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Accountability Journalism in the Wake of Uvalde Attack; Media Highlights "American Divide" After Uvalde Attack; Afghan News Anchors On Taliban's Face-Covering Directive; President Biden Lands In Uvalde, Texas To Pay Respects. Aired 11a-:12p ET

Aired May 29, 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 try to figure out what's reliable.

This hour, all eyes on Texas for all the wrong reasons. Questions at the NRA convention. Why conspiracy theories are now blooming out of this convention? Can the press help get to the truth?

Plus, Fox boss Lachlan Murdoch, his dismissive response to Senator Chuck Schumer's plea for change.

And, later, why Afghanistan needs to stay in the news. Two Afghan news anchors are going to join us live from Kabul with word of another repressive Taliban ruling that could signal the faith of female journalists in the country.

But, first, breaking news this hour. President Biden about to land in Texas. It is his second trip to the site of a mass killing in as many weeks. The president and first lady will be landing in San Antonio this hour. Then they're going to board those helicopters and fly to the memorial site in Uvalde.

They will attend mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and they will meet with victims' families. CNN will have live coverage throughout the day. And we'll be watching to see if President Biden makes any remarks as he lands there in the next few minutes.

In Uvalde and beyond, people are searching for answers. People like Kimberly Rubio, a reporter at the local paper "The Uvalde Leader News."

The paper's front page this morning titled "They were smart, funny, loved." It shows the faces of the 19 murdered kids, including Rubio's daughter Lexi right there at the top. Lexi was 10 years old.

Her mom was at work in the newsroom when it happened. She learned about the shooting through the police scanner. And like every reporter, she's now asking questions.

She text-messaged her boss, the paper's publisher Craig Garnett, and said, why would someone murder my baby? Why would someone hurt my baby? Nineteen babies.

There's an ugly symmetry at work with that number 19. The press and the public were told on Friday that the number of officers that assembled in the hallway of the school, the number of officers that did not stop the gunman up to 19 officers. So, one for every child who was murdered, 19.

That's why this week's gut-wrenching news coverage has been so accountability-focused. Look at these front pages seeking strength and answers, reporters demanding answers at press conferences and elsewhere as Texas authorities initially sought to glorify the police response for days before coming clean.

As today's "Washington Post" says, the more reliable timelines emerging through official statements, 911 logs, social media posts, and survivors, interviews with survivors and witnesses. Videos from the scene were crucial. So were the accounts of eyewitnesses. Reporters poked holes in the government narrative and found startling contradictions.

So if survivors had not come forward, if video had not come out, if reporters had not pressed hard, would the police have fessed up? Would the truth have come out? And, wait, has it even fully come out? Or are the authorities still withholding information?

It's not just me asking. It's not just people thousands of miles away. It's Craig Garnett, the publisher of the "Uvalde Leader News".

He wrote this morning: It pains to write these words of criticism about law enforcement, but parents and the community have the right to know. He said they must be told why police whom parents begged at the scene to go in and save their children failed to act. He wrote: They have to know to ever begin to heal.

Live in Uvalde for us this morning is a local reporter on the scene, Stella Chavez. She's an immigration and demographics reporter for KERA news. That's an NPR station in Texas.

And here back in New York now is CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who was instrumental in getting answers at those press conferences earlier in the week.

Thank you both for coming on.

Shimon, first for you, after several days of questioning by members of the media, we finally started to get to the truth. But is there reasonably the Texas authorities are still withholding some information today?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. I don't think we have a full accounting as to what transpired in the minutes certainly leading into the school building and at that door when they say 19 police officers were in there, law enforcement officials, what exactly was going on, what were people saying, what was happening there?


We know who made the decision not to storm that classroom. It was the head of the school police. But there are still so many questions, why what he making this decision? What was going on? What were other officers thinking in those moments when this decision was made?

So there are still a lot of questions, particularly we need to get those radio transmissions where the police are talking to each other. What was being said in those raw moments of why they weren't going in? Were they instructed because there was gunfire that they needed to protect their own lives? Which goes against every protocol in active shooter situations.

STELTER: Do those transmissions always come out? Are they always public record?

PROKUPECZ: So, we can request them and we have. In some instances, they do. I'm not sure what the law is, but it's up to the police department there and the local officials on whether they want to release that.

But I think releasing that will give us a window into those moments when those officers are in that building. Also critical to know if the 911 -- we have all this information that 911 calls were being made by the children inside the classroom, begging for help, asking for the police to come in and help them.

Were those messages being relayed to the police officers on the ground? So that's something that we need to know as well.

STELTER: When you were at that Friday press conferencing noon Eastern Time when you heard the information that the police were out in the hallway for more than an hour, that they -- that the 911 calls were happening but maybe the police weren't finding out. What was going through your mind personally as you were shouting questions?

PROKUPECZ: So, you know, they came to me with the first question, and when I asked the -- after they went through the entire time line of the 911 calls and how many officers were inside, and when the Director Steve McCraw of the DPS, the Department of Public Safety, when I asked him what did the officers do to break into that door, and when he said to me, nothing at that time -- Brian, I couldn't believe it.

It was heart-stopping for me. It was just like someone punched me -- seriously like someone punched me in the stomach to hear that, to hear that nothing at that time, they did nothing in those moments, in those critical moments when they should've been storming that door.

By all accounts, every protocol in active shooting situations, you have to get to the shooter.

I was shocked. I knew a lot didn't make sense. I knew that something was wrong here. But I didn't know it was to me that it was this bad. And I was just shocked.

And the only thing I could do is say, why? But I didn't even know what else at that moment to ask or where to go because it was shocking to me that it was just nothing at that time.


Let's go to Stella who's in Uvalde today. And as we go to you, Stella, President Biden has just landed on Air Force One in San Antonio. He's about to helicopter toward where you are. And we're going to show everybody those scenes as we have them.

Does it matter at all, Stella, that President Biden is going there? To the families you're talking to, do they care? Do they want to hear from the president? Will anything help?


I think it depends on who you ask. I think that for the most part the families who were affected want to focus on their loved ones who were killed. And I think having the leader of our country come here and express, you know, his condolences is important to them.

But I also know, I've heard people say, you know, now is not the time for him to come here.

STELTER: Why is that?

CHAVEZ: I do know, at least at his schedule -- well, I think some people are worried -- are concerned about politicizing this event. And there -- I've heard a lot of outrage from people. But I've also heard from folks who say, you know, I don't want to focus on that on what could have happened, what should've happened, I just want to focus on the kids.

So, I mean, I would just say it depends on who you ask. But I do think it's significant that he's coming here, and especially so soon after another, you know, similar trip, you know, to Buffalo where a horrible mass shooting also happened.

STELTER: Right. Here we go again.

And we're going to wait to see if President Biden does speak when he gets off the plane in just a few minutes.

Stella, we're talking about the investigation and how the police misled the public at first. Governor Abbott saying he was misled as well. It was clear the reporters were getting the run around on Wednesday and on Thursday. Now it's Sunday, and you're there.

Do you feel like reporters are still getting the run around?

CHAVEZ: You know, it's been difficult this weekend because we're not getting as many updates. I came -- I drove in late Friday night. So, there were no -- I haven't attended an official press conference, if I will, like during the week my colleagues did.

So I would assume, you know, tomorrow -- although tomorrow's a holiday, but, you know, if there is an update, we'll see if they are going to answer any more questions.


I do know in talking with people that they want more answers.

It's still unfathomable to me that this gunman was in the school for 80 minutes or so and nothing happened, and that there were numerous calls being placed to 911, to parents. I talked to one girl -- a little, 10-year-old girl who was across the classroom from her best friends. And she was calling her parents.

So, it -- that to me is shocking and unbelievable. And I'm angry about it, too, like everyone else.

STELTER: Absolutely. And reporters shouldn't and can't hide the emotions when it comes to this story.

Shimon, one big unanswered question is about is that incident commander who you've mentioned. We've not heard from him since I think Wednesday in a printed statement. Have you all been trying to reach the police who were inside that school that day?

PROKUPECZ: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we still have crews out there and reporters and producers who are trying to reach out to them. And, you know, for us, this is all obviously a team effort.

And it's so important, Brian, you know, you and I were talking that subject matter experts, reporters who are subject matter experts, this is where I certainly have found it very helpful in asking the right questions and certainly our team here -- you know, my colleague Evan Perez and people who I can bounce things off of. You know, my producer --

STELTER: You need reporters who have done this before, who know what to ask.

PROKUPECZ: What to ask, Brian, and to zero in on specific, crucial, nuanced information because it is critical in a story like this to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. And some of that nuance is important, and having the good people to support you.

You know, my producer and I, Matt Friedman -- I mean, this was, you know, a very grueling, grueling days. But we just kept going at them, going at them, because we knew pieces of information were missing. And I think for all the reporters out there, you know, you started sensing that we weren't getting a complete story.

And, so, again, you know, every time the DPS officials would speak publicly, certainly in the beginning, we were getting different responses.

STELTER: Contradictions. And then you've got other folks going on TV saying, well, maybe some officers went to save their own children. There's a lot still unexplored here.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. And specifically the fact that so many kept changing from the beginning moments, which, like we were saying, Brian, there is still so much that we need to learn.

STELTER: Shimon, thank you. And, Stella, thank you very much for joining us.

We're going to stay on these images, continue to monitor President Biden's arrival in San Antonio. The big question is whether he's going to say anything to the press when he gets off the plane as he heads to Marine One, as he heads to the memorial site.

We have a lot more ahead including a live report from the NRA convention. We're going to get into the gun angle, and another mass shooting overnight in the United States. Details in just a moment.



STELTER: All right. President Biden has arrived in San Antonio and is boarding Marine One for a short flight to Uvalde for a day of memorial services and hours of meetings with victims' family members. He did not speak to the press on the way off air force one. We are going to see him now take this short flight to the scene of the crime. And we will see him again in just a few minutes.

We're going to briefly interrupt our coverage of the mass shooting in Uvalde to report on a new mass shooting in America. This time it's downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Six young people were shot overnight. Multiple people were taken to hospital for treatment. We don't know all the exact conditions. So far, no one has passed away.

As you know, CNN defines a mass shooting as one that injures or kills four or more people, not including the shooter.

Mass killings, like Buffalo and Uvalde, become national news. But many mass shootings do not. They just end up being local stories. This week's "Time" magazine cover is filled with all of the names of towns where there have been mass shootings so far this year.

And the common thread is not the police response or whether the doors were locked. The common thread is the destructive weapon, America's twisted relationship with the guns that also keep many of us safe.

The author of the story, Gary Wills, may have said it best. In the immediate wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, he wrote, quote, the gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails.

Wills described it like a child sacrifice over and over again to the god of the gun in America.

That, of course, brings us to this visual from the NRA convention and protesters demonstrating outside. "The New York Times" saying it spotlights an American divide with a gap on their views on what to do next.

With us now from the NRA convention is Steve Gutowski. He's the founder of a great website called "The Reload". He's a firearms reporter and a gun safety instructor who covers this beat every day.

And in San Francisco, Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of "Mother Jones", who wrote a new column titled "He Did Not Act Alone," saying the gunman in Uvalde did not act alone, he had many accomplices.

Thank you both for coming on the program.

Clara, all of the media attention about the police response and the hideous failures on Tuesday, do you believe it's distracting from the gun issue?

CLARA JEFFERY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: I think we need to be concerned about that in the long run. I mean, obviously, we need accountability for the parents and for the country as to why the response was so botched.

But if the overall narrative becomes that of a few failings of a few cops, that's a win for the gun lobby. These cops then become the bad apples, an exception to the good guy with a gun mythology.

And we know that's just not true. It wasn't true in Parkland. It hasn't been true in other schools and workplaces where there have been armed security.


We need to back up and take a look at the real issue, and that's how does an 18-year-old on his birthday legally buy a weapon of war with no checks, no training, no accountability of any kind? And so as much as we need to figure out what happened with the police, we need to keep our eye firmly on that ball.

STELTER: Stephen, I wonder how you react to what Clara said.

STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, FOUNDER, THE RELOAD: Well, I would strongly disagree on a number of points there.

Certainly, I do think there should be quite a lot of focus on the failings of the law enforcement response at the elementary school in Texas, because that very likely got a lot of people killed.

And I also do not believe that it undermines the idea that somebody can stop a situation like this with a firearm. And certainly they have repeatedly over time.

It's not a guarantee certainly, just as assault weapons ban is not a guarantee of preventing these shootings from happening, as we saw in Buffalo where there is an assault weapons ban, and the shooter bought his New York legal version of his rifle and modified it.

There's no single magic switch that you can flip, whether it's about hardening schools or banning guns, as people propose, that's going to instantly solve this problem.

STELTER: I agree with you, no magic switch. But if we can just reduce the number of deaths, shouldn't that be the goal, Stephen? I know you think (ph) that should be the goal. It's just about reducing the slaughter.

GUTOWSKI: Of course.



GUTOWSKI: Of course, that should be the goal.

STELTER: What do you think the media needs to do differently in covering guns? Stephen, you've been on this beat for years. That's -- I always rely on you for coverage of gun issues.

What does the rest of the media need to do differently? Or what should we do to be better when covering this beat, this issue?

GUTOWSKI: Yeah, certainly. I mean, I think the very base level, we need better literacy of -- about guns, about our gun laws, how they work, about the gun politics, why people oppose these sorts of restrictions that you often hear called for in the media.

I don't think that there is even a base level of knowledge that we have in our industry. And I think a large part of that is not just, you know, bias that people talk about, though that is an issue. But mainly, there's no beat, nobody covers this in our industry on a regular basis.

This is not something that's prioritized. And so, when there are events that happen like this, what you get is reporters who are general assignment reporters who don't have knowledge on the subject, and that's when mistakes get made constantly.

STELTER: Interesting. Clara, I wonder --

JEFFERY: If I can interrupt for a second.

STELTER: Yeah, please.

JEFFERY: Well, I would just like to say that we at "Mother Jones" have been covering this for more than a decade intensively. We have a vast repertoire of knowledge on this subject. And I think, frankly, most Americans have had to get up to speed with at least some of the broad outlines of gun laws and gun restrictions and views on guns.

But a central view on guns is that most people do not own a gun, most people, overwhelmingly, want universal background checks, want red flag laws, want to raise the age, at a minimum, for purchase of an assault weapon. And a majority of people want to ban assault weapons.

So, you know, I think this sort of shield of expertise that always comes up -- oh, if you don't know that an AR doesn't stand for assault rifle, then you have no business talking about guns. No, we're all parents, we're all citizens, we all have to go to school and to church and to temple and to the store.

We are all experts. We don't want to be. But that's what's happened because a small cadre of politicians, lobbyists, and manufacturers sell fear to their base, and that base then -- they're beholden to it.

And it's an anti-majoritarian system that we live in now where a tiny fraction of the American public with the most extreme views on guns is setting the policy agenda for the entire country at the expense of our children.

STELTER: Stephen, let me ask you to follow up on that. My impression is that all these debates about guns depend on what you think is possible. It's all downstream of trust.

So if you believe that people can be persuaded to change their minds and trust each other more and not feel so compelled to carry weapons all the time, then there can be major change in this country. But if you believe that this is a country that's lost all trust that, our social bonds have frayed, that we're never going to trust each other again, then you can't change the guns. You can change the gun debate.

Do you think I'm onto something there, Stephen, or does that sound crazy?

GUTOWSKI: I mean, yes, certainly, I think there's a level of distrust on each side of this issue that is deeply rooted and, frankly, extends well beyond the gun issue, obviously, into our general politics.


But, you know, of course, I'm not talking about you needing an expert level of education to comment on firearms. I think what we have issue in our industry is that we don't -- very, very rarely have even a base level, even an understanding of the difference between semi-automatic and automatic.

And these things matter significantly when you're trying to discuss policy responses to this and trying to explain to the audience what they would actually do and what the impact would really be.

So, that, to me -- to me, that's a big problem.


STELTER: Since you're there at the convention, here's the headline from "Politico" this weekend, -- it says at the NRA convention, conspiracy theories are abounding, People coming up with excuses and claiming this might've all been a plot to take away guns.

Are you hearing that from convention-goers, conspiracy theories about Uvalde?

GUTOWSKI: I haven't heard that, but obviously, that is something that circulates among some circles. I don't think it's a majority of people here, a majority of gun owners, but it's certainly reprehensible when you see somebody like Alex Jones, for instance, pushing insane conspiracy theories as a way to justify his views. And I think most gun owners would find that reprehensible.

STELTER: It gets into the trust issue, the lack of trust, if you don't believe even the basic reports. And, by the way, the Texas officials made it worse by misleading the public for days --


STELTER: -- they caused even more space for conspiracy theory to take root. They caused even more room for distrust and doubt. I don't think we're ever going to have folks agree on the basic narrative of what happened in that school because we were lied to for days.

Clara, last word to you, the media always gets in this rinse/repeat cycle. Usually five days after a mass shooting, we're starting to move on. I searched the transcripts on Fox this weekend. They talked about Uvalde half as much as MSNBC yesterday.

Already, there's a beginning of a move away from this story. Is there any way to change that? Do you see any -- any difference?

JEFFERY: I think that the American public is fed up. They've been fed up on this issue for a long time now. Now, how that manifests itself into sort of change that will come? Already, we're seeing governors in some states pass gun restrictions. So that's one thing.

But I think this really does call for a mass cry of grief from the American public, from parents, from people who want to go to a grocery store. We have to put the pressure on the politicians who are selling fear to make money and stay in power.

These conspiracy theories, sure they flourish in the dark corners of the internet. But they're also generated and fed by Fox, by the NRA, by politicians who want a base that they can activate on this one issue at the expense of everything else.

And, again, it's a small majority of people. It's a small majority of gun owners. This is not what most Americans want. And we need to unite to make change.

STELTER: Clara and Stephen, thank you both. I know we keep talking for a while here.

I want to take a quick break because I have standing by the author of "Children Under Fire," a book about exactly what happened on Tuesday. John Woodrow Cox is going to join us with insights about the ethics of interviewing victims and reporting on these horrible crimes.



STELTER: Why graphic images change the gun rights debate? Think about it. Normally, when national news outlets descend on the scene of an attack, we see victims, we see hugs, we see memorial services, and we see lawmakers go in and saying the same thing over and over again.

But what if we had to see the piles of dead bodies in the classroom? What if you had to see it? What if the lawmakers had to see it?

There's a growing debate about this among journalists. This week, Temple University's Journalism School Dean David Boardman brought it up. He tweeted that he could not have imagined saying this years ago, but it's time.

With the permission of a surviving parent, it's time to show what a slaughtered seven-year-old looks like. Many others chimed in on Twitter. They said they agreed with him. They said we cannot sanitize these killings. In the words of Vanity Fair's Charlotte Klein, some are questioning whether a more graphic approach is required.

To be clear, this is all theoretical. There are no such photos currently available from Uvalde. But joining us now is Washington Post enterprise reporter and author of Children Under Fire: An American crisis, John Woodrow Cox.

John, I know you've thought about this. There were questions about this after Sandy Hook, now there are once again. Should we see the dead piles of kids?

JOHN WOODROW COX, AUTHOR, "CHILDREN UNDER FIRE: AN AMERICAN CRISIS": You know, I'm conflicted. It's a thing that I often debate myself because I don't think people understand what bullets especially bullets fired from high-powered rifles do to children's bodies.

They destroy their bodies is what they do. Whether that's going to change the minds of Americans is one thing, but I think if you're a lawmaker who's going to vote against any sort of assault weapons ban if you're going to say the 18-year-olds should still be able to get these weapons, I think those people shouldn't be forced to see those bodies.

I think if they're going to make that choice and say that anybody should have access to those guns, then they should know the cost. They should know the price that children pay in graphic form. And if they can live with that, fine.


STELTER: Tell me about your beat because you have been covering this for years. You interview young victims. You talk to them months and years later about the trauma. What are the ethical balances -- the balancing act do you think about when speaking with children who have suffered gun violence?

COX: It's always hard, right? I'm always trying to balance the idea of not doing additional harm to a kid that I'm interviewing. The youngest child I've ever interviewed was four years old. He was a victim of a drive-by shooting in Cleveland. He was shot in the head. And it's always hard in kids of any age, teenagers, any age, it's always difficult. But what I find most often is that these kids are desperate to share their stories, they're desperate to be heard because oftentimes, the survivors are overlooked, you know. All of our headlines are about who died. And I understand that. Those are live that should be honored.

But we have never grasped in this country the scope of this crisis, not just school shootings, but gun violence in general. This is a thing that affects not hundreds or thousands of children but literally millions of children every year. And the vast majority, go over, look, they never had a chance to share their story.

STELTER: And when you hear these stories over and over again, what does it do to you as a reporter? I know there's a lot of newsrooms this week that have sent out information about mental health and have encouraged reporters who are covering this attack, to seek out counseling. Do you do that?

COZ: You know, I decided on Tuesday that I was going to go see a therapist for the first time, you know. The weight of having covered this for five years and having written a book about it, and having been immersed in these kids' agony for so long, it hit me as those numbers were getting bigger and bigger and bigger on Tuesday.

It is a hard thing but you know, it is also a privilege, and it's an honor, and it's a thing that we have to keep doing, you know. We have to keep at this. We have no choice as reporters but to keep telling me stories because that for me is the only way to wake up one more person or another person.

You know, one thing you said in the previous segment was that the goal should just be to reduce, right? The goal is not to get to zero.

STELTER: Trust me with this.

COX: We're not going to go from 45,000 dead last year to zero, right? But if we can go to 40,000 or 35,000, that matters, right? That is the thing that would make a difference.

So that's in my mind when I'm writing one more story, telling one more story of a child, if that can reach 10 people or 20 people, if it can convince a gun owner to lock up his gun, then, you know, maybe one life has changed, maybe one life has saved. And for me, you know, it's worth it to just keep doing it.

STELTER: So you don't -- you don't feel hopeless?

COX: You know, I do not feel hopeless -- I do not feel hopeless. And the reason being -- so I say this a lot, if the -- for a lot of Americans, the only form of gun violence that they care about is school shootings. You know, they don't care about suicides.

They don't care about children and black and brown communities who deal with chronic gun violence every day. They only care about school shootings.

And what I say is if the only thing you care about school shootings that the one thing after Columbine, if we had changed one thing and that was forcing gun owners to lock up the guns that they have, more than half of the school shootings in America since then would not have happened. If that was the only change we make.

That is something that would not infringe on anybody's Second Amendment rights. It wouldn't take anybody's gun away. It would just say you have to be responsible with the guns that you have.

That would save tens of thousands of children from having gone through school shootings, it would save a huge number of kids from being shot and maimed and dying. So there are things that could make a difference. I am not hopeful that we'll ever get to zero. Not in our lifetimes.


COX: But we could absolutely reduce the number. And that matters. That is worth it.

STELTER: That is. John Woodrow Cox, thank you. Thanks for being here.

COX: Thank you for having me. Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: The book is Children Under Fire, and it's nearly irrelevant. Be sure to listen to our podcasts this week. By the way, the guest is Sewell Chan. He's the top editor of the Texas Tribune. We talked about covering the massacre in Uvalde.

Coming up here, we're live to Afghanistan to expose the Taliban's newest order against women and against journalists telling the truth.



STELTER: In Afghanistan, a psychological prison. That's the term a CNN team heard from an Afghan news anchor as she described a new directive from the Taliban ordering women on the air to cover their faces.

At TOLOnews, the country's leading independent news channel, journalists are worried that the new rule is just the beginning of even more restrictive measures to come.

Joining me now are TOLOnews anchors, Farida Sial and Hamid Bahraam. Thank you both for coming on. Farida, do you believe the Taliban is trying to stop you from anchoring at all?

FARIDA SIAL, PRESENTER, TOLONEWS: Thank you so much. I think last week, the Taliban and some members come to our office and they announced the new order that the Taliban put on the womans -- and they put more restrictions on the womans and the state after this order, all the anchors of the TV's, they are obligated to wearing a mask during the appearing on the screen. So that was a very shocking order for us.

STELTER: Yes. SIAL: And we totally disappointed with this order of Taliban. So on that day, I remember that all of my female colleagues are crying and this was a very difficult for them to accepted this order.


SIAL: And now, we also have the same problem when we accepted this order.

STELTER: Hamid, you and some of your male colleagues joined in solidarity by wearing masks on the air, is there anything else you feel you and your male colleagues can do?

HAMID BAHRAM, PRESENTER AND HEAD OF THE FOREIGN DESK, TOLONEWS: I think that was the last thing that we could do something for our female colleagues.

And it was not something that we oppose the decree, it was something that there were so many misinterpretations of the decree and that's why we resisted.

Before that, we have seen that they order something on Hijab, a decree, where they asked the females in Afghanistan to fully cover their selves and not to show their body in the public or anywhere in the guy -- in the public.

But when it comes to mask-up, we started and we resisted because we knew that is not something related to Islamic, there's a misinterpretation of that one.

There was no any intention of opposing. We just wanted to show them that this is not Islam. And that's not the culture that we have to propose.

On the same day, with myself, along with my colleagues mask up and appeared on the screen in solidarity to our female colleagues. And that was the only thing that we could do and we proudly did that. And if needed, we'll do it again.

STELTER: Farida, do you fear for your life or your job because you're speaking out?

SIAL: Yes, we have fear and we are concerned about losing our jobs and as in about our security. Like, now we are obligated to bangle our face on the screens and this is -- I think this will be not the last decision of the Taliban about the women and the restrictions.

So I think my concern is that recently or in the coming months, the Taliban will be announced another order and they will be issued another decree to the women that they will be telling us.

This is -- just wearing a mask is not a best hijab, the best hijab is being a burqa, and all females are obligated to wearing a burkq. In these situations, absolutely, it's impossible that we are appearing with the burka in the -- in front of the camera in showing and presenting news. So and -- this is the big point that we will be lost to a job and in a

public life, this announcement will be removed us from the public life.

STELTER: Farida and Hamid, thank you both for coming on and sharing this important story with the world.

SIAL: Thank you.

BAHRAAM: Thanks for having us.

STELTER: They just want to report, just want to do their jobs like their male colleagues. All right, we have breaking news here. We're going to take a break, but we're going to continue to show you from Uvalde the scene where President Biden and his aides are landing in Uvalde.

We're going to watch to see if he speaks when he disembarks from the helicopter. More here on CNN live in just a moment.



STELTER: President Biden now arriving in Uvalde, Texas, you see the pictures live on your screen, Marine One pulling into a local base there. We're going to watch the president and the first lady as they disembark.

They have a busy schedule today in Uvalde because there are so many victims to meet with. There are so many family members to grieve with. President Biden, about to step out of the chopper, we will see if he speaks to reporters or not.

As we watch these live pictures, let me bring in CNN media analyst, David Zurawik. We've seen this so many times, Z, this performance by an American president after a mass killing, this time, of our children again. Do these images matter? And if so, in what ways do they matter, Z?

DAVID ZURAWIK, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Brian, I agree. We have seen them far, far too many times and it's so distressing to go through this time after time.

But that's the repetition of our inability to function as a country when it comes to these guns. There is also a ritualistic aspect connected to the Office of the President.


ZURAWIK: As a commander in chief and as a consoler in chief. So even though we've seen them over and over, that's the way ritual works in some ways.

And I think it's extremely important that he shows up, he and the first lady show up to extend -- not to extend condolences because that's one thing we should appreciate about Biden, there's a lot of issues with the presidency when -- the administration right now, but one thing is he is -- we use the word empathetic, it means nothing.

Biden feels our pain you know, the way Bill Clinton I think, said he feels our pain, and I think a lot of people felt they did. But this guy really does feel the pain of these people. He absorbs it. And I think this kind of ritual matters.

It really matters to some extent, but it's up against this sea of chatter on social media and everything that knocks it down. What we have to remember is that we do have rituals in this country and they can make a difference in people's lives.


STELTER: Do you perceive as I do, that the two -- the two Americans are talking past each other even already on this issue, even though the funerals haven't happened yet? People are talking past each other.

There's two different conversations going on in this country and Biden is a part of one of them, which is about guns. And then there's a different conversation, mostly among conservatives about everything except guns.

ZURAWIK: Brian, you're absolutely right. And that's the tragedy right now, or the great danger right now in this country, these two grief -- groups talking past each other. We can't agree on facts.

We can't even agree on feelings about the facts. We are so hopeless as soon as this happened. I mean, I think some people -- and you know, I'll give you an example, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, Kerr -- Steve Kerr had a legitimate real response at that press conference before the playoff game.

That's what one of the reasons that cut through and people really mattered.

I think Biden has real responses, but the polarized conversation from the right immediately starts in to create a narrative that says he's weak.

This is all an act by the left. They're trying to exploit guns for political reasons. And don't take away guns. This is not the result of guns, and then their argument about good people with guns --

STELTER: You're right.

ZURAWIK: Can stop bad people with guns, blah, blah, blah, that conversation. Brian, you're right. Within minutes of this, you could find that on the internet.

And I'll tell you what, social media, I hate it in this sense, it's part of the problem because immediately that said in and you know, there are people who can drive social media for political purposes on the right and the left, and that's part of this. STELTER: And then you end up wondering at the end of this horrible week, is it possible for anyone anywhere to have a moderate conversation?

ZURAWIK: I know.

STELTER: A conversation that respects existing gun ownership, particularly for self-defense, but restricts an 18-year-old from buying a murderous weapon after one of his late-night video game binges? And the answers are we guess it may not be possible to have that moderate conversation.

ZURAWIK: Brian, I think you're absolutely right. And that is so depressing to someone who's covered media for 40 years and thought.

I was working in the direction of helping to facilitate the conversation of American life, the Civic conversation of American life. We have so hopelessly lost any semblance of a conversation.

We just have people screaming at each other, in a way. And we -- I don't think we're going to get it back.

What happened? I think technology took off. We didn't think about it. We don't care about philosophy and ethics and all this anymore in the school, in the colleges, we have to learn a technical trade to make money.

We didn't think about the technology, Brian before it took hold of all of our major institutions. And now we're chasing technology, but we're too far behind it. You know, that's what's so distressing about Twitter.

STELTER: But to your point about social media, look at the headline on CNN. This is a scoop by the investigation team on Friday. The gunman threatened rapes and a school shooting on the Yubo app in the lead-up to the massacre. I have to admit, David, I had never heard of that app.

ZURAWIK: It meant to --

STELTER: I had never heard of that app where millions of people are gathering. And most of those folks are going to use it in completely appropriate purposes. And yet, there were digital crumbs, there was a digital bread trail here that wasn't followed.

ZURAWIK: Oh, absolutely. I saw that too and I went, wow, you know, and then I felt well, OK, I'm not the savvy -- maybe I'm not savvy enough to know where that -- where that site is, that platform is.

But there are -- that those conversations are taking place out there and we have not brought -- and you know, we talked about last time about regulating social media.

We can't even have that conversation, so the technology rules, and the people who can control it with money and resources, they're going to get power, and that's a very toxic combination for American life. And you know, you think, Brian, just you -- we, we could say, in memory of these children who were slaughtered, can't we just try to have a civil conversation with our best minds talking across the divide?

And the fact that we can, should depress us greatly but some people, I can guarantee you right now on social media, people are sniggering about this, do you know what I'm saying?

STELTER: That's right.

ZURAWIK: Oh, what things to think that you can -- you know? That was sad.

STELTER: America is --

ZURAWIK: That's what's wrong with us.

STELTER: Children are the victims of America's cold Civil War.


STELTER: David Zurawik, thank you for talking us through this. We're watching President Biden greet local officials on the tarmac in Uvalde, Texas. He is about to head to the memorial site and to a Catholic mass and to meet with the victims' families.

Those meetings are going to take hours so as we wrap up here and we turn to Dana Bash in Uvalde, the final words I want to read are from Kimberly Rubio, one of the parents of one of the dead girls.

Why would someone hurt my baby? Why would someone hurt her baby? We'll see if President Biden has answers.

For now, we'll turn to Dana Bash live in Uvalde for CNN's continuing live coverage.