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WaPo And ProPublica: "Facebook Played A Critical Role In Spreading False Narratives That Fomented Violence" On 1/6; Facebook's Former Elections Boss Speaks Out; COVID And The Doomsday-Doctor Problem; Fox Is Ignoring Its Own Role In GOP Extremism; Rep. Raskin: Trump Supporters Fed Lies That "Rot Their Minds"; "Chasing History "With Carl Bernstein. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 09, 2022 - 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, figure out what's reliable in this world.

This hour, we have the untold story about that flabbergasting exchange between Tucker Carlson and Ted Cruz.

Plus, the head of the CDC under fire for good reasons. We're going to discuss that credibility crisis with Dr. Lucy McBride and Oliver Darcy.

And later, Carl Bernstein is here to tell us about chasing history and why he decided to write it all down.

But first, an interview you'll see only here on RELIABLE SOURCES.

Tests for democracy are also tests for the social media sites that dominate our public discourse. We know, for instance, that Facebook contributes to right-wing radicalization. This new "Washington Post"/ProPublica probe shows that Facebook, quote, played a critical role in spreading false narratives that fomented violence on January 6th of last year.

But this is about so much more than a single day or even a single country. As "Foreign Policy Magazine" put it: The Internet and social media have hypercharged political polarization and cultural divides which populists easily exploit.

It's a worldwide story. January 6th is a symbol of that and so is the denialism of now.

January 6th was also the breaking point for some, including some inside Facebook. This weekend's brand new "Wall Street Journal" story, here's the headline: Facebook's former elections boss now questions social media's impact on politics.

Katie Harbath says she left Facebook disillusioned. And now, "The Journal" says she's pushing for more online guardrails. Quoting the history, she is the highest-ranking former Facebook executive now working with the Integrity Institute. That's a nonprofit founded by former Facebook staffers who left for specific reasons and are worried now about how the products are harming society.

Katie Harbath is with me now. She was the Facebook publishing policy director. Now, she's the founder and CEO of Anchor Change.

Katie, thanks for coming on the program.


STELTER: You told "The Journal" this weekend that January 6th was one of the reasons why you decided to leave Facebook last year. Can you tell us why?

HARBATH: Absolutely. As I watched the event unfold on January 6th, it struck me that the two entities I had spent my career working for, the Republican Party and now Facebook, now looked very different to me for different reasons and I didn't know where I fit in anymore. And I wanted to and I didn't know how I could help in trying to find the solutions to these problems.

And it really led me to try to find somewhere where I could go and find impact and that led me to creating my own company and helping the guys at the Integrity Institute, as well as joining the Bipartisan Policy Center.

STELTER: How much blame do you place on Facebook for what happened to the Capitol?

HARBATH: As I said in "The Journal" story, I don't -- I think they're right in that they don't deserve sole blame. This is a massive problem across the ecosystem of the media and how people are getting their news and information.

But I do think there needs to be more soul searching in how could we have done better as a company, how could we have potentially prevented this? Going as far back as, you know, even December 15, with President Trump -- with then candidate Trump's first post about banning Muslims. What are the things we could have done differently?

So, as we look forward to the elections this year and the massive ones happening in 2024, so that we can be prepared and don't make the same mistakes again.

STELTER: It's easy to say that now, though, isn't it? You were inside Facebook on January 5th. You must've seen what was brewing.

HARBATH: It is absolutely easier to say now. And I can't go back and change what was happening -- the decisions that were made inside the company. I wasn't really working on election stuff. That stopped for me in late 2019.

And I'm not here to say that I shouldn't be held responsible for the decisions and the actions I made inside the company. But what I'm trying to do now is trying to actually rethink and try to go back and learn from those mistakes, think about the things we did right, the things we might've done wrong and how -- and how to move forward. And that's all that I can do in trying to be a part in solve these problems.

STELTER: Right, right. You do have a number of critics including some who've been tweeting at me saying, hey, she was inside for a decade, she made a lot of money, she was putting in place policies that hurt countries around the world, now, she says that it's time to leave and try to fix it, and that it's been too long, you've had too long to do that.

What do you say to those folks who just feel like, you know, it's convenient to come out now and try to clean your hands?


HARBATH: After 2016, I really hoped that I could continue to make change within the company. And I think we did do a lot of really great things around bringing more transparency to ads and even creating a civic integrity team. But after five years, the company changed a lot, and I just couldn't have the impact I could.

And I'm really grateful for the opportunities that -- they changed a lot in terms of they got a lot larger. I think that the company was really evolved in terms of how they were handling political speech on the platform. They also, you know, in terms of some of the decisions that the company was making, as it got larger, there were more -- there were more leaks, and in terms of the team set that in what -- in what we could actually do.

And there are absolutely things I agree with that the company did. And I think our intentions were good in the decisions that we made. But we also -- and I'm trying to reckon this myself of the fact that --


HARBATH: -- some of those decisions were probably wrong and weren't the ones that we meant to have.

And so, I'm trying to do things like volunteering with the Integrity Institute and giving back my time in the nonprofit space of trying to think about how to solve these problems.

STELTER: And what specifically should change? What should be done differently of Facebook today?

HARBATH: I'd really like to, first of all, see a lot more long-term planning. In 2024, we're not only going to have the U.S. presidential election, but elections in India, Indonesia, Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament. And this has never happened before and that's a lot of elections to prepare for, and to build up the language capabilities, to build up the products, to build up the teams, that takes time. And we even have a bunch of elections happening this year around the

world in Brazil, France, the Philippines, Kenya, and the United States midterms. And, so, I would like to better understand what things they would like to take from 2020 that they found worked, what things they're going to change, how much effort they're going to put into protecting the integrity of these elections.

STELTER: Right. Because in some ways, Facebook has been on the forefront helping people register to vote, for example. You know, there are positives to point to, and you've been doing that in this interview. At the same time, there's this sense that Facebook supercharges the worst impulses of lies and disinformation, not just in the U.S. but around the world.

We put up that map of key elections in 2024. Is it true what the critics say that the United States has the best version of Facebook? Meaning, you know, the most managed -- you know, whereas it's more of a free-for-all in other countries?

HARBATH: No, not necessarily. I mean, we did a lot of work particularly in the international elections in 2019, also in India and Indonesia and those places. The company truly did keep evolving after each one.

But we don't know yet. They haven't said what they're going to do from 2020 which was the most that we've seen, you know, so far in any of these elections, what are they going to do internationally. And I'd like to see that not just from Facebook but from all the social platforms.

STELTER: Now, we all know about Frances Haugen, the whistle-blower who came forward last fall, and other former Facebook staffers have also come forward and some of them identified as whistle-blowers. Is that how you think about yourself? How do you describe, you know, how you're approaching your post-Facebook life?

HARBATH: No, I don't think of myself as a whistle-blower at all. And what I'm trying to do is with my perspective of ten years inside the company, of trying to bring a more nuanced view and a different perspective to these questions, to try to think about the right solutions going forward. I think too often, we get caught in the binary of let's keep content up or take it down, should we de-platform a politician or not. What does that do in terms of vis-a-vis free speech?

And I think we need to start thinking about more nuanced views of this and also better understanding of what's happening inside these companies and that's some of the perspective that I hope to bring so that I'm constructively criticizing where warranted, but also pointing out the good things that are happening as well.

STELTER: And I want to underline that you are a Republican, that you are looking at this and saying, you know, these platforms, this is not the evil liberal media. Often times, you have Republican senators and lawmakers saying that Facebook's out to censor conservatives and Republicans. It sounds like you do not subscribe to that. HARBATH: I do not subscribe to that at all. And I think that inside

the companies, what I have found is that, again, a real commitment to try and understand how to bring a balanced perspective in balancing a lot of really impossible trade-offs that come with this.

But the fact of the matter is, too, is that we have to understand, and what I've learned from some of the research and some of the folks who worked in integrity at Facebook, obviously is that when this comes from influential figures, when mis- and disinformation comes from elected officials and others, it has a huge impact on people, not just on social media and in other places.

And so, back when I first started, we thought it would be awesome to have politicians using Facebook and Twitter to talk directly to constituents.


But I still think that's overall the case, but we need to find more guardrails of how we help to prevent that from actually causing more harm.

STELTER: Katie, thank you very much for coming on the program.

HARBATH: Thank you.

STELTER: Do we have a doomsday doctor problem? We're going to get into that next.

Plus, why is it so hard to change people's beliefs once they buy into misinformation? Well, a former cult member will join me with answers.


STELTER: All right. Now to the media and mental health. Pollsters in Suffolk University have found something that crosses all of America's partisan lines. And that something is mental health stress.


Ninety-one percent Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans agree that there is a mental health crisis in the United States. Researcher David Paleologos says this new poll, quote, tells a story of despair felt by Americans who just don't know when the madness of COVID will end. The madness of COVID.

Now, there's a segment of Americans who tuned out the pandemic a while ago. They dropped the masks, they moved on, despite entreaties from public health officials. Some of them are unvaccinated and at high risk right now due to omicron.

But I want to focus on the other segment of Americans, those who are vaccinated, who are paying attention to the pandemic and are hearing about omicron and school closures and testing troubles and all the rest. This moment in the pandemic is really complicated because a mostly mild variant is still bringing hospitals to the brink of capacity and care. And a lot of people are confused about what to do and about what to believe.

Now, many doctors are doing an amazing juggling act given these circumstances. And, yet, I think we're also potentially seeing and hearing from doomsday doctors who push people toward even more fear, anxiety, and depression.

I'm not trying to call out anybody in particular. I think this is obviously really nuanced. But is there an undue amount of fear being spread, especially in those Twitter threads and Facebook posts and in corners of cable TV where it feels like COVID zero is the only goal?

COVID zero, of course, the idea that you can completely eliminate COVID from the environment, which is an impossibility.

My next guest is a practicing internist in Washington. She's been calling out at medical pros who potentially are fear-mongering. Her name is Dr. Lucy McBride and she's with me now.

Also here, CNN's Oliver Darcy.

Thank you both for coming in.

Dr. McBride, doomsday doctors is an inflammatory term, I want to be careful about it. But I want to know what you're seeing firsthand. You treat patients, they come in, they ask you about COVID.

What are you hearing? What are seeing personally?

DR. LUCY MCBRIDE, PRACTICING INTERNIST & HEALTH CARE EDUCATOR: So, as you just opened with, Brian, this is a parallel pandemic of mental health and crisis. You know, we are bathing in fear. People have been worried and panicked necessarily because of the threat of COVID-19, which is absolutely real and present.

That said, those of us in the medical profession, particularly those of us who are patient-facing, who help people every day understand their unique vulnerabilities for disease, whether it's from COVID or cancer. We have an obligation to help people frame risk, to deliver fact-based nuanced information. Fear does harm. It only makes people afraid. It doesn't affect people's decisions.

So, when I'm on Twitter or right now with you, I'm trying to help people understand that, look, your risk for COVID is as different as someone else's. And revving the emotional engines of people's anxiety only does harm.

STELTER: What's a specific example of that kind of fear, that panic porn that you've seen recently?

MCBRIDE: Well, there are a lot of doctors who are talking about, you know, what if your child ends up in the IC, and then you die and from the same COVID infection and then you're parentless?

That's just, in my opinion, not helpful. Now, let me just say this -- I don't ascribe ill intent to these doctors. I think most physicians went into medicine to help people. I think a lot of physicians themselves are anxious, and themselves are trying to offset their own anxiety by broadcasting to a wider public the anxiety that's in the air.

But if doctors and public health officials don't check their own anxieties, their own fears and take a moment to reflect on how they are messaging and how they are potentially doing harm by, again, sharing fear-based messaging, then we really, really should take a break, because, look, doctors are people too. We're seeing a mental health crisis among healthcare providers as well.

We are human, it's normal to feel anxious, it's normal to want to share our stress with others. But when it's affecting people's everyday behaviors and affecting the way they feel and their decisions. You know, fear isn't motivating. Fear just makes people afraid.

For me to motivate someone to get a vaccine, to try to lose weight, to reduce the risk for COVID, for example, I don't say if you don't lose weight you're going to get COVID and die or if you don't lose weight you're going to have a heart attack or stroke. I try to help with giving them knowledge, giving them tools, giving them information so that they can take that home with them and engage in productive, nuanced behaviors that help them with their unique risk.


Oliver, you've been writing about some of this in the RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter.


Here's a big overly broad question for you. Is the media at this point out of touch with the public about COVID?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I think it's hard to argue that -- you know, the media is a large group of people, but a lot of the media does seem when I look at it and travel the country, to be very out of touch with people. I mean, if you travel the country, people are not really living in the same bubble that it seems that most of the media is messaging toward.


DARCY: And so -- and, so, I think this is an issue because if people are tuning out what's going on in cable news, if we're not messaging toward the general population, they're just ignoring everything and living their lives, and we're not really getting the information that they need to them.

STELTER: Here's a great example, I think of how to cover this moment in time. Here's the "Today" show. Here's Savannah Guthrie interviewing the CDC director, recognizing the CDC has turned into a punch line. It is so sad but it's true. The CDC has turned into a punch line.



SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: All of this mixed messages or new messages has led to a meme on social media poking fun at the CDC's advice, tweets like, CDC now recommends eating straight off the floor at Waffle House. The CDC now says it's in fact okay to eat Tide Pods. The CDC says go ahead and get bangs.

You know, it's amusing, people letting off steam, of course. But is there a larger credibility problem with your agency right now?


STELTER: And the answer is yes, there's a huge credibility crisis for the CDC. And, Oliver, to your point, it just causes people, if they hear all these mixed messages and all its confusion, it's all too complicated, they just move on and ignore it.

DARCY: That's exactly right. We are supposed to be getting information, I think, to these people.

And, so, when we are messaging toward a very small group of people maybe who are taking the pandemic far more seriously than the average person, I think we're not doing our job as effectively as we should be doing. And I think we need to generalize the message.

There are a lot of, for instance, stories ahead of Thanksgiving and the holidays saying -- advising people to take all these precautions. It's not that it's bad to take those precautions, but it just felt like when I was reading it and talking to other people, nope, people are not reading these articles and doing every step in the playbook.

And we need to be maybe coming up with realistic solutions and advice to the general public when talking about COVID.

STELTER: Meet viewers where they are, meet readers where they are, and people are in a wide array of places now when it comes to risk assessment.

Dr. McBride, just have a few seconds. The reality about learning to live with COVID, we have to focus on the living part.

MCBRIDE: We have to learn how to live with COVID, which is not equivalent to saying let it rip, don't protect the vulnerable. We absolutely need to do everything we can to protect the vulnerable.

But remember, Brian, vulnerability means many things, it can be a vulnerability to depression and isolation, it can also be a vulnerability to COVID-19.


MCBRIDE: We need to be broad in our messaging and inclusive and honest.

STELTER: Dr. McBride, thank you. Oliver, please stick around.

Up next, new insight about the fight within conservative media over January 6th.



STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

The truth about the Trump riots is causing a ruckus within the Republican Party's ranks. It's really an intramural fight within the walls of the GOP, within the walls of the GOP media. Some Republican leaders and voters are not afraid about the facts about 1/6. They know how bad it was.

But many Republicans are in denial. They are telling big -- they are telling new big lies to cover up the crimes of that day. That's how you wind up with fringe websites peddling conspiracy theories about the FBI.

That's how you wind up with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saying the D.C. New York media tweeted the 1/6 anniversary as their Christmas. Does he know what Christmas is?

And the very best expression of this internal warfare is Carlson v. Cruz. Tucker Carlson forcing Ted Cruz to apologize for calling the day of terror a terrorist attack. Cruz had used the same phrasing many times before, but one day after Carlson called him out for it, he folded and begged the Fox audience for forgiveness.

Carlson was explicit about his reason for challenging Cruz. He said, Ted, you're helping the other side, you're helping the Democrats.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Why'd you use that word? You're playing into the other side's characterization.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I was talking about people who commit violence against cops. And you and I both agree, if you commit violence against cops, you should go to jail.

CARLSON: Yeah, but you're not a terrorist, you know? You're not.


STELTER: Cruz v. Carlson is the cringiest example of a daily tug of war. Among a majority of the American people, 1/6 is a settled issue. They know it was violent, they know Trump was at fault. But among Republican voters, this is very much unsettled.

In this poll, about four in ten Republicans say Trump bears at least a moderate amount of responsibility for the riots. So, some get it. You know, you have Kurt Anderson saying it's the sane or decent GOP minority that understands that the election was legit and that the rioters were incited by Trump.

So you have this schism within the party. It's a really interesting intramural fight how much to blame Trump, whether to call it terror.

But you know what? No other Fox show followed up on that spat. They never covered the Cruz interview.


One of the most incredible things to happen in politics this weekend, they ignored it like that interview is going to go in history books about what happened of the Republican party, and Fox just pretended it didn't happen.

This is what always happens on Fox. They ignore their own role in driving the GOP. This week, the House's January 6 Committee asked Sean Hannity for help because he knows a lot about what was going on inside the Trump White House before and after the riot but he's never told viewers about it.

Hannity has kept his own audience in the dark about his interactions with Trump, about his messages to Trump's aides, what did Hannity know, and when did he know it. He has never told his viewers, so the Committee wants to know.

The committee published a few of his text messages and requested his assistance, but Fox only mentioned it on air very briefly. And as the Washington Post pointed out, Fox never mentioned why the committee -- the committee wants Hannity's help. Like that's the whole story, right?

Hannity's role, what Hannity knew about Trump's state of mind, fox never explained it to the viewers. So I guess that's how Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch want it to be. They're the owners. They're the bosses.

Rupert and Lachlan don't want to look inward. They don't want to know.They don't want to reckon with their own role in radicalizing the grand old party, and in wrecking the Trump presidency, by the way, like they helped to take down Trump. They don't want to reckon with their responsibility to think others do.

Let me bring in Amanda Carpenter, she once served as Cruz's Communications Director. She's now a Political Columnist at The Bulwark. And Oliver Darcy, also back here with me.

So Amanda, your role as a former Cruz staffer, you might know a little bit about what he was thinking, what he was doing. What was he thinking?

AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE BULWARK: Well, to me, the significance of that interview was not Ted Cruz's humiliation, which is what most of the media has been focusing on.

It's not Ted Cruz's humiliation that's important, it's his radicalization that happened right there in that interview because as you pointed out, they were talking about whether the term terrorism applied to people who commit violent acts against police officers.

And Ted Cruz came up through politics as a kind of tough prosecutor who understood it was good politics to be tough on crime, whether it was the right or the left, and then when there was violence on your side, you distance yourself from it, and you went forward.

But those rules don't apply anymore because what Tucker Carlson is saying, and you know, the fact that Tucker Carlson has a three-part documentary called Patriot Purge, which depicts these criminals as political prisoners, probably should have been a clue. Tucker Carlson doesn't believe in that.

And the takeaway, what they ended up agreeing upon at the end of that interview, is that it is OK to call left-wing protesters, you know, that might be advocating for black lives matter, if they commit violence against a cop, it's OK to call those people terrorists but when right-wing people do it, you can't call them that. It's just something bad that happened.

And so, to me, that is the real takeaway of that interview because we know how the politics of this play out like they agreed on you can't do that because the Democrats have politicized his word.

It's the politics. So how does that play out? We've seen the example. How that plays out is that President Trump orders troops and tear gas for people who are in Lafayette Square but when his guys go to the Capitol, you get really sweet messages about how we love you, please go home, and everyone whitewashes what's happened.

So that's what happened in that interview and that's what scares me the most. I don't think it's funny. I don't think it's funny at all. I think it's worrisome, we should take it very seriously because this is how Tucker Carlson is guiding the message for the Republican Party on that network.

STELTER: Yes, for the GOP. Rather -- Cruz's, they're trying to distance himself from the violence --


STELTER: -- What -- while Tucker's given the rioters a big bear hug. And it's not just Tucker, Donald Trump on OAN this week was bragging about the size of his pre-riot rally, this was one over by the ellipse that was peaceful. You know, he was bragging about the size of the rally, Oliver.

He was saying the corrupt media doesn't tell the truth about how many people were there. You should show how big my crowd was. Like, he's still proud that he got all those folks to go to DC based on a lie. He's not trying to run away from it, he's going on OAN to brag about it.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes. And in right-wing media, you know, the riot didn't really happen. It was just a large protest and some people got out of hand. And if you watch Tucker Carlson, I think a lot of people need to pay attention to what people like Tucker Carlson are telling the Republican Party because they're really dictating where it goes. I think when we talk about that interview, the one thing that showed to me was how powerful Tucker Carlson has become in the GOP that he can bring someone like Senator Ted Cruz on his program and have him grovel before him for forgiveness.

And so Tucker Carlson is telling his audience that these people are political prisoners, that there was maybe a riot that happened he kind of, admits to that, but for the most part, people were peacefully protesting in the election that they thought might have been rigged, that there you know might be some evidence for that.

And in this is really the future the Republican Party and it's been dictated by Tucker Carlson.


STELTER: Yes. And then the point is, if you thought that the anniversary was going to change anything if you thought the commemorations were going to change minds, no, no, no, think again. Like, OAN didn't even air Biden's speech. You know, like Biden's incredible speech, like Fox, you know, did the bare minimum to cover it and then move on as fast as they could.

All right, let's talk about the biggest media mistake of the weekend here. This is Politico Playbook. They thought they spotted Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor dining with Chuck Schumer in DC on Friday night. In fact, it was not Sotomayor it was Chuck Schumer and his wife.

And so you know, you have this photo out there. Even after Playbook runs a correction -- is there's the photo. Even after Playbook runs the correction, you still have this lie being spread all across social media. And it's really insidious because it's implying kind of like why are they meeting together?

It's also saying hey, Sotomayor, she was remote for a Supreme Court hearing but then she's going out to dinner without a mask like there were multiple levels of ugliness associated with this error.

And now Playbook's excuse, here's the excuse, Oliver. They say a person sent us a tip and a picture. Politico standards say we must verify this information. The editor who received the tip failed to verify it, we deeply regret it.

So they get a picture submitted from a tipster, they just run with it without even calling Schumer's office or Sotomayor's office, like how does that happen?

DARCY: I mean, it's shocking, Brian. Particularly in this information environment where you have to play error-free ball because all sorts of conspiracy theories have come out of this mistake that they made.

And they could have very, very easily verified it by just texting Schumer's spokesperson and saying, hey, we had this tip, you know, we're wondering if you can authenticate what we've heard. And they apparently did not do that. And so this error that they made is a pretty big error about top Democratic leadership and a senior -- Supreme Court Justice has now given birth to all these different lies out there that are not --

STELTER: So, being --

DARCY: -- ban the correction.

STELTER: It's so bad.


STELTER: One more note, I want to make sure we include here, President Biden coming up on his one-year mark in office.

Here's the AP's headline this morning. Biden shied away from news conferences, and interviews in year one. He's given fewer pressers, than his predecessors, also fewer interviews with members of the media.

He does do more of those kinds of casual Q&A, it's where he'll walk over and take questions after a speech. He does a lot more of those than other Presidents sometimes did.

But Amanda, this grumbling from the press corps, put it into context for us, how much do you think it matters?

CARPENTER: I think it matters hugely, not only to the press corps to -- but to voters. We live in very anxious, confusing times, there needs to be clear direct messaging from the top.

And if for some reason vice -- Joe Biden is not capable of doing this, the Democrat party needs to find better messengers who can be out there every day having some kind of presence and perspective on the airwaves, you know, on the internet everywhere about where the Democratic Party wants to lead the country.

STELTER: Right. Amanda, Oliver, thank you both. Tonight, join Fareed Zakaria as he investigates The Fight To Save American Democracy. His new Special starts tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.

Up next, a former cult member is here to talk about something sensitive, deprogramming. We're going to get into that in a moment



STELTER: Democratic lawmaker Jamie Raskin is out with a new book. He's been talking in blunt terms about Donald Trump's party. And what he says is cult-like behavior. Just listen to the way he framed it talking about people who were in denial about January 6.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D-MD): I feel bad for those people because they are essentially in a political-religious cult, and their cult leader Donald Trump is telling them they can't believe their own eyes, the evidence of their -- of their own experience in their own year.

So we should try to embrace those people and help them through what they're going through because they've been fed lies and they're swallowing the lies.

And some of them may have thought they were clever at the beginning that they could just go along with it and not believe it but many of them have allowed the lies really to seep into their soul and it's beginning to rot their minds.


STELTER: Taking it even a step further, Raskin told The New York Times that he's ordered books about cults and deprogramming to try to understand his Republican colleagues.

Hearing that, reading that, made me want to talk to Diane Benscoter, she has first-hand experience as a cult member with the Unification Church in the 1970s.

She wrote about the experience in her book Shoes Of A Servant: My Unconditional Devotion To A Lie. She's the Founder of So, Diane, you're an expert in psychological manipulation. When you hear sitting lawmakers talk about cults, what do you think they need to know?

DIANE BENSCOTER, FOUNDER, ANTIDOTE.NGO: Well, I think what's really important to understand here is that there is a direct line between what we traditionally think of as the most important dangerous aspects of a cult and what's going on with the mass radicalization today in society.

And you can draw that line between the cult -- a cult leader and the attributes of a cult leader, and the attributes of a -- of an authoritarian leadership like Donald Trump. And also you can draw a line between the tactics.

And that's the most important thing, the tactics that are being used to take advantage of people's vulnerabilities. And then how they hold them there is the same, and the exit strategy is also the same.

STELTER: Is what you see currently with Trump, I -- it's so hard to talk about this honestly, Diane. Like, these are such -- we're talking about American neighbors, like do you think some of your neighbors in this country are cult -- are basically been sucked into a cult -- a political cult?

BENSCOTER: Well, in an -- in short, yes.

I think that -- you know the word cult people have these ideas of what a cult is, but again, if you point to the techniques, the tactics that are used they're exactly the same.

[11:45:00] BENSCOTER: I think that people are vulnerable. We live in a time where it's hard to understand this world. Technology has made a huge change, much like the industrial revolution.

So anytime when there's social unrest, I think people are more vulnerable, and there's fear, and there's anger about what's going on in the world. And people want easy answers to life's real questions and they get sucked in.


BENSCOTER: And then they get constantly fed by all these media sources that are feeding them. The main messaging that cults do, which is us versus them, because if you can first divide people into us versus them, and you can make the other side evil and wrong, and you keep feeding that messaging, then eventually what you can do is weaponize your side.

And that's what's going on and that's why this is like the most frightening thing I have ever seen as I look through the lens of cults and radicalization.

STELTER: And what I hear you saying about politics also applies to vaccines and disinformation about COVID, and people want easy answers to a complex pandemic. So is the answer to this, empathy? Well, what's the -- what's the keyword answer?

BENSCOTER: Yes, I think empathy will -- people come to my nonprofit for support groups, people that have loved ones that have been radicalized and don't know what to do, don't know how to talk with them, and so the first place we want to get them to is empathy. They need to understand how psychological manipulation works.

And what they need is some effective tools of communication, so that they can begin the process of diffusing that us versus them mentality, and to try to talk to them about the possibility that they've been taken advantage of. And that's a hard conversation, but it's the only thing that works.

In my years of helping people exit cults of various kinds, it's the only thing that works is to help them understand what's happened to them on a psychological level. STELTER: I know I've said it before, but I think for as much as we

talk to political reporters, we've got to talk to psychologists about what's happened to our country because it's psychological. Diane, thank you very much for coming on the program --

BENSCOTER: It is. Yes.

STELTER: Oh, sorry. Go ahead, (INAUDIBLE).

BENSCOTER: Thank you so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

BENSCOTER: I was just going to say in psychologists need to understand too, this specific psychological situation.

STELTER: Yes, I agree. Thank you -- thank you, Diane.

BENSCOTER: Thank you.

STELTER: So we had here, Carl Bernstein, the underachiever, I know that's hard to believe, but the legendary reporter is offering new insight into his storied early career. Hear from him about his new book next.



STELTER: You know him as a pioneer of investigative journalism. But before Carl Bernstein was winning awards, he was accepting coffee orders as a teenage coffee boy at The Washington Star.

In his new book, Chasing History: A Chronicle of Kennedy Era Tumult, the civil rights movement in American violence, Bernstein reports his own experience as a determined young journalist in DC. It's a prequel to his Watergate days. And Carl's with me now, for a preview.

Carl, congratulations on the book launch that comes out on Tuesday, it is subtitled A Kid In The Newsroom. And you really were just a kid back then. What a kid like you make it into a newsroom now?

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, "CHASING HISTORY: A KID IN THE NEWSROOM": I think it'd be difficult. I was 16 years old when I went to work at The Washington Star. And even getting hired there at that age was an exception to the rule at The Time. I was able to get hired for two reasons.

One, I'd taken typing with the girls in high school, so I could type about 90 words a minute. And second, I had a kind of perseverance and I kept knocking on the door of the production editor of the paper who hired me, eventually.

He might not have had a choice or otherwise I wouldn't have gone away. I kept knocking on his door.

STELTER: I love that. Anybody who wants to read about the golden age of newspapers is going to love this book. I love the way you describe the rhythm of the newsroom, the smell of the paper. I wish we could get it back, you know. Why did you want to put all this down in Chasing History?

BERNSTEIN: Two reasons. One, it was the formative and maybe most glorious period of my life in terms of the fun and the sheer learning experience of it. But also, it resonates today, I hope because it's about reporting.


BERNSTEIN: It's about that kind of basic reporting that we need to be doing, yes. At the same time, it's about this kid who gets the best seat in the country at the age of 16 and watches the civil rights movement coalesce, and watches the Kennedy administration and gets to go to Kennedy's press conferences.

And at the age of 16, yeah, I got sent to cover the President's inauguration. I got to do all those things. But it's also everything that I know about reporting pretty much I learned that The Washington Star from great reporters and a great mentor, the city editor of this -- of The Star, Sid Epstein.

I've had great editors in my career, Sid Epstein, particularly, and Ben Bradlee at The Washington Post.

STELTER: I know there's some great lessons about journalism in here. It really, to me, it's about the emphasis on teamwork you know that you cannot put out a paper or a website or a network alone. This is a team sport.

BERNSTEIN: It's a team sport, yes, but everybody has the same objective which is to achieve the best obtainable version of the truth, to use the phrase that Woodward and I used in Watergate.


BERNSTEIN: But I learned pretty much that phrase at The Star. The truth in all its complexity going to multiple sources so that you can -- you got to be a good listener, you got to knock on doors, you got to be persistent, you don't take no for an answer.

And at the same time, I think you know there's a line in the book there where I say I learned that the truth is not neutral.

And I learned that covering civil rights in from Great Southern reporters who were covering the civil rights movement.

They -- the best obtainable version of the truth is not just simple, disparate facts strung together, but it's about context and complexity, and again, multiple sources, observation, learning everything that you can.

STELTER: There's a frustrating headline from one of your other former papers this morning. It's from the Washington Post. Here's the headline, it says. Republican leadership in Iowa bars journalists from the Senate floor in Iowa, worrying press advocates.

We are seeing so much anti-media hostility in this country, Carl. I hope those Republican leaders in Iowa that have barred those reporters I hope they all read this book. They need to understand the role of real reporting, and how it actually helps doesn't hurt politicians in society.

Carl, thank you for coming on, best of luck with the book, Chasing History.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

STELTER: We're out of time here on TV. We'll see online, Sign up for our nightly Newsletter. And we'll see you back here this time next week.