tv After Words with Sharyl Attkisson CSPAN July 22, 2017 10:00pm-10:59pm EDT
up next on booktv's "after words" program sharyl attkisson reports on how smear tactics affect public opinion and her book "the smear" how shady political operatives and fake news control what you see, what you think and how you vote. she is interviewed by erik wemple a "washington post" media critic. >> host: you had a remarkable media career.
i have covered you for the "washington post" and somewhat extensively throughout the years. why don't you give us some words about where you have been and where you are now and how it relates to your previous book stonewalled which has some interesting interesting material in it as well. why don't you give us a run down where you have been. >> years of local news and "cnn" for three years and then cbs new york. i also work for pbs for five or six years simultaneously and cbs for for 20 years and talked to my colleagues who saw at news organization a fairly dramatic shift in the past few years toward control of narratives on the news. i continued with "the smear" and
how these operatives are smear operatives influence news organizations and how they influence all the images across our path. >> host: over the years you have compiled a list of anecdotes and corporate television news and in "the smear" one of the things i chuckle about was you were writing about a situation in 1998 a belief and you talk about cbs news, believe the white house team. maybe with something a little more sinister. take it from there and what happened and is a detail for journalist to be careful of? >> i think legitimate information can be had by newsmakers and we should not turn up their noses at them but you have to be careful about
what you report before he reported. it was during the clinton monica lewinsky affair and a one point the white house, this is a story we are told the newsroom by her white house folks at the time. white house wanted to get out a narrative. we didn't get the full story about monica lewinsky but they were focused on the idea that the president did kiss monica lewinsky but that was all. it was just a kiss and they wanted to see if that would do enough to the public. we reported that on the news based on an anonymous source and they didn't say who it was. immediately afterwards i think the white house was sorry. publicly they started denying that was the case without admitting they were the ones who planted the story. posted they didn't do that perfectly possibly because of an anonymous source. yes go i remember saying to our
white house people they felt pulled down the river because there story was called false by the same people who planted it. i said why don't you just tell what happens, and they said well we have to protect our source. that's not a real source if they planted something falsely. klitschko at the source flies. rahm emanuel said it was never under consideration -- under consideration as you pointed out. i cover the media and get leaks of this sort all the time. this is off the record blah, blah, blah and we are constantly seeing ads that put our own integrity and reputation behind
the thoughts of the president and other people. it struck me as an interesting anecdote. this point that you are making and there was some dramatic almonds that you were counting their when you talk with the bureau chief for someone way up and you say some corporations were off-limits because you've done a lot of reporting on corporate malfeasance and so one and you have left cbs and now you are at sinclair broadcasting you encounter any of that sort of thing? >> guest: not yet when i left cbs i didn't think i would work in the business at all ever again because i didn't see a place based on my friends and contacts that i could do the reporting i expected to be able to do that they would want and i would be unfettered to this opportunity came up out of the blue but they created the
program. as for depending on the market. >> guest: i run my stories through the normal editorial process like it did at cbs. wasn't required but i did it. here we have a process with no one trying to shave my stories and nothing like cbs. they told you what facts they wanted on the show before you even gather them. >> host: there was some reporting i believe last year are in a transition of jared kushner that sinclair had made access for coverage for a deal. do you know anything about that and he believe that's true and have you taken that up with any higher-ups in management? >> guest: i did nothing about if they know from what i read, the publication and i make it a
wrong protracted with a reported because it turned out they misinterpreted, picked up somebody else's reporting and misinterpreted and they apologize for it. was a misunderstanding. i know that our show we offer opportunities for donald trump bernie sanders hillary clinton. clinton kept acting like she might do it. there was a constant dialogue going on, how about this city and how about that city? we gave them opportunities including some of the other candidates that i didn't name. our program offers full access anytime anyplace all the time. >> host: the full measure goes out to how many stations? >> guest: is broadcast to 43 million households. i think it's maybe 150 stations. plus the that's not a bad pitch
when you approach any politician that you have this line to middle america and perhaps a way that other stations don't. >> guest: i don't make the pitch personally but for example me go to members of congress and we approach republicans sometimes they will say oh you have to stations of my market and they like that idea. was good getting to "the smear" one of the things i looked at while i was reading the book is the google mentions of "the smear". a they spike in the 30s and they go way up in the post-war era and they are pretty high now but came up a little bit after 2000 according to this graph. then you go into the history of the smear in your book.
why 2017 are smear attack takes worse than ever? are they about the same as where they were for your entire career >> guest: i think it's gone more sophisticated and broader and that's why started this book a couple of years ago, knowing we were headed in that general direction largely because of the internet and the proliferation of social media and internet tools and also because there is just more opportunity to get the narrative south. there organized activities in washington d.c. that have studied this. they have studied what works and what doesn't work and they all came into play in 2015. i started the book before the 2015 campaign. everything dovetailed right into 2016.
>> host: the one thing that i want to focus in on was the way you define smear in the book is use a one-man smear is another man's truth. that is a little bit different from the dictionary definition which seems do most of the dictionary definitions i looked at seems to empire that the smear is false. you in the book appear to comprehend the greater, greater community of allocations and so on and so forth. tell me about why your post is a little more inclusive if indeed you believe it is. >> guest: i think you're right about that. some of the best ones are rooted
in a little bit of truth in that describe how it lays in wait and wait for small mistake and can amplify that and a giant misdeed that reverberate in the national consciousness and what differentiates the smear from a criticism that's born of something more legitimate or a moral outrage is their purpose is rooted in the annihilation or destruction of the target not just bringing something to light and that there is often a political or financial motive behind this smear. the smear operator you will find overlooks the same sort of behavior and their allies that they attack their targets for and that's another hallmark on how a smear operator operates.
>> host: you go into a lot of detail on the lot of them. what's your favorite example in the book? one example from the book. sin these superlatives are tough for me. plus go i can start. when we go with one of the first ones which get straight at the thing i was discussing. the imus thing. don imus is on the radio and talking about the college basketball game and he refers to rutgers players as toes or something like that. you framed this up or in your telling it is an example dating back a long time one
conservative propaganda. we will get into that a little bit later but what makes what they did with imus a smear campaign? >> guest: first of all the playbook for that which was well-publicized because they talk about it afterwards, the media talked about it was a playbook for future operations to come so i thought that was instruct gift but second of all it was quintessential and that i miss really did say that. that really was a bad name that was rooted in the truth but what they wanted out of that was annihilation. they wanted them off the air. they didn't want an apology. they were just taking the moral high ground that they wanted him gone and the reasons were in my opinion more in the donors in the interest of david brock and two i would support politically
than it outraged. pliskova thing if it didn't come out of nowhere. there's his history of nasty bigoted statements. >> guest: that's my point. >> host: i guess here's the thing. go ahead, if that's your point. >> guest: the point is as i say in the book that's what imus does and you can see his past comments had not gone that our agenda fire to the point that he was targeted by the media. they took something he said which was no more or less objectionable than many of the other things he said in the past >> host: we could differ on that. >> guest: he had said a lot of the cassette -- objectionable things according to his critics
in the past and this is something they were able to create a campaign around amplifying their social media tools and network news organizations. >> host: let me look at that question of vacation a little more. you are on twitter and i'm on twitter. at sinclair on full measure ye amplify every day. an administration official says something and there may not be much notice. you find tapes of people saying things. what is the problem texas seems as though you were calling this evil. what is evil and amplification? do you understand what i'm saying. this is an open society. we have platforms to amplify so don imus and i think you did point this out, you pointed out
that in the beginning very few actually noticed and that's a common thing with these situations opening up another case in point. last october jesse watters on "fox news" did a segment on chinatown and it was widely viewed. if traffic than a lot of terrible stereotypes. o'reilly gets on the television with chris wallace on "fox news" and he says well nobody made much of a fuss about the first night. it wasn't until people got ahold of it. isn't that a good thing and doesn't seem to amplify the people say hey look at this, you may have missed it because you know are ayn or anyone else can see all of the "msnbc" all the
fox and radio with podcasts and forth so isn't there good and amplification? >> guest: you are asking the wrong question. i don't think i use the word evil in the book. i'm careful to say some people may very well be with what was done and i'm not here to tell you that everything is a smear operator is evil or bad. it's drawing attention to how they operate and at times variables operate in such a way that they are able to distort her overexaggerate something that happened in a way that it's intended to make people think there's overwhelming support for ergen something. you should at least ask the question. maybe a handful of similar people operating under different names with different groups and different social media accounts and does take on often a
grassroots part and you could argue it's a good thing. i'm dissecting the tools they use. sometimes you might save the results are good and sometimes you might say the results are bad or evil. i think it depends on what the particular case is. >> host: clearly the case if i miss you felt he was a victim of a smear campaign. >> guest: he was a victim of a smear campaign but i don't argue what he said wasn't wrong or should have been discussed. it's just a dissection of a quintessential operation. >> host: once again this is the essence of the definition edition of smear because there is nothing false. >> guest: i didn't look at everything that was put out to sea. i don't allege that what was pat was false and i have a imus quoted in their opinion fairly
recently he said i said what i said. >> host: is there a problem here x. is a problematic text. >> guest: i don't think i present the imus case of the problem but more of a case study to show how a smear was devised and how we learn from each other and different operators on both sides of the spectrum watch this they see what tools work and how advertising can be used and how partners and non-profits and social media can be used. that's an instruct a dissection. >> host: okay. it's sort of a coming soon media matters and it's escalated into a national outrage. that sounds like the goal. >> guest: if you want to call it that. that's a factual thing. >> host: i'm not saying it's not factual.
i'm just saying it sounds like a remark of considerable disapproval. >> guest: you can take it however you like. let's go i just want to read it again. >> guest: three to five times if you want eric. >> host: that's the best thing the artist can do. they can take something other people wouldn't have seen and used the tools they have at their disposal against a target that they have been monitoring and generate it into something that generates national news coverage for legitimate news organization that's a huge success story. what's going using 100% true evidence to do so? >> guest: right. >> host: all right let's talk to some of the specifics. you state is a similar sort of
thing where he was not being very well heated or was not a lot of attention paid to him and he gets slammed by media matters he did get quizzed on fox. >> guest: i think more attention at the time is being paid to him probably then the remarks of imus. i think it was getting a huge following and that was part of why it was so disturbing to people that oppose him. they won at tampa sci-fi because he had a large platform and yet become very successful and day after day the drumbeat that he was following was his own smear campaign you could say against media matters and george soros and they were monitoring him. there was a campaign between the two of them but in the book this up public announcement $1 million from george soros to get glenn beck is a danger to humanity and society.
they claim credit for it. >> host: they do. you are not making a value judgment whether it's a good thing or bad thing. >> guest: no, i'm not as just a good instructional tool about how a smear campaign is conducted. >> host: some smear is not a positive thing. it's a synonym for smear is slander or libel so if you are saying you are not casting a vision on it in a book called "the smear" how do you recognize how you define it? >> guest: i think we are about how i define it and you can talk about it all you want to does clear what i'm talking about is in terms of what i consider but smear is a negative thing. they weren't spreading things about glenn beck. they were spreading negative things about wambach and getting
advertisers in spreading the word far and wide which they did. both of those cases and i think they are two of the best and earliest examples of media matters funding of strategy and how they could target somebody and his parents were and effect this huge change that in the past might have gone unnoticed without the use of the social media tool in the network they develop them than the newsroom in their on line blisters and so on. >> host: is it true smear campaign? >> guest: in apopka i've outlined some of them as they say are written in truth released a grain of truth even once they veer off into uncharted formation. often they have their roots with truth to them. plus elizabeth, he said
president obama had a deep-seated hatred for white people. he talked about it on his show, really out there think that he was saying. i guess the question is is a smear campaign if you are repeating glenn beck sports? >> this is how i define it and if you disagree that's fine. you are free to disagree. if your purpose is rooted in not just the moral high ground but in annihilation of the target someone is targeted for a political or financial interest i think that qualifies in terms of my discussion is a smear campaign and that's often pointed to by this smear operators that they interview as successful cases like glenn beck. i didn't pull this out of a hat. i asked the people i interviewed what they look down what they saw in their industries and what
they look for in glenn beck and imus were to off-site it. >> host: i understand that i'm moving on you mentioned going into the 2016 campaign and he talked about trump and donald trump of course someone who has brought a lot into many different levels but in terms of hillary clinton you spend a lot of time elucidating on david paek and the empire preview mentioned you can't get certain questions. i have asked and i haven't gotten a good answer to that question. so anyway david paek going into a little bit of his history and
how you feel he fits and going into the 2016th election and how you see him as part of the smear consolation. >> guest: both democrats and republicans i would say he was the often -- most often cited name in how you define it and he's fascinating in terms of the character for having started as a conservative smear artist flynn probe who smeared president clinton who later admitted to having done unethical question dishonest things to smear the clintons and practically overnight switch sides and became a smear artist for liberals and came as the clinton fold. he managed to build what i call an empire and as they say in the book looked at with awe and
disgust by admirers and detractors and something that supporters are freaked out by him but thought what he had done was pretty incredible. super pacs that operate under nato sounding names that don't at least disclose as they are quoted by news organizations that put out material but sometimes it's a relative handful of the same interest trying to get a message out. >> host: he has looked through filings so on and so forth to determine 3.8 al-youm and the chief fund-raiser around 18 million according to your calculations. >> guest: i would have to look in the book.
>> host: that's what i remember. i stand by that. your point is it was hard and correct the facts. 9 million different organizations, i don't know but what about that pokes there was a proliferation of organizations. if that helped them and what is a dupe of political operatives? >> guest: if you look at some of the conservative operators like the koch brothers less so on all the brock groups. it looks to me like you have multiple organizations that i'll have purpose. many of them save you look at their mission and so on that
they trained pundits to fan out and, newt and distribute talking points and messaging. many do the same thing over and over. whether intentional or not in ways that can't be traced to a specific donor. this was in the david brock group. i think it's a way to again in my view messages coming from many different people, different groups that the public doesn't know when reporters maybe don't bother to find out. i have a list in the post of how many of these different groups operate out of the same building one of the funnier moments was media matters for america one of their offshoots about controversy david brock said he planned one
simplification like andrea mitchell. so do you see any difference on how they roll?. >> i talk a little bit about that the biggest difference is media matters is much more successful and have been more pervasive by their own account in those of who actually like them that they managed to play the game a lot better. i do think both political sides want to achieve the same and with limited success sometimes conservatives feel they have yet for handover times some times liberals feel they do but currently pretty much everybody thought going into 2016 the liberals had the upper hand with messaging seven you have to question the fall of money spent by
these groups with the political narrative was that money down the drain so it proves that these networks and talking points that were so pervasive in the end did not have the desired effect for outcome. >> what exactly did barack obama and his organization due in 2016 elections that you define? direct a perpetuated a lot of articles and coverage and they hired people that they would pay to write stories of the viewpoint then publish some of them themselves on their own web site for some of those they worked with partners to get them placed so as to the casual observer it looks as if it was organic efforts.
but day in and day out media matters is ubiquitous handling informational the web site or distributing talking points to reporters and the super pac would brag a fall of people that had influenced and how damaging it had been for searching candidates and for those that day before they can even get that out of the gate. >> so with respect to trump because of the "access hollywood" tapes this is october 7th is a big moment that is terrible
laurie even the president didn't seem. in people just did not report it was on a life of its own in demanding all kinds of things happen on the planet and nobody ever argue the opposite in announcing it should be reported but there are so many things with the narrative being promulgated that amplified narrative that is injured news since. and i talk about the smears
in the past and then i compared -- compared other things to show the attention something was getting because there was an interest of a violation of the target as well as these others that were happening. >> looking back at the book i hate to say that off the top of my head but important stories compared to the headlines that did not make the nun's and -- with a gigantic array cases because somebody was wrong with the case. and then that overtakes the news and then they take up
the air space? that is part of the harm. >> is the narrative is in my view when it doesn't take a toll and with that emphasis that it deserves. so with that whole environment justin average guy that every time i turn on the tv. but that doesn't happen with much bigger stories and then much bigger and important stories.
those who want to promulgate a certain area. >> so does that not affect millions of americans?. >> i am not sure your characterization is our i would characterize it. not the behavior but it probably deserves some coverage. i am not arguing that. >> butted is once it takes on the life through the annihilation of the target where it is not always disclose and the amplification naturally occurring to the exclusion of the news that is out there. >> could not say the same thing about the bank gauzy reporting?.
>> your report that over and over i think that was a serious issue that needed reporting. >> no. [laughter] >> but i could say you did that to benghazi?. >> you could say anything and people did. >> is all subjective. >> that the difference with benghazi is there is no political financial notice rooted in the annihilation of targets. i didn't know it went up to president obama actual resources were lifelong democrats working in the obama administration. so those getting information if you look long and hard at the motivation support so in
>> would you really him to the action figure?. >> the unexpected comes from donald trump and that is what you're everybody off. actually it means it'll stick to him the way they stick to everybody else. so those that were promulgated against. and with the child rapists that circulated. barris is a mainstream media on the child rape case. >> but in most cases but in
most cases the accuser am i wrong about that?. >> i touched catalog just as a straight news story and ultimately has the news conference called more the tone was taken after that but to be promulgated is hillary clinton did did not stick to trump in the same way as to other candidates. and that is the wild card. >> bit is ntv antithesis as the promoter of the actual smears? and he doesn't have that apparatus with no sense
of groups. >> and to join him later on the campaign he did have the super pak in the early months. they would be doing the opposition research to generate the smears but on behalf of them. he did not have that so as i say in the book as delaware paul legator. and then gave nicknames to all of the opponents. >> he was hit with a smear some true essence of not. but that is not in accordance with our language
but he is a successful businessman. and with those catchy nickname is. and then the manager to pick them off one by one. donald trump may be kryptonite. so with those annunciations the various mayors calling ted cruz a liar and you cheer him on. >> you can take that way but i am not cheering him on. >>a stroke of genius? he employees catchy nickname is.
>> that is sent to you?. >> not necessarily bear all kinds of a genius things they're all kinds of ingenious things. learned they a smear in themselves? to make absolutely he does his own dirty work because he did not have his super pac acting on his behalf for leland then he did once he received the nomination then somebody was working on his behalf. >> host: i get it. okay. so at the same time talking about john mccain in 2015.
then with the whole thing with mckean being a war hero and to watch that very closely in the video your response is wholly different from the episode when you talk about the person who is at the other end of this mirrors the you handle "the washington post" who you feel is not properly reported as opposed to say donald trump why are you staring john mccain?. >> that was "the washington post" but i am not here to cheer on or defend mccain
or trollope but the behavior when you criticize media behavior that doesn't mean i support him or i am chairing hanlon -- cheering him on it is separate or you must support him because he said this you must not like him and that has nothing to do with it. but what i say is fair or accurate media coverage today have spoken out about that including "the washington post" coverage. in fact, this segment about you would you be happy to answer this part?. >> this is the one about which transactional journalism chapter a leaked e-mail you wrote an article criticizing the dealings saying it does not pay.
so that i say you are about to become involved in the controversy you criticize but then they fired back at you to make it clear he thinks he'll have engaged in the same transaction call journalism and then came after me which i found it surprising to say that you limited you asked hillary clinton's a with a wide discussion and sharyl attkisson -- sharyl attkisson and that you stipulate to call the shots on the discussion about me why you have day obsession about me of calling the shots?. >> battle let people call the shots. >> that is public knowledge. >> let me check one thing that i want to emphasize. is at page 163?.
how you have reported on the state department and so on and so forth. this is called reporting. guess who i've never met philippe ryan. >> host: he never had this discussion. >> guest: it's interesting that you are pushing for a wide range discussions we could stipulate the terms. was that let me agree with you in while we are comparing notes on how you come after me in a book which is perfectly fine. i have any problem with that but i would like to since we are engaging in a discussion. >> guest: would you like the page number? >> host: 282. let me give the introduction on this one. "new york times", you were not happy with the wikileaks e-mail showing at one point he sent the
draft of a story to john podesta >> guest: i hadn't heard of him before all this time quoting on the e-mails. puts the colin a political hack and so he then, but then he gets hired by "the news york times," right? when he gets hired by "the news york times" i write a piece of the "washington post" michael caddyer ron writes stories without omitting any mention of the recent controversy surrounding them. if you read this passage from my blogpost of december 2015 in "the news york times" you may enter go curtailment as part of the wikileaks e-mails obtained of the clinton campaign chairman john podesta face-to-face with
an e-mail he sent to podesta seeking to check his reporting. after sustaining criticism that the e-mail piper clearance of the trap of the clinton campaign he tweeted nobody controls my stories but me. i asked him about the situation and i'm paraphrasing but i asked about the situation said their publications of various policy sample at here by the policies of my publication and i write not to share editorial content. where you said i didn't discuss discuss -- >> guest: i'm glad you did this article. the article that i was referring to and i can find the site later if you would like. >> host: there's an article on haberman. >> guest: you found one that did and the others you didn't then you are saying -- huskies had articles on the promotion and i didn't discuss it. there it is. >> guest: there is an article where you didn't find the controversy.
i will find it and sent it to you. are you saying now it didn't mention the controversy? i will give you decide after we get done here. one article that looks like you did the police when you didn't. if someone reads all your work and maybe if they read all of it they would get a version. >> host: maybe an e-mail or phonecall i could address the issue. >> guest: maybe if you e-mailed me instead of calling for a wide-ranging conversation about knee. >> host: probably 40 or 50 and returned me -- e-mails i sent you. >> guest: after your ported things about me that were mischaracterized the showed he had a bias. i'm not going to engage you. i'm here with you now. >> host: i just want to put it on the record that i e-mailed the many many times.
it's glad to publish things that i thought were disingenuous and not true so i did want to engage with you. >> host: did you name any of those things are worth disingenuous? guessed that there were implications. >> host: you are naming me a smear. >> guest: i don't have an enough dialog dialogue after this but i can send you more detail on e-mails but i do want to talk about it while we are here talking. you buy your own admission can't say you didn't publish an article that i cited were you didn't disclose that glennthrush had the controversy. i didn't say i looked at all of your work and you never mentioned it. there were articles in which he wrote about the promotion. for so you said there were articles about the promotion where you didn't discuss the controversy. >> guest: you did write a story saying it.
>> host: shouldn't you mention why you are slamming the media. >> guest: there was an article that you had written it didn't discuss it and many people never saw this one and i think that still stands. let's go anyway, okay let's get back to the book. where do you go from here? do you see the smear industry slowing down at all in the coming years or do you think come you talk a little bit about this and will the money always be there for its? >> guest: as the way things stand now yes. i also think as we trace in the book it's been decades in the making. hard to disentangle some of that quickly. people say what's the solution and i don't think there's an easy overnight solution. when the news business have allowed ourselves inadvertently many of cases to use the tools of the industry. i think it's been happening over the course of years from a well-funded and well organized industry and i don't think
there's a simple way to make a swing in the other direction quickly. i think what the book is about is trying to get people to be aware for the nass questions. when you see a common narrative pervasive on the news over and over again, we are tying about the same ones over and over the similar language and it's also on social media. the media doesn't have a grain of truth there but sometimes there is. what is it maybe they don't want me to be looking at and why are they trying to divert my attention one direction? people can be at least thinking about someone trying to --. >> host: what about the distinction between meredith and the story? you said access hollywood became a narrative.
>> guest: i think it's really hard and as they say in the book one person's smear and maybe another. >> host: i disagree with that. >> guest: that's okay, it's my book and i stayed up front but also i think when people watch some people may think it's a legitimate story. these are subjective things. as i say the top of the book these are my opinions and how they see in the industries preview may disagree and people that read may disagree and may disagree on some points and not others. i just hope gets people thinking and i hope you do foam -- form your own judgment. i'm not getting you to think us is that my parents. faksa. i think that our heard a lot of what you write about a lot of facts that are true and more well reported. i'm trying to peel back the layers on things that i don't