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Is Elon Musk Trying to Take Over Twitter?; Unpacking the Propaganda War; Abigail Disney Responds to Right-Wing Media Attacks; What Happens To Fox Viewers When They Change Channels; White House Miffed By Press Corps' COVID Coverage; Jen Psaki's Expected Deal Ruffles Feathers Inside NBC. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 10, 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 and we figure out what's reliable.

This hour, Ukraine's president using his media megaphone in new ways, while Russia remains almost silent. Anne Applebaum's analysis coming up.

Plus, the power of citizen video showing Shanghai residents suffering under China's COVID lockdown. Has the rest of the world moved on?

And an interview you will only see here, Abigail Disney responding to right wing media attacks against her family's company. Hear what she has to say coming up.

But, first, media ownership changes that affect all of us. Twitter is trending on the news that Elon Musk, the world's richest man, now has power over one of the world's most important communication platforms on the planet. Musk just became the social media giant's top shareholder. He now controls a big stake of Twitter and is already calling out users with large followings to tweet more.

He's writing this weekend: Is Twitter dying? Even though he invested a ton of money into the company. He has been posting a lot, trying to poll users about Twitter. It's really confusing and chaotic, but maybe that's his point.

He also tweeted a photo of himself smoking charge with the caption: Twitter's next board meeting is going to be lit. It is. What does it mean when someone like Elon Musk has power over a mammoth communications platform?

Let's bring in CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy and Claire Atkinson, chief media correspondent for "Insider", and in Washington, Kara Swisher, host of "The New York Times" podcast "Sway", which investigates power, and co-host of the Vox media podcast, "Pivot".

Kara, first to you. You've interacted with Elon Musk many times over the years. What are his intentions for Twitter? KARA SWISHER, CO-HOST, "PIVIOT," VOX MEDIA: He likes to tweet so

that's what he's doing right now. I mean, I think his intention -- it's an interesting question. Everyone thinks he has full power over Twitter, he is one board member of many. And so, you have to think of it that way, he's just being Elon, which is to do things like polling, he just tweeted that they should take the W out of Twitter, which you can get that joke.

And so, this is just the way he operates which is to be -- you know, hey, look at me, these are some ideas, making loud noises about things and that's his way of influencing people, but he doesn't actually have an ability to make any real changes without a lot of people involved.

STELTER: So the questions, the hopes and the fears that he's going to come in and overhaul Twitter's policies, let anything go on Twitter, remove some of the rules of the road. You think that's not likely?

SWISHER: Well, I don't know. I just think he has to persuade people. He is not king of Twitter. He is a board member of 12 board members and then there is a management staff.

Now, some people might agree with him, some people night not but this is a public company. So, he can't just decree things, he can do it on Twitter and create lots of pressure and a lot of fun in some ways, and some of the ideas are good and some of the ideas are odd, but that's okay.

So who cares essentially? That's what Twitter is all about.

STELTER: When you are up close and personal with these big tech billionaires, do you think they have the best interest of the public at heart? You know, what are your impressions of these guys? And they are all guys?

SWISHER: They have to. I mean, you know, I think there is this idea that Twitter is a public square that it must be protected at all costs. It's a very small company actually when you compare it to Facebook for goodness sake. But it's very influential and loud because all the media and politicians are on it.

These guys -- you know, Elon is in a class by himself, he is a prankster and he can be cruel sometimes, he can be ridiculous, he can say all kinds of crazy things. He's also very funny.

He's an unusual character, most are much more controlled, he is -- I always called him the id of the Internet. I'm not so sure why they have to have our public interests at heart, they're not elected officials.

I think the problem is they're so rich and so wealthy -- excuse me, rich and wealthy, that's ridiculous, I'm losing my mind -- they are so wealthy that they can have influence in certain areas, and that one or two people control these platforms is I think probably a problem for a lot of people.

STELTER: Yeah, that's the overarching issue. SWISHER: Power.

STELTER: Maybe Musk will bring some real important innovations to Twitter. We're going to find out. I mean, Claire, there's all this brouhaha about having an edit button for Twitter, this has been debated for years. You know, why is that a big controversy? Facebook had an edit button?

CLAIRE ATKINSON, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, INSIDER: Frankly, I don't get it. I sometimes make spelling mistakes on Twitter and I quickly after I read them and posted them I want to change them. I don't think that's controversial at all.


I think what's interesting is back in 2020, a big hedge fund Elliott Management had wanted to come in, take a big stake in Twitter.


ATKINSON: Try to change things and the fear was ahead of the election there was this right wing, Wall Street group of folks trying to influence Twitter, they wanted to get rid of Jack Dorsey.

Elon is coming in here, the question is, does he want to buy it? He may only have one seat on the board but he has a big voice in terms of how tings -- what's thought about, how they're thought about, it feels like he would have a big ability to influence the CEO of twitter and make some of these things.

Already, you know, tweeting about the fact that employees are not back at the office and should we make the headquarters turned over to the homeless. That's pretty controversial. He clearly thinks that Twitter employees should be back in the office, same as Eric Schmidt this past week who also called for the same thing.

I think in some ways it's a good thing that Elon is out there tweeting, livening up Twitter, making it more entertaining. As Kara said, he is a funny guy. But there are serious questions behind that, what happens next. Does he push for a full acquisition? We don't know.

STELTER: Yeah, and maybe some -- some of the memes he posts on Twitter, anti-trans memes, anti-COVID vaccine memes, there is a reason to be skeptical I think here.

What about, Oliver, the biggest "New York Times" headline of the week, "New York Times" editor Dean Baquet saying use Twitter less? He's telling his reporters you don't have to be on Twitter at all and if you're going to be on it, don't spend so much time on it.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yeah, I think, Brian, excessive use of anything is probably not great. So, excessive use of Twitter is also not great. I think that's what Dean Baquet is saying. If you are going to be on it, you know, be on it in moderation.

Back to the point you were making about Elon's use of Twitter, I think he is a guy who probably could listen to Dean Baquet's advice. Maybe he needs to get off Twitter a little bit.

He reminds me like Trump, he is Trumpian in the way he uses Twitter. He asks questions, should we do this? Should we do that? He posts memes. He trolls.

Elon Musk uses Twitter I think if you had to pick someone who uses Twitter in the style of Trump, Elon Musk would really be the guy.

STELTER: Kara, what are your podcasts is with "The New York Times". What do you make of Dean's message to the newsroom saying report more and tweet less?

SWISHER: He can do whatever he wants. I'm not an employee of the "New York Times" just so you know.

STELTER: I know.

SWISHER: I don't know, I guess that's -- he is the editor. He can say whatever he wants.

STELTER: But is that a smart strategy for newsrooms, for journalists? Do they use Twitter too much?

SWISHER: You know, people are on Twitter a little much, like Oliver and myself and Claire, I don't know if Claire is quite as addicted as we are, and, you, Brian, should get off of Twitter a little bit more.

But, nonetheless, you know, I guess. I don't know. I'm not an editor and there is a reason I'm not an editor because I would say tweet all you want, whatever you want. But that's -- he's head of the newsroom.

I think the idea is, are they embarrassing themselves in some way if they're beat reporters? These are good questions that news organizations should be asking. And, you know, do they go too far, et cetera, et cetera, and get engaged in beefs with people? Which is just what people like Elon who is an edgelord loves. He loves that idea and it's fun for him.

I don't think he should stop tweeting at all. It's obviously a comfort to him in some fashion. So, whatever. I don't care.

STELTER: Well, staying on this theme of who owns tech and media, let's turn to this, the mega merger between Discovery and Warner Media is now a done deal, took effect on Friday. CNN and the rest of the Warner Media are now part of a new company called Warner Brothers Discovery run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav. So, this company is going to start publicly trading tomorrow, Monday.

Claire, this combo includes everything from HBO Max to HGTV, CNN, to Chip and Joanna Gaines. So, what's Zaslav is going to do with it all?

ATKINSON: Well, the idea is to find the killer app, to find a streaming service and create a streaming service that is going to really challenge Netflix and Disney. I think when you put together news and sports and movies, they aim to buy more sports, they aim to bring it all together in one single app eventually, that this could be the killer app. This could be the thing that people go to and say, you know what, I don't necessarily need all these other things, this is the one thing that's going to give me everything.

I think they are they're going to think about the name, does HBO Max reflect what they want to do. It's the first time really since -- for a long time that we've seen real competition here. This is the combination of all of those assets brings real competition I think in the streaming business.

STELTER: Against Netflix, against Disney. Yeah.

ATKINSON: Absolutely. I think -- you know, Disney is ahead in terms of subscribers. They have 100 million plus. HBO has some 70 million. I think once you add in all of those other bits and pieces, I think, you know, the new Discovery-owned app has a good chance to leap ahead.

STELTER: Kara, is it big enough? Is it enough scale for Warner Brothers Discovery?

SWISHER: No, you're too small. I'm sorry to say that to you. But, you know, I did an interview with Bob Iger and I says this to David Zaslav. He doesn't like it when I say it to him.


But it's too small a company. It's going to suffer a lot with the stock market, I think. It's got to be bigger.

And I think when you're against someone like Apple or Amazon who has money like in the drawers is enough to buy these companies, it's a real problem, especially with the spending and it's hard to get up to these numbers, even for Disney.

And Iger who had just did his first interview after he left, he was even like it's barely big enough. And so, I do think -- I suspect in the future there will be a purchase by a bigger entity.

STELTER: More consolidation. Yeah.

SWISHER: Absolutely.

ATKINSON: Or more acquisitions.

STELTER: Or more acquisitions, right.

ATKINSON: They just borrowed $30 billion to go and make sure that they're financially secure, they could go and acquire other things.

STELTER: And streaming is great for consumers not great for Wall Street.

Oliver, what does it mean for CNN to have the new entity?

DARCY: Well, CNN is going to get a new leader in this new entity, right? So, Chris Licht, the former showrunner at CBS, or, sorry, with Colbert, is going to be coming over and he's going to be taking the reins of CNN in May.

And so, he has a lot of things to do. He has a CNN+ streaming platform he has to figure out. He has a 9:00 p.m. host he has to appoint. So, it's going to be interesting to see what he does.

And also speaking of CNN+, it's going to be interesting to see what Discovery wants to do with CNN+. Are they going to keep it as a standalone app? Is there going to be something brought into the big Discovery streaming service when it launches? These are all questions I think that remain to be seen.

STELTER: Claire, you and I have covered Zaslav for years. We know he's a news junkie. He loves the news. So I suspect he will be hands on here.

ATKINSON: I think so. He supported journalistic events for a long time, been a sponsor of many events. His daughter is a journalist. He's going to have a very close eye on what happens at CNN and good luck to him.

STELTER: Thanks, everybody, for the conversation.

Coming up, Oliver's reporting about Jen Psaki's expected move to MSNBC and why it's created discontent inside NBC.

But, first, Anne Applebaum's newest estimate of the Russia-Ukraine propaganda war. We'll be back in just a moment.



STELTER: Amid the war in Ukraine, media has been proven to be one of the sharpest weapons in Russia's arsenal. Think about the disinformation being spread by Russian affiliates on social media and the false narratives across Russian state television.

But here is the thing, Ukraine was prepared for it. Ukrainians knew about those Russian tactics and prepared and saw them coming. In fact, the Ukraine Media Center has been monitoring Russian media's false depictions of Europe and Ukraine for years.

So, now that the war is being fought in the physical space not just the digital space, it's important to see how Ukrainians have viewed this and approached it and how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is countering that propaganda.

Joining me now staff writer at "The Atlantic" and author of "Twilight of Democracy", Anne Applebaum.

Great to see you, Anne.

This idea that the Ukrainians were prepared, does that -- is that one of the reasons why the Ukrainians were -- have been -- you know, why they were sort of -- I'm missing the word here, I'm totally blanking, but, you know, they were -- they were not expected to do as well in the past month as they have, you know, the Ukrainians have been able to push the Russians out in some places. Is it partly because of their understanding of propaganda?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I mean, I think their understanding of military tactics explains more about their military success, but it's also true that they've been living with Russian propaganda for, you know, -- particularly the nasty form of it for the last decade. You alluded to it, it's this tactic of constantly repeating falsehoods, never acknowledging when they're proven or disproven true, there is a fire hose of falsehoods, constant repetition and they are aware of that and they know how it works because it's been aimed at them for a long time.

And so what they've done instead is to offer a different story and it's an authentic story. So they are not making it up, it's not fake. They present their president as he is, he is a kind of short, ordinary guy wearing a t-shirt, he talks like a normal person, he doesn't talk like a sort of pompous head of state and in that part of the world that's a big deal. He doesn't wear a uniform with epaulets or something like that. And he speaks from the heart and he speaks, you know, directly to people and he is willing to talk on all different kinds of -- he has no -- no hang ups about who he talks to and when.


APPLEBAUM: And the Ukrainians by offering that version of their story I think are -- you know, that's how they see that they can counter these falsehoods. Believe us, we're real, we're tell something real.

STELTER: Yeah. Underestimated, that's the word I was blanking on, the Ukrainians were underestimated.

You made an interesting point when we had lunch the other day. You said Zelenskyy, look who he is surrounded by, he is surrounded by TV producers. What's the significance of that?

APPLEBAUM: So he is a television producer himself. He ran this very, very successful production company. He had a very successful television series in which he was the star playing the president of Ukraine. So, in away, he has practiced this before but also his chief of staff is a former television producer, some of the other people around him are producers and scriptwriters.

And that means that they're thinking all the time about what's the best way to tell the story. That doesn't mean what they're saying is fake. I mean, of course, there is some propaganda in there, you know, analysis of the military tactics and so on, but the story about who we are as a nation, that we are a democracy fighting an autocracy, that we are, you know -- I'm an ordinary person who became president fighting against this bizarre, you know, pumped up, you know, kind of Botoxed president of Russia, you know, of course, the people around him are contributing to helping him tell that and they are thinking about how to tell it better.

STELTER: And Zelenskyy is on "60 Minutes" tonight. He gave an interview with the "A.P." yesterday. So he continues to be very visible. Russian President Vladimir Putin much less visible.

And there is a lot we're not hearing in the media and that's about Russia. Let's just remind viewers there's very little journalism getting out of Russia right now.


APPLEBAUM: Yes. I mean, there is some -- I can see some, there are a couple good correspondents, I noticed something in the "New York Times" today who are calling in and clearly speaking to their contacts in Moscow, but essentially journalism has been banned now in Russia. It's now illegal to talk about this so-called special military operation as a war or to call it an invasion. And that means most Western correspondents have left. All of the independent Russian media which did exist before the war has now been banned, many of those journalists have left the country as well.

So the true story of what goes on in Russia is now getting harder and harder to tell and of course we don't hear that as clearly and we certainly don't have any good insights into what happens inside the Kremlin or in the upper echelons of the Russian state. So that is a missing piece of the story.

STELTER: Yeah. That's a fog of war that Putin has created.

And let's mention what happened to Dmitry Muratov, the other day to the Nobel Peace Prize winner. He said he was on a train in Russia and he was attacked, someone threw paint at him. And, you know, this is one of the few independent journalists still in the country, the head of an important newspaper there and he has been basically silenced as well and now physically assaulted.

APPLEBAUM: Yeah, and his newspaper is offline, they are not producing anymore. They stopped when the war began.

STELTER: Yeah, that sums it up right there.

APPLEBAUM: So, yes, there's open intimidation of journalists. There's an attempt to shut them down. There's, you know, really no free press at all anymore in Russia.

STELTER: Yeah. We have to remember that.

Anne, thank you very much for coming on the program.

Up next, Disney is the place where dreams come true but right wing media leaders are linking the company to child abuse. What is going on? Roy Disney's granddaughter is here to respond, next.



STELTER: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the Supreme Court this week, a historic milestone for the U.S., but process also showed how poisoned the country's politics are. As Joan Walsh wrote in this column for "The Nation", Republicans used

her confirmation hearing to mainstream the notion that Democrats protect pedophiles. It's a sexual panic strategy aimed at the November midterms and beyond.

Child abuse, quote/unquote, grooming kids for sexual predation. This really is a popular charge in GOP media circles right now. They are smearing their opponents as either pedophiles or being pro-pedophile.

And some commentators are trying to attach that horrible charge to, of all places, the Walt Disney Company.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want me to say it? They are grooming our children.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Some teachers pushing sex values on your third grader?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plan to groom our children is already in motion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And quite frankly, Disney is on the wrong side of history on this one.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Why not just rename the roller coaster, you know, sex mountain?


STELTER: That would be funny if it wasn't so insidious. Ginning up hate.

These GOP media starts can claim they're just protecting kids, but they are also demonizing gay teachers and condemning inclusive Disney shows. This is a clearly a midterm campaign strategy for the GOP, from Fox, to Newsmax, to Donald Trump.

In fact, at a rally last night, Trump claimed public schools are, quote, replacing reading and math with pronounce and gender studies. And he railed against the government spending money on, quote, transgenderism.

So that's why liberals are watching this and fearing a rollback of LGBTQ rights. This is a big story and Disney is one part of it.

Joining me now is Abigail Disney, granddaughter of co-founder Roy Disney. She's never shied away from speaking out against the company. But in this case, she also has some kind words for Disney as she also calls for the company's executives to find courage in the face of criticism.

Abigail, thanks for coming on the program.


STELTER: So, what is the Walt Disney Company actually and how do you feel when you see it portrayed as this child abuse indoctrination cult?

DISNEY: Right, right. Well, what I'm seeing happen is pretty coordinated strategic plan unfolding.


DISNEY: And Disney seems like the biggest target because it's so woven into families.

So, if you can create this idea that somebody is in there trying to indoctrinate your child -- my goodness, the paranoid imagination can run -- run -- run circles with that.


DISNEY: Yeah. And so I understand why it's been selected in this strategic -- whatever strategic meeting they had for what they would turn to next. But this is absurd.

The thing that Disney stands for more than anything in every film and especially in the animation where there is a gay character or not is love and acceptance and family and joy. And so, they're trying to inject something into what Disney does that has nothing to do with what Disney does.

Whether or not there are gay characters and I keep wondering -- what is their theory of change exactly? Because if you were to erase every reference to gayness and gay people from the planet, which is sort of what the "don't say gay" bill feels like, will children not become gay? Do they need to be recruited and groomed or are people just gay?

And I think that that's a hard question they need to ask themselves because if you go back through history, there have been gay people whether or not the word was ever spoken. So this is kind of a -- it's an ineffective way of going about what they want. It's an attempt to push history backwards and it denies the fact that everyone conservative or not has a gay friend or a transgender family member.

We're all in it together now and I think it's all of our fight.

STELTER: When you say they have a strategy here, who are you referring to?


STELTER: Certainly, Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers in the Republican Party in Florida advanced this Parental Rights and Education bill, the so-called "don't say gay" bill. That's certainly is at the root of this current clash with Disney, which has now become much bigger.

Is that who you mean when you say "they"? DISNEY: Well, by they -- I mean, there are huge funders of the right-

wing movement that like to remain quiet and they gather in meetings and they make decisions about what's the message that's resonating, what's the message that's not. We can't pretend that's not happening. And so this attack against Disney was so timed and rolled out so strategically, that was really hard for me to imagine that didn't come from a series of decisions that got made in the background.

STELTER: I see. Your advice for Disney is what? In your column, you say the leaders need to be courageous, in what way?

DISNEY: Right. Well, I mean, I think that you know, there's always this talk of neutrality in business and just leave us alone and we'll see of it.

STELTER: Yes, that would have seemed like Bob Chapek -- the CEO, Bob Chapek.


STELTER: Similar to what he was trying to do.

DISNEY: Right.

STELTER: Just stay out of it, remain neutral, and not try to offend anybody.

DISNEY: Right. And it was a hard thing to claim when it was shown that he'd already given money to Dennis Baxley and Ron DeSantis, and so forth. So you can't claim neutrality if you're supporting the people who write these laws.

But on top of it, there is no neutrality anymore. There was a time maybe when there was a public square where people could kind of go with an open mind and make it up, but it's been eroded and eroded and eroded by the toxicity and polarization of the public space. So there is no business -- there's no activity in American life at this point, that hasn't been politicized.

And so you cannot pretend neutrality because if the momentum on the right is against people's rights and away from love and kindness, you can't stand there and do nothing and tell everybody you're neutral. If you do nothing, you let this other thing go forward.

STELTER: Do you see a world where Republicans just won't go to Disney World? Is it going to be that divided?

DISNEY: Yes. Well, I do know that in the 90s, the Southern Baptists tried very publicly to boycott Disney, and their rank and file kind of said, and we kind of like it too much settle down to stand with.

STELTER: We still want to see a movie, yes.

DISNEY: And I know the way people in that community feel about Disney, that I'm sure that there will be plenty of very passionate people on the other side who stopped but -- it -- I don't think Disney's got any trouble.

STELTER: Yes, I'm going to see that. What worries me is there's a spectrum like there's the crazy QAnon called stuff, which is, child sex trafficking.


STELTER: And then there's the milder version that is this part of this, which is you know, fearing what kids are learning in school about gay people. And there's a spectrum here, and it exists on a spectrum. So you're going to have certain individuals that are going full QAnon, and then you have GOP politicians that are just, you know, worried about their straight kids and not worrying about gay kids. And so we're going to see, I think this for the next six months through the midterms, whether we see it beyond that, I don't know.

DISNEY: Right. I -- you know, I think that for me, I look at the Walt Disney Company as I knew it in the 1970s when I was a teenager and those are the days when Disney did not hire black people, they did not hire women, they did not hire Jews, and certainly, they didn't hire gay people. And if you look at the output of the company, it was -- it was a damn near dead company by the end of the 1970s. And in the 1980s, we opened up and we became a company where everybody was welcome. And look at how the company changed.

STELTER: And look what happened.

DISNEY: We as a society are strengthened by the people that are being pushed to the margins right now and I think that might be kind of a route of the sphere.


DISNEY: Because if the people who have been marginalized, really, in fact, do come to the center and show their strengths, where's the room for the regular Americans, the white people? I think that there's a real fear of what can be contributed. And if you want to see the Walt Disney Company each day have all of its gay employees walk out tomorrow, I would just love to see what current kind of output they made in terms of creativity. They'd have nothing.

STELTER: Abigail Disney, thank you for being here.

DISNEY: Thank you.

STELTER: Great talking with you. We're going to keep covering this story in our NIGHTLY RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Sign up for free at

Up next, what happens to Fox viewers when they stop watching the network? Two researchers found out by paying Fox fanatics to switch to CNN. The results are in and we have them next.


[11:35:00] STELTER: Is it impossible to make Fox News viewers change their minds about key issues just by having them change the channel? That's what a new study suggests. It's titled the manifold effects of partisan media on viewers' beliefs and attitudes. The researchers paid some Fox News fans to watch CNN for 30 days and then they asked them some questions. The results are fascinating.

So, let's bring in David Broockman and Joshua Kalla. They conducted this study in September of 2020 and it's just been published this week. Welcome to you both, let's not -- let's not waste any time. David, what did you find?

DAVID BROOCKMAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Yes, thanks so much for having us. So what we did is we recruited a fairly large group of people who predominantly watched Fox News up until September 2020. And in September 2020, we paid them to watch CNN instead, at the time at which they usually watch Fox News. And then afterward, we asked them a variety of questions about what they knew about the world and their attitudes about current events and people like Donald Trump. That was during the Trump presidency, of course.

And I can think the real key finding here from our perspective is essential that we find that partisan media is sort of hiding information from voters. And I think there's kind of an analogy of Putin's Russia, where, right now, Russians, we know, we're not getting all the information about what's actually happening in Ukraine.

And in the same way that we found during the Trump presidency, those watching Fox News weren't getting all the information about what was really happening, for example, with COVID and otherwise in the Trump administration. But then they started seeing on CNN, they said, oh, wow, I had no idea. I didn't know all this because Fox News wasn't telling me.

STELTER: So, Joshua, you call this partisan coverage filtering. And basically, you're proving what we've sensed for a while which is that Fox viewers are in the dark about bad news for the GOP.


JOSHUA KALLA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND DATA SCIENCE, YALE UNIVERSITY: That's right. Fox and CNN cover different issues, and Fox News predominantly covers issues that make the GOP look good and make Democrats look bad. And on the flip side, CNN engages in this partisan coverage filtering as well as that we find. For example, during this time, the Abraham accords were signed and these were the agreements where Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain signed a major peace agreement.

And we see that Fox News covered this really major accomplishment about 15 times more than CNN did. So we established both networks are really engaging in this partisan coverage filtering. It's not about one side it's about the media writ large.

STELTER: I think you're engaging on both sides, isn't there, Josh? KALLA: Not trying to lay out a moral equivalency, it's not about what an objective standard is, it's really about how all networks do engage in this. And in order for viewers to get a realistic picture of the world, we need viewers to see all types of information. And unfortunately, what we find in this study is that the viewers don't want to engage in watching all sides.

So, as David mentioned, we see that viewers, we pay them for four weeks to watch CNN, but then after those payments stopped, they go back to watching Fox News. So even though we try to incentivize viewers to watch both Fox and CNN, they don't want to engage in that bad hard work, they want to really just watch the side that makes them feel good. And this is why the media has such an important responsibility to cover both sides to hold both parties accountable.

STELTER: And this study has already gotten a lot of attention. David, President Obama mentioned it on stage at the Atlantic's and the University of Chicago's disinformation conference that I was at in Chicago this week. Here's part of what Obama said about your study.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It hadn't turned them into liberals, it didn't make them want to vote for Joe Biden, they had just had access to a different set of information and I think we underestimate the degree of playability in our opinions and our views.


STELTER: David, is that the proper takeaway here? Is Obama right?

BROOCKMAN: Yes. I think that gets it a really important kind of finding of our study, which is that first of all, President Obama is exactly right, that, you know, we're not finding that you take Fox viewers' viewers, and all of a sudden, overnight, they become Biden voters, that wasn't the goal of our study and we didn't expect to find that, and we did it.

But we do find that consistent with what I was saying earlier, when folks who previously watched Fox News start getting watching CNN, they learned all these things they didn't know before. About, for example, the fact that the U.S. at the time was not doing as well as many other countries when it came to controlling COVID, things that Fox News didn't really want to say. Fox News was, in fact, telling people that oh, COVID is not as big of a deal.

And I think that the key implication here is that we really shouldn't think about partisan media is just good for one side, though, right? And I think this is what President Obama is getting at. That if you think of Fox News is just kind of putting a thumb on the scale for Republicans, you know, it is that but it's not only that.

And I think it's also actually bad for democracy because it actually matters a lot if Trump voters during the Trump presidency think that Trump is doing a great job or just kind of a good job, because if voters don't learn when politicians on their side mess up, then there's no one to hold politicians accountable.

So it actually matters a lot to have during the Trump presidency, Trump voters will be able to say to Trump, hey, we like you, but needed to do this better or during the Biden presidency, we need Biden voters to say, hey, Biden, you know, we like you overall, but you need to be doing better in this way.

And if partisan media doesn't tell its own side when a politician is not kind of performing up to -- up to snuff or doesn't talk about their failings, that really breaks down some of the key mechanisms that keep our democracy responsive having a side's own voters tell their side, hey, you need to do better in this way. But they can't do that if the media don't tell them how the media is -- how politicians are falling down on the job.

STELTER: David and Josh, thank you both for being here. Good talking with you.

BROOCKMAN: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next, suffering in Shanghai and shrugs in DC, two very different approaches to COVID-19. Dr. Katherine Wu is next.



STELTER: It's one of the biggest stories in Washington right now, or is it? A spike in COVID-19 cases among DC elites, including cabinet members, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it's been all over the news. But the Biden administration reportedly thinks the press is focused on the wrong thing. "White House upset by media focus on administration's COVID-19 cases, rather than on the relief bill." That's according to Yahoo News, referring to impending shortfalls of pandemic-related funding.

Let's draw off both storylines with Katherine Wu, staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers science. Her latest article is about this apparent new wave titled, America is staring down its first so what wave of the pandemic. Catherine, thanks for coming on.


STELTER: So what is this? This is a reference to Americans struggling, moving on not willing to take precautions anymore, right?

WU: Yes, in part, and I think, you know, we're at this point in the pandemic where a lot of precautions have gone away and that includes testing, it's making it a lot more difficult to detect cases. And so if we do see a potential rise in cases as many states are experiencing now, it's going to be really hard to get a handle on how fast those cases are rising and sort of to what magnitude which makes it very hard to react.

STELTER: Yes, we're almost back in the dark because everybody is testing with those at-home tests that don't get reported to the government, so we don't know how many people are positive. So we're in the dark. Now, is the White House right that the focus should be more on pandemic funding and less on mild cases of COVID-19 that are being experienced by DC elites?


WU: It's hard to argue that you can focus on only one and not the other and that they really go hand in hand. I mean, the goal is to be injecting as many resources into the country as possible. I think at this point, we still do not have equitable distribution of all of these resources, not enough funding has come through by any stretch of the imagination, and the main place that these resources are going is to those same communities that have had access to those same resources throughout the entire pandemic tests, new treatments. And unless those resources are distributed equitably, it's really hard to see how we can move on and actually achieve whatever new normal we're trying to aim for.

STELTER: And meanwhile, that's happening in the U.S., this new normal, these shrugs, I'm fascinated about what we're seeing out of China, especially out of Shanghai, these incredible lockdowns letting people -- forcing people to stay in their apartments because of COVID spreading in the city. It feels like China is doing something very, very different from much of the rest of the world.

And citizens are posting videos showing the discontent, showing unrest in some cases in the streets. What is your impression of what China's doing and these severe draconian lockdowns in Shanghai?

WU: Yes, certainly. I mean, throughout the pandemic, China has taken a far more extreme approach than many other countries and I think this does reflect their hope that they can still keep COVID out of the country. I'm not sure that that is going to be sustainable long term. I mean, clearly, it's not if this is the reaction we're seeing.

But I think in many ways, we are seeing two extremes of a spectrum, you know, a complete, you know, relaxing of measures. This is not a big deal anymore to this is the end of the world, we have to make sure that COVID stays out of our lives entirely. We need to navigate what is in the middle by recognizing that this virus is here to stay long term, but also recognizing that we need to make changes on our side of things to make that a sustainable coexistence and to minimize suffering to the extent that we can.

STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) about Catherine's full story at the Thanks for being here. Good talking with you.

WU: Thank you so much.

STELTER: Up next here, Claire Atkinson and Oliver Darcy are back talking about uproar at NBC News and some news out of CBS as well.


[11:55:00] STELTER: We're back to run through some of the other big media stories of the week, Oliver Darcy and Claire Atkinson are back at the table. First up, Oliver, your reporting about Jen Psaki, who is still White House Press Secretary, was expected to join MSNBC next month. She's going to have a show on the streaming service, Peacock. And you heard that ruffled some feathers inside NBC News inside, the news division at NBC.

DARCY: Yes, it's definitely left, Brian, some people inside NBC News feeling very upset. They think that this might tarnish the NBC News brand.


DARCY: Well, because Jen Psaki-- I mean there is a history of White House press secretaries going into news organizations, but in this case, there's no transition period from Jen Psaki leaving the White House podium and basically going directly to hosting a show on MSNBC, and this news broke while she's still White House press secretary. So you have like NBC news journalists who, it's their job to basically be grilling a future colleague in the briefing room and so it's an awkward dynamic, so this really did frustrate with NBC News staffers.

And NBC News President, Noah Oppenheim had to come out and have this impromptu phone call with them basically last week, where he reassured them and kind of drew a distinction to some extent between MSNBC's literal programming, and what NBC news journalist does -- do, and he basically said what they do is it should not affect your work, you should go out there and continue to work like usual.

STELTER: Claire?

CLAIRE ATKINSON, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, INSIDER: I think this -- first of all, I think she's very compelling television. I like listening to her. I think she's very good at commanding the room. I think she's going to be, you know, a good TV personality. But I do think there's something very, very wrong about being at the -- at the podium in the White House walking out, joining Comcast, presumably being paid millions of dollars to opine on Joe Biden, like there's something -- there should be a period of time where, you know, you go off into industry, and then you come back and perhaps then you go to TV, but this move seems too fast to me.

But I do hear that they're working on something, perhaps it is a bit of a break between the two jobs to you know make sure there are less questions about the ethics.

STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) yes. A couple of more NBC headlines, one more of that is Rachel Maddow, who went on hiatus for a couple of months, she's back on Monday. And some news at CBS this weekend sources confirming that Norah O'Donnell has renewed at the CBS evening news. There were questions about whether she was going to be renewed or not, and so now CBS staying with her through the next election.

ATKINSON: Yes, that's quite a surprise. It was a surprise that the news came out Friday. It seems like either it was buried or who knows why they broke on a Friday night.

STELTER: Yes, it's quite odd. Yes.


STELTER: But it does give some sort of stability to CBS News, some instability to that weekly news.

ATKINSON: That's right -- that's right.

STELTER: And in our final minute, Will Smith. Will Smith, of course, is now banned from Academy events for 10 years. Can he come back, Claire? Can he have a strong career in the future?

ATKINSON: I think there's a huge pool of goodwill despite what Will Smith did, obviously it was wrong, but his projects are on pause right now. I think a lot of people would be horrified if you know he didn't make any more movies and disappeared from the culture. I think he does have a chance to come back.

STELTER: So Hollywood will turn the other cheek, Oliver?

DARCY: I think that he's going to need to do an interview and really kind of apologize on camera.

STELTER: You see that.

DARCY: Let's have one more there but I think -- yes, I think there's no way he's gone forever.

STELTER: Who's going to get the first interview with Will Smith and --

ATKINSON: You should try Rock.

STELTER: With Chris Rock, yes. All right, call me, Will. All right, thanks, Oliver, thanks, Claire. Tonight is the premiere of an extraordinary film about our late friend, Anthony Bourdain. RoadRunner is a candid look at his life, his ups, his downs, and his untimely death. RoadRunner premieres tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Time here on CNN. I can now see you tomorrow on CNN Plus for RELIABLE SOURCES daily. STATE OF THE UNION starts right now.