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Right Wing Outlets Defend Rittenhouse, Decry The Media; Will Murdoch Back A Trump Rival In 2024 Primary?; Former A.G. Barr Says Fox Host Called And 'Scream' At Him; News Whiplash; The Court Cases That You Aren't Seeing On TV. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 21, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

This hour, we have big interviews with two best-selling authors, including ABC's Jonathan Karl.

We're going to ask, is Rupert Murdoch's advice for Donald Trump falling on narcissistic ears?

Plus, what is Nikole Hannah-Jones' new mission for The 1619 Project? We're going to speak with her.

And later, what is it like for President Biden governing in an age of media extremes, and what is it like for all of us as viewers?

All of that and more ahead in the next few minutes.

But, first, the verdict is in for the U.S. "The Chicago Tribune's" front page this morning saying we are unanimously divided after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

The one truly unanimous thing is the jury's decision. By most accounts, the right verdict under Wisconsin law, to which Adam Serwer of "The Atlantic" says it is one thing to argue the jury reached a reasonable verdict based on the law and another entirely to celebrate Rittenhouse's actions.

That celebration is under way, however, among right wing content crusaders. It's been under way since Friday afternoon. They're lionizing the 18-year-old, lifting him up for promoting a pro-gun culture. As you can see here, Fox is in bed with Rittenhouse, filming it late at night for a documentary by Tucker Carlson's production unit.

Carlson revealed on Friday that he had a crew embedded behind the scenes with Rittenhouse throughout the trial. And a portion of his interview with the 18-year-old is going to air on Monday.

So, Fox is using the Rittenhouse story to drive subscription for its streaming service, and the right wing media has also seized on this moment to slam the rest of the media for the trial coverage.

I do think there's an important conversation to be had about why so many folks had a misunderstanding about some of the facts in this case. Yes, there was a lot of confusion in August of 2020, but we learned during the trial that some of the assumptions were faulty. Some left wing outlets provided a skewed picture of what happened on that awful night in Kenosha, and there's been confusion ever since.

This coverage, of course, dominating cable news for days. So, I want to bring in three voices you haven't heard on this network yet, beginning with the president of Law & Crime Network, Rachel Stockman, plus the former media critic of "The Baltimore Sun", David Zurawik, and the senior editor for "The Dispatch", also a "Time Magazine" columnist, David French.

Thank you all for assembling today.

David French, first to you, you've been writing about this case in detail. What do you think is the takeaway when it comes to the Rittenhouse verdict and the media?

DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DISPATCH: Well, one of the takeaways is I think parts of the media dropped the ball on covering this case from the start. Right from the start there were a couple of things that were pretty immediately obvious. One was we knew what Wisconsin self-defense law was and the other was there was a lot of video evidence out there in the public domain.

And what the video evidence showed is Rittenhouse was being chased before he fired fatal shots, that he was knocked to the ground, that he was attacked before he fired fatal shots. And if you knew Wisconsin's self-defense law and you knew through the rules around open carry, then you knew he was going to have a strong defense.

But what a lot of people did is they took the foolishness of being there, the recklessness of being there in itself, 17-year-old armed with a rifle going to a riot, to social unrest, that's ridiculous. Seventeen-year-olds shouldn't be doing that.

And they conflated that with all that followed, and that's a big mistake. That's not how juries look at it. Juries look at the law. They compare the law to the facts, and under Wisconsin self-defense law, he had a strong defense. And honestly, it was pretty apparent from the beginning that he had a strong defense.

STELTER: How much is it about slogans that were a test early on, the slogan about crossing state lines? And how much information about this didn't come out right away, that only came out at trial that then changed the picture?

FRENCH: You know, I think trial fleshed it out.


FRENCH: But there were an awful lot of people who knew the contours of the defense early on. The videos were out there early on. And I think there were media outlets who just did a disservice by not noting Rittenhouse was running away. This was somebody not aggressively approaching people, he was running away.

Even under Wisconsin self-defense law, there's some modified versions of a duty to retreat, but you would think pursued by the first person he shot very aggressively. So, these kinds of things were not amplified enough and so that's one of the reasons why I think the verdict took millions of Americans by surprise on its own terms, separate and apart from the question of should he have been there, which I don't think he should have been there, that you don't give a 17-year-old a rifle and encourage a 17-year-old with a rifle to go to a riot.


That is not what you do. But those things were being conflated with the legal elements of the crime itself.

STELTER: Right. I see what you're saying.

Rachel, do you agree? You run Law & Crime. Law & Crime is a streaming service, production company covering legal matters. This case was huge for your streaming service. Lots of people tuning in on TV and online. Do you agree with David French's assessment?

RACHEL STOCKMAN, PRESIDENT, LAW & CRIME: I do. I will say the right got it absolutely wrong and the left got it absolutely wrong. I will say, we have covered hundreds of trials on Law & Crime.

And I was surprised, this is hands down our most viewed, most engaging trials in terms of viewers.


STOCKMAN: We're still waiting for final numbers but what I will say is viewers wanted to watch the raw feed. They wanted it unfiltered. They wanted to watch it itself.

There were times we had just the seal up on our livestream and tens of thousands of people watching a seal. People were watching jury instructions, which are usually very boring.

They wanted unfiltered access to the trial because quite frankly, the American public was sick of the spin from both sides. They wanted to see what really happened.

STELTER: Interesting. Now -- now, we know what happened, we know the verdict, and we know that Tucker Carlson was secretly -- he had film crews recording the whole time with the Rittenhouse defense team.

So, Rachel, is this unusual to have a camera crew behind the scenes during a trial?

STOCKMAN: It's unusual but it's not unheard of. We've seen this happen before. We've seen documentaries on Netflix where film crews are embedded with the defense team. It certainly raises some ethical issues.

And there's no question from a journalistic perspective, right, you can't say this is going to be an unbiased documentary we're going to see from Tucker Carlson's documentary unit. However, listen, the defendant is allowed, Rittenhouse is allowed to make a decision if he wants this film crew to tape him as the legal proceedings are going, that's absolutely his right.

STELTER: And when Rittenhouse's attorney said on Cuomo's show, I didn't want the film crew there, I kicked him out. He said it's about the Crowdfunding though. Some people who funded the defense wanted the crew to be there.

So, that made wonder, wait, did Fox finance this thing, did they pay the defense? Overnight Fox News saying no, absolutely not, there was no payment for any access whatsoever.

David Zurawik, what do you make of the Tucker Carlson promo, the trailer, this upcoming documentary? It seems to lionize Kyle Rittenhouse.

DAVID ZURAWIK, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA STUDIES, GOUCHER COLLEGE: That's exactly the danger here of moving forward from this, Brian, as David French said, absolutely, it was reckless. It was outrageous and proved deadly for a 17-year-old to go into that situation, walk the streets with that weapon.

What they are doing in that trailer is a very sophisticated piece of film making. You showed Rittenhouse lying on that couch, laying on a couch there in darkness. It goes from that darkness, it positions him heroically on what's called the hero quest. This is a hero's journey.

He's in darkness. He's talking about how tormented he is by the nightmares and the dreams. This is the hero in his struggles.

It even goes from that picture on the couch to a shot of a crucifix on the wall. He's like what's the logic of this? But they're linking him to symbols like the crucifix, a church steeple in the next shot, the American flag.

And as he moves through this, he moves from that darkness to light when he's found not guilty and he's embraced by the community, I think his lawyer literally is hugging him and then he's in that car saying it's been a rough journey but we made it through.

Literally, they're not just holding him up as a role model, they're calling him a hero. That is so dangerous, it's socializing and radicalizing potentially another generation of youth, white men, to think they can pick up guns and go be police officers and make life- and-death decisions about other people's lives. It's outrageous a 17- year-old goes into their with a gun -- one thing going by self defense laws in Wisconsin -- which, by the way, I'm from Wisconsin, I'm from that part of the state, I know it well.

By the way, I can say I think the black leaders who have said if that was a black teenager with a gun, the results would have been different, I think they are absolutely right about that.

But, Brian, it's one thing for him to be found not guilty but for Fox to use its vast resources to make this into a heroic figure, that is so dangerous because it fits in with all of the militias, like the one who decided they were going to try to kidnap the governor of Michigan, the people who stormed the Capitol January 6th.

That vigilantism is a real danger and you see how President Trump has tried to mobilize it and in some ways successfully has.


And now another generation comes up.

STELTER: You gave us film making 101 there. It really is valuable to look at each shot and what they're saying with each camera shot in a sequence like that. To the two Davids, please stand by. More questions for you coming up.

Rachel, thank you so much for starting us off here.

Also coming up, the trials you are not seeing on TV and why that's such a big problem for democracy.

And up next, Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones on the future of the 1916 Project.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.


One of the week's top-selling books is "The 1619 Project". This, of course, started as "The New York Times" magazine cover story and now blossomed into multiple books. There's both an adult version and version for kids.

Behind it all is "The New York Times" magazine writer, Nikole Hannah- Jones. She's joining me now to discuss both new books as well as the week's news.

Nikole, thanks for coming on.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, AUTHOR, "THE 1619 PROJECT": Thank you for having me.

STELTER: Why did you need to expand on the magazine project and present what you call here a new origin story for America?

HANNAH-JONES: Well, we wanted to expand for a couple of reasons. The original project was limited by both the time constraints of putting out a magazine as well as space constraint. So this gave us a chance to really expand the project, invite more historians to contribute. We discussed more topics than what were originally included and more than double the poetry and short fiction in the book. It also gave us a chance to extend all of the original essays and

answer the critics by really showing our work and really expanding some of the original arguments.

STELTER: You have critics, really?

HANNAH-JONES: A couple, a couple.

STELTER: Speaking of critics, we are seeing these bans in place. We can put up maps on the screen. "1619" related curricula banned in Texas and Florida and similar bills are proposing several bans in other states. It's obviously not going to happen in New York but it could be in the Carolinas. So the lawmakers trying to ban it, is there anything you can do in response to that?

HANNAH-JONES: You know, I think it is absolutely astounding legislatures are banning the teaching of a work of journalism by name, explicitly saying you cannot tease this work. Really no matter how one feels about "The 1619 Project" we should all be concerned and opposed to the efforts by the state to restrict the teaching of ideas simply because politicians don't like them.

So, I think there are people, different organizations that are considering lawsuits around this, and I just really argue for teachers to oppose these laws and communities to oppose these laws.

STELTER: There also have been bans in critical race theory. Do you see this happening in this book and academia, do you think the two are related? And if so, how?

HANNAH-JONES: Well, I mean, certainly, critical race in academia is simply saying why is it 50 years after the end of discrimination, why do Americans still suffer great inequality? It just looks at how inequality has been structural. And "The 1619" makes similar arguments. I don't understand what is dangerous about that unless you're a politician who doesn't want to see policy that's addressing inequality.

STELTER: And you want to see something kind of wild, this is a graphic we created of coverage of Fox News on CRT before the election in Virginia and after. You're going to see, of course, 160 or so mentions before the election and just about 30 mentions this week. So, clearly, there was an attempt right before the off-year election to stoke concern about race and how it's being caught in schools. Be now much less talk in recent days that there's no election happening.

And I wonder, though, Nikole, if you feel like you're part of this political drama where you have Democrats spinning around worrying there's too much talk about wokeness and they're going to have to change that for the midterms. Do you feel like you're partly responsible or partly part of that story?

HANNAH-JONES: Let me say I appreciate you showing that graphic because what I and many others have been saying is this always was a propaganda campaign.


HANNAH-JONES: It was designed to, you know, this anti-critical race theory was designed to stoke white resentment, it was designed to put progressives back on their heels and defend something that wasn't happening and it was designed to drive white suburban people to the polls for Republicans and in some degrees it's been successful.

Do I feel responsible for that? Absolutely not. A project that is seeking journalistically to force us to grapple with our history cannot be responsible for bad-faith actors deciding that they're going to try to whip up white resentment. In fact, if you read "The 1619 Project," you know race is the oldest wedge in America and it still works.

STELTER: Is that -- that certainly, the adult version is actually well worth reading. You've also published a children's book and I'm really curious about that because obviously there's the whole right wing narrative about indoctrination, blah, blah, blah.


But there's also a good-faith attempt here to try to take a really substantive work of nonfiction and produce it for younger audience. So, tell us about that, the reason for that.

HANNAH-JONES: Yeah. So, the children's book is called "Born on the Water." I co-wrote that with a children's book author Renee Watson illustrator Nikkolas Smith. And this is really a response to so many people who read "The 1619 Project" and said we don't want to wait until our children are grown to introduce them to this information. We want something for children.

And what "Born On the Water" is really an origin story for black Americans who descend from American slavery. It starts with something I talk about in my essay on democracy, which is a black child being asked to write an essay and to draw the flag of her native land but black Americans because of slavery don't know what country in Africa they came from and that's a very demeaning experience for a child.

So, this project really gives black children an origin story and talks about the people they came from in Africa, talks about the middle passage, it talks about slavery. And then it talks in a triumphant way how black people in this country, despite everything that happened, really believed in democracy and fought to make democracy legal for all Americans.

So, I think it's a beautiful story for all children to read, and particularly for black American children.

STELTER: Nikole, thank you so much for coming on the program on book launch week.

HANNAH-JONES: Thank you, as always. I appreciate you.

Coming up -- who are we supposed to believe, Bill Barr or Maria Bartiromo? That's a tough one. Plus, the question every newsroom needs to be asking about the former

president. I'm going to ask the question to ABC's Jon Karl, next.



STELTER: All right. What's the real deal with Rupert Murdoch's message to Donald Trump?

This week Rupert, while speaking to News Corp shareholders, went the out of his way to jab at Trump, telling him to move on and stop obsessing about the 2020 election. Quote, it is critical that conservatives play an active, forceful role in a political debate but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. Rupert said, the past is the past and the country is now in a contest to define the future.

Now, I actually think Fox's programming is largely reflecting Murdoch's wishes. Fox moved away from 2020 delusions a long time ago. That's one of the reasons why Mike Lindell is always whining about the channel. He says he's going to have a protest now.

Fox doesn't really relitigate 2020 anymore. The channel is less pro- Trump at this point than it is anti-Biden. But where does being anti- Biden lead? You know where.

Fox is the beating heart of the GOP, a GOP that remains in for all a fear of Trump. And Trump is never going to concede that he lost.

Just a couple of days after Murdoch's message, Trump called into Laura Ingraham's show and Ingraham maybe channeling her boss asked him about the future. She tried to be focused on the future. But watch how Trump went right back to the past.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Mr. President, your own political future, where is it headed?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prior to COVID, we built the greatest economy in the history of the world. Then we had COVID, we did a great job, and then we had an election and that didn't work out too well. It was a rigged election.


STELTER: Then he went on about supply chain problems. But he had to get that rigged claim in there. His whole argument for 2024 is about taking back what he claims was stolen. He's never going to give up on the big lie or stop big lying. So, is Rupert Murdoch naive to think otherwise?

Well, let's ask David Zurawik.

Z, is Rupert Murdoch a naive man? What's really going on? ZURAWIK: Brian, the last thing I would ever call Rupert Murdoch is

naive. That's the last thing. I'm not a fan.

Rupert Murdoch has done more to debase the conversation of America's civic life than anyone I can think in the media with his creation of and use of Fox, a propaganda channel, selling it as news. He's not naive. He knows exactly what he's doing.

What's galling is his hypocrisy, Brian. He says this, even as you just so clearly showed, his hosts are still selling the big lie in a way. They're not so overt as some of the other right wing channels but this is the source of it. Why doesn't -- why doesn't he have Tucker Carlson come on and say, you know what, Joe Biden was a legitimate president of America. We can oppose him but he won?

There is -- it's never going to happen with Murdoch. It's like when Murdoch was one of the early people to get the vaccine I think a year ago in December and still he elects Tucker Carlson and others spread anti-vax disinformation on their channels. They call it skepticism about the vaccine.

But we know what -- but it's what they're feeding is that kind of disinformation. Really, Rupert Murdoch should put his channel where his mouth is if he believes this stuff. I think the other thing he and Trump joust a little bit. It's two old men --

STELTER: That's true.

ZURAWIK: -- who are really problematic, you know.

STELTER: You got to wonder if he's going too back a rival. So, if in a year Trump enters the 2024 primary season, if Murdoch swings behind a Trump rival, that could have a huge impact.

ZURAWIK: Oh, huge.

STELTER: But I'm not sure that his gentle words to shareholders actually implies that.


ZURAWIK: Brian, you know that world better than me from your book but I wouldn't bet on him backing a rival if Trump's running.

STELTER: It's hard to see it happening. David, thanks so much. Good to see you.

ZURAWIK: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: So books are continuing to reveal more about the political propaganda machine that tried, tried to keep Trump in power.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr went on the record for John Karl's new book "Betrayal." And Barr said that Fox's Maria Bartiromo called him up "screaming" over imagined voter fraud and that he then yelled back at her. Bartiromo has denied screaming but has not denied calling Barr up, which makes no sense from a journalism point of view, why would a journalist be calling up the Attorney General imagining voter fraud.

But of course, it makes sense from a propaganda point of view that Bartiromo was now a full-blown activist, and she was calling up to try to do Trump's dirty work. That is one of many revelations in "Betrayal."

John Karl is the author, he's also ABC's Chief Washington Correspondent, and he's joining me now.

John, how do you get someone like Bill Barr on the record? We have not heard a lot from the former Attorney General, but he's on the record in your book.

JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: I worked very hard to get him to agree to an interview. It actually took me several months.

And I originally got somebody close to Florida say oh, yes, he will do the interview, and then I kept on asking when, when, when it kept on going further and further down the road.

I finally got a hold of his cell phone number, Brian, and I called him directly went down. And, you know, I urged him to put this stuff on the record because I thought it was much more important and much more powerful if his words were on the record and they are.

STELTER: So that's what I did wrong. I e-mailed him this week, but I didn't call him, so getting the cell phone number was the key. I see that.

So it is not the response you have whenever one of these books comes out with new bombshells, people say why didn't you share it sooner? Why didn't you report it sooner? Is the answer that does take months to get these interviews and get this access?

KARL: It takes a long time. This book was an in-depth reporting project. I was also reporting every day during 2020 and especially during the transition.


KARL: I was putting information out as I got it absolutely. But after Trump left the White House, I made a decision that I wanted to go back and do in-depth reporting. And in-depth reporting takes time.

STELTER: It does take time. And these books have still been coming out pretty quickly all things considered. How all the page --

KARL: Well, you know, I mean -- I mean --

STELTER: -- come out immediately? Yes, go ahead.

KARL: Brian, I'll say that my friend Steve Inskeep at NPR said that maybe one of the problems with a lot of the books is that not that they came out so late, but that they came out too early. It takes time.

I would have loved another six months to work on this. I pushed it. You know, my book came out, you know, after several of the others and I know there are books to come. There's a lot of material here.

STELTER: There is.

KARL: And you know, you put it out when it's ready.

STELTER: So you conclude that the former President betrayed the country.

How hard is that for an impartial, straightforward, just the facts kind of reporter who, you know, is on an ABC every day, how hard is that to have to say and write and accept?

KARL: It's really challenging because in our DNA, as reporters, I know, at least in the way I look at it, you know, my goal is not to take sides to be -- to coin or to borrow a phrase from an old network fair and balanced.

But our first obligation to our viewers, our readers, to the people that consume our work is to pursue the truth. And the fundamental truth here, the core truth, is that Donald Trump betrayed the very democracy that enabled him to become elected President.

He betrayed our country, he betrayed the Constitution and he tried to overturn what is really the kind of founding miracle of American democracy, it's a peaceful transition of power, he tried to stop it.

STELTER: And if we avoid that, then we're avoiding the reality.

KARL: Yes.

STELTER: But the New York Times review of your book said, you know, Karl, you were late to this. They said you had a belated awareness of what Trump was doing in office abusing his power.

How did you feel about that assessment that the -- you basically were in denial about what Trump really was until the end of his presidency?

KARL: I got the sense that the reviewer had never seen any of my work before. In fact, that the first two paragraphs of that review were borrowed from the book "Jacket Bio." So I don't think it was a very --

STELTER: How interesting.

KARL: Yes, yes, to take a look. It was interesting. I mean, you know, I reported very aggressively, as you well know, on the Trump presidency from the start, I reported aggressively during the first campaign and the second campaign. And I just -- I just don't think that the reviewer was aware of any of that.

STELTER: Well, I always say to people that Trump at 2017 was not the Trump of 2020. Yet yes, so he's, he was the same man and the same narcissism, but he did change in office.

But here's the -- here's the reason why I'm getting at what we know now about the former President and his betrayal of the office. There's a lot of questions now being raised about how he would be covered in 2024.

If he does enter the primary race if he is a candidate for president, how's the American news media supposed to cover that figure?

Have you started to think about how you would approach the 2024 candidacy of Donald Trump?


KARL: I have. It's an immense challenge because you're covering -- you're covering essentially an anti-Democratic candidate, you're covering somebody running in a system that is trying to undermine that very system and somebody who is going to be perpetually lying.

I mean, he still -- I think that the point of your previous segment is really on target. He is consumed and obsessed with 2020 and trying to convince the world that that election was somehow corrupt, that it was filled with fraud, that he actually won it.


KARL: He is trying to repeat a lie so many times that people will believe it. And as journalists, you know, we can't allow -- we can't allow -- we can't be a conduit for that lie.

So it's an immense challenge. What does the debate look like with Donald Trump in it?

How do you -- how do you -- you can't air Trump's speeches unfiltered as often happened in the 2016 campaign. Interviews are incredibly challenging.

It's an immense challenge. I don't really have the answer yet, except to say that we have to do what we always must do, and that is, pursue the truth and pursue it relentlessly and without fear or favor.

STELTER: This is definitely the conversation that's starting to happen in Newsrooms. And I can hear it very loudly on the outside, critics asking these questions, but it is happening inside newsrooms as well.

We know normal is not the answer, but we don't know necessarily what the answer might be. We also don't know if he's going to run. Do you have a prediction of -- where are you on 2024 right now?

KARL: I -- first, I would say that people around him say he's running. I mean, they say it's 100 percent he's definitely running.

But I actually am -- I'm doubtful about that. I think that he's going to want to make us believe he is running because it keeps him relevant, it keeps him -- it keeps generating attention for himself. But I'm not sure he really wants to do it again. I think that for all his delusion about 2020, the last thing he wants to do is to lose again.

STELTER: Interesting. John, thanks so much, best luck with the book tour.

KARL: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: I had some good news for a change on the press freedom front plus how every week a new extreme drives the news cycle.



STELTER: News whiplash, do you feel it? Every day, every week there's a new narrative, some new extreme and it feels to me like whiplash. This is definitely true in political coverage.

Our President Biden is the worst of all time or then the best of all time, or he's collapsing or is succeeding either he's saving the country or his presidency needs saving.

And every week is portrayed as climactic even cataclysmic, horrible losses, huge wins, and there's a hot take for every conceivable issue.

This is also true when it comes to coverage of the economy. There has been a rightful focus on sky-high prices, on an increasing gas prices, but obviously, less attention when those prices come back down a bit.

Inflation, another example of this is a whiplash with question after question about what Biden will do or what he can do when it comes to inflation.

Now, of course, those losses come along with wins. Here, was the celebration on the House floor as Democrats passed the Build Back Better Act.

But before they can celebrate, there is always more whiplash, there's always another narrative, another news cycle that gets in the way.

And it feels to me like the pandemic is a part of every one of the stories we are covering these days even if it doesn't always come up in the coverage. We are all coming through this historic trauma, this historic period of time.

And it might cause some people just to want to pull back from the news altogether when there are endless hot takes and memes and social media-friendly headlines that seem to make every story seem so important.

When in fact, what really matters are the trend lines. What really matters are not every individual poll but the average of the polls, right, the polls overtime when it comes to Biden.

But the news is always up at 10 or 11. How do you bring it back down to a five or six? How do you separate news from noise?

I know that's something that David French does very well it's why I love reading him at The Dispatch. Let me bring him back in.

He's the author of "Divided We Fall: America's Succession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation."

There's obviously a -- you know, there's something about the divides here that relates to my sense of whiplash lately, David.

How do you keep your head on straight in this environment where the news is always at a 10 or 11 even when it should really be down a little bit lower?

DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DISPATCH: I mean, first you have to acknowledge it's hard. It's hard because there's always voices saying say something now, say something now, say something now, be strong now.

But I think that if I had to sum up two words that are absolutely necessary in this time is I think, from media to politicians to corporations, people want individuals and institutions that are calm and competent -- calm and competent.

STELTER: I think that's true. I think most people want that, but that's like the not very vocal minority -- majority, its SAGA silent majority, sorry.

Because there are these media incentive structures on the far right and far left to be incredibly loud and divisive.

FRENCH: Well, that's right. And there's actually research that says that there is not so much a silent majority, but an exhausted majority. These are the people that care about this country.

They're on the right, they're in the left, they're in the middle, but they're recoiling from the political discourse because entering it is like getting shocked with a cattle prod, you're going to get hit by their really loud voices.

And so what's absolutely vital, it's very important media institutions and individuals within the media and American politics to take it upon themselves, to do their best to bring calm and might.

When I say calm, that doesn't mean don't react when there are true emergencies, but don't treat everything as an emergency.

Take a breath, take a beat, evaluate what's going on, and then speak from knowledge speak from expertise less so than from opinion or herd mentality.


FRENCH: Because again and again, we're seeing these herd mentalities where media gets stories wrong in a big way where politicians react wrongly in a -- in a big way. And it's that that does mean we have to have an ability to take a breath, take in the scene, cut through that sort of fog of war, that confusion when complex events are unfolding quickly, and be competent in what we deliver.

And that's easier said than done. These are complex things that are hard. But when that's a priority, rather than responding to the outrage of the moment on Twitter, I think we can do something about this situation -- do something about the situation we're in.

STELTER: Right. So I should put down this Red Bull, I need a little less energy, maybe for a -- for a change, so calm and competent.

Here's what I find myself doing, David. I find myself looking for guideposts, quotes, you know, messages that sum up the environment we're in.

You wrote recently about J.D. Vance, the Ohio Senate candidate, and eight words that in some ways define our politics right now, in the worst way he said.

He said to the American conservative, he said, I think our people hate the right people.

Now to me, unfortunately, that sums up where we are on the extremes of our politics in 2021. And I always go back to those eight words, as you know, as what's pulling us apart, our people hate those people.

FRENCH: That's exactly correct. And he's accurately summing up the hatred, not that you can hate the right people. There are no right people to hate to be clear. But what he's summing up is the -- is the dynamic in play.

But again, what we have to go back to is this -- is not where most people want American politics to be. And it's wrong to say they're all in the moderate middle. That's not the case.

There are people on the left, there are people on the right, and yes, there are people in the middle who do not want a politics dominated by hatred.

They don't and they're looking for outlets, they're looking for voices, they're looking for politicians, they're looking for celebrities, you name it, all of these participants in this big cultural -- seemingly endless cultural struggle we're all a part of, you're looking for those voices that are not voices of hate.

But right now in politics, the politics are driven by the polls, the politics are driven by the most angry extremes, those are -- that's where the clicks are, that's where the eyeballs are often.

Sadly, on cable news and internet world where I live, that's where the eyeballs are.

And so this is -- this is the challenge that we face. In many ways you're turning away from the eyeballs you need when you're going towards calm, competent analysis.

STELTER: I'm into it though. CNC, I wrote it down. Let's come back to it soon. David, thank you so much for coming on the program.

FRENCH: Thanks so much for having me.

STELTER: Up next, something big is missing from the media coverage of the January 6 prosecutions and I'm going to show you what it is.



STELTER: Nearly every story in the news right now seems to be a legal story, but not every case is equally accessible.

While the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict was seen live and the trial against three men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is streaming live, there are many trials we don't get to watch and I believe this has an impact on public opinion and the public's understanding.

In the federal court system, broadcasting is not allowed that's why we can only show you sketches of Steve Bannon's appearance in court, sketches of the Elizabeth Holmes trial, all told more than 10,000 trials a year pretty much happen out of sight.

And I think this is especially significant right now as the federal courts follow up on the crimes of January six. This week that so- called QAnon Shaman was sentenced.

But we're not able to see the prosecutions, we're not able to see the process unfolding on TV. As a longtime TV producer, Chris Licht marks, this seems like a good time to change the antiquated rules of no cameras in federal court.

Yes, it does. But what are the chances? Let's bring on Katelyn Polantz the CNN's Crime and Justice Reporter who's keeping track of the riot cases and covering them even without video.

Katelyn, what are the practical impacts when cameras are not in these courts?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brian, we are missing a lot of things that the general public can't see in full. Even though we're doing our best to really report what happens every day in court, we're not seeing all of the evidence in cases, right?

People can actually tune in and watch evidence be shown as prosecutors are telling a story, as defense attorneys are telling a story, we're not hearing judges act as the referee of information.

And really, we're not seeing you know, the law being applied in cases and we're not seeing where courts will land on the truth where a jury lands and why a jury might get to that point.

We'd try to do our best, but really, this is something that -- it's been an issue that the federal judiciary has grappled with over many years.

The judiciary has said in the past that they don't want cameras in the courtroom in federal courts because they have a fear that it will intimidate witnesses and jurors.

But now with these January six cases, we're really seeing an interesting situation take place where defendants are coming into court and they are being sentenced by judges. They are pleading guilty. They are saying I'm sorry. They're disavowing what they did in January 6.


POLANTZ: And then they walk out of court. And they might say something totally different or they might shade it a little bit, cherry-pick what the judge told them about what their -- why they were sentenced that way.


POLANTZ: We know two rioters so far, who in court, really expressed some level of sorry and then they came out of court.

And when a right-wing media have done interviews that are saying that, you know, I'm blaming the media a little bit, well, the judge is trying to make an example of me.

And really, the reasoning was much more serious than that, and judges really had much fuller thoughts about why these rioters deserved punishment.

STELTER: That is a great example of why we should be able to see what's happening in these courts. Every year Senators put in a bill you know, trying to propose opening up the cameras -- the courts in the cameras and never goes forward. Maybe this year, maybe next year.

Katelyn, thanks so much. More RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.


STELTER: Saving the best for last. Journalist Danny Fenster is back home in suburban Detroit today. Last week we told you about the Myanmar military sentencing him to 11 years behind bars, but negotiations were secretly underway and Bill Richardson was able to secure Fenster's release --