From the library of the New York Stock Exchange, at the corner of Wall and Broad streets in New York City, you're Inside the ICE House, our podcast from Intercontinental Exchange on markets, leadership, and vision and global business. The dream drivers that have made the NYSE an indispensable institution of global growth for over 225 years. Each week, we feature stories of those who hatch plans, create jobs, and harness the engine of capitalism. Right here, right now at the NYSE and at ICE's exchanges and clearinghouses around the world. And now welcome Inside the ICE House. Here's your host, Josh King, of Intercontinental Exchange
Over the course of our 317 episodes of Inside the ICE House, so far, we've sort of settled into a rhythm of releasing one show a week at the beginning of the week. Most recently, our talk, we put out a few days ago with Hall of Fame quarterback, and now ESPN broadcaster, Troy Aikman, and every once in a while, there's an occasion to change our rhythm, to note a special or an important day, and today's one of them.
Later on this afternoon from the bell podium of the New York Stock Exchange, I'll have the privilege of hosting the Tunnel to Towers Foundation during the closing bell, September 9th, today, the last moment of trading before we mark the 21st anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downing of United Airlines flight 93 over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Yep, it's hard to believe it's been a full two decades plus a year since 2996 people lost their lives, including beloved members of our NYSE community, and more than 6,000 people injured in the terrorist attack that drove us into mourning, and changed our country and the world in profound ways that we still feel today.
On that day, New York firefighter, Stephen Siller, who was assigned to Brooklyn's Squad 1, had just finished his shift, and was on his way to play golf with his brothers, when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower, hearing this Stephen called his wife, Sally, and asked her to tell his brothers that he'd catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear. Steven drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. And determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear onto his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life, while saving others.
In his honor, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation was born, and in the 21 years since has helped America's heroes with over $250 million raised by providing mortgage free homes to gold star and fallen first responder families with young children. And by building custom design smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans and first responders. The foundations also committed to eradicating veteran homelessness and aiding the victims of major US disasters.
And also, on that same day, in the skies above the United States, then President George W. Bush began a cross country odyssey that would take him from a previously scheduled event in Sarasota, Florida to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and then on to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, and finally back to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where the president made his way back to the White House in Washington, DC, which, it was feared would also be on the target list.
As Dave Wilkinson, a secret service agent, who I'd worked with during the Clinton years, and who traveled with the president on 9/11, told an interviewer, "I could tell you one thing emphatically, and that is, no one knew what was going on." But another person on the plane was taking detailed notes. And that was my friend, Ari Fleischer, then the White House Press Secretary, and now the head of his own firm, Fleischer Communications.
It took Ari a while to process his notes and his thoughts from that day, but starting in 2013, he assembled them in a minute by minute timeline that he reshared with readers in all of its harrowing detail on Twitter. It was, and remains a riveting read if you want to find it online. Every year that followed through 2020, Ari painstakingly repeated the ritual, helping readers relive and understand in a deeper way, the uncertainty and resolve that President Bush and fellow passengers like Dave Wilkinson and Ari felt on that day. On the 20th year, 2021, Ari stopped the practice. Not to rest, but to pay respects, along with President Bush and others, to the fallen.
As he told us on this week's episode, he's putting that Twitter thread to bed for good to, in one way, close the chapter on this era in our history, now the subject of scholarship, thought, and memory and less the job of Twitter. As many of us have, Ari's moved on to run his business, to get his kids off to college. And when he has something to say, to write and speak, most recently in his new book, Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets so Much Wrong and Just Doesn't Care, which we're going to talk about after we remember one more time, what happened on 9/11 and in the pivotal days that followed.
Our conversation with Ari, which is paired with an episode will release in a few weeks with Liz Smith, focuses on two perspectives on the role that the media plays in our public discourse, as we make our way toward the midterm elections in two months time. That's all coming up right after this.
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As I mentioned in the intro, I'm privileged to know and count as a friend, a number of White House Press Secretaries, Joe Lockhart was a guest on this podcast a while back. And our guest today is my old friend, Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary to President George W. Bush. Ari was on post during one of our nation's most pivotal moments, and is now the president of Fleischer Communications. He's out now with his new book, Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets so Much Wrong and Just Doesn't Care, out now from Broadside Books. Ari, welcome Inside the ICE House.
Thank you, Josh. Thank you for having me.
I was up in Windham this weekend, writing another piece for the magazine. I see a big bang going on up there. Will we see the Fleischer's of the golf course before the winter sets in?
Oh gosh, I wish I could be up that golf course. I've never done that, in all my years, which are now some 12 years at Windham. I've had drinks there. I've never played golf there.
It's a great track, man. I'm there most Saturdays and Sundays, if you ever want to come up.
Oh, I wish I could. I wish I had that time right now.
All right. Well, we're going to talk about, what's taken up your time Ari. I want to start a little off topic, but maybe not too much so. Back in 2013, the Washington post did some pretty straight reporting about your straight reporting. It's a first person account, and it begins like this, and I'm going to quote, "14 years ago, right around 10:00 PM Eastern, I was in my room at the Colony Beach Resort in Sarasota, Florida. It was almost bedtime." So boy, Ari, we're recording this episode on August 29th, but are going to be publishing it a few days before we mark the 21st anniversary of September 11th here at the New York Stock Exchange. Tell me about that writing assignment you took on now nine years ago,
My job as press secretary was really just to be around the president, keep my ears open, my mouth shut, and take notes as I needed to help remind me or my staff of what the president did or said, so that we could talk to reporters and answer their questions. And just so I could generally stay informed. Press secretary, just kind of hovers right by the president.
Well, on September 11th, it was quite the day of hover by the president. I instantly recognized the magnitude of what was going on once the second plane hit the second tower, everybody instantly knew America was under attack. And I kind of glued myself to the president's side and just took down verbatim notes on everything the president did and said that day. And I have some six single spaced, eight and a half by 14 sheets of paper with contemporaneous quotes of everything the president did and said,
Why did you think, 12 years later, you needed to put it down the way you did?
Well, then what happened, and this is kind of quirky, but 12 years later I got my first iPhone, and I had on the wall of my office, pictures of September 11th. And so I snapped a picture of it, and because it's so easy on an iPhone it could instantly put it on Twitter. I used to have Blackberries wasn't quite the same. And then I took a picture of another picture that I had on my wall, and put it on Twitter and another and another. And I started to see this interesting reaction on September 11th, 2012. And what I recognized was there's a story to be told here, using my iPhone, and using Twitter that I never thought of before.
And so, as I got ready for the following September 11th, one year later, I really went back and thought about what happened that day. I took out my notes. I found photos that I had stored up. I found new photos that I wasn't even aware of that were online. And I relived the day, Josh. I just went back and tweeted that day. I live tweeted it as if it was unfolding before our very eyes, at that moment, on September 11th, 2013, September 11th, 2014 and so on. And I was stunned by the response. I mean, so many people tuned in, as it were, to my Twitter feed to get a live broadcast of what happens from the inside on September 11th.
Will you be doing it again?
Josh, I did not do it for the first time ever on the 20th anniversary of September 11th, because I was down at Ground Zero. And so I went for several the ceremonies and to pay respects, and I was broadcasting live for Fox News that day. But I made the decision, and I guess you're the first to know, I am not going to pick it back up again. I think it's time now that we've gone 20 years to let the events speak for themselves to let people's memories speak for themselves. I don't need to retweet it once a year anymore.
A lot of high school teachers have come up to me and told me they use it as a guide for their class for little kids, younger kids who are too young to know about September 11th. And that really touched me, and it almost makes me want to continue to do it. But it's exhausting. I mean, reliving that day, and I don't have the most exhausting story to tell. There are many others who suffered and lost loved ones that day far worse than anything I went through, but it really drains me to relive that day, the way I do it. And I just think the time has come, 20 years is enough, and no, I will not tweet it anymore.
A few blocks from where I'm talking to you today, President Bush was standing on the rubble of Ground Zero with the retired FDNY firefighter named Bob Beckwith, here's what he said that day.
That America today is on bending knee in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. This nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut, as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.
George, we can't hear you.
I can hear you. I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knock these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
A what are your memories of that?
I was standing some 10 or 15 feet away from him when he did that. That was an unbelievably spontaneous moment, where the president found the right words, but he found the right words because he responded to the rescue workers. As he put it, "You could feel the testosterone of those big, burly rescue workers trying to save lives three days after the attack." And they were yelling at him that they couldn't hear him. So he heard them yell, "We can't hear you. We can't hear you." Because he just had a megaphone, one of the bullhorns in his hand that one of our advanced people was able to find at that moment.
And those words just came naturally to him, "Pretty soon the people who did this will hear from all of us," and that crowd roared. I mean you could just tell the American people wanted justice. They wanted to strike back at those who did this to us, and the president captured that moment in that one sentence.
So that was Friday, September 14th. Monday-
... September 17th, all eyes are again New York City. The stock exchanges have enclosed in September 11th. The telecommunications infrastructure that ran the exchanges, which ran beneath the World Trade Center had been crushed. It was put together again with bailing wire and chewing gums, so that markets could reopen, really a heroic effort by thousands of people. And there, up on the floor, to recognize all the work that had been done, standing side by side, Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton.
Ari, think about those names, and in the 21 years since, standing shoulder to shoulder, what has happened since then and the ability to be shoulder to shoulder at moment like that?
And it was shoulder to shoulder on September 12th in the cabinet room, when the president convened a meeting of congressional leaders that morning. And there wasn't a Democrat in that room, Josh, there wasn't a Republican, they were just Americans. And it was palpable. You felt this nation come together.
It's just tragic to me that it took an attack on our country to make this come together. We were pretty divided back on September 10th, 2001. There were still many people who thought George Bush stole the 2000 election from Al Gore in a recount. There were many Democrats who boycotted George Bush's inaugural, and it was kind of an angry time. It was nowhere near as badly polarized as it is now, though. I just think people came together. Our unity was in an instant on September 12th, and it lasted for maybe a year or two.
And really what started to undo it was, as the Iraq War went south, people supported the Iraq War in overwhelming numbers. Congress voted for it, overwhelmingly the American people supported it, when they believed that the Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, as we thought they did. And then as the war started to drag on and go longer, and we were never able to find the weapons of mass destruction, the anger started to build, polarization started to grow, the hatred toward George Bush got fierce, and it's only gotten worse ever since then to the point we're at today.
I hope it doesn't take another national tragedy to remind us that we're all in this together, that we are all fellow citizens. But it almost feels like that's about the only thing left that would bring us back together. Leadership, also, though, I still believe, Josh, that a leader who actually is able enough and strong enough to govern basically down a center, center right in my position, maybe center left for others, is going to be the one who's capable of finding that national unity again, at the expense of some fringes. But absent leadership, I sure hope it just doesn't come down to another national tragedy.
Ari, over the weekend I was listening to some of your podcasts talking about the book. And I think on one of them, you said, look, you've already got your memoir Taking Heat, that was out back in 2005. It hit The New York Times bestseller list. You said that these days you're pretty much minding your own business, running your consulting firm, focused on sports. Why was this a time for you to jump back into the fray, trying to shine a light on the third rail, really between the fourth estate, the media, and estate's one, two, and three, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government?
Because I got fed up. I got fed up watching how I think the American press is one of the forces that polarizes us. I'm just convince, Josh, as a conservative, that the media is no longer biased, in the sense of left and right, they've always been liberal, but there was a time when I was press secretary where they tried to be objective. And I really think that under Donald Trump, they stopped trying to be objective. I think the press reached a conclusion, largely, that Donald Trump was a threat to the Republic and that he needed to be stopped, and their journalism has reflected that.
And the reason I wrote the book and point out example, after example of unbalanced, improper, biased coverage, where the left does something, and the press looks the other way, the right does identical things and the press hammers them for it is that that's what's polarizing us. And when I saw how they covered collusion, I never thought there was evidence to support that Trump or his party or his campaign colluded with Russia to hack the DNC or to steal Hillary's emails. When I saw their coverage of the Steele dossier, which they called unverified and unsubstantiated, yet still put it on the front page, I blew the whistle, because that is contributing to the division of America.
Trump deserves tough coverage, every president does, but the press decided to put its finger on the scale, its writing hand on the scale, if not its entire body on the scale, the mainstream media did. And my book blows the whistle on how America is hurt when the press is no longer neutral and down the middle.
Talking about putting stuff on the front page, Ari, looking through the book, reading it, one of the real innovations of it, and I'm curious how you felt actually sitting back again behind the screen to try to put together a couple hundred pages, but compared to how books were written when you did Taking Heat in 2005 is the ability actually to reproduce newspaper headlines as they appeared, whole tweets by people who help magnify your points. Even the handwritten notes of FBI agent Peter Strzok, not in some middle photo section of a book, but as the running part of your narrative. How did that really help you write the book and make your arguments?
Well, the book is full of illustrations, because as I wrote it just dawned on me the best way for a reader to maybe accept what I'm writing is to see it with her own eyes. It's one thing for me to describe how for Anthony Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, when he died, his headline was Supreme Court Conservative Dismayed Liberals. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, her front page Washington Post headline was, A Pioneer for Equality. And I laid the two out and I made the case.
Why wasn't her headline, A Liberal Who Dismayed Conservatives? Or why wasn't Anthony Scalia's headline, A Pioneer for Justice? Why weren't they equal? When Elena Kagan, Supreme Court nominee, went before the Senate judiciary committee, her headline in The New York Times was, She Follows Precedent and Doesn't Offer Many Answers, which was absolutely accurate. People don't answer questions about court cases anymore, but that's been going on for decades. When Brett Kavanaugh went before the same committee and didn't answer questions, his headline was, Kavanaugh Ducks Questions. Why did she follow a precedent, but he ducked questions?
And it drives me crazy, Josh, because in all things, I try to be fair. I have regularly praised President Trump when it came to policy, former President Trump, and I regularly criticized him on Fox News as a Fox News contributor, for many of his tweets that went too far, or the things he said or the things he did. I instantly, the day the election was called for Donald Trump on that Saturday in November, I instantly said, "I'm an American before I'm a Republican, and I congratulate the president-elect." And I always adhere to that. But I try to be fair and I think the press stopped being fair, and that's why I wrote the book.
Speaking of your propensity to be fair and critical and be critical of President Trump, at times when you thought it was appropriate, you said on page 60, and I'm going to quote you here, "Certainly the biggest mistake made by Trump was his decision to host a rally on the Ellipse." And I understand your breakdown of the media's response to it. But what do you think would've been the proper response. We're 20 months out, what should we have done with what happened on January 6th?
Where I fault President Trump was, he never should have put nitro and glycerin anywhere near each other. He called a rally on the same day that Congress was voting, what did he think would happen? And when you're the president, you've got to have the judgment not to inflame wings or fringes in our society. Sure, people have the right to call it a stolen election. I don't think it was stolen. I think Joe Biden won. People have the right to call it whatever they want. Stacey Abrams never fully conceded her race. Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey, said that, "The Georgia governor's race, with Stacey Abrams in 2018, was stolen." Sherrod Brown, Democrat Senator from Ohio, said, "It was stolen."
People have the right to say these things. They have the right to peacefully protest and argue an election was stolen. A president should have the wisdom not to do that the day Congress is voting. And that's what I faulted him for. I fault the people who rioted. I fault the people who broke into the capital, the people who attacked the police, the people who interfered in our democratic process. They're the ones I blame for the riot. I don't blame President Trump for the riot. I blame the president for lacking the wisdom not to create an environment which led to the riot.
Ari, you were famously a co-author of the GOP autopsy of Mitt Romney's loss in 2012. And you were quoted at the time as saying, "The fact remains America's demography is changing and that won't stop. So let's just say Donald Trump wins the election, because of his unique appeal to blue collar Democrats, the report will be valid for his successor most likely." That's what you said. If you were constructing an autopsy on 2020 for his successor to 2024, what would you write?
I was right about demographics, and wrong about Trump. The reason Trump lost in 2020, Josh, was because of white, suburban women, mostly Republican women. He alienated enough of them, but he gained votes with his Hispanic community and the Black community. He got three times the McCain vote among Blacks and doubled the Romney vote among Black Americans. 19% of Black males voted for Trump, one out of every five Black guys voted for Donald Trump.
I mean the Republican party is interestingly really growing in my minority communities now, particularly with Hispanics. I think it's fair to say, Democrats are losing Hispanics. I'm not sure Republicans have got them yet, but they're trending that way. And the blue collar working class Americans are increasingly flaking off from the Democratic party and identifying with Republicans. Republicans are losing college educated voters, suburban voters. This is where the Glenn Youngkin victory and Virginia was so fascinating, because he was able to keep the suburbs and keep the blue collar gains. That's the future for Republicans?
I think Donald Trump will have similar challenges heading into 2024. I think that he's alienated and scared a lot of college educated, suburban women, but he does do tremendous really well and excites blue collar people.
Ari, now, as we sort of dive a little bit more into these interesting topics that are in the book that I think as I listened to your podcast, you did with Bill Bennett, I mean, you've been thinking about this for two years. But bring up a couple things that have happened even since your book appeared on the shelves. The fourth estate has a big role to play in the outcome of elections, and it's a big business.
So Discovery Communications merged with Warner Media earlier this year, creating Warner Brothers Discovery. AT&T gets about 40.4 billion in cash, and Warner Media's retention of its debt. It was as Joe Biden might have whispered in Barack Obama's ear, "A big effing deal." So it meant as that transaction closed, that ownership of CNN went from AT&T to a company with an independent director, Dr. John C Malone. So first Andrew Cuomo leaves CNN, then Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust, and now Jeffrey Toobin and Brian Stelter. Read those teas leaves for me, what's going on?
The CNN experiment is a fascinating one. And it's one of the things I teased out in my book. Is there a market for down the middle objective news anymore? Or are we so polarized that we just want to enjoy our comfort food, and go into our corners and just hear identical type of reporting that matches our thinking? If CNN can be profitable as an objective, down the middle news source, it would be great for America.
My problem with what's going on is CNN's going about this all wrong. If they're going to do it, just do it, stop doing it in drips and drabs. If they're going to make the case, and I had a chapter on CNN in my book showing just how off the wall they became, how opinionated, how liberal, how their anchors were encouraged under Jeff Zucker, the former head of CNN, to let their opinions rip, particularly if their opinions were anti-Trump and anti-Republican. They destroyed objective journalism at CNN.
If they can get it back, do it all at once, make a splash, fire everybody that you need to fire, do it all on the same day, and announce the new CNN. But by a cut here, a cut there, a Band-Aid here, a Band-Aid there, all on the same old body, I don't think they're going to convince anybody that they're a new or different CNN.
So here's what John Malone said on a CNBC interview about 10 months ago, and I'm going to quote him here, "I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing. I do believe good journalism could have a role in this future portfolio that Discovery Time Warner is going to represent." So Malone uses the word evolve, it's not cutting the Band-Aid off, it's taking steps. Do you see that strategy working? Does it have a chance?
That's an internal strategy. I think he's doing it that way to avoid a blow-up, newsroom meltdown. They're so used to it that he's doing drips and drabs to slowly win a newsroom. But I don't think that's how they're going to win new viewers. If they're going to win new viewers, they've got to do this. They've got to be dramatic about it. They've got to make clear, "We're a new and different CNN." But it sure sounds like same old CNN to me, with a little change here of an anchor, a little drop in there of a legal correspondent, but that doesn't add up to a big change.
By my calculation, Ari, you were finishing your sophomore year at Middlebury in June of 1980, the date that CNN first went on the air. And I remember what it was like 11 years later, we would hang on every word from Peter Arnett in Baghdad on the onset of the first Gulf War. As you were leaving Middlebury and looking at the perspective in the 80's, on broadcast, print, wire, magazine journalism, from the time you left Middlebury to your months on the road as a spokesman for Elizabeth Dole, what did you think of the work that was coming out of those?
Well, my goodness, The New York Times was everything to me. Back in that era, I remember getting a subscription. I paid for a college kid subscription to The New York Times. It would come every morning in my dorm room. I loved reading it. And you kind of took it as if it's in The New York Times, it must be true. I don't know anybody who reads The New York Times anymore, Josh. Now that's because I know a lot of Republicans, I suppose. And in my book I showed this that the one of the biggest problems journalists have is the American people read their papers by party. So Fox News is something like 93% Republican viewers and seven percent Democratic viewers. New York Times is something like that in reverse, in terms of Democrats read The New York Times.
One of the executive editors, I quote him in my book about The New York Times, he said of his own paper, "People who support Donald Trump probably don't read us." Well, that's half the country, 75 million Americans don't read you. And you just kind of say that Mr. Editor and glance right over it. Why don't they read you? Don't you want them to read you? Well, they don't read you because you're biased.
Journalism has changed so much Josh in my 40 years in this industry, where it really used to be absolute pursuit of the objective who, why, where, and when a little bit of that. To now, everything is so analysis, everything is so opinion. And whose opinions are they? They're liberals. The people who go into journalism are overwhelmingly cut from the same liberal cloth. One of the things I did in this book was I hired an opposition research firm to pull the public voting registration information, it's available to anybody, of the 49 reporters, who sit in those 49 seats in the White House briefing room. And I found by a 12 to one ratio, those reporters are registered Democrat to Republican. Only one Republican in the entire briefing room. And 12 to one ratio Democrats to Republicans, the rest are independents.
Give me a room that's 12 to one, Republican to Democrat, and the news will come out a lot different, and it affects everything from story selection, what's not news? What's fringe? One of my favorite headlines, I show it, actually this happened after the book, so I show it in speeches about my book, is when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a primary and therefore became, for all intents and purposes, the next Congresswoman from Queens in 2018. New York Times headline was Rising Political Star.
Well, about two months ago, Mayra Flores, a Republican, won a district on the border of Mexico and Texas, as a Republican in a district that had been Democrat for a 100 years. First Mexican American elected Congress. She ran on a platform of love of God, love of faith, love of country, love of family. The New York Times headline when she won was how she's an extremist. So AOC is a rising political star, Mayra Flores is an extremist.
Moving from The New York Times, Ari, another big effing deal in the media over the last couple of weeks was $525 million that Cox Enterprises paid to Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, Roy Schwartz, and the team at Axios, to bring Axios under the Cox tent. And you extensively quote an essay by Jim in Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias. What point is he trying to make? And how did Jim, Mike, and Roy create such a valuable media product, when so much of the rest of the industry is struggling?
Well, Jim VandeHei, after the 2020 election, wrote a really interesting article for Axios in which he said, "we missed it. We reporters have missed what's going on in this country. We missed how the Hispanic vote is trending. We have missed why Donald Trump rose, and why this was such a close election." And I thought it was remarkably self-critical and refreshing. And I wished all reporters could engage in similar thought. And Axios turned into a influential, excellent insider read, and it's very profitable because of advertising.
They were able to get a lot of advertisers, because there's so many elite eyeballs who read Axios. That's what gave it value. I still make the case, and I have an example, it's in my book, where Axios is liberal. One of the pictures I use in my book is a headline in Axios showing the celebrations in the street when Joe Biden was declared the victor, and it was something along the lines of A Nation Celebrates. And then 11 hours later, there was a football game at Notre Dame, where Notre Dame upset Clemson, and college football fans poured onto the field. Same day, 11 hours later, and the Axios headline was, Party Amid the Pandemic.
So it's okay to celebrate for Joe Biden, but if you do it on a college football field on the exact same day, Axios turns back into a COVID scold. But congratulations to those guys, they found a formula to make money. I don't object to anybody's making money. And they're one of the few journalists endeavors that really is profitable.
One of the few journalistic endeavors that really is profitable and certainly turning that into a realization for Jim, Mike, and Roy who started from their own perch at The Washington Post into Politico, and now doing their own thing and having it really pay off. When we come back more with Ari Fleischer, author of Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets so Much Wrong and Just Doesn't Care. And that's all coming up right after this.
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Back now with Ari Fleischer, author of Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets so Much Wrong and Just Doesn't Care, out now from Broadside Books. Ari, before the break, we were talking about your memories of 9/11, memories of the time when CNN was our eyes and ears in the world, and what the future might have in store for it under new ownership.
So let's dig now into some of the other media models and theses of your book. One company not listed on the NYSE is My Pillow. Now, I don't watch Fox News in prime time, but I also don't watch CNN or MSNBC in prime time either. I keep CNBC on during the day, and consume most of my news from print or podcast. Can you break down where you see the Fox News business model today, and how My Pillow and others really fit into the financing of a lot of content on that side of the ledger?
In terms of Fox News, and I write about this in my book, I disclose of course that I'm a Fox News contributor, and as you know, I used to be a CNN contributor. So I kind of had inside views and to both places. Although as a contributor, you really don't know a whole lot, you just do your hits on the air, and that's what you do. But conservative media is booming, Josh. Fox's ratings, Fox's viewership for both its daytime news shows, it's nighttime opinion shows is booming, at a time when CNN and MSNBC are shedding viewers in the post Trump world. Where people can't get their daily anger at Donald Trump, because he's kind of faded, at least until recently.
And when you look at conservative talk radio, conservative podcasts, booming, print outlets, or now you call them internet outlets, Daily Wire, Daily Examiner, things of that nature are really doing well. The Federalists, they're really doing well. These are places conservatives go to get their news. So the mainstream media is in decline, in terms of viewership, and conservative media is booming.
So speaking selfishly, on the one hand, I'm happy. My side is winning the communications you could make the argument. But my book is about the opposite. My book is about the importance of having one place that all Americans can go and say, "Yeah, I believe the news. They told me what happened. I, as an American will tell you what it means. We the people will decide how to interpret this news. But I found out what happened, thanks to fair, down the middle, objective journalism."
I think Fox's daytime shows are superb at doing that. I think Bret Baier's six o'clock news show is the best news show in the business. It is fair. It is neutral. It is old fashioned objective. The reporters are actual reporters. The advertising inside of it, the revenue side, I really have no insight onto that. So the My Pillow ads or anybody else's ads, I think everybody in media suffers from ads that are aimed at old people. Having young people is one of the most important things for viewers, and young people are just too busy to watch a lot of news. If you watch the network news, you'll notice almost all the ads are health related, because it's an older audience.
Indeed. Indeed. I mean talking about the mainstream publications or the legacy publications, Ari, The Washington Post, of course, is owned by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, but even Bezos has taken on president Biden. May 16th, he sent out, really, a two tweet message to the White House that was a shot heard around the world and it begins, "Look, a squirrel, this is the White House's statement about my recent tweets. They understandably want to muddy the topic." And he finishes, "They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would've been higher than it is today. And inflation, today, is at a 40 year high." False flag operation, Ari? A cautionary tale? Or can an owner have independent views of his paper's headline writers?
From my experience, owners really have very little to do with what's in the paper. They have to do with writing checks or maintaining the finances of a news organization, supervising it from the biggest picture point of view, which is almost always financial. But it's the working people at the papers, it's the actual editors, the executive editors, the deputy editors, the reporters that's where the news is made. And that's where newsrooms are still cut from that same liberal cloth.
Two of the vignettes I tell in the book, are two times I've gone to Columbia Journalism School to do events for future journalists, where they've invited me in. And at the end of each one, two classes of 12 students, 22 years apart, I asked them, "Who did you vote for in the last election?" And the vote, 24, nothing, for the Democrat candidate over the Republican candidate, 24 to nothing. This is journalism's problem. Owners don't influence what's in the paper, journalists do, editors do, top editors do. And that's journalism's original sin. And that's the name of the first chapter in my book, Original Sin. So when I hear an owner say this or that, it really has very little influence on the people inside the newsroom.
Talking about what's inside the newsroom or where journalists are doing their work these days. Sometimes I wonder, Ari, if you know people who write dumb tweets or write bad headlines are perhaps biased or maybe just really inexperienced, sometimes lazy, but The Atlantic, unsparing in its criticism of Diane Feinstein. The article a couple weeks ago is Diane Feinstein is the Future of the Senate, and that's the Problem by David Graham.
Also, my friend Mark Leibovich can be critical of Trump and his enablers in his new book, Thank You for Your Servitude. But a few weeks ago, he comes right out and says in his June 16th piece for The Atlantic, "Let me put this bluntly, Joe Biden should not run for president in 2024. He is too old." Can we submit that based on kind of the inexperience or laziness sometimes around newer practitioners of the profession, some of the journalism inside in the body copy is pretty sound?
Well, don't be fooled. All they're saying is they want a young liberal instead of an old liberal. They're still liberal. So the fact that they're pointing out the obvious that Joe Biden would make a weak candidate running for president as a 82-year-old man. He's about to turn 80 right here after the midterms, and then he'll be 82 if he runs in 2024. So that's no criticism of Biden's philosophy, what he's trying to do for America. They just want somebody who's better at.
No, those organs are still left wing organs. Those are the type of organs that right from the start thought Donald Trump was corrupt and should go to jail. And ever since then, they've been waiting for the event that would send him to jail. And any event, any day is, in their opinion, the one that could do it this time. Trump made it easier, because Trump is such a bull in a China shop. I don't think for a second they're going to be fair or neutral to any Republican who could win the White House. They don't think anybody can intellectually vote for Donald Trump. And that's a disdain for half the country. I'll never have.
Frankly, I have tremendous admiration for Bernie Sanders. When Bernie Sanders, in the course of one of the debates, said that, "The Boston Marathon bomber should be able to vote from prison." I mean, I vehemently disagree with that, but I understood the principle point that Bernie was making. And I admired a man for making such a politically stupid statement that was based on such sound liberal, old fashioned, ACLU like thinking. I admire that.
I will never hold in disdain people who have principles that I disagree with. I want to beat them. I don't want them to win elections, but I have no disdain. These people have disdain for Trump supporters. Fine have disdain toward Donald Trump, he's a politician, have at it. Don't have disdain for his supporters, too many Americans do, and too many media outlets do.
Ari, you make an important point about the media putting its finger on the scale. And you say, and I'm going to quote you here, "It moves the needle. It hurts fundraising, depressing, the losing side's morale and creates inaccurate impressions that inform reporters' stories. There are not," as you note, a lot of stories with headlines that go like, Race Looks Dead Even, or Battleground States Could Go Either Way in the run up toward an election."
A question I have as I read the book though over the weekend was, where is the voters' agency in all of this? So where is their own responsibility to inform themselves? Today, every rally speech by presidential candidates is instantly available on YouTube. And one of the things Amy and I do, one of our favorite activities, as we drive up to Windham on Friday nights, is to listen to the full rally speeches. Everything Trump says in an hour and 15 minutes on the stump, everything Biden says, in their entirety. You really do get a much deeper sense of their thought process and their theories of the case, when you don't listen to the way it's distilled in a story. Why don't we skip the scale entirely enough with the headlines and the prime time shows on Fox and MSNBC and consume the content directly?
Oh, and just for the record, I listen to country music on my drive up to Windham. Look, Josh, I salute you, but you're rare. Most Americans don't have that type of consumption habit. They don't want to listen to a full rally speech. We want to be given the shorthand version of what took place as consumers. And that's where news media is failing us. They're not good at given the full summary. What they're good at is given the most extreme statement, and then finding somebody to condemn it and calling it journalism.
And that's true, not only about Trump's speeches, but about the way they would cover a pro-life rally. They promote the fringe, so that they can sell more news. And they make the fringe sound as if that's all there is in America. While most of America is pretty darn centrist and sensible. Now, if you listen to a full rally, you're going to get a speech in context. There may have been one zinger in there that's designed to really energize a crowd, and I'm talking about left and right, politicians do this, but to the media, that one zinger is the only story out there.
A lot of the stories that you bring up in your book, Ari, have their origins, or at least show as a tool that a journalist uses are polls. And I want to just hit on some a thought about over reliance on them. I mean, you bring up the case of Joni Ernst and Susan Collins and what a smattering of polls suggested the outcome of their races might be. Now, I worked for Mark Penn for a number of years when people actually answered their home phones and responded to a pollster's questions. If a lot of this is driven by where polls are, talk about the polling industrial complex, and how that puts its own finger on the scale.
Well, it's polling industrial media complex, media loves polls like their catting. And they think they're all telling, which is one of the reasons they blew the 2016 election so badly. They universally, mainstream media, thought that Hillary would win in a landslide. And when Trump won narrowly, they were so shocked that they thought there had to be an external explanation for it, viola, Russian collusion. This is what said America on this destructive path.
One of the cases I make in my book is that liberals are hurt the most by media bias, because takes 16 in the polls, for example, if you read all those polls and you listened to Nate Silver, or you read The New York Times or watched CNN, you were convinced Hillary would win. So when it's midnight and you see she's losing, what do you conclude? There's got to be external explanation. When you're told Trump colluded with Russia, and you're told that Mueller is investigating, and that Mueller comes back with a report that says, "No collusion." There's got to be an explanation. Of course, he did it. You were told for years he did it. The mainstream media is hurting liberals way worse than they're hurting conservatives, because conservatives learned how to tune them out a long time ago. Liberals are still going through this grief period.
I just think polls should almost come in category of like ranges in sports. Don't give me the actual score, just tell me if it's close. And if a poll shows it's a 20 point gap. Okay, maybe it's a big gap, but it's, but within 10, within five on either side, just call it close. Stop giving me, "He's up by two. He's up by three," meaningless, especially in an era where Republicans really are less willing to believe pollsters, which is a unvirtuous cycle. The worse polls are the worse Republicans believe they are. The worse Republicans believe they are, the less they cooperate with pollsters, meaning the worse the polls are.
So pollsters are really having a hard time figuring out how to get Republicans to either log onto internet, respond to a poll, or certainly on a phone call, stay on the line with a pollster. And it's yielding disproportionate sets of Americans who answer the polls more Democratic than Republican, which further tilts the polls.
As we wind our conversation to a conclusion, Ari, let's, at least, make a little stop over at social media for a minute. You and I started our conversation with the impact that your own Twitter feed had on thousands of readers, starting in 2013. You now have 450,000 followers on Twitter, but you've already amassed half of that already on Truth Social in a much shorter period of time. What are the puts and takes of being on both platforms? Because I make a point to go over and read some people on Truth, but not a lot of other people who might be like me do.
Along the similar line, I typically watch CNN in the morning when I'm in the gym, and then I watch Fox in the afternoon. I like diversity of thought. I gain from it. This Truth Social experiment's really been fun for me. As you point out, my growth is far more rapid than Twitters. I have no idea why. I don't know if maybe I'm not popular on Twitter, or maybe Twitter doesn't treat me as well as Truth Social does in terms of how my stuff circulates.
But Twitter is still better established about having mainstream media journalists on there. And a lot of what I tweet, I tweet because I want to reach journalists. I'm hoping I can wake them up to respectfully look at the other side, think of this good reason. Even if it's a sort of a pro-Trump reason, you ought to still look at it journalists. And I hope I'm effective that way.
Truth Social, it seems to me, you really don't have a lot of mainstream media on there. If they are, they just parachute in to cover the crazies and parachute out and write a story about crazies. Reinforces my thinking about how they just don't cover the news in context. But I've been enjoying being on both platforms, nothing wrong with being on both platforms. And I'll continue that.
One of the really nice things, Ari, that I've gotten out following your feeds on a variety of social media platforms is the Ari Fleischer that isn't completely focused on politics and the media. The trips with your daughter to bookstores around the nation. The trips with your son to baseball parks around the nation. When social media works, it can work, right?
Or do the haters and the bots ruin it for everybody?
Well, look, first of all, it always works. If you don't care about the haters, social media always works. It's a nice way to amplify what you're thinking or doing. My Facebook page is overwhelmingly personal. I really try to keep politics off of it. So my stuff about my kids is on Facebook, not on Twitter. Twitter is really for me for politics and I ignore what the haters say. But I think social media is a lot with what you make of it. If you go onto it to sharpen an argument, to say something, to scroll through, and see what constructive critics say about you, you'll gain.
If you go on there to fight with people or to let it rip or to swear at people, that's just another destructive use of a day. I won't do that. So I hope I figure out how to crack this code by hopefully being interesting, saying things, scrolling through, accepting good feedback, and thinking, again, the next day when I wake up.
Facebook is great. This will air right before September 11th. But on this day, today, in August, I just dropped my daughter off for her freshman year of college. So for my friends, they get to know that, and keep up with that.
Congratulations, Ari, on that. And right before the pandemic, we had a big IPO here at the New York Stock Exchange where Australian golfing legend, Greg Norman, was on the floor of the NYSE and we shared a friendly conversation about the time that President Clinton unfortunately hurt his leg on a late night fall on the Shark's property in Florida. And now Norman is leading the charge for LIV Golf.
And I listened as I was driving from Massachusetts back to New York, yesterday to a podcast from The Wall Street Journal where LIV Golf's COO, Atul Khosla, got a chance to speak really at length about the new tours business model and also the controversies surrounding it. Does the medium of the podcast give people and ideas, the opportunity to be heard and flourish? Or will ideas like LIV continue to be battered?
Well, they're separate issues. Podcasts are fascinating and it's really interested to me how people do listen. There's the nice niche out there for all kinds of things, whether it's sports or news or book reviews, people like to listen to podcasts as they drive or in different settings, and get a deeper dose of something interesting to them. LIV Golf has taken the golf world by storm. They're a client of mind. And it's tremendously exciting. It's disruptive of the status quo in golf, but it is great for fans. It's growing the game of golf. It's really going to be international.
PGA Tour's reacted by doing everything that's power to shut it down, while, meanwhile professional golfers are the best beneficiaries of competition. Pay for the prize purses for professional golfers is going up in the PGA Tour, thanks to LIV. So it's a great time to be a golfer and a great time to be a fan, it seems to me.
I read a lot of the mainstream or legacy reporting on golf and sports, the same way I do in politics. I read a lot of the tweets that people that are watching what's going on at LIV. And it makes me wonder as we finish up our conversation, and you think about what you wrote in Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias about political journalism, does it extend to sports reporting as well?
I don't think so. Sports reporting isn't known for its ideology. Political reporting, unfortunately is now known for its ideology. You could say, "Well, the Yankee broadcasters are in the tank for the Yankees, and the Red Sox broadcasters are in the tank for the Red Sox." But you know what? They still call the balls and strikes pretty accurately. And that's what a sports journalist wants to do at the end of the day is cover the game. Political writers want to be in the game, and it's reflected in their copy.
Talking about covering the game, Ari, when I see you in person, you're invariably wearing your Miami Dolphins hat. And Mike McDaniel has a tall order this year as head coach of the fins, trying to put the teams front office issues behind it. We have an episode with Troy Aikman that's about to drop next week. As a guy who spends most of his time, focused on sports and not suppression, deception, snobbery, and bias, what are your expectations for the '22-'23 season?
Well, I think Tyreek Hill got all the possibilities, Dolphins receiver of shaking things up. Dolphins now have two powerful receivers. I just wish the Dolphins would be a 100% supportive of Tua. I don't know how you can have a young quarterback who's got as much promise as he has, and management starts floating all these ideas about, "We need another quarterback." How is that good for a young guy's growth and development? Get behind the guy and support the guy. And we've been mediocre for so long, Josh, I want a new hat. I want one that at least takes us into the playoffs.
A new hat. It's getting a little worn on the fringes, but I look forward to seeing it as soon as I see you in person upstate. Ari, thanks so much for joining us Inside the ICE House.
Thank you, Josh.
That's our conversation for this week. Our guest was Ari Fleischer, author of Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets so Much Wrong and Just Doesn't Care, out now from Broadside Books. If you like, what you heard, please rate us on iTunes, so other folks know where to find us. And if you get a comment or a question, you'd like one of our experts to tackle on a future show, email us at [email protected] or tweet at us @ICEHousePodcast.
Our show is produced by Pete Asch with engineering and production assistance from Ken Abel and Ian Wolff. The head of programming and production for ICE and the NYSE is Marina Stanley. And I'm Josh King, your host, signing off from the library of the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week.
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