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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Interview with Glenn Greenwald; The Hero-or-Traitor Debate

Aired June 16, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: When we interviewed Glenn Greenwald on last Sunday's program, I was a little puzzled that "The Guardian" columnist was in Hong Kong. But the reason became clear -- hours later, Greenwald had followed his source on the administration's massive surveillance program, Ed Snowden, and it was there that they made a video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: I'm no different from anybody else. I don't have special skills. I'm just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what's happening and goes this is something that's not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The media debate migrates from what the 29-year-old analyst revealed, the government compiling a vast warehouse of e-mails to Snowden, his life and even his girlfriend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERS MORGAN, CNN: He's on the run. But is the NSA leaker a hero or a traitor.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: So is Snowden a hero or a villain in your opinion?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN: Hero or villain? The man behind one of the biggest leaks in U.S. intelligence history hiding out in Hong Kong.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Is it good enough to make him a hero?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: Is the news business turning a serious subject into a morality play?

Glen Greenwald who broke this story will be here.

The George Zimmerman murder trial already drawing coverage as the jury is being picked. The cable debate is ratcheting up over the killing of Trayvon Martin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: A rally in Miami drew thousands of protesters. I was there joining those calling for an arrest, calling on authorities to let the criminal justice system do its work.

O'REILLY: The media, which is obviously liberal in America, the national media is, there's no doubt about it, they would be sympathetic to the African-American teenager who is unarmed and was killed.

KURTZ: In this tragic trial, are the media playing a polarizing role? CNN's new morning anchor, Chris Cuomo will weigh in.

Plus, a new anchor for a very influential newscast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: How am I supposed to explain this to Jon Stewart? Hey, boss, yes, the show is going OK. On the other hand, I think the country might be completely falling apart. And by the way, good luck tracing a finger phone, NSA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Does John Oliver translate as Jon Stewart's summer replacement? And does "The Daily Show" need a comedic transfusion?

I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(MUSIC)

KURTZ: For a guy who's in hiding in Hong Kong, Ed Snowden hasn't been totally inaccessible to the media. He granted an interview to "The South China Morning Post", this week and he had this to say in that video interview with "The Guardian's" Glenn Greenwald.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOWDEN: I think the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model. When you were subverting the power of government, that's a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: And just about everyone on television it seems has a view about Snowden, his leaks from the NSA and his motivation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think this Snowden character is a hero at all.

DAVID SIROTA, CONTRIBUTOR, SALON.COM: Whistleblowers in general, we need them and they are heroes. KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I certainly don't think he's a hero.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: I have no doubt that he felt like he had the best intentions.

MARC LAMONT HILL, HUFFINGTON POST LIVE: As far as him being a hero, yes, he's a hero. Did he break a law? Perhaps. But many heroes break laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Glenn Greenwald has continued to work on the surveillance story and says more exclusives are coming. We invited him back and I spoke to him just a few moments ago from Rio de Janeiro.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Glenn Greenwald, welcome.

GLENN GREENWALD, THE GUARDIAN: Good to be here, Howard.

KURTZ: Welcome back, I should say.

Your source, Ed Snowden, on the cover of "Time" magazine.

Lengthy profiles in this morning's "Washington Post" and "The New York Times." Commentators are calling him a hero or a traitor. Are you surprised how personal the coverage of Snowden has gotten?

GREENWALD: Unfortunately, I'm not. One of his big concerns with coming out, really his only one, is that he knows that political media loves to dramatize and personalize things. And he was concerned that the focus would distract away from the revelations about what our government is doing onto him personally.

The other problem is that, whenever there's a whistleblower, somebody who just dissents from our political institutions, the favorite tactic is to try and demonize him and highlight what are his alleged bad personality traits. And that's one of the reasons why we wanted to present him in his own words to the world, so they could form their own impressions before these smear campaigns began.

KURTZ: Which you did in that video. And, in fact, you write that there is a sustained demonization campaign against Ed Snowden. You cite various columnists. But why is it a campaign for some commentators and writers to criticize what Snowden did with these NSA leaks? Others, of course, are defending him?

GREENWALD: I don't think there's any problem with people who want to criticize what he did on the merits, although I think it's extremely strange that people who call themselves journalists find more contemptible than anything when somebody steps forward and brings transparency to what the government is doing, that's supposed to be their jobs. They should be in the lead cheering for that but so be it. If they decide that disclosure and transparency for the government are bad things, I think it's odd that they call themselves journalists but they have every right to do that.

What I'm talking about is this effort to smear them personally. Remember the first instinct of the Nixon administration when Daniel Ellsberg published the Pentagon Papers was to break into a psychoanalyst's office to get his psychosexual secrets. David Brooks writes a column, defending him as a loser and a loner. Richard Cohen in "The Washington Post" did the same thing.

It's the tactic of the establishment to try and demean people psyche and personality as a way of discrediting their revelations to the public and distracting attention away from it and that's what you're seeing and that's what I think is illegitimate.

KURTZ: You have also come under attack for your reporting in the last 10 days and since we had you on last week, for example, in London's "Telegraph", a columnist Willard Foxton writes this. He says, "Maybe it's the things that suggest he's a little odd, like self searching his own name so he can pounce on people criticizing him. You can be a great activist or a great journalist, but not both. I think Mr. Greenwald should pick before something goes wrong."

What do you make of that argument between your blurring the lines of having a strong point of view and being a reporter, which you have been in this case?

GREENWALD: I think there's this mythology in journalism that has subsisted too long and has degraded how journalism is perceived which is in order to be a, quote/unquote, "real journalist", you have to hide your political opinions or pretend that you have none. As human beings we all have strong political opinions and I've always personally believed that it's much more honest and it makes you much more credible to say explicitly what your opinions are rather than try and conceal them or hide them or have this conceit that you are free of them.

I think that our reporting stands on its own. We published five stories now, all breaking news. The only one about which there's been any questions raised and I hope we can talk about those and because they're illegitimate is one of the stories, which is the prison story, all four of the other ones everybody acknowledges are completely true, that the U.S. is collecting phone records on every single American. All of those stories have been unquestioned.

And there's a very good article in fact by "The New York Times" public editor just today that says that journalism is changing and it's healthy because of the fact that sources can now go to people who aren't at these huge institutions that conform to these old-style rules that people view as discredited. That you can have strong opinions and crusade for transparency, as I've done, and yet still do very important journalism. I think everyone acknowledges that these stories are that.

KURTZ: That column by Margaret echoed some of what we talked about last week as about why Snowden came to you as opposed to a place like "The New York Times", which had delayed the publication of the Bush administration surveillance program back in 2004-2005. But I want to turn to something else you've written this week, actually it's an interview you gave to the Web site "Business Insider" where you were critical of the media and the way -- or some in the media and the way they have handled this. You write about liberal columnists.

Quote, "I'm not surprised at their reaction. I've been amazed and disappointed for a long time at how the most slavishly partisan media Democrats who pretended to care so much about these issues when doing so helped undermine George Bush are now the loudest apologists and cheerleaders for these same very policies."

But why is it an example of hypocrisy if someone criticizes what Edward Snowden did? He acknowledges that he broke the law in doing these leaks without -- and at the same time have some ambivalence about the surveillance programs.

GREENWALD: Well, remember, Howard, I first started writing about politics in late 2005. I focused almost exclusively for the first year on the NSA scandal back then, which was revealed by "The New York Times" a year late, but better late than never, that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by law.

And the way that I developed a platform was because almost every progressive liberal, Democratic blogger, media outlet, person with a platform would promote the work I was doing. I was using my expertise as a constitutional lawyer and my interest in these issues. And they were all cheering for the condemnations that I was issuing.

There were all kinds of controversies back then the same as now. Alberto Gonzalez threatened to prosecute "The New York Times" for publishing that story. There were calls for the source that turned out to be Thomas Ham (ph), a midlevel Justice Department lawyer, to be prosecuted.

Uniformly, I bet you cannot go back and find a single liberal, progressive or Democratic pundit back then taking Alberto Gonzalez' side or condemning the source who blew the whistle on that program.

KURTZ: And now you think they have flipped?

GREENWALD: They have completely switched gears.

KURTZ: Yes.

GREENWALD: Yes, you can even look at polling data. Overwhelmingly, Democrats opposed NSA surveillance programs back in 2006 and overwhelmingly they now favor them because it's a Democrat in power who's doing it rather than a Republican.

KURTZ: Speaking of polling data, a number of polls show that either a bare majority or plurality agree with Edward Snowden's decision to make this material public but also majorities or pluralities think that somebody who breaks the law in that fashion should be prosecuted.

Let me ask you about the "Washington Post" Bart Gellman who reported on the Internet surveillance aspect of this story about the same time you and "The Guardian" did. And he says Ed Snowden told him, Bart Gellman, he could no longer have the story exclusively once "The Washington Post" wasn't agree to publish all the documents he was turning over.

Were you aware Snowden was dealing with Bart Gellman at the same time he was dealing with you?

GREENWALD: I was. Mr. Snowden told me he thought it was a good thing to have another media outlet, especially one at the heart of Washington, invested in these leaks, namely "The Washington Post." He told me that Bart Gellman was working on one of the stories, which was the prison story and that turned out to be true and we were going to work on all the others. If we wanted to, we could work on the PRISM story as well.

But I think it is significant that the PRISM story in particular was published by Bart Gellman, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and vetted by "The Washington Post" editors, as well as the editors at "The Guardian", and me as well. And, yes, the source did want "The Washington Post" involved in that part of story.

KURTZ: Right, the PRISM story refers to the electronic snooping on e-mails, Facebook postings and things like that, and there was some pushback because the companies said they hadn't fully cooperated but I think it turns that their definition of what the government was doing and what was shown in government documents turned out to be different. Your point is that you reported both sides.

GREENWALD: Correct.

KURTZ: OK. Let me briefly ask you before we go, you say in the time you've spent with Ed Snowden, you have gotten lots of classified documents that will be the basis of future stories. Are there things that you will hold back because you might make a determination that it could harm national security?

GREENWALD: Yes. I mean there are things that we've already held back. And in part we're doing that because we want to honor his wishes. He didn't want us just dumping documents that would, for example, enable other countries to copy the massive surveillance scheme that the NSA is building and impose that on their own citizens.

So we don't want to print blueprint guides for other countries as to how to replicate what the NSA is doing. We just want to inform the American people about what their government is doing so they can democratically decide that's what they want.

KURTZ: Right, when we spoke last week, I certainly didn't realize we would find out so quickly who your source was and that has become a big story as well as your own reporting. Glenn Greenwald, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

GREENWALD: Thanks for having me, Howard.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KURTZ: When we come back, we'll examine the coverage of Glenn Greenwald, government surveillance, Edward Snowden and, yes, Snowden's girlfriend. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: We're continuing to scrutinize the coverage of the administration's massive surveillance programs.

And joining us now: in San Francisco: Paul Farhi, media reporter for "The Washington Post". And here in Washington, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun Times".

Paul, you just watched our interview of Glenn Greenwald before the break. Does the newspaper publishing this story by a liberal commentator and activist on these issues, does that give you any pause?

PAUL FARHI, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it does, because you and I and people -- journalists of our generation grew up with this old- school notion that you're an opinion writer or a reporter but you're not both. And so, it makes all of us feel like, you know, there could be a problem here.

Does Glenn Greenwald have his thumb on the scales as he's writing these news stories? He is right, though. You can judge the stories on their merits and on their merits alone. Forget about his opinions. Tell me the information.

Is it fair? Is it accurate? And in this case, it has stood up.

KURTZ: Ed Snowden, the source, also approached the liberal filmmaker Laura Poitras who was in touch with Greenwald and also in touch with "Washington Post" Bart Gellman and bringing that story to your newspaper. So, "The Post" benefit as well.

Lynn Sweet, you heard Glenn Greenwald say that the old notion reporters have to keep their opinions out of things is old fashioned and sources obviously gravitate toward people who agree with them.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: I disagree with Paul. I think that Greenwald is featuring more like a columnist who a source went to. That's it, Howie. And a columnist often breaks news.

KURTZ: Speaking as a columnist yourself.

SWEET: And my column is newsy, more than opinionated. But in this case, I do have an opinion for you. That, Greenwald, you know where he's coming from and in this, because of the enormity of the news in it, yes, he wrote it as a news story with a mainstream news outlet in Britain, and I don't see any problem in this because as we've said, the facts are the facts. And, OK, so the reader knows that this is a sympathetic reporter that the source is going to, but you know what, sources always go to sympathetic reporters. I have not met a source that goes to a reporter --

KURTZ: Somebody they would deem to be unsympathetic.

SWEETS: Right.

KURTZ: And the facts have indeed held up.

But let's talk about the way in which the story or the narrative, the media narrative have swirled around Edward Snowden, saint or sinner?

Is this a simplification, Paul Farhi, of a very complicated set of questions about government surveillance, civil liberties and privacy?

FARHI: Well, I disagree with Glenn on this. It's not vilification. It's an attempt to find out who this guy is, what his motivations are and where he's coming from.

Yes, there's going to be opinions you don't like about this, but to criticize the search for understanding is absurd. I'd like to know more about him and what he's all about.

KURTZ: Well, by doing that video interview with Glenn Greenwald, Ed Snowden put himself at the center of this narrative. He personalized itself the way it's real eat case.

But on the other hand, in these detailed profiles this morning, Lynn Sweet, in "New York Times" and "Washington Post", we learned about what he was like in middle school, that he was a geek, he was in the boy scouts. Even what kind of doughnuts he likes to have after sex. I wonder if there's a point in which this just becomes the politics of personality.

SWEET: It's not the politics of personality. It's not the interest everybody has in somebody who comes in the news. I don't think he's vilified. I don't think he's demonized.

And in the end, his material, stands or falls on its own. He knows he has legal consequences. But every story that brings in a new face to us, that person becomes profiled. You want to know about him both for the political access he may have to grind or not and he just seems like a very interesting person.

KURTZ: The most interesting question in journalism, who is this guy and increasingly many in the media are asking, who is this guy's girlfriend?

Let's play some videotape with that in mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Part of the life he left behind involves his long-term girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, a pole dancer, a member of a Hawaiian acrobatic dance group with her own YouTube channel.

KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS: On her blog that has been taken down, Mills called her boyfriend a man of mystery.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Snowden's girlfriend meantime says she is, in her world, adrift in a sea of chaos.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KURTZ: All right. Paul Farhi, other than an excuse to show those bathing suit photos of Lindsay Mills, why should the media focus on a girlfriend who apparently knew nothing about what her boyfriend was up to?

FARHI: I've also thought that there are two kinds of stories. There's the important stories and then there's interesting stories. And the best kind of stories are interesting and important.

In this case, you've only got one, it's interesting. People want to know who this person is. And to discover that she's a pole dancer, you know, it's mind blowing in a way.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: You can't make this stuff up. You just can't make this stuff up.

FARHI: Yes, exactly. Doesn't anybody live a boring, ordinary life anymore? Apparently not.

KURTZ: But, Lynn, why -- since Edward Snowden told her that he was going away and doesn't seem to be a shred of evidence she knew anything about this, why drag her into the media spotlight?

SWEET: Well, I know I'm talking to two men so you will understand and I don't necessarily -- I'm not an advocate of this, but she was an attractive woman, the pole dancing.

KURTZ: She had a blog where she posted her own pictures.

SWEET: And there's video material. So you have the visual presentation. I just think it was too tantalizing for other people to ignore because there's material out there. One thing in this age, Howie, everybody who leaves a trail about themselves, you don't need the NSA to find out stuff about people. Her boyfriend is in the news, she's in the news, pole dancing didn't hurt her.

KURTZ: Especially if there's video of her performing said activity.

Up next, the ties between the press and the administration can seem rather incestuous. Are family connections affecting the way journalists cover Barack Obama?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Do family ties affect the work of Washington journalists? That's the question posed by Paul Farhi whose piece pointed out numerous connections to the Obama administration. ABC News president Ben Sherwood who's sister is a national security adviser to President Obama. CBS News president David Rhodes whose brother is a White House foreign policy adviser. And then there are marriages. ABC's Claire Shipman whose husband is White House spokesman Jay Carney. And NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro married to a lawyer in the White House Counsel's Office.

Paul Farhi, is this really a cause for concern in every case you heard about, you had either journalists saying they've recused themselves for certain kinds of stories, or changing assignments to deal with the perception of conflict?

FARHI: Yes, I think it's definitely a perception of conflict, but whether you can prove an actual conflict is really not obvious to me. And I really would like anybody who suggests otherwise to come forward with some kind of evidence to say, aha, you're pulling your punch or not covering something or you're favoring somebody because of a relationship. And it does not appear to be the case that that has happened.

The only people -- the only thing that critics can point to is the fact of the coincidence, the fact of the connection rather than the actual work that was in some way changed to favor a relative.

KURTZ: Right. Lynn Sweet, is it fair to cast aspersions, for example, on the presidents of CBS News or ABC News because they happen to have siblings that work for the administration?

SWEET: No, no, it's not fair to past aspersions on that. We could find other things, maybe what their coverage policies are.

KURTZ: What about -- what about marriages? For example, Farhi reports that the CNN national deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, overlapped for a couple of months with her husband's stint as deputy secretary of state, he stepped down this year.

Are journalists supposed to give up their profession because a spouse has an independent career?

SWEET: No, but it is hard. Certain low if we look at Capitol Hill, there's all kinds of relationships between reporters and staffers on there. I think you have to be very careful. I think you have to disclose when you have relationships. Maybe something that says so-and-so is married or wherever, where you draw the line or is a sibling of, that would not hurt on that.

KURTZ: One other issue before we go, President Obama dropping by an off-the-record briefing for White House reporters and that caused some hand wringing. Peter Baker of "New York Times" saying if they had known in advance the president was going to show up at this off- the-record session, maybe the "times" wouldn't have attended.

Paul Farhi, is this some ethical breach? I mean, presidents have talked to journalists off the record for a long time.

FARHI: Yes, and I wish it were on the record and so did the reporters. The president dropping by, I don't really see a problem. It would be nice to be able to get that information out to the public to know exactly what he said.

KURTZ: Right. Now, there was this flap about Eric Holder, the attorney general, have those off the record media briefings at a time when he was under attack for going after reporters and their phone records and their e-mails.

But, you know, what were the reporters supposed to do? They didn't know the president was coming. Was he supposed to run out of the room? I wish he'd have more on the record briefings as well.

SWEET: Right. So, not all off-the-records are equal. Nobody knew Obama was coming. You'd be crazy to run out of the room and frankly not to take that off the record action even with the chief of staff just to get to know what's on his mind.

Eric Holder, different story. He should have just met with bureau chiefs or the academics or whoever or the news organization to make policy different, the meeting with reporters who write about policy.

KURTZ: All right, Lynn Sweet and Paul Farhi, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday morning.

Ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, some of the media taking sides as the George Zimmerman murder trial gets under way. Chris Cuomo on the coverage of the racially-charged case and his new morning show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: It's been more than a year since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot in Florida and the media interest hasn't faded. With the murder trial of George Zimmerman getting under way this week, his brother has been making the TV rounds and accusing the press of being bias against the defendant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S BROTHER: They don't trust the media and I think rightfully so. They think that -- they have learned that the media is very good at putting their own spin on what they want the narrative to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Does he have a point? I spoke earlier from New York with Chris Cuomo, the co-host of "NEW DAY," the new CNN morning show that has its premiere tomorrow morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Chris Cuomo, welcome.

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": Great to be with you, Howie. Thanks for the opportunity. KURTZ: Happy to provide it. I have never seen the level of television coverage as with this George Zimmerman murder trial at the stage of jury selection, which is usually like watching paint dry. Isn't this media overload?

CUOMO: I don't know, Howie. This is tough because, one, as you know, I believe that the media does perform a very specific and valuable function when it comes to the criminal justice system. The stories are so immediately relatable. They're such a part of our social fabric from everything from the narratives involved to the nature of consequences and how the process works.

This case, unfortunately, really checks all the boxes of urgency. Race looms large here. Some will take issue with that, but I think objectively it just does. And when that's the case, it really makes people even more tuned in, Howie. People want to make sure this is done cleanly. It's proper and justice --

KURTZ: Maybe tuned in is the key phrase because I'm going to push back a little bit. You say it checks all the boxes. I think it checks all the boxes to get ratings for television because while it's undeniably a tragic situation, if it hadn't been for the racial aspect that these were two white people or two black people involved, this wouldn't be getting any national attention.

CUOMO: Well, I think that that might be true in part. You want to push? Now I'll push. You want to do the ping pong push, Howie, let's do it right now. I think if it not were Trayvon were black and Zimmerman was not black, it would change the calculus a little bit. You don't know what it would mean if Zimmerman were someone who were African-American and Trayvon were a white kid, what that would mean.

But race is involved any way you want to look at it. I'll tell you this. Here's the bet that you and I can make. I do not think that that story in any way will resonate from a ratings perspective the way Jodi Arias did. Why? Because this one is about real things beyond the satisfaction of the victim's family and the call for justice and those matter a lot. I don't mean to in any way diminish them.

But you had sex there and you had beauty at play and the fascination with the salacious that drove Jodi Arias. Also the highest stakes involved, obviously, death penalty eligible case. This case is about urgency and outrage and concerns about social justice. Now, whether or not they are placed fairly in this situation is another question.

I think the outcome of this case could very well be a not guilty verdict, and that not be because of race or because of injustice or prejudice, but how will it be perceived? Can you get a fair trial? Can you get a fair analysis of the trial? Those are big questions. It should be paid attention to for that, but I don't think it will rate as well as Jodi Arias.

KURTZ: Well, that's setting a high bar. But as the media choose up sides here, in my view, some people saying Trayvon Martin, obviously unarmed teenager ends up dead, others thinking George Zimmerman got railroaded and there was pressure to indict him. I fear and I think we saw signs of this that the media might play a racially inflammatory role. Your thoughts.

CUOMO: Racially inflammatory meaning playing to the fact that Trayvon is African-American and what that means and whether or not it's being treated with the urgency it would if you were a white person? What do you mean?

KURTZ: Meaning portraying this as kind of a Rorschach test of whether or not somebody can get justice in this system when the victim, sadly, tragically, is a black teenager. Of course, as you know, George Zimmerman's brother, Robert, says he thinks the media are already showing signs of bias against his brother.

CUOMO: One of the problems -- not a problem, but one of the interesting parts of dynamic of race in this country is you do have so much attention paid to it on one level so it could fuel the observation, the belief that this is going to be harder on Zimmerman because race -- the race of his victim.

And yet you also have just as many people coming at it the other way, that boy, Zimmerman should be in jail already. If this were a white person who had been victimized, this would have been done beforehand. I don't know that either is 100 percent true. Rarely does one side have a stranglehold on the truth.

But I do believe that the issues involved make this worthy of coverage. It's going to be a very tricky case. It's very difficult for analysis because people don't see the facts of the case as they lay. They see them through the lens of their feelings about what's going on, on a higher level.

KURTZ: A lot of personal prisms. Now, tomorrow morning you will debut as the co-host of "NEW DAY," a new CNN morning show with your colleagues Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira. It is no secret that CNN has had ratings troubles in the morning roughly forever. How is your show going to be different?

CUOMO: Not on Sunday mornings, with RELIABLE SOURCES, Howie. I believe it's the best show you have on Sunday. I don't think it gets bigger for me than being on this show today. Tomorrow is only a step down. I'm just pushing for more time. Can you see the logo if I move my head? I am very lucky getting into it tomorrow. CNN is a phenomenal brand. You know that. You helped build it, Howie.

It's a big reason that I came here for this opportunity. Jeff Zucker is such a figure in our business, his word means so much. Being able to work for him and learn from him is a big opportunity.

KURTZ: In fact you left ABC News just a few months ago. You had been on "Good Morning America," you were on 20/20, because you wanted to come to CNN, correct?

CUOMO: Absolutely, absolutely. It wasn't because I wanted to leave ABC News. I loved the organization. People are like family to me. I think they're the best in the business on the network level, carving out cable for us. But this was a great opportunity and that's why I took it. I came to this for all positive reasons and that's important for me, for people to understand. I love ABC News. I wish them every success, happy that they're number one in the mornings with GMA.

But here, I don't believe that CNN is dealing from anything other than a position of strength. Why? One, I dismiss what critics say about the perceptions of the morning, the ratings. CNN is going through a journey of going from being largely an exigency-based emergency platform, we're kind of America if not the world's panic button.

When something is going on they want to see us because we'll be there in force, and that's a great cache for your brand, but I also believe that the evolution that Jeff is trying to take us through, Mr. Zucker, is there are reasons to watch even when there's not this huge urgency and that's where the morning comes in, Howie.

Because as you understand better than I, it's important in an absolute sense to have the morning be strong so that it's a flow- through for what CNN believes is important. And that you have personalities there that you'll see other places and platforms on CNN when it's called for.

KURTZ: Speaking about personalities, you have a well deserved reputation for conducting aggressive interviews on hard news stories. Is that going to be a transition for you to be on as a morning personality, which as you know, people are eating breakfast and supposedly the conventional wisdom is they want a little bit of lighter approach.

CUOMO: I think that you have to be differential to the day part, people are starting their day. There's an urgency involved in that because you only get one chance to start your day. You know what happened last night. You want to be equipped with the information and perspective that you need to get out and do whatever responsibilities you have.

But also it is a little bit more quiet and more gentle of a time, and I understand that and I appreciate it. That said, Howie, I do believe we underestimate the audience in believing that they aren't full of care and concern at that time. I believe that in the morning it is important for our audience to understand that we care too. We care specifically about them and what matters to them.

And that I'm going to go after that every day, day in and day out. I'll have a smile on my face a lot of time because as you know we've been friends a long time. I take my job very seriously because I believe people deserve it. I do not take myself seriously at all so I'm happy to have a good time and in that way I'm blessed with Kate and Michaela. They have huge personalities and this common bond of smacking me around as often as they can.

KURTZ: I'm in favor of that. You have experience getting up early in the morning. Chris Cuomo, good luck on "NEW DAY." CUOMO: Howie, thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: After the break, John Oliver takes over for Jon Stewart at "The Daily Show." Does the program need more than an injection of British erudition?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: John Oliver took over the big anchor chair this week as Jon Stewart started a three-month sabbatical as the king of fake news. With the bombshell of Ed Snowden's leaks about massive government surveillance, the new "Daily Show" presenter didn't lack for material.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": The media, they face a very difficult question, do they prioritize the legal and ethical implications of an unprecedented government surveillance program or do they go "us weekly" on the messenger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 29-year-old high school dropout, he went to elementary and middle school in Crofton, Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he got his GED.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was living in Hawaii with his girlfriend who turns out is some sort of acrobat or gymnast.

OLIVER: Let's see if I was right. Boom, look at that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: So what does Oliver's performance tell us about the direction of "The Daily Show?" I spoke earlier with James Poniewozik, "Time" magazine's television critic in New York

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: James Poniewozik, welcome.

JAMES PONIEWOZIK, COLUMNIST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Thank you.

KURTZ: You described the John Oliver experiment as a little weird. I guess that's a typical critic's term, but can weirdness actually work?

PONIEWOZIK: Sure. I will say that it was actually a little weird in John Oliver's own words. That's how he introduced himself sitting in the spot that Jon Stewart had been in for so long. You know, and I think that not only can weirdness work in this situation, but that "The Daily Show" could even use maybe even a little more weirdness over the summer.

KURTZ: You're saying it's insufficiently weird? Is that your critique?

PONIEWOZIK: I think it's insufficiently different. I mean it's nothing against John Oliver, who's been a great correspondent on the show. He's funny, he's political, he's in many ways a very good choice to sit in Jon Stewart's chair.

KURTZ: And he's British and you say maybe more could be made of that?

PONIEWOZIK: Yes, I think so. You know, I think that rather than having him try to do sort of a Jon Stewart imitation, deliver a lot of lines that you could hear coming from Jon Stewart, that maybe they could do a little more work with what makes him different and distinctive. For instance, he is British, not American that in the past that has given him even working because he need to for his green card and so forth. I think that that could give him a bit of a different perspective on, say, world issues whereas "The Daily Show" tends to be dominated by U.S. politics.

KURTZ: Sure. But let me ask this broader question because there has been some chatter among at least a few critics that after 14 years in the fake news chair, that maybe the Jon Stewart formula is growing a little stale, could use a little shaking up and this is a chance maybe to move the program in a different direction. What's your take on that?

PONIEWOZIK: I don't know if I'd say that it's stale. I still think that "The Daily Show" is one of the funniest commentary shows on TV and Jon Stewart's become an institution at it. But I do think that, you know, there are times when there is not big news going organization not something that Jon will be particularly passionate about that the formula can kind of drag.

And I would just think that the writers could look at the summer as kind of a chance to exercise a few different muscles. Just, you know, sort of things about -- you know, just free them up to try a few different things with the show that, you know, Jon Stewart has -- have been hosting for 14 years at this point. So maybe when, you know, the boss comes back in a few months, it's a little fresher and they have a few more tools in their bag.

KURTZ: I think Stewart is a satirical genius especially when he skewers us in the media. There are those that ever since the rally for sanity in Washington, maybe he has taken himself and the issues a little too seriously even while sprinkling lots of jokes around the presentation of them.

PONIEWOZIK: I don't know if he takes himself too seriously. I do think he definitely takes himself more seriously than he used to in the sense that, you know, he took over back in 1999 and the show was -- tended to be more middle of the road and not -- not necessarily taking a strong personal points of view as it has come to. I think Stewart has realized that he has a platform and people pay attention and now when it comes to things like the --

KURTZ: He takes a stand. I have to ask you for a quick answer here. Given John Oliver's summertime fill-in status, after this, could he have a bigger role in the show or does he fade back to the role of goofy British correspondent?

PONIEWOZIK: You know, I tend to think he goes back to goofy British correspondent, but who knows when Comedy Central might need a third show to come after Colbert. It has happened before.

PONIEWOZIK: Right. Goofy correspondent is a living, can't make too much fun of that. James Poniewozik, thanks very much for joining us.

PONIEWOZIK: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: The "Media Monitor" is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. Here's what I like, the "Tampa Bay Times" with the 50 worst charities in America, an impressive example of tenacious investigative reporting. These charities devote less than 4 percent of the money they raise to helping anyone and officials have lied about their finances, taken multiple salaries, geared contracts to friends and in one case paid the president's son $18 million as a fundraiser. The paperwork with the Center for Investigative Reporting on this blockbuster series and teamed up with CNN, which televised the findings.

CBS News is investigating a cyber attack on the computer of reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, saying this involved a sophisticated search for data. I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but the attack took place late last year and coincided with Attkisson's aggressive reporting on the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. We have no idea who is responsible, but as Attkisson told the "Washington Post," people should be disturbed that a reporter would be spied on and intimidated this way. I do feel that this was an attempt to make me feel intimidated.

It's the nature of the news business that when a big story explodes, it then burns brightly for a while and recedes into history, but there is an intriguing new web site that called retro reports that goes back and examines some of these past medial frenzies and has recently teamed with the "New York Times."

Richard looked a case from 1987 that I covered in upstate New York, allegations by a black teenager named Tawana Brawley whose caused was championed by the Reverend Al Sharpton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: -- Brawley is a 16-year-old girl whose story is the talk of New York these days.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: The New York state teenager who claims that she was abducted and raped by six white men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the late 1980s, Tawana Bradley become a household name as her horrific story spread across the nation.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: We'll expose the facts in these crimes against black people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The video recounts how Brawley's story was exposed as a hoax in part by "The Times" and includes a recent interview with Sharpton, now a former presidential candidate and MSNBC host.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I think a lot of the rhetoric including mine went too far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: The non-profit retro reports run by a former "60 Minutes" producer provide some useful perspective in this era of instant news.

Finally, Scott Pelley knows how to push back against the press. The CBS anchor was ticked off at the "New York Post" "gossipy" page 6 for reporting that he had failed to mention a scoop by John Miller on allegations that a number of State Department officials were soliciting prostitutes because Pelley was peeved or so it said that the story had been broken on the morning show.

Pelley said he just didn't have time on his broadcast and called the reporter and saying it's false. You wouldn't last ten seconds at CBS News. You called my publicist but not me? Now, I don't believe Scott Pelley passed on the story, which was discussed on the next night's CBS Evening News. But there is no question he was peeved when he called the paper to complain. Scott, we're talking about page six here.

That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you miss a program, go to iTunes on Monday. Check out our podcast, search for RELIABLE SOURCES in the iTunes store. And as Chris Cuomo mentioned, he'll be debuting with Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira on CNN's "NEW DAY" starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern that's tomorrow.

Join us again next Sunday morning 11:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll be back here with another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.