Return to Transcripts main page
Murdoch Media Outlets Urge GOP To Move Past Trump; Experts Warn Media About Authoritarian Tactics; Record Temps Reignite Climate Conversations; Journalist's Harrowing Tale Of Reporting In Afghanistan; New Book Explores Hollywood's 'Culture Of Silence'. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 24, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, here we are. I'm Brian Stelter, live in New York, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and we figure out what's reliable.
This hour, one reporter's escape from Afghanistan, Lynne O'Donnell says she was threatened in abused and forced to retract articles. She's joining me live from a safe place in just a few minutes.
Plus, wildfires, record temperatures, and as one front page says, a wake up call about the climate crisis. What the media is doing differently now.
And later, a tech giant sending warning signs but a looming recession in the United States. We're going to crunch the numbers.
But, first, let's say it, nay to the naysayers. The skeptics and cynics who said the January 6th hearings wouldn't matter. It turns out, they were very wrong.
The media personalities who said that no one would watch, no one would care, they've now seen otherwise. Let's be honest, there was quite a bit of this prognosticating. Some people thought that the summertime hearings would fizzle out over time, but they actually turned up steam as June turned to July. TV ratings stayed strong throughout the series. It's weird to say it's a series, but it was a summer series of television and it turned out to be one of the highest rated shows of the summer.
So, despite the MAGA media types who claims no one was watching. In fact, the hearings reached tens of millions of people. As an attention getting exercise, it gained a lot of attention. As a fact finding effort, it brought forth lots of new facts. As a political effort, well, I'll save that for the political pundits.
But the likes of Tucker Carlson called it shameful that other television networks aired the hearings, Fox very pointedly did not show Thursday's prime time finale so to speak. And, yet, almost everyone did and the news seeped through, including in Murdoch media. There are blistering new editorials this weekend in Rupert Murdoch's "Wall Street Journal" and "New York Post", both raising alarms for Donald Trump.
Here's the headline from "The Post" saying Trump silence on January 6 is damning. "The Post" even saying he is unworthy to be president again. There's a lot of tea leaves to read there and I've got an excellent panel to do just that. We're going to bring the panelists a couple of minutes.
But, first, let me go ahead and bring in Sarah Longwell. She's a Republican strategist, the publisher of "The Bulwark" and the host of a podcast called "The Focus Group".
Sarah, you've been out there conducting focus groups all summer long, how many of you conducted while these hearings were underway?
SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We've done nine focus groups of Trump voters since the hearings began. It's really been a stunning turnaround to focus groups we were doing prior to the hearings.
Prior to the hearings, we were seeing usually about half of that Trump voter group wanted to see him run again in 2024. But since the hearings have been going, on four of those nine groups, zero of the respondents wanted him to run again. In fact, we ran in analysis, in those nine groups, there's only 15 percent of the Trump footing respondents who wanted to see him run.
And the main reason that they give is actually a pure political calculation. It's not that they don't like Donald Trump, they still do. If he is the nominee, they will happily vote for him. But they're starting to worry that he can't be elected again. That he has too much baggage.
And this is where, you know, people are going to -- always asking, did these January 6 hearings breakthrough?
LONGWELL: And I don't think they broke through so much as they seeped in. So, I think there's this sense among these voters now that Donald Trump has too much political baggage and there's other people that have a better chance of beating him.
I'll just share one thing that sounds like a really obvious point, but that these voters talked about a lot. They say, you know, if Donald Trump is the nominee, he only gets four years. If it's Ron DeSantis or Kristi Noem, they get eight years. And that sounds obvious, but when you think about it from a Republican voters' perspective who really wants to vote out Joe Biden, it makes a lot of sense.
STELTER: So, it's just a simple political calculus. These voters telling you, hey, I don't think he can win again. He's too weak. I still like the man, personally, but I'm going with someone else.
LONGWELL: Yeah, it's not even that they think he is a weak. They think he should be an older statesman of the party.
And let me -- actually, here's another interesting thing: everybody that they're interested in going forward, they describe themselves as America first Republicans.
Like they -- everybody that they're interested in seeing run again, it's not Nikki Haley. It's not Mike Pence. It is people from the America First Trump wing of the party.
They are in Trump's camp. It's weird, because there's been this conversation going on. Is Trump's grip on the party slipping? My answer has been no.
I don't think his grip on the party is slipping. He still has completely changed its direction. But in terms of the voters, they are starting to say, is there somebody else from this America First wing that could win and that could get us eight years of Republican domination?
STELTER: So, how important is that, that the media needs to distinguish between Trump and Trumpism? You are saying Trump-ism is a strong as ever in focus groups.
LONGWELL: It's really important. I just -- think that there's been this idea of, when people say Trump's grip on the party is slipping, they're talking about Trump the man. But there's Trump the phenomenon, and Trump the phenomenon has led us to nominate -- by us I mean, Republican voters in Republican primaries -- people like Doug Mastriano, people like Herschel Walker, Eric Greitens is leading in Missouri and he has ads out there saying we're going RINO hunting.
Like there is a very scary, very Stop the Steal set of candidates emerging in these GOP primaries. And that is all Trump's influence. And so, anybody who wants to argue that Trump's influence as a phenomenon is waning I think is wrong. But it is possible that Trump the man, in terms of being a '24 nominee, that that is waning.
Although I will say, if he has his 30 or 40 percent of die-hards that stick with him, that still puts him out in front runner status in any Republican primary, especially if is a crowded field like there was in 2016.
STELTER: I do wonder what it's like for you when you do focus groups. You make no bones about being anti-Trump Republican. You lead in the Accountability Project. Are you sometimes leading these focus group respondents in the direction you want? Or tell us how that works?
LONGWELL: Well, I don't moderate the focus groups. So, I have somebody else who is moderating them.
LONGWELL: But I think -- actually, I would say, for the record, that like I said, I was very skeptical of Trump's grip on the GOP slipping. I was arguing, when everyone started to advance after Georgia, that that was an over read of what would happen in Georgia. So, I'm not looking for these voters to say -- and the reason so many voters still say they love Donald Trump. It's just a natural shift that we've observed. It's such a remarkable shift but I think it's notable.
STELTER: I agree. Sarah, please stay with me.
Let me bring in some more guests. Political scientist Jennifer Dresden is here, CNN media analyst David Zurawik, and David Frum, staff writer at "The Atlantic", former speechwriter for George W. Bush.
David Frum, first to you. What's Sarah is sharing his focus groups, what do you make of it? How do you assess this? Is there a notable, newsworthy, in the Republican Party in the U.S.?
DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It's hugely notable. And I think you also need to hear what people are saying and the language they're saying it in.
Highly intense partisans say I'm against the former leader of our party, because he has too much baggage. They're giving -- they can't give themselves permission to say I -- I personally think it was wrong to try to overturn an election, because that's too big a step. Where you can say is, I'm worried other people will think it's dangerous to overturn an election. Because of those feelings among other people, I am changing my mind about Donald Trump.
As you pointed out and as Sara pointed out, they're not moving towards more respect from law and order. This kind of authoritarian bullying remains a public in force. But Trump went beyond authoritarianism, trying to overturn an election. He's bleeding for that.
STELTER: And there's this notable ship as well from Murdoch media outlets. Let's talk about that. "The Wall Street Journal", "The New York Post", this weekend -- we'll put the quotes on screen.
"The Wall Street Journal" saying: Character revealed in a crisis and Mr. Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial. Mr. Trump utterly failed his.
Here is "The New York Post": It's up to the Justice Department to decide if what happened with the January 6 with the president is a crime. But as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country's chief executive again.
David Zurawik, these are two papers controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who also controls Fox News. We've seen this happening for a while. We've seen it from Murdoch trying to distance himself from Trump for a while. But I have not seen "The New York Post" up until now say literally, Trump is unworthy of being president.
DAVID ZURAWIK, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yeah, Brian, I was really impressed by "The Post" editorial. I mean, literally, as I read that line you just read, I almost wanted to cheer for that. But, but, Murdoch has done so much with his broadcast outlets and his cable outlets to create this character. He is such a slippery character who seems to have no regard for the civic life of Americans.
STELTER: Who? Murdoch?
ZURAWIK: Putting on whatever he thinks will get ratings.
Don't forget, those are great editorials. I'm happy to see them. But don't forget, he still got Tucker Carlson out there talking about what a disgrace this is. And he's still got his major megaphone on Fox News, not preaching this yet.
But you know what? I'll be impressed when I hear the primetime host say something like that.
STELTER: Yeah. So, those editorials have not been mentioned on Fox, except --
STELTER: -- except by Liz Cheney, who mentioned them a few minutes ago. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Look, it's not -- it's not just me that is saying that Donald Trump is unfit for office. It's other entities owned by Rupert Murdoch. It's "The New York Post" in their editorial on Friday. It's "The Wall Street Journal' said the same thing after our hearing on Thursday night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: See what she did there? She used "Fox News Sunday" to point out those editorials exist.
But her point is, these hearings have had an accumulated impact.
David, do you agree as a TV critic that these hearings -- well, how do you assess them?
ZURAWIK: They're brilliant and it's a masterpiece. And you talk about the people who were naysayers. I was not a naysayer. I was impressed with what I thought they were going to do, but they went beyond my wildest expectations.
Look, number one, they laid down a template for how to make government interesting on primetime television and get tens of millions to watch it. You know what? We don't teach civics anymore in our classroom. This was a great civics lesson we had this summer, just watching it. You got it by osmosis. You were engaged in the drama but you also got that.
So, that's one thing they did. They've also laid down historians an account of what happened on January 6 based on sworn testimony, based on eyewitness accounts, based on documentary visual imagery, which will serve history forever and which blows up to some extent what the right-wing media, and I mean hard-core right-wing media, it's trying to save what happened on January 6, 2021. Next one --
STELTER: There still is a denialist effort.
Jennifer, what's your assessment of the hearings? We'll see if there's more in September, there are going to be.
JENNIFER DRESDEN, POLICY ADVOCATE, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Yeah. You know, I think the key thing here is really the scope that they took, to make clear that January 6 was not about an isolated event that happened on a single day. Instead, there was a systemic pattern of behavior here, a system -- a series of events that were crucial to understanding what happened on that day, and it's the connections between them that made all of this so dangerous.
Sara, is that something you sensed even from the voters that you spoke with in these focus groups? That GOP voters may see this dangerous as well?
LONGWELL: Actually, no. I think that -- I mean, I actually hear among independent voters. I've had a number of independents that we've talked to as well. And they are tracking the hearings in the Republican groups.
It's sort of a -- they do a lot of what-abouting, what about the Black Lives Matter protests, they don't look at Donald Trump and say, oh, well, he's deficient of character. And, you know, he's a really bad guy and I want to move on. I thought what happened on -- they think what happened on January 6 was unfortunate, but they don't think it was Donald Trump's fault.
STELTER; Sarah, thank you so much for bringing so much to this conversation.
Everybody else, please stick around, lots much more to come. We're going to get into why Jennifer's here in just a moment.
Also coming up, Ken Auletta on whether Hollywood has really changed after the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
And Bill Weir on the best and worst ways to communicate about a climate crisis.
STELTER: In Maryland this week, a proponent of 2020 election lies, one Republican primary for governor in Wisconsin, as top state lawmakers has recently called him in an effort to overturn the 2020 results.
And in Arizona, a leading GOP candidate for Senate there is raising doubts about the legitimacy of the coming midterms. FiveThirtyEight says, quote: At least 120 elections deniers have won their party's nomination and will be on the ballot and various races this fall.
It's all still happening, which is why the group Protect Democracy has a new, quote, authoritarian playbook to help the media think through the challenges of covering these issues. It's a really fascinating report from the group.
Jennifer Dresden was the lead author of the report. She's been researching authoritarian politics for years and she's a policy advocate at the group Protect Democracy.
Jennifer, can you help us connect the dots or tell us whether the do connect between Stop the Steal movement organizers, GOP politicians denying election results and actual authoritarianism?
DRESDEN: Yeah, they are absolutely connected. So when we think about how authoritarianism comes to be. How democracy collapses. We might be tempted to think about big dramatic sort of headline grabbing moments like a military coup, takes in the streets. But these days, that's really not how it happens anymore. Instead, democracy collapses and an authoritarian takes over by eroding tomorrow, drip by drip. Through some people call salami tactics.
STELTER: Salami tactics meaning one slice of the time.
DRESDEN: One slice at a time. And when you look at with the experts say about this, there are seven different tactics in what we call the playbook that are really interconnected and the below one another. They don't have an isolation.
So if you politicize independence additions for example, if you politicize election administrations, and then that allows you to do things like corrupt elections, which then leads to a decline and confidence in democracy for example.
That leads to this process, the authoritarian takeover, but it's hard to cover for the media precisely because it is so piecemeal.
STELTER: Your group has steadfastly nonpartisan. But how would you describe what you see in the U.S. right now voices of the countries? Where is the United States in that salami effect?
DRESDEN: Yeah. So this is as you point out, this is something that happens around the world. We've seen a lot of different countries.
And what the data suggesting that the United States is not as far down that path as some countries are. But that we are on that path. There have been a number of things that have been happening so that all the big groups that provide data on the quality of democracy for example.
We've seen a big downturn in the last five to the nearest in the United States around things like press freedom, around things like concerns about our institutions. So we are on that path although we're not as far along the path of some other countries. STELTER: Without drawing a false equivalence, are there versus this
you see from Democrats or is the anti-democratic behavior in the U.S. concentrated among Republicans?
DRESDEN: You know, the standards that we allowed in the playbook are ones that we think are nonpartisan. That their base and with the experts say about these things. So these standards apply equally to everyone.
When you look at what researchers say. There are certain areas where it suggests that the Republican Party has been acting in a way that I moved it further than the Democratic Party has moved. So, for example, if you look at ideological extremism and putting global contacts, the GOP has moved further to the extreme of the Democratic Party has in that global comparison. And that would be one way of showing that.
STELTER: David Frum has the advantage to looking at this from a little further north, up in Canada. That's where you are at least at the moment, David. What do you see about this authoritarian drift in the U.S.?
FRUM: Well, it does create a tremendous challenge for the media -- especially media that worked the way American media do, in the context of a two-party system.
If you're reporting from Germany where there are multi parties and you have the question Democrats in the social Democrats into right center left. And then you have a third party like the alternative for journey that's authoritarian, that supports Putin, that takes to various sorts of financial systems. In that context, it's pretty easy to say look at this one party among many is tainted with authoritarian tendencies.
But in a two-party system, especially with media were used to looking on the one hand or the other, where every platform has to be balanced. People ask this show. You have any Trump supporters there? Well, no because if you're trying to analyze the harm done, being done to American democracy by an attempted overthrow an election on January 6, you don't have pro "overthrow the election" people on to analyze the phenomenon. I don't know where you would but you might, the case for overthrowing democratic elections? That might be something to study.
But if you're analyzing it, there isn't a place to stand. So, you have this problem when you cover American politics, because one party is not wholly, but so deeply embedded with the problem. It's hard for people used to turning one hand, A, now, Mr. B, now back to you to explain a problem where the problem isn't embedded in the presentation.
STELTER: David Zurawik, you're based in Baltimore. We have this case in Maryland of an election denying candidate now getting the GOP nominee for governor. It's a blue state. He's probably not going to win but there's a lot of concern Democrats helped to pay for his campaign to get him to win the election and not his primary challengers.
Do you think the press in Maryland and more broadly is explaining these issues clearly enough? Like did voters know who they were picking for example?
ZURAWIK: Well, there's -- what's complicated I think about this is some of the kind of journalism we've been socialized to as David said, one hand, other hand. Let's be fair, let's not call it out.
I think personally, Brian, that we are so far beyond that with what's happened in the last four or five years in this country with the -- it's not a creep. It's a rush to authoritarianism, on the right.
And it's not just in the political world. The right has media that's pushing them along this line. Remember, Tucker Carlson goes to Hungary and warships at the altar of Viktor Orban and says, look, how orderly and clean this country's. Look at the chaos Joe Biden has in America and the madness.
That kind of -- so when you have the media in a media with 3 million people watching it at prime time in a week night, pushing it, we're really along that path.
And Donald Trump, the nature of Donald Trump has really accelerated it. When he's urged people at his rallies, when he's pointed to the reporters section out there in the bullpen in urged his people to jeer them or menace them even in some cases, that's where we are. We've had four, five years that, enemy of the people.
We overlook that.
STELTER: Last night, he said he might sue the Pulitzer because of the Russia coverage.
ZURAWIK: There you go.
STELTER: And it doesn't get attention anymore, but it's still happening. It's still happening.
Can I pull up the Gallup poll though? I want to show this Gallup poll, another new low in trust in the media. This is both newspapers and television news pulled by Gallup. New record lows in the amount of trust Americans say they have in those two forms of media.
But, Jennifer, the Gallup polling also showed declining lack of trust in a dozen other institutions. Everything from banks, Congress, Supreme Court, et cetera.
So, trust in the media record lows. It mirrors just a climate trust more broadly in the U.S.
How does that relate to your playbook?
DRESDEN: Yeah. So, that is definitely that's been going on for a while. And the way that it relates to the playbook again is this interconnectedness, and the absolutely vital role that the media has to play in informing the American public about what is happening, about giving context to these stories and explaining that this is not just normal politics. This is a normal.
And we have standards that we can use to identify why it's not normal, and applying those standards, giving the context, given the explanation in ways that may not be as sexy as some options of covering it. But they really communicate the gravity of what is happening. And the why it is that something that, if all was well, something that might be a mosquito bite to the health of American democracy can actually be fatal given the context where we are right now.
I think continuing to pursue that type of coverage and doing it judiciously. I think can really hopefully help to turn some of those trends around.
STELTER: Thank you, everybody, for the conversation.
We have lots more ahead, including Lynne O'Donnell on her ordeal in Afghanistan.
Plus, fear or optimism, what are the ways to best tell the story of the climate emergency?
STELTER: If you can turn off the TV, you can move off the grid, but you'll never be able to outrun this story. It's the climate crisis, a top subject of conversation across most of the media world right now, with crippling heat, devastating floods, and an ever-growing list of destruction in the news. There's been lots of reporting and guesswork about what President Biden might do with the limited powers he has. And there's always new research being done on climate communication, how to get through to the public.
For example, here's a story from earlier in the year, a study suggesting that maybe being a bummer and being a downer giving you very bad news might be an effective tool. But other studies sometimes suggest the opposite. Here's the Gen Z-driven hashtags trends like, good news climate change. You see billions of views for this hashtag on TikTok and sites like it, suggesting maybe optimism is the way to go, or maybe it's all of the above.
CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir is here with thoughts on that and so much more, Bill, good to see you.
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Brian.
STELTER: You seem to only be on TV when the news is really, really bad. Is that a fair assessment?
WEIR: I used to be so much fun at parties before I took on this beat. It feels that way. But I do think I'm working on a special right now about solutions. STELTER: Oh, OK.
WEIR: And I just got back from Iceland and Cambridge. I'm going out west. There are amazing stories of hope and optimism and innovation out there but we're still cycling through the early stuff. We're you know --
STELTER: Where do you come down on this being positive or being negative, should journalists even think in that way, or just tell you what's going on?
WEIR: I think it depends on the person.
WEIR: And in the state, they're in. And it's sort of like do you want your doctor to tell you, you're going to die in 45 minutes if you don't do this? Do you want them to be nicer and gentler with you? How do you get your kid to put on sunscreen? These are the psychological challenges of telling the story because there's no catharsis. We're not going to have a satisfying season finale of the climate emergency story.
We're going to be living with this in every aspect of our lives for the rest of our lives. And some days it's going to be super scary, and some days we'll all be rebuilding together other days, it'll be by preparing for what's coming in but it's here. And ultimately, I like to say we're all going to be climate reporters sooner or later. We --
STELTER: So what do you mean by that?
WEIR: I think the way we all are local newsrooms, everybody there was thrown into service and learning as much about virology. And COVID.
STELTER: Two years ago with COVID.
WEIR: And public health.
WEIR: You know suddenly --
STELTER: Two years ago, everybody was a health report.
WEIR: Everybody's a health reporter.
WEIR: Well, look at what's happening. Like today, I was reading The Times-Picayune. The insurance market in Louisiana is completely cratered after three hurricanes. 600,000 people, their claims are in limbo, and the government is taking over. Like that's the economic wave that happens before the waves are lapping up on Main Street. You know what I mean? And the more people taste this, the drought out west, you want to call it yourself a climate change victim because you can't grow cotton in Arizona anymore? Maybe you don't want to politically, but it's happening. And it's just going to continue to happen.
And the story of our times will be how people adjust to this and how quickly the world can transition to fuels that don't cause this problem. It's going to happen, though is inevitable as the way your phone gets better with every release. We're moving to green hydrogen, we're moving to all these other alternatives. The question is how much pain and suffering has to happen before humanity makes those shifts?
STELTER: And to the folks who still try to engage in denialism or say, what are you all worried about? It's just a hot summer.
STELTER: Those messages, I think are getting relatively fringe. I see them only in some corners of the media world, but they still are out there. Do you grapple with that at all?
WEIR: I do. I struggle with it all the time. And what I've landed on is I hold my scorn for the storytellers, not the believers.
If you work in oil and gas and Louisiana and you're -- and your neighborhood loyalty depends on defending this industry, I don't blame you for not -- for having -- wanting to poke holes in it. But if you're a Fox News anchor, or you're -- or you're on the take from some special interest spreading a message that it's not so bad or that it's not happening at all, then you deserve the full wrath of society on that because you're blocking the entrance to a burning theater. I mean, this is serious.
STELTER: Blocking the entrance to a burning theater.
WEIR: Yes. It's one of the -- you know, we talk about the First Amendment fight over you can't yell fire in a crowded theater, scientists have been yelling fire in this theater for 50 years. They don't -- they actually don't -- they don't yell fire because they don't want to be seen to be alarmist. That's the -- that's the worst thing you want to be as an academic, right? But now it's getting to the point where folks wake up, you know how bad this gets depends on what we all do today. At least we can acknowledge it is happening.
And so it has changed. I think the conversation has gone. Now, it's more those who are opposed or sort of lukewarmest or they think that technology will fix all of humanity's ills in time. But that's a hell of a gamble.
STELTER: A hell of a gamble. Bill Weir, thank you so much for the context today.
WEIR: Thanks, Brian. Good luck. STELTER: Good to see you. Up next. We are covering a country where reporting the facts can come at a brutal cost. Columnist Lynne O'Donnell returned to Afghanistan to see the Taliban's attempt to graduate from fighters to governors. She says they almost threw her in prison. And we're going to hear her firsthand account right after this.
STELTER: In Afghanistan, the Taliban's unrelenting quest to muzzle the media continues. Australian journalist Lynne O'Donnell experienced this firsthand recently. She's a war correspondent who writes for several publications including Foreign Policy magazine. She wrote an article in 2021 titled, as the Taliban expand control, concerns about forced marriage and sex slavery rise. These are some of her other articles.
She returned to the country this month and said she was detained and abused and forced to retract her articles. She had to put up these tweets on Twitter saying she apologized for her earlier reports. She says she was facing jail time. She is now safely out of Afghanistan. She has asked us to not reveal exactly where she is, but Lynne O'Donnell is joining me now to tell us about this experience. Lynne, are you with me?
LYNNE O'DONNELL, COLUMNIST, FOREIGN POLICY: I am. Hi, Brian.
STELTER: Tell me about your decision to return to Afghanistan this summer, nearly one year since the U.S. withdrew and the Taliban took control of Kabul and the rest of the country. Why did you decide to go back?
O'DONNELL: Well, as you said, it's nearly a year since the Taliban took over. I covered Afghanistan for very many years. As far as I can determine, I'm the only foreign correspondent who was in Afghanistan when the Americans arrived in 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, and the only one who was there when the Americans left and the Taliban returned 20 years later.
And so I was on one of the last, I think probably the last commercial flight to leave Afghanistan on the 15th of August last year, just a few hours before the Taliban came in and took over. And so there's been an awful lot of change since then. I write about it, as you say, for Foreign Policy magazine. But I felt that I needed to see for myself exactly what's been going on in Afghanistan and how it has changed since the Taliban took control so that's why I went.
STELTER: Did you have any freedom of movement before you were approached by authorities and they forced you to post those tweets claiming you're retracting your articles?
O'DONNELL: Oh, yes, I did. I went by the book, Brian. I had a valid media visa issued by the Afghanistan Embassy in London. As soon as you arrive at Kabul airport, if you're a foreigner, you have to fill in forms, and handover a photograph, and register your presence. I did that. And I also knew that as a visiting foreign correspondent, I was expected to present myself at the Foreign Ministry. And that's what I did. I did everything that I was supposed to do (AUDIO GAP) kidding, which was on Monday morning, last week, was with the spokesman for the foreign ministry who uses a false name.
And he immediately launched into me. He called me a white supremacist colonialist. He took photos -- he had a list on his iPhone of stories and headlines that he started reading out to me. He told me that the security authorities of the Taliban were going to ask me to leave the country, that they didn't recognize me as a -- as a journalist because of the stories that I had done. He told me that I'd made them up, that my sources were also false.
So then, as part of this diatribe that I had from the man who calls himself Abdul Qahar Balkhi, he reminded me of a Taliban attack in 2016 on a busload of employees for a local television station called TOLO. Now, TOLO had broadcast a false report during the siege of a northern city earlier that (AUDIO GAP). They had been retracted.
For some reason, managers decided that they wouldn't retract the report. The Taliban kept demanding, they kept threatening. And as retaliation, they sent a suicide bomber against a bus carrying, as I said, TOLO employees home. And I think on the day, seven people were killed, some people probably died of their injuries later. So he told me that this is what we do. And he said, and we're proud of that.
I said you killed a lot of innocent people that day. He said, and we're proud of that. And I said, one of the people who was killed was a friend of mine. He said, and we're proud of that. So, the message was pretty clear. We believe that you are not a journalist, that you write fake stuff and we deal with people like you very harshly. So off I went. He said is there anything you'd like me to do for you while I'm here -- while you're in the country? I said, yes, tell -- you know security not to -- not to deport me.
So security caught up with me a little while later and they told me, I said, look, I'm going to leave the country. That's what the Foreign Ministry says you want me to do. I'm going to go. The guy at the -- at the -- what they call now their General Directorate of Intelligence, Ahmad Sahir said to me that the decision was his and his alone. He wanted to have a meeting with me to discuss face to face my crimes. And that if I did not have the meeting, he would order all border points to close and -- against me and not allow me out of the country. So I said, well, come on over guys. I'm at this guesthouse. Come and see me.
So they did. They came over. They were very rude to me from the get- go. And a very Kafkaesque sort of way said that I knew my crimes, and they'd look at each other and say, she knows her crimes. And then they took me away to the headquarters of the intelligence agency and they kept me there for four hours.
STELTER: So your crimes, were just reporting factual information. Of course, he didn't actually retract the articles, but now there's no way you can return to Afghanistan. Lynne, thank you so much for telling your story. Thank -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
O'DONNELL: Well you know I never say never, yes
STELTER: Oh, OK.
O'DONNELL: Well, I was going to say, never say never. The Taliban have shown that their days are numbered. This is not a sustainable regime. And so they said, don't come back. Once they're gone, I'll go back.
STELTER: That's the perfect way to put it. Lynne, thank you very much. Thank you for your bravery on telling the story here. Still to come, legendary media reporter Ken Auletta with the story he's been wanting to tell for 20 years. He's next.
STELTER: The most important part of the new book "Hollywood Ending" is not Harvey Weinstein. No, it's the other part of the book subtitle, say it, "The Culture Of Silence." Weinstein, of course, is the movie mogul. He seemed invincible for years. He depended on a culture of silence until all of that disintegrated and his abuse was exposed by reporters of The New York Times and The New Yorker. Now, he's behind bars and he's facing even more charges for sex crimes, but it was unclear if it would ever reach that point.
Later this year, universal is releasing a movie called "She Said," all about The Times' investigation of Weinstein. And in it, you hear one of the characters say that people had tried and tried and tried to reveal Weinstein's sexual abuse. They tried for years. They tried and he stopped it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have tried to write this story before, but he kills it every time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harvey adamantly denies any allegation of assault.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He played people. He was a master manipulator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you give me just one chance to talk to you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Ken Auletta knows what it's like to be hung up on. He heard whispers about Weinstein's sexual abuse of women 20 years ago, but his sources would not go on the record back then. In fact, they couldn't because of the legal documents they had signed. Auletta still described Weinstein's rage and bullying, in a landmark 2002 profile.
And 15 years later, he helped Ronan Farrow nail down Weinstein's misconduct. Now he has followed up by authoring the definitive account of Weinstein in that "Culture Of Silence." Legendary media reporter and New Yorker Staff Writer Ken Auletta, is here with me now. Ken, "The Culture Of Silence," who did you find that perpetuated and enabled the culture of silence?
KEN AULETTA, WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, this man was raping and abusing women for more than four decades. And there were people in his office who knew there were people in Hollywood who knew, there were people in the press who suspected it, and yet he got away with it. And that's the culture of silence. By the way, it's not dissimilar to what we see happening in the -- in the Nation's Capital right now. I mean, Republicans know that Trump did not win that election, yet, the vast majority of Republicans out of fear, the same fear that Harvey people had, keep their mouths shut.
STELTER: And you were able to speak with Bob Weinstein, his brother, and now his estranged brother, what was most important about what you found about those enablers who had to come to grips with what -- they what they knew?
AULETTA: I think many people were in denial that, you know, they should have known but they claim they didn't know. There were some people who I reported in the book who did know and I tried to expose them. But there are many, many people who work for him who claim they didn't know. But let me tell you a story, which I tell in the book about Hillary Silver.
Hillary Silver was an attractive young woman who came for a job interview at Miramax in the late 90s. And she came, Harvey saw her on the elevator. He's very attracted to her. He said come and see me when you're done. She was done with her interview. She came to see him. And he said, without even checking with his executives, you're hired.
She was supposed to start in three weeks. She went on vacation. She came back, and the day before she was to start, four members of the Miramax staff, one in human resources, one of Harvey's four assistants, and two other executives said we want to take you out for a drink. She thought -- she was thrilled. She thought what a wonderful welcoming culture Miramax says. So at drinks, what did they do? They said, Hillary, you don't want to come to work here. He will rape you. He will assault you. So if that many people in the office knew --
AULETTA: Clearly, many people know.
STELTER: They knew. Do you think there are versions of that in Hollywood or other industries today? How much is the industry really changed?
AULETTA: Well, I mean that certainly, people are on guard now and are shamed by being exposed but clearly it is something that exists in many industries. But what's different about Hollywood? You can't think of many industries where beautiful young women, ambitious to be in the Hollywood -- in the movie business are sitting side by side with CEOs and studio heads. I mean, and what happens is when these people compliment these studio heads and these producers, they take a compliment as they come on, and they take advantage.
But with Harvey -- what Harvey did was different. What he did was criminal. The casting couch, which is his defense, is over the many, many decades of Hollywood. People took advantage of an ambitious young women to want to be in the movie business, but they didn't rape them. Harvey was raping these women. And more than 100 women came forward after being exposed in the New York Times and in The New Yorker, as you mentioned, and said he raped me, he abused me, physically abused me. And when you describe, as I tried to, in the book and has been numb before, how he did it, it's really gruesome.
STELTER: It is. And I'm thankful for this because we need the full record of it. Ken, thank you very much for coming on. Again, the book is "Hollywood Ending." Remember to sign up for our free "RELIABLE SOURCES NEWSLETTER." It's at reliablesources.com. And tonight, a new episode of "United Shades of America" with W. Kamau Bell, he's in Boston. You should tune in to see why at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, right here. We'll see you back here for "RELIABLE SOURCES" this time next week.