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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Conway on White House Credibility Crisis; Poll: Most Americans Don't Trust President Trump; Murdoch's Media Outlets Taking Aim at Mueller; "The Weinstein Effect" on Sexual Harassment Coverage. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired November 5, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:47] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": This is Fareed Zakaria back here on "GPS." Thanks to all the guests who joined me on the show today, and thank you for being part of my program this week. I'll see you next week.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, of how the media really works and how the news gets made.
This hour, Ronan Farrow will join me live talking about the Weinstein effect reverberating throughout the industry. This week, NPR's head of news was forced out and Kevin Spacey was suspended from "House of Cards." Who's next?
Plus, an all star panel here to react to this week's news in Robert Mueller's Russia investigations. Why is Rupert Murdoch trying to use his media empire to discredit Mueller?
But, first, new poll numbers. This is what a White House creditability crises looks like. A new "Washington Post"/ABC poll released just a few hours ago asked, do you think President Trump is honest and trustworthy or not? Only 33 percent said yes, he's honest, 65 percent said they do not believe he's trustworthy.
This would be devastating for any White House, particularly for an administration that has only been on the job for nine months.
Let's talk through this and all the day's news with Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump. She joins me now from the White House.
Kellyanne, thanks for agreeing to be here.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Hi, Brian. My pleasure.
STELTER: Given President Trump's historically low approval ratings, what specific steps are you and your colleagues taking to try to repair Trump's credibility?
CONWAY: So, Brian, I think that's a usual hyperbolic opening to one of CNN's segments. But let me tell you about the numbers that matter to America is the 1.5 million jobs created on his watch, the 54 record highs in the stock market closes, the consumer confidence level at a 17-year higher, which means higher than both President George W. Bush and President Obama, 17-year --
STELTER: But what are you doing about credibility?
CONWAY: Excuse me -- that is credibility.
STELTER: It's not.
CONWAY: For the people who are paying attention -- oh, it is. It is. Maybe not to CNN.
STELTER: The American people are not giving him credit, according to the polls.
CONWAY: Yes, they are. It depends how you ask the question. You have the voice going through all of your promos saying CNN, the most trusted name in news, what evidence do you have of that? I've seen polling numbers to the contrary.
STELTER: You're talking about CNN instead of president Trump?
CONWAY: No, no, I'm happy to talk about President Trump. You interrupted me because I was going through what CNN refuses to cover about President Trump which is the economic boon on his watch as president. The fact is --
STELTER: The economy is covered every day, Kellyanne. Kellyanne, that's like saying --
CONWAY: That's not true. You just want to argue because you say facts first, so I'm giving you the facts about the stock market, the 1.5 million jobs created.
STELTER: I appreciate that, but I asked is about President Trump's credibility --
CONWAY: Well, you know who you really appreciate it?
STELTER: -- and how the White House is repairing these credibility crises. Do you have an answer to that question?
CONWAY: That's what you call it.
Yes, here's the deal. The credibility crises exist in the other party now. I just cannot believe the bombshell that Donna Brazile has launched where she says she was dealing with three, quote, titanic egos, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
STELTER: You know, I stopped taking Donna Brazile seriously when she lied --
CONWAY: Why? STELTER: -- and when it was revealed that CNN fired her for giving debate questions to Hillary Clinton.
CONWAY: Wow. That's --
STELTER: I'm not here to ask you about Donna Brazile.
CONWAY: Excuse me, that's very unkind to Donna Brazile. She saw what we saw out there, which is a lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. She was worried, rightfully so, that the polls were wrong, including CNN's polling. I know you fired your pollster since.
STELTER: I'm here, with all due respect, Kellyanne, to ask about President Trump, not Hillary Clinton.
CONWAY: If you want to talk about credibility, let's talk about it.
STELTER: Do your internal polls deal with historically low approval ratings?
CONWAY: So, you want to talk about approval ratings, and I'm telling you about the numbers that matter to Americans.
STELTER: Because his approval ratings are shockingly low. It's a problem not just for you and for me but for the nation that this president is not trusted by the American people.
CONWAY: That's wrong. You know what's a problem for this nation, that you refuse -- CNN used to be a place where people can tune in and get the news all day long. Now they get spin and people's opinions.
And I think CNN should own it. Brian, why not say, look, it's in our commercial interest at CNN to be anti-Trump. We're profitable if we're against the president, most of our viewers are against the president.
[11:05:02] Just own it. Don't you think that would be more credible for CNN than pretending that you're straight down the middle?
STELTER: I understand that you don't want an adversarial media. You all --
STELTER: -- I guess you want just everybody to be like FOX News.
CONWAY: I want an honest media. No, that's not true.
STELTER: State-run media?
CONWAY: Stop being jealous of FOX News, Brian, and their ratings. I think that would help if you drop the jealousy a little bit about FOX News.
STELTER: Let's on the screen -- CONWAY: The fact is that we need a media -- we need a media that
covers the facts. If consumer confidence is at a 17-year high, that's relevant to the forgotten man or woman that Donna Brazile admits was being ignored.
STELTER: It's like a doctor walking in and saying -- it's like a doctor walks in and says you have cancer and it's spreading throughout your body, but the good news is your legs still work and your feet still work. It's great that I can walk but I want to treat the cancer, Kellyanne, and that's why I'm asking about his historically low approval ratings.
CONWAY: Well, I'm not going to buy into that awful analogy because I know many people are suffering with -- terminal cancer right now. So, I just think it's a terrible analogy you just offered to the viewers.
I want to tell you something about the president. He's on an historic trip to Asia, the country is watching that. They're listening to him directly and they get the news directly from him. I know there's a lot of arm -- there's a lot of hand-wringing in the mainstream media that the country doesn't need you anymore to spin and filter what the president just said. They read his tweet when you read his tweet. It's a democratization of information.
CONWAY: They don't need you to tell -- they don't need you to tell them what the president just says. He's given a lot of press availability. Every time he's taking off from the South Lawn now practically he's talking to the press. I've been in the room several times last week when the president is answering questions to a live poll spray that have nothing to do with why they were there like the cabinet meetings, ways and means meeting the other day.
There are many different actions by this president where he is very full and forthcoming and answering these questions. I don't think you can find a more transparent, more forthcoming president in recent times that is engaging with the media and usually spontaneously. Isn't that refreshing?
STELTER: I think it's laudable that he's been taking questions from the press. But I did think it was troubling when he said on Friday to the press corps that he's disappointed in the Justice Department. You're reasonable. You know it's disturbing to have a president trying to meddle in the Department of Justice. Have you counseled him to stop doing that?
CONWAY: So, Brian, go back and look at the president's full quote. He said, I want the Justice Department to run itself. He said, I like you to run itself. He said. That means he's not interfering and meddling.
He has expressed consternation and the occasional frustration publicly for a very long time, about the fact that the Department of Justice and the FBI don't seem interested in both sides of the so-called collusion coin. And even CNN -- STELTER: Is he going to replace Jeff Sessions?
CONWAY: No. That's not what he's saying at all.
STELTER: He's disappointed. He wants them to do it differently.
CONWAY: Well, first of all, you want me to go on tape saying he will never replace X or so and so will be here all eight years. I'm not going to do that because it's silly. You guys always want to know who's up and who's down, and the American people care that the stock market is up and unemployment is down.
But to this point, we've got multiple investigations through Mr. Mueller, through congressional and Senate committees and CNN itself has been so hot on Russia, Russia, Russia, on the dossier. CNN's been obsessed with this dossier for over a year now and now that we know the DNC and Clinton campaign paid the same firm for said dossier which is completely unverified, we can't get you excited. If you look back at your whole year --
STELTER: Parts of it have been verified. That is misinformation that you're spreading on my program, Kellyanne, and I don't appreciate it. Much of the dossier --
CONWAY: Hold on.
STELTER: -- you said the entire dossier is unverified. That is inaccurate.
CONWAY: No, I said it has not been verified. But the important --
STELTER: Pieces of the dossier have been verified and when you say it's unverified, you actually mislead the American people.
CONWAY: No, no, don't start with that.
STELTER: Carter Page actually confirmed another part of the dossier on Friday.
CONWAY: Don't start with that. You know that entire dossier has not been verified and yet the interest in covering --
STELTER: Parts of it have not been verified. Parts have been verified.
CONWAY: Are you comfortable with that? Are you comfortable with that?
CONWAY: By the way, we don't care about the dossier because let me tell you something. Great. Then, let's look at all sides of the coin.
Tell me this, why, if President Obama and apparently according to Donna Brazile now Attorney General Holder, national security adviser Susan Rice, they all knew about -- they were all told about possible Russian meddling. Why didn't they tell us at the campaign? They knew last summer. We weren't told because --
STELTER: I agree, there should have been more. You're right about that. There should have been better stronger warnings.
CONWAY: Absolutely. OK, should that be part of the investigation?
So, if we're going to look forward in our democracy, our unimpeded, interfered democracy, Brian, which I know you and I both agree with, and why wouldn't we look at that? Why weren't we --
STELTER: I don't know what Mueller is looking. Thankfully he hasn't been leaking --
CONWAY: Is it because everybody thought Hillary Clinton is going to win and it wouldn't matter?
But I want to say something else. As the campaign manager for the winning part of the campaign --
CONWAY: -- I never a single time even thought about what to do -- how to deal with Russians to win. Hillary Clinton, as Donna Brazile just pointed out, I agree with her completely, she was a walking, talking treasure trove of how to beat Hillary Clinton. We never needed to look further than her.
[11:10:01] And as Donna points out, there was a feeling of inevitability and smugness over in Brooklyn that they didn't have to campaign on the issues, they didn't have to campaign hard. She didn't see the enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.
STELTER: I think viewers see what you're doing, pivoting. When I say Russia, you say Clinton. It's part of the strategy. Would you agree?
CONWAY: No, no, sorry. If you want to talk about -- listen, I'd be happy to never talk about the 2016 election again. You know why? We won it --
STELTER: Well, let's agree not to talk about it during this interview.
CONWAY: Hold on. The reason that we're still talking about it is because of the DNC, because Hillary Clinton has done a book tour that you're considering nonfiction, not fiction. They're still talking about the 2016 campaign. It turns out -- STELTER: You love to jab, jab, beat on Hillary Clinton. It's boring.
STELTER: It's outdated. It's history.
CONWAY: She is incredibly boring.
STELTER: Let's talk about what's happening in the building behind you. I need to ask you about the Justice Department.
CONWAY: Let's do that, let's do that, tax cut --
STELTER: Because you're saying that the president is not interfering with the Justice Department. There's serious concerns that he is. For example, you know the biggest --
CONWAY: At CNN.
STELTER: -- trending media merger is the AT&T Time Warner deal. Time Warner owns CNN.
This week, there was a sense the deal was about to be approved until this headline came out in the "Wall Street Journal." It says the Department of Justice is weighing a lawsuit to block the AT&T deal. Has President Trump had any involvement in the review of this deal, Kellyanne?
CONWAY: Brian, you know better than to go ahead and throw that poison out to your viewers which you know are heavily Democratic --
STELTER: That's not poison.
CONWAY: -- and anti-Trump because it's a business model you should own. But at the same time, the Department of Justice and the different departments, within the Department of Justice who look at merger deals will do their work. We're not going to interfere with that here.
STELTER: So, President Trump has not had any conversations about the deal?
CONWAY: I can understand why some of your colleagues are nervous about another merger, I get that. But I'm not -- I really don't want to spend the White House's time and our platform today on CNN with you Brian talking about something that affects you and your employees.
The Department of Justice is a very large place. Let them do their job here. Let Mr. Mueller do --
STELTER: Independently, I agree. They should be independent.
CONWAY: Well, of course, the Department of Justice is department.
STELTER: But when the president's complaining every day about the Justice Department, people cannot trust that he's leaving the department alone. You see what I mean?
CONWAY: That's not true. No, no, no.
STELTER: He's complaining several days in a row. It was --
CONWAY: Yes, but he also said -- play the full clip if you want to be honest and completely forthright about it. Facts first, Brian. Show the whole clip of the president saying, I want the Department of Justice to run itself. That's noninterference, OK? And I just want to make clear --
STELTER: President Trump said before Election Day that he vowed to block the AT&T deal. That's why this is significant. Does he still oppose the AT&T deal?
CONWAY: I haven't discussed that with him lately because it's not important to what we're doing here, which is he just went a historic Asia -- he's in the middle -- he's at the beginning of an historic Asia trip. We're cutting taxes.
STELTER: Sure. Sure. But these deals are important.
STELTER: He's been bashing the Justice Department. What about the Sinclair Tribune deal? They have a conservative bent. Does he oppose that deal?
CONWAY: Haven't discussed that with him recently. We don't discuss that here. Those are deals in the private sector that the Department of Justice will or will not look at. That's up to them. There are many things
STELTER: But it's so opaque. That's issue, Kellyanne, is I'm looking for more transparency. I'm looking for more transparency on a variety of topics.
CONWAY: No, you're looking for conversations that don't take place.
STELTER: I think that's how the president could regain his credibility.
CONWAY: No, that's not true.
STELTER: I think the president can regain his creditability by being more transparent. On his tax returns, for example, the deadline for him to file his federal tax return was October 18th. Do you know if he has filed his tax returns?
CONWAY: Do you know what it might look like in the future? A postcard or a --
STELTER: That's a great pivot and I respect the pivot, but why will he not release this year's tax return?
CONWAY: I think Americans want to know about the tax -- I think Americans want to know about the tax cuts. You know they want to know about the tax cuts. You know that that affects them. They're waiting to get middle class tax and waiting for trillions of dollars that are parked overseas legally to come back. They want those jobs back here. It's how he won and he's making good on it.
You don't want to cover that. You want this whole year to basically be -- I mean, if CNN looked back at this year you should be dispatching from the Kremlin, not Capitol Hill. You've been obsessed with one major issue. Fifty-four stock market highs and in all 54 days, you've covered Russia. I mean, is that responsible?
STELTER: Kellyanne, if you would like to join CNN as a producer, I'm sure we can find an opening, if you would like to be involved in editorial decisions.
CONWAY: I had a nice offer from CNN but I came inside instead. And I respect CNN. Look, CNN, plucked me out of the wilderness 20 years ago when I knew nothing about going on TV. I'll always be grateful for that, but I don't understand why --
STELTER: But I asked about tax return -- I asked why the president won't release his tax return and you're talking about CNN.
CONWAY: He's answered that many times. You're still talking about the 2016 election. You sound like Hillary Clinton --
STELTER: I'm asking about two weeks ago was the deadline for him to return his federal tax return. I think it's kind of embarrassing the press didn't ask more about this last month. The deadline was October 18th and we haven't seen a tax return yet.
CONWAY: CNN is in the front row of the press briefings every day. They choose what to ask. They've been out there on the South Lawn every single time.
STELTER: Sure, I'm glad that dozens of reporters are there.
CONWAY: And your colleagues are shouting questions during press pools. I'm right there.
STELTER: Right. Well, I'm asking you instead. That's value of it.
Let me ask you one more about transparency. President Obama underwent physicals in 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016. [11:15:06] Will President Trump see the White House doctor and will he
release the results of his physicals?
CONWAY: I don't ask the president about private matters about his health or --
STELTER: It's not a private matter. All presidents disclose their medical records and they disclose their physicals when they're in the White House. It's not a private matter.
CONWAY: I'm not going to comment on that today. I will just say that as President Obama was doing that, he was lying to the American people about keeping their doctor and their plan. Again, that's what animates Americans, that 28 million Americans that still don't have health care.
STELTER: I'm against liars. Obviously, I'm against liars. But president Trump has a track record of misinformation.
CONWAY: Don't call him a liar. Don't call him a liar, Brian.
STELTER: I didn't call him a liar. I said I'm against liars. I'm against liars.
But President Trump has a track record of misinforming the public. Do you advise him as counselor to the president not to spread misinformation?
CONWAY: The president communicates directly through the people all day long through his Twitter feed, through his availability to the press.
CONWAY: Hold on. That is not true, Brian. Hold on.
And that you can cherry --
STELTER: He said Broadcom was a Future 100 company this week. It's not even Fortune 500 company.
CONWAY: You pick and choose. You cherry pick. You know what people will be happy? They'll be happy that Broadcom came to the White House and announced that it will be creating jobs in this country.
STELTER: That's true.
CONWAY: You ask the people, you don't get out there and talk to the people like we do, respectfully. Hillary Clinton didn't respectfully. I didn't see you or her in Wisconsin, but the fact is this --
STELTER: Kellyanne, my family is from Wisconsin, I love Wisconsin. I'd love to go with you to Wisconsin.
CONWAY: Let's do it.
STELTER: But you can't sit here and say, Brian, you don't go and talk to the people. That's just insulting.
CONWAY: No, no, no, you didn't last year. You didn't last year. You guys were doing national polls. You missed the whole zeitgeist. My point to you is, go and talk to whoever gets the jobs from Foxconn in Wisconsin or from Broadcom elsewhere.
CONWAY: And ask them what they care about, ask them what their tax returns are going to look like, ask them if they care -- if Broadcom is a Fortune this or a Fortune that. They're going to be happy to have a job and you're not connecting that.
STELTER: Sure, I agree with you on that.
CONWAY: I think a lack of transparency is also not telling the American people all the good that's happening for them. If people just want to hear the negative, negative, negative, they'll continue to tune in. But not everybody's tuning in, Brian. You know, your ratings are not as high as other networks, cable stations, because people --
STELTER: Then why are you here, Kellyanne? If you're going to take a shot at me, why are you here?
CONWAY: Excuse me, (INAUDIBLE) take shots at my boss.
STELTER: Clearly, you want the influence --
CONWAY: No, I'm more than happy -- listen, I'm always happy and you've got people probably on Twitter now, you'll read it, I'll go home and watch the Philadelphia Eagles win and take my kids to something fun today. But you'll go on Twitter the rest of the day as you're holding your precious baby daughter and you will see what people said and you will realize how anti-Trump the CNN viewers are now. So, go ahead and give them something different to look at.
STELTER: What they're going to say is, Brian, you shouldn't have that woman on CNN. You shouldn't have that woman because she spins. I think they're wrong.
CONWAY: They say it all the time. They don't realize how often we're invited to be on CNN. That's right. Thank you.
STELTER: That's right. I ask for you every week.
CONWAY: They have no idea how often we're invited.
STELTER: I try to book you every week and I'm grateful that you're here.
CONWAY: I didn't know that, I didn't know that, but I'm happy to come on more frequently. I'll tell you that right here and right now.
But, look, let's -- can't we just make a deal of some sort that we can actually get more -- if you want facts first, there are facts out there that you're not telling the American people. I just think cherry picking --
STELTER: That's just not true.
CONWAY: Look, you're a 24/7 cable, you're 24/7 news outlet. You have a lot of people in your digital platform. You have international audiences.
Don't you want them to hear that the stock market is at an all-time high? Don't you want them to hear --
STELTER: They did on Friday. They did on Friday.
CONWAY: But just in passing. It's never quite -- look, Sarah's briefings, most of what everybody covers is the Q&A. The rich part of those briefings is at the beginning when she is outlining the facts of what just happened that day.
STELTER: She read a conservative chain e-mail from the podium. It was embarrassing.
CONWAY: The national security -- I don't know what you're talking about there but I'm saying --
STELTER: She read a chain e-mail about tax returns the other day, remember on Monday?
CONWAY: She is listing out -- and I do find it curious and I think people should take note of what you're not asking me today. You're not asking me a thing about, as the winning campaign manager you're not asking me a thing about Russia, about what we were doing.
You know the day -- you want to talk about CNN polling. The day that I got there as campaign manager, we were down double digits according to CNN polling. And even if you're polling was off a few points, we know we were losing. And the fact is I never once considered, never once considered, never once considered not looking at Michigan and looking at Moscow instead.
I don't know what other people were doing earlier in the campaign, but I can tell you just as the indictments last week, these indictments last week had nothing to do with the campaign, nothing to do with Russia collusion.
STELTER: You've brought us back to the election again. You're at the White House. Hillary Clinton is not.
CONWAY: No, no, because that's what CNN is covering. I didn't mention her name. I would be happy to --
STELTER: You're talking about the campaign.
CONWAY: No, no, you're talking about Russia collusion which has to do with the campaign. You're not talking about it as we're governing, right? That all has to do with the campaign. STELTER: The way Russia attacked us last year is the biggest story I can think of.
CONWAY: Now, you're talking about the campaign. OK, hold on --
STELTER: Russia continues to attack us today. They're going to attack us in the mid-terms, and I don't see your boss doing enough to protect us.
CONWAY: Wait, excuse me, we have a lot going on with respect to cyber security in this administration.
[11:20:03] Every single day something is being done in that space.
But hold on.
CONWAY: You can't have it both ways, Brian. You can't on your network constantly talk about Russia, Russia, Russia, which has everything to do with the 2016 campaign and then the minute I touch the soft underbelly of this nonsense, you accuse me of wanting to talk about the campaign.
I work here, Hillary Clinton doesn't. And this man is governing. He's doing things for the American people. He's trying to get those 28 million Americans who were left in the cold without health care reform. He's trying to get a middle class tax cut. He wants to reduce the corporate tax rate.
STELTER: But he hasn't yet, that's why his approval ratings are stuck in the mud. What are you going to do with the approval rating?
CONWAY: Listen, his approval ratings don't matter as much as all the numbers. And I say this when they're up and I say this when they're done. I've been around a very long time. I'm an old woman, Brian.
I talk about approval ratings on this network and others for decades and they're not as important as what matters -- if consumers feel confident and they're out there spending their money, if job creators feel like they can attract and retain the American workforce, bring that wealth and those jobs home, if corporate American -- I've never seen Washington so organized --
STELTER: I agree with you. The only thing we disagree on is the press doesn't cover it. I'm sitting by the CNN Money newsroom. Dozens of reporters cover the economy every day. But I hear what you're saying.
CONWAY: That's great. We love to see them more on your show. But I know you hear what I'm saying and it's the chyrons. But, you know, I'm just telling you, just own it. Just own it at CNN.
You're a very prominent person there. Just say, you know, we're doing better in the ratings, we're getting better ad revenues because we're one of the more anti-Trump than down the line outlets. Just own it. I think it's OK to do that. STELTER: We're not anti-Trump, Kellyanne.
STELTER: We're pro-truth. We're pro-honesty. We're pro-decency, and this is a tough moment in American history for people that support facts and decency.
CONWAY: Excuse me. We've had many tough times in American history.
CONWAY: But you know, Benghazi didn't happen because of a tape. You all covered that.
STELTER: I'm not going to --
CONWAY: People couldn't their doctor and couldn't keep their plan. Right, you don't like --
STELTER: I hear Benghazi, I hear Clinton, let's talk next time.
CONWAY: Well, you're hearing. You want to talk about facts. But the fact is, Brian, I appreciate being on. We appreciate the platform.
STELTER: Thank you.
CONWAY: And I'm always willing to do that when I'm available. Thank you.
STELTER: Hey, we're both rooting for the Eagles today at least. That's what we have in common.
CONWAY: All right, 8-1 coming up.
STELTER: All right. See you soon. Thank you for being here.
CONWAY: Take care.
STELTER: When we come back, a perfect panel to dissect all of this and the latest on the Robert Mueller Russia investigation. We'll be right back.
[11:26:22] STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
We were talking before the break with counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway. I was asking her about the approval ratings for the president on the one-year mark since Election Day. We should put on screen the newest data we have. This is from ABC out overnight, this ABC/"Washington Post" poll showing Trump at a 37 percent approval rating.
The number, we've heard it for months now, 35, 37, 38 percent. We just can't underscore enough how historically low this is.
So, let's talk about that and the rest of the week's news with Eliana Johnson. She's a national political reporter at "Politico". And Errol Louis, a political anchor for Spectrum News here in New York and a CNN political commentator.
Errol, you were making the point to me during the commercial break that Kellyanne Conway is an accomplished pollster.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
STELTER: She's aware of how disturbingly low these numbers are for her boss. I respect that she doesn't necessarily want to discuss that but I think to myself, the biggest story involving the Trump presidency right now is his disapproval from the American public.
LOUIS: Absolutely --
STELTER: We have to keep coming back to it even if it feels repetitive.
LOUIS: There are important political implications to that. That's not to discount what she was trying to say about the economy doing well and that's going to count in the president's favor. OK, fine, even with that great economic performance in recent weeks, he's performing so badly that she has a pollster knows very well that it's the kind of thing that turns donors off, it's the kind of thing that invites challengers. It emboldens possible challengers to the president, not just on Capitol Hill with legislation and doing the White House's bidding but even a challenge for the president in re- election is not out of the question when the numbers are just that bad.
So, you know, then you've got the generic poll that puts a generic -- for the outcome in Congress next year, puts the Democrats ten points over the Republicans. She knows that that is trouble. She knows that that's got to get turned around. It is very high in their inbox politically speaking, and I don't -- I don't think she really wanted to talk about it this morning because I don't know if they have a plan for.
STELTER: So, we've seen all these numbers from a number of major networks. Some of them timed to the Election Day anniversary which is coming up on Wednesday.
Eliana, one number that stood out to me from the ABC/"Washington Post" poll is that 91 percent of Trump voters say they would vote for him again. So, even though we see a lot of troubling numbers in the President Trump presidency, one month his election day, he still retains the support of his base to a remarkable degree.
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: You know, Brian, I'm not sure what the political implication of those historically low approval numbers are. The election of 2016 was so bizarre. You know, it was not a popularity contest. Voters disapproved both of Hillary Clinton and of Donald Trump.
JOHNSON: And so, I'm not sure how those approval numbers are going to impact the 2018 election, because the economy is performing well, as Kellyanne Conway said, and so, I'm really interested to see how the performance of the economy will counter balance his approval numbers.
And as you said, you know, Errol mentioned the object -- possibility of a primary challenge to Trump. I think that's a remote prospect, the number that you mentioned that 91 percent of Republican primary voters would vote for Trump again. It seems to me that he has a pretty strong grip on the party.
When you see people like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker who have been outspoken critics of his retiring and the primaries, I mean, the Alabama Senate primary, essentially you had two candidates trying to prove they're Trump bona fide. So, it does seem to me like he has rebranded the party pretty successfully in his own image.
[11:30:01] I'd be surprised to see a primary challenge to him, but again, I think we're in pretty untested territory and that's why I don't think even though historically low approval ratings typically would be meaningful, I'm not really sure necessarily that we can carry past lessons forward in this case.
STELTER: And I'm looking forward to this Tuesday night. It's another election night in America, live coverage on all the cablers once again with results in Virginia and other states.
Eliana, Errol, please stick around. A quick break here and then the Rupert Murdoch factor, the FOX factor, how pro-Trump media has been trying to discredit Robert Mueller.
[11:35:02] STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
We see right wing media rallying around the president. To a reader like me, it looks a lot like Rupert Murdoch and the Trump administration have embraced the same strategy, to cast doubts about Robert Mueller's investigation and deny the importance of the ongoing Russia probes.
When in doubt, pivot to Hillary Clinton's alleged misdeeds instead. That's so much more fun to talk about. You know, Murdoch's "Wall Street Journal" recently ran an editorial urging Mueller to step down and Murdoch's Fox News has gladly amplified that message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: There's no way the American people can trust Robert Mueller to investigate anything Russian related. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with "The Wall Street Journal." He should
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Robert Mueller must be fired immediately.
HANNITY: He should resign immediately tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: It's kind of funny, right? Because, obviously, Mueller's not going to take Sean Hannity's advice.
But some Republicans are listening. On Friday, three House Republicans moved to pressure Mueller to resign in a formal letter.
Back with me now, Eliana Johnson of "Politico". Also joining me is Indira -- keep going on the prompter there, Laksh -- you know, Indira, I don't want to mess up your name. How do I say it? I don't want to sound like an idiot?
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, BOSTON GLOBE: I do it for you, Lakshmanan, Brian.
STELTER: I apologize. You know, I saw you a week ago and I already messed it up.
LAKSHMANAN: That's OK.
STELTER: You're the Newmark Chair on Journalism Ethics. I'll tell our viewers that for Poynter, and columnist for the "Boston Globe." And also here with me, David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR. He's the author of "Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires".
So, David, you've spent a lot of time reporting on the Murdoch/Trump alliance. How often are they in touch? How often are they in touch? How often do they communicate?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I'd say it's pretty frequent. I'd say they're in touch by phone. They communicate through circuits. But they don't have to.
You know what? Rupert Murdoch has achieved what Donald Trump who is by no means his favorite candidate here for last year's presidential election, what he's achieved is what he's always wanted in this country, the same he has in his native Australia and Britain, a direct line to the person at the top of the pyramid of government. He's got, a flawed president in his mind, the one he's going to stick with as long as he can.
STELTER: Indira, does this mean Murdoch is a destructive man in American politics? If he's bolstering up President Trump despite these scandals and controversies?
LAKSHMANAN: Look, I think that Rupert Murdoch has discovered that his business model with Fox News is really effective to appeal to people who are against the status quo in this case who support Donald Trump. I'm not necessarily sure that he's going to stick with this the whole way along. I mean, I think for him, as you mentioned, it's more of a business strategy than it is anything else because as David said, Trump was not his number one candidate.
But it's fascinating to see people like Sean Hannity urging Mueller to step down and the president repeating back talking points from Fox and by the way, obviously, "The New York Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" which are also owned by Rupert Murdoch.
STELTER: Yes, you're right. "The New York Post" is part of this trifecta. "The Post" has published pieces disparaging Mueller which, of course, you know, opinion columnists can say whatever they want but you start to wonder if there's something more than an accident going on, a series of accidents here.
Eliana, you used to work for Sean Hannity's show I think, right? How do you view this?
JOHNSON: I think it's exactly right to say that this is a business strategy for Murdoch. Fox News is enormously financially successful, and you see the other Murdoch-owned entities taking a slightly different line.
"The Wall Street Journal" was critical of Mueller, it has been along the line but it's taking a different tact. It's critical of special counsel investigations and the special counsel position, whether it's investigating Republicans or Democrats. It's kind of taken an intellectual, philosophical tact.
And so, I wouldn't say that they've personally gone after Bob Mueller.
But this is all business for Rupert Murdoch and David is exactly right. He's always wanted to have a close personal relationship with the president of the United States and he's found that he's been able to do that with Donald Trump.
FOLKENFLIK: You know, it strikes me that this is a business proposition on two levels. It's a business proposition because the Trump diehards are probably part of the core of the Fox News audience. Fox is worried about being outflanked by "Breitbart", by Sinclair, by others. And at the same time, it's a business proposition because there's a lot of matters in front of the federal government right now. Rupert Murdoch has long wanted to be able to own even more TV stations, newspapers, same talent. The FCC led by a friendly chairman who had counseled be appointed has swept away certain kinds of so- called cross ownership restrictions.
FOLKENFLIK: AT&T wants to take over Time Warner, a parent company of this network, CNN, and Murdoch has been urging the idea of some roadblocks to be put up. He loved it be killed. But at minimum, it would be slowed down and made more closely, made more problematic. Sinclair, you know, is trying to build a national empire from local stations. It's got potential of adding Tribune media stations. You know, that's something that's before federal regulators in front of the DOJ right now.
FOLKENFLIK: Again, business matter in front of federal government.
If he has a close friend in the White House, however flawed, he's going to try to stick by him.
[11:40;02] And you're seeing the consequences of doing that, even when doing something so drastic as calling for the pressure to be put for the firing of a special prosecutor.
STELTER: And one more point on this and then we can put on the screen our chart of interviews that President Trump has done with Fox News and then with other outlets. Nineteen, actually 20 interviews with Fox News since inauguration day, most recently with new 10:00 p.m. host Laura Ingraham.
Eliana, does "Politico" try to pursue interviews with Trump as well and doesn't have luck the way Fox does?
JOHNSON: That's exactly right. I mean, I think every mainstream media outlet tries to sit down with the president and I think the fact that Fox has had such luck is not necessarily Murdoch-driven but it's the fact, of course, that it's a very friendly network.
And the president, you know, he's not the type of guy who's working the phones and talking to lawmakers at night. He's a media guy. He's a New York media guy and at night, he's talking to Sean Hannity, he's talking to Tucker Carlson. These are people he feels --
STELTER: Is that true, they talk on the phone?
JOHNSON: Absolutely, yes. And so, these are people he really feels comfortable with. And so, when he agrees to interviews, those are the guys he wants to sit down with. Suffice it to say, you know, the president and I don't go way back the way he does with some of these other guys.
STELTER: Eliana, thank you so much for being here.
David and Indira, please stick around.
Up next here, Ronan Farrow working on a new story about Harvey Weinstein's alleged wrongdoing. He'll join me live in just a moment.
[11:45:32] STELTER: New this weekend, some NYPD detectives believe they have enough evidence to arrest Harvey Weinstein. This is a wanted poster courtesy of "The New York Post". Police investigations continue in New York and in L.A. exactly one month since the first "New York Times" story about Weinstein's harassment. Since then, of course, more and more powerful men have been held to account. They've been accused of some kind of harassing or assaulting behavior. We've seen firings and resignations left and right.
So, what is next? Or maybe I should say, who is next?
Back with me now, Indira Lakshmanan of the "Boston Globe" and Poynter, NPR's David Folkenflik, and joining us at the table, Ronan Farrow who investigated Weinstein for ten months and published this chilling "New Yorker" story about alleged assaults and rapes.
Ronan, thanks for being here.
RON FARROW, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORKER: Good to be here, Brian.
STELTER: I know you're working on another piece. You previewed it on Colbert's show the other night. Can you tell us anything about what more reporting there is to do about Weinstein?
FARROW: I think one of the things this story has illustrated is you've got to be really careful with this reporting. Part of that is not getting ahead of anything that hasn't been vetted, fact checked and put to print. I will say, look, there's certainly more to say here about the reasons why this stayed quiet as long as it did, and I think some of the answers to that question will come out in this reporting.
STELTER: Are there journalists or media outlets that are complicit?
FARROW: I'm not going to get into the details on it. Look, I get that question a lot.
FARROW: Sincerely, we are in this moment where women are coming forward one after another in industry after industry telling the hardest stories of a lifetime, and I do think that it's important to keep the focus on them.
STELTER: Did you forecast this at all? Did you think there would be this domino effect after Weinstein story hit?
FARROW: You know, no one could have fathomed the size of this. This is a seismic change in culture in real time. And it opened up a vein that was right there under the surface, incredibly painful.
FARROW: And we're seeing the results of that.
I certainly knew just as a journalist, seeing the elements of this, hearing the audio of him admitting to one of these incidents --
FARROW: -- early on in the reporting that this was a very significant, important story and to not run this story would be a dereliction of my ethical duties.
STELTER: And NBC, who you're working for, did not run the story. Have they apologized to you for burying your story?
FARROW: Again, you know, we're at this moment where the women are coming forward, they're doing a tough thing, and I don't want to become the story right now. There may be more to say about that later. Certainly, I respect the question. It's important that media organizations do right by stories like this, but I don't want to get into private communications about that.
STELTER: Let's talk more broadly about the coverage of this, really, this Weinstein effect. I hate using his name, giving his name the effect here, but as a result of the Harvey Weinstein stories we've seen dozens of other men accused.
Indira, your view on this as a journalism ethics expert, what are journalists getting right and getting wrong while covering these accounts of harassment by prominent men in many industries?
LAKSHMANAN: Look, as Ronan said and I applaud his reporting and that of the "New York Times" that led to all of these allegations coming out about Harvey Weinstein and then this avalanche effect which we really didn't predict, this is happening in industries all over. Every industry you can think of has sexual harassment. The important thing is we're the media.
If we're holding other people accountable in other industries, we need to make sure that our own house is in order and we need to be honest and transparent about what's happening in our own industry as well. So that's why I think it's really important and I want to shout-out to the work that David Folkenflik has done, because writing about your own news organization is a real sign of credibility and accountability.
If you can write about your own editor-in-chief being brought down for harassment allegations and asking questions about why these were not investigated earlier or taken as seriously as they could have been, you know, that's really important. I think one thing --
STELTER: Let me actually -- can I explain that to our viewers real quick, Indira?
STELTER: To explain the NPR context. One of the specific harassment scandals this week was involving Michael Oreskes, who was the former head of news at NPR. If you watched this program, you recognize him. He has been on RELIABLE SOURCES almost a dozen times in the past couple of years. On Wednesday, he resigned under pressure after the "Washington post" detailed harassment allegations in his past.
I want to share with the viewers what happened after that. I heard from a woman who watched Oreskes on this program a couple of months ago who saw him, was impressed by his standing up for journalism, followed me on Twitter, and as a result, there was a conversation, there was a dinner.
[11:50:02] She alleged harassment by Oreskes and then she shared that with me the other day. It was very painful to hear that, and, David, you can relate to this. It was very painful to hear these allegations against a leader in the journalism profession but now, more than half a dozen women have come forward, alleging your former boss was behaving this way. Now, he's apologized for his behavior and he's no longer at NPR.
But what was it like for you as Indira was saying to have to cover this inside your own house?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's obviously a disappointment. Initially when news broke on Tuesday, I believe it was, the "Washington Post", the two women had come forward with complaints that were almost too decades old, in a sense, you'd say, oh, that's disappointing. It seems distant.
But I had known something else, which is that I previously reported on an earlier instance, a complaint had been filed in October of 2015. I had not reported that publicly because the incident, even by the complaints account, was relatively minor in her thinking at that time. I was not able to find any pattern. I was not able to find any pattern in previous behavior. I didn't know of the "New York Times" incidents from Oreskes was Washington bureau chief.
And when the stuff came forward in the "Washington Post", it was like two halves of a cookie came together. It's something -- you had something you really had to go with. So, in recent days, I have spoken to nine women, some of them still at NPR from a reporter in her 20s to a producer in her 50s. Each with instances which are not as severe as what Ronan has been reporting on so ably and so importantly, and yet, nonetheless add up to an insidious pattern, an abusive, sort of hierarchal authority using his position in journalism to try to get proximity to women who might be susceptible to his appeals.
STELTER: And NPR has allowed you to cover this fully on-air?
FOLKENFLIK: NPR, we have actually a pretty firm protocol there where I work with a couple of editors who have nothing to do with the incidents on the matter. It's a moment you have a great team for the newsroom, we tried very hard journalistically to live our values and I hope that that's what our (INAUDIBLE) find us to do.
STELTER: David, Ronan, Indira, thank you all for being here. You can check out David's reporting about this on NPR.org.
And up next here, a big blow to local news coverage in some of the country's largest cities.
[11:56:21] STELTER: On Monday, laid off reporters from the beloved local new sites "DNAinfo" and "Gothamist" are set to a rally here in New York in support of independent journalism. Just a few days after the owners of the sites, Joe Ricketts, abruptly decided to shut down the sites. One hundred 115 people are without jobs in New York, D.C., Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco.
It's a particularly painful example of an ongoing worsening problem -- cutbacks to local news coverage both in big cities and in small towns all across America.
Back with me now, Spectrum News anchor Errol Louis.
Errol, you talked about it on your network, New York 1, over the weekend. Your message being that viewers, readers have to take a responsibility here, have a stake in keeping newsrooms alive.
LOUIS: That's right. When your local public radio or television station is asking for a donation, it's not a joke. It's not for the tote bag, you know? It's to really ensure that we've got something what we call an ecosystem, or some version of robust competitive news environment in which we can hold the powerful accountable. It's tremendously important.
And, you know, it's very easy to miss the point that just because your daily newspaper continues to come out, it's thinner, it's smaller. There's fewer reporters. They're not able to provide the kind of coverage that we did in the past.
As long as that continues, the people in power will get away with murder. The corporate leaders, the political leaders, especially, corruption goes unchecked or unnoticed. There are a lot of bad consequences. It's almost imperceptible. So --
STELTER: Right, the stories that aren't told that you don't know about.
LOUIS: Exactly right. And, frankly, it's the outrages that are not attempted because they know there's going to be somebody there at the county commission recording what they say and comparing it to what they promised last year.
LOUIS: As long as that sense of impunity is there, we're going to have huge, huge problems. And it's not going away. This is a problem that people have tried to wish away. They tried to sort of cut their way out of it by slicing to the bone. People thought there would be technological solutions. None of that has panned out so far.
STELTER: The declines started about 10 years ago, right? We can see it on a trajectory and it's been downhill since. But this week's cutbacks, the sudden closures of these beloved sites here in New York was a stand out example, because Ricketts said he did it because he couldn't make the business work. The staff feels because they have just unionized like a week earlier.
LOUIS: A week earlier.
STELTER: What do you make of that?
LOUIS: Well, look, the reality, if you threaten to, and then actually act on a threat to fire people just because they unionize. You're in violation of federal law. That's a problem.
What you can do, ironically, is shut down the entire business unit, which is what Mr. Ricketts chose to do. And in that case, something similar happened with Walmart. A group of butchers unionized. And rather than try to handle that or live with it, or God forbid pay everybody at the level --
LOUIS: -- they took the butchers out of Walmart.
STELTER: Oh, I see.
LOUIS: You know, this is a strategy.
And so, there's an ugly union-busting twist to this. That it deals whether or not we want journalists who are providing vital information about important topics to be paid a fair and living wage. So, you have that little sort of twist on the underlying problem but the reality is, none of this would be as fraught of an issue if we can figure out a way to sort of make local news viable as a business model.
STELTER: Right. Errol, good to see you, thank you for being here.
LOUIS: Thank you.
STELTER: We're out of time here on TV. But join us on reliablesources.com for our night newsletter and all of our day to day media coverage. You can sign up now for the newsletter. We'll send it out every night with all the day's media news.
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And stay tuned now "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper is coming up right now.