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TikTok's Power Prompts Serious Questions About Security; Nobel Peace Prize Winner Speaks About Press Freedoms; Cheney: Top Priority Is Protecting People From Trump; Reports: Trump Considering Early 2024 Announcement; Jeff Bezos Blasts Biden Tweet About Gas Prices. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 03, 2022 - 11:00   ET



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

And this weekend devoted to independence, a pioneering newsroom in the Philippines is fighting for its freedom. Nobel winning journalist Maria Ressa will join me live on her battle to keep her news outlet running.

Plus, brand-new remarks today from Congresswoman Liz Cheney in the wake of Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony. David French here to react.

And later, a media mogul going up against President Biden, but it's not who you think. We will take a look at what Jeff Bezos is saying about Biden and why.

But, first, two exclusive interviews about one of the most influential companies in the world and its name is TikTok. Yes, the short form video app is the most downloaded app in the world, beating Instagram to that title.

TikTok has been downloaded more than 3.5 billion times. And the people who download the app love the app. They spent an average of 46 minutes a day on it. Other social media giants, they look at TikTok with envy.

TikTok is the fastest growing app in history. It is quite simply storming past the competition, causing rivals to create rip-off products.

And while on the surface the app appears to, you know, bring a lot of joy to people, influencing dance styles and pushing cooking trends and the like, something more sinister may be built into its model. That's certainly what critics believe.

The control TikTok has, the power comes from its data collection and its algorithms. So a tweak to an algorithm might lead to you stay inside and watch one more funny video clip, one more funny dog clip, or it might persuade you to form an opinion about a famous defamation trial.

They might show you a misleading video that lingers once you step inside a voting booth and made up your mind.

TikTok has, of course, been under scrutiny from American officials for years because of its Chinese ownership. It is owned by the company ByteDance, which is based in China, based in Beijing. And, of course, that means the company is essentially under Chinese control.

Now, what has ByteDance done to try to calm down American concerns about data collection and privacy? Well, they've promised to house information gathered about American users, all of your videos, all of your data, they promised to store that data on servers in the United States rather than in China.

But two weeks ago, BuzzFeed News came out with an exclusive report, saying that according to leaked internal TikTok meetings, there are engineers in China that have been able to repeatedly access U.S. user data and have been able to look at it again and again.

The same day "BuzzFeed" published those findings, TikTok announced that it intends to move backup data off to servers located in the U.S., allowing them to eventually delete U.S. data from their servers. We're going to get into that in more detail in just a moment.

But there are still serious concerns from Republican lawmakers and officials about TikTok. In fact, those concerns are growing.

Here is Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee writing a letter and then telling "Bloomberg": TikTok's response to all this confirms our fears about the Chinese communist party's influenced in the company, confirms our fears were well-founded and attempted to shroud its work in secrecy.

Blackburn writing: Americans need to know if they're on TikTok, Communist China has their information.

Now, a top executive at TikTok is standing by to respond to all of this in a rare interview. We'll get to that in a moment.

But, first, let me bring in Brandon Carr, the senior Republican on the commission, the FCC, that's the Federal Communications Commission, and he as a member who is speaking out about this.

Mr. Carr, welcome to the program.

BRENDAN CARR, FCC COMMISSIONER: Great to be with you. Thanks.

STELTER: So, tell us what you've done in recent days to try to highlight this issue and what you believe is the problem.

CARR: You know, a lot of people look at this app, as you mentioned as well, just funny dance videos, what could possibly be the real sensitive personal information there?

But that's just the sheep's clothing. If you look at the data that it collects, it's looking at search and browsing history. Biometrics including face print and voice print, key stroke patterns, location information, at least in some cases draft messages. And for years, TikTok has been asked directly by U.S. lawmakers, is

any information, any data, being accessed by personnel back in Beijing?

And rather than being forthright and saying, yes, and here's the extent of it and here's why we don't think it's a problem, they've repeatedly said, all U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., leaving people with the impression there's no access.

And to your point, this recent bombshell reporting from "BuzzFeed" shows at least some of the extent to which massive amounts of data has allegedly been going back to Beijing.


And that's a problem. Not just a national security problem but to me, it looks like a violation of the terms of the App Store.

And that's why I wrote a letter to Google and Apple saying they should revoke TikTok and boot them out of the App Store.

STELTER: Have you heard anything from Apple or Google in response?

CARR: I left them until July 8 to give me a response and we'll see what they say. I look forward to hearing from them.

But there's precedent for this. Before, when applications have taken data surreptitiously and put it in servers in China or otherwise been used for reasons other than servicing the application itself, they have booted them from the App Store.

And so, I would hope that they just would apply the plain terms of their policies here.

STELTER: The FCC doesn't have jurisdiction over social media. You don't regulate Facebook or TikTok. So, why are you getting in this fight?

CARR: Yeah, we don't have a license at issue or federal funding at issue the way we did, for instance, with Huawei or ZTE or China Mobile where we've taken action.

But we've developed at the FCC, at least speaking for myself as one member, is an expertise in terms of understanding how the CCP can effectively take data and infiltrate U.S. communications networks.

I'm not alone in this. You look at Senator Schumer and Senator Cotton, they've been on letters together. As you notice, there were congressional hearings looking at this.

So, I'm just one piece of a broader federal effort that's looking at the very serious risks that come from TikTok.

At the end of the day, it is a sophisticated, or at least it functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that is harvesting vast amounts of data on U.S. users. And I think TikTok should answer point blank -- has any CCP member obtained nonpublic U.S. user data or viewed it?

Not to answer with a dodge and say they've never been asked for it or never received a request. Can they say no, no CCP member has ever seen nonpublic U.S. data?

STELTER: I'm having a little bit of a hard time squaring what you're saying which is this vast surveillance mechanism that could be used by China as a Trojan horse with the fact that most people just use this app for fun in order to see what their friends are doing or to see fun places they might want to travel to.

Do you think it's hard to get your message through to the American people because the app is mostly viewed as an entertainment vehicle?

CARR: It's certainly popular. Look, some people have said, well, Brendan, you just can't dance and that's why you're not happy about TikTok. And they're right I can't dance, but they're wrong about the national security threat.

If you look at the national U.S. security agencies, they have prohibited TikTok on their devices. U.S. military branches have prohibited TikTok on their devices. Government officials have warned the families of U.S. troops not to use it. India has banned the application.

So, there's very serious concerns above and beyond my own.

STELTER: Right. But is the message getting through? Is it getting through to the average user?

CARR: I think so. You know, people are starting to realize it. Congress is looking at some baseline privacy protections to put in place not just for TikTok but for all other sorts of applications that are using data. So, I think we're making some progress.

STELTER: Brendan, thank you very much for coming on the program. Good talking to you.

CARR: Thanks.

STELTER: Michael Beckerman is VP and head of public policy for the Americas at TikTok. And he's here with me now.

Mr. Beckerman, thank you for coming on. A lot of people have been seeking interviews with TikTok, and it's great to have your point of view here.

What is your response to the concerns by Mr. Carr, by lawmakers in the United States Senate, and by other American officials about data security at TikTok?

MICHAEL BECKERMAN, VP, HEAD OF PUBLIC POLICY, AMERICAS AT TIKTOK: Thanks, Brian. Thanks for having me and happy July 4th.

First to point out, as you mentioned as well, TikTok is absolutely beloved by millions of people across the country. It's an entertainment app. I expect people using it this weekend doing fun videos with their family, of barbecues, and watching fireworks, and hanging out at the pool.

So, this is really what TikTok is about. It's about joyful content, entertaining. And it's very different than many of the other social media apps that people are familiar with. And I think maybe this is where some of the confusion stems from.

Commissioner Carr, as you -- as you noted, is not an expert on these issues. The FCC does not have jurisdiction. It's really not an area where national security is not their domain.

And he's pointing out a number of areas that are simply false in terms of information that we're collecting, and we're happy to set the record straight.

STELTER: Tell me what is inaccurate about what he said or what I said.

BECKERMAN: Absolutely. So, he ticked through a couple areas. And so, he's mentioning we're collecting browser history like we're tracking you across the Internet. That's simply false. That is something that a number of social media apps do where --


BECKERMAN: -- they're checking your browser history across other apps. That is not something TikTok does.

He's talking about face prints. That is not something that we collect.

You can -- we do help find where on your face to put a pair of funny glasses or hat as part of a filter but it's not something that's identifying individuals.

He's also confused. He talks about keystroke patterns. What that is, it's not logging what you're typing. It is anti-spam, anti-fraud measure that checks the rhythm of the way people are typing to ensure it's not a bot or some other malicious activity.

But, anyway, I reached out to Commissioner Carr and his office and offered to go in and brief him.


I'm waiting to hear back. Hopefully, he will accept my invitation so we can set the record straight with him.

STELTER: He asked the question now. He said, has any CCP member ever seen nonpublic TikTok user data? Can you say yes or no to that?

BECKERMAN: Absolutely. Look, the answer is we have never shared information with the Chinese government nor would we.

But the other part that's really, really important -- we have U.S.- based security teams that manage access, manage the app. And as actual national security agencies like the CIA during the Trump administration pointed out, the data that's available on TikTok because it's an entertainment app is not of an -- is not of a national security importance.

So this is very important as we mentioned we partnered with Oracle and we're putting the pieces in fact -- the pieces in place.

But for us, we want to be trusted. There's obviously a lack of trust across the Internet right now, and for us who's striving, aiming for the highest, trying to be one of the most trusted apps. And we're answering questions and being as transparent as we can be.

STELTER: There are broader questions, however. Let me quote from the "BuzzFeed' story two weeks ago. Concerns that China could use TikTok to, quote, influence Americans' commercial, cultural or political behavior.

Is there anything can you do to assuage those concerns?

BECKERMAN: Yeah, I just -- I just don't see that. You know, again, national security experts have said that's a bit of a red herring. And for those people who do spend time on the app, these are all creative videos that are made domestically here in the United States --


STELTER: Well, I don't know about that. Every time I log on and see a video from China, I wonder if the algorithm is quietly promoting Chinese content.

BECKERMAN: I don't know what you're seeing on TikTok but the videos that I'm seeing and everybody else is seeing are videos that are from the United States. And that's really why TikTok is so popular. If it was an app that is just videos from abroad or videos from China, I don't think it would have the same popularity as what it is now. What we're seeing is --


STELTER: It's a global phenomenon. It's a global app. So, you see travel videos, you see other videos from all around the world. It's not just U.S. content on TikTok.

BECKERMAN: No, it's global platform for sure, but the content you're consuming as an American is primarily here from the United States and it's something people around the world are watching videos here from the United States as well. We're seeing the small businesses --

STELTER: But there's this idea, though that the algorithm could be tweaked to put a thumb on the scale in order to -- for example, to promote a specific presidential candidate or other politician. Those are the same concerns people have about Facebook and about Twitter. But now, it's a concern about TikTok.

So, what's the company going to do to address those fears? BECKERMAN: Actually, I'm glad you raise this issue. Look, we are not

the go-to place for politics. We were the first platform and still do not allow political ads. We have not been encouraging politicians or politics on TikTok.

Certainly, it's a place for free expression. You'll find, you know, various viewpoints on the app. I mean, that's fine and great.

But the primary thing that people are coming and using TikTok for is entertainment and joyful and fun content, and we've gone out of the way. Look, it's obviously great for many of these other platforms that are accepting billions of dollars in political advertisements. We said no on TikTok because we don't want that to be part of our community.

STELTER: I agree with you that people primarily use this for joyful activities, but there have been really important investigations by "The Wall Street Journal" and other outlets about the rabbit holes users go down. If you start searching about anorexia, you start searching eating disorders, you're going to get fed -- shouldn't use the word feed -- you're going to get shown so many more videos about those topics.

You're going to go down a rabbit hole of your own making deeper and deeper into dark places.

What is TikTok trying to do to protect against those experience that can be harmful?

BECKERMAN: Well, part of what makes TikTok so interesting and compelling to people is that it's not just based on one kind of content that you see. We promote a diversity of piece of content.

But, look, harmful content is something that we don't want to see on TikTok. It's a problem for the Internet as a whole. It's something we've worked really hard on to eliminate on our platform, anything that's dangerous or harmful violate our community guidelines.

But, again, part of what makes the experience on it For You feed and experience on TikTok so great is you are seeing a diverse set of content.

And a lot of those reports, frankly -- you know, people are going in and they're looking and searching, trying to prove something that really is not the normal experience that so many Americans love TikTok about.

STELTER: Well, the thing is, right, everybody has their own experience on the surface. Here's a headline from "The New York Times" this weekend about BookTok. This is a phenomenon where new books are being promoted on TikTok. And reading from "The New York Times", it has become an anchor in the publishing industry and a dominant driver of fiction sales.

So, in other words, you have incredible market power. This also means you're going to be under even more regulatory scrutiny.

How are you going to convince Washington that TikTok is not a foe?

BECKERMAN: Look, BookTok is a great example. I mean, I'm glad you raised it. We have, you know, some 50 billion-plus views and so many authors are now selling off the shelves again and people are going back to reading because of this, which is great.

Look, for us, it's about transparency.


We've opened transparency centers, you know, here in Washington and L.A. where we've invited policymakers and experts. We invite them to come in and learn more about the app, because I think the best tool that we have is transparency, and we want to talk about it.

We've talked to these policymakers and we want to make sure people understand and they're not -- they're not going down these so-called rabbit holes of false information like Commissioner Carr saying things that are simply not true.

STELTER: Who do you think of as TikTok's rivals? You say it's an entertainment business. Is it a rival of Netflix and Disney?

BECKERMAN: Perhaps. You know, look, again, we focus on what's best for our community and try not to pay attention to others. But, as you pointed out, many other apps are trying to copy what we've done.

I think the real power of TikTok actually is the community and the authenticity. I think that's something people have really been looking for and lacking on other apps and so they come to TikTok because the content really is authentic. And that's really the power of the community, that's --


STELTER: And people are absolutely addicted. Look, I think the media has underappreciated the rise of TikTok. That's why I'm leading with it there today.

But there's this nagging question you're going to keep getting asked. So, let me try to ask it one more way.

Are the TikTok's engineers, the people that are developing this tool, creating this tool, are they beholden to China? And is that a threat to the U.S.?

BECKERMAN: No. Absolutely not. TikTok is not a security threat.

And we're doing everything that we can going above and beyond working with trusted companies like Oracle, talking to actual agencies in the government that are responsible for national security to make sure that this is cleared up and make sure we have an app that frankly is one of the most secure out there in the entire world, despite the fact that it really is just for entertainment.

But we're willing to be transparent and work with all the stakeholders to make sure that we earn their trust.

STELTER: Michael Beckerman, thank you for coming on and taking the questions today. Thanks a lot.

BECKERMAN: Thank you. Happy Fourth.

STELTER: You too.

Lots more ahead this hour, including what Liz Cheney thinks you should be reading after that most recent 1/6 hearing. It's this column titled "The Case for Prosecuting Trump Just Got Much Stronger". And its author, David French, is standing by.

Plus, what we can all learn from a news website standing up to government intimidation right now. Rappler CEO Maria Ressa will join us live from Manila in just a moment.



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

We're heading to the Philippines now where journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa says the government is trying yet again to shut down her pioneering website Rappler. The governor claims that Rappler is violating the law against foreigners owning media companies there. Rappler has denied that.

The order came one day before President Rodrigo Duterte left office, leaving some wondering if it was his final swing at the free press before leaving the ring.

Ressa and Rappler have been taking hits for years, facing a host of legal challenges, many of them considered to be politically motivated, including her conviction for cyber libel. Ressa says she's been targeted for her critical reporting about the government.

Let's talk with her about that now. Maria Ressa, CEO and co-founder of Rappler, a former CNN bureau chief, once the "TIME" Person of the Year.

Maria, thank you for coming on. Were you speaking in Honolulu this week when you learned about this next most recent takedown order.

What exactly is the government trying to say to shut you down, and how are you responding?

MARIA RESSA, CEO AND PRESIDENT, RAPPLER: So, so our FCC like yours is a small regulatory agency and effectively since January 2018 when it tried to revoke our license to operate we took it to the courts. We said, no way.

And then, now, a few days -- just before the end of the Duterte administration, we get what is effectively a shutdown order. And, you know, in Honolulu at the keynote, I just started by, you know, shining the light. I said we got a shutdown order. We're going to fight it in court. That's where we are right now.

STELTER: Meanwhile, you just continue to produce the news, cover the news, do what you do every day.

How do you -- how do you keep your staff going when they've been under this kind of threat for years now?

RESSA: That's -- you know, you -- one, you think through your worst case scenarios and you prepare for them and you thrill through them. And then you make sure that you kind of throw -- push up that Damocles sword that the government is trying to hang over your head. And despite that, be better journalists, right?

I always keep saying this time matters. So this is what we've done. We're ready for whatever, I suppose. You know, we have all of these plans. What happens next is kind of like we're living breaking news, Brian.

STELTER: It does seem that way. One of your favorite phrases is: hold the line. So, you are holding the line in the Philippines.

Will the new president of the country show any more respect for a free press, do you know yet?

RESSA: TBD. That's what right after this happened I publicly appealed to new president, another President Marcos. Thirty-six years after People Power, his namesake and son is now president and he took office. We covered the oath taking.

And my appeal is really that this is a chance to strengthen rule of law, to understand that journalists are not the enemies. That this is actually part of what can help make this government successful, not as propaganda but to hold power accountable to the people.

STELTER: Let's talk about that word accountability and a related word independence. It's the Independence Day in the United States tomorrow, the Fourth of July.

And I wonder if you think Americans as they hear about your situation and other attacks on other countries if they've taken for granted their freedoms of the press and other freedoms.

RESSA: Yeah, I think part of what's wrong now we still haven't realized the very platforms -- you were just talking about TikTok, the very platforms that deliver the news to you is insidiously -- they're insidiously manipulating you. And, you know, that is part of the problem.


If you don't have integrity of facts, how can you have a shared space, a shared reality? How can you make choices like in elections?

So, I think, you know, on Independence Day, understand that your independence is hard won, hard fought, and don't give it up. I think that's where hold the line comes from. We understand how important our freedoms are and every inch you give up, you won't get back.

STELTER: So many headlines that could be discouraging just in one week, though, about press freedoms. Hear out of Hong Kong, China throwing a media shield around the premier's visit to Hong Kong.

In Russia, the Duma passing a law in retaliation against foreign media. In Turkey, the Voice of America website is among those whose sites blocked by the Turkish government.

So, just in one week, we see all of these setbacks. Do you see just as many positive signs in other places or is the trend mostly in negative direction for the free press around the world?

RESSA: I think for the last six years that's what we've been going through. If you go by the numbers of CPJ or RIS (ph), you will see that for the last decade, press freedom has decreased.

But, you know, over the last six years in particular, it feels like this death by 1,000 cuts of our democracy is full blown and we're at this existential moment. This is a time when we truly need to stand up and weigh in otherwise. The world has come closer and closer to a word I don't use lightly, to fascism.

STELTER: I'm trying to think what have to say to that, Maria, because I don't want it to be true, and I know many viewers have different feelings about it, how true it could be.

Why do you use that word? Tell us about the significance.

RESSA: Madeleine Albright, first, you know, in her book that she published in 2018, she used fascism, and we debated this. I think she convinced me. She said it's like a chicken pulling the feathers out one by one. I say death by 1,000 cuts.

But think about it this year. There are more than 30 elections around the world this year, and if we don't have integrity of facts, how can you have integrity of elections? The social media platforms, the world's largest delivery platform for news globally is Facebook, Meta.

If we don't have facts and we're being insidiously manipulated, how do we know our elections aren't being manipulated?

Look at the Philippines. We're emblematic of what the world is going through. Thirty-six years after People Power revolt, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is back, right? So, what happens next year or the year after?

This year, we got Brazil. We've got Kenya. Next year, you're going to have Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim population, and India. The power balance globally is at risk.

STELTER: Maria, thank you for continuing to hold the line. That's why we need to hear you on the program. Thanks for coming on.

Turning back to the U.S., one of my next guests says suddenly everything has changed in America overnight due to the Supreme Court. So what needs to change about news coverage of the court? We'll get into that.

And later, something much lighter, how Wordle came to dominate Twitter and your group family text. We're taking you behind the scenes of the game.



STELTER: Welcome back here. In a new interview this morning, Liz Cheney says the House's January 6 committee may well make multiple criminal referrals, including the former President Trump. She told ABCs Jon Karl that the single most important thing is protecting the nation from Donald Trump. And she once again teased more to come more findings from the probe.

The committee has been split on the issue of criminal referrals, but it's clear where Cheney stands after Cassidy Hutchinson's breathtaking testimony this week. Cheney shares this story with constitutional lawyer and conservative writer David French, saying the case for prosecuting Trump just got much stronger.

French is a senior editor at The Dispatch and a contributing writer for The Atlantic and he's here with me now. So, I think Cheney apparently agrees with you, I know retweets are not endorsements, but in this case --


STELTER: Seems to be where her head is at. What was it about Hutchinson that persuaded you, David?

FRENCH: Yes, I'll tell you very simply, it wasn't the testimony about the allegedly lunging at the Secret Service driver, it was the testimony that Trump knew the crowd was armed and this is again, Hutchinson is saying she heard this from Trump's own mouth, that he knew the crowd was armed, he knew they weren't there to hurt him and he wanted the mags, the magnetic meters removed to fill out the crowd. And what that does is, it demonstrates that Trump was aware that the crowd was dangerous.

This means Trump was aware that when he's telling them to fight when he's telling them you can't take your country back with weakness that he knows he's sending an armed crowd to the Capitol.

And this is something that's really important in the legal analysis of incitement because the constitute -- the relevant constitutional law, the relevant case law is pretty protective of free speech, even free speech that might advocate violence, but it won't protect speech if the speech is calculated to and likely to lead to imminent lawless action.

Here, we know that there was lawless action that happened, but was Trump what -- it -- when Trump said was calculated, was it intended to lead to lawless action? Well, this filled in a missing piece of the evidence, and I think the evidence grows stronger every day. STELTER: The right-wing media reaction mostly was about smearing Hutchinson, dismissing her secondhand accounts, and not focusing on the substance.


STELTER: Here are a few of the headlines against Hutchinson. There's also criticism of the press for highlighting anonymous sources challenging her secondhand accounts.

Here's the headline from Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post saying, hey, media, stop regurgitating anonymous attacks. What did you make, David, of the pushback from these anonymous officials, apparently coming to the direction of the Secret Service saying hey, there are people who will who -- will contradict what she said, they're willing to testify under oath, but five days later, they haven't yet.

FRENCH: You know I don't have a problem with reporting anonymous sourcing properly. I mean, anonymous sourcing has a long history in journalism, and if done properly, it can be valuable.

But we have to wait for the different kinds of evidence here. Here, we have on the one end, we have somebody who has sworn under oath as to what she heard the president say, most specifically regarding that knowing that the crowd is armed, or what she heard others say regarding Trump's behavior in the SUV, that's under oath, and then you have an anonymous source who is not under oath, allegedly seeking to refute sworn testimony. I weighed sworn testimony higher than irate anonymous sourcing.

STELTER: Yes, as we all should. You turned me on to the phrase exhausted majority. Most Americans in this country are exhausted. And in your new column this morning you say America is not just red and blue, it's red and blue and just plain tired. So tell me about the people you hear from that are not the trolls, are not the partisans who are freaking out all the time, but the exhausted majority.


STELTER: I want to talk more about the exhausted majority.

FRENCH: Yes. You know, every analysis of America that is red and blue, and that's it is just missing it. It's just missing it. And what's become increasingly clear, and this is research that we've seen since 2018 from a group called More In Common, that just keeps being re- amplified and reaffirmed is that the majority of Americans aren't firmly red and aren't firmly blue.

They're the two-thirds of Americans who -- on the right to the middle to the left who feel somewhat alienated from our politics, and they are fed up with American polarization. They feel forgotten in the discourse because everything caters to hardcore red and hardcore blue.


FRENCH: And you know, quite frankly, they're more flexible in their views. They are willing to hear from other people. And this is a group that's called the exhausted majority of Americans.

And it's this exhausted majority that both have enormous potential power in our politics but often feel just shoved to the side. And I think one of the keys to sort of healing some of the breaches in our country is if this exhausted majority gets a bit more energized.

STELTER: All right. I like the way that, that framed it in your -- in your column, it is my experience as well. The tired, frustrated, sad people are the ones that e-mail you.

The angry ones are the ones that are on Twitter and on Facebook yelling all the time. But that's a minority. And most of us are just worried about our friendships and our personal relationships and how politics is turning those apart.


STELTER: And that they're those are the voices we need to amplify. So we need you to come on and talk about that more often, David.

FRENCH: I would love to. I would love to. And I hear from people all over the country who are worried about relationships and are pulling away from sharing their beliefs because of that -- those fear of losing relationships.

STELTER: All right, I think that's one of the stories of our time. I hope we can work on this Fourth of July holiday. David, thank you for coming on. Good to see you.

FRENCH: Thanks so much for having me.

STELTER: Lots more ahead here. Bezos versus Biden, 2024 buzz from Bedminster, the secrets to Worldle success, much more. We're bringing it to the panel. I'll be right back.



STELTER: Is Donald Trump about to do it? Is he about to enter the 2024 race early? This weekend, several news outlets are reporting that Trump may be on the verge of announcing another run so I wonder if reporters might be falling for a trap.

Let's talk about what past mistakes should be avoided if there is another Trump campaign to cover.

Joining me now is Nicole Hemmer, researcher of Columbia, author of the upcoming book Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics In The 1990s.

Also with me, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, host of First Person, an incredible new podcast series by the New York Times Opinion, and here in New York, CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy.

Nicole, what are the big mistakes the press made last time or maybe the last two times Trump ran for president that we have to avoid this time?

NICOLE HEMMER, ASSOCIATE RESEARCH SCHOLAR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, one of the big ones is speculation. All of these speculations --

STELTER: Like this, right now?

HEMMER: Yes, right now.

STELTER: Whether he's going to enter the race this week?

HEMMER: It doesn't matter. Him, being in the race, matters. When he decides to be in the race, doesn't. There are much bigger issues to focus on, including what are the consequences of him potentially becoming president again.

But also, there's lots more going on in politics right now, including people being stripped of their rights, major issues in the economy that I think people would prefer to talk about instead.

STELTER: So, Lulu, let's go to that exact topic. How do you think about trying to capture the bigness? I know that's not exactly a word, but the bigness of this moment in American history.

Look at the headlines in The Times, The Post, and CNN this weekend, the Supreme Court, a transformative term, Supreme Court ignites a new era of conservatism. How do you think about trying to get your head around it and make sure the public, the audience knows the stakes?

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST, NYT OPINION: Well, one of the things that I really think is specificity. We have to really think about when we talk about different communities and the people that are impacted by these incredible headlines that we're seeing, these policies that are taking shape.

I think in the media, what we often do is sort of taking a blanket approach. We often sort of think about, who is it that is impacted the most when we go to the extremes. We want the most extreme examples.

But you know, what I really think is important at this moment is to try and dig deep to try and see what particular stories were telling, who are the stories we're talking about.

You know, I'm thinking about right now, you know, headlines about Latinos moving, you know, right word and I'm always like, which Latinos are we talking about? What areas are we talking about? Who are the people that are being impacted? What are they saying?

And I think, really, when we're looking at some of the big things that are moving right now, we really have to think about what in the media who we're talking about, and try and get very specific.

STELTER: And make sure you feature regular people's voices. Your most recent podcast is with a former head of the Log Cabin Republicans who say, I don't fit in this Republican Party anymore with this push against gay rights, with these anti-trans laws, this person saying I don't fit in anymore. So how do you find those regular stories? GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Brian, one of the big stories at this moment, I think is political homelessness. I mean, I just heard David French there talking about, you know, the exhausted majority and I think that's exactly right.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, I come from a politically divided family, you know, who see things in very different ways. And there is just an overwhelming sense of exhaustion no matter where you sit in the political spectrum.

And so I think what's really important and what we really try to do in First Person is to find someone who has an experience, whose life intersects with an urgent political moment, and who can talk about it from their own personal perspective.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think we listen more, we hear more when someone can tell us a story and we understand where they're coming from.

STELTER: Right. All right, much more from the panel in a moment, Oliver, you're up first after the break. When does a 91-year-old man's divorce deserve global news coverage? We're going to answer that question after the break. Plus, for all you Wordle addicts in the audience, what's the New York Times going to do with Wordle next?



STELTER: Back now here on RELIABLE SOURCES with several media stories you need to know about including a media mogul going after President Biden this weekend, it's Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, and of course, the former CEO of Amazon.

Let's put the tweet up on screen and then we get Oliver Darcy's reaction to this. He's basically calling out President Biden for a tweet about gas prices, saying inflation is far too important for the White House to keep making misleading statements like this. Oliver, what's going on?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes. I think news organizations need to be a lot more forceful here, Brian, in calling out the president when he misleads the public like this.

We know gas station owners aren't really the ones running away to the bank when gas prices go up. There have been stories in the past about how low the margin of profit is for gas station owners on the price of fuel. They make their money usually at the convenience stores.

But there hasn't been a really aggressive pushback from the president from these organizations. I think that needs to change. So people like you know, it's not left up to Jeff Bezos to be fact-checking the president. STELTER: Right. And it's always interesting how aggressive Bezos is getting on Twitter. It's very Elon Musky. OK, next media story for us. When does a divorce have more global news attention? Well, when it could upend the global media empire. The New York Times was the first to report that Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall are divorcing.

And then Murdoch's Wall Street Journal was the first to report that it was official and that she has filed for a divorce from Murdoch. However, it's not going to affect the future of Fox Corporation or News Corp, it is not going to affect the trust so that's actually why it will not make a global shockwave in the media business.

Nicole, does that strike you as interesting that -- Nicole Hemmer, that the Wall Street Journal, a Murdoch paper is out there reporting on the divorce?

HEMMER: Well, I mean, it's clear --

STELTER: Their job?

HEMMER: That we got the information. It's their job to do it. And you know, it's not as big of a story as his -- as his last divorce, which really did have an impact on the Murdoch empire.


HEMMER: So I think it's a -- it's a small story.

STELTER: So it's different this time. Big News and MSNBC this week, Oliver, what were you chasing about 9 p.m.?

DARCY: Yes, Alex Wagner is going to be the host on Tuesday through Friday when Maddow is not hosting her show, she's going to be taking the reins, and so we're going to see how she does and whether she can feel those big rating shoes that Meadow is leaving behind.

STELTER: Right, they are huge shoes. And finally to you, Lulu, you were at NPR for many years hosting on public radio. Now, you're in New York Times Opinion. I was curious about that change for you what it's been like to be more opinionated, do you feel like the real you is coming out?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, if you look on Twitter, you could say so. I mean, I think one of the things that I do on my show, First Person, is talk to people on all sides of an issue.

So I tend to keep my own opinions and check. It's not a pundit show, per se. But certainly, now I do feel more liberated to speak up when I might have some personal experience that I can bring to bear about an issue of the day.

And you know, it's a big discussion in journalism, whether opinions and journalists who have them should be free to -- you know, to release them out.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: But I certainly feel that I haven't a voice.

STELTER: As a Times employee, are you obsessed with Wordle?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I am terrible at Wordle. I see that you are good at Wordle.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm so bad at Wordle.

STELTER: Well, we're going to talk about Wordle now, thank you to the panel. I talked to the head of games of the New York Times, Jonathan Knight, about that incredible acquisition of Wordle, the game everyone seems to love or love to hate. I asked him why he thinks it became so addictive.


JONATHAN KNIGHT, HEAD OF GAMES, THE NEW YORK TIMES: First of all, it's very -- it's very approachable. The solution is a common word we all understand.

It's a really great game, like, you guessed a word and it gives you feedback on it in real-time. And then it's almost like there's another puzzle to solve and then you make another guess, and you get more feedback and there's another puzzle to solve, so it's just really fun, good, a strong game mechanic in that way.

But the fact that the word is common and that we're all trying to solve the same word each day, I think that really made it a very social experience.

It fits into your -- it fits into your day really well like it's -- it doesn't demand too much of your time, you can kind of get it done, and then it leaves you wanting more for the next day.

I think finally, I would say, you know, that little grid of yellow and green squares that you can share out, like this is just pure genius, and was a very innovative way to share your experience, but without giving away the answer.


KNIGHT: And it's like a little -- it's like a little story of how you solve the puzzle that day, and it's really unique to you. And you know that made it very viral. So, yes, all those things together, yes, it's just like a magical little game.

STELTER: Where are all of the answers, you know, the five-letter answers? Are there like five years' worth of answers all just stored up already?

KNIGHT: So I don't know the exact number, but we have a few years' worths of answers, absolutely. And, you know, one of the things that we're you know looking at is you know to have a better sense of like more editorial control over what those words are.

We want to make sure that the word list remains really approachable. You know, we want to make sure for our -- for our audience in the UK, for instance, that we're not, you know, using American spellings of words that would frustrate them.


STELTER: Right. And then there was the word fetus being swapped out amid the Roe v. Wade, draft majority opinion about abortion leaking, there -- are there going to be more episodes like that where you have to swap out a word because of the news?

KNIGHT: Well, I would say, I mean, I can't predict the future. We're moving into a phase where we have finer control over that. We want the games to be fun. The focus is on a diversion.

You know, we want to have people have a little moment of delight and fun and reward. And, you know, the news shouldn't be in any controversy and the news shouldn't be mixed up in that.


KNIGHT: So, yes, we'll be keeping an eye out for that.

STELTER: So, Jonathan, tell us your average Wordle score. Are you -- are you a two or three, usually? Are you a six? Where do you usually end up?

KNIGHT: Yes, I ended up around a four. I got -- I got it in one about, I don't know, five, six weeks ago and nobody believed me because I worked for New York Times games, but I did actually just nail it in one and that was a great feeling. So hope for everyone out there to have that feeling at some point.

STELTER: That hole in one. And now, Jonathan, I've got my five-year- old trying to play. So are you thinking about a kid Wordle, are you thinking about other extensions? Are there -- are there going to be ways to expand this out?

KNIGHT: I hope so, and I think so. We're thinking about all those things. You know, for now, the focus is like I said, like let's get this well-integrated or system, let's protect people stats and streaks and have those properly stored and you know, I think Wordle bot has been a great example of bringing more value to Wordle and we're looking at all kinds of things we can do in the future.


STELTER: Kids Wordle, I'm telling you, it's going to be a hit. Alright, check out the full conversation on our RELIABLE SOURCES Podcast, and we'll see you right back here this time next week, Happy Fourth.