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The Slogan Versus The Story; Do Journalists Have A "Wokeness" Problem?; U.S. Blacklists Israeli Firm NSO Group For Use Of Spyware; How MAGA Media Is Trying To Erase 1/6 History; WH Correspondent Benched For Bizarre COVID Vax Claims. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 07, 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's reliable?

This hour, the Biden administration, can it build back local news better? We're going to tell you about an important provision in that new bill.

Plus, the growing disconnect between the political press and the voters. We're going to talk with editor and author of a new book called "Bad News."

Then, mandates, conspiracies, what is stacking up at Newsmax? What is going on at the far right cable channel? We'll get into that.

Plus, a flash back to one year ago today. Think about what happened one year ago today and how it foreshadowed today's media divide.

But, first, the difference between a slogan and story. Right now, it's in vogue to say the Democrats have a messaging problem. Maybe they do. They probably do but that's for candidates and strategists to figure out. That's not the media's problem.

The media suffers from a different dilemma, the slogan versus the story. Slogans are simple. They are seductive.

Infrastructure week is a slogan, a cheeky one. It became a punch line for years and years but it's just a slogan.

The story is about what all the infrastructure money, what all the funding will do. The story is about the rebuilding of these roads and bridges and of the expansion of broadband. Infrastructure week is just a slogan. We need to know about the story.

There's a GOP slogan out there, as well. The bill is a monstrosity. This is a slogan Republicans are using to attack Democrats. But the story is that the last Republican president promised to pass an infrastructure bill and failed. So, now, they need the Democrats to fail, too.

Stories are complex. Stories have historical context. Slogans erase all of that.

"Parents' rights" is a slogan. You know, it's this catch-all term. We heard it constantly ever since the result of the election in Virginia. Which parents? Whose rights are we talking about?

Here's another slogan. Critical race theory has become a slogan. An actual, interesting, academic term has become a slogan. It has become a catch-all phrase used to demonize, to weaponize and, of course, the activists who tried to make critical race theory into a national story, into a national slogan, they knew what they were doing. They were trying to create a boogie man and it worked.

Stories make you think. Slogans make you stop thinking. If I could teach a media literacy lesson in the wake of the elections this week, it would be about trying to tune out the slogans and get to the real story.

The real stories are often complex, they're messy, they're complicated. That's what makes them interesting. Slogans, we could do with less of those.

Let's talk about the last week of coverage and what's coming up this week with Claire Atkinson, chief media for "Insider", Nicole Hemmer, socio research scholar at Columbia University, and Natasha Alford, vice president at digital content, and a senior correspondent at "TheGrio". She's also CNN political analyst.

So, Natasha, let's start with you. Analyzing what is happening in the past few days here -- the aftermath of the election and where the Democrats go moving forward.

Did the Democrats probably do have a messaging problem? Okay. But what's the media's problem? It's different issue than what the Democrats may or might not have.

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the media has a problem with trying to answer big questions by our deadline versus --

STELTER: Interesting, okay.

ALFORD: -- versus, you know, how life actually plays out.

I think we also have a problem with taking slogans that were designed by political campaigns and parties with an agenda and being unintentional carriers of their agenda, right. So, we say --

STELTER: Give me an example.

ALFORD: What is parents' rights?

I saw this great tweet by Jemele Hill where CBS asked, when is too early to talk about race? And Jemele asked all her followers. When was the first time you dealt with racism? And there were thousands of tweets, many from black people who were saying when I was like 4, when I was 5. The framing is off here. We're talking about when is too early when

for an entire demographic, this is reality from the day we're born, right?

STELTER: Interesting.

ALFORD: So, who are we talking about exactly? So, I think again, the larger point I'm making is that we fall into this trap. We're manipulated and we repeat the phrases, right, trying to answer the questions that the critics put out there to intentionally derail the public dialogue.

STELTER: Nicole, how do you see this?

NICOLE HEMMER, ASSOCIATE RESEARCH SCHOLAR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I agree with that. I think the other failing is failure to inform. There was a recent poll that came out that showed that 57 percent of people had no idea what was in the Build Back Better bill. And some of that is on readers and consumers of media.

But it does suggest that there has been so much sloganeering, so much talk about horse race politics, so much of a spotlight on people like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, but not enough attention is being paid to people actually informing people about what's in this piece of legislation.


STELTER: Isn't that the politician's fault? Isn't it on the Democrats to explain what is in the bill?

HEMMER: Democrats should explain what is in the bill but don't you think journalists have a role to sigh what is in this bill that is supposed to be passed? The big problems with Democrats is not saying what's in the bill, it's telling a story of what is in the bill, right? Connecting with people emotionally on what is in the bill.

But it does some like journalists have a role on the informational side of things.

STELTER: Right. And, Claire, this has to do with different things of media, doesn't it, right? Television news versus deep dives on the digital that are behind subscriber pay walls. Sometimes if you're getting free or cheap news on the web, you're not getting the substance. You're not getting the in-depth reporting.

CLAIRE ATKINSON, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, INSIDER: That's right. I mean, I do think all politics is marketing and there is a reason for that. It's about appealing to a broader range of people that you can.

TV News is about explaining very complicated topics in very short segments. You know, that in and of itself creates problems and that you can't explain things because the viewer is going to go off and the ratings are going to go down if you get into the weeds of things.

We've seen Fox News be able to appropriate complex issues and portray them in very black and white terms and create very compelling television, whether it's about CRT or it's about parents' bill of rights or fights between school boards and groups of parents on these issues.

So, I mean, I think it's fair for the news media to kind of look into what is happening in schools and what does CRT mean and what are kids being taught in schools. And I don't think it's just Fox News that is looking at that issue.


ATKINSON: It's also Bari Weiss, the former "New York Times" correspondent. It's former "New York Mag" correspondent Andrew Sullivan, that are asking these questions what is fair when it comes to accusation of racism and how CRT is applied in schools.

STELTER: Yeah, let me say how I feel about this and tell me if you all disagree. Obviously, it seems to me there's real -- obviously, very real issues. We all know it and real issues about learning loss, real authentic issues about school board and curriculum.

But then there's also this apocalyptic narrative that comes from right wing media, including Fox, that is out of proportion and exaggerated. It seems to me, Natasha, both are true and you can see it in how CRT is being redefined. It's a real thing and taught in colleges and academic study for a living and now that phrase has come to mean something different in our political ecosphere.

ALFORD: Yes. And what's interesting is that so many of these debates are old. Just rehashed. When I was a local news reporter, some of the most intense stories were school board meetings. And they were about, you know, busing kids from the city into the suburbs.

So these are America's issues with race and identity and the sort of moral outrage that just gets repackaged for a new era.

STELTER: When the top issue is called education, the top issue is race.

ALFORD: It's actually race. It is our job as journalists to provide that historical context so that our readers just don't take that headline and say parents rights and then this debate about what the people with the agenda actually want us to debate versus this larger picture that we're aware of and we should know about.

STELTER: It also seems like there's a lot of frustration, discontent among Democrats with the media right now. I see Senator Brian Schatz on Twitter saying the media needs to catch up to the story of the economy. The economy is really steaming back.

I see a lot, Claire, of criticism from rank and file progressives saying the press does not really understand what is in the bill. It's not taking it seriously enough and celebrating Biden's wins. It's not our job to celebrate, but we do need to provide the proper context of what's happening.

How do you view coverage of the economy right now?

ATKINSON: I think that people experience the economy not just through the media, but their own experience. And we are absolutely not here to be promoters of the Biden agenda in any way. We're supposed to be questioning it. So, that's the first role of journalism.

As you said, context is everything. There are some wins. But people go out and they listen to headlines about inflation and they see supply chain issues being brought up time and time again. They go to restaurants and they pay more. They wait longer and they see staff shortages, and that's how they experience the economy, as well.

So, I don't think you can put all of that on the media.

STELTER: Also, we focus on the problems, not the solutions. Whether you call that a bad news bias, that's just the reality of news, right? News is what the problem is right now.

ATKINSON: The bias towards negative as opposed to positive and that gets ratings and clicks.


ALFORD: I think some of that bias just comes out of the gate too soon. It was not even 48 hours after Joe Biden is elected and is he failing us, you know? It's like, okay, give it a moment.

STELTER: I have a similar grievance about these economic reports and these preliminary reports. We saw on Friday this massive revision for some of the earlier economic reports about the jobs and so, Nicole, people hear these preliminary reports and it's treated like the end of semester report card when it's the first quiz of the semester, the first midterm or something, and narratives get stuck as a result of incomplete information.

HEMMER: And that has real consequences. Real parallel to how particularly television news covers elections. You get the early numbers that don't mean anything that are just gibberish and scroll across the bottom of the screen. People take from that they know the direction the election is going only to have the real results come in later and then there was confusion. So, it misinforms the people who are watching.

So, there is a real imperative for journalists who really contextualize those early numbers, and not just react to the top line, to let viewers and readers know what it actually means instead of just what it says in the raw numbers.


Everybody, thank you. Please stick around. Much more ahead.

Coming up the author of a new book that says woke media is undermining democracy.

Plus, Tucker Carlson 1/6 rewriting of history by the word purge is the only accurate thing in his so-called documentary.






PIRRO: Woke nonsense.




STELTER: If I never hear the word again, it will be too soon. But there's actually a really interesting new book about this subject that's just come out the last few weeks. It's called "Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy."

Batya Ungar-Sargon is the author of the book. She's deputy opinion editor at "Newsweek", and she's here with me now to talk through it.

Thank you for coming in.

BATYA UNGAR-SARGON, DEPUTY OPINION EDITOR, NEWSWEEK: Thank you very much for having me. It's very brave to have me on. Thank you for having me.

STELTER: It is, why?

UNGAR-SARGON: Well, like you said, the word woke people are really allergic to it right now in the liberal circles and left wing circles. That's why I want to define it, OK?

STELTER: Yes, we should define what a woke. What is woke, first of all?

UNGAR-SARGON: Let me tell you how I define it, OK? It's not woke to advocate fiercely for police reform, OK? That is a moral emergency.

So, when Senator Tim Scott wrote a bill advocating police reform, he was not being woke. That is something that all of us should be talking about. We desperately need police reform.

It is not woke to be agitating for a more equitable education system.

It is woke to be calling for defunding police. It is woke to be saying that, you know, merit-based education is somehow white supremacy.

The word woke actually comes from sociologists, Brian. It was appropriated after -- originally, it was used as black slang in order to refer to things like systemic racism at the state level -- again, something that is very important we talk about.

But socialists noted something they called the "great awokening". And what they're talking about is that starting around 2015, and this is something that I'm sure you and your viewers noticed, what we saw was white liberals starting to have more extreme views on race than even people of color, the people of color that they're advocating on behalf of.

They started to advocate for things like defund the police, as we saw recently. That is a view most closely held by highly affluent, highly educated liberal elites, while 81 percent of Black Americans oppose defunding the police.

So, in my book, I'm trying to explore, where did that come from? Where did this great awokening come from and why did it happen? And what I argue is that it's essentially affluent white liberals using the real pain of Black Americans in order to withdraw from the common good and abandon the working class of all races. That's the argument.

STELTER: And you refer to the woke media right out front. So, what is the -- who or what is the woke media?

UNGAR-SARGON: I don't know. You tell me, Brian, are we on woke media right now?

Again, let's rely on sociologists, OK? The same sociologists trolled the archives of "New York Times", "The Washington Post", even "The Wall Street Journal", NPR, CNN, and what they found was starting around 2011 and 2012, an absolute skyrocketing of the use of woke words like white privilege or marginalization or oppression.

These companies started using these words when they went digital as a way of increasing their traffic and it created a feedback loop with the affluent white readership that they were recording to where it shifted public opinion.

STELTER: Oh, you say it was trying to gain traffic. Maybe we're just trying to cover America more accurately.

UNGAR-SARGON: That's a really great question, right? Like aren't they just covering a rise in racism? What we know --

STELTER: Not just a rise in racism, but recognizing marginalized communities, taking the lives of all Americans seriously and not just covering, you know, one subset that usually gets all the news attention.

UNGAR-SARGON: So, of course, extremely important that we cover marginalized communities. It is extremely important that we cover state-sponsored racism where it still exists.

That is not what is happening. What we're seeing is a moral panic around race that has alienated the very communities that we are supposedly advocating on behalf of, right?

So, again, think about the difference between advocating for police reform, covering issues of police reform, and advocating for defunding the police, right? Which is a view that is going to harm poor, black communities more than anybody else, right? Which is precisely why it's the one that is the most popular.

STELTER: It went down in Minneapolis, right? We're not seeing actual public support for, well -- defund the police is a terrible slogan, but for the proposals behind that slogan. We're not actually seeing public support for it.

UNGAR-SARGON: Exactly. That's exactly right.

STELTER: What about the woke stranglehold that you're describing in the book. You say the media is in this woke stranglehold.


So, again, what corners of the media? And how do you get out of that stranglehold?

UNGAR-SARGON: That's a great question. So, I mean, I spent a lot of time in "New York Times" in my book because as -- as you know, as the former paper of record, as I like to say, they get outsized attention because they have an outsized responsibility as a leader in the industry.

And what we really saw in the "New York Times" is again and again, personnel decisions being made to suit the very, very woke pressures of online mobs that were oftentimes created by their own employees. So, that has a trickledown effect --


STELTER: So liberal employee -- younger liberal employees pressuring management to take certain actions, right? Is that what that means?

UNGAR-SARGON: Exactly. Yeah.

STELTER: Right. But don't we also see that these staffers, they're just -- they're trying to push for a place they believe will be a more perfect newsroom, a more perfect union, a more perfect opinion page. Isn't that just -- that's just the common tug of war that happens, it's happened for decades?

UNGAR-SARGON: Well, what we're really seeing is that it has influenced the coverage, right? So, it's not that some people want to have their say, it's that they literally have imported these highly, highly specialized, radical academic ideas, and if you don't hue (ph) to these very radical, elite ideas you get thrown out essentially.

We're not talking about debate here. We're talking about the silencing of debate.

STELTER: Now, how do you think all this applies to the election results? We know in Virginia, the Republican beating the Democrat. We know in New Jersey, the Democrat barely prevailing with the Republican. How does -- how does what you're describing as bad news, how does it shape election results on Tuesday?

UNGAR-SARGON: So, my -- I felt that Tuesday was a really good advertisement for my book because my book is arguing that a lot of this conversation around wokeness is actually about class.

We are hiding a class divide in America. We are hiding the disgusting levels of income inequality in America. We are hiding the total disposition of the working class of all races by focusing on a very highly specialized, academic language around race.

And I think what happened, you know, Glenn Youngkin's victory was a perfect example of this. The media's response to Youngkin's victory is literally the reason he won, right? How did they respond?

STELTER: Hold on -- 100 medias and 100 percent reactions, you're being pretty overly generalizing I think.

UNGAR-SARGON: Let me get more specific for you, OK? Because I have to say, I have to admit, having watched CNN all week, there's been a lot of very, very, very good genuflection on this front.

But what happened right after the election was you saw host after host after host on MSNBC saying, oh, this is a victory for white supremacy, right? White supremacy wins again. Racism wins again, when, you know, the lieutenant governor that Youngkin won with will be the first black woman to hold that job, when Glenn Youngkin managed to flip majority black districts, when he managed to get 40 and 50 percent of Latino voters.

Are all those people white supremacists? Of course they're not. They're people who are worried about number one, the economy. And number two, schooling.

And it seems to me such a self-own to tell people who are worried about the economy that that is white supremacy, right?

You are essentially criminalizing the views of working class Americans and you saw the same thing with the conversation around critical race theory, right? You saw all these pundits being like, these people don't know what critical race theory is.

That is not a political statement. That is a class statement. They are not educated enough to be opposed to critical race theory. How dare they oppose it?

STELTER: So, this gets to the point in your book about journalists certainly above average college degrees, having above average levels of education. Now, you know, in order to send in a resume in a lot of newsrooms, you've got to have to a college degree.

But you suggested in your book that affects the news coverage, that hurts the news coverage.

UNGAR-SARGON: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's not -- we've seen this. This is what a lot of the book is about, but you can trace the abandon abandonment of the working class in direct proportion to the number of journalists who are no longer working class, who are part of the educated elites.

Brian, do you know how many -- how many journalists today, what percentage of American journalists have a college degree today?

STELTER: I think 90 percent.

UNGAR-SARGON: Ninety percent, exactly right.

STELTER: I read your book.

UNGAR-SARGON: I'm very shocked and very pleased. Thank you.

STELTER: You shouldn't be so shocked. You shouldn't be so shocked.

What I think -- what I hope people take away is what you said about inequality, about the class divide --


STELTER: -- because it permeates through everything we're talking about whether it's media or politics or the election results. Thank you for coming in.

UNGAR-SARGON: Thank you so much for having me.

STELTER: Great talking with you. Thanks.

Up here after the break, overlooked stories from the past seven days. For example, how the U.S. plans to take on autocrats who are silencing reporters. You're going to hear what Samantha Power is announcing on that front.

Plus, the DOJ trying to stop a book world mega merger. How would it affect authors and how would it affect you?



STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Now, the four stories about Biden administration actions that all relate to the news media at the local national or global level. Let's start with the Biden administration attempt to save local news with Build Back Better.

This is a proposal that is in the Build Back Better Act that has been proposed by lawmakers, promoted by lawmakers in both parties and supported by the Biden administration. The idea is to provide tax credits to struggling local newsrooms, provide credits for up to $25,000 for the first year and $15,000 in the first four years for each employee.

With me now is one of the main advocates to the provision, Steven Waldman. He's the cofounder of report for America.

So, as of today, this provision is included and we will see if it gets through the House. Is that right?



And the main thing to understand about this idea of tax credits for news is, I'm sorry to say CNN will not be getting any of it nor will MSNBC or Fox News or anything like that. It is for local news, the Chattanooga Free Press, and the Wichita Beacon places like that because that is where the big crisis is.

STELTER: So, the crisis has been evident for years, we've not seen an action from the federal government, so you've been pushing for this. Why is it only happening now?

WALDMAN: Partly because it's gotten so bad. I mean, we have 1800 communities in America with no newspapers and thousands more with Ghost newspapers.

And it's become so serious that you have people unable to get basic information about their communities and they can't -- communities can't address the problems in their communities.

STELTER: So this bill, that this provision in the bill would make it easier for newsrooms to hire more people. Is that the bottom line?

WALDMAN: Yes, it's directly targeted to local reporting and local reports.

STELTER: And the Republicans call this a bailout and Donald Trump's been complaining about it. What do you say?

WALDMAN: Well, for one thing, the underlying legislation was co- authored by a Republican and has been -- has 20 different Republican co-sponsors.

And I think the reason is that on the ground, people know this is a very non-partisan issue. This affects every community in America. And it's done -- I think this is really significant.

Lots of journalists, including myself are a little hesitant about the government getting involved in helping journalism. Like we can see how that could go awry.

But this is done in a really smart way. There's no government agency deciding who to give a grant to, it's just a tax credit. If you have a local reporter's covering the community, that's who's eligible.

STELTER: Let me ask you one other story as well, going from this now the Department of Justice. The DOJ filing suit this week to stop Penguin Random House from acquiring Simon and Schuster. These are two of the big five publishers of books in the United States. The deal would take down the Big Five to the Big Four, the DOJ argues that the combo would likely harm competition in the publishing industry.

Of course, the publishers disagree. So Steve, well, how do you view this? What's going to happen here?

WALDMAN: Well, it's it -- what's interesting to me about this is not for the last 30 or 40 years government antitrust policy has asked one question, is it going to raise prices on consumers?

The Biden Justice Department asked a different question. They said is this going to hurt writers? And I think it actually even relates to the local news question because we can suddenly imagine that antitrust policy may become important in the information world --

STELTER: Interesting.

WALDMAN: -- in the media world --

STELTER: Interesting.

WALDMAN: You know, half of the daily newspaper circulation in America now is owned by hedge funds. And you can imagine what would have been different if the Justice Department had been looking at hedge funds buying newspapers and said is this good for the community?

STELTER: Right, interesting. For disclosure, I am a Simon and Schuster author. I have no idea what's going to happen. I do know that the publishers have hired Daniel Petrocelli, who is the same lawyer that won the DOJ versus AT&T case that enabled AT&T to buy CNN so we'll see what happens in this case. Steve, thanks so much.

WALDMAN: Thank you.

STELTER: Now, to the third of our four stories here. These are two international stories involving the Biden administration in the media, first, an announcement by the USAID Chief Samantha Power about the formation of a global defamation Defense Fund.

Here's the headline from AFP. It talks about trying to provide basically a release valve for all the pressure that journalists are under when they write about oligarchy and autocrats.

Here's Samantha Power explaining the idea at Georgetown University.


SAMANTHA POWER, ADMINISTRATOR, USAID: As a result, we are launching a global defamation Defense Fund to Protect Journalists against lawsuits that are designed to deter them from doing their work.


STELTER: So, providing legal support for those journalists. Now, details are scarce but Biden may share more during his democracy summit next month.

And here's one more, Biden action, that was probably overshadowed by all the election chatter this week.

The Commerce Department has blacklisted NSO Group, a tech company based in Israel that stands accused of supplying spyware, meaning, hacking tools that can crack into cell phones. U.S. officials said foreign governments used these tools to target journalists, activists, and others.

NSO Group is known for its Pegasus software, which is extensively used to license to track terrorists and major criminals but which is also allegedly misused to snoop on phones in other countries.

It was earlier this year that the Washington Post and a consortium of other outlets published articles about NSO saying a "misused" -- "enable countries to misuse powerful spyware."

With us now is Nicole Perlroth, she's a Cyber Security Reporter for the New York Times, and Author of the book, "This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends," a heck of a title, Nicole.

So, you've been writing about Pegasus exposing the use of -- the misuse of this software, how significant is it for the Commerce Department to blacklist NSO Group?

NICOLE PERLROTH, CYBERSECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's the furthest in American President has gone to try to curb spyware abuse. So in the past, we've seen American Presidents blacklists companies in Russia, Iran, and China.


PERLROTH: But this is a company in Israel that really the technology emerged out of Unit 8200 which is Israel's equivalent of the NSA and are close partners of the U.S. intelligence community.

So, it's a big deal because it signals that it doesn't matter where you're based, if your technology is being used to abuse human rights activists and journalists and invade their privacy, the U.S. government will blacklist you.

STELTER: Do we have -- reasonably this is still going on today, maybe with other companies, maybe with other software, but are journalists in daily danger of having their phones hacked and cracked?

PERLROTH: Absolutely. Just recently, we learned that NSO spyware had a zero-click capability. What that means is it can get into your phone without you doing anything at all.

And this is powerful spyware, this is spyware that can track your location, turn on your camera, record your phone calls, it's a journalist's worst nightmare.

We've seen it used to track journalists in Mexico. We've seen it on the phones of their children, teenagers living inside the United States.

We've seen it on the phones of dissidents who've been beaten up, their passports have been confiscated. It's an absolute nightmare.

And so it's a really powerful signal this week that the administration is willing to blacklist that technology. But it doesn't go far (AUDIO GAP).

And so some GO -- sorry, some House Democrats have actually advocated that we started applying human rights sanctions like the global Magnitsky Act against those companies.

STELTER: And real quick, what do you do to protect your phone?

PERLROTH: I don't click on anything. I take my most sensitive conversation offline completely. I have people that I will only meet in person. I'm too scared to even drive there because I'm scared of my car's GPS navigation system.


PERLROTH: And I just use a canon paper. So, you know, you can't protect everything but you have to think about what are the things you really will go to extremes to protect.

And for those things, I really recommend that people take additional measures and in my case, that means using pen and paper sometimes.

STELTER: Yes, I'm going to get out the paper. Nicole, thank you so much.

PERLROTH: Thank you so much, Brian.

STELTER: Speaking of paper, a tale of two headlines in today's Washington Post, Biden's Infrastructure when competing with attention about the January 6 attack.

I look forward and a step backward all the same time, we're going to get into it next.



STELTER: Do you remember where you were one year ago today November 7, at this very hour? It was a Saturday morning.

I know I remember I was driving home from the grocery store with my wife, listening to CNN on satellite radio. And I remember the exact turn in the road when Wolf Blitzer broke in and said this.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: After four long tense days we've reached a historic moment in this election, we can now project the winner of the presidential race. CNN projects Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected the 46th President of the United States winning the White House and denying President Trump a second term.


STELTER: CNN was the first network to make the projection based on new data from Pennsylvania and all the other major networks followed within minutes, Fox the slowest, but everyone affirmed the victory.

When I went back and rewatch the coverage of -- from this hour this day last year, there was one moment that was like a glimpse into the funky future.

It was that guy Rick Santorum, telling CNN viewers that "from the Republican point of view, we're not convinced it's over yet."

Santorum said he knew there were lots of folks in the White House who were going to keep fighting to "overturn this." It was like a foreshadowing of the big lie. And it happened within 15 minutes of Biden becoming President-elect.

Now, one year later, you know, Santorum is no longer with CNN. He has joined a new network, guess which one?

This week he climbed aboard Newsmax, the very same network that ignored the reality of last November's projections.

And he joined on the very same week the Newsmax was sued for defamation by one of the voting technology companies that was attacked over and over again last year and accused of rigging the election for Biden.

One day, maybe, maybe through the courts, maybe there will be consequences for the big lie.

But for now, MAGA media is trying to erase the history, trying to erase the shameful things that happened between November 7 and January 6.

They're trying to purge it from memory which brings me to that guy and the "Patriot Purge." That's the name of Tucker Carlson's streaming show that Stokes conspiracy theories and riot denialism.

Nicole Hemmer watched the whole thing. She's the author of "Messengers of the Right," and she's here to tell us what the heck happened in this special.

So, Nicole, this -- the promo for Tucker's Special got all this attention. Now, it's actually streaming online, you watched it all, what do you learn?

HEMMER: Well, it really was a next-level approach to January 6. He blames the federal government so the FBI and agents are provocateurs for the violence on that day. He says that Trump supporters were nonviolent during the January 6th insurrection, and basically says that it was all ginned up that all of the anxiety people felt. All of the outrages was ginned up on purpose in order to persecute and prosecute Trump supporters.

STELTER: As we talk, we're going to show PolitiFact fact check because it's really impressive. They went through point by point, all of the delusions that are in this Special. But let's talk about the political significance of it.

They're not just trying to rewrite history they're trying to erase it. We're at the point now where the gap between Trump's America and the rest of America when it comes to understanding what happened on that day cannot be bridged. Am I -- am I right?


HEMMER: Absolutely. I mean, it was actually a really surprising kind of Special not only because it was so stuffed full of conspiracies, but they're also kind of rewriting the right's history with the war on terror.

And the big framework for this Special is that the first War on Terror was terrible and the second War on Terror against Trump supporters is even worse.

STELTER: So, in other words, the Bush administration's actions in the wake of 9/11 were all wrong all awful. Forget that was the Republican Party.

Here's the new Republican Party that Tucker Carlson saying there's a new war on terror against half the country. Just -- it's so extreme, and that Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch allow all this. They love it, it makes them money.

HEMMER: It does. And it also continues to move the Republican Party forward in a direction towards where I think Donald Trump would be very happy for it to end up by 2024 where January 6 denialism just becomes part of what it means to be a Republican in the United States.

And Tucker Carlson, who is the most-watched cable news host in the United States is putting forward this even more extreme version of what happened that day.

STELTER: And all within a year of the actual event, the actual attack. Nicole, stick with -- stick with us more in a moment.

Just when you thought vaccine disinformation couldn't get any crazier incomes Newsmax's White House Correspondent. You'll have to see this to disbelieve it, OK?



STELTER: The COVID contrast keeps getting sharper, joyous kids on parents on one side, dire vaccine disinformation on the other side.

Take White House Correspondent Emerald Robinson. She's the White House reporter for Newsmax. She was sanctioned by Twitter and benched by the network this week after tweeting bizarre claims seemingly linking COVID vaccines to the devil and saying Christians will be tracked by the chips that are in the vaccines, even there's not chips in the vaccines. And I can't believe I even have to say this out loud.

Meantime, also at Newsmax media, it says the company is going to go ahead and impose a vaccine or test mandate because that's what the Biden administration's OSHA rule has stated.

So, Newsmax says, well, we've got to do it we have no choice. Some of the hosts there say they will resist. They are standing up against their company's tyranny, I don't know.

Back with us, Claire Atkinson, Natasha Alford, and Nicole Hemmer.

The Newsmax vaccine mandates situations really interesting Claire because now over this weekend as a federal judge just be sure to stay on the OSHA rules so we'll see when and if that mandate takes effect.

But Newsmax is basically doing what Fox did months ago saying hey, you got to get Vax or get tested. And now the hosts are going to stand up against the network.

ATKINSON: Yes, I mean, this is proliferating not just at Newsmax but also at cumulus with Dan Bongino, he's off-air right now. Nobody knows when he's coming back. Advertisers are wondering, do we get our money back because you're just doing reruns? And then --

STELTER: Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro suing the Biden administration as well.

ATKINSON: Right, right. So, we're in this weird world where employers are suggesting their anchors and talent do one thing, they're pushing back doing another.

And quite frankly, the Newsmax story is so unbelievably shocking. They are in like Weekly World News territory head. Remember the tabloid that would talk about Elvis being alive?


ATKINSON: And the fact that their White House Correspondent is tweeting about a bioluminescent marker in the vaccine just beggars belief.

And you wonder how credible all of the other Opinion Columnists at Newsmax are when they're working with somebody that can tweet such garbage?

STELTER: Exactly.

ATKINSON: I mean, it's you know, insane -- insanity.

STELTER: Natasha, my part of the problem, because I just repeated the garbage on TV that people haven't heard of yet.

NATASHA ALFORD, VICE PRESIDENT, DIGITAL CONTENT, AND SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, THE GRIO: Well, it's important not to amplify the misinformation without fact-checking along the way.

We have to fact check as if our lives depend on it as if our -- as if our jobs depend on it because they do.

But also, because you know, many of our readers encounter stories for the first time, right? Maybe they haven't been following a story and so, we can't make assumptions that there's important information that we can leave out. You understand what I'm saying?


ALFORD: This Aaron Rodgers story? You know, I think about all these folks, their hope is that they're seen as heroes, that they are protecting liberty and democracy and the sort of higher-order values.

And so if you can make the story about that, and not the actual science of getting a vaccine or what is actually in the vaccine mandate, then you feed into again, their agenda and their hope about what the story is.

STELTER: And increasing -- to Nicole, the story is, the vast majority of Americans are now Vax, they're out getting boosters, and the Aaron Rodgers of the worlds are increasingly outliers, outlier cases.

HEMMER: They are. And yet they're the ones who get all of the attention. And that too is a big problem because we're not seeing those stories of people whose lives are just kind of going back to normal or who have benefited from the vaccine.

You see some of those stories, but they certainly don't get the kind of blanket coverage that someone like Dan Bongino gets for his actions.

STELTER: Definitely. To the panel, thank you. Quick break here when we come back, some breaking news about one of my CNN colleagues.



STELTER: Before we go, some wonderful news about my CNN co-pilot, Oliver Darcy, you know him as the most frequent guest on this show and the co-author of the Nightly RELIABLE SOURCES Newsletter.

Well, now this weekend he is a married man. Elise and Oliver said I do. They got married by CNNer Josiah Ryan in front of immediate family on Friday in the Utah desert.

The ceremony, followed by dinner and s'mores under a brisk autumn sky. So, we are here to say congratulations to Elise and Oliver as they head off on their honeymoon. Before we go today, a quick plug for our podcast as well, it's a conversation with Author, Brian Rosenwald, about right-wing media's impact on the recent elections. And coming up here tonight on CNN, an all-new "This is Life with Lisa Ling," exploring Chicago and the narratives about violence there and how they compare to reality in this city. That's tonight here on CNN. We'll see you right back here this time next week.