LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We're going to stay with Donald Trump's speech last night at the North Carolina Republican Party convention because it pushed out the same well-worn false claims that he's been making since well before January 6. It's a continuation of what's called the big lie, the fraudulent and manipulative claim that Trump rightfully won the 2020 election. And we're going to talk about that now, not the actual falsehoods, but about the phenomenon itself with Brian Stelter. He's the chief media correspondent for CNN Worldwide. He anchors "Reliable Sources," and he's the author of "Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, And The Dangerous Distortion of Truth," which comes out in paperback this week. Hello.
BRIAN STELTER: Hi, great to be on with you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: First, I want to get your feeling on where we are in the sort of life cycle of the big lie. I mean, how pervasive is it? And is it gaining or losing steam?
STELTER: It is gaining steam, unfortunately, because of the so-called audit in Arizona, because of voter integrity laws that are actually meant to suppress the vote in some Republican strongholds. Sadly, we are seeing this big lie evolve and devolve in different directions. You know, you go back and look at last fall. Trump was throwing out the word hoax at almost every rally. He was planting seeds of doubt in the minds of his voters and of Fox viewers. And that is continuing to this day. I think it's very tempting to ignore it. Sometimes, it's tempting for members of the media to try to tune out the lies and focus only on what is true, since that's our job. As you know better than I, we should just focus on what's true in the world. But unfortunately, these lies are gaining so much traction in right wing media that we have to, I think, be eyes wide open about that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let me ask you about this, then because there's an idea that people who sought or seek to advance it shouldn't be left off the hook until they categorically disavow it. So in the case of sort of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, you or I might have him on our shows and either push him on that question or not have him on at all. Chris Wallace of Fox News had this to say about that on Fox News radio Friday.
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CHRIS WALLACE: I mean, you're going to sit there as a reporter and say, I'm not going to deign to speak to the House Republican leader? I think that's silly.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, your colleague at CNN, Jake Tapper, said he won't have them on his shows because if they lie about the big lie, what else would they lie about? I mean, what's your take on this?
STELTER: I like the stance that Jake Tapper is taking on State of the Union because it's an important program, and it's an important position to take. However, we have 24 hours of airtime on CNN, just as much with you. And so I think it's OK to have different anchors take different positions on this. What's most important is that we do discuss it, that we don't ignore this problem, ignore this reality. And sometimes when interviewers on friendly - you know, trying to be very friendly to these lawmakers, members of the sedition caucus, they ignore what's right in front of them, which is this threat to democracy, this anti-democratic movement. If that's ignored, if that's not brought up in interviews, I think that's a disgrace.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk about Fox News because Donald Trump, of course, is the main source of the big lie. But after January 6, it seems like even though this insurrection happened, the right wing media has doubled down.
STELTER: Yes, that's right, by focusing on the future, on 2022 and 2024, by talking about a rigged election as if that's a fact, when in fact it's a fantasy and talking about the need to restrict voting when, of course, many Democrats are pushing for the opposite. You think about January 6 and what it was. It was a riot of lies. And that - all of those conditions were put in effect by Fox News over a period of 20 years. I think if you ask the question, would there have been an insurrection were it not for Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch? I think the answer would be no, because right wing media has created those conditions. But you know what's happening now, Lulu - we're seeing even more - even a move even further to the right. Last night, Fox News did not run Trump's rally, but other channels did.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Unfiltered With Dan Bongino" premiered last night on Fox News, and it featured a call by him for conservative-leaning counties in this country to secede. Let's listen.
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DAN BONGINO: Remember we're the deplorable white supremacist, racist, xenophobic, transphobic, istophobic, phobophobic - doesn't matter. They're making it all up, and it's all crap. Why not let us go to the states where we can cohabitate in phobic bliss? The answer - they'll never give up the power.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: if as you write in your book, the relationship between Fox mastermind Rupert Murdoch and Trump fizzled out in 2020, why is Murdoch's cable channel launching shows with Trump acolytes this very weekend?
STELTER: The excuse among Murdoch insiders is that he gives autonomy to his talent, that they can do whatever they want. Normally, that's a good thing in the news business. But these shows are not news. These shows are anti-news. They're anti-media. They are political propaganda. And by giving these these hosts, these stars total autonomy, it's actually advancing an anti-democratic movement. Bongino is the perfect example of this. He was a nobody a few years ago. Now he's a star on Fox News because he's reading the right lines, the lines Donald Trump wants. I remember Bongino said in an interview recently he loves living in Florida, where he's talking about conservatives - secede the states, right? He said he loves living in Florida because no one ever confronts him. No one ever calls him a nasty name at the grocery store. Well, it is sad how polarized the country is, but talking to each other, talking to people who disagree is a good thing. And Bongino is afraid of it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll have to leave it there. That's CNN's Brian Stelter. Thank you very much.
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