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Understanding the Roots of White Supremacist Violence; Questions About After Death of Shireen Abut Akleh; Right-Wing Media's Influence On PA's GOP Primary; Best Practices Of Covering The Abortion Debate; Elon Musk Temporarily Mutes His Twitter Takeover. Aired 11a- 12p ET

Aired May 15, 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, a veteran correspondent fatally shot on assignment and Israel accused of murder. An Israeli official will be here live with a response.

Plus, while the national media focuses on the Supreme Court, what are we missing about abortion laws at the state level? A top reporter will join us live from Texas.

Plus, my road trip to Pennsylvania this weekend, witnessing a GOP campaign ban against the media up close. Is this the new normal in Republican politics? We're going to get into that and a whole lot more coming up.

But, first, another hate crime at a grocery store. Those words shouldn't even compute, they shouldn't fit in the same sentence. A hate crime at a grocery store.

This time, it was Buffalo residents in a predominantly Black neighborhood who were just trying to take care of their families when a white gunman opened fire on Saturday, killing ten people and injuring three others. All of the evidence so far suggests this young man, this suspect, just 18 years old, was poisoned by lies and BS from online message boards.

Now police members of the media are going through his so-called manifesto, full of hateful memes and ideas and some of the same messages shared by the Christchurch mosque killer. Yes, it's the great replacement theory rearing its ugly head again, white replacement nonsense that convinces isolated men on the Internet that a cabal is replacing whites with people of color. The same conspiracy theory you hear primetime on Fox News.

So, it's important -- no, it's essential to map the media environment that preys on white fear. The manifesto's author attributed most of his beliefs to the Internet and described himself as fascist, a white supremacist, and anti-Semite. The manifesto reportedly throws around terms like critical race theory, and the author writes about becoming radicalized partially because he was bored during the pandemic. Bored.

Now, again, there's a lot for investigators to get into. We're still in the early stages of this story, but there's a lot of evidence because of the purported manifesto and a livestream that was posted on Twitch, the popular gaming, streaming service. Now, Twitch says the video was removed within minutes but some of the video clips and images are still circulating online.

There are calls for accountability for social media firms but the rot goes a lot deeper. You can't just blame one single social networking site and say that's the problem. The problem is a lot more complex.

So, let's talk about it with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Wesley Lowery. He's in Washington right now.

And here in New York, Mara Schiavocampo, her -- co-host of the "Run and Tell This" podcast, along with Lowery, and former ABC and NBC correspondent.

Also here with me, CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

Thank you all for coming on the program this weekend.

Mara, let's talk about white versus black. How are these sorts of shooters, these suspects, treated by the media when there's a heinous hate crime that occurs?

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, FORMER ABC AND NBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's really important to examine how the media talks about white shooters and there are predictable patterns. I mean, first, there's always almost this presumption of mental illness that absolves the shooter from any personal responsibility. They are often described as kids. You know, they're infantilized. They're humanized in a way that makes them seem sympathetic. You know, just a good kid who snapped.

But most importantly, and I think it's most important because it's so inaccurate, they're almost always portrayed as a lone wolf, just acting by themselves, when this is inaccurate because we know that these are violent domestic terrorists who subscribe to a group ideology of white supremacy. So, in the case of these white shooters, they are portrayed as lone wolves who bear sole responsibility for what's happened but if they were Muslim, say, it would be the responsibility that's borne by the entire religion. They would be immediately branded a terrorist.

We need to start talking about these incidents in the context of domestic terrorism fueled by white supremacist ideology.

STELTER: Right, white supremacist terrorism

Wesley, that point about lone wolves is really point. I know you were tweeting about this overnight, you were working on a book about the topic of white supremacy terrorism and now, once again, it's back in the news. What do you think people need to know about how this should be covered in the press? WESLEY LOWERY, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Of course. I think

so often we treat -- especially around white supremacists, we think of them as our kooky old grandmother, right? It's our racist friend who makes a joke we shouldn't make. And what are we supposed to do? I mean, they say some bigoted things.

I think that too often, we treat white supremacist terror in a society, in the elite spaces in the media as these one-offs, and not as an advanced coherent ideology, right? That this ideology that claimed lives in the grocery store in Buffalo is the same ideology that claimed lives in Pittsburgh, in the Tree of Life synagogue. The same ideology that claimed lives down at the Walmart in El Paso, right?


That there is a complex conspiracy theory that's as old as our American society in which --


LOWERY: -- white Americans are being told, being poisoned through the internet but also through some relatively mainstream media organizations on the right, being told that they are facing a demographic crisis, and that they have to stand up for themselves. And -being poisoned through the internet , being poisoned through the internet but also through some relatively mainstream media organizations on the right, being told that they are facing a demographic crisis and that they have to stand up for themselves.

STELTER: And let's just be clear, Wes, you're talking about Tucker Carlson.

LOWERY: Of course.

STELTER: You're talking about Laura Ingraham. You're talking about the biggest stars on Fox News.


STELTER: Is it too simplistic to reduce this to a single television show though?

LOWERY: Yes. I mean --

STELTER: We see that a lot on social media, just blaming Fox, just blaming Tucker and I think there's a lot of blame to go around.

LOWERY: There's a ton. I mean, look, let's be clear. The stuff Tucker and Laura Ingraham say every night, it could be written by white supremacist very often. They're a section of this manifesto where the shooter starts talking about, people will always say diversity is strength. How is it a strength? I could hear it in Tucker's voice. He says this all the time, right?

But the Ben Shapiros of the world say there's a big chunk about -- about the idea of genetic differences that could have been pulled from an Andrew Sullivan column. There are plenty of people in our politics, in our media who advance these ideas and advance them frequently.

But beyond that, though, I do think the point you're making here is right, you cannot simplify this specifically just to a specific network, even just specific online spaces. We have to have a conversation about our political rhetoric in our country, right?

Immigration for the last several decades has been the most salient topic in our politics. It's what Donald Trump rode into power. It's something Republicans have seized upon. It's something that in our rhetoric and in our conversation very often mainstream political forces have been remarkably irresponsible in the language they used around immigration and around race in ways that have fueled and empowered white supremacists.

Again, that's not just people on the far right. We're talking on CNN where for years, Lou Dobbs was given an hour every night to say pretty racist things about immigrants at the heart of this conversation. And so, I think it's something that we all have to take seriously because when we take it seriously, it forces us to actually consider the words we use, especially when we're advancing stereotypes about immigrants, about Jewish people, about Black people, the way George Soros' name is thrown around, the way people talk about immigrants in crime.

All of these things play into racist, white supremacist tropes.

STELTER: Let's continue to map this media environment. As we talk, the more we talk, the more complex it gets and that is important. This is complicated.

Oliver, one of the other media arms or tentacles or elements to this, I mean, I'm thinking about message boards that most of us haven't heard of and probably hopefully never will, where some of these ideas fester and they do end up spreading upwards towards tucker Carlson's show and many others but they start deep in the dark corners of the Internet, is that fair to say?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, they start in deep, dark corners of the Internet. And as we saw even with Tucker Carlson, his former writer was on one of these people on these deep, dark corners of the Internet, one particular message boards and taking ideas from them and putting it into Tucker's prompter where he would say it to millions of people every night.

So, there is a connection, too, between what happens on these dark places of the Internet and ends up, you know, on Fox. But it's these things do fester in -- on boards like 4Chan, where they were to some --

STELTER: Or even on Twitch. I'm so interested in this thing in "Axios" last week, a headline, or last month, gaming, extremism is becoming more common in gaming spaces.

DARCY: Yeah.

STELTER: So, you're on a livestream. You're playing a video game. Your friends are talking. They're saying racist comments.

And to me, I wonder, that's almost like an opening, that's an in for an 18-year-old, some of those 15, 16, 17 years old. They start by joking around with their friends, you know, casually saying racist things and then they go deep down these rabbit holes, these scary websites.

DARCY: Yeah, even on Twitter. You have GOP representatives -- you know, Matt Gaetz was defending the great replacement theory, which is at the heart of the screed that was written purportedly by this suspect. And so, you know, this is something that it was I think relegated to darker corners of the internet and still festers there but it has been mainstream --

STELTER: Right. We shouldn't call it fringe anymore. It's not fringe anymore. You know it's already happened.

DARCY: Right, right.

STELTER: There's far right figures making excuses, saying, this was a false flag. This was a conspiracy to make us look bad. It's already happening.


STELTER: I feel so exhausted and defeated this morning, Mara, because we know exactly what's going to happen in the next few days. Nothing is going to change. It's only going to get worse. And what do we do? I guess all we do is cover it.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I mean, there's no question that outlets like Fox News are responsible in large part for mainstreaming these conspiracy theories that have largely been relegated in the past to the far right fringe. When we talk about this replacement theory, this is the idea there is a plot, an active plot to replace white Americans with immigrants.

This is something that used to be on the fringes. Tucker Carlson first spoke about it on his show more than a year ago and since then, we have heard members of Congress repeat it.

STELTER: And "The New York Times" found he repeated a version 400 times.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: Many, many times. This has become a drumbeat that we hear a lot. We are hearing it in mainstream places. We're hearing it on the floor of Congress.

And so, there's no question that they have a big role in the mainstreaming of this. You asked about the impact. Aren't there others?

What's significant about Fox News is the size of their audience. Sure, there are a lot of players in this game but they have a massive audience and they're repeating these points over and over again. That's how the big lie led to January 6th. We see that it has an effect.

STELTER: You know what's going to happen, Wes, what's going to happen on Tucker's show tomorrow night. He's going to say he condemns all violence, he abhors all violence and then he might say something like what about the hundreds of illegal immigrants that cross the border over the weekend? What about all the violence that they could cause?

Brian Kilmeade was on Twitter calling it an invasion yesterday.

We've seen this, right? That he's going to -- he's going to divert. He's going to deflect. He's going to distract. How do you avoid getting exhausted by all of this?

LOWERY: I certainly don't avoid getting exhausted by it. It's extremely exhausting by it.

You know, I think that you're right, and I'm sure part of the talking points will be actually the shooter was a leftist and why are you blaming us and it's not really the right. It's not really Republicans.

And, look, there's a point worth making that racism and bigotry exist across the political spectrum. When you look at the media figures and political figures who are driving white supremacist violence, who white supremacists identify with, who they consider allies and indoctrinating or proselytizing to the country, it's figures on the right time and time and time again, very often being cited in these manifestos, sometimes by name, other times in hyperlinks.

And so, it is exhausting. But I guess the one other point I would make, obviously, we're talking about this in the media perspective, we all talk to the media -- it's a media show, right? But one of the reasons this stuff is effective, right, is because these ideas are as old as the American society, right?

It's a little simplistic to think if only we can shut Tucker Carlson up, or if only we can shut down this message board, these ideas have a salience and have a staying power because fear, fear of others, fear of people who are different than us, has always been among the most powerful political and societal forces. And at a time when Americans across the country, white Americans particularly, fear demographic change, these messages are extremely powerful.

And so, again, we can wake up tomorrow and Fox News can be shut down and all of the message boards can be shut down and these ideas would not disappear. I think that's important for us to remember and think about as well.

STELTER: And for the record, because Tucker Carlson is probably watching and will probably play these clips tomorrow, I don't think anyone is trying to shut him up. I think his critics try to find powerful, persuasive ways to prove he's wrong. That's the most effective answer.

Wesley, thank you. Mara, thank you. Oliver, stick around. Lots more to get to later this hour. We're going to get on Elon Musk

and Twitter and all the rest.

But up first, urgent calls for answers after the death of a veteran Al Jazeera correspondent. We're going to get into it and show you what happened, coming up.



STELTER: The honest voice never dies. That's what people were chanting after Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed on assignment in the West Bank this week. But will she ever receive justice?

She was considered an authority of Palestinian coverage. On Wednesday, while covering an Israeli military raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, she was shot and killed at age 51. Her producer was also wounded and is said to be in stable condition.

Another journalist on the scene said the press waited for soldiers to see them before moving toward a camp in Jenin, but, quote, out of nowhere, there were gunshots.

Now, in this next disturbing video clip, you can hear some gunfire and then see the reporters body slumped on the ground.


BLITZER: These journalists were on assignment, doing their jobs, wearing press badges which are supposed to be symbols of protection. But sometimes they are not.

Al Jazeera is blaming Israel for killing Abu Akleh, calling it an assassination. The news of her death was shocking to Palestinians who saw her as the voice of their struggles, almost like a family friend.

One CNN producer who grew up watching her said, quote, she was an icon as a Palestinian journalist. She was very simple, humble and very funny.

Thousands of people gathered for her funeral in Jerusalem on Friday but what began peaceful turned violent. You see the images there, in some cases there were people being beaten by Israeli forces.

There's a global condemnation of that violence and outcry for answers and accountability. With lingering questions about who killed this journalist and why?

Ambassador Asaf Zamir is with me. He's the counsel general of Israel in New York. He's joining me here on set. We did ask Al Jazeera to appear here as well, but they declined to provide a guest.

Thank you for coming on the program. Is there anything new you can tell us about the investigation into the shooting? AMBASSADOR ASAF ZAMIR, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL IN NEW YORK: First of

all, thank you for having me.

We don't know anything new because there's no dual investigation yet because Palestinian authorities are neglecting our request to have a joint investigation. Anyhow, I want to start out by saying how sorry we are. Any death of any reporter inside that area is a tragedy. And we need to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen again.

BLITZER: What can be done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

ZAMIR: Well, first of all, we need to have an investigation to understand how it happen to begin with. But we also need to remember the full context of it, because we're kind of starting the story in the middle.

STELTER: Tell me why.

ZAMIR: Because in the last month, 19 Israelis were brutally murdered in terror attacks, not as journalists covering a war zone in conflict, but just sitting in their cars, having beers, walking in the parks, just for being Jewish and living in Israel.


We had to go into Jenin to try and prevent the next terror attack coming out of it, and that is the raid in which at the end -- in the fire shots, Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, which is again a tragedy, we don't know from -- we are seeing -- we are seeing central media, social media and politicians in the United States and all over the world claiming it is Israel before we had any proof of it.

While the Palestinian corner said, we've examined the bullet, it's too close to call. We don't know yet. We still had media outlets and American elected officials saying and blaming Israel.

And the fact that Al Jazeera is blaming Israel, I take that in a certain proportion. Al Jazeera -- people need to be reminded sometimes -- it's not free media, like CNN is free media. It's state-owned media. It's the Qatari national media outlet.

It's like Russia Today. Russia Today has been using the last month to explain the Russian side of the war and to call Zelenskyy a Nazi. And it's a kind of media that we need to take it in the right perspective when we analyze what they are saying.

STELTER: I also think Al Jazeera has some excellent journalists.

ZAMIER: I think they have some excellent journalists. I think she was an excellent journalist. It's a tragedy, but everyone thinks it's a tragedy.

I think that we need to do everything in our power to make sure these things don't happen again. But we can't do that alone, which is why we have been calling from our side and we have been doing it responsibly. We believe in taking responsibility.

We said that we don't know who it is, the Palestinians didn't say that. We say we don't know how she died. The Palestinians haven't said that yet.

We are looking for a joint investigation with another third party, anything to make sure we understand what the truth is. To make sure this doesn't happen again. But just as you invited something to sit next to me and they declined, it's kind of the same case. We're not having -- we can't find a partner for this investigation. We can't do it again alone.

STELTER: Last year, last year, the IDF bombed a building in Gaza that housed the "AP" bureau in Gaza. There were concerns that journalists were being targeted. Israel did warn people in the building so they could leave, so there were no deaths.

But you have to wonder if there is a pattern of Israel targeting members of the media. Is there a pattern?

ZAMIR: There isn't, of course not. There is no pattern. In Israel, by the way, free press is extremely important. That's why we want to conduct this investigation to begin with.

Free press in Israel is one of the most important things we have. You said just a second ago, we did give them an announcement before.


ZAMIR: It is a conflict zone. It is not a one-sided conflict zone. It is a conflict zone because terror comes out of it. It is a conflict zone because people use schools and the "AP" building, and other places, things we would never do --

STELTER: But what about the funeral on Friday? Israeli police beating mourners with batons. Was that a conflict zone?

ZAMIR: In a way, yes. First of all, let me say this. The pictures are horrible. First of all, let I'm not going pictures and we are conducting an investigation.

And, by the way, in these series of things that we do to try to manage the situation, mistakes happen. We are not perfect, I don't think anybody is perfect. And if we have anything to learn from this, we will learn from this.

But again, context. This was a funeral that we were in charge of public safety of. It was coordinated, the police forces with the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, and before the funeral started, people came up, trying to take the coffin from the family, try to run into a different direction. And the police were there helping the family make sure that what was agreed upon would happen.

Then bottles were thrown to police officers. It is very hard to show how these pictures come to life. STELTER: That story sometimes starting in the middle and we need to

know the beginning of the story, and that's the very important. This must not be the sort of subject that you'd want to be talking about at all.

ZAMIR: I would love to be talking about Israeli food, and gefilte fish, you know? That's a subject that I would choose myself. But I think it is important for the world to report responsibly. And I want to say why.

When you talk about anti Israel sentiment, every time something happens in Israel, no matter -- no matter what side it happens from, you know, Al Jazeera has ten journalists that died in the past few years in conflict areas. None of whom -- horrible. None of whom were reported as much as this, happening in Israel.

And people don't understand that when you automatically blame Israel for things we haven't done, that turns into anti-Semitic attacks at the end of the day, and anti-Semitic sentiments in the U.S. And we live in New York. In New York City, anti-Semitic incidents have quadrupled -- quadrupled in the last year.

And there is a connection, because most of the Jewish people have strong feelings toward Israel. They see it as their eternal home. And when you attack that, you attack them. And there is a linkage.

And that is why we are not asking for any shortcuts. We are not asking for any discounts. But we are asking for honest reporting about things that happen. We are asking for people to wait for a second before they say Israel is in charge of the killing of a reporter.


Maybe we are, and if we are, we need to investigate that. Maybe we're not. But when you assume automatically that we are, that comes from a totally different place in your heart.

STELTER: To your point about the climate, the suspect in buffalo, this manifesto that was authored, he described himself as an anti- Semite, a racist and anti-Semite. So this climate, it is very you know, it needs to be seen in totality. Thank you very much for coming here.

ZAMIR: Thank you. Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here.

Up next, a look at the critical role that MAGA media is playing in Tuesday's hotly contested Pennsylvania GOP primaries. Two top journalists join us live from Philly in just a moment.



STELTER: The GOP primary in Pennsylvania reveals so much about the state of the Republican Party writ large. The senator candidates there have been campaigning all across right

wing-TV. We counted at least 19 interviews across Fox and Newsmax just this month.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is a favorite of Fox's Sean Hannity. I mean this point Hannity has basically been the shadow campaign manager for the Oz campaign.

But it's caused the divide inside Fox, with Hannity trying to warn voters against the little-known but late surging candidate Kathy Barnette, while an hour later, Laura Ingraham promoting Barnette denouncing the smear campaign against Barnette and defending her.

On Saturday, Barnette, who owes much of her fame to Fox looked at her Twitter bio, likened Hannity to a swamp monster trying to "steal the election." But we only know that thanks to an audio recording of Barnette made by a rally-goer and given to CNN's Dan Merica.

Crews from CNN, CBS, NBC, and other outlets were barred from attending this rally on Saturday in Bucks County, even though it was billed as a public event that anyone could attend.

This was apparently at the direction of the leading GOP candidate for governor in the state, Doug Mastriano.

MSNBC's Dasha Burns showed this man in a Paul Revere outfit telling her to step back -- step back behind the cones like she was some sort of threat, a threat from wanting to cover a campaign event.

When I showed up on the scene in Warminster yesterday, reporters there told me it was basically a base stoking strategy, right? It was an example of scorn for the media uniting many Republicans, so that seemed to be the idea, by shutting out the press.

But I couldn't help but wonder do these candidates have something to hide? Why do I have to film from so far away?

Reporters want to help everyone know who these can take candidates are. Salena Zito, The Washington Examiner who would never be mistaken for some liberal activist, tried to ask Barnette some basic questions.

She got blown off, basic questions like what's the name, your hometown, and when was she an officer candidate school? But Barnette would not even share details about her military service. It's baffling or is it?

Let's ask two folks in Pennsylvania who know, Philly Inquirer National Opinion columnist Will Bunch, and Holly Otterbein, a national political reporter for Politico. So, Holly, you were out there in the Reagan soak yesterday, I got there late.

What the heck happened? Have you ever been shut out of public campaign events before?

HOLLY OTTERBEIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Not a public rally like this. I mean, usually, candidates want the press to cover their rallies, particularly in the days before the primary. It's very unusual.

STELTER: So what is this all about you do think? What is this all about stoking hatred of the media?

OTTERBEIN: Look, Doug Mastriano actually live-streamed the event on his Facebook page so we know that he didn't have a problem with getting it out there.

I agree with you know, a lot of the reporters that you said you talk to while I can't get into the head of you know, Mastriano my best guess is, you know, this was a way to pick a fight with national media and rile up the base.

And hey, at the same time, it meant that he got to evade questions from the press about, you know, things like the fact that he was at the -- at the Capitol on January 6, that he was subpoenaed by the Congressional committee investigating the attack, you know, that he's been the face of the movement to overturn the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.

He got to evade questions, you know, on those issues and then also, yes, picking a fight with the national media. It's good for business in the GOP primary.

STELTER: Right. The only people to suffer are the voters even if they don't realize that it's bad for them. But as an example of Barnette, not answering questions from Zito is a crystal clear example of this problem?

Will, you just found an opinion column about this for the Inquirer. Do you view what's happening right now in Pennsylvania -- sorry, that's not the right one let's have that off the screen for a minute.

Do you view what's happening in Pennsylvania as part of a broader phenomenon, looking at Herschel Walker in Georgia avoiding debates, they're not just dodging reporters, they're also dodging debates so is this something bigger going on?

WILL BUNCH, NATIONAL OPINION COLUMNIST, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Yes, I think -- I think, Brian, we're really seeing an escalation in what started you know, seven years ago with Donald Trump and the whole enemies of the people routine.

And it started out as you know harassment and taunting them, journalists. And now look, we're seeing journal -- I mean, these scenes in Warminster yesterday, were kind of shocking to see reporters being banned and shut out of these events.

And, you know, I think you're right, it's certainly a base riling tactic. I think it -- but I think it speaks to a real authoritarian turn in the Republican Party you know that this -- I think Doug Mastriano is running for governor of Pennsylvania as a kind of a -- kind of a strong man.

And I think, you know, his war on the press is kind of essential to this strong man persona he's trying to play this is. This is -- this is -- this is an anti-Democratic candidate for governor like Holly mentioned in many of these --

STELTER: Are you just playing into his hands -- are you just playing their hands when you say this is authoritarian?


STELTER: Doesn't that actually just isn't exactly what they want is for folks like you to get all riled up about this?

BUNCH: Look, you know, the extreme right turn that the Republican Party's taking is one of the biggest things is happening in this country right now and I think -- you know, I think the media can ignore it and I think the media needs to -- needs to call it out for what it is and take the consequences.

I mean, this campaign needs exposure. Here -- this guy is three days away from winning the Republican nomination for Governor of Pennsylvania and people in Pennsylvania need to know where this guy stands.

They need to know that this guy, Doug Mastriano, is going to appoint a Secretary of State who, like him, is going to subscribe to Donald Trump's big lie who may not count all of the votes in the 2024 election.

I can't -- I can't think of any time when voters in Pennsylvania needed to be better informed about a candidate than they need to be informed about Doug Mastriano and that's what he's trying to prevent.

STELTER: To your point about the importance of this story, the Inquirer's editorial board came out with this editorial, here's the headline. We wanted to endorse in the GOP primaries this year but we can't.

And they say it's simply because these candidates are not operating in the same reality as the editorial board, so the left-leaning editorial board cannot be a candidate. Tell us more about this.

BUNCH: Is it a left-leaning editorial board or is the problem that we just can't agree on basic facts? I mean --


STELTER: Well, you usually endorses Democrats -- you usually endorses Democrats.

BUNCH: Well, now this is -- but this was --but, Brian, this is an endorsement among Republicans within the Republican primary, which they traditionally have done.


BUNCH: And then they could not do that because they made a decision. And I think this was a sound decision that they wanted to ask these candidates do you believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 election? And the majority of these candidates would not say yes. And that just made it a non-starter. It's like, why should we bring

these people in here if they can't even agree to the basic reality that Joe Biden got 70,000 more votes in Pennsylvania than Donald Trump did?

STELTER: Yes, right. Holly, the other big media angle in this race is the money being spent or the lack thereof, both in the gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania and the Senate race. You've got folks who are -- who are losing in the ad wars winning in the polls.

OTTERBEIN: You know, this is one of the biggest parts of this election, one of the biggest stories, I think. It's completely, you know, unusual and defies political logic.

You've got Doug Mastriano, who as of the beginning of the week had spent less than $300,000 on TV ads, that's practically nothing in a big state like Pennsylvania, compared to his opponents who, you know, have been spending millions and millions of dollars.

Same thing with Kathy Barnette, she's surged into contention -- into contention with Dr. Oz and David McCormick, she had spent at the beginning of the week about $140,000 On TV, while, as of McCormick, you know, and their allies have spent record-breaking sums.

So what's going on here? I think that this speaks to a few things, the power of right-wing media, you know, both Mastriano and Barnette, while you know -- especially Mastriano has really stayed away from the traditional press, Barnette has done, you know, I think a bit more interaction with it.

But nonetheless, they've both really, you know, made a name for themselves on right-wing media.


OTTERBEIN: And then also, I think this is a story about social media. On Facebook, you know, they get tons of interactions. There are Facebook groups that are dedicated to them that are fan groups and you know, they're kind of like volunteer armies spreading the message of these candidates.

I thought there was an analysis that was really, really telling which showed that Kathy Barnette only had about 40,000 followers on Facebook, Dr. Oz had 5.6 million, but this analysis showed that they had roughly the same amount of interactions and video views on Facebook. I mean, that is really telling.

STELTER: Wow. That's really interesting. On Tuesday, we're going to see if the polls were rightish or not. Will and Holly, thank you both.

Still ahead, the challenges of covering one of the most divisive and deeply personal issues in society, a reporter who covers abortion rights full time. He's going to join us from Texas in just a moment.



STELTER: Now let's take a look at the news media's role in the abortion debate. As leaks from the Supreme Court continue to come out here to signal that Roe v Wade will likely be overturned this summer, it is critical to cover what's happening at the state level as well, at state capitals and clinics, and hospitals.

The Press should scrutinize the people making the rules. Yes, but we should also be centering the voices of the people living under the rules and how their lives may change.

Washington Post national political reporter Caroline Kitchener is doing just that. Her entire beat is about the politics of abortion. And she joins us live from Corpus Christi, Texas. Caroline, tell us about where you are, what you've been working on there in Texas.

CAROLINE KITCHENER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you so much for having me, Brian. So I'm here in Corpus Christi, I've been spending the week in abortion clinics in San Antonio and now I'm here spending time in a crisis pregnancy center in Corpus Christi.

And I just knew, you know, when the leak happened and we knew that Roe was going to be overturned, I did a few spritzes from Washington and then I just really wanted to get on a plane.

I wanted to get to the people that were going to be most directly affected by this ruling. And Texas is the place because Texas has really been living in a post-Roe world since September. Abortions here have been outlawed after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most people know that they're pregnant. So I knew that I wanted to come here.

STELTER: How do you get women and doctors and activists to open up to you? But really the women who are debating whether to have abortions or who are going through it, how do you gain their trust to talk to them?

KITCHENER: I spent an enormous time thinking about this question. The first step for me is really gaining the trust of the abortion providers, talking to them, going to visit them at a time when abortion is not in the headlines and they're not completely inundated with media requests.


KITCHENER: They need to trust you. I mean, you're -- you go into these clinics and you're asking them to let you talk to people at what is for many, one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

So they need to believe and know and trust that you are going to treat that patient with empathy and compassion. And so that's really the first step for me is building that trust and then, you know, when I get in the room with a patient, I really -- don't take out my recorder right away, I don't take out my notebook --

STELTER: Yes. KITCHENER: I just sit there and explain, you know why I'm there. And ask them to tell me what brought them there that day.

STELTER: We're showing a video from the abortion rights rally that you attended yesterday in San Antonio.

Do you try to talk to men too? I don't want to give you my whole rant about how this is all you know about men, actually, because that's ridiculous but you know -- you know, it does take a -- take two people to make a baby happen and I get so frustrated that there's not more accountability on that side of the gender out.

But anyway, do you try to cover this from different directions in that way?

KITCHENER: I absolutely do try to talk to men. And there were a lot of men there yesterday marching through the streets of San Antonio, you know. And it's also typically outside of the abortion clinic the protesters are almost all men.

STELTER: They're so unwilling.

KITCHENER: And I try you know really hard to engage with them as well.

STELTER: It's the birds and the bees, right? We showed a headline that you had published, let's put it back on screen. And this was your headline the morning before the political leak happened.

So you were already writing about this. You wrote about this to The Post, it was on the front page that night about how anti-abortion activists want to make sure a nationwide ban passes.

So you've been out in front of this. Is that where the press should be focused on you know this is what's coming, expected, assume it's coming to a nationwide ban?

KITCHENER: I mean -- I mean, I think states are first. Everybody -- this is the frontline. All of these states.

I mean, 13 states are going to ban abortion right away when this decision comes down. And all of the people that I talked to on the national level are really adamant about that that the focus should be on the states first.

But we do know now, with this reporting that there are conversations that are happening behind the scenes in Washington.

Senators are getting together with leading anti-abortion advocates, and they're talking about the potential for a national ban.

Now, I don't think that's going to happen right away but I do think that we certainly will see proposals for a nationwide abortion ban before the midterms.

STELTER: And before I let you go, the number one point you want to make about the media coverage, what we need to make sure we do right in the days and weeks and months to come.

KITCHENER: I think that we need to be on the ground. We need to be in clinics. We need to be in pregnancy centers. This is where the front lines are and journalists should be here.

STELTER: Caroline, thank you very much for doing the work. Good to see you.

KITCHENER: Thanks for having me.

STELTER: Still ahead, Elon Musk. He's all thumbs up about the future of Twitter, maybe, but now he says his deal is on hold. Is he really just giving us all the middle finger? We're going to dissect that with Oliver Darcy in just a moment.



STELTER: So, is Elon Musk just trolling us again? This week started with an ominous tweet about Musk dying and ended with the potential death of his Twitter deal. He says his takeover is on hold blaming bots, but he claims to still be committed to the deal.

So what to -- what to make of this? Let's ask Oliver Darcy, he's here with me. We've both been watching this every day. He says he's worried about spam accounts and bots on the site.


STELTER: But he's linking to a two-week-old article from Reuters. Everybody knew this was a problem. He's acting like he just discovered it. Something's going on, seems like it's really about the money here -- about the money.

DARCY: I think like a good troll, no one knows exactly whether Elon is being genuine or not, and that's what makes him so effective and provocative.

I do think that this is probably -- I mean, you got to imagine the Twitter board of directors and they're trying to get this deal done and they're probably wondering what in the world is Elon, doing?


DARCY: Clearly it is bothering Twitter to some extent because Elon said over the weekend that they had sent a notice that he had broken NDA when he was talking about the sample size for determining trolls.

STELTER: I missed that. Did he tweet about that?

DARCY: He did.

STELTER: I missed that.

DARCY: He's tweeting about it a lot, Brian. You got to -- STELTER: OK. But the -- but the Twitter sent him an NDA. So that is


DARCY: Yes. So it's clearly bothering Twitter, his antics, but I'm not really sure what they can do about it, right? He's theoretically going to own the company so it's a --

STELTER: They don't have another buyer waiting in the wings.

DARCY: Right.

STELTER: And don't have anybody else that really wants to buy it.

DARCY: Right.

STELTER: All right, hard turn, but important. Today's New York Times front page has to be seen. This is a -- basically, a two-page front page showing the entire United States marketing 1 million deaths from COVID-19.

This is breathtaking, Oliver, to see this front page, we'll put it up in a sec, to show every individual black dot as a person who passed away. And it shows as much as some people might want to forget about COVID, it must be remembered.

DARCY: Yes. And I think this headline really captures it because it is immeasurable how many people have died and suffered because of the virus.

And I think as we do return to normalcy or at least a more normal world, it is important to reflect and remember those people, and it's really impossible, but the New York Times is doing a pretty good job I think highlighting it on the front page and saying really that this is immeasurable. We can't even do it ourselves.


STELTER: Right, miserable.


STELTER: Another hard turn, but at least something a little bit amusing. Tom Brady, going to Fox Sports, announcing he is going to be joining Fox Sports after he retires from playing football. And this is possibly the biggest deal for a television announcer ever in history.

DARCY: And he's not even a television announcer, right? He's -- he has no history announcing sports. But listen, this is a great coup for Fox. Right now, he's going to be the face of Fox Sports, he's the best quarterback, you know, whether you like him or not, he's the best of all time.

And so I think you know, this is going to really gin up a lot of interest in Fox Sports and him calling the games and it's going to be a good deal for them. And in the large scheme of things, you have to keep in mind the NFL is

a billion-dollar industry. They're paying him about $37 million a year. So while it's a lot, you know, I think Fox can afford it.

STELTER: It's actually in line with what makes sense given how valuable football is to television broadcasters.


STELTER: Oliver, thank you very much. Check out our nightly newsletter for more of all this. Sign up for free at And we'll see you right back here this time next week.