tv Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter CNN August 1, 2021 8:00am-9:00am PDT
hey, i'm brian stelter live in new york, and this is "reliable sources" where we examine the story behind the story and figure out what is reliable. this hour mike lindell no longer in bed with fox news. a reporter who dined with lindell is here to explain why this is no laughing matter. plus, when does political affinity cross into dangerous cult-like support. jackie speier who survived the jonestown massacre is here with her perspective. what does jackie speier and
simone biles have in common? first, it is time to cover covid in the media. it is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. so the news coverage needs to reflect that. for example, the word "cases" doesn't mean the same thing it did a year ago, because a breakthrough case when vaccinated, when you are infected and vaccivaccinated, i very, very different than a case when unvaccinated. about the word "breakthrough," there is really not enough data to know how often it happens. that is a critical problem. but the data is clear that it's causing more deaths. but these squares, 600 million
vaccinated adults, there is a tiny, tiny too small box in the corner showing hospitalizations and deaths. that's the whole story right there in that front page. my big takeaway, reading about the providence town outbreak in the news is no one died. but this article prompted the fact that more people were vaccinated, and it said the more sail salient fact that only a few people ended up in the hospital. p-town sparked confusion this week, but the problem starts with the cdc and its absolute failure to communicate clearly and effectively. sloppy news coverage then makes a bad situation worse. so maybe hospitalizations is a better metric for the media to highlight now, not cases but hospitalizations.
this nationwide chart shows that options are rising, but i would argue that just showing this chart is misleading if you don't show more details, because hospitalizations are not rising nearly as quickly in highly vaccinated locales. they are rising quickly in places like -- let's show this -- louisiana. that's a scary line toward the end of that chart. that's a real problem. the chart is clear. there are tons of unvaccinated adults in states like louisiana that are at real risk. but now let's switch to vermont, the one vaccinated state. look how dramatic the difference is in this chart. yes, there are some slight rises in hospitalizations in states like vermont, but the difference is so dramatic and people need to see the differences in these charts. in vermont, there are more neighbors protecting their neighbors. it's as simple as that. this is why the coverage need for nuance, because there is no single national story right now about covid-19. there are two very different stories. clearly at this point many
unvaccinated adults have made a choice and they've settled on it and they're not going to be swayed. they don't fear covid, they don't mind getting sick, they think they're going to be okay. they're wrong not to get vaccinated, but they made that choice. again, even there, there is no single story, because right now daily vaccinations are ticking back up. some clearly are listening. let's hope this fox news graphic works. let's hope fox viewers see this. let's hope the message is clear. there are two different covid-19 stories in the u.s. right now. one story about the vaccinated who are essentially safe and another story about the unvaccinated who are not. and we took down the banner because a single six-word banner really can't capture the complexities of this story right now. with me now for more on that, dr. schlesinger, epidemiologist. she was a member of the biden coalition advisory board, and oliver darcy, cnn media reporter
who has brand new reporting about the white house and its frustrations with the news coverage of all of this. oliver, what have you been hearing this weekend about the white house being frustrated by hyperbolic covid headlines? >> the white house is very frustrated and they're concerned that the news media is focusing on these infections and not focusing on the larger issue of people spreading the virus to family, friends and coworkers. so they've reached out to news organizations to try to get them to do what your saying, to reset the coverage to focus on the issue. we know the breakthrough infections, from the data we've seen, don't really result in hospitalizations and deaths, it's the unvaccinated who are ending up in the icu and needing some medical attention. >> news outlets shouldn't just blindly follow what any white house says, biden or trump or any other, but it is notable that they're making these complaints, and frankly, what i
think they're trying to do is clean up some mess caused by the cdc. robby, what is your reaction to the media coverage these days, the headlines and all the rest? >> i think it's been utterly shamefully hyperbolic and fear mongering. it's scaring people. the vaccination is adept at preventing serious injury and death. in highly vaccinated areas, we're not seeing deaths tick up, we're not seeing hospitalizations tick up. in d.c., where we're reimposing mask mandates and we have a handful of serious covid cases all month, why? it doesn't make any sense. no one is going to follow it. the mayor herself isn't following these mandates. >> what was the mayor doing last night? >> she held a birthday party before the mandate went into effect, and she presided at a
maskless wedding after the mandate was in effect. we've seen this from time to time from gavin newsom to lori lightfoot to a thousand other politicians who can't follow the rules they put in place for everyone else. but now we know these rules are really needless for the vaccinated. it's different for the unvaccinated. but nothing has changed about the vaccinated themselves. >> i said it last week and i'll say it again, we need two different newscasts. the headlines that scare the bejesus for the vaccinated are for the unvaccinated, yet i don't know if they're tuning in. what are we getting wrong, what are we getting right here? >> brian, i think the headline this week should have been this is what our post-pandemic future might look like, what we saw in provincetown where we saw very few people getting sick, we had
few people in the hospital, no deaths. people have been coveting this. >> if you're vaccinated. >> exactly. we could convert this to the flu if you're vaccinated. >> was the problem nine months ago when the vaccine was introduced, was the message not conveyed that, yes, people will still get covid but they'll not end up in the hospital? was there a communication failure eight months ago? >> i think there was an attempt to say that vaccines are not perfect. they're highly effective, very safe. we've repeated this over and over again, but i think there is an expectation that vaccinations be perfect that we don't really expect anything else to be perfect. we don't expect that of pills we take over the counter, so we have this much, much higher standard in our minds for vaccines that are just not realistic. >> robby, you're an example of
this. you told me a couple days ago you had a breakthrough case of covid. what was it like and how are you feeling? >> i'm feeling completely fine. i was mildly sick with kind of a bad cold for about a day, day and a half, and i am vaccinated, so it was unfortunate that i got covid, anyway, but it was a very mild illness that was over, really, in just over 24 hours. i feel completely fine today. i credit the vaccine to help me with that. everybody should get it, but you shouldn't be so afraid if you're vaccinated. look at the numbers. you really don't have to be. >> it's all about risk tolerance and what your personal risk is. robby, maybe breakthrough is part fortunate problem. breakthrough implies rare. p breakthrough implies something went wrong. that's not really the premise of the disease. >> right, you'll end up in the hospital. news coverage almost seems to reflect that maybe cases, like
you said, are not the best barometer for how we measure the pandemic anymore. it should be in hospitalizations. if we're telling people that hospitalizations are why you get the vaccine, then perhaps we should be measuring hospitalizations and putting more of an emphasis on the fact that high vaccinated areas have low hospitalizations and low vaccinated areas have high hospitalizations, which doesn't really capture the picture very well in 2021. >> dr. gounder, i heard you on "firing line" saying, this is going to be with us for a long time. i think there is some impression by some members of the media that the goal is, goodbye, covid, we're never going to think about it again. and that's not realistic. tell us what is realistic. >> i think realistic is covid is something we vaccinate along with the other childhood diseases and that's how you convert covid from this deadly disease to something more akin
to the flu. at that point in time, we would largely see hospitalizations and deaths among people who are not vaccinated and perhaps the elderly where you have waning immunity over time. i really do think we need to steel ourselves to the idea that we're not post-pandemic. i've heard many people in the media say to me over the course of the summer, oh, covid is over. i even heard some public health officials over the summer who were really declaring mission accomplished much too soon. this is going to be with us for a long time, indefinitely, and we have to learn to live with it, and vaccines are how we learn to live with it. >> let me just try something out on you and this may not work, but after 9/11, we were all introduced to a threat level idea of red and orange and yellow and green. for a while in this country, the pandemic was red. in certain places right now it's red or orange. but in a lot of other places in this country, it's red or green. is that a fairwa way to think
about it? there is a threat but less so if you're fully vaccinated. and we need more green areas than red. >> i think that's right. the way you transition from red to green is through vaccination and that's how we bring down that level of threat. >> so, robby, as we think about the headlines around covid, we're seeing lots of red headlines when they should actually be yellow or green. maybe not blue, but you know what i'm saying. bring the threat level down because it is down for the vaccinated. >> studies have shown that the media, and this is a criticism of right-leaning and left-leaning media, in america have tended to be overly negative about the pandemic even at times when that was not called for. in some sense it's unavoidable because bad news sells. news is things that happened, not things that didn't happen. things are better, nobody died, nobody got sick, i guess doesn't excite people in the same way, but really the media has to be more responsible about it or we're going to get exactly what
you saw in 9/11, which is security measures. you still have to take off your belt and shoes before you get on a plane. we know it's pointless and it doesn't help security whatsoever. i'm pretty sure those policies will be in place decades from now even though they will be just as pointless as what the tsa requires from it. >> that's very interesting. security theater, covid theater can both have flaws. robby, thank you. oliver, dr. gounder, thank you all. we're covering this every day in our nightly newsletter. continuing on the point that there is no single national covid story right now, there are two different stories. i want to hear what it's like for reporters in hot spot states where lots of readers don't believe their news. we're going live to three reporters who are covering the three least vaccinated states in the union.
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vaccine hesitancy, a term we heard six months ago, has faded away. it's about vaccine rejection, vaccine refusal at this point, especially in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lowest and skepticism is highest. you see there alabama, mississippi, arkansas, wyoming and louisiana. let's hear from reporters who are on the so-called front lines in those states who are among the least vaccinated. we'll talk to reporters at the clarion ledger, the picune, and a lot of printed physical newspapers as well as visual
observation there. kira, how frustrating is it to cover this story every day and feel like people aren't listening? >> it's really frustrating, because on one hand you have all this information coming from the cdc, nih and people like that. on the other hand you have people in influencer roles or political influence that are arguing against this information. not only that, we have misinformation floating around on social media. so we all have to report on that and it creates a really confusing voice for our readers, because, obviously, since we're the ones reporting it, that makes us the lightning rod for people saying, what's really going on? >> that's what i'm wondering. does it get personal?
>> lita, can you get backlash for telling the truth? >> i can get 20 e-mails saying the numbers are made up, but it goes back to the trust of the source and we're the conveyor of that source, and that's what we're seeing in alabama. >> what do you do about that when you get e-mails from people saying this is made up? >> there are some people whose minds you're not going to change. there are some that they're wanting to hear more, and people are frustrated in our state of changing information. not necessarily misinformation but where do you go for the most accurate information, because it changes every day. >> right, right. emily, i know you recently interviewed people in the field about why they only decided to get vaccinated in july instead of march. what have you heard on the ground? >> you know, i've heard some surprising things, honestly.
i think the vaccine hesitation is very nuanced and there are many reasons why people haven't gotten it, but i've heard everything from, i just wasn't that scared of it, to i meant to get it but i just didn't, or delta really scared me or i thought i would be able to fight it off. so, you know, reasons are varied, as varied as the people are. >> i do hear all of you, in one way or another, bringing up misinformation, people telling tall tales and lies. how do you feel, keisha, when you're interviewing people in mississippi who have bought this information? do you try to present the facts to them neutrally? how do you handle it? >> you try to be as neutral as possible, but even when you present those facts, people do their own research where it's free. unfortunately, a lot of people try to make a counterargument
and it oftentimes leads to a big roadblock because once people have a viewpoint that butts up against what they believe, obviously they're going to shut down so it makes it supremely difficult in certain situations. >> emily, same thing for you? >> yeah. i mean, you're there to listen to them, right? you're there to hear them out, and i find that sometimes i do find myself sharing more resources with these people, more of my personal information about getting the vaccine, yet there are many people. >> that's interesting. >> yeah, you know, i was with a woman recently at one of these vaccine sites and we got the same vaccine, and i could see how nervous she was. and i kind of just told her what happened to me, you know, which was really nothing. >> or what didn't happen. >> right, right. >> maybe what we're sharing here can help each other in the conversation and help viewers at
home. leada, how did you handle the misinformation issues that keisha and emily are describing? >> one of the things we undertook, because we're in one of the least vaccinated states in america, as an alabama media group, we decided to take questions from our audience and just say, what is keeping you from getting this vaccine, and then we broke that question down and went to experts in the state. experts had a super high local level so it was a local doctor talking about concerns. we broke it down into digestible topics which allowed people to say, i'm concerned about this. i think we're realizing in alabama that information needs to come from the ground up as opposed to the top down. i think the response to that has been a lot more positive rather than just, this is what the state health officer told us today. >> at the end of the day, this is hopefully a way to win the
trust of the audience, but clearly there are some folks who don't want to hear what is true and they would rather live in this misinformation bubble. emily, do you come away feeling, you know, like more or less confident in journalism throughout all this? >> you know, i don't know. i think -- yes, people do get their information from -- what i say might not convince someone, right? but what they say and their friends and their family, those are very convincing things. >> true. >> what was said about, you know, hospitals and the person that you know their credentials are from lsu, for example, that's going to convince someone a little bit more, but i'm that person who is putting that information out there. >> what about you, keisha? how has covid changed how you
view journalism? >> it made me realize that it's a lot tougher of a job than i ever imagined, honestly. i love journalism, i wouldn't be here if i didn't. reporting this day in and day out and facing those difficulties and trying to inform the public and just having so much backlash, it sometimes makes you question a lot of things. but at the end of the day, it just makes me a little bit hungrier to get the information out there even more, because obviously there is so much misinformation around, somebody has to correct it and that's our job. >> you have to keep trying. thank you all for what you're doing in each state. up next, here on "reliable sources," the ad that the u.s. refused to run, including mike
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a good night's sleep? more like a nightmare. i'm talking about mypillow ceo mike lindell, pulling its ad from fox news after he was declined an ad about voter fraud. lindell is trying to hold a livestream this month that says trump is the real president, biden really lost, and fox rejected the ad. maybe they're afraid of lawsuits, but for whatever reason, they have broken off ties with lindell. when fox refused to run that one ad, lindell said, i'm not going to runny ads on your channel anymore. lindell was one of the top advertisers, often supporting hosts like tucker carlson when
other hosts rejected him. they spent about $19 million this year. they have had a mutual beneficial relationship. lindell sold a lot of mypillows thanks to fox. now he says he's leaving fox, he's going to do his livestream and try to prove how trump will be reinstated and these delusions are dangerous to democracy. we'll see what happens with lindell, and he's being sued and he's countersuing over all these voter fraud claims, but his descent into this fantasyland where the big lie is all-consuming, where he's selling something he can't possibly deliver, it has repercussions well beyond fox news. let's talk about it with jared holt. he's the resident fellow for the digital forensic research lab at the atlanta council. in applebaum who just profiled lindell and interviewed him, the
title is "the mypillow guy could really destroy democracy." ann, that's not subtle. tell us why he could. >> i think it's important to understand that mike lindell is not generous. there have been people like him in history. there have been people so deeply convinced of something that can't possibly be true but have nevertheless put all of their energy and money and time in seeking to prove it, and who perceive every reaction, every counterreaction, every attack on themselves as lindell does as further proof that they were right. he's someone who is going to continue to pursue his elaborate theory about voter fraud which involves chinese meddling with machines in all 50 states, something that can't possibly have happened unless he bloelies
very deeply and he's going to pursue it until he runs out of money, i presume. >> it seems that way. >> he may not succeed, but what he will help to do is loosen further america's sense that their democracy works, that their voter system is secure, that the people who observe and monitor their elections are honest. people are beginning to lose that sense, probably on all sides of the political spectrum, because of these constant attacks, and he's somebody who is not going to stop. >> jared, when lindell says fox is full of issues, could that hurt fox? >> it could hurt fox. with all of this misinformation by the gop and former president trump himself, it seems like the
gop is moving further right than fox news can catch up with. especially with the threat of lawsuits, and, you know, just appearing completely off base, part of the trump following is moving off into its own direction, and with lindell pulling ads from fox news, i'm curious to see if that money he was spending there will go towards the kind of misinformation and disinformation that's rampant online that he's also involved in. >> interesting. fox has lost him four now. i'm skeptical about how long this is going to last. i think he'll come back when people stop buying sheets and towels. certainly the view at fox is they don't need him as much as he needs them. we'll see if that is true in months to come. anne, the big lie keeps
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if you want to understand the american divide, look at the nielsen ratings. look at the raktings for the january 6 hearing when police officers testified about the violence. half of the cnn audience rose because it was a news event, so fox turned it off. they did not want to hear about the police officers being brutalized, attacked and called those words. back with me is anne appelbaum and jared holt. it pisses me off to see them not
airing these channels. when fox and news max aired the hearings, viewers didn't want to see it. so, jared, what do you call that? do you have a name for that? >> yeah, i think of this as a parallel media universe, almost. if you look at people like mike lindell or some of the things coming out of fox news, it almost seems like they're on a different world. they came down in a spaceship and they're not existing in the same reality. but as far as people getting their information who have these ideas, they might as well be. there is this whole series of media operations, of livestreams, facebook pages, twitter accounts that are running parallel to news media that is trusted and factual and reported, and the two lanes don't touch. you know, folks watching -- >> let's underscore that, jared. you think it's like two train tracks and they do not ever cross at all? >> they will maybe sometimes overlap a little bit, but most of the time people in this parallel track on the right wing
side won't ever encounter information that would counter falsehoods that they're believing, except in the concept of mockery or cherry-picked out to serve that parallel track in its own way. >> what i hear you saying is, hey, political reporters, it's worse than you think. it's not just about left leaning and right leaning. it's parallel worlds, never the train shall meet. anne, does this relate what happened on news max a couple days ago. mark meadows was on news max talking about trump like he was the current president. saying, trump is holding a cabinet meeting with cabinet members at his golf club, moving guard in a big way. he's probably just talking about the midterms, referring to the future elections. but it's something i see on far right tv, something i see on american news where they talk about trump like he's president
trump, like he's still in power. >> in that world he is. in their mind he is still the president. he was cheated out of the election. at some point, as soon as next month, he will be reinstated. that's a deep and widely held belief and it's really important that news channels like yours report on its existence. that's why i wrote about mike lindell, because i felt that people who don't normally read him or follow him should know that a part of the republican party -- i wouldn't even call them conservatives, but part of the alt media, the alternative media genuinely believes this and it's not a joke. their actions will have consequences for the rest of us in due course. >> anne and jared, thank you both for the warning. coming up, a question that i know many people tiptoe around. we're just going to take it head on, the cult of trump. congresswoman jackie speier narrowly escaped the jonestown massacre.
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from an outsider's point of view. they say, why don't they call out trump for what he is? sometimes they use the word "cult." it doesn't come up often in news coverage, so i wanted to give it to a world expert. jackie speier is on a fact-finding mission to jonestown. she sadly knows firsthand the weight of that word: cult. she was able to escape with her life. others were not able to that day. so i want to hear her words about the narration of the cult of trump, especially on january 6 and what led people to a delusion of lies on capitol hill. when i brought this up with her, she did not mince words. >> there is no question that you could compare jim jones as a
charismatic leader who would bring his congregation together, force them to do things that were illegal and then took 900 of them into the jungles of ghuyana where over the course of time he convinced them they should die. i can never say they committed suicide because i don't think they were in control of their facu faculties, to be quite honest with you. so you look at donald trump, charismatic leader, who was able to continue to talk in terms that appealed to those who were disaffected, disillusions and who were looking for something, much like those who became part of jim jones' congregation, the people's temple. they were lost souls. and the only difference between jim jones and donald trump is the fact that we now have social
media. so all these people can find themselves in ways he basically was a merchant of deceit. both of them merchants of deceit. both of them making people not look at facts, not think independently and sewed a story for them that was destructive. >> it's scary to hear that when you have observed the trump phenomenon, you have seen similarities to jonestown. >> it wasn't something i wanted to connect the dots to. i wrote my memoir two years ago and did a book tour. that question came up over and over and over again. then it really forced me to think about it. then we saw what happened on january 6th. how can you not recognize that that was an illegal act, that
you were being asked by this charismatic leader to go do something that was going to be destructive, and you went and did it anyway? >> after january 6th you're saying, you started to see even more of these parallels. >> not only did i see more of those parallels, but i then saw it in my own colleagues in congress. the big lie has now been embraced by the majority of members on the republican side in the house of representatives. they are now paralyzed to speak truth. they know it. they know that the election was not stolen. they know that it was held properly. they know that there was not massive fraud, and yet they will continue to mouth those words because their leader, donald trump, wants to hear them -- >> are they in a cult? >> they may not know they're in a cult. but, in fact, if they cannot think independently anymore, if
they cannot look at the truth and speak the truth, they are i think exhibiting consult-like behavior. >> you'll hear voices on fox say they're trying to call every one of the 75 million trump voters terrorists and ratcists, or in this conversation they'd say cultists. how do you try to differentiate between people that have totally given in to what trumpism is versus other voters? do you differentiate? >> i would say that trump voters are on all different levels. a trump voter who came out january 6th who believed the big lie, who then the attacked the capitol, who were looking to assassinate the vice president and the speaker of the house, they are members of a cult. they have embraced donald trump, and they will do anything he
wants, even if it is wrong, illegal and harmful to themselves. i don't put every trump supporter in that category, no. >> far from it. you mentioned lost souls, loneliness, isolation. there have been a couple of writers talking about that this week, michelle goldberg, matt lewis, to name two. they're suggesting, what is the link between loneliness, isolation in communities and support from the former president? >> i think those who find themselves engulfed in cult-like organizations are looking for something. either they're isolated and alone, don't have family, they're looking for a new family, or they have somehow been disillusioned in life. so they're looking for something that can give them a sense of empowerment. >> empowerment. really interesting that. speier also said the media is the means by which we're able to
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now to the intersection of media, personalities and profits beginning with simone biles. she stood up for herself and her own health generating head leans around the world saying nbc seemed oblivious to its role in ramping up the pressure on her. columnist matt butler weighed in saying the networks wants starts in its opinion olympics coverage.
an olympics ratings slump was inevitable with or without biles. some people are streaming tv on their own schedules instead of waiting until 8:00 to watch the highlights in primetime. there's ample reason to be skeptical. for a giant like nbc, old school broadcasting is the easy way to make money. streaming is a lot trickier right now. scar let johansson can relate. she stood up by suing disney because they released "black widow" on disney plus and theaters at the same time, depriving her of box office bonuses she banked on. this is as cnn's alex sherman put it, 2021's biggest dilemma. it's because companies are trying to find the most profitable paths for their content while holding on to your eyeballs. we're in this confusion path of
pluses like disney plus. consider mtv, today is their 40th anniversary. most media critics would say mtv is a historical art racket back then, mostly irrelevant right now. a big profitable business for viacom. the washington post said it best earlier this year, all these media companies doing the same thing, trying to hold on to old money while pursuing the new. that's a wrap for "reliable sources" this week. we'll see you online and back on tv next week. the war has changed as the delta variant rips through the unvaccinated, troubling new guidance about how easily the virus spreads. will the u.s. bring back more restrictions? >> in all probability. >> the head of the