Speed Reads

Trump v the press

CNN journalists debate, fret about Team Trump's 'hostility to facts' and 'denial of real news'

Anderson Cooper and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, butted heads on Wednesday night over CNN's report that Trump was presented with unverified information that Russia has compromising personal material on him. Conway had flatly denied CNN's report and called it "fake news," but Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Vice President Joe Biden took the unusual step of more or less publicly confirming the report. "That's not fake information, that's not fake news, that's accurate reporting," Cooper said on Thursday night.

"I agree with Kellyanne Conway," Cooper added. "If we were wrong, we would admit it, but we were not wrong — she was. The question is, will she hold herself and her team to the same standard?" Conway had declined an invitation to come on so Cooper turned to Jake Tapper, Jim Sciutto, and Jim Acosta. Tapper said he doesn't expect a mea culpa "because this has been the modus operandi for President-elect Trump and his team, to say what they believe to be true even if it is disputed by facts, and then stick with it." After Trump's "fact-free campaign," he said, the media can't get "hung up" on whether Trump recants his falsehoods. "Our attitude just kind of has to be: It doesn't matter; what we're presenting needs to be right and it's our bond with the viewers," he said.

Cooper asked Acosta about his confrontation with Trump at Wednesday's press conference, and Acosta said incoming press secretary Sean Spicer threatened to throw him out if he didn't stop trying to ask Trump a question. "I think that there's something worse than 'fake news' and that's the denial of real news," he said, "and beyond that, Anderson, something that might be worse than that is they're just not in command of the facts at this point. When you listen to Kelleyanne Conway go sort of all over the place on this, they're just not in command of the facts."

Acosta said he expects Trump and his aides to continue going "after the messenger" if they don't like the message, and Sciutto said he is worried about "a broader issue, which is a hostility to facts, right? And an effort, a concerted effort by Donald Trump and his team to call into question the very existence of facts, the very existence of nonpartisan news." Watch below. Peter Weber