On Friday, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell and veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer feared Donald Trump was trying to undermine American democracy by “demonizing the mainstream media.” Appearing on the show to hawk his new book, Overload, about “the changing landscape of the media,” Schieffer warned against the President’s supposed “dangerous” effort to “undermine the press.”
Mitchell opened the segment by sounding the alarm: “President Trump is escalating his complaints about so-called fake news....How troubling is it for the President of the United States to call the media the enemy of the people, as he has?” Turning to Schieffer moments later, she worried: “...how do you sort through what is real, what isn’t, especially with the President, frankly, demonizing the mainstream media?”
The former Face the Nation host claimed he had “seen and heard this movie before” as he compared Trump to Richard Nixon. Noting that Nixon believed “the press is the enemy,” Schieffer fretted: “...it is very, very dangerous, I think, Andrea, because when people try to undermine the press, this is one of the foundations of democracy.”
He continued to glorify the mission of the liberal media:
A democracy depends on having access to independently gathered information that they can compare to the government’s version of events. That’s what sets us off from a totalitarian society. And if you don’t have that, you can’t have our kind of democracy. And that’s our assignment, that’s what the founders told us we needed to be doing. And I think we have to do that.
If only the press could be relied upon to actually be a source of “independently gathered information” rather than just a steady stream of Democratic Party talking points.
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“And especially in this environment, where we are in the middle of an investigation,” Mitchell replied. “You covered Watergate,” she remarked to Schieffer.
Mitchell worried that the President calling out media bias was “an inoculation attempt here by the White House” for “when the report comes out, the Robert Mueller report or the Senate or House Intelligence reports” about alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Near the end of the exchange, Schieffer assured viewers: “And you know, not to blow our horns here, but our organizations, the mainstream media, we check things out before we print or broadcast it. I mean, that’s just the way we do it.”
Appearing on Thursday’s CBS This Morning, Schieffer complained about there being too many news sources available to the public. He apparently longed for the good old days when the Big Three networks would just offer liberal spin without any competing points of view.
The biased segment was brought to viewers by Match and GEICO.
Here is a full transcript of the October 6 interview:
12:29 PM ET
ANDREA MITCHELL: President Trump is escalating his complaints about so-called fake news, even tweeting, “Why isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news just made up-FAKE.” This week the President went on a Twitter tirade, in fact, against us at NBC News for our reporting about the friction between him and Rex Tillerson. How troubling is it for the President of the United States to call the media the enemy of the people, as he has? And how can consumers of news deal with the sheer volume of information online, to say nothing about Russia’s use of social media to interfere in our election?
Well, joining me now is someone uniquely qualified to give perspective on the changing landscape of the media, Bob Schieffer, CBS News Political Contributor, the longtime moderator of CBS Face the Nation, and of course, anchor of the CBS Evening News. The author of the new book, Overload: Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News. I can think of anyone better, I am so happy to see you, my friend.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, thank you.
MITCHELL: We worked – we worked against each other I should say, but not really.
SCHIEFFER: Yeah, and you were the best.
MITCHELL: No, you were. We were on the Hill.
SCHIEFFER: You were the best I ever ran up against, not just cause I’m here on your show.
MITCHELL: We were covering the Senate in those days and it was – there were three networks, and then CNN. But now, it’s not just, you know, television, broadcast and cable.
SCHIEFFER: No, it’s – we’re bombarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week from all this information that’s pouring in, more information than any people have ever had access to in the history of the world, but are we wiser or just overwhelmed? I’m sad to say, we’re just overwhelmed. We're still working our way through this and sorting out what is true and what is false and who do you believe.
MITCHELL: And if I feel overloaded every day, every night – and I have to, you know, I’m paid to follow all of this and I can’t keep up – what is the average person – how do you sort through what is real, what isn’t, especially with the President, frankly, demonizing the mainstream media?
SCHIEFFER: You know, first, about the President, I feel like I’ve seen and heard this movie before. Yesterday I ran across a tape where Richard Nixon – I mean, this is true – sat down Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig and said, “The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the press is the enemy. Write that on the black board a hundred times.” Now, we need to check with Secretary Kissinger to find out if he ever carried out that. But you know, “nattering nabobs of negativity.”
MITCHELL: That was Spiro Agnew.
SCHIEFFER: I remember when we all were called that. So not really very much new on that front. But it is very, very dangerous, I think, Andrea, because when people try to undermine the press, this is one of the foundations of democracy. A democracy depends on having access to independently gathered information that they can compare to the government’s version of events. That’s what sets us off from a totalitarian society. And if you don’t have that, you can’t have our kind of democracy. And that’s our assignment, that’s what the founders told us we needed to be doing. And I think we have to do that.
MITCHELL: And especially in this environment, where we are in the middle of an investigation. You covered Watergate.
MITCHELL: We’re in an investigation where it does seem that there is an inoculation attempt here by the White House to say, “fake news, it’s not true,” so that when the report comes out, the Robert Mueller report or the Senate or House Intelligence reports, it will not be believed because we’re communicating it.
And, I mean, you where in the middle of that awful Lewinsky investigation...
MITCHELL: ...reading that Kenneth Starr – I’ll never forget – reading the Ken Starr report cold.
SCHIEFFER: When I had to stop on the air and say, “Just a minute, Dan,” Dan Rather was in New York, “let me read this to make sure I’m not gonna say something you can’t say on television. And it’s still my most embarrassing moment.
MITCHELL: I didn’t mean to remind you unhelpfully about that. But the fact is that there is a difference now also, because globally Russia – others as well – but Russia is such an active player. We’ve got Mueller investigating their influence on other – well, on our election – but we know what they did in France most recently. And on social media it’s impossible – very difficult for the average person in real time to figure out what is real and what is the real fake news.
SCHIEFFER: Exactly. And you know, not to blow our horns here, but our organizations, the mainstream media we check things out before we print or broadcast it. I mean, that’s just the way we do it. These things that show up on social media, they’re sometimes made up out of whole cloth, and sometimes made up out of whole cloth on purpose. There’s no question that the Russians are doing it, they’re buying ads on Facebook and social media. There’s no question they’re, you know, disguising these places where they say the news comes from for the sole reason of disrupting and raising questions about our credibility. Because they know that that's one of the main things that a democracy has going for it.
And you have to make sure people understand, and we all have to understand as consumers, where this stuff is coming from. There are perfectly legitimate – and there are a lot of legitimate sites on the web now where you can get news, but some of them are not.
MITCHELL: Buyer beware.
SCHIEFFER: Buyer beware.
MITCHELL: It’s really a consumer protection. And I can’t think of anyone better, as I say, to take us through it than Overload by Bob Schieffer. Your fifth book.
MITCHELL: That’s so exciting, congratulations.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much, Andrea.
MITCHELL: Thanks for being with us, it’s great to see you.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you.