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Chris Wallace Is Leaving Fox News, Effective Immediately; Why Journalists Need To Rethink Political Coverage; Dozens Are Missing After Historic Tornado Outbreak; American Right-Wing Media Finds Home On Russian TV; Unpacking Media Baggage In Jussie Smollett Case. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 12, 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, trying to figure out what's reliable these days.

This hour, we will go live to Kentucky and Tennessee for updates on the recovery from Friday's terrible tornado outbreak.

Also, what is blaring from Vladimir Putin's propaganda machine and how is American right wing media involved? Matthew Chance has a report from the region.

And later, Jussie Smollett's hate crime hoax. We're going to unpack the media's baggage from this case coming up.

Plus, jay Rosen on how to cover a pro democracy, and much more coming up this hour.

But, first, a Sunday morning surprise in the TV news business. Chris Wallace, the veteran moderator of "FOX News Sunday," is leaving the network effective immediately.

Here's how he announced it on his show just a few minutes ago.


CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: It may sound corny but I feel we built a community here. There's a lot you can do on Sunday mornings, the fact you've chosen to spend this hour with us is something I cherish. But after 18 years, I have decided to leave Fox. I want to try something new, to go beyond politics, to all of the things I'm interested in. I'm ready for a new adventure, and I hope you'll check it out.


STELTER: This is a shock to the TV news business. Chris Wallace is one of the, you know, journalists that is at Fox who stands out like a sore thumb because the network has become more and more radicalized both in the Trump years and now in the Biden years. Wallace last signed a contract with Fox in 2017. So, he had a four-

year deal. I'm told according to sources knowledgeable with the matter, that he decided to leave on his own, he wanted out at the end of his contract this year.

So, that speaks volumes with what's changing at Fox but also raises the question, where might he be going next?

Like I said, this news just broke in the last hour but there are several outlets reporting that Wallace may join CNN, specifically at streaming service CNN+, which is launching early next year.

CNN has not confirmed this but as soon as I get a comment from a CNN spokesperson, I'll let you know.

But for now, let's talk about why this is a significant change at Fox News. As Brian Klaas, the author, pointed out on Twitter here, he says: Just like the increasingly authoritarian Republican Party, when organizations radicalize, the moderates either get purged or purge themselves.

Again, in the case of Wallace, I'm told by a source that Fox wanted him to stay. He decided to leave. He has something new that he wants to do.

So, what does that say about Fox and right wing media?

Joining me now, S.E. Cupp, CNN political commentator and nationally syndicated columnist, Will Bunch, national correspondent for "The Philadelphia Inquirer", and Julia Ioffe, founding partner and Washington correspondent for Puck.

Thank you all for being here.

Julia, you wrote recently about the tension in and around Fox News. You know, Tucker Carlson day by day, month by month taking over Fox and it's his radicalism that defines Fox.

Do you think Chris Wallace, an old school Washington correspondent, just did not fit in anymore at Fox News?

JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER & WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: I don't think he did. And he was often attacked by the right wing and, you know, people at Fox. I feel like Fox is becoming -- you know, it's like a crazy sauce that you keep on the burner and it keeps reducing more and more and gets more and more concentrated. And I think, you know, that flavor isn't for everybody.

I can see why Chris Wallace, who is kind of a more down-the-middle, just-the-facts man journalist, I think it's hard to stay at a place like that.

STELTER: S.E. Cupp, what do you say?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Well, Brian, I think -- I think you and I were on a couple years ago -- I don't know if it was your show or my show, but we were talking about the departure of Shep Smith and how that was maybe a harbinger of some things to come.

And I think this premise was always a bit unsustainable. Fox News used people like Shep and Chris and Bret Baier to say, look, we have a news division. Yes, we have our entertainment side, but we also have news people.

Except as Julia mentioned, the news side was reporting on stuff that the entertainment side started contradicting and calling fake news.


CUPP: That was bad.

And then the entertainment side started openly attacking people like Chris and Shep for their reporting of the news.


That's unsustainable.

So, when you have this carve-out and say, look at someone like Chris Wallace as evidence that we're in this clean category but then you don't protect him from attacks inside the building, it's no wonder he wanted to leave and do something new.

STELTER: And very recently, "The Washington Post" said when Tucker Carlson's pro -- you know, his 1/6 truther documentary came out, that Chris Wallace and Bret Baier complained internally, they were uncomfortable with the conspiracy theory stuff that's coming out at prime time.

But, you know, what's happened at Fox for years is news is shrinking, right wing alternative programming is growing and growing and growing, there's less and less room for Chris Wallace.

Will Bunch, what's your view of today's breaking news?

WILL BUNCH, NATIONAL OPINION COLUMNIST, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think this kind of makes a mockery out of their original mantra of "fair and balanced" that they started out with 25 years ago. You know, like S.E. said, you know, the presence of, you know, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier and some of these other -- and Shepard Smith certainly, gave them the opportunity to say, look, you know, we have a news side. We challenge conservatives.

You know, Chris Wallace almost every week, he had access to Republican insiders and he challenged them regularly. And that was a service for all of us, frankly, because other media outlets don't always have access to some of these Republican figures and Chris Wallace give them a hard time.

And this is kind of an Adam Kinzinger, you now, Liz Cheney, like you said, moment for the -- for the right wing media just like the Republican Party. You know, is there -- is there a place for moderates? Is there a place for people who will question the Trumpist status quo? And, you know, he may have other reasons for moving on, like he said,

he's been doing this for 18 years. I hope he finds personal happiness in whatever he does. But you have to think the -- just incredible rightward rift of Fox in the last couple of years played a big part in this.

STELTER: Fox has rotating hosts --


CUPP: Can I just say, Brian, I don't -- I don't want to interrupt, but --

STELTER: Yeah, S.E., go ahead. No, please.

CUPP: I will say it's not -- I don't think the question to Will's point is, is there room for moderates? It's, is there room for journalists? Chris Wallace was not defined ideologically. You know, is there room for journalism at Fox?

As you said, Brian, the entertainment side has really been encroaching on the news side. It's almost all of dayside now, is, you know, "Outnumbered" and "The Five" and these sort of entertainment projects. That's the fundamental and existential question.

STELTER: Fox does say rotating hosts will fill in. So I expect to see John Roberts, Shannon Bream, Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, they'll fill in on the show. But that show is on an island. And what's going on the rest of the time --

CUPP: Yeah.

STELTER: -- is now so -- as you said, it's entertainment but it's resentment entertainment. It's designed to make you get even angrier about President Biden, make you hate him even more.

Here's a sample in just the last couple of days what's happening the rest of the time, the rest of the time on Fox News.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Every day is now a struggle for Joe, walking, talking, reading, remembering.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FOX NEWS HOST: President Biden desperately wants you to think the economy is excellent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he's doing is killing the economy. It's killing American families.

MCENANY: Prices surging to the highest level in 40 years, just in time to ruin Christmas for millions of Americans.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: This country is going to hell in a hand basket and you know it. America today is the land of total chaos and confusion. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is where we're heading, America.


STELTER: I would be so scared to leave the house if I watched that all day. The message there, at the same time they're saying President Biden is too weak to be president. They're also saying he's too evil to keep the country alive and the economy has been ruined because of him and, by the way, Christmas is ruined, they say, as well.

So, the reason I want to play all of that, to give a sense of what's happening in that bubble is that it is affecting President Biden. He's aware of the noise.

Here's what he told Jimmy Fallon on Friday night.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: We've been in less than a year. A lot has happened. Look, people are afraid. People are worried, and people are getting so much inaccurate information to them. I don't mean about me but about the situation.

And so, they're -- you know, they're being told that, you know, Armageddon's on the way.


BIDEN: The truth is, the economy is grown more than it has any time in close to 60 years.


STELTER: And then he went on to acknowledge inflation.

I mean, look, angst in America is real. There's pandemic uncertainty, there's economic turmoil, there's political propaganda and it's affecting Biden's polling. A new polling out from ABC today saying his poll approval rating, still citing people are concerned about inflation and other issues.

But there are two things that are true here, yes, there's real angst in America, there's also this propaganda machine saying Armageddon's on the way. As Biden said, Armageddon's on the way. There's a portrayal of what's happening in America as a catastrophe, and that's why we're playing the "Armageddon" trailer.

And I think that word catastrophe is, its' apropos for part too much of the partisan media coverage of what's going on in the U.S. right now, always jumping to the absolute worst-case scenario.


You know, this new variant being the latest example, always assuming the worst. And so, what's happening is that Fox and the anti-Biden are

exaggerating real problems, kind of like a toddler turned an innocent bump into the night into a nightmare about a scary monster under the bed. You know, yes, there's a bump in the night but there's no monster.

Here's Donald Trump on Fox doing exactly what I'm describing. Here he is with Laura Ingraham lying through his teeth about gas prices.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Gasoline was at $1.87 a gallon and now in California, it's over $7, $7.77 to be exact.


STELTER: So, to be exact the actual price of regular gas in California is $4.67. So it's quite high right now, especially in California. Gas prices are a real issue.

But then Trump so egregiously exaggerates the issue, he makes it into, as Biden said, some kind of Armageddon.

And this is the kind of inaccurate information that I think Biden is rightly referencing when he's on with Fallon, and this is also what White House aides are calling out when they are criticizing the mainstream media, the non-Fox media, for being so negative.

So, back to the panel.

Will Bunch, you've been writing about this issue. I'm trying to say here, two things are true. There's real angst. Obviously, there's real economic woes, but then there's also this crazy exaggeration that happens from the doomsday anti-Biden media.

You say, though -- you say the issue with the "APs" and CNNs and "the New York Times" of the world and their coverage. What do you say that issue is?

BUNCH: Well, yeah, I think -- I think it does. I think the negativity about inflation that you're talking about has definitely carried over to a lot of mainstream outlets, you know, beyond just Fox.

But, you know, I think -- I think one of the reasons there's so much public angst about inflation, two reasons, one is it's real, obviously. Gas prices are higher. You know, supermarket prices are higher. Let's not pretend that's not real.

But on the other hand, when it's not the only thing you hear about the economy, it's influencing the millions of people who watch Fox and these related outlets and it becomes the kind of prevailing wisdom about the economy.

There are other things happening in the economy. There are -- there are young people getting jobs at $15 to $18 an hour that paid $11 a couple years ago. There are millions of families that are able to get out of food insecurity because they're getting the child tax credit that was passed and signed into law by President Biden.

And, you know, one thing you don't hear about the economy is this year we've seen child poverty cut in half. I mean, that's an unbelievable story. That should be one of the five biggest stories of the year. To me, it's important as inflation.

But, you know, you have this negative tone and it bleeds over to the media. The media w-- as the media was very tough on Donald Trump at times. They had to be. He lied 30,700 times during his presidency. So, the media was going to be tough on Trump.

But now that Trump is gone, I think a lot of people want to prove they can be just as tough on Biden and they're missing a bigger story line. You know, Biden was elected to restore some of the democratic norms we lost up through January 6th and he's doing that. And there's a bigger picture here and I think the media is very quick to jump on to hear something negative we can say about Biden, gas prices are up, which isn't even exactly his fault.

But -- and I think we're getting a big picture in the media that's kind of lacking the perspective on what's happening in this country right now.

STELTER: So, there's Will with the view from the left.

S.E., what's the view from the right?

CUPP: Well, Will is right there's a bunch of underreported good stories and those are important stories to tell us, especially when it comes to eradicating child poverty. That's something that has not gotten enough attention over past administrations.

But at the same time, I think -- I think the media has been fair and honest in covering Joe Biden. I think the media, as you like to point out, Brian, the media are a nebulous thing but, you know, writ large, I think the media did a good job covering Afghanistan and that blunder and was very importantly tough on Joe Biden.

But I think the proof that we're doing a good job is that Democrats are mad at the media for not helping to sell Joe Biden and their agenda. Not our job. And the fact that they're mad at us for not doing that I think is a great endorsement of the job we are doing.

We're telling the stories, both the stories that people need to hear about inflation and rising gas prices and supermarket prices, and then some of the stories they might want to hear about a good economy that might make them feel a little less apocalyptic about what's going on.

I think there's a balance and I think to Will's point, if we're constantly trying to react to the way we covered Trump and prove something, that's really going to get us in trouble. We've got to put blinders back on and do the job and the job is holding powerful people accountable.


STELTER: No matter who's in power.

CUPP: Yeah.

STELTER: S.E., Will, Julia, thank you. Julia, please come back in a little bit.

Up next here, why the conventional rules of political journalism no longer apply and, more importantly, what should replace them? Jay Rosen is going to have some answers.

And later, frequent Fox guest Devin Nunes, what was he thinking going to Trump's new media outlet, what is he actually joining? We're going to get into that, too.

Stay with us.


STELTER: The American news media knows how to cover two parties that are basically equal fighting for power. But when one property propagates and perpetuates ignorance and calls into question basic facts and evidence, well, then, what's the press supposed to do with that?


As the GOP goes further down the path that President Trump blazed and continues to sow the seeds of conspiracy, how do news outlets change their norms and practices while staying true to the mandates, to the job, which is to get to the truth?

I talked about that with Jay Rosen, the New York University journalism professor and author of "The Press Think Blog." And he had a lot of thoughts.


STELTER: Hey, Jay, thank you so much for joining me.


STELTER: Usually, I ask the questions here but I was hoping you could present us with a question. If you could set the table with a question about the press and its role in covering politics right now. What would the question be you would want to present?

ROSEN: Well, the way the press traditionally covers politics is by presuming the existence of two political parties who resemble each other but different ideologies. What happens when you have two parties that increasingly don't very resemble each other and one of them is going off in a anti-democratic direction?

I think a lot of the routines and assumptions of political journalism just collapse at that point when you have two radically different parties and that to me is probably the biggest conceptual as well as practical problem in political journalism today.

STELTER: And let's not beat around the bush. You're talking about Republican extremism, former president's lies, potential of him running for office again, that's really at the heart of the matter. We've got to call it what it is.

ROSEN: Yes. And the erasure of common sense by figures like Trump and others and so much of good journalism is based on the assumption that a world of common fact exists, where at this present moment, we have a political party, political movement that's trying to erase that from our politics. And that is something the playbook of political journalism has no chapter for.

STELTER: So let's write it. What should that new chapter start to say?

ROSEN: Well, I think the first thing is news organizations have to come out and say, we are pro-democracy, pro-truth, pro-science, pro- evidence, pro-voting. Then they have to figure out for each of those new pros, what practices are we going to retire because they don't meet that standard, and what are we going to start to do routinely that we didn't do before? I think there's a lot of work to be done, of course, with those two lists.

Then I think you have to go public with these changes and explain what you're doing. Dial down the insider game horserace coverage at the same time. Find a way to keep bad actors off the air even while you report on what they may be doing in the political sphere that's important for maybe people to know.

Then close the gap through voters with some sort of voters citizens approach, which I wrote about before, you start your election coverage with not what the candidates are doing and who the likely winner is but a simple question, what do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes?

And the reason why you need to understand that first is you need some sort of agenda that can combat the disinformation or propaganda agenda. And having a very good grasp on what voters want the campaign to be about and using that priority list to order your coverage and shape what you're doing in your news production would be really important.

Final thing that I would recommend is some sort of urgency index, by which I mean we have to know how far away from the disaster of a collapsed democracy are we? Are we making progress towards that collapse? Or are things getting marginally better?

We need some way of locating where we are in political space as what's called Democratic backsliding progresses. And here it might be smart for journalists to call on the wisdom and knowledge of political scientists who have studied the collapse of democracy and the erosion of democracy in different context so we can know how far along are we in the erosion of American democracy. I think that's an important element too.

You put all of those things together and it's not exactly a set of instructions for reform, but it puts you on the right road.

STELTER: It gives newsrooms tools to stay on that road.


STELTER: So it's a matter of changing some practices and then thinking about new practices.


But what does it mean to have journalism be pro-democracy?

ROSEN: It means you're constantly on the lookout for the unbuilding of democracy through changes in practice in politics. It means that you call out bad actors who are trying to undermine democracy. It means you no longer equate the two political parties. If one is emerging as an anti-democratic force and the other is playing by the rules of the game, you have to differentiate between that.

But I'm confident that people of goodwill in journalism can figure this out. I don't think that journalists are as helpless as they sometimes present themselves when these kinds of changes are suggested. It's up to them to figure out what a more pro-democracy coverage would look like. But I'm confident they can do it if they take it seriously.

STELTER: What's the difference between pro-democracy coverage and just more liberally biased journalism?

ROSEN: I think there's a difference between the protecting the system by which we have free and fair elections and rooting for a candidate within that system. And essentially you have to keep making that distinction again and again.

STELTER: You said on this program a couple years ago that Trump had set up an authoritarian news system --

ROSEN: Yeah.

STELTER: Which is a phrase that always lived in my head ever since. You're referring to the Foxes of the world as these pro-Trump megaphones that are authoritarian. Does that news system still exist?


ROSEN: What I meant more specifically, Brian, was there's a percentage of Americans now -- we don't know exactly how large it is and I think it's probably around 20 percent, who get their information about Trump and the Republican Party from Trump and the Republican Party. And they automatically reject what the mainstream news media is saying because they've been sort of taught or conditioned to do that, and because they don't believe it.

And that's what I meant by authoritarian news system, is that within the country known as the strongest free press in the world, you have people who are getting their information about Trump from Trump. That's an authoritarian news system.

STELTER: So does any of what we talk about matter? Does it matter what ABC, CNN, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" do if we rethink our practices and democracies, does any of it matter if there's a new authoritarian system standing side by side?

ROSEN: Well, it doesn't matter unless you can close the gap with voters somehow. Maybe that 20 percent isn't reachable at the moment at all but there are others who are.

STELTER: So, for the journalists listening right now, your question or your challenge to them is what?

ROSEN: Don't ask me what to do. What are you going to do?

STELTER: Jay Rosen, thank you so much.


STELTER: For more of the conversation, check out the RELIABLE SOURCES podcasts. We're going to work on answers to the question later this hour. We have more RELIABLE SOURCES, including breaking news from Kentucky, in a moment.




STELTER: The tornado disaster across Kentucky and several other states is top of mind this weekend. Ghastly scars from the tornadoes visible on satellite and captured on these front pages from Kentucky and other states, the words on the front page is tragic, powerful and devastation.

The building, housing the local paper in Mayfield, Kentucky as the Mayfield messenger, you can see that it is uninhabitable as is much of the town.

That paper is part of the Paxton Media Group. This is an image of one of their news vehicles under rubble this weekend.

And we are seeing a similar situation across the border in Tennessee. Here's the Dresden Enterprise newspaper office before and after, the damage inside that local newspaper is also devastating.

Of course, these news outlets continue to do their work and cover their communities.

So let's talk with Bill Evans, VP of Paxton Media, publisher of the Mayfield messenger and other local papers.

And Daniel Richardson, CEO of Magic Valley Publishing, which owns Dresden Enterprise and 14 other weekly papers in Tennessee. Thank you both for coming on despite these awful circumstances. I want to just make sure first, Bill, that all of your staffers make it out OK.

BILL EVANS, VICE PRESIDENT, WEST KENTUCKY PAXTON MEDIA GROUP: Yes, everyone is safe, just a building and other property damage.

STELTER: So what do you do now? How are you all able to report without your office?

EVANS: Well, the great thing about Paxton Media Group in this region, Western Kentucky is I oversee six total newspapers and a television station.

So for years, we've been pooling our resources to cover new stories so this is nothing new.

So we have our Benton, Kentucky Office is 20 miles east, our Paducah office is 25 miles north and, of course, the television station covers the region as well.

So all those journalists are covering the events and producing for all platforms.

STELTER: And living the events at the same time. Now, you mentioned that TV station.


STELTER: And I was struck by the fact that some of these towns did have 20 minutes warning. Now, there's only so much you can do when you have a tornado of this caliber coming at you.

But there were warnings and your station was on the air. Is this a case where meteorologists do save lives by getting those warnings out quickly?


EVANS: I can't tell you. And don't make me cry. I can't tell you the number of people that I've heard from yesterday morning that said that.

That said your team, your team of Trent, Noah, and Kaylee, they save lives tonight. And that's exactly what we do it. It's not trite to say that.

As part of our interview process with any meteorologist, we asked them, what do you think your job is if you come to work for us?

And you know, they give their answer, but we correct them real quickly and said your job is to save lives. That's what you do in severe weather situations.

STELTER: You know, behind you, it looks like Joplin, it looks like Tuscaloosa. You know there are towns that become forever imprinted by these horrific events. Is that what it feels like to you this morning in Mayfield?

EVANS: Well, having covered tornadoes -- I grew up in Arkansas and having covered tornadoes for the last 40 years. Each one is different, each one is unique. But the one common thread beyond all of this destruction you see is the people that remain.

And we know that we're going to rebuild. We know we have stories to tell, stories of heroic efforts, and stories of people that will go on.

So, yes, we're not going to be defined by rubble, we're going to define by the spirit that is us and we're going to move forward.

STELTER: And Daniel, to you in Tennessee, is your team OK physically?

DANIEL RICHARDSON, CEO, MAGIC VALLEY PUBLISHING: Yes, physically they are. Thank you.

STELTER: I would suspect emotionally might be different. What's it been like the last 36 hours?

RICHARDSON: For the team there and with Lee County, it's been really rough. We had a staff member that his home was damaged.

I've got a really close-knit team there they came together, help each other out, make sure everybody was safe physically.

And then, you know, after the fact, I'm proud that they to get into the office yesterday and get what out that we could.

STELTER: You all have been covering other disasters as of late flooding in the region as well. It feels like one after another. So how do you try to keep folks going there?

RICHARDSON: It's not easy, you know. When we're asking our staff to tell the stories that they're in the middle of and are part of the devastation, emotionally, they -- it's a challenge, for sure.

But we understand that what we do is important. And it's an important part of the recovery process of allowing people the opportunity to tell their story, and to hear other stories.

STELTER: Right. When we talk about local news and why it needs to survive and thrive, the two of you are showing why.

I mean, Bill, this is -- this is exactly why we need to keep local newspapers and television stations alive.

EVANS: Exactly. You know, right now we're in the coverage. And event coverage is all about what's happening now.

But when these cameras go, when the other networks go, we're going to remain, the local newspaper, the local television stations.

And then we're going to transfer -- we're going to begin telling the effects of these events. And these effects are going to be long-lasting. And it's going to impact people, families, money, health, safety, community. And those are the stories that we will have to tell as we move forward.

STELTER: Absolutely. Bill and Nathan, thank you both for coming on the program, best of luck in the days ahead.

EVANS: Thank you.

STELTER: We have more breaking news in just a moment. Plus, how is Fox's pro-Russia commentary going down in Russia? We watched with the help of translators, and we have answers next.



STELTER: Well, this is one of those rare Sunday mornings when big media news is breaking during the media program.

I mentioned at the top of the hour, Chris Wallace surprising everyone by leaving Fox News.

Well, it turns out he is joining CNN specifically to become an anchor on CNN Plus, that's the streaming service that's going to be launching in early 2022.

So this was announced with an internal memo just a few minutes ago, and now it's going out wide.

The way this works you know is he does a deal -- his agent does a deal with CNN, he announced his exit from Fox. And now the press release is being blasted out about him joining CNN.

So let me read to you that -- the statement that he has about his new venture.

He says I am thrilled to join CNN Plus. After decades in broadcast and cable news, I'm excited to explore the world of streaming, I look forward to the new freedom and flexibility streaming affords and interviewing major figures across the news landscape, and finding new ways to tell stories.

This is Wallace's statement adding as I embark on this adventure, I am honored and delighted to join Jeff Zucker and his great team. I can't wait to get started.

So that's Chris Wallace, as you see on the screen there, Fox News veteran, always defined by his Sunday morning moderating and his willingness to take on all political figures, right, left, and everywhere else.

Wallace, a veteran of Fox, now heading over to this house, to CNN, and according to the press release, he'll be hosting a weekday show on CNN Plus, the streaming service.

So instead of Sundays, he will be on five days a week. He'll be on weekdays hosting.

Now, you probably heard a little bit about CNN Plus maybe not a lot. It's a streaming service that's going to be launching in early 2022 with different programming than you already have here on CNN, on cable.

So you'll have different kinds of programming, including now we know. Chris Wallace on CNN Plus.

So that's the breaking news during our hour of media. Now we turn to something we had planned about right-wing media and the rest of Fox News.


STELTER: You know I mentioned earlier, Chris Wallace has been you know increasingly a man on an island at a network that has become more and more radical. I guess we will find out from him if that's why he decided to leave.

But it is so striking to see how figures like Tucker Carlson and others on Fox are rooting for Putin.

This week, Newsmax ran a cover story titled "Vlad The Great." And Tucker seemed to be justifying a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Shows across Fox, OAN, and Newsmax, keep serving up anti-Biden pro- Putin messages on the regular, look at his banner saying Putin just wants to keep his western border secure.

We wanted to know what Russian media was saying about all this. So Matthew Chance tells us.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is the kind of political analysis, Russia's state control television apparently likes, the main channel in Moscow putting together this montage of lines from a favorite anchor.

Please show us Tucker Carlson, the host says. He's the man laying out all the complaints against President Biden, she explains.

But it's his defense of Russia's threat against Ukraine, the Kremlin back-channel now wants to highlight.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Vladimir Putin does not want Belgium, he just wants to keep his western border secure that's why he doesn't want Ukraine to join NATO.

And that makes sense. Imagine how we would feel if Mexico and Canada became satellites of China.

CHANCE: It's essentially what the Kremlin says, so no surprise the studio guests agree. Excellent performance, exclaims this editor of a Russian National Defense journal. We can only have solidarity with this view, he says.

U.S. officials say NATO poses no threat and this Russian military buildup is unjustified.

For years now, Russia has homed in on controversial praise from the U.S., including from the former President himself, and often used it to justify its stance at home.

Like former President Trump taking the side of Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia meddling in the U.S. election. Russia denied it. Trump at first agreed.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this I don't see any reason why it would be.

CHANCE: At the time, even Russian TV anchors seemed surprised.

President Biden has been more critical of Putin in public. A tougher stance that's helped makes the U.S. President much less popular in Russia than his predecessor.

Like criticism of President Biden is widespread, and his American critics are held up for praise.


CHANCE (on camera): As well as the justified actions, Russia also promotes contrarian U.S. support to underline divisions in American society, casting the nation as unstable compared to autocratic Russia where of course, the scent is crushed.

The problem is listening only to support for Russia while blocking out the criticism, this thoughts what the U.S. really thinks, leaving many Russians dangerously unaware of just how divided the U.S. and Russia have become. Brian, back to you.

STELTER: Thank you, Matthew, for that report. So what's going on here? Let's talk more about it with Julia Ioffe. She's back with me. She'd been writing about Putin and all of this for Puck.

Julia, this Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, you know, pro-Russia commentary, it's not new but it is seeming to increase in volume at a significant and scary time in terms of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

IOFFE: Well, as you know, it's not new, unfortunately. I would say it started quite a while ago, about a decade ago when American right-wing organizations started reaching out, you know.

Like the World Congress of families, other pro or anti-choice organizations started reaching out to religious right-wing organizations in Russia and working with them.

And it really hit a fever pitch under Trump because you had Trump talking about Putin as a partner, as an equal, as somebody that we should have a good relationship with, that we should respect, and that we shouldn't criticize.

And what has developed in the last five or six years is basically this feedback loop.

You either have the right-wing, you know putting out certain memes, tropes, storylines, and the Russian State Press or trolls on social media, amplifying that message until it you know becomes more mainstream or you have Russian trolls or Russian state media putting out tropes and memes and storylines and the right-wing press and amplifying them.


IOFFE: And now it's become basically this one feedback loop to the point where, frankly, I can't tell a lot of the times the difference between coverage on Pervvy Kanal, the first -- Channel One, which is the main state -- broadcaster in Russia and Fox News.

Like last summer, for example, the coverage on Russian state TV of the Black Lives Matter protests, the social justice -- racial justice protests was that these were all looters, terrorists, that this was all about humiliating white people, then they picked up the same trope of Biden being barely with it and this basically, you know, having one foot in the grave and not being really fully cognitively present, you know.

And now you have Russian state media echoing a lot of Republican tropes that Democrats are socialists, that they're radicals, that they're about to take the country into, you know, Soviet-style socialism, and Republicans are the only ones who are saying.

And then on the Republican side, you saw in 2016, as soon as it became public, you know that the American intelligence community felt that the Russians helped Donald Trump win the election.

Approval for Russia, for Vladimir Putin among self-identified Republicans, went through the roof. So kind of makes sense.

STELTER: You know, in a twisted way, it does. Julia, thank you so much for explaining to us.

IOFFE: You're welcome.

STELTER: Busy morning here on RELIABLE SOURCES, more news in just a moment.




LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Today's verdict wasn't just an indictment of Smollett but of the entire leftist media apparatus and the political elites who parroted his lies from the start.


STELTER: So, many on Fox saying the Jussie Smollett verdict is also a guilty verdict for the media. Back with us, S.E. Cupp and Will Bunch.

S.E., the narrative is pretty clear here, the media is complicit in pushing a hate crime narrative and the media is guilty as well. How true is that?

SE CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's a little truth in it. As usual, I think Lauren Fox can go too far.

But listen, I think when this story broke you have to remember in context, hate crimes were on the rise.

And I think what a lot of journalism -- journalists did, was, you know, they wanted to be activists on this story. And, you know, they got a little too far ahead.

They stopped calling the crime alleged pretty quickly. I don't think you know, we asked enough questions initially.

But you also have to remember, I mean, according to researchers, less than 1 percent of hate crimes are faked or not real.

I mean, you'd really have to suspend disbelief to think in the immediate that this was a lie.

Of course, as information and details came out, it became clear that the story didn't make any sense.

But yes, I think anytime journalists want to be activists, they run the risk of telling the wrong story.

STELTER: Right, skepticism. We've got to keep applying skepticism.

So let's do that with this next story. This is Devin Nunes quitting Congress to try to run Trump's media company, the media company that says it's going to launch a social media platform, but we don't know if it's ever going to happen or not. Will Bunch, what is he actually joining?

BUNCH: Well, I think -- Brian, I think he's joining the successor to Trump vagabond (PH) for -- Trump Steaks to be frankly -- to be frank about it.

I mean, this just seems like a continuation of Trump's ability to, you know, combine politics with being a scam artist. There's so many questions about this company.

You know, the great journalist Jug Lagoon (PH), this week, published a story showing that there's plagiarism in some of the documents that this company is used to raise money for one thing. It's been investigated by two federal agencies right now. And I don't think that's political. I think I think there are just many questions about this company, which has seen its market value skyrocket to $2 billion, which is just unbelievable.

You know, we've always worried about how Trump might try to cash in on the presidency. Well, this is something that just needs a much closer look as you can see.

STELTER: Yes, like I said, it's a mirage right now. And it's already been investigated by the feds.

BUNCH: Right.

STELTER: All right, last story. Brian Williams signing off after 28 years of MSNBC and NBC and he signed off with this warning.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, MSNBC: Darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways, and neighborhoods. It's now at the local bar, and the bowling alley, at the school board, and the grocery store.

And it must be acknowledged and answered for. They've decided to burn it all down with us inside. That should scare you to no end.


STELTER: I see. I think that's the kind of warning we need from journalists, from news anchors, even the ones who -- especially the ones who've been impartial all these years.

CUPP: Well, sure. Look, and we talk -- we do that all the time. I know -- I do. We try to -- we try to give these warnings about just how bad our state of politics is, just how badly Republicans and Donald Trump still want to dismantle our democratic institutions, including the free press.

I think those are stories that are important. I will just say listen, Brian, Brian Williams is a very talented journalist and broadcaster, he's a nice person but he lied repeatedly and I don't think we should forget that every single time we talk about his legacy.

STELTER: All right, fair enough. Thank you, everybody. Thanks for joining us this hour. It's been a busy hour. We have the latest on that breaking news about Chris Wallace joining CNN+. It's up on right now. We'll see you back here this time next week.