our currency in the media. We have to do everything possible in time of disinformation to protect that integrity and trust. And whether it's an article, a tweet, we're all out there all the time, and the best disinfectant is sunlight. Get as much sunlight on those stories as possible so people reading and digesting this information feel they're getting something not packaged or cut up but the full truth. Get as close to the truth as possible.
STELTER: Yeah, if a Supreme Court press aide says, hey, can you not run that clip, that's more reason to run it, right?
[11:25:04] That's more reason to think it's newsworthy.
Robert Costa, co-author of "Peril," thank you so much.
COSTA: Thank you.
STELTER: Up next -- is it time for a surgeon general's warning for these Fox News shows?
STELTER: All the criticism -- all the -- what is it really? All the criticism of Fox News does not seem to shake Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. I sleep well at night, she says. This was a recent interview with the "Hollywood Reporter".
She said: If I wasted any time reading social stories about myself, or social media post of what have you, I wouldn't be able to get my job done. You know what I always say? I sleep well at night.
Keep that in mind as we talk about Fox's vaccine skepticism, sometimes outright denialism, and how it has prolonged America's pandemic.
Fox's headlines on screen, the banners on-screen, mandate mayhem, mandate may -- madness. It's all about sending a message that the -- people refusing the vaccine -- resisting the vaccine are the heroes of the Fox news story, and the people trying to protect others are the villains. It's a heroes and villains story. It's presented by Fox and other MAGA media outlets.
So, it's nice to know the CEO still sleeps well at night. She was vaccinated a very long time ago, of course, just like most of her talent, and most of the producers, most of the figureheads who run Fox Corporation.
And yet, many of the viewers come away with the sense the vaccines are scary, dangerous, untested, unproven, something to be skeptical about, something to take only if necessary.
Is that a form of brainwashing? Said a fair word? I want to ask a couple of guests now, Oliver Darcy, CNN Senior Media Reporter who covers this day in day out, and Jen Senko, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and author of the book "The Brainwashing of My Dad." She first directed a film of the same name, and now it's nearly out as a book. So, welcome to both. Jen thanks for coming on.
Brainwashing is a very strong word, but it came to my mind this week as I watched some of Fox's never-ending vaccine mandate coverage, you know, the opposition to mandates, that's what primetime Fox is all about these days.
JEN SENKO, AUTHOR, "THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD": Right.
STELTER: How do you view their coverage of vaccines?
SENKO: How do I view what?
STELTER: How do you view what how do you view Fox's coverage of vaccine mandates?
SENKO: Well, I think it's irresponsible, I think it's dangerous, I think it's hypocritical. I think that the main reason why Fox covers vaccine mandates and masks the way they do is to divide -- is to further divide the American people.
They gain -- they gain Republican voters, new Republican voters, and then that gives them deregulation for their corporations and tax breaks for the uberwealthy.
So, they just -- they took an opportunity since Trump, you know, didn't like wearing a mask, and didn't really take COVID seriously. It was a perfect opportunity to make this just another divisive issue.
STELTER: They had to sync up with Trump in 2020, that's right. Tell us about the brainwashing of your dad. That's the title of the book.
It's not just about your dad, though. What you describe is this phenomenon where families are torn apart by right-wing radio and TV. Why did you decide to address this head-on?
SENKO: Well, if -- our family, kind of, suffered for about 20 years. When my dad discovered Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, his personality entirely changed.
We -- he was unrecognizable. He became a zealot, he became very critical of Democrats, and we're run of the male Democrats.
And you know, it wasn't so much that he became a Republican, it was that he was an extreme Republican, and he was always in a rage. And she was always trying to convert us, he was like a zealot. And my mother would get these arguments with him and say, you know, Frank, I think you're brainwashed.
And when I first named the movie, "The Brainwashing of My Dad," I didn't actually think that it was necessarily brainwashing, but that's what it felt like to me and many, many people.
Of course, after I did the movie and talked to neuroscientists, then I found, well, yes, it is -- it is brainwashing. But I've seen this happen to so many people, and thousands and thousands of people have told me their stories. It's always very sad.
STELTER: Oliver, media reporters like you and me, we don't always cover it that way, you know, you rarely hear about that. You rarely hear about the impact on the viewers of the content on Fox News, but maybe that's changing.
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Right, and Brian, it's difficult as media reporters, I think, to convey to people how persistent these anti-Vax messages on Fox are. I was thinking it --
STELTER: Exactly. It's very a --
DARCY: -- I was thinking about it --
STELTER: It's a day in day out. It never ends. That's right.
DARCY: It's like a fire hose of anti-vax rhetoric coming from these people. I was thinking about it in these terms. If you had a company out there that was throwing an anti-vaccine rally, filling up a football stadium every single night, that would be alarming to a lot of people, it'd be a big story.
Fox is doing that every single night and they're filling of dozens of these football stadiums if you will, full of people who tune in to get these anti-vaccine rhetorics from the hosts, from the guests that they bring on.
DARCY: And these rallies, if you will, are being put on by a company, which has very strict COVID protocols itself. They have, you know, 90 percent of the staff is vaccinated. If you don't have a vaccine, you have to submit to daily testing. Face masks are required in certain areas. And so, the hypocrisy is really off of the charts. And so, when Suzanne Scott says she sleeps well at night, and not only is she poisoning the public discourse, she's being a hypocrite, quite frankly, in the process.
STELTER: And then Tucker Carlson goes on a, you know, podcasts or an interview, and he's asked about the mandates, he says, oh, that's not for me to say, I'm just an employee. And he totally punts --
STELTER: -- even though he could have said a lot.
Jen and Oliver, thank you both. And of course, Oliver is my partner in crime for the Reliable Sources newsletter. You should sign up right now, reliablesources.com.
Up. Next, Writer Bari Weiss says the media is missing one of the biggest stories of our time. Find out what it is in a moment.
STELTER: Writer and Editor, Bari Weiss, left her post in "The New York Times" last year saying it was an illiberal environment, a culture where journalistic curiosity could not be pursued.
Now, one year later, she has launched a web -- publication called "Common Sense" via Substack. She says she has over 100,000 subscribers, some of them were already paying even though all the content is still free.
She says it's an escape from the madness of traditional media. And here is what she meant by that.
STELTER: You write there are tens of millions of Americans who aren't on the hard left or the hard, right, who feel the world has gone mad. So, in what ways has the world gone mad?
BARI WEISS, AUTHOR AND FOUNDER, COMMON SENSE: Well, you know, when you have the chief reporter on the beat of COVID for "The New York Times" talking about how questioning or pursuing the question of the lab leak is racist, the world has gone mad.
When you're not able to say out loud and in public that there are differences between men and women, the world has gone mad.
When we're not allowed to acknowledge that rioting is rioting, and it is bad, and that silence is not violence, but violence is violence, the world has gone mad.
When we're not able to say that Hunter Biden's laptop is a story worth pursuing, the world has gone mad. When in the name of progress, young school children, as young as kindergarten, are being separated in public schools because of their race, and that is called progress rather than segregation, the world has gone mad.
There are dozens of examples that I could share with you and within your --
STELTER: And you often say -- you say allowed --
WEISS: Everyone's sort of knows this and --
STELTER: -- you say we're not allowed --
WEISS: It's the cast on between --
STELTER: -- we're not able, who's the people stopping the conversation? Who are they?
WEISS: People let work at networks, frankly, like the one I'm speaking on right now who try and claim that you know, it was -- it was racist to investigate the lab leak theory. It was, I mean, let's just pick an example.
STELTER: But who said that on CNN? But I'm just saying though when you say allowed, I just think it's a provocative thing you say -- you say -- you say we're not allowed to talk about these things. But they're all over the internet --
WEISS: Brian, let's --
STELTER: I can Google them and I can find them everywhere. I've heard about every story you mentioned.
WEISS: Of course.
STELTER: So, I'm just suggesting, of course, people are allowed to cover whatever they want to cover.
WEISS: But you and I both know, and it would be delusional to claim otherwise that touching your finger to an increasing number of subjects that have been deemed the third rail by the mainstream institutions, and increasingly by some of the tech companies will lead to reputational damage, perhaps you losing your job, your children, sometimes being demonized as well. And so, what happens is a kind of internal self-censorship.
This is something that I saw over and over again when I was at the New York Times. People saying to themselves, you know what, why should I die on that hill? Why should I take the three or four weeks that it takes to smuggle through an op-ed that doesn't suit the conventional narrative?
I might, as well, commission the 5,000th op-ed saying that Donald Trump is a moral monster. What's going on is the transformation of these sense-making institutions of American life. It's the news media, it's the publishing house, it is the Hollywood studios, it's our universities, and they are narrowing in a radical way, what's acceptable to say, and what isn't.
And you and I both know, there doesn't need to be an edict from the C suite in order for people to feel that. All they need is to watch an example. Let me give you one example.
Dorian Abbott is a geophysicist at the University of Chicago. He is absolutely brilliant. And he was slated to give the Carlson lecture at MIT, it's an incredibly prestigious public lecture. But he was canceled from that lecture because of a Twitter mob.
And what was his sin? Well, he argued that people should be hired on the basis of their merit, and their individual, you know, in their individuality not based on their identity as a group. That was his thought-crime. And for that, MIT, one of the most important research universities in the world caved in a matter of eight days.
Now, you can say to me, oh, that's cherry-picking, oh, that's a one- off. What are the downstream effects of an example like that?
Every other scientist, every other academic who's watching that is saying, wait, hold on, if he's been canceled for that, what does that mean for me? I might as well shut up. I might as well practice doublethink in the freest society in the history of the world.
That is one of the great stories of our time, and that is the story that's been uncovered largely, not because of disinformation or not because they're lying about it, simply because they're ignoring it. It's disinformation by omission. That's what's happening in too much of the mainstream.
STELTER: So, people know not to touch the stove? Do you think people are learning not to touch the stove --
WEISS: Of course.
STELTER: -- and thus, the narrowing of the worldview is happening. So look, this is why I'm a subscriber to "Common Sense." I think that these subjects are really, really important and we need to talk about them openly on TV and address what's happened.
The idea that cancel culture is, you know, is happening but as minor. Has been a narrative out there in recent weeks?
STELTER: I'm sure you've read some of these stories saying, yes, OK, yes there are a few examples of people being so-called canceled, but it is not a emergency -- not a massive situation. You are making the argument that because of self-censorship, cancel-culture is pervasive. Is that a fair assessment?
WEISS: Yes, I would say it's extraordinarily pervasive. And what I'm saying, and what I find so interesting is that you don't need a strong man, and you don't need an edict from the top in order for this to be felt in a very, very, very pervasive way.
All you need is a few of these very potent examples. And then what you need is cowardice at the top of a lot of these organizations. You need people who are unwilling to say no, to the small minority of ideological zealots who believe in this, who want to negotiate with it, for whatever reason.
And as we have learned from the Trump administration, institutions are just people -- institutions are just people.
WEISS: And so, if an institution, whose job it is to uphold, let's say, liberalism, broadly defined, decides not to do that anymore, why should it be a surprise then that that institution becomes illiberal? We've just watched what happens in that sense. So yes, I mean, that's what I would say about that.
STELTER: Your point about the leadership is really vital here. When there is a crowd on Twitter or some other social media site, complaining, you know, saying, you've offended me, you've hurt me, you've been racist, you've been sexist, you've been whatever it is, and then that Twitter mob can sound really loud and really powerful. It's actually still a small number of people --
STELTER: -- but we do see companies sometimes --
STELTER: -- cave to what sounds like a huge crowd, that's actually pretty small. And that is a story that's happened over and over again, and it sounds like you're trying to push back against that.
WEISS: I'm definitely trying to push back against that. And one of my ways of pushing back against that is simply starting another party.
WEISS: I mean, meaning, you can stay in the room and try and you know, scream as loud as you -- as is this possible every single time it happens, or you could say, you know what, I'm going to be my own boss, I'm not going to worry about, you know, angering a tiny group of people on Twitter and then being subject to, you know, a masthead or a boss that doesn't have the spine to stand up to it.
STELTER: So, we need institutional reform. Meantime, we have this alternative media that's flourishing your publication and others.
I've seen it reported that you're making a lot more money than he ever did in "New York Times," but the -- you're reinvesting that money into paying writers to read articles and news reports and opinion pieces.
So, that -- is that the business model, you're going to create a new opinion section or a new newspaper, through subscriptions via Substack?
WEISS: Yes. So, I mean, I've made a lot more money than I ever thought was possible in journalism, but I'm making less because I've hired now for about to be five people. So, I'm reinvesting all of it because I really, really, really believe in this model.
And it's, you know, it's proving itself -- it's proving itself because of the fact that 100,000 people have signed up for this newsletter, and there's no paywall, yet, it's all totally free content.
But the point is, is that, oftentimes, I'm just saying the thing that a lot of people believe and are curious about. That's the business model.
The business model is, let's note the fact that there is a chasm right now between what people are willing to say in their kitchen tables, in the comfort and the trust of their most loved ones, their family, and then what they're willing to say on Twitter.
Oftentimes, it's literally two different personas, or at least that's what I found. I'm trying to say, no, let's have those private conversations in public.
The only way that the culture changes is if we have the courage and the bravery to do that and to show people that you can do it and you can survive and not just survive, you can thrive.
WEISS: And I've never been felt freer or more excited about my work than I do right now.
STELTER: And for more on that, you can hear the entire conversation on my very own Reliable Sources Podcast.
Now for a semi-related story, let me turn a -- turn to former "Hollywood Reporter" Editor Matthew Belloni. He's now a Founding Partner of "Puck," he's the author of the must-read newsletter, "What I'm hearing all about Hollywood."
Matt, good to see you, so much is about Netflix this week, Dave Chappelle. How Netflix is defending Dave Chappelle, standing by him, amid outrage over transphobic remarks in his recent comedy special. So, is this an example of Netflix resisting the so-called cancel culture?
MATTHEW BELLONI, FOUNDING PARTNER, PUCK: Absolutely. It's interesting to hear your interview with Bari Weiss because this is an example of a big Hollywood institutional entity that is doing the opposite of what she is saying is so pervasive. It is standing by Dave Chappelle, even amid outrage of its own employees.
I mean, there's going to be a walkout of employees at Netflix who are so upset about the hateful language in this special yet, Netflix has decided that it's -- in its best interest in its business model to have a free and open platform for this kind of comedy special.
STELTER: I think that you know, you quote -- said in your newsletter that they're taking this important stand, but they're doing a terrible job of PR. They're not explaining their position very well, are they?
BELLONI: They are not. I mean, you can look at the policy, and I think the policy does ultimately make sense for Netflix if they aren't going to be a talent-friendly platform. But the way they are communicating this, I mean, this has been a complete disaster.
There were multiple memos from the Co-CEO Ted Sarandos, there was this equating of the hateful speech in the Chappelle special to violent video games, and how they don't believe that content has any real- world impact on people, well, if that's true, then what the heck are you doing at Netflix?
You're supposed to be in this business because you want to influence people via content. And it sort of opened the door like OK, is everything OK on Netflix? Are we going to see porn, or snuff films or, you know, torture videos?
BELLONI: I mean, it was just the disaster.
STELTER: I invited Sarandos on, he did decline. He's been declining all the interview requests. Hey, "Succession" is back tonight on HBO, who's your favorite "Succession" character, Matt?
BELLONI: Oh, you got to love Shiv, right? Openly I think --
STELTER: Oh, I was going to say Shiv, I was hoping you wouldn't say Shiv.
BELLONI: No. And I mean, they're all great, this season is absolutely funnier, meaner. If you work in media, and there's a lot of little Easter eggs that you'll notice about what's going on in the current state of media. It's great.
STELTER: I guess I'll say Logan instead of Shiv. Matt, thank you so much.
BELLONI: Thank you.
STELTER: Coming up, a turn to a more serious topic, threats against the press are pervasive, but they're rarely ever shared publicly. You don't hear about the kinds of threats and harassment that journalists face. Well, coming up, I have a very personal story about that.
STELTER: I have been waiting to share something with all of you for the past six months. Because of an active prosecution, I waited until now. This story is about the real-life consequences of election lies. And I want to start in the middle, in January of this year, when I reported this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: A man in California was charged with sending threatening texts to relatives of both Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
These text messages were sent on the day of the Capitol riot, allegedly telling a relative of George Stephanopoulos that the anchor's words are putting you and your family at risk. We are nearby armed and ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That man was arrested, his phones were seized, and what the government found was that he was a serial harasser, he was messaging dozens of victims, and I was one of them.
When I reported on Stephanopoulos being threatened, I had no clue that I was actually what the prosecutor is now called victim number one of the same perpetrator. So, that's really where the story begins.
November 15 of last year, here's something I said on CNN that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: The 2020 election is over, even though President Trump is still in denial about that. His claims of voter fraud are the fraud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, that man in California watched a video of that segment and apparently got angry, angry enough that he researched me and my family members online. He found our phone numbers, he found our addresses, he texted and tried to lure me into a conversation.
He said my brother was being cooperative -- it was late at night, so I kind of got freaked out. I called my brother. And sure enough, he was getting strange messages too. And then it got worse.
The guy sent me a voice message saying you can either choose to dig the hole deeper or stop digging because we're not effing around.
He knew both my parents. My dad died 20 years ago, so it was really creepy when the man sent a picture of my dad's gravesite.
How did you find it? I have no idea. Did he go to the cemetery? I have no idea. Then he texted about my mom's house implying he was there before moving on to other victims.
Others at CNN were also threatened and harassed, and so were multiple members of Congress, and a mayor, and a nonprofit CEO. And it's clear from the evidence this man was triggered over and over again by accurate news reports about Trump losing. You tell the truth, your family gets threats.
The government's filings made me realize this wasn't just about trying to scare me. This man thought he was about something -- he thought he was a part of something bigger, a crusade to keep Trump in power.
He really seemed to believe Trump won. To him, every day was January 6. But I didn't know about any of this when FBI agents called me back in March.
Like a lot of journalists, I become kind of numb to the torrent of trolling. We just tried to tune it out, but it's always still there, weigh in on journalists, whenever they stand outside for a live shot or start to ask for an interview.
Threats and harassment hinder a free press, which is why I was getting ready to testify against that man at trial. So many reporters have stories like this one. They're usually all bottled up, never shared with the public, and never prosecuted by authorities.
But this case with dozens of victims can be a statement, a statement that in the words of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, trying to instill fear in others by threat will not be tolerated by law enforcement.
On Friday, the California man pleaded guilty to one count of making -- threatening interstate communications. It was the count relating to Stephanopoulos though he was never named, nor was I, nor were any of the victims.
But it's all spelled out in the government's complaint. Dozens of pages, text messages, copious evidence of the big lie leading a man to threaten brothers, and mothers, and fathers, and kids.
And he was threatening George's family when George was live on national television covering the riot. Think about what that was like for George Stephanopoulos. Now that man is behind bars. But this is the type of harassment that journalists feel every day.
It is pervasive. So I hope this case really is a statement. And I want to say thank you to the FBI and the prosecutors for their work in making that statement. And that's a wrap for this week's RELIABLE SOURCES. We will see you right back here this time next week.