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President Biden Racks Up Wins, Media Remains Skeptical; Jury Says Alex Jones Should Pay Nearly $50 Million; 'Stop The Steal' Movement Thrives At CPAC Texas; 'Landslide' Kansas Abortion Vote Takes Media By Surprise; How 'Solutions Journalism' Can Transform The Media. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 07, 2022 - 11:00   ET



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

This hour, Alex Jones on trial, compelled to pay for his lies after facing these Sandy Hook family members. But will the jury's decision to anything to curtail conspiracy culture?

Plus, in a week full of surprises, an abortion rights vote in Kansas that stunned the pundit class. What did they miss? What should the press learn for next time?

And later, two new hires at "The View" and what it means about the media's treatment of the GOP.

Today, we have seven guests that you rarely, if ever seen on TV, fresh perspectives. So let's get right to it.

First up, an exclusive interview with a Biden aide who just let the White House. When it comes to Joe Biden, there's been a sudden shift in the narrative wins. I'm sure you felt it.

Headlines are describing this week as one of the biggest and best of the Biden presidency, filled with, quote, political wins and policy victories, and many of those so-called wins happening while he was in isolation after testing positive for COVID. I supposed another win this weekend is now that he's COVID free.

So is the press pulling all of it together? Is the news getting through? Some Democrat -- some prominent Democrats don't think so. They are calling out the media in these tweets.

Here's Democratic strategist Liz Smith, tweeting that the media two weeks ago was saying Biden's weak, ineffective, responsible for high gas prices, inflation. She says the media now is saying that Biden deserves no credit for anything good, whether or not he's directly for it. Hmm.

But the shift in the wins doesn't blow away inflation. It doesn't blow away monkeypox or homelessness or illegal border crossings. There is still reason -- there are many reasons for the media to be skeptical.

But it's notable to see this narrative changed. One person who can help us is Michael LaRosa. He worked for Biden's presidential campaign in 2020 as Joe Biden's traveling press secretary and chief spokesman. And he joined the administration as press secretary to the first lady and special assistant to the president.

He just recently signed off from the White House. There is his signoff on Twitter, and he joins us here now for his first TV interview.

So, Michael, in a prior life, you were an MSNBC producer. So, now, here you are in another side of the camera.


STELTER: You know the narrative out there and what this week was like.

LAROSA: Uh-huh.

STELTER: Do you think that the average American, the average member of the viewing public, actually heard all of this, what was good news for the White House?

LAROSA: I hope so. If the local headlines are anything like the national headlines, which I assume most of them are actually, every top of the fold newspaper that I saw had the surprising jobs report. It's not just that, it's just, you know, 500,000 new jobs added in July alone. Record unemployment rate. I'm sorry, lowest unemployment rate. Apologies.

But it was funny, because you had a guest on last week, Liz Mair, who was critiquing the president and she's a Republican. So it totally makes sense, who was saying that he wasn't handling the economy right and it was all because of substance. I'm just not sure the analysis held up all week.

STELTER: Well, doesn't it feel every week, there's a total change in the narrative? I mean, that's the sense I sometimes get from the political class. Every week, it's really high up or really low down. And maybe it's never that simple.

LAROSA: Yeah. Well, I mean, that's going to be the challenge, is that this was a great week, best week of his presidency. The question will be, can they sustain this through the fall? But more importantly, can it energize people to go out and vote for Democrats?

STELTER: So tell me about the reason you decided to leave the White House when you did. There's been a bunch of departures lately.


STELTER: So, let's get that out of the way. Why did you decide as the first lady's press secretary? LAROSA: Oh, I -- you know, Brian, I have with -- I've been now with

the first lady since 2019, almost three years. I joined on the campaign as her traveling press secretary, and we traveled many miles together and many vans through Iowa and to the highs and lows of that campaign. And there were -- there were many.

And, you know, at the White House, that schedule kind of kept up, and we did 78 cities in the first 18 months, close to 40 states and 10 countries.

STELTER: So you're ready for a break?

LAROSA: Ready for a break, yeah.

STELTER: OK. So, tell us what the Bidens really think about the media coverage. You have unique insight.

LAROSA: I love it.

STELTER: -- being the press secretary for the first lady of the United States. What do -- what do the president and the first lady really think about the media coverage?

LAROSA: Well, and I love history, I love studying presidents.


I've been studying them since I was 6 years old.

I don't know of any president who has never been frustrated with his press coverage.

STELTER: Right. So Biden is. What is he frustrated about?

LAROSA: I think it's fair to say both of them could be frustrated at times. But like they're not trying to work the refs or anything. But I would say, I think reporters are just as frustrated with the White House. Look, we can be a boring White House, right?

STELTER: Hold on, boring? You think the press finds the White House boring?

LAROSA: I think the president and first lady would love for the press to talk about substance for the next three months instead of polls and popularity, and all the other things that they have been writing about.

STELTER: Boring compared to what? I guess you mean compared to the prior president, Donald Trump.

LAROSA: Yeah, of course. You know, this is a president who puts his head down, does his work. He's not a showman. He's not out there performing. He actually is doing the business of governing the country.

And I think the former president enjoyed the performance aspect of the job. But he didn't seem to have much interest in being a steward of the people or running a government. And that was part of the reason why I think Democrats chose Joe Biden the last time.

STELTER: Is that partly why we're not seeing Joe Biden give many TV interviews? We can compare him to past presidents. It's been a frustration of the press corps that he's rarely sitting down for TV interviews. I know the first lady has given several this year.

Does he avoid TV cameras for this reason?

LAROSA: God, no. Every time I see him he's talking to the press before he gets on Marine One, taking questions at events more than most presidents do. I think you'll see more of him.

But I also don't think -- I think that miss the forest for the trees when it comes to the midterms, right? The question will be, he should do more interviews, sure. But it's going to be, can the wins that he wracked up this week, and for the last 18 months, and many anchors, CNN, MSNBC, have noted, they have never seen this many accomplishments in such a period of time, in 18 months.

Can they harness that and energize voters.

STELTER: You left out Fox. How do the president and first lady feel about Fox? Do they watch the anti-Biden coverage? Does it get to them?

LAROSA: I don't think the first lady would ever know where to find Fox. She doesn't watch Fox, no. She doesn't know about those things unless I tell her. She's doing other things.

STELTER: Sometimes you would have to tell her. What was that like?

LAROSA: Yeah, absolutely. I think whenever your husband is attacked or your family is attacked, it stings. I don't think even in the decades that she's been a political spouse, I don't think that ever goes away.

But I don't think we should ignore Fox, either. I don't think Democrats should ignore Fox. It's an opportunity, not always a threat. I think when they go too far, you call them out, as you would anybody. Occasionally, I have done that.

STELTER: That was your advice inside the White House, the Biden administration should engage with Fox?

LAROSA: I don't give the West Wing advice. But we always thought that the first lady did, I think, two Fox interviews, Dana Perino and Shannon Bream, during the primary and the general election. And we posted an editorial on We thought they were good opportunities.

STELTER: What about when there's an interruption of negative attention, most recently when the first lady was talking about Hispanics and made reference to tacos in San Antonio, there was this immediate reaction, both from journalists as well as from commentators, saying she had offended the Hispanic community and you put out a tweet apologizing on her behalf. What are those calculations like when you have to step back and apologize?

LAROSA: Look, I think she would never intentionally offend anyone. If you were in the room, people clapped and cheered.

STELTER: It is true some reporters in the room said it didn't seem offensive in the room.

LAROSA: She was referencing a local point of pride in San Antonio.

STELTER: Then it becomes a three-day long story and you must have felt the need to tamp down the story by apologizing.

LAROSA: When you offend somebody, of course you apologize. She's not going to stop reaching out to the Latino community. She's been doing it for a long time. This is somebody who flies across the country just to honor Cesar Chavez. And that's just one example, but she's been conducting a lot of Latino outreach, and that's not going to stop.

STELTER: Did you ever have times where you wanted to fire off a response and others pulled you back? I mean, this is a White House that doesn't seem to engage that aggressively we saw with the Trump White House.

LAROSA: Yeah, I think there were many times my colleagues wanted to take away my keyboard.

STELTER: Really?

LAROSA: Yeah. Like I said, when they go too far, they need to be called out, whether it's Fox or anybody else.

STELTER: Do you see times that other news outlets are treating the first lady and the president unfairly?


LAROSA: Absolutely.

STELTER: Tell me about it.

LAROSA: You know, the first lady was honoring the service of Nancy Reagan, and her -- the introduction of her stamp a couple of months ago. You know, she got some pushback because it happened to be June 1st.

STELTER: Well, Reagan's history on AIDS.

LAROSA: Yeah, that wasn't the goal, right? That wasn't the context. The context was, a first lady honoring another first lady. It wasn't Nancy Reagan's policy, just like they're not Jill Biden's policies. She was honoring a predecessor of hers.

You know, she took some heat. It surprised a lot of us. It was not something that we expected. But, you know, she can take the hits.

STELTER: When you're in the job, do you end up being on the defense a lot more than you expect?


STELTER: She can of implied that in an interview recently. You were talking about we had all these plans but we had to respond to so many crises.

LAROSA: Well, look, there are challenges. She would be the first one to say that. But I think it goes back to this frustration and whether the press is going to continue cover the substance or -- substance isn't sexy, right? It doesn't sell. It's not confrontational. It's not controversial.

It's -- you know, can you write -- I'm sorry, can you keep analyzing the president in a way that focuses on the substance and his accomplishments, of which there have been many, over the last 18 months? And it's been unprecedented to see.

STELTER: So you want coverage of steak, not sizzle. Let me ask one sizzle question. Maureen Dowd's column in this morning's "New York Times" basically says that Joe Biden should not run for re-election.

This has been a narrative for months and it's getting louder and louder, including from some Democratic lawmakers saying Biden should hang it up and says he's a lame duck and not run in 2024.

So, where do you come down on this as a former White House?

LAROSA: Oh, I hope he runs, I know he's going to turn. I think he's planning to run, as he said many times. But look, I think that it is -- this is arriving right on time. It's Democratic bed wetting time. In 1995, later on in time, R.W. Apple wrote a piece in "The New York Times" --

STELTER: Wait. Are you saying the media is predictable? That we always do that --

LAROSA: Very cyclical. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama -- Bill Clinton, Barack Obama they all --

STELTER: But Biden's age makes a difference.

LAROSA: Well, to you guys, but after you look at the week he just had and those wins that he racked up, while he had COVID, I don't see -- I don't see why he wouldn't run. I haven't heard a reason why.

STELTER: What about his son? What about Hunter? Hunter, under federal investigation, charges could be coming at anytime. This is not just a right wing media story. This is a real problem for the Bidens. Could he decide not to run for re-election given his son?

LAROSA: Look, they make -- they make decisions as a family and they will make that decision when it's time. But --

STELTER: Do you think they've talked about it yet?

LAROSA: No. The president is doing his job and he's doing his work. He's not focused on that. It's 19 months. Why would he be doing that?

STELTER: OK. So, you're saying the press is getting ahead of --

LAROSA: Way ahead, way ahead. There's more work to do. It's been 19 months. And, you know, he intends to run, like I said.

But I think we -- I think the focus should be from the press on how -- what he's doing is affecting people out in the country. Because these are things that Democrats have wanted to get done for a long time, and just over -- in just a week, veterans, manufacturing, the unemployment rate, it's been remarkable to see a president rack up so many substantive wins as even your anchors have noted in the last year.

STELTER: Michael, thank you very much for coming on.

LAROSA: Yes, of course.

STELTER: Great talking with you.

LAROSA: Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks again.

Coming up, these news outlets are usually bitter rivals. Right now, they're working together to force transparency about the Uvalde massacre. We're going to tell you how.

But first, Alex Jones on trial, the first of many trials. We're going to talk with two podcasters who worked in the courtroom this week.



STELTER: Alex Jones lost in court this week, but the conspiracy culture he symbolizes is winning. Right now, the effort to hold Jones accountable for his lies about the Sandy Hook massacre is really just getting started, though. He has other trials that he faces for damages. This is going to go on for months, probably go on for years.

But the jury's decision on Friday that Jones should face pup punitive damages to the tune of $45 million, it was a bold statement. It was a reckoning that was ten years in the making.

My next guests were in the courtroom for part of the trial to witness it firsthand. They spent five of their years of their lives dedicated to covering Jones, skewering Jones, and his Infowars website on a podcast called Knowledge Fight.

Dan Friesen and Jordan Holmes launched the podcast in 2017 and on it, they use comedy that cut through crazy lies. They produced more than 700 episodes and turned it into a full-time career and they flew to Texas to see the trial in person.

Dan and Jordan are back home in Chicago now and they are joining me live. Welcome to you both.

Dan, what was the most impactful moment for you in that courtroom in Texas?

DAN FRIESEN, CO-HOST, KNOWLEDGE FIGHT PODCAST: Definitely, I think anybody two was there in person would have a really impossible time answering anything other than the moment when Scarlett Lewis, who lost her son in the Sandy Hook massacre, was able to give her testimony in court, while Alex was sitting in court.

Her being able to face him and tell her story and speak her -- from her heart was, I think, something that -- it will stay with pretty much everyone there for the rest of their lives.

STLETER: Jordan, you all specialize in mocking Alex Jones, but was there anything funny or mockable out of this?


JORDAN HOLMES, CO-HOST, KNOWLEDGE FIGHT PODCAST: Umm, I think -- I think people would like to focus on Alex being kind of a bombastic character that we can mock and fun of, but this isn't about him. I think everybody wants to make it about him and money and politics. And what it's about is Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin and Jessie Lewis.

FRIESEN: It was pretty funny how much unnecessary security he had, though.

HOLMES: There was an "Oceans 11" size number of security detail around him, yes.

STELTER: Interesting. I didn't see that. I didn't know that. So, that's why it's important to be there in person.

Look, you all have been doing this for five years. I bet it's changed a lot for you, having to think about Alex Jones every day. How has it changed as these legal cases have mounted and, frankly, it's come home to roost for him?

FRIESEN: How has it changed looking at him? Like watching him?

STELTER: Yeah. I mean, you're studying a person who seemed untouchable for a long time, but now is in serious legal jeopardy and financial jeopardy.

FRIESEN: Yeah. I mean, I think that it's definitely an interesting experience, because you have a bit more attention being put on this subject that otherwise, you know, tends to just end up trending on Twitter every now and again. Not a ton of, like directed attention at him, whereas with this trial a lot has come on it.

But, personally, I enjoy something a little more substantial and during this whole stretch of time, his content itself has been essentially hollow. And so, you know, watching him from my perspective has gotten a lot less interesting. STELTER: Is it fair to say what Infowars represents, this conspiracy

view of the world full of nonsense, that it's spread everywhere? That it's spread outward that there's not one Infowars anymore, there's a hundred versions of it across the web, is that fair?

HOLMES: Umm, I think I would argue that the conspiracy culture is something that is, you know, created through the cracks of our irregular society. It's not built from conspiracy outwards to racism and violence and all of that stuff. It's the desire for racism and the like that leads to conspiracy. That kind of situation.

STELTER: That's a really interesting way to put it.

HOLMES: So yes, it's gotten a lot bigger.

STELTER: So, it's gotten bigger.

And, Dan, with that in mind, how do you all approach knowledge? This is now -- tell me if you're wrong, this is a full-time job. You have made a career out of scrutinizing and skewering Alex Jones.

FRIESEN: Yeah. Umm, I mean, we approach it with the, you know, the understanding that it's a serious topic, but also that in order to make it interesting for anybody to, you have to make it make something entertaining.

And so, I mean, one of the advantages of being in a podcast format is you can take your time. Whereas a lot of other media formats, you can't. And so, you know, the approach to taking Alex as he is, involves something that other media formats probably don't have the time to do, which is explain the mechanisms of, like, what he's doing and why these conspiracy narratives exist, what purpose they serve, and the mechanics of them.

STELTER: Well, tell us the number one trick that he employs.

FRIESEN: Making things up.


FRIESEN: That's the simple one, for sure.

HOLMES: It's a good start, yeah.

STELTER: Give us one more then, Jordan.

HOLMES: Umm, I would say his number one trick is the ad pivot, you know? He goes from screaming how the world is going to it, to then selling you food that will help you survive the end of the world. So, that's a pretty neat trick I would suppose, yeah.

STELTER: Dan, do you ever get bored of listening to him?


(LAUGHTER) HOLMES: He does all the listening and I do all the talking. So --

FRIESEN: I would say that it's an incredibly boring experience, which is part of the reason that I do this is because I can stomach that boredom, whereas other people, it would be a miserable experience for them to do that so they could be in a place where they could better understand what Alex is doing, and what he brings to the table.

STELTER: Yeah, I think I only consume it through -- I only consume it through clips.

The big question I suppose to both of you, are these trials going to tamp down conspiracy culture? Do you believe what the defense attorneys -- or what the prosecutors say, that the attorneys for the families, which is he needs to be held accountable so that others don't go out and lie in the future, is that going to work or is it futile?

FRIESEN: I think that it can have some effect. But I think that, you know, you hopefully will end up in a situation where people are not as capricious in the future.


But the effect may ultimately be the conspiracy producers and people who engage in the sorts of conduct that Alex does, and they're becoming savvier and end up learning where the lines are better of what they can do and what they can get away with. So I don't know if it's a severe blow, but hopefully, it will limit a lot of the harm.


HOLMES: When he's taken down, hopefully, you know, it will create something of a vacuum. So I'm sure some people will kind of fill that vacuum, but they won't be as powerful, they won't be as big, and they won't have the same size of audience. So, yeah, it's going to help.

STELTER: Jordan and Dan, thank you both for coming on the program.

HOLMES: Thank you.

FRIESEN: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next, we'll look at the headlines out of the CPAC conference in Texas and talk about who to cover GOP extremism.

And later, what do all these stories have in common? The co-founders of the Solutions Journalism Network will tell us.



STELTER: There are tax cut Republicans and then there are treason Republicans. There are those who think January 6 was god awful and those who think it was glorious. The challenge in covering the present-day GOP is to see and show and tell the difference.

I mean, many Republicans know that the Stop the Steal stuff is bunk, but it's still alive and unwell nearly two years later. Some actively speak out against it for that reason, but you know they're losing.

The Republicans who want their party to be reasonable and reality- based are losing at least if you look at CPAC and the recent conservative conference and the likes of Mike Lindell on stage repeating election lies.

I mean, think about it. There are many election deniers, many people who pretend or actually believed that the 2020 election was corrupt despite all the evidence. And some of these deniers are winning GOP primaries, meaning they could be running elections in the future or at least influencing how those elections are run.

It's kind of like picking a guy who can't count to teach math, suddenly you're learning to subtract instead of add. But it's happening. So how is this phenomenon being covered? How should it be covered? Some headlines call candidates election deniers.

There are other headlines, let me show you one from the Associated Press, calling them merely skeptics. I think that's a really interesting difference. And of course, these words matter, the language matters a lot.

So let me bring in a panel of guests to talk about this and a whole lot more. Here in New York with me, Lauren Wright, a political scientist at Princeton University, author of Star Power, American democracy in the age of the celebrity candidate, also with me, Elaine Godfrey, staff writer at The Atlantic who just penned a new piece on this subject, and Howard Polskin, president and chief curator of TheRighting, which tracks headlines from across the right-wing media hemisphere. Welcome to everybody.

Elaine, let me start with you because you had this writing challenge recently, choosing which words to use. There's a big difference between saying election skeptics, and I don't know democracy destroyers. How did you think about the writing, and the choice of language for your recent article?

ELAINE GODFREY, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It's really tough because I think you don't want to be too dismissive of these folks who don't want people to sort of assuming that they're so crazy, you shouldn't even pay attention to them. But you don't -- you also don't want to -- I think, calling them election skeptics is a little bit too polite.

Most of these people are beyond skepticism. And we talk about this all the time at The Atlantic when I'm writing because I sort of has this mini beat of election denial. And we say stop the steal candidates, we say election denial.

I occasionally -- I mean, at a magazine, I sort of have a little more free rein to call them what I want. I sometimes call them liars. I think because I think that they are and I think it is really important for journalists to be very, very clear about what's going on here. They're not just sort of questioning, they are -- they are lying or being actively sort of diluted by Trump.

STELTER: Being clear about the threat to democracy is one of the most important things that American journalists can do. However, Lauren, doesn't that turn off a sizable part of the country -- doesn't it turn off a sizable part of the country every time we're talking about election deniers?

LAUREN WRIGHT, POLITICAL SCIENCE LECTURER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, it's the responsibility of journalists to report the facts. And I completely understand why covering Trump's potential candidacy in 24 is an extremely important story. I mean, this is a person that's actively subverting American democracy. But then when there's media reporting on how Trump dominated the CPAC poll, he got there 69 percent compared to Ron DeSantis with 24 percent, that is utterly uninformative of where things will be in two years.

STELTER: You mean the report on that straw poll?


STELTER: Right. Because, you know, as a political scientist that's just unscientific, it's just whoever happens to be the conference the most hard right activists.

WRIGHT: Yes, that's exactly right. And we know that there's just not enough information right now to predict anything this far out. There's too much noise, nobody's paying attention and so we do need to take these sorts of things with a grain of salt or ignore them altogether, frankly.

STELTER: We're going to get more into predictions in just a moment. Howard, what do you see when you're scanning the right-wing media world has seen these headlines? The Daily Caller, those sites, they say Democrats are the ones trying to steal elections, trying to destroy democracy. So we should be clear, there's a house of mirrors things going on -- phenomenon going on here.

HOWARD POLSKIN, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF CURATOR, THERIGHTING: There's no question about it. What I'm seeing, first of all, is that in the last two months, the right-wing press has not really focused on Stop the Steal. And I'm looking at 20 to 40 conservative websites every morning.


They're focusing on J-six, they're focusing on monkeypox, they are --

STELTER: So they are all moving on from Trump's election lies.

POLSKIN: Well, not quite because I think that all changed after this past week with Kari Lake --

STELTER: OK, winning in Arizona that's where the people are now.

POLSKIN: Yes. I'm already seeing stories that are suggesting that focusing on Kari Lake and Stop the Steal. And I think we're going to see many more of these stories happening in the next few months.

STELTER: Elaine, you just wrote about Kari Lake. What was the most important takeaway from Arizona this week for the press?

GODFREY: The most important takeaway from Arizona is that they just sent a whole slate of election deniers, whatever you'd like to call them. People who believe that 2020 was stolen or say they believe 2020 was stolen. Kari Lake has said that as governor, she would decertify the results. I don't -- I'm not sure there's any basis for that at all.

There's no procedure for what happens after you do that. And I think something important to know about Kari Lake is she is a huge Maga personality now like she is a hero in Trump world. And you know, win or lose, she's sort of going to go on and be this Maga superstar. So, yes, I think people should become familiar with this person.

STELTER: Democrats talk about Kari Lake. They say she's an extremist. They say extremists are winning primaries. But, Lauren, I've seen a lot of words get redefined in recent years.

Fake news, disinformation, then, the word extremists is the next one. Biden's going to call Republicans extremists. Republicans are going to say great, we are extremely pro-family, or whatever they're going to say they're going to redefine the term.

And I just wonder at this point, is there any length which was already -- I mean language that you're teaching your courses?

WRIGHT: Well, in general, and political science, when we talk about extremism, it's these polar opposites of the ideological scale. So the most conservative conservatives, you could say are extremist but it's really hard not to conflate that with election lies and conspiracies.

And it's really important, we covered these people. What's so hard for the GOP right now is that extremists win because, at the primary stage, the voters are much more conservative in this case than general election voters. But moderates would almost always do better in a general election. And that's one of the most tried and true research findings that we have.

STELTER: Right. There's the tension.


STELTER: Hey, so you were on "THE VIEW" this year.

WRIGHT: I was.

STELTER: You tried to help for the conservative seat. They call it a conservative seat, which I find a little bit strange. So, the now -- ABC announced this week that two new co-hosts, Alyssa Farah Griffin, and Ana Navarro, both CNN commentators are both now co-hosts of "THE VIEW."

I wondered, partly because you were on the show, partly because I know it's kind of an awkward question but if the Republican Party is still dominated by Maga -- by the Trump phenomenon, and you have Alyssa and Ana, who are both wonderful, but they're anti-Trump Republicans, is "THE VIEW" not actually representing the Republican mainstream?

WRIGHT: Well, they just have such a remarkable team over there, I'll say, and I had such a positive experience, even if my views personally are different from some of the hosts. But actually, it's a pretty tricky question because if you look at polling, about half of Republicans don't want Trump to run again.

According to some great CNN polling, the majority of Republicans think he acted unethically on January 6, and that he didn't do enough to stop the violence. And so we actually do have a lot of evidence that even mainstream Republicans are questioning Trump's role in the party, and they're not sure if he should even be the future of the party. So you could argue that the extremists are the smaller portion of the party and that a lot of Republicans --

STELTER: Interesting.

WRIGHT: -- Really want to see if this is the best direction forward, and a lot of them want to win. So it might, in fact, be represented.

STELTER: OK, that's interesting. I guess I'm imagining like a Steve Bannon type sitting at the table and that was never going to happen.

WRIGHT: Well, there should not be a Steve Bannon. (INAUDIBLE)

STELTER: Wow. Why?

WRIGHT: Should there be a Marjorie Taylor Greene seat where people are just on a different planet? I don't know.

STELTER: Well, here's my concern.

WRIGHT: You could argue otherwise. Yes.

STELTER: Here's my concern. We don't have those voices on, you know, mainstream network TV. Aren't we missing what's happening at the grassroots?

WRIGHT: Well, it's dangerous to spread election misinformation and lies. And so you can have guests and I think you can have healthy debates, and I will debate anyone on television, that's fine with me. I'll talk to anyone and I'm sure you feel the same way as a journalist. But the facts need to be put into context.

STELTER: These are the tensions that exist here.

WRIGHT: And in some formats, that's very difficult to do. And it's really important to do so.

STELTER: All right, lots more with the guests in just a moment. We're going to talk about that shock result in Kansas that no one saw coming, but maybe we all should have seen coming. We're going to get into that in just a couple of moments. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


STELTER: In a week full of surprises, one story seemed to catch the political press off guard. It was out of Kansas. Here's the front page of Wednesday's Kansas City Star showing the emotion as shocking results poured in the headline. Kansas votes to protect abortion rights in the state constitution.

And no one was printing -- seemed almost nobody was printing such a one-sided outcome such a landslide victory. Headlines caught an unexpected and a stunner.

Of course, less shocking was the coverage out of Indiana, another abortion vote this time by the state legislature. The result was all too predictable, as expected for weeks actually, the Republican- controlled state legislature passing a near-total ban on abortion, just as they had promised they would do.

Here's the IndyStar headline about the governor signing that ban into law on Friday. So a tale of two states, but what does it say about the press being so surprised by Kansas?

Back with me, Elaine Godfrey, Howard Polskin, and Lauren Wright. Should the media, Lauren, have been surprised by the Kansas outcome?

WRIGHT: No. Support for abortion rights in Kansas is about 55 percent. There are only 10 states in the U.S. where that supports less than 50 percent. And so this actually was in line with the majority of Americans who support abortion in some form or another.

And when you ask people about a policy and a poll, you might get a different result than if you ask them about a party or a candidate.

STELTER: So you mean if you're polling about a candidate, people go to their corners?


STELTER: But if you poll on a policy, are you ever --

WRIGHT: And there's a variety of directions, yes.


STELTER: I see, right. Howard, was this story a big deal? Was the Kansas vote a big deal in right-wing media?

POLSKIN: No, it was almost ignored. You know, they were focusing more on Brittney Griner --

STELTER: Important story?

POLSKIN: The latest issue around Hunter Biden, problems in electric vehicles because those are cars for the liberal elite. So things like the abortion vote, ignore it.

STELTER: Right. It's interesting because there was obviously -- you know it's been years, it's been decades in the making to have Roe v. Wade overturned. But once it's happened now the state-level decisions are being made, not as much attention.

POLSKIN: Every time.

STELTER: Elaine, to me, it seems so important to have state-level coverage of these issues. Are all of these states making these important choices? And most importantly, of all, we need to hear about what it's like for women.

There's a New York Times headline, big headline out today about some women self-managing their care, taking medication, having abortions at home without Doctor's supervision or help or assistance. You know, these are the stories now that we need to tell them, the press, about real people and not just the politicians.

GODFREY: That's exactly right. I mean, this is the stuff that matters, right? These are the real people who are dealing with the real consequences of this stuff. And I think -- I mean, I think Kansas was not surprising if you -- if you look at that data, but I think, you know, midterms, we're not expecting Democrats to turn out, we're not expecting -- and not everyone who voted no on the proposition was a Democrat, obviously.

But I think there's a reason we -- there's a reason that that was held in the midterms here, there's a reason it was held sort of in a time when like they were expecting sort of a sleepy turnout, and they got like a crazy turnout. And so I think that should be reassuring to Democrats, maybe not like totally. I think that they can be reassured that they can use abortion as an issue going forward for sure.

STELTER: Elaine, thank you. Howard and Lauren, thank you all. Coming up. It's what everyone says they want from the media, not just bad news, not just problems instead, solutions. Well, the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, David Bornstein is joining me next.



STELTER: The news is too negative. You've probably said it, I sure have. There's a seemingly endless supply of bad news stories out there. I mean, come on, even this weekend, Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson breaking up.

But in all seriousness, for journalism to affect change, people need answers, not just questions. They need solutions, not just problems. We're not going to repair every celebrity relationship, but the news can help people feel empowered. So you should know this type of journalism exists, it does exist.

There's an organization spearheading this movement, fittingly called the Solutions Journalism Network. David Bornstein is the CEO and co- founder of the network. He's been a journalist for over 30 years, most recently at the New York Times where he wrote about efforts to solve social and environmental problems.

David, welcome to the program. People need to know what you do. You all just announced this week an expansion with four universities to bring this to an even broader population and help train journalists. But take me to the beginning. Why was there a need for Solutions Journalism Network?

DAVID BORNSTEIN, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM NETWORK: Well, journalists had always known that there's a need to report on solutions, but it was always sort of put on the back burner. And often on Friday afternoon is sort of -- seen as a sort of a feel-good kind of story --

STELTER: Like a feature.

BORNSTEIN: -- Like a feature. The fact that solutions journalism really needs to be done as rigorous reporting that looks at responses to problems and needs to be seen as hard news was something that wasn't happening.

You know, it really does sharpen accountability, it takes away excuses, and it increases trust and engagement. But to make that -- you know, these news habits that audiences have, and also journalists have always made this a sort of secondary consideration.

Now, you have 42 percent of Americans who are actively avoiding the news because it -- they -- it's -- they say it makes them feel powerless and hopeless.

And so moving rigorous reporting on solutions to social problems into the core of the news becomes more important, not only just from a business perspective for news organizations that want engagement, but also you know, we need people to engage with the news at a time when we have a climate crisis and a democracy crisis.

We can't have people tuning out now. It's a whole -- it's an all- hands-on-deck moment. So that's really why the network was created to really move that forward.

STELTER: What's a concrete example of the impact that you've had? Like do you -- is there a story or a set of articles you can point to and say that's -- right there, that's solution journalism?

BORNSTEIN: I would say it's more of a collection. We have a database called the solution story tracker and we've tracked more than 13,000 stories in there from 1700 news organizations. I mean, this is a movement -- an approach in journalism that's spreading it.

It's being incorporated by the BBC World Service, The New York Times is doing that, The Guardian, but also local news organizations and Metro dailies and TV stations across the United States, increasingly in Africa and in Eastern and Western Europe as well.

The success really is the network that is now talking to each other and really refashioning the idea of what should news be. Is it information that tells you what's broken all the time or is it information that helps you understand how to build a better community?

STELTER: How do you get through to editors and producers and newsroom leaders?

BORNSTEIN: The main thing for editors and newsroom leaders is to really -- they care most about accountability. Most journalists feel that our most important thing is to not go soft, especially now, and really hold power to account.

But we need to figure out how to ensure accountability without making people feel hopeless and powerless. So when we speak to them, when we say you know, when you actually incorporate solutions journalism into your reporting, what you see is better -- not only better trust in engagement, but you actually see that it sharpens the teeth of the watchdog because it takes away excuses. It's -- you know, we can't say --

STELTER: It's very interesting, yes.

BORNSTEIN: -- We can't do better if you can show here's a school system that's doing better.

STELTER: Yes. Here's the example. So my way of providing solutions today was to bring you on. Where can people find more information about the network?

BORNSTEIN: If you go to, which is the website --


STELTER: There you go.

BORNSTEIN: Or go to the solution story tracker, you'll find thousands of stories there and also tools and resources for journalists around the world to be able to figure out how to do this, but really at a high-quality level.

STELTER: Love it.


STELTER: David, thank you for coming in.

BORNSTEIN: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: We've got more "RELIABLE SOURCES" in a moment, important news about accountability out of Uvalde, Texas.


STELTER: A quick update on the news media's battle to find out the full truth about what happened in Uvalde, Texas. This week, CNN and a dozen other news outlets join forces to file a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety.

This Media Coalition has been fighting for public records about the Robb Elementary massacre for weeks now. Lawyers say Texas officials have been stonewalling, so that's why they're having to go to court to get the facts. These First Amendment lawyers are the best of the best. They and we will get to the truth no matter how long it takes.

Tonight, here on CNN join Anderson Cooper and Shimon Prokupecz for a special report, what really happened in Uvalde? That's tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time here on CNN. And we'll see you right back here this time next week.