tv After Words with Sharyl Attkisson CSPAN July 24, 2017 12:00am-12:59am EDT
opinion in her book the smear how shady political operatives and fake news control what you see, what you think and how you vote and is interviewed by "washington post" media critic. you seem like you've had a remarkable career one i've covered somewhat extensively throughout the years. why don't you give us some words about where you've been and where you are now and how it relates to your previous book that had some interesting material in it as well. >> the news than cnn for three years at cnn new york. i also work for pbs and i saw
and talked to my colleagues whose all at the news organizations a fairly dramatic shift in the past few years towards control of the narratives on the news. that's why i left stonewall without these operatives influence and kind of get their news under the organization and how they influence virtually all the images that crossed paths. >> over the years you've compiled the anecdotes and corporate television news and one of the things i chuckled about was writing up a situation in 1998 i believe and you talk to cbs news i believe the white house team maybe it was something a little more sinist
sinister. take it from there and how is it is a tale for journalists, like the careful? >> legitimate leaks can be made by newsmakers and we shouldn't turn our nose up that we have to be careful about how you check it out before you report it. what you are talking about was during the monica lewinsky affair and at one point, the white house this was a story told at the time the white house wanted to get out a narrative but we didn't get to know the full story they were going to float this idea that the president did kiss monica lewinsky but that was all. they wanted to see if that would do enough to.
post could they do that perfectly plausibly because of the anonymous source and because we were saying to the white house people their story was called false by the same people who planted it. we have to protect the source. if they planted something incorrect or false, they have grounds to do that. >> host: if the source lies. robbie manuel came in and said they were never under consideration is what you pointed out. i thought wow, you know, i cover the media and get these sort of
leaks all the time. this is off the record, and we are constantly being asked to put our own integrity and reputation behind the thoughts and presidents of other people. it struck me as an interesting anecdote but of course the point that you were making, there are dramatic moments but we encounter with the bureau chief and someone way up and you say that certain corporations were off-limits to you as a reporter because you've done a lot of reporting on corporate malfeasance and so on and so forth. and so, now you are at sinclair broadcasting for measure which was distributed throughout the country. you didn't encounter any of that sort of control?
>> guest: not yet. when i left cbs provided and work in the business overall ofl again, because i didn't see a place based on my friends in context i could do the kind of reporting i was expected to do, that they would want, and that i would be unfettered. the opportunity came up out of the blue and they came up with a program depending on the market and so far, though editorial. i run my stories through a normal editorial process of the ethics review like i did at cbs which was voluntary by the way, that here we have a similar process but there's been no interference trying to shape my story, nothing like cbs at the end. they told her what they wanted to say and what the facts show before you ever gather them. >> host: there was some reporting something last year that had said to the new york
executives there was some access for coverage. did you know anything about that, do you believe that is true and have you taken that up with any of the higher-ups and management? >> i didn't know anything about it. i know from what i've read i can't name publication because i may get it wrong retracted what they report it because it turned out they had misinterpreted and picked up someone else's reporting and misinterpreted and they apologized for it. there was a misunderstanding i guess of e-mails. i know on our show we offer opportunities for donald trump, bernie sanders, hillary clinton in fact -- >> she kept acting like she might do it. it was a constant dialogue going on the may be how about the citr that city, so we never did get an interview with her but we also have all of them opportunities including all the other candidates i didn't name who were still candidates at the
time. our program offered for access anytime and anyplace to all of them. >> host: it goes off to how many stations? >> guest: is broadcast to 43 million households i think it is maybe 150 stations. >> host: so that isn't bad when you approach bill clinton or any other major politicians that you have this sort of lying to middle america and perhaps in a way that other stations don't? >> guest: i don't make the pitch personally but i seen an example with democrats and republicans sometimes they will say you have two stations in my market and th they like the idea being seen anofbeing seen and he show.
d.c.. to study what works and what doesn't work i think it all came into play in i started the book before the campaign. >> one thing i want to focus in on with the way you define the buck is in simple terms the opinion by imaging editor. that's different from the definition that seems to require something that's false.
talk a little bit about why your approach is a little more inclusive if you believe it is. >> i think you are right about that. it's because those i luc look ad consider smears, some of the best one are rooted in a little bit of truth and i described how the operator waits for a small mistake against a target and can amplify that into a giant misdeed reverberates in the national consciousness and i think what differentiates a smear from a criticism that is born of something more legitimate than a moral outrage is the purpose is rooted in an violation or destruction of the target and not just bringing something to light but destroying the target for the idea and there is often a political motive behind the
smear. second, the operators you will find as i point out in the book over look thoverlook the same sf behavior in their allies that they attack their targets for and i think that is another hallmark of how the operators operate. >> host: you go into a lot of detail on a lot of them. what is your favorite example in the book if i have to ask you to bring forth one example from the book, which would use a? >> guest: superlatives are tough for me because i like to think about them -- >> host: i can start if you want. why don't we go with i think one of the first ones, which gets straight to the attention i was discussing as the imus thing. so, donna imus in the year 2007 is on the radio and talking about a women's college basketball games and refers to
the players as nappy headed hoes or something like that. and you frame this up as an example of a. at the playbook for that which was well-publicized because they talked about it afterward. it was sort of quintessential in-depth imus really did say that. it was rooted in truth. but what they wanted out of that was annihilation.
they wanted to take a hike around drawing attention to that they wanted him gone and the reasons were in my opinion rooted more in blood donors and the interest in the fact that david brock and who imus did support politically more so than anything else, more so than just this was an outrage that they thought had to be corrected so i thought i was a good example of that sort of operation. >> host: but the thing is it didn't come out of nowhere. imus has a tremendous history of really nasty bigoted statements. here's the thing. okay, go ahead, that's her point. i will let you finish. >> guest: th >> guest: depleted as they say in the book that is what imus does. and you can see that his past comments have been drawn that sort of outrage until a point came in which he was targeted by
a media matters and then they took something he said which was no more less objectionable than probably many other things he said in the past and were able to -- >> host: we can differ on that. >> guest: i can fight off the top of my head but he said a lot of objectionable things according to critics in the past. and this is something they were able to create a campaign around by amplifying what happened using their website and using their social media tools and a network of news organizations, so that was different. >> host: right. let me just move into the question of amplification a little more. you are on twitter, im on twitter. you are on cbs news and sinclair at full measure. you amplify every day, right? an administration official says something it may not be much noted. you find tapes of people saying things that may not be much notice. what is the problem it seems as
well, you know, nobody made much of a fuss about it the first night carry it wasn't until people got a hold of it. isn't that a good thing that people say look at this you may have missed it because neither you nor i nor anyone else can see all of cnn, msnbc, fox, all of radio. so, isn't there any good in amplification? >> guest: that is a long question. it's alright. i don'all right.i don't think id evil in the book or ever. i'm not sure. and i am careful to say, some people may very well agree with what is done and i am not here to tell you that everything is a smear operator were a propaganda artist does is good or bad. i draw attention to help tie-ins that you're able to operate in this order or over exaggerate a picture of something that happened in a way that it is
intended to make people think there's overwhelming support for or against something when maybe there is not. maybe it is a handful of similar people operating under different names and different groups and sometimes even fake social media accounts but this does often take on a grassroots part and you could argue depending on where you sit it is a good thing. so i am kind of dissecting the way they operate on the tools they use it sometimes you might say the results were good and sometimes you might say they are bad or evil. >> host: you thought he was a victim of a smear campaign. >> guest: but i don't argue that what he said was right or wrong or shouldn't have been discussed. it's just a good dissection of a quintessential operation. >> host: but once again this is the definition because there
was nothing false and campaign. >> guest: i didn't look at everything that was put out butt i don't allege that it was fal false. so is it a problem, is it problematic? >> guest: it's more of a case study that shows how they were devised and learn from each other the different operators on different sides of the spectrum. they watch this and see what the tools work and how the partners can be used and that is what i call a smear. >> host: uk media matters post
to the dashboard of millions and escalated into a national outrage. that sounds like a scold. >> guest: if you want to call it that. that is a factual statement. >> host: i'm not saying it's not factual but it sounds like the remark of considerable disapproval in part. >> guest: you can take it however you like. on the dashboard of millions of americans that escalated into a national outrage. >> guest: they can take other things people would not have seen and used the tools they have at their disposal against targets that they have been monitoring and generate it into something that generates national news coverage.
that is a huge success story. >> host: and is it 100% true evidence. glenn beck. let's go through some of the specifics. is there a similar sort of thing where he was not being well heated were there wasn't a lot of attention paid to him he did get slammed by media matters and pushed out of fox? >> guest: i think that he was getting a huge following and that is part of why it was so disturbing to people about he opposed or that opposed him because he had a large platform that was becoming very successful, and then day after day the german beat he was following with his own smear
campaign and they were monitoring him in the campaign between the two of them, but they made a public announcement with george soros specifically to get glenn beck and i think they claimed credit for pulling him off the air. >> host: so you are not making any value judgment whether that is a good or bad thing? >> guest: it is an instructional tool of how the operation or the campaign was conducted. >> host: but it's not a positive thing. it's used as a false accusation. a synonym is slander, libel, all those words. how do you reconcile most of these things?
>> guest: i have been clear how i discuss it in the book. you can talk about it all you want. it is clear in the buck for what i'thanwhat i'm talking about ant i consider. but it is a negative thing. they were getting advertisers in spreading the word on why. so in both of those cases, those are the best and earliest examples of how they could target somebody and affect a change that in the past they have gone unnoticed without the social media tool and the network that they had developed in newsrooms and online listeners and so on. >> host: can it be a campaign?
>> guest: often the most effective ones have at least some truth to them. >> host: he had a deep-seated hatred for people and talked a lot about the apocalypse on his show he said some out there sort of things he was saying. i do find it if the purpose is rooted in the high ground as presented by the annihilation of the target into someone that has been targeted for the political interest that isn't always disclosed i think that qualifies at least in terms of my
discussion of the campaign and that is often pointed to by the operators in the successful campaigns i didn't often pull these out of a hat. i asked the people i interviewed what they looked at and what they saw in their industries and they were all cited. >> host: you go into the 2016 campaign and talk about trump, and donald trump of course if someone you've spoken of in many different levels but in terms of the campaign and the forces working for hillary clinton, you spend a lot of time. i've asked a spokesperson why
they wouldn't answer your questions and i have not gotten a good answer to that question. going into this history how do you feel he get fits going intoe 2016 election and how you see him as part of the constellation? >> both democrats and republicans i would say he was the most often cited name. he is fascinating in terms of the character having started as a conservative artist of liberal who smear president clinton and later admitted to having unethical and questionable and dishonest things and then
practically overnight became an artist on behalf of liberals and by the end of the folder from which he sat ever since working on the other side so he has managed to build what i call an empire that is quoted or not looked at by his admirers and detractors that are not even the supporters of see what he's done is pretty incredible. they have the website super packs operating under sometimes neutral means that don't always disclose their financial and political interest as they were quoted by news organizations as they put out material under different names but sometimes just a handful of the same interest trying to get a message out. >> host: you've done some work
looking through firearms and so on and so forth and i think 3.8 million [inaudible] according to your calculation is that -- >> guest: you're probably right. i would have to check the book. i'm not confirming the figures. >> host: i will stand by them. so, your point is it was hard to keep track of all of these appendages and then correct the facts of the 9 million organizations, 15 maybe, i don't know. but what about that, the proliferation of the organizations. does that help them wexler visits to further political operative? >> guest: moore had been written on if you look at the coke brothers. i did not write extensively about them but that has been
done and out there less so than the groups. there'd been a little bit down but nothing as extensive as i have done and it looks to me like she has multiple organizations all have the same basic purpose. many of them say, if you look at the national tax forms and so on, the train plug-ins to go out and stand on the news and to appear to distribute talking points and messaging. but many of them do the same thing over and over. they collect money in ways whether intentional or not in ways that cannot be traced to a specific donor. then it moves around between the david brock groups in ways that make it tough to trace. so in my view it's to look as though a message is coming from many different people, different groups that the public doesn't know and reporters maybe don't bother to find out. so i think, i have a list in the
book of how many of these different groups operate out of the same building or have operated out of the same building but david brock of media matters. one of the funnier moments was when media matters, i think it was media matters for america, one got in trouble over a controversy -- host for the c-3 and c-4. >> guest: yes and david brock blamed one on that's not our fault, that is the other's fault. >> host: media matters blaming the media messaging matters. ..
themselves some of them day place to work with partners and as they look to the casual observer as if it it is the organic efforts that day in and day out that it is very ubiquitous in the handling of the information. and the super pac would brag of all the people of those said it had generated a and how damaging it was. to establish the republican candidates. >> so with respect to you
trompe because of the "access hollywood" tape that was a big moment like billy bush and grabbing by the policy. -- pussy. >> said then is that the women that were missed characterize? so maybe it is that approach in that heading. because again that was the amplified incident. >> club was amplified about that?.
with those cases that the university that had to be thrown out because something was wrong with the case. so when these narratives overtake what is. >> it is not just a story that isolde but then that takes the group of old news environment. i'' one guy in there who is average that i run into from time to time proposal there
amplification tube the exclusion of so much other news that is out there. >> could i not say the same thing about the benghazi reporting?. >> you reported on bin gauzy over and over. the year ended the narrative ?. >> people did say at and but what about that? that was objected at some point but i would say the difference is there is no political financial lotus. >> i did not know it went up to president obama.
and so of those were political sources on the other side of the scale looking long and hard at their motivation but in this case they're not looking to destroy the president they were in support and supported hillary clinton so when those motivations making those claims and accusations. >> given the book that you were writing it throughout the 2016 presidential campaign that you would take a look with of false accusations and most
recently to go on and on that you say he was the and vice mayor candidate?. >> because that happened after this was published. >> yes. >> also that is the unexpected this is what your buddy off in my view but that doesn't mean he doesn't smear that means they don't stick to him the same way they stick to everybody else and that is with the campaign of 2016 proved but regardless of those smears promulgated against him as a child rapist and things like that. >> did not circulate very
much. >> there is mainstream media with the child rape case. >> wetback and looked and they feed you could discuss the ethics and in most cases with the accuser and the accusations. am i wrong about that? there is a straight news story there was more of that tone taken after that but to be promulgated against hillary clinton they did not stick to trump in the same way because he is the of wild card in that is what made him the wild card propelling him into the election.
>> is nt the antithesis of what you are addressing in the book of a promoter like a dictionary qualified spears and doesn't have that apparatus? that there is no sense of groups. >> those join him later in the campaign during those early months and normally they would be the super pac not in the name of the kennedy but on behalf of them. he did not have that so he was his own smear prosecutor in was the master brander laying claims to all his opponents and did the dirty work himself.
>> you do say that. use a small error after smear. but again that's is not in accordance with that language but i sanders the and. to combat his political component -- opponents thing give them catchy nickname is. like crazy bernie or low energy jeb bush. donald trump may be kryptonite to this mayor. so after reading that denunciations' of those various mayors calling ted cruz day lier and you are
cheering him on. >> you can take it that way but i've not cheering him on >> host: a stroke of genius? he is a successful businessman with a stroke of genius but it gsa a stroke of genius. >> not necessarily. there are things that could happen but that does not mean the you agree with what they have done. ice see how you read the book and i am glad that is your take away. >> host: but aren't those spears?. >> yes. absolutely he does his own dirty work because they don't have the super pac acting on his behalf.
>> so you are just pointing out that there is a different approach to these mayors but at the same time as this is july 2015 talking about john mccain and it is very tortured language. but your response in the book is wholly different how you treat the land back up this of -- glen beck episodes you hammer the post
who has not properly reported on the incident as opposed to say donald trump why are you smearing john mccain?. >> guest: there was an article that i wrote about but i am not here to cheer or defend mccain or trombone -- trump the one idea criticized that behavior that doesn't mean i support him or i in cheering him on. i see that separate but it is miss read if you support him then you must not like the other. it has nothing to do with that but what i say is fair or accurate media coverage and i have speaking now frequently about pac -- that >> host: let's. >> that's fine. >> i will read this little
segment about you. >> with my transactional a journalism chapter between the journalist and the clinton aides you wrote an article about the press dealing saying corrupt journalism does not pay. that i city were about to become embroiled in the controversy that you criticize but then they wrote you a letter making it clear that you have the engaged in some of that transactional journalism when it comes to me. and he says u.s. admitted for a wide ranging discussion of sharyl attkisson and what the ground rules would be for the talk and you stipulate to call the shots on the discussion about sharyl attkisson. why you're having a
discussion about me?. >> host: it is called reporting to one but you are calling the shots?. >> host: so let me just check one thing. is at page 163?. >> guest: what we're trying to find out about? and clearly you don't like me to get a wide range the in conversation? i am just asking. >> host: here is the question. the topic is your work. >> guest: wire you looking at my work?. >> host: you are a reporter at cbs news that is controversial. what else would i do? this is what i am paid to do to when you let them stipulate the terms of conversation?. >> host: i don't believe we ever had that conversation. >> guest: i can only tell
you what you wrote. >> host: it is very clear i was reading going back looking in all the transcripts of your work. >> he was familiar with how you reported. this is called reporting. >> guest: never met him. >> host: so you never had this discussion and he never did. >> interesting but you said you approached him for a wide ranging discussion to stipulate the terms. [laughter] >> so while we are comparing notes and then with their game since rearing gauge in the discussion so let me
give the introduction on this one with "the new york times" because of wikileaks e-mail show the e-mail from john podesta. >> added even hear about that before all of this and calling himself political pac -- pac. >> so then is hired by "the new york times" and when he is hired you say "the washington post" and nothing to post -- but nothing to boast has stories but no mention of the recent controversy surrounding them. and then to read this passage from december 2016
so they can even undergo curtailment as part of the wikileaks emails john predestinate those face-to-face with an e-mail after sustaining criticism with his draft with the clinton campaign last about of situation. that they have various policies but then i write those do not share editorial content. so when you said did not discuss. >> but in the article i was referring to. >> but you said that but
there was an article. >> so you found one that did and the others?. >> you said the articles on the promotion. but you did not mention the controversy. now you are saying that you did not mention the controversy? i will send you the site when we get done. in one article what looks like you did in one day you didn't. media's somebody follows her work and read all of that they would get their version >> with a phone call i could have addressed the issue certainly be calling me is that of about a wide-ranging conversation i would talk to you as well. but after you reported things about me that were
mischaracterized showed the you had a bias. but i will not engage you. i am here with you now. >> but i just want to go for the record i e-mail the many times. >> after you published things that were disingenuous so i did not want to engage with you. >> there were implications. >> i don't wish to have an e-mail dialogue with you after this but i can send you that. >> but if you say that on the air. >> that is pirated mission the published an article that i cited were you disclosed that controversy.
i didn't say i looked at all of your work i said that article that you wrote about the promotion. >> but did not discuss the controversy. >> you wrote a story about that. good for you. >> do you think that is important?. >> the article you had written many people probably never saw this. >> so now let's get back to the book. where do you go from your? to dec that industry slowing down?. >> negative is the way things stand now with has been decades in the making
and people say what is the solution? so inadvertently to be used as tools in the industry from a well funded well organized industry so they try to get people to be aware the when they see on the news over and over again that we talk about the same lines over and over with similar language that does not mean it is not true but you should be asking who wants me to think fest and what don't they want me to be looking at? wedding bells are important ways they could be thinking about
how people try to sway their opinion. >> so with the narrative and the story had is the average consumer make a distinction distinction?. >> thus me your -- the smear as in the eye of the beholder but some people may think it is smear some think it is a legitimate story. the have said these are my opinions and what i have seen in the industry. i do disagree on some points or not others to say that opens the category and this doesn't predicates them