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Reliable Sources

Language, Framing, Timing: How Trump Spun The FBI Search; Growing Fears That Anti-FBI Rhetoric Could Lead To Violence; Sources: Lachlan Murdoch Criticizes Trump In Private; Brutal Knife Attack Against Author Salman Rushdie; Austin Tice Disappeared In Syria 10 Years Ago Today; Byron Allen Buys Black News Channel Assets For $11 Million. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 14, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. Look at the time. I'm Brian Stelter. We're live in New York. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story. We figure what's reliable in this wild world.

This hour, we have the latest on the stabbing of the renowned author Salman Rushdie. We're going to talk with Henry Reese. He was the moderator on stage with Rushdie when the attack unfolded. He is going to join us live in a just a moment.

Plus, why it matters what a media owner thinks. We're going to get into reporting about Fox boss Lachlan Murdoch saying one thing while his network does another.

And later, I'll talk with Byron Allen about his effort to relaunch an African news channel and hear about what he hopes the network will bring to homes across America. Media mogul Byron Allen coming up.

But first, what the Mar-a-Lago search reveals about America. Donald Trump has so often taken us into choppy, unchartered waters.

And that's where we are gone today. We need to find out what was Trump hiding? What exactly was in those boxes at his oceanfront resort? Will the Justice Department indict him? Can he mount a coherent defense?

The details are slowly coming out through press reporting. Let's zoom in on this morning's "New York Times" front page. Hints about a potential prosecution, because a Trump lawyer said back in June that all the classified material had been returned. But then, on Monday, the FBI found more of it.

The reaction of the FBI in the headline as well. Top on the right is darkening, "The Times" says. And violence is rising.

It really can't get much darker than it is right now. Media outlets that are far from right wing, here's "Vox" saying Trump is pushing us towards an abyss. His conspiracy theories about the FBI search have spawned, quote, an assault on the legitimacy of the American state and set the stage for violence. Meanwhile, if you listen to rhetoric on Fox, they're saying what

happened at Mar-a-Lago wasn't assault. All of this, of course, based on limited information.

As journalism professor Dan Gilmore said, the unanswered questions regarding the documents Trump pilfered greatly outnumbered the answered ones. So, I'm waiting for journalism that is based on something other than unnamed sources, before believing anything in particular.

What a novel concept, right? Waiting, waiting. What a hard thing to do. We are always in a hurry. We are society that gravitates towards the now. We want food, and fashion, and Amazon packages and information now.

We're always in a rush. They say nature abhors a vacuum but so does the media. So does the public. The public abhors a vacuum.

Well, Monday's FBI search formed that information vacuum, when the Trump and his allies were also all willing to fill with mysteries and muck. It has been going on 24/7 ever since. They led the rush to judgment, judging to the FBI to be the villain, swearing the FBI can't be trusted.

And really, they were playing into Trump's preferred narrative. Think about it -- Trump announced the search had happened. He was the one that announced it had happened. He set his narrative through a statement right away. And then, his preferred media outlets ran with that for days and for days.

He's had his lawyers on television. He's essentially had the airwaves dominated with his storylines while the Justice Department was relatively quiet. Eventually, Merrick Garland came with a statement.

But the noise from the Trump side's been so loud, so deafening, including right here, this is Trump True Social feed, his social media platform. Trump has been posting dozens of times this week, dozens and dozens of posts in the wake of the surge of Mar-a-Lago. So, if you choose to live in that Trump information universe, you are hearing one thing over and over and over again, that he is under attack, unless you are under attack.

We're taught and we're told and we're urged from young age not to rush to judgment. But we're in society that's always in a rush. And sure, some people rush to premature conclusions during past presidential scandals, but the difference now is that there are platforms and brands and reshare buttons -- entire worlds that reward this behavior, they reward the judgment.

We've got presidential branded social networks, and president-approved TV networks to amplify lies at the cost of the truth. It's different than it was 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. The incentives all are out of whack. And matters of morality, matters of ethics, that you will not steal or cheat or lie -- there's not so much an incentive structure for that side.


We have a panel standing by to weigh in on all of this as we wait for answers about the search.

But, first, John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel, author, lecturer, columnist, and CNN contributor.

John, I was hoping you could set a straight here. How can we all just learn to be a little more patient?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's very difficult in the world we live in. We've been trained since we've been small to watch that screen in our house, where it resolves problems, it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and it's over. If it doesn't end, then we binge-watch it and see it all through.

STELTER: So, you mean that we're used to simple stories where we know there's going to be an ending a conclusion? And when it comes to the Trump story, people have been waiting years and years and never seen a conclusion.

DEAN: Well, that's actually part of the fascination I think of Donald Trump. He is, in a media sense, he is untouchable. And the drama he brings, it's always something. If he doesn't have one story unfolding, you have another story unfolding.

I don't know that it's by design. I don't know that it's reality TV background, but he certainly -- it's a natural for him and he likes to play it out. He likes the drama out there because it keeps eyes focused and ears.

It's a good fundraising tool, let's say that. We love that.

STELTER: Well, and to an extent that it's about a conflict as opposed to classified materials. If he makes this as a conflict, as opposed to the facts that we do so far about -- in terms of crimes, then he seems to win.

What is your view of the potential legal peril Trump is in? Do you believe an indictment is imminent?

DEAN: I think there's a high likelihood in this instance, that he could be indicted. While some of the people who have been involved in breaches of national security of this nature have just gotten pats on the wrist, Trump's behavior is worse than, say, David Petraeus, who was the head of the CIA, kept secrets in a black book, gave it to his mistress, if you will, who had happened to be writing a biography of him, an autobiography. And he got punished and he lost his job. And it was -- he's probably a presidential timber who was destroyed by misusing classified information.

So, it can have very, very, very dire effects because the government has always been very tough on national security information, particularly the National Archives.

STELTER: And not just against Republicans, right? DEAN: No, not just against any party. Anybody who -- any contractor,

Republican, Democrat, officials of the Democratic -- Sandy Berger who was Bill Clinton's National Security Council adviser, he tried to walk off with some documents, and he got himself in a heap of trouble for it.

STELTER: That's what we need. We need that historical context right now, John. I'm sorry to interrupt. Go ahead.

DEAN: No, I was just going to say, it doesn't have a party attached to it. And it's the offense that is what determines the consequence.

STELTER: It's important to hear that, because MAGA media has said this was in the big deal, Trump's a good guy, he didn't do anything on purpose, and most importantly, this double standard. They say Republicans are treated harshly, Democrats get off whenever they try to something like this.

Let me show you 15 seconds worth of the 24/7 narrative on right-wing media. And then I want to hear your reaction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They declared war on us. And now, it's game on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is dangerous. This is scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI is a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a clear and gross abuse of power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are starting to see what a permanent national split looks like.


STELTER: What do you want those MAGA media stars to know, John?

DEAN: Well, I think that they don't seem to want to appreciate that the FBI and other federal law enforcement, as well as state and local, enforce search warrants every day against every kind of person. And there's a reason.

Trump provoked this. He's the one who didn't cooperate. He's the one who forced Merrick Garland's hand. We don't know what it is he has, or had, but we know it was something that deeply concerned the Department of Justice.

Garland isn't a risk taker. He's not a guy who is bold, goes where no one else ever gone. He's somebody who does it by the book. So, I think these people are going to have egg all over their face when this is over. While they might not ever admit it, they certainly should.

STELTER: You said Garland goes by the book. But is in the book outdated? You know, we live in an information environment now where I'm not sure, you could tell me all the policies, all the guidelines, all the rules in the world. I'm not sure any of those makes sense in an age where Donald Trump and his supporters can create an alternate reality within a matter of minutes and hours and days.


DEAN: Well, there is a reality reality as well. They may not have an alternative reality, for their fantasies, I happen to like to live in the real alternative reality, which is, the world as it is, and not as he wishes it or wants to invent it.

STELTER: The original reality. John Dean, thank you for coming on to us from the original reality.

DEAN: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Let's bring in Caitlin Dickson, a senior reporter at Yahoo News. She covers extremism and disinformation. She's busy these days.

Also here, Jezebel editor in chief, Laura Bassett.

And, CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

Laura, you wrote on Monday, as the narrative again, it happened within minutes, with minutes of the search, the narrative was, defund the FBI.


STELTER: Tell me about the hypocrisy that you witnessed happened in real time.

BASSETT: Well, right. So, Republicans have long called themselves the party of law enforcement, of the whole Blue Lives Matter thing. They've been chanting lock her up about Hillary Clinton and basically lock her up sort of writ large about any politician that's a Democrat that they don't like for years and years and years.

I mean, the moment that Trump comes out and says the FBI raided my house, which we now know is not exactly what happened, not even close to what happened, they were chanting defund the FBI, which is a really extreme place to go to. I think what was the most stunning about it is a few days later, Trump's own allies have to warn Republicans to ratchet down the rhetoric, because they were like, you know, you're going to look stupid once some of this comes out.


STELTER: Some Republicans are being careful. Some senators and governors who are on CNN this morning are trying to be more careful and reserve judgment.

BASSETT: They had to walk it back. Right. Dan Crenshaw, who is not known to be a very moderate person said, you know, we're kind of looking silly. You can't jump straight to defund the FBI without any information yet.

STELTER: Even though some of them did.

Oliver, raid versus search. I almost said raid a moment ago. News outlets have been saying search. However, pro-Trump media says raid. They say assault. They say attack.

Tell us about the language being used here.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yeah, I think it's obviously intentional that they want to portray this as an assault on the president. I think the rhetoric that is actually on the right, Brian, is not necessarily coming through in mainstream coverage.

STELTER: Hold on, let's unpack that. You mean, when we're talking the New York Times, or CNN, or ABC, when we are covering criticism for the right, we're doing it wrong?

DARCY: Well, that's the problem. It's not criticism from the right. They're not criticizing the FBI. They're aiming to malign the FBI. They're assaulting the character of the FBI.

And I don't think that the fervor on the right has been shining through in news coverage. It just feels like we are almost ignoring or hoping that we can ignore some of the rhetoric from these MAGA media stars.

STELTER: So, you are saying it's much more extreme than we're making it out to be?

DARCY: It's very extreme. It's extremist rhetoric. It's incendiary rhetoric, and it has consequences and we're seeing, you know, early this week, there was that attack on the FBI field office.

STELTER: In Cincinnati by an obsessed Truth Social user, addicted to Trump social network.

DARCY: Right. Someone who's listening to this kind of rhetoric, probably 24/7. And so, these things do have consequences, I think it's painting an incomplete picture of mainstream media sources don't necessarily convey that to their audiences.

STELTER: Caitlin, do you agree with that assessment? You're covering this every day.

CAITLIN DICKSON, SENIOR REPORTER, YAHOO NEWS: Yeah, I do agree. We can split hairs over whether we say rate or search. But I think those are the key words that are amplifying people, you know? You're seeing things like assaults, Trump, when he first announced this, said Mar-a- Lago is under siege.

You know, just listening in the last like 24 or 48 hours, whether it's Fox News, Newsmax, these fringe extreme foreign like Steve Bannon's podcast, or whoever else, his lot of language about him at war. This is publicized, weaponized FBI.

And, you know, I think another thing that doesn't really come through in the coverage that have seen is important context which we need to remember, which is that for a lot of people, and particularly those who are drawn to the more extremist factions of Trump's base, these are -- you know, a lot of these people still believe that Trump won the election in 2020 and that it was stolen from him and that Biden is not legitimately elected president.

So, when you have that context, and you're talking about, you know, politicized FBI, weaponized by someone they don't believe was elected legitimately, that's really powerful.

STELTER: What a great point. A fake president sent the fake FBI to attack the real president -- that's the feeling that Trump's supporters are having.

DICKSON: Yeah. And in some places, listening to Steve Benen's podcast, that's the explicit message that is said out loud. When you watch Fox News and Newsmax, they are not saying that part. But that is the subtext, I think.

STELTER: Let's pick up right there in just a moment. There is a lot more to get to on this and now, that civil war chatter out there. So, we're going to bring the panel back in the moment.

We're also going to bring in pollster Neil Newhouse, with his perspective from public opinion polls.


And later, you need to know that today marks ten years since journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria. Will this be the year he walks free? I'm going to talk to someone directly involved in the efforts to bring Tice home.


STELTER: Polling guru Neil Newhouse is a veteran of Republican campaign. He says the conversation in Washington doesn't match the conversation that's happening around the country. Let's see if we can change that.

Neil Newhouse is with me now. He's a 35-year veteran of campaign polling and a co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies.

I wonder, Neil, if you can give us a sense of what this nonstop Trump news cycle does to the public. I have this perception that many Americans conclude years ago that Trump either committed crimes or didn't and they need to let that go or they won't. But the sense that this public opinion doesn't really shift about Trump may matter in the weeks to come if he's indicted.



I mean, you know, you think about we have been through six or seven years now of Donald Trump and him running for office and his presidency and now post-presidency. If voters haven't already made up their minds regarding President Trump, nothing really over the next few weeks is going to change their minds. And I -- as a pollster, I would be willing to say most Americans are decided on the guy. They either love him or hate him. That's why you see the numbers, you know, 50, 48 on some of these --

STELTER: Let's see if we can get you back. Can we get you back, Neil? Let's see. No.

He disappeared on me, so I'm going to bring the panel back until we get back.

Laura Bassett, Caitlin Dickson and Oliver Darcy are back with me.

This civil war chatter, this is what I was about to ask Neil, Caitlin. There are headlines on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday saying, there's increased chatter about civil war, there's chatter on this on the right. How widespread was that really? Because, look, it seems to me like there's a lot of online radicalization happening, but we're not seeing mass protests or anything like that in the streets.

DICKSON: Right, I think it was pretty widespread in the immediate hours and days following the search at Mar-a-Lago, whether it was on Truth Social or, you know, Gab, Telegram or even Twitter, mentions of war and civil war skyrocketed immediately after Trump declared Mar-a- Lago was under siege.

I think you've seen that rhetoric slow down a little bit because people are aware that there's attention on that, and there was the incident at the FBI field office in Cincinnati, and I think the general sentiment among these fringe extremist platforms where people were talking about civil war a couple of days ago, now people are saying anybody talking about that or calling for violence is obviously a fed or undercover or Democratic operative.

So I think people are being more careful with their words, but I don't think the sentiment has gone away.

STELTER: So conspiracy theories fill the information vacuum. People are choosing their words.

Oliver, you know what got short shifted this week, the House passing that bill, the Inflation Reduction Act? One of the components for the bill, it's a lot more funding for the IRS to hire tens of thousands of more IRS agents in order try to make sure people are paying as much as they're supposed to pay. What was called on the right?

It was called a terrifying overreach of the government by the right -- let's call it what it is -- MAGA media's hatred of government is reaching a new high when you have these FBI stories of the IRS getting a lot more funding. This is a new peak in terms of that anti- government sentiment. So it's no wonder that there's concerns with inside government about security, and about threats.

DARCY: Yeah. And, I mean, the right has always advocated for small governments, but in this case, particularly when you're talking about the FBI, it's not necessarily pro-small government approach they're taking. They want to defund the whole thing and abolish it. I think what you have to point out particularly is we have that when the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton, they were very supportive of the FBI and that investigation, and that was happening right before the 2016 election.

Trump hasn't even declared yet, and they're basically out there assaulting the FBI with their words.

STELTER: We have Neil back. Let's go back to Neil Newhouse.

Neil, the next thing I was going to ask you was about that civil war rhetoric. How common of you is it on the left or right or anywhere that we're actually approaching sustained violence in the U.S.?

Did we lose him again? This is going to become a comedy in a minute. We'll try him in a moment.

Let's turn -- so on that, what we know is according to polling, like almost three in ten Americans have said that they fear or they believe that we're heading to that moment where people are going to take up arms against the government. If you have a gun in your home, there's the data. About three in ten Americans say it may soon be necessary to take up arms against the government.

So, we'll see if we can get Neil back. But let's talk more broadly about what's to come in these days and weeks to come, Laura. You know, we're going to see what happens with Trump. I wonder -- you know, you run a website where you're thinking about news decisions every day.

When we're in a nonstop Trump news cycle, does it -- does it end up benefitting Trump and hurting everybody else when there are concerns about inflation or other news stories that are not as sexy but maybe as important?

BASSETT: I think they are as important, these issues. People really care about gun violence right now and abortion. Roe v wade was just overturned a couple of months ago, and horrifying stories are pouring out of women bleeding out on tables, doctors having to decide how long to wait before a woman is dying enough to give her an abortion.


And, you know, we've got inflation, we have people unable to pay for food --

STELTER: And rent. You know what struck me this week, mortgage rates and how hard it is for people to buy a home now.


STELTER: I mean, there's these structural issues in American society. And the more that we talk about Trump, the less we're talking about those.

BASSETT: That is very true. I do think it is also important, though, to look at the Republican Party and see how they are responding to Trump right now in terms of like are you going to go with the line that he is basically a supreme leader who's above the law or are you going to be the small government party that believes in checks on power?


BASSETT: And I don't think you can do both, and I think that hypocrisy is really important.

STELTER: It's newsworthy.

So, one more point on the Republican Party and the media, Oliver, you had reporting this week about Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch who says one thing and his network does another. What was your reporting?

DARCY: Yeah. You wouldn't expect perhaps that Fox News, its chief is a Trump critic, but in private, I'm told he has been very critical of the former president. You know, he's gone as far, Brian, as to say that he believes if the former president were to run again, run for office again, which seems like he will, it would be damaging to the country.

Of course, that, you know, sentiment is not reflected at all on his channel.

STELTER: At all on Fox. And what's so interesting is Rupert Murdoch has basically said this, but Lachlan has not.

DARCY: He's noted to people, according to my sources, that while he might feel this way, the audience, the Fox News audience, very much supports Trump. So, it's almost like this business decision basically. He knows that if Fox were to become critical of the former president, they can go somewhere else. They can go to Newsmax.

And so, business -- speaking from a business standpoint --


DARCY: -- it wouldn't make much sense for Fox News, for him to push it in that direction.

STELTER: Right. Trump defense continues to be good business for Fox, no matter what the boss thinks.

All right. To the panel, thank you very much.

Neil Newhouse will be back some day in the future.

Up next, I'm going to speak with the man who was on stage interviewing Salman Rushdie when Rushdie was brutally attacked. You've seen that video. Well, now, we're going to talk with the man who was with him, Henry Reese. He's going to join me live right after this.




STELTER: On Friday, Salman Rushdie was supposed to participate in a discussion about freedom of expression. Within minutes, he was being rushed airlifted to a hospital, gravely wounded by an attacker who sought to stifle that freedom. We now know Rushdie was stabbed about 10 times while on stage. He had to be placed on a ventilator at the hospital. In a new statement moments ago, his family now says he's off the ventilator, but he remains in critical condition in the hospital. The suspected attacker pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges.

Joining me now is Henry Reese. He was the man on stage with Rushdie when the attack happened. Reese was also wounded as you can see. Reese is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit, City of Asylum. Henry, thank you so much for coming on. Tell us about your condition first.

HENRY REESE, CO-FOUNDER, CITY OF ASYLUM: I'm fine. We should all be concerned about Salman Rushdie, not me.

STELTER: Can you take us to that Friday, when you're on -- a Friday morning, you're on stage, about to have a conversation, when did you first know something was wrong?

REESE: It was very difficult to understand. It looked like a sort of bad prank. It didn't have any sense of reality. And then when there was blood behind him, it became real.

STELTER: Were you stabbed first, or were you hit first, or was he hit first?

REESE: I don't -- I don't want to talk too much about the actual events themselves.

STELTER: OK. You -- there were many people that then tried to provide first aid. Do you remember -- can you say what you did in those moments or what happened to you?

REESE: I prefer not to.

STELTER: OK. So you were in the hospital, you were able to be sent home that day, and now you're recovering? Have you been able to talk to Rushdie or his family since the attack?

REESE: We've consciously not tried to reach out while he's in that condition.

STELTER: Right. When this happened, when this suspect jumped the stage, did you immediately think about the Iranian fatwa against Rushdie? For years, of course, he was in hiding after that Iranian death decree, and more recent years you know he's been much more public invisible, a lot of us you know, myself, you, we've been out to dinner with him. He's, you know, someone who was well known and so world-renowned. But did you immediately think about that fatwa when this started to happen?

REESE: As I said, I immediately thought that it was someone making some kind of bad reference to it. Not that it was actually a real attack.

STELTER: Some sort of parody.

REESE: Yes, indeed.

STELTER: And now, have -- you've been able to speak with police. Is there anything you can say about the suspect or that you're not supposed to say?

REESE: I'm really -- I don't want to talk about the actual events that happened there.

STELTER: OK. Tell us about the conversation you were going to have with Rushdie. It's incredible how related it was going to be to this very attack.

REESE: And that's the -- I think that's the gist of -- the meaning of that event that here we were about to talk about a movement City of Asylum that Salman Rushdie actually originated, that it was the original threat against him from during the fatwa period that led to the formation by a group of writers in Europe to strike the City of Asylum.


And his talk in Pittsburgh in 1997, that inspired my wife and myself, to begin the organization, which we've run as volunteers, and thousands of our neighbors now support and participate in to defend the values that he represented, to provide sanctuary and safety to writers who were endangered, who had fewer resources than Salman Rushdie had. And that is the grim sort of irony or maybe intention to, not only assault his body but to assault everything that he represented.

STELTER: What must writers and leaders do in the wake of this attack?

REESE: I mean, I think everybody is sensitive, but what we can do is writers can continue to write and write without -- well, write to the full extent of truthfulness and their ability. As readers, we can push it all the way out and buy a book -- buy a book by Salman Rushdie this week and read it. We should continue to read books. We should go to public programs in the arts, and those programs should begin with a reminder of the importance of creative expression in all of our lives, and how it brings people to discuss important issues and to think about people other than themselves.

STELTER: As he always has urged us, tell stories, tell better stories. That's the way. Do you think this will ever have a positive story, what happened on Friday?

REESE: There's a positive story for the -- for people who aren't Salman. And that we look at this and we say we're rededicated to the values that you represent. If you ever come to our neighborhood, you'll see that the organization that he inspired is transformed our neighborhood.

There are words on the doors of all the houses, there are gardens in buildings are infused with the alphabet. We do programs on the street, we do programs and buildings, they're all free, where people from different parts of life can engage in common way differences and other exchange points of view, cultures together. And it leads to that.

And again, in terms of irony, shortly before we went on stage, we've been discussing together to expand this idea of a City of Asylum in the United States. And so we have one of our charges. And hopefully one of the positive things that will come from this is we can begin to identify and work with other cities and individuals in those cities to add new cities of asylum and protect more writers so that this happens to fewer writers around the world. There's a -- there's a -- there's a net excuse -- me.

STELTER: And that's at for more information.


STELTER: Henry, thank you very much for coming on. Thank you.

REESE: Thank you.

STELTER: Rushdie again remains in critical condition, more to come on that.

Up next, new information on the Austin Tice rescue effort, the American journalist missing in Syria for 10 years. We're going to go live to the National Press Club and talk with the head of the group about where the fight to bring Tice home stands today.



STELTER: The American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria 10 years ago today. 10 long years. There he is. The U.S. government believes Tice is still alive. And this week for the first time, President Biden said the U.S. knows "with certainty that Tice has been held by the Syrians." Later today Tice's parents and news media leaders are going to gather in Washington at the National Press Club to raise awareness of Tice's case and pressure the government to do more.

Joining me now is Bill McCarren, Executive Director of the club. Bill, what more does the U.S. need to do? What concrete steps they need to take to bring Tice home?

BILL MCCARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: Thanks, Brian. Well, the U.S. needs to make direct contact with Syrian officials and listen to what they're saying and begin dialogue, discussions, and negotiation. That is the only way that Austin Tice will come home. We have some hope that that may happen, there have been a lot of changes in the last year or so, but as of now, we don't believe that direct contact has been made.

And you know that's why we're having this event today to support the Tices who are really admirable people and are suffering, but also to send a message to the government to please keep on this track and do what needs to be done to bring Austin home.

STELTER: He disappeared during the Obama administration. You became more involved during the Trump years now the Biden years, is this going to be the final president that's going to have to work on this? Is -- you know do you have faith that the Biden administration can be the ones to make sure he gets out of Syria?

MCCARREN: I do. I think what's really interesting about this administration is you have many people who have served in their government posts at a second level and are now moved up to the tops such as Tony Blinken, and some of the people that work in the NSC. So this is an experienced team. And I think President Biden is extremely engaged. The Tices were so heartened that he knew the big and little things about the case when they met with him, May 2, in the Oval Office. So I do think that there's a really good chance now that he can come home, but we need to keep the pressure on.

STELTER: And beyond the Biden ministration, is there -- are there other stakeholders that can do more? And is there something you want the public to do or no?


MCCARREN: Yes. I mean, I think the public just to have awareness and to contact their own members of Congress and the Senate to let them know that this is a priority. I think that's valuable. I think we're at -- we're asking the public to stay engaged and I'm wearing a pin here, Brian, that the Washington Post is behind a campaign for Bring Him Home. I think being aware and reading the newspaper stories and that sort of thing.

And I'll just mention another constituency, which is the press itself. I really do think there's been some excellent journalism in the last couple of weeks on this.


MCCARREN: And I really would ask people in journalism to read what's being published because there's news.

STELTER: Absolutely. Bill, thank you very much for coming on.

MCCARREN: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: We will continue to cover this case. Up next here, a media mogul who keeps buying up more and more brands, channels assets to take in to revive the Black News Channel, that channel that shut down months ago and went bankrupt. We're going to find out. Byron Allen's going to join us live in just a moment.


STELTER: And welcome back. Byron Allen began his career as a standup comic appearing alongside stars like Johnny Carson. Now, he's a media tycoon, a prominent figure in the cable and broadcast TV industry. He's owning channels like The Weather Channel, and he's working on expanding the company's portfolio.

Now, he's going to be acquiring the assets of the Black News Channel after a bankruptcy court approved his $11 million purchase. The Black News Channel was a small startup cable news channel that never really got off the ground, ratings-wise, but was producing some great work. So let's talk about the future of that and more.

Joining me now is the CEO and co-founder -- and founder of the Allen Media Group, Byron Allen. Byron, there's a lot of curiosity about what your plans are for the assets of the Black News Channel. This is a low-rated channel that had a really hard time reaching households. That's true for a lot of independent channels. So what is your plan? What's your vision for the Black News Channel's assets?

BYRON ALLEN, CEO, ALLEN MEDIA GROUP/ENTERTAINMENT STUDIOS: Well, first of all, Brian, good to see you, and thank you for having me on.

STELTER: Thanks.

ALLEN: Listen, on Black News Channel, we have a huge opportunity there. First of all, after we bought it, we immediately -- within 10 minutes of wiring the money, we changed the name from the Black News Channel to TheGrio. And TheGrio is West African for storyteller -- historian. So we want the channel to be a lot more inclusive, you know, I never really quite thought it was a good idea, the Black News Channel. I don't think we need the Black News Channel, I think we need a good news channel, a terrific news channel like yours.

So you know, the network's going to be a lot more inclusive. It will be far more, you know, focused on lifestyle, entertainment, news, and sports. So by way of example, we went and did a terrific deal with the HBCUs to license more than 2000 of their sporting events, which will also air on what is now Black News Channel used to be -- I'm sorry, what is now TheGrio, it used to be the Black News Channel.

And that's important to us because that's going to help us to amplify these sporting events at the HBCUs, these historic black colleges and universities, and to help educate these kids at those schools because education is the key and we have to invest a great deal more into education, paying teachers a lot more to educate our children, our greatest asset. We don't have enough intellectual capital and human resources in this country to maintain where we are and to grow and continue to thrive.

STELTER: Talking about learning, what have you learned over the years in the media industry, which is, let's be frank, mostly white can -- you know, white male-controlled media industry, all those media Titans, you have been buying up properties, what have you learned over the years doing so? ALLEN: We don't have enough diversity and ownership. We -- you know, we don't have a real democracy until people really own these assets. Women don't own these networks and they don't control their image and their likeness and how they're produced and depicted. Asian people are pretty much non-existent in the media landscape in terms of how we're depicting them or even seeing a lot of the Spanish language networks are owned by people who don't even speak Spanish. And gay people don't own their networks as well as African Americans.

STELTER: Interesting.

ALLEN: We need to control our networks, control the narrative, control how we're produced and depicted, and seen around the world and until all of our voices are heard, then we don't really have a true democracy. So I think it's important that we have real support from corporate America. The Black News Channel failed because it didn't get subscriber fees. So by way of example, CNN collects over a billion dollars a year in subscriber fees. When people pay their cable bill, $1 or $2 goes to CNN. In the case of the Black News Channel, unfortunately, it was zero.

And the ad dollars for the Black News Channel equals less than a million bucks, 2 million bucks at most on a good day. That means the chairman -- as CEO of every fortune 500 company, their personal compensation was more than all of the advertising on the Black News Channel, their personal compensation. So corporate America needs to lean in and support diversity and voices and ownership and that means subscriber fees from the cable operators and ad dollars for Corporate America.


ALLEN: Corporate America needs to support diversity and ownership and voices.

STELTER: We've also --

ALLEN: And if we have done that, Black News Channel would not have filed bankruptcy.

STELTER: And later, the staffers.

ALLEN: And the tragedies that had a target on a bankruptcy.

STELTER: Right. You own brands like The Weather Channel. In the 30 seconds I have left, is the future of these channels all streaming, or is it all of the above?


ALLEN: I think it's additive. I don't think anything will replace the other. I think we will have streaming, we'll have over-the-air broadcast, we will have cable, and that's what's happening with TheGrio. It's streaming, it's over the air, it's broadcasting and you will -- and we have The Weather Channel direct to the consumer.


ALLEN: So you can go and just get The Weather Channel for 299 a month direct to the consumer, everything's additive. We launched The Weather Channel in Espanol, the first and only 24-hour Spanish language network focused on the weather because this is life-saving information because the weather and climate change, and global warming, it's the greatest threat to humankind on planet Earth and we have to get ahead of it and talk about it. And thank goodness for this climate though because it is a real threat.

STELTER: You know, a former -- a former owner of The Weather Channel was -- the former owner was the climate denier and now you own The Weather Channel, and you know the truth about the climate. Byron, thank you so much for coming on. Good to see you.

ALLEN: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

STELTER: We're out of time here on TV, but we'll see you this time next week for many more "RELIABLE SOURCES."