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Scrutinizing Media Coverage Of The Supreme Court; Biden Speaks At G7 On Global Infrastructure Partnerships; The Escalating Threat Of Political Violence; Did June's 1/6 Hearings Made A Lasting Impression; Numerous Journalists Have Been Killed In Ukraine. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 26, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brian Stelter, live in New York. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and figure out what's reliable.

We are standing by for news from the G7 summit where President Biden is expected to speak at any moment. We will take you there live with Jake Tapper when it begins.

But, first, the never-ending argument over abortion access. Here are two "New York Times" front pages side by side. 1973, Supreme Court rules abortion legal in the first three months. Then, 2022, the same ruling overturned.

Forty-nine years of fights and prayers and medical advances and societal changes, and I am left wondering what will the front pages say in another 49 years? Will we be in the same conversation?

One difference between 1973 and today is real time data we have, searches for the word abortion were especially high this week in metro areas like Madison, Wisconsin, Kansas City, Missouri, and Salt Lake City, Utah, areas where the procedure is now banned.

This weekend, Google searches for the question, can I get an abortion are over indexing in those states where it is now illegal. Missouri, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, all the top of the Google trends data.

And "Axios" reports that the top queries related to abortion right now include, is it illegal? Abortion banned states, and abortion pill. Yet, searches for abortion pill are highest right now in red states, including some that have already banned abortion and others likely to follow.

So this data is important. It provides an insight into what people are searching for in the privacy of their own homes and it is buttressed by local reporting showing impacts of the bans. It is critical to have reporters in states telling these stories.

Quote, the end of Roe v. Wade is one of the most important stories of our lifetime, veteran health care reporter recently wrote. At its center she wrote the story of abortion is about medical and what happens when it is denied. Quote, it is attempting to focus on political battles but at heart it is about medical care and health equity.

Let's analyze the media coverage of the topic now with several great guests. Kate Smith is here. She's the former -- she's the senior director of news content at Planned Parenthood and a former CBS News reporter who covered reproductive rights.

Susan Matthews is here, news director at "Slate" and host of the podcast 'Slow Burn, Roe v. Wade".

And Sarah Longwell is here. Republican strategist and executive director of the Republican Accountability Project, publisher of "The Bulwark", and host of "The Focus Group" podcast.

Welcome to everybody. Thank you all for coming on.

Susan, your podcast is about 1973. It's about those decades ago.

Can you compare and contrast the media coverage back then with now amid the never ending argument?

SUSAN MATTHEWS, NEWS DIRECTOR, SLATE: Yeah. I want to start by saying something about the front pages you put up. The top headline on the day after Roe v. Wade came down was actually that Lyndon B. Johnson had died and it took precedent over the Roe v. Wade decision.

And actually, the justices knew it would be a big deal when they announced it but they had no idea it was going to be the controversy it is now.

They actually thought, Justice Blackmun said when he was announcing it, things are going to be unsettled for a little bit, but eventually, states are going to adjust and we're going to get back to just accepting this ruling. So, I actually think they would be very surprised to see the headlines we've seen this weekend.

STELTER: That we're back here right now.

MATTHEWS: Exactly.

STLETER: Sarah, you've been doing focus groups including in the wake of the ruling by the Supreme Court. So can you give us a sense from your conversations how important this news is or is not to the average American?

SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Yes, so I did a focus group with swing voting suburban women about a week after the leak. What was so interesting was we would ask people kind of an open ended question. What issues matter most to you? What's the most on your mind?

And very reliably, the answer was, the economy, health care. The economy, health care. Inflation, the economy, health care.

And only a couple people mentioned reproductive rights or Roe. And this was right in the wake of the leak.

But when you drill down, when you ask these women directly, how do you feel about roe being repealed, a lot of them identified themselves as pro life themselves, they were very alarmed by what they saw as government overreach, an attempt to regulate their bodies.

So what I took away from that is it is not sort of a top of mind issue for a lot of these voters unless you are able to make it a high salience issue, unless you're able to sort of prosecute this case, because then people feel very strongly about it. These women felt very, very strongly but it was not top of mind.

STELTER: Kate, what is your reaction to that? You now work on this issue full-time at Planned Parenthood. By the way, what do you do as news director of Planned Parenthood?

KATE SMITH, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF NEWS CONTENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: That's right. Well, we -- what we're doing and we have an exciting announcement soon, not yet, but what we're doing is we're basically trying to help our patients navigate through what is an incredibly chaotic time for public health.

I don't think there has been a larger seismic shift of the way health care gets delivered in the wake of this Supreme Court decision.

So, what we'll be doing is helping our patients navigate through that, understand what their rights. You know, I -- all of those Google searches you showed.


SMITH: There's a lot of bad faith actors on the Internet. I don't need to tell you that. So, we are trying to cut through that as well because we know on the ground, you know, this fight is far from over, right? It goes to the states. So, we have a long --

STELTER: Do you feel you have competitors so to speak at Christian pregnancy centers who do the same job you do encouraging people not to get abortions?

SMITH: Absolutely.


SMITH: They have been doing this for decades. Let's level set here. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 there has been an unrelenting 49-year battle for the news you saw on Friday.

So, you know, we are a little bit on our back foot. A little bit. But we're coming out there and we are competing with those people. We have the upper hand, right? Because doctors work at Planned Parenthood. They don't work at live action.

STELTER: Susan, let's take a big, broad question and I know it's a little bit unfair to be so broad. So, do you think the media is slanted in its coverage of Roe v. Wade and the aftermath? I mean, here is Kate, worked at CBS and now works for Planned Parenthood. Is the media as an institution biased on this issue?

MATTHEWS: I think the media is a lot of different things but I think the main thing I would say about this issue in particular is support for abortion has been consistent basically since Roe v. Wade. And a majority of Americans actually want access to abortion care.

And so, you get into a situation with the media where one side actually represents a majority view of what voters want, Americans want, then you have a small minority of people who have really strong views on this issue and they've been doing so many things as you're saying, as Kate has been saying, to make their views the dominant ones, to be top of Google searches, influence the Supreme Court, to all of this.

So, you have this back and forth.

STELTER: So, think about this in the coverage in the last couple days. Kate, I see all the split screen images. You know, one person cheering, one person jeering. I see tears on one side and I see celebration on the other. That's 50/50 split.

Isn't that actually misleading? Is that actually distorting?

SMITH: Absolutely, Brian. That is a complete distortion of the facts that we know about how people feel about abortion access and specifically the legality of abortion.

We know that eight in 10 Americans want abortion to be legal. So, when you put the split screen up of one person who loves it and one who hates it, well, that's completely ignoring the facts.

STELTER: Which to be fair we are doing right now.

SMITH: Well, where is your news director? I'm kidding.

STELTER: It's all me, it's all me. I choose the videos.

But I did this on purpose because I think this is part of the issue. New CBS polling from your alma mater today, abortion in your state should be what? Nine percent of Americans say illegal in all cases. The rest say either illegal in most cases, legal in most cases, or legal in all cases.

But only 9 percent of Americans say it should be completely illegal in their state.

SMITH: And yet we have states doing exactly that. Before the roe ruling, we saw Oklahoma pass a ban on abortion at fertilization. I mean, how many Americans agree with that? It's ridiculous.

STELTER: Sarah, how does this sit with you as a Republican strategist, someone who maybe more tuned in to conservative media than Kate or Susan. How do you read this?

LONGWELL: You know, I think one of the things I've seen, I've been a Republican for a long time but ever since Donald Trump, I have watched this Republican Party radicalize and become more extreme but right now, there are a number of governors who are the Republican Party candidates in states like Pennsylvania with Doug Mastriano where they believe in absolutely no exceptions in the case of rape, incest, life of the mother.

And I think that, you know, the task for Democrats is really sort of prosecuting that case broadly of extremism against these Republicans because they are out of step with where sort of the average person is who does want some restrictions on abortions but doesn't want total restrictions on abortions.

That is what I see in the focus groups from the swing voting women. The idea of a total restriction really sits poorly with them.

STELTER: So, three more notes of the media coverage. First, let's just acknowledge, "Politico" was right. That scoop, the scoop of the century getting that opinion, they were right.

Number two is really interesting and a big debate inside of newsrooms. A lot of guidance went out to a lot of newsrooms this week, saying, hey, journalists, be careful. Don't take sides. Don't put something on Twitter you might regret.

Did that happen at "Slate" for example?

MATTHEWS: That certainly did not happen at "Slate".


"Slate" I think does not have that point of view, which I am grateful for.

STELTER: OK. But what do you think of the newsrooms that do, "New York Times" and others, hey, let's be very careful here to make sure we're objective in this coverage of this issue?

MATTHEWS: So, as a journalist, I obviously understand the desire to be objective in the sense that makes you trustworthy. I think the other issue here is when you think about what is happening now and it has not happened since 1973, before Roe v. Wade newsrooms were basically run by men. The reporters were men. They didn't actually face the issue of how to deal with this.

STELTER: This just caused the problem. All the coverage of the topic, no one ever talks about sex. They don't talk about the men in this story. It drives me crazy. I'm sorry.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, I just wanted to note that when the action was happening to liberalize abortion rights it was a time when women were becoming doctors, lawyers, and also journalists.

I talked to a woman who worked for the women's section of "The Miami Herald" in 1971 and she said that her beat had been the four F's, food, fashion, furnishings and family, and she got a story where someone was being prosecuted for manslaughter, for abortion and she was like I get to approach this as a real story.

I understand. She went and talked to OB-GYNs and did her reporting differently so I think is this objective is a question we still have to answer.


SMITH: You know, I completely understand why if you are the dedicated reporter covering this why you need objectivity both in and outside of the newsroom.

STELTER: Did you? Did you?

SMITH: Absolutely. I stand by that.

STELTER: You did?

SMITH: Yeah. Because look, you know how I feel about this. I think abortion should be legal. So, I tried extra hard to make sure I was doing a lot of both sides in my journalism.

Brian, I'll be honest. I look back on some and I think I went too far in giving some of the antiabortion folks more air time and a little bit more faith than they deserved a lot of the time.

But to go back to your question, if you're that reporter, it's important. What if you're not that reporter? What if you're just a random person in the newsroom?

I think what newsrooms need to remember here is that 1 in 4 people, 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. So, when they are telling their reporters you can't talk about this, well, how many reporters are in the newsroom because of an abortion, because they were allowed to have control over their bodies, right?

So I think it is, the newsrooms really need to think about this and how the economic impacts of abortion and how unfair it is they are telling their reporters, hey, like, not for you. You can't talk about that.

STELTER: This is the big inside the newsroom debate right now about what people can and cannot be saying online.

Sarah, one more note about the media. Does the press have a giant blind spot about religion? So much of this topic is about religion. You know, it is about certain, not all religion, right? Specifically Christianity.

And yet I don't hear as much about that in the television coverage as I think maybe we should.

LONGWELL: Yeah. I mean, it is certainly a key to understanding. I think there is a sense women are kind of monolithic and would all be sort of pro choice because this is an issue that protects them.

But it's funny, in the focus groups, when I talked to women who voted for Donald Trump they were very conflicted about voting for Donald Trump. One of the number one reasons I heard about why they chose to do it is because they were a Christian, pro-life, conservative.


LONGWELL: And that was the kind of thing that kept them voting for Republicans even when they were very uneasy about sort of all the other baggage that came with Donald Trump.

So I think sometimes when you are not aware of how important that can be to somebody's identity you can miss why a woman you might assume would vote for a Democrat actually wouldn't.

STELTER: Religion is a big piece of the story. I think we've got to make sure we show all of these pieces.

To the panel, thank you very much. Sarah, please stick around. More with you in a moment.

Important note here from "The Los Angeles Times" before we go to break. Rough treatment of police -- rough treatment of protesters as well as journalists by the LAPD.

Pretty disturbing the way some of the reporters were treated when out covering the protests this weekend.

After the break we're going to have frank talk about political violence in the U.S., plus standing by for news from the G7 Summit. President Biden is expected to speak at any moment.


TAPPER: Some news happening now at the G7. President Biden about to speak and announce a new global infrastructure investment initiative.

For more, let's go to CNN's Jake Tapper. He's there on the ground standing by for the president -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. That's right. The G7 partners have a lot on their plate and obviously want to avoid global recession. They want to figure out how to dissuade Russia's muscle flexing and attacks on the Ukrainian people.

But right now, the seven leaders have come out to talk about a global infrastructure initiative. This is in no small part aimed at taking on and challenging what China is doing with its Belt and Roads Initiative.

China developing throughout the world infrastructure, although the U.S. and G7 partners say this project which I think there is about $200 billion in grants other forms of infrastructure investment, this project will not leave all the other countries in China's debt. So it is an attempt to make the case to these developing nations don't

get into bed so to speak with China because they are just going to own you because of all the debt you'll accrue in the infrastructure they build in your country.

We are here to help you out as a G7 partners, trying to look at the world more broadly and holistically as a way to have democracies engage in the developing world beyond the way that they're doing.


So, right now, let's listen to President Biden. He just walked up.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nations and our world stand at a genuine inflection point in history. Technology has made our world smaller, more immediate, and more connected.

It's opened up incredible opportunities but also accelerated challenges that impact on all of us -- managing global energy needs, taking on the climate crisis, dealing with the spread of diseases.

And the choices we make now in my view are going to set a direction of our world for several generations to come. These challenges are hard for all of us, even nations with resources of the G7.

But developing countries often lack the essential infrastructure to help navigate global shocks like a pandemic. So they feel the impact more acutely and they have a harder time recovering.

In our deeply connected world, that is not just humanitarian concern. It's an economic and security concern for all of us. That's why one year ago when this group of leaders met at Cornwall, we made a commitment the democratic nations of the G7 would step up, step up and provide financing for quality, high standard, sustainable infrastructure in developing and middle income countries.

What we're doing is fundamentally different because it is grounded on our shared values of all those representing the countries and organizations behind me. It is built using the global best practices, transparency, partnership, protections for labor and the environment.

We're offering better options for countries and for people around the world to invest in critical infrastructure that improves the lives, their lives, all of our lives and delivers real gains for all of our people. Not just the G7, all of our people.

Today, we officially launched the partnership for global infrastructure and investment. We collectively have dozens of projects already under way around the globe. I'm proud to announce the United States will mobilize $200 billion in public and private capital over the next five years for that partnership.

We're here today because we're making this commitment together as a G7 in coordination with one another to maximize the impact of our work. Collectively, we aim to mobilize nearly $600 billion from the G7 by 2027. These strategic investments are areas of critical to sustainable

development and to our shared global stability, health and health security, digital connectivity, gender equality and equity, climate and energy security.

Let me give you some examples of the kinds of projects that are under way in each of these areas. First, health. Two years ago, COVID-19 didn't need any reminders about how critical investments in health care systems were and health security is.

Both to fight the pandemic and to prepare for the next one because it will not be the last pandemic we have to deal with.

That is why the United States together with the G7 partners and the World Bank are investing in a new industrial scale vaccine manufacturing facility in Senegal. When complete, we'll have the potential to produce hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine annually for COVID-19 and other diseases.

It is an investment that will enhance global vaccine supplies as well as improve access and equity for developing countries. Second, the digital area. Our economy's future increasingly depends on people's ability to connect to secure information and communications technologies.

We need to strengthen the use of trusted technologies so that our online information cannot be used by autocrats to consolidate their power or repress their people. That is why the digital invest program is mobilizing $335 million in private capital to supply secured network equipment in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The U.S. government also supported the successful bid by an American company sub-com for a $600 million contract to build a global subsea telecommunications cable. This cable will stretch from Southeast Asia through the Middle East and the Horn of Africa to Europe.


This will be essential to meeting the growing demand for reliable, security, high tech connectivity in three key regions of the world.

Third, gender. When women and girls have the ability and the opportunity to participate more fully in those societies and economies, we see positive impacts not only in their communities but around the -- across the board.

We have to increase those opportunities for women and girls to thrive including practical steps to make child care more accessible and affordable as we continue the vital work to protect and advance women's fundamental rights.

The United States is committing $50 million over five years to the World Bank Global Child Care Incentive Fund.

This public/private partnership supported by several G7 partners will help countries build infrastructure that makes it easier for women to participate equally, equally in the labor force.

Fourth, and very important, climate and energy. We're seeing just how critical this is every day. The entire world is feeling the impact of Russia's brutal war in Ukraine and on our energy markets.

We need worldwide effort to invest in transformative, clean energy projects, to ensure that critical infrastructure is resilient, to changing climate.

Critical materials are necessary for a clean energy transition including production of batteries need to be developed with high standards for labor and environment.

Fast and reliable transportation infrastructure, including railroads, and ports, is essential to moving inputs for refining and processing and expanding access to clean energy technologies.

For example, the U.S. government just facilitated a new partnership between two American firms and the government of Angola to invest $2 billion in building a new solar project in Angola.

It is a partnership that will help Angola meet its climate goals and energy needs while creating new markets for American technologies and good jobs in Angola and I suspect throughout Africa.

And in Romania, the American company new scale power will build the first of its kind small, modular reactor plant. This will help bring online zero emission nuclear energy to Europe, faster, more cheaply, and more efficiently.

The U.S. government is hoping to advance the development of this groundbreaking American technology, which will strengthen Europe's energy security and create thousands of jobs in Romania and the United States.

These deals are just some of what is in store. We're ready to get to work together, all of us, to lead efforts, to lead U.S. efforts, in my case. I appointed Amos Hochstein, my special presidential coordinator, to deal with the rest of our colleagues.

I'll lead the U.S. whole of government approach to drive the coalition and collaboration with G7 and countries around the world including multi-sector and multilateral development banks.

I want to be clear: this isn't aid or charity. It is an investment that will deliver returns for everyone including the American people and the people of all our nations. It'll boost all of our economies.

It is a chance for us to share our positive vision for the future and let communities around the world see themselves and see for themselves the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies, because when democracies demonstrate what we can do, all that we have to offer, I have no doubt that we'll win the competition every time.

Thank you. Now, I invite President von der Leyen to the podium. TAPPER: So, there you heard President Joe Biden standing with the G7

partners, the other six countries, plus Ursula von der Leyen from the European Commission, talking about what is called at the summit a deliverable, in other words, they don't have these summits and nothing gets accomplished.

Usually, in the months if not years leading up to it they arrange what is going to be announced at a summit such as this one.

This is one of the primary deliverables, which is a $600 billion investment by the G7 partners, $200 billion of that from the United States, in investing in infrastructure around the world.

You heard the president, President Biden talking about solar investment, nuclear investment in countries such as Angola. There is a lot more these leaders have to discuss of course, Brian.

They have as you heard a lot of Russia and Ukraine on their minds. Russia of course being responsible in many ways for high energy prices around the world and, of course, there are fears of a global recession so they'll be talking about ways they can improve when it comes to the inflationary pressures, when it comes to supply chain pressures, and the like.

But that -- what we just saw, Brian is basically the number one deliverable for the day, which is $600 billion for the United States and the G7 countries to combat what China is doing in investing in infrastructure around the world. This would be the G7s way of countering that, Brian.

STELTER: Jake, thank you so much. And we will see you again, on "STATE OF THE UNION" here at the top of the hour. The specter of political violence is now a daily story in the United States, every single day. Political scientists, folks who study this subject for a living say they see lots of warning signs that it's getting worse, that the country is at risk of a downward spiral. So it's imperative for the news media to take these threats seriously.

This month, as seen extremists were caught with a riot gear near a pride parade in Idaho, an unstable man arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh's home, and charged with attempted murder, and so many other examples.

Thankfully, they usually don't boil over to physical violence. But look at this episode. It easily could have. Republican lawmaker Dan Crenshaw is being harassed by far-right guys who tried to pick a fight with him.

Violent imagery is the theme of this new campaign ad by disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. He's running for Senate now. And wielding a gun and saying he's going hunting for fellow Republicans who've disappointed him. It's that threat of violence that is so egregious, and it can succeed in getting people to sit down and shut up.

Outside Houston, for example, an Iraq war veteran, a professional soccer player was going to be the grand marshal for a local Fourth of July parade until conservative commentators on the web attacked her support for gun control and her comments in favor of transgender rights. She withdrew from the parade citing threats.

Here's another one from outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Restaurant owner faces threats after hosting a drag show. The internet makes it all too easy to intimidate others to spread fear and maybe cause some people to back away from the public arena altogether.

We heard about that, at one of the most recent January sixth hearings held Donald Trump triggered harassment of poll workers. Some of the lawmakers investigating Trump's coup attempt have beefed up security because they are facing so many threats now.

And, of course, January 6 was a glaring example of political violence, people using force to try to get their way.

The Supreme Court's ruling against abortion may be used as an excuse for even more unrest. Right-wing media outlets and stars have been stoking fears of left-wing mass violence as this report notes. Fox and News Max warned that leftists were planning a night of rage.

These banners said things like the left is threatening violence against justices. Thankfully, that has not materialized. Protests have been almost entirely peaceful this weekend. But on Saturday, Fox naturally highlighted "anarchy" by pro-road demonstrators in Arizona.

Christian pregnancy centers places that oppose abortion and encourage women to give birth have been targeted by vandals in several states. And right-wing outlets say the rest of the media is not paying enough attention to that.

Conversely, there was the Democratic senator candidate allegedly hit in the face by her Republican rival in Rhode Island on Friday. And in Iowa, a driver of a truck hit abortion rights protesters. Political Violence can never be treated as normal on any so-called side.

But if each side only highlights criminality by the other side, where does the U.S. end up? In a downward spiral where violence begets more violence, where it becomes normalized, and where we all suffer.

Media outlets have to connect these dots. It is an essential story right now. So let's talk more about it with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, Republican strategist Sarah Longwell, publisher of The Bulwark, and Tom Nichols, contributing writer at The Atlantic. Tom, all of this violence, these threats, these ads, what do you think is causing it? What's at the core of this?

TOM NICHOLS, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I think there's a complex relationship here between the internet which lowers the cost of making threats that you know, anyone sitting with their phone or in front of a desktop can simply dash off the angriest thing that flashes through their mind in a matter of seconds. I think that's part of it. But I also think two other really disturbing things are happening.

One is that there are people in positions of leadership like Donald Trump and others who have normalized this, who have made this kind of call to violence can seem like a normal part of American life that, you know, in a -- in a -- in an earlier time, these people calling for this kind of violence doing these stupid ads like Greitens with, you know, very menacing imagery. That would have been -- that would have generated a lot of public disapproval even within their own parties. But I think at the end of it --

STELTER: Right. Shame -- they will be shamed out of it. That's right.

NICHOLS: Yes, they would have been -- I mean, shame me, you know, serves a function in public life and now we have become -- certainly people like Greitens and others just a shameless society in that regard.


NICHOLS: But also, I think there are people now gravitating toward violence because they think it will give their lives meaning because they want to be involved in the great drama of events. You saw this with the -- with the guy that was going after Justice Kavanaugh. He had -- he said, point-blank, I was looking for meaning in my life.

And I think that there are more of those folks out there than we might want to believe. You saw that with a lot of the January 6 people, you know, I wanted to be part of something important, I wanted to be at the center of major events, and that makes people very vulnerable to calls for violence.

STELTER: Very interesting. Let's put up on-screen data from the Center for Strategic International Studies. They found that in 2020, most attacks, and political violence-related demonstrations were conducted by violent far-right perpetrators.

In 2021, most of the attacks were orchestrated by violent far-left individuals. I imagined the situation, Sarah, where it just gets worse and worse.

The right sees what the left does, the left sees what the right does, those partisan outlets only cover with the other side is accused of doing and so we go down this downward spiral. Does this come up with you -- in your focus groups of voters, does this come up in your coverage of The Bulwark?

LONGWELL: All the time. I mean, one of the most sorts of pernicious impacts of political tribalism is the inability to hold your own side accountable and to think that the problem is always on the other side.


LONGWELL: So whenever I asked Republican -- whenever I asked Republican focus groups about, you know, the violence on January 6, the answer always inevitably, is what about. What about the Black Lives Matter protests?

You know, what about all the left-wing violence them showing up in Judges' houses? And so they'll say -- and they'll say something like, the one time it was Republicans, you know, everybody focuses on it.

It says there's real -- this is really the sense of being able to sort of excuse your own side while saying the problem is really on the other side. And I think that as long as we do that, as you note, you're in this kind of vortex of backlash is where people treat violence on their own side as, like a one-off and violence on the other side as embedded in the culture of what that site is.

STELTER: Exactly. That's exactly what I'm seeing happening in partisan media. Ron, I think this relates to your most recent column for The Atlantic. It's titled America is growing apart possibly for good.


STELTER: Tell us -- you published this a few hours before the Supreme Court decision. And then the Supreme Court decision reaffirmed it because now there's a big glaring difference between blue states and red states that didn't exist as dramatically before.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, here --

STELTER: Haven't you been writing -- haven't you been writing these columns for decades, though on?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, I've been writing -- I've been writing about the widening gap between red and blue America, certainly for 15, 20 years. And for the last decade, I think after the 2012 election.

I wrote about the coalition of transformation and the coalition of restoration, which essentially, is that the fundamental dividing line in our politics is between those voters in places who welcomed the way the country is changing demographically, culturally, economically, and those who fear it and feel marginalized by it.

And the -- and the big story, Brian, is that you know if you look at 20,000 feet for the middle decades of the 20th century at a broad level, America was converging.

The differences were narrowing between what we now think of as the red states and the blue states, both in terms of the opportunities for their citizens and especially for the rights that everybody enjoyed.

Now, we are clearly moving in the opposite direction. And Roe is the symbol of what I believe is a fundamental attempt by the axis of Republicans controlling the red states, the Republican majority on the Supreme Court and Republicans wielding the filibuster in the Senate to reverse a race, rollback the rights revolution of the 1960s, which, you know, started with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the one man one vote decision, Griswold on contraception, interracial marriage, abortion, later same-sex relations and marriage, basically reducing the ability of states to constrict and rollback -- and restrict fundamental national rights.

We're now clearly moving in the opposite direction toward an era of what I call the great divergence between red states and blue states. But even that, I think is a way station. I think the evidence is overwhelming that this axis, their goal is to

impose the red state program on the blue states as well and to bring us to a point where these values drive national policy on abortion and civil rights and other issues, whether or not there is majority support for them. And that's, of course, how it ties into Trump's efforts to overturn the election.

STELTER: Right, the divergent is this pulling apart. Conservatives talked about national divorce. That's the context for what we've gone through this week with the Supreme Court.

Sarah, I think I might lose your satellite feed in a couple of minutes so I want to ask the question before the break about a slightly different topic.


STELTER: You -- we topic -- we've been talking about your focus groups, and you have a really interesting finding from one of your focus groups about Donald Trump. Tell us what you found about the 1/6 hearings and what those voters -- what those voters are paying attention to.

LONGWELL: Yes. Look, going into the 1/6 hearings, I think one of the big questions was would it matter? You know, would it break through to voters? And I found two things that I thought were really interesting in the two Trump-voting focus groups that we did after the hearings began. The first one was that people knew that the hearings were happening, you know, and that's not always the case.

I remember when, you know, the Kevin McCarthy tapes leaked, and everybody in Washington was talking about it and I went into the focus groups the next day and said, what do you guys think about the Kevin McCarthy tapes, and everyone gave me blank stares.

They had no idea what I was talking about. And so everybody in these focus groups were aware of the hearing, some people had watched part of the hearing, but they mostly thought it was a dog and pony show, you know, it was a -- it was just an attempt to get Donald Trump.

But the most interesting thing to me was I have done dozens and dozens of focus groups since January 6 happened. And in every single focus group of Trump voters, at least half the group has always wanted to see Donald Trump run again in 2024. He still had that committed base.


LONGWELL: In these two groups is the January 6 hearing, zero people in either group wanted to see Donald Trump run again. And so there's the question for me is, it's not that the hearings are convincing these people that they don't like Donald Trump because they're not really watching them.

But the question is, you know, it makes -- Donald Trump's a lot to defend, and it sort of reminds people A., that he will not let this 2020 thing go, which I think is becoming sort of boring and tiresome to some people and also, they want to move past the conversation about January 6 and so I think for some voters, that also means moving past Trump.

And it helps I think for Republican voters because I've been pretty skeptical of this Trump's grip, you know, is slipping on the GOP.


LONGWELL: But I do think it helps that there are other people, other candidates that these voters are excited about, you know. They're really excited about Ron DeSantis, they like Kristi Noem and Tim Scott, and so they've got people that maybe they want to move on to and so I think that's also playing a role.

STELTER: I think we might remember this conversation a year from now. Let's find out. Sarah, we're going to let you go get brunch, more with Tom and Ron in just a moment.

And later this hour, really important story of follow-up to the death of Ukrainian photojournalist Maks Levin. His partner is going to join us live with new information about his death.



STELTER: This month, January 6 hearings have wrapped, and the proverbial show will continue in July. Donald Trump's media allies say these are show trials, and worse, there's all sorts of name-calling, but Fox notably did show the daytime hearings live.

Of course, throughout the rest of the media, you've seen this hearing going viral, short clips on social media. The committee has tried to be very media-savvy about the way it is rolled all this out.

But there's still a nagging question about how much has broken through to the average American, left, right center, or whatever.

Let me show you some fascinating rating charts that tell a story about the state of the country and about television viewership. This is June 16, the red line is Fox. You see the ratings decline when the hearing starts to air, the ratings snap right back to normal when the hearing is over.

On the other hand, viewership for both CNN and MSNBC dramatically increased during the hearing. Here's another example. This is June 23. These are even more detailed minute-by-minute ratings. You see there up and up and down. Fox declines dramatically.

The audience craters when the hearing is on, but then all the viewers come back at 5 p.m. for that 5 p.m. talk show because Fox went back to regular programming. So that's the reality, right? Fox's audience turns off the hearings.

And yet, as Sarah Longwell said in an earlier block, the information does seem to be seeping through. Her impression from focus groups with Trump voters is that information from the committee's findings is reaching Trump supporters.

Let's talk more about this with back with me, Tom Nichols, contributing writer at The Atlantic, who recently wrote about Trump voters' voices, and Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor, the Atlantic and a senior political analyst for CNN.

Tom, your headline at The Atlantic was, what are Trump supporters are so afraid of? Tell me -- tell me what you were trying to get out there.

NICHOLS: Part of the problem and this links back to what we were talking about with political violence is cognitive dissonance is really a difficult thing to bear. And what they're afraid of is being confronted with the reality of what happened, the reality of Donald Trump and in his own words, and Trump officials in their own words, basically affirming to them that they've been lied to, that they were conned, that they -- that they were taken to the cleaners.

This makes them really uncomfortable and they will turn off the television, shout down conversations, you know, just react with anger because that's kind of a normal human thing to do when you find out how wrong you've been.

And I think that's one of the things they're afraid of in this whole period, where Congress is just -- instead of speechifying, Congress is just saying, OK, here's Bill Barr, here's Ivanka Trump, here's, you know, the three of the top guys in the Justice Department.


NICHOLS: It's really hard for them to bear and I think it makes them deeply uncomfortable and provokes them to anger.

STELTER: Interesting. Ron, have you watched all these hearings?


STELTER: Do you feel that the committee did enough to convey this was a present tense and future story, not just about one bad day in January, but an ongoing threat? Did that message come through?


BROWNSTEIN: I think it came through about Donald Trump that Donald Trump is an ongoing threat to American democracy. I think it's hard -- the committee has not tied in what he is doing to what's happening in the red states with the rollback of voting rights and even more threateningly with the legislation that enables more partisan manipulation and interference in the tabulation of votes. You know, it's interesting, this question of whether the -- you know, the committee is reaching enough Republican voters.

Look, we know from polling very consistently over the two years -- over the really the six years, you know, since Trump emerged, roughly 75 percent of Republicans are firmly in his camp. I mean, that, you know -- but there are 20 to 25 percent of

Republicans, depending on the question, who deny that the election -- disagree that the election was stolen, who believe that Trump does bear a lot of culpability for the January 6 attack, and also even say that he should be prosecuted.

Those voters have enormous potential leverage in the Republican Party. I mean the voters who do not support the direction, to the anti- democratic direction that the Trump faction is taking the party.

If they basically said I am not you know willing to go down this road, there will be a lot more pressure on Republican elected officials not to do so. But the fact that they are willing to give their votes to Republican elected officials who enable and support and drive forward, operationalize Trump's big lie, basically means that all the pressure on the party comes from one side, comes from the Trump side.


BROWNSTEIN: And that is you know what Sarah -- you know what Sarah -- I -- you know, I'm sure if she was here she would say that for Republican voters who feel that Trump is taking the party in a dangerous direction, and anti-democratic direction, or racist direction, they would say, well, the Democrats are a bigger problem so I still have to vote for Republicans.

We saw that from Rusty Bowers who say he would -- he would vote for Trump. Until those voters who disagree with this direction to disagree with the anti-democratic actions take action, the party will continue to move into Trump's direction.

STELTER: Ron and Tom, thank you both. Good to see you both. Up next here, a loved one pursuing the truth about her partner's death in Ukraine covering the news. We'll be right back.



STELTER: Of the many journalists killed since Russia's invasion of Ukraine is Maks Levin, the photojournalist, and videographer who was working for a Ukrainian news site when he went missing in March. He was found dead two weeks later, along with a soldier he was traveling with. A new report is shutting light on the moments leading up to his death with disturbing details that paint a picture of the horrors that media outlets have faced while covering this war, just like civilians all across Ukraine. Here to discuss this is Levin's partner, Zoriana Stelmakh, who participated in this new investigation by Reporters Without Borders.

Thank you for coming on. I'd love to know what you think viewers should know about Maks and why he was there -- why he was there wanting to document this war.

ZORIANA STELMAKH, PARTNER OF MURDERED UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST, MAKS LEVIN: Maks has documented war, you know, since 2014. He was always telling the people -- he wanted people around the world knew what is going on.

So I mean, there was you know, no wonder that when the big invasion began on 24 of February, he was in the -- I would say, the hardest place where the big -- the biggest battle was going on.

So, like he really wanted to know -- to show people right that it's Russia who invade Ukraine and that's there's Russian soldiers. And they're also -- he wanted always to show that we only defend ourselves, that our soldiers, it's just people who defend their families, friends, and land. That's you know -- yes.

STELTER: Yes. The new report from Reporters Without Borders found that he was executed in cold blood. The report says "the evidence against the Russian forces is overwhelming."

CNN has not independently verified this information, but this report coming out. I know you were involved in its production. You also wanted to see the photo of his body. How is this been for you to learn about these findings?

STELMAKH: It's hard. I don't want to -- I don't know really, what else to say, but it seems feels like I really wanted to know what happened.

It's like bothering me because, at that time, it's the second of April when I got information that the body was found, I mean, they -- the friends of ours, they showed me the one picture. It wasn't really you know clear because they didn't want me to see -- to see that.


STELMAKH: But still, like in general, I think I saw that. And I was like, surprised why it looks like that. I mean, why his body looks like that with the -- like with the glasses as you read the report, and with no bulletproof vest, so it was really a lot of question about that. And --


STELMAKH: It seems like I really wanted to know what happened exactly there.


It's -- you know, not --you know, nothing change - like nothing really changed but it's still, it's still like really meaningful for me like personally.

STELTER: Well, he sacrificed so that we could see the truth. And I hope that learning more about his death has given you some closure.


STELTER: Thank you very much for coming on the program and talking with us.

STELMAKH: OK, thank you. STELTER: So, we're out of time here on TV we'll see you at, right back here again this time next week.