Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

Fox News Skips Live Coverage Of Trump's D.C. Speech; GOP Candidates Are Running On Anti-Media Platforms; The Real Story About The VP's 'Blue Suit' Comment; 'Power Worshippers' Author Analyzes Christian Nationalism; DOJ Taking Book Publishers To Court Starting Monday. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 31, 2022 - 11:00   ET



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

This hour, the acclaimed economist Paul Krugman is here talking about the economic rollercoaster and how we should all cover and handle it.

Plus, prickly candidates running for powerful posts. We will talk to a reporter about what it's like covering candidates when they're campaigning against you.

And later, attacked for being accessible? We're going to rewind this tape of VP Kamala Harris and look at what really happened at this event that was mocked by right wing media.

But, first, this weekend, there are new headlines about Rupert Murdoch snubbing Donald Trump. There are new questions about "The Wall Street Journal" publishing a gossipy story about Elon Musk.

And there are new frustrations with news coverage of President Biden.

Joining us to make sense of it all: Tara Palmeri, formerly from "Politico" and ABC, now the senior political correspondent at "Puck"; CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy; and Republican strategist Liz Mair, former online communications director at the RNC.

Let's begin with Jon Stewart and the PACT Act. Right now, protesters are gathering at the steps of the U.S. Capitol to advocate for legislation that's right now kind of stalled in the Senate.

You see these pictures here of these protests that's under way on the steps of the Capitol. They are advocating for the passage of legislation to provide funding for veterans who have suffered from toxic burn pits in Iraq and other previous wars. This toxic exposure bill was stalled the other day by Republicans.

But let's be honest about this, Tara. This would not be as big a story were it not for Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart has used his celebrity status as a comedian to force this to be a national news story. TARA PALMERI, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: Absolutely, and

the way he handles it. I mean, he's just so direct. He uses that angry sarcasm to directly go after specific senators, like how he went after Ted Cruz and he's gone after the conservative media for not covering this enough.

And, you know, it's not your typical way of taking on an issue and not the way celebrities generally do because we see celebrities all the time on Capitol Hill all the time with their pet projects. But the way that Jon Stewart gets in there, he's so impassioned. He -- in 2019, he fought for those 9/11 first responders. And he manages to get the media to pay attention because of the way he fights his arguments .

STELTER: His communication, yes.

PALMERI: His communication. Using profanities, directly calling them out on their hypocrisy. You really don't see that all the time and he's very effective. And that's what made him such a great entertainer and comedian and, you know, pundit.

STELTER: This is going to be his most important show, more important than "The Daily Show".

Oliver, your thought?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I think it's really interesting how he's using conservative media to apply pressure to the Republicans who have voted against this bill. So, he was on Newsmax. He was on Fox. And he knows that the voters who support Ted Cruz aren't necessarily watching CNN but they are watching Fox and he's going there and he's making the case.

STELTER: Also, when he was on the other networks, he said, by the way, Fox hasn't had me on yet which pressured Fox into booking him.

DARCY: And they had to have him on the next morning.

STELTER: Let's play that video again. Not only he's showing up in all these shows, he's coming on the shows on his phone, in his car, on the New Jersey turnpike. It's very relatable. It's very unique visually.

Liz Mair, there is some criticism from conservatives. Here's Matt Whitlock's tweet saying: Jon Stewart could be an incredibly effective voice lobbying both parties, but at the end of the day, he's just a partisan hack willing to push viral misinformation to help the left. That's a tweet from Republican communications expert Matt Whitlock, of course, formerly of the NRSC.

So, there is an argument here, Liz, that Jon Stewart is just doing the Democrat's bidding rather than being honest in the situation.

LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think frequently, Jon Stewart does do the Democrats' bidding. But I also I think it's worth having a look here. It's not clear where Ted Cruz is getting some of the arguments he's making. I posted and retweeted on my Twitter account which is @LizMair, a bunch of tweets from Jamie Dupree who has been following this.

And I think if people take a look at this, it's fairly -- it's fairly obvious there's something going on here that's not what Ted Cruz is saying. It sounds like what this is do with is really Chuck Schumer possibly not having managed the calendar in a way that was previously agreed to.

We all know Chuck Schumer isn't great at that. We have a couple of things that he's mismanaged. He doesn't seem to be bringing to the floor a vote to protect marriage equality. He also isn't bringing to the floor, as yet and he should be, a vote on a bill called NOPEC, which would deal with gas prices and targeting the Saudi oil cartel.


So, he's not necessarily the greatest floor manager and I think that's sort of what's standing out here if you look at what Jamie has tweeted and what he's quoted John Cornyn saying.

STELTER: Hmm. And another vote on this is scheduled on the Senate on Monday and the PACT Act is expected to pass tomorrow.

Oliver, let's look at a front page story in "The New York Times", also a big story on "The Washington Post" this weekend. Both papers highlighting Fox News and Donald Trump, saying, look, the Murdochs have been aligned with Trump for a while. They had a mutually benefit relationship, but that's changing.

They are pointing out that Fox News did not even show Donald Trump's big return to D.C. speech live this week. I counted 17 minutes of Mike Pence's speech, zero minutes of Donald Trump speech. And when I called a source at Fox, he said, yeah, that's not a coincidence.

There's something going on here. What do you think it is?

DARCY: Yeah, I think it's unlikely that Fox will ever specifically come out against Donald Trump. But what they can do is they can dim the spotlight that they have put on him over the years, and they can shine the spotlight a little brighter on other candidates like Ron DeSantis. And I think that's what you're seeing them do.

Now, does this mean that forever Fox is going to be against Trump or pushing other candidates? Not necessarily. But, right now, they are seeming to give the former president the cold shoulder.

STELTER: Liz, what do you make of that change of events?

MAIR: Yeah. Well, Donald Trump isn't as entertaining as he was in 2015 or 2016, right? I mean, in 2015 and 2016 and for quite a bit beyond that, whether you loved him or hated him, and I was definitely on the hate side of that equation, he was like the car crash on the side of the road that you couldn't take your eyes off, right?

Now, that's just not the case anymore. He's just not very interesting to anybody. Whether you're talking about progressives, conservatives, libertarians like me. I think people like Ron DeSantis are infinitely more interesting. And so, that's a judgment call that I think Fox naturally is going to make it.


PALMERI: I would disagree. I think the Donald Trump show is still a car crash. It's just a very expensive one to cover as Fox News has learned with this Dominion suit that was filed against them. They had seen what happens when they perpetuate some of these election lies. And I think, at the end of the day, they know that they don't -- they don't need to cover Trump anymore.

And that is so bruising for him because if there's anything Trump hates -- he's okay with the critical coverage, but to be ignored is the biggest burn that you can do to Donald Trump. I don't think the show has changed. It's the same show, it's just they're not looking at it and watching it anymore.

And that's going to be hard because then you just have Breitbart and you have some of the more marginal outlets keep watching, but not the older voters that you need I think ultimately to reelect Donald Trump.

STELTER: Right, that's a key point. When Trump is being interviewed on live web streams and not Fox, something has changed in our politics.

Another turned here, another Murdoch media related story, a remarkable story on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal" the other day about an alleged affair, a broken marriage. It seemed like a tabloid story, but it was "Journal" front page material because it was about Elon musk.

The paper reporting on an allegation that Musk had a romantic relationship with the wife of his business partner, Sergey Brin. The report said Musk can do another Twitter storm. He basically denied the report. He mocked the "Journal". He posted about his friendship with Brin.

As "Puck" noted, the scandal is scooped by "The Journal". It set off a series of questions. Why was this fit for "The Wall Street Journal"?

Do you think, Oliver, that's a fair question? Why was this gossipy story front page news for "The Journal"?

DARCY: Yeah, and it's hard to imagine if it was anyone but Musk that it would be on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal".

STELTER: Well, why did it -- why was it worthy?

DARCY: They would argue it has business ramifications because Sergey pulled some of his interests from Musk's businesses. But, you know, I still think that usually you see this kind of reporting on someone's personal life, you know, in the page six.

STELTER: Hold on, Tara, you used to work for page six. You used to write about me. Is this fair material for "The Journal"?

PALMERI: I think so for the reasons that Oliver said. They really leaned into the financial implications. But you really don't know how much of the investment it is. Is he going to pull it?

So many of the questions that we need to know about their relationship -- their financial relationship have not been answered in that article. They really leaned in to the -- they leaned into the affair side.

STELTER: Right, they really did. And there's question about why that is and who are the sources. Then, of course, Musk fans were targeting "The Journal", trolling "The Journal". "The Journal" had to come out defending its editor.

DARCY: An editor that wasn't involved in the editing of the story.

STELTER: Right, but who is getting harassed in social media.

Speaking of harassment, the ultimate example, Alex Jones.

He's, of course, being sued. He is facing, what, a $150 million potential payout. That's what the lawyers for Sandy Hook parents are asking for. Give us an update on this trial in Texas.

DARCY: Well, it's very confusing legally, but basically Elon Jones -- Alex Jones, his main company, has declared bankruptcy which is going to seemingly delay a trial that was set to take place in Connecticut. Jury selection was due to begin on Monday.

And so, that's what's going to delay that trial. But the trial underway in Texas where a jury is going to decide how much Alex Jones has to pay the families of Sandy Hook victims who sued him, that's still ongoing.


It's not going to be disrupted seemingly by this bankruptcy protection claim. And it should wrap, I think, this coming week. The plaintiffs are scheduled to bring the final witnesses to the stand on Monday.

STELTER: So, we'll find out how much money is offered and we'll find out if he can pay it, right?

DARCY: Right. Well, I mean, it's very confusing legally I would say.

PALMERI: At the same time, he's also decided to put so many of his media companies into bankruptcy to protect them from this from whatever payout he has.

DARCY: Right. Well, initially, he put three -- earlier this year, he put smaller companies into bankruptcy protection. Then the families that were suing basically dropped those companies so that their lawsuit could continue against Alex Jones and his main primary media company, Free Speech Systems. Now, Jones has put his main primary media company Free Speech Systems into bankruptcy protection which could delay, you know, the trial out in Connecticut. So, we'll see what happens.

STELTER: In an attempt to use the courts to hold him accountable for lying.

DARCY: That's the bottom line.

STELTER: That's what really it's about.

One more story I want to bring up for the panel. Liz, I'm going to go first on this.

President Biden and the coverage of Biden. Here's what "The New York Times" says this morning. Biden has so far struggled to ensure that his victories break through the often grim reports that dominate news coverage. So, here, of course, a major news outlet saying the news is too negative and Biden can't break through.

I wonder what you make of all the recent debates about whether Biden is being treated fairly by the mainstream media?

MAIR: I think Biden is doing a really bad job at communicating. Part of this is substance. They're not doing a good job of handling the economy, in my opinion. Of course, I'm a Republican strategist, so perhaps you would expect me to say that.

But, you know, they're sort of three for three in terms of losing on economic messaging at this point. I mean, we had the transitory inflation thing that wasn't (AUDIO GAP) the definition of what a recession is. They were arguing for a while that gas prices was all down to Ukraine and inflation was all down to Ukraine, which wasn't substantially true.

These guys are just not doing a good job. I think it's good news for the White House if Kate Bedingfield is going to say on. They don't need more staffing (AUDIO GAP) --

STELTER: Liz, your signal is coming in and out. Your signal is a little shaky, but you brought up Kate Bedingfield, an important point. She had announced she was going to leave as White House communications director. Now, it turns out she's deciding to stay.

Tara, why is that? Why is Bedingfield deciding to stay in this role or what does it mean?

PALMERI: To me, it means they're having trouble finding someone to replace her because you would think that the White House is one of the highest places for any PR official. You go on from being communications director to the White House to any massive important communication job, PR, et cetera. You can have your own show, right?

So, the fact they're not able to field messaging gurus on this and she's staying on for longer just suggests to me that people don't think that they're going to be working in the Biden administration for more than two more years.

STELTER: Oh, interesting.

Look, she's welcome to come on and tell us more about it.

Everybody, stand by. Much more to come.

We're going to get more into the bad news bias argument after the break. Paul Krugman is standing by on that.

Plus, the author of the book on Christian nationalism.

And we're going go live to Arizona for this one. There are two very different types of Republicans running in primaries this year. And I'm going to show you how to spot the difference.



STELTER: Hey, big primaries coming up on Tuesday, in Michigan, Missouri, Washington state and Arizona.

Right now, Arizona seems like a microcosm of GOP politics with Republicans like Rusty Bowers punished for denying -- defying Donald Trump, while the Trump-backed candidate for governor, Kari Lake, an election denier, who's openly hostile to the media, she's winning support among primary voters. We're about to see if she wins enough support to actually win that primary on Tuesday.

But it's revealing to see a former TV anchor like Kari Lake running on this anti-media platform. It's happening across the country. Let's see what it means in Arizona for the press there.

Joining me now is Rachel Leingang, co-founder of "The Arizona Agenda", a Substack publication. Leingang previously covered government for "The Arizona Republic", among other places.

Rachel, welcome to the program.

RACHEL LEINGANG, THE ARIZONA AGENDA: Hi, thanks for having me.

STELTER: You can tell us firsthand what it's like to have a candidate running for governor openly hostile to the media. What's happened in recent months? Tell me about it.

LEINGANG: So, I personally have not been any on the media Twitter posts or anything like that. But I see my colleagues at the "Arizona Republic", Stacy, who's covering the governor's race, ends up in these videos all the time about, you know, they asked me this question and I put them on notice. It's become a campaign tactic for Kari Lake, though, certainly, like you mentioned, she's not alone.

It's bizarre I guess I would say to see this level of hostility, though I don't know how it transfers to governing at any point.

STELTER: So, tell us more about that. Think about that. How would it transfer -- how could it transfer to governing? Are reporters in Arizona used to having openly hostile public officials?

LEINGANG: We are used to having inaccessible public officials, but there's a difference between in accessibility and hostility. I think that's really the key difference here, is, you know, it's not like we have a lot of politicians who are available to be called at any time and answer everyone's phone calls. That's definitely not it. But for the media to become a character in a campaign, that's the different step that we're seeing this time.

STELTER: How do you translate this situation to readers and viewers? I mean, let's just face it, right, reporters across the country are covering more extreme candidates than they're used to seeing. How do you convey that and make that factual to the public?

LEINGANG: We just kind of lay it out how it is in our publication. You know, it is bizarre to see this sort of thing. It's also -- I wonder who it's for.

Does the average person even know who their reporters are on a daily newspaper? It's not necessarily -- doesn't seem for the general public.


But it's this antagonistic relationship between the media and people running for office this cycle.

STELTER: Right, and when candidates are posting tweets bashing reporters, does that affect the coverage? Does that cause the coverage to be biased?

LEINGANG: I don't think so, though, I think there is a tendency if people are attacking your reporting to, I guess, defend the work you're doing. And I think that sort of defense is important.

Also, I think, you can do a lot of great journalism without access to people, especially access to the person who is running for office. There's plenty of other ways to do great reporting. So, I mean, I think it doesn't necessarily bias the coverage, but it does -- it plays into the coverage.

The other thing I'll say is that the people who bash the media, when they see a story they like, they're definitely elevating it. So, it's not that they don't think the media plays a role here, they want coverage that's favorable to them. So --

STELTER: Yeah. And what we're seeing is the Trump phenomenon treating the press like the enemy is trickling down into local news, into local media. That's I think what we're seeing play in Arizona and elsewhere. Rachel, thank you for the explanation there from Phoenix.

LEINGANG: Thank you.

STELTER: Let's continue the conversation Republican strategist Liz Mair, Puck's Tara Palmeri, and CNN's Oliver Darcy.

There's been a lot of headlines about this phenomenon this week. "New York Magazine": Why Republicans stopped talking to the press? "Vanity Fair": Will Republicans shut out the press in 2024? Tara, I think it's important to draw a distinction. There's two types

of Republicans. Many covet media attention. They're respectful to reporters roaming the halls of the Capitol, et cetera.

But there's this other group of Republicans who are absolutely hostile to the media, who try to shut them out, the Kari Lake's of the world. There's a real divide line between the two.

PALMERI: In fact, they're able to generate media by shutting the media out which also furthers their message. They are inspired by Trump, created by Trump candidates, endorsed by Trump candidates.

And I remember when I covered the Trump White House, one of his communication aides said it doesn't hurt us to attack you. In fact, you are less popular than Congress.

The media is not very popular with the big part of the GOP electorate. So, it doesn't hurt them to trash us. It doesn't hurt them to say we're lying and then come to us when they need us.

And it's just -- it's a game they're playing. We have to play it better because they see us as pawns and usable.

STELTER: It just feels to me like it's so much more intense than ten years ago. Liz, it's not just that Republican voters might be a little bit distrustful of the media. Distrust of the media is the uniting force for the base.

MAIR: Yeah, but I think that's been true for a long time. I don't want to say that seeing candidates on part with Kari Lake and other places --

STELTER: We're losing your signal again. I was so hopeful for Skype today. Skype is letting us down. We'll try to fix it.

Let's go ahead and play some examples beyond Arizona, though, because this is something we're seeing in other states as well. Ron DeSantis is running campaign ads against the press. Watch.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We have to beat the media.

J.D. VANCE (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump's wall.

KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Let's send the corrupt news a lesson.


STELTER: There's Kari Lake. We see other candidates as well in the other states that were running for reelection doing the same.

Oliver, do you see a difference? Liz was saying this has gone for a long time, of course. DARCY: Yeah, I think the viciousness has certainly ramped up.

STELTER: The viciousness, right.

DARCY: We've seen it ramp up as the conservative media infrastructure has grown in power, because they no longer need to play ball with magazines for profiles or newspapers. They can go on Fox or the number of other outlets on the right to give them the glowing coverage they want.

STELTER: Oliver, Tara, thank you very much. Sorry we lost Liz. We'll try to get her back next time.

Are you tired of hearing talking heads speculate about the economic? Us, too. So, we booked a real expert instead. Paul Krugman is up next.

Plus, a single tweet that set off the right wing raucous. We're going to get into the lesson in directing media coverage where it actually matters.



STELTER: It's the economy, stupid. So, how should we cover it wisely? We've all seen the headlines. They're impossible to miss. The economy is slowing, declining, shrinking.

And the phrase of the week is recession fears. It's what you see in every banner. Recession fears.

Economists seem to be struggling to explain this weird economy, maybe the weirdest economic we ever lived through.

People want to know, is this a recession or not? The White House is arguing about the definition of the term. The media is basically caught up in that debate as well. There's a lot of confusion about it.

So, let me bring in a guest that I wanted to interview for a long time, Paul Krugman. He is, of course, the Nobel laureate and an economist, a distinguished professor at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, and a long-time columnist for "The New York Times."

Welcome to the program. Thank you for coming on.

PAUL KRUGMAN, ECONOMIST: Brian, thanks for having me.

STELTER: Can we dispense with the recession debate real quick? Are we in a recession and does the term matter?

KRUGMAN: No, we aren't and no, it doesn't.

STELTER: One sentence. That was it, huh?

KRUGMAN: That was it. None of the usual criteria that real experts use says that we're in a recession right now. And what does matter?

The state of the economy is what it is. Jobs are abundant although maybe the job market is weakening. Inflation is high, although maybe inflation is coming down. What does it matter whether you use the "R" word or not?

STELTER: Certainly, the White House was trying to encourage reporters to use the technical definition.


But certainly, many are using a broader definition. So this is going to go on for a while, and it's like everybody's playing their roles the way you would expect them to play their roles. What should the media's --

KRUGMAN: I would say --

STELTER: Go ahead.

KRUGMAN: Yes, I would say that this is especially vitriolic. I mean, I get -- you know, I've been in this business for a couple of decades and get lots of hate mail and I see stuff. I've never seen anything as bad as that the determination of a lot of people to say it's a recession is above and beyond anything I've ever seen.

STELTER: What do you think is driving that just partisanship and polarization getting worse and worse every year unless this?

KRUGMAN: Yes, partisanship, people want it. It's the Biden recession. They want their Biden recession, they're going to have it, never mind the fact that, you know, that it, in fact, is not a recession in any technical sense.

STELTER: Is it fair to say this is the weirdest economy we've ever lived through and we're all having to adjust to the weirdness of it all?

KRUGMAN: Oh, yes. I mean, I've never seen as many, you know -- we -- economic data are, you know people sometimes think that we actually have numbers on what's happening in the economy. What we have is estimates compiled by diligent intelligence, civil servants, working with partial data, and amputations. And right now, a lot of the numbers are not consistent with each other, you know.


KRUGMAN: You've got GDP shrinking, but employment -- but 2 million jobs added so far this year, so -- which has come as you expect. You know, we're recovering from pandemic, you'd expect a lot of things to look kind of weird right now.

STELTER: Yes, you've covered -- you could call this a record divergence in these data points. So what do you want the press to be doing differently, and its day-by-day coverage of the economy? KRUGMAN: Well, I think that the big problem has been that the coverage has tended, you know kind of bleeds, it leads, but this time and economic data, the negatives get all of the attention. And there's a lot of polling that indicates that people -- you know, it's one thing for people to say, look, the inflation matters to me more than the job gains, but a plurality of voters appear to not be aware that we've been gaining jobs. You know, people just don't know. They -- people say they've heard more news items, reporting negative news on unemployment than positive. And unemployment has, of course, the economy's good point.

So I think that what's happening now is that there's been a kind of a negativity bias in coverage just you know the press should be giving people. People have their own personal experiences. And if you ask people how are you doing? They are pretty -- they're pretty upbeat.

You know, there are signs that you know, people are complaining now especially, but things like gas prices, although those have come down in the last six weeks. But if you ask people how's your financial situation? It's pretty favorable. If you ask them, how's the economy, they say, oh, it's terrible. And that's a media failing. Somehow, we're failing to convey the realities of what's going on to people.

STELTER: The New York Times recently asked you and a bunch of your colleagues to write a, I was wrong article, something you were wrong about. And here's yours, Paul. I was wrong about inflation.


STELTER: So tell us about this re -- this reassessment and why you decided to do it?

KRUGMAN: Well, the Times thought that would be good to have a feature in which people did talk about what they were wrong about, which I think is a good idea. And look, I'm a big believer. God knows I'm not infallible. And I try to make a point of admitting when I was wrong. And you really pointed to this, you know, there was an earlier episode back during the Obama years when a lot of people predicted runaway inflation under Obama.

And when Bloomberg went back to ask you know people who had wrongly predicted inflation, not one of them would admit having been wrong. And so that's an example of what you don't want to do. You want to say, look, I got it wrong. Why did I get it wrong? What have I learned from the experience?

STELTER: Right. So why were you wrong about inflation? And what do we need to know now about it?

KRUGMAN: What appears to be the case -- I mean, some of it is stuff that clearly no economist could have forecast. I didn't know that Vladimir Putin was going to invade Ukraine. And that's a significant part of what's going on. Things you know external events. But partly it does appear that the U.S. economy is A., has so much smaller productive capacity than we thought. They're just -- we don't appear to be by normal measures, you know,

way overheated. But if we are, in fact, it looks like -- it looks like there were you know workers dropped out of the workforce. Some other things may have happened that reduced economic capacity. And the other is that inflation appears to have been more sensitive to an overheated economy than past experience would have led us to believe.


So, you know, there were -- there were some reasons why I was -- it didn't wasn't just you know complacency. There were some reasons why I didn't think inflation was going to be a problem and it turns out, I was wrong. It's a complicated world out there. And if you never make a wrong prediction, you're not taking enough risks.

STELTER: You're making me want to do a whole show called I was wrong. One more column I want to ask you about, I think that was really important you wrote this week about the dystopian myths of red America, basically describing how let's take the average Fox News viewer, is to what they're told about blue states and about big cities.


STELTER: What are those dystopian myths? What do people need to know about that?

KRUGMAN: Well, first of all, there's the specific issue of the whole black lives matter demonstrations, which a large part of the country, certainly a lot of the mail I get, people think that you know, lots of Manhattan was burned to the ground. They think that this was an enormously destructive thing, when in fact, yes, there was some arson and looting, but actually really not very much, and in a country, the size of the United States and for demonstrations that side, so they think that you know --

STELTER: Can I just clarify, Paul? That's because whenever we talk about the January 6 hearings, the likes of Sean Hannity always say, well, why aren't you investigating the summer of 2020 riots? That's what they say, basically every day.

KRUGMAN: That's right. Yes, and you're in Manhattan, right? I mean, you know that there is not a burned-out shell. It just -- this just never happened, but they're told that it did.

STELTER: No, I mean might -- look, there were windows shattered in my building, it was awful and we cleaned it up the next day. And that's what people do.


STELTER: So I digress. Go ahead.

KRUGMAN: Yes. And the other is about crime. Now, we have, in fact, had a significant surge in murders since the pandemic, probably because you know social isolation and all of that, which has been nationwide and is broad. It's about as much increase in rural areas and small towns as it is in big cities.

But the idea -- and it varies a lot amongst cities but New York, of course, is everybody's favorite. And a lot of the country thinks that New York is an extremely dangerous place, which once was. A lot of people think that it -- that New York now is New York of 1975 with large, no-go areas and high murder rates, when in fact, it's one of the safest places in America even after this rise in crime. It's still way less crime than there was in 1990.

STELTER: So that's another area where media coverage matters so much. Paul, thank you very much for coming on. Good talking with you.

KRUGMAN: Thank you.

STELTER: Coming up, the vice president wanted to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act. So why was all the media coverage about what she was wearing? I'm going to talk with a guest who is actually in the room who can tell us the real story.



STELTER: Did you hear about the vice president's blue suit this week? If so, it all stems from a video I'm about to show you. A video that was tweeted by the Republican National Committee's research Twitter account.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am Kamala Harris, my pronouns are she and her, and I'm a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit.


STELTER: That little clip of Kamala Harris doing a self-description during a Disability Rights meeting on Tuesday calls the days of right- wing media reaction and mockery. So the RNC posted the tweet, it went viral on Twitter and inspired segments on channels like Fox and Newsmax. It caused so much mockery from people on the right. And I wondered, was there any follow-up news coverage? And anybody actually interview anyone who was in the room? Does anybody actually know what the story was all about?

So we decided to book somebody who was there, an attendee at this event marking the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Let me go ahead and bring them in now. Lydia X. Z. Brown was in the room. They are the director of Policy Advocacy and External Affairs for the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. Lydia, you're welcome to the program, I love the blue suit.

LYDIA X. Z. BROWN, DIRECTOR, AUTISTIC WOMEN AND NONBINARY NETWORK: Thanks, Brian. It felt like an appropriate choice.

STELTER: Tell me why Kamala Harris described what she was wearing. What's the actual reason?

BROWN: For many blind people and people who have a variety of vision disabilities, giving a visual description can help provide important context that sighted people automatically have. Not every blind person benefits, but plenty of blind people do and have asked for that accommodation.

STELTER: In the meeting, was this a big deal? Was this a big moment?

BROWN: Absolutely nobody was thinking much about it at all besides what are we doing to ensure that our conversation is accessible to anyone who might be tuning in?

STELTER: And afterward, this becomes a viral moment and they're making fun of her on Fox and elsewhere. How did you feel about that news coverage -- well, I won't call it news, media coverage?

BROWN: It wasn't a media coverage so much as it was a temper tantrum, just a terrible reaction to a meeting where we were talking about real issues about disabled people at risk of severe complications and death from pregnancy, disabled people dealing with forced sterilization, disabled people having children taken away. And instead, all that's happening is this ridiculous criticism of a very basic practice of accessibility and inclusion.

STELTER: There are some Republicans like Adam Kinzinger, who tweeted and said, hey, Democrats, save this moment. This is why you lose elections. Do you buy into that argument at all that by naming pronouns and saying what you're wearing something like VP Harris is hurting the Democrats?

BROWN: We should care a lot more about what our political leaders are doing or failing to do to help real people than about whether or not we are able to recognize who we are, you know, just stating what my pronouns are shouldn't be a big deal. It's just a statement. If you don't care, you don't care. But what we should care about are, again, the real issues and the real conversation we had. If you don't recognize my pronouns, that's on you. But if you are ignoring the reality that disabled people are more likely to die because of lack of access to reproductive health care, that disabled and trans people are more likely to experience discrimination or even outright violence, then that matters a lot.


And it says a lot to me that this public conversation is fixated on the vice president acknowledging her pronouns, and mentioning what she's wearing, instead of about what we, a group of five disabled people, came to the White House to talk about.

STELTER: To the credit of the website, The 19th, I noticed The 19th interviewed you. Did you get any other calls from any other media outlets as this right-wing viral thing went on?

BROWN: I did not. And, you know, The 19th hired a disabled reporter, the person who covered the story, Sara Luterman, for The 19th is openly disabled. And that representation matters in terms of who's thinking about the real issues.

STELTER: Great point. Lydia, thank you for coming on here and bringing that up.

Up next here, the rise of a right-wing Christian, the far-right Christian movement, and the challenges of covering Christian nationalism in the U.S. We're going to talk with the author of The Power Worshipers in just a moment.



STELTER: Roughly 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, and this segment is not about most of them. This segment is about the rise of a white Christian nationalist movement in the U.S. It's emerging in the news more and more. You're probably hearing the term Christian nationalism more and more. Here is one expert's definition. "Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way." Many observers feel that with threatens a diverse democracy, healthy democracy in the U.S.

We are seeing some Republican politicians in the U.S. embrace the term Christian nationalism. For example, Marjorie Taylor Greene the other day, doubling down on past comments, she tweeted. Christian nationalism is what this nation needs. Lauren Boebert said she's tired of the U.S. separation of church and state. And the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, has been in the news in recent days for his campaign's apparent payments to Gab, a social media platform with ties to white nationalists where a gunman posted a video before going inside that Pittsburgh synagogue and killing worshippers in 2018.

A Mastriano in the news, other candidates in the news about this, so I want to bring in a guest who has analyzed this subject for years and knows it better than almost anyone. She has this recent guest essay in the New York Times titled Christian nationalists are excited about what comes next. She has been following the movement for over 12 years, attending right-wing strategy meetings, conferences, and activist gatherings, Katherine Stewart is her name. She's the author of The Power Worshipers: Inside The Dangerous Rise Of Religious Nationalism. Katherine, let's define our terms first. I think a lot of viewers are hearing Christian nationalism more and more. What is it?

KATHERINE STEWART, AUTHOR, "THE POWER WORSHIPPERS": Christian nationalism is basically the idea that America was founded as a so- called Christian nation, are largely based on the Bible and the supposedly right-thinking believers need to reclaim America's past. It's also --

STELTER: Yes, what heals the country will be saved through religion. Why do you said that so dangerous?

STEWART: Well, it's dangerous because it's a radically anti-democratic ideology. It rejects the principles of pluralism and equality that represent the best of the American promise. The movement, it's not just an ideology. It's also an organized quest for political power.

STELTER: Power is the keyword.

STEWART: That's right. It's a political movement. And this is -- this movement has built up a lot of different sort of a dense organizational infrastructure over decades. That includes right-wing policy groups, legal advocacy groups, and networking initiatives that get the leadership on the same page.

STELTER: Supreme Court justices?

STEWART: Supreme Court justices. So one of the problems is we're hearing a lot about the six Supreme Court justices, conservative justices on the Supreme Court, but we don't hear enough about the Federalist Society, which is an organization that plays an outsized role in shaping our courts. All six conservative members of the Supreme Court are current or have current or former ties to the Federalist Society.

STELTER: And as I mentioned in the intro, you've been writing about this for years. Why is it in the news more now? Why are these lawmakers suddenly using these terms and in some cases embracing this idea?

STEWART: Well, I think Trump actually threw open the doors to leaders of this movement. It's a leadership-driven movement. It's not defined by the attitudes of the rank and file. Those attitudes are actually shaped by the leadership of the movement. He offered them unprecedented political access, offered them -- of course, the justices, they wanted leaders of the movement -- listen, this is a movement that represents a minority of our country, most American Christians reject the politics of conquest and division that this movement represents.

STELTER: Right. That is a key point. I often think the American news outlets need to have more dedicated religion reporters to have more coverage of religion. How would -- how would you encourage news outlets to cover this topic of Christian nationalism?

STEWART: Well, I think there's too much a lot of focus on this as a sort of people cast is about theology or about the culture wars so we get a lot of stories from the pews and we get a lot of stories from kitchen tables with the rank and file but we don't get enough stories about how the rank and file have been activated to act in the interests of the movement leadership. This is very much a leadership- driven movement and how their attitudes have been shaping by -- have been shaped by the movement leaders.

STELTER: That's why I like the title of the book, Power Worshipers, it's about power. That's all we need to see. Katherine, thank you very much for coming on today. Good to see you.

STEWART: Thank you so much for having me.

STELTER: We've got more news in just a moment, including a big trial coming up starts tomorrow, and we're going to tell you all about it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


STELTER: Before we go today, a quick peek of what's coming up this week across the media world. It is the first day of August tomorrow and the start of a trial that could determine the fate of the book business. That's because the Justice Department is attempting to block the merger of two of the biggest book publishers, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin Random House.

This has been in the works for a long time, the government tried to block the merger on antitrust grounds, and the trial will begin in D.C. on Monday. If this merger is allowed to go through, it means there'll be fewer of these big book publishing giants because two will become one. And the government says that's a bad deal for authors and maybe for readers. The companies disagree and now they're going to fight it out in court.

Second, on our list, another big week of media earnings reports coming out for major companies, more and more of these companies and advertisers are reporting slowdowns in ad spending, a common sign of a recession. So more of those reports coming in the days ahead.

And third, Beyonce, her brand new album coming out this weekend, everybody who's tuning in. The question is how well will it do? It's one of the year's Most Anticipated Albums. We're going to find out the initial sales numbers and streaming numbers later this week. We're going to cover all that and more in our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. Sign up for free right at

That's all for our televised edition of RELIABLE but we'll see it online and let us know what you think of the show. Tweet at me at @BrianStelter on Twitter or e-mail us, at And a quick plug for tonight's primetime original series. What's the true impact of wildfires? W. Kamau Bell is in California to understand why these kinds of shattered fires are happening and how we can prepare for them. It's a new episode of the "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" tonight at 10 p.m. here on CNN. We'll see you right back here this time next week.