WATCH: Greenwald Accuses CNN of Warmongering in Heated On-air Exchange

'Probably the most despicable interview we've seen in the last several years were two CNN anchors who told a French Muslim political activist that he and all other Muslims bear responsibility,' says Greenwald.

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Glenn Greenwald on CNN
Glenn Greenwald on CNN, November 2015. Credit: Screen grab

CNN transcript:

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Joining me mow is Glenn Greenwald, the co-founder of "The Intercept", a journalist there for the Web site.

Glenn, thank you for being here this morning. 


STELTER: You've said this week that the media is trying to stoke that id part of your brain -- the part that wants fiercer military action against ISIS. You said the press is hungry for war.

How do you back up that assertion? 

GREENWALD: The lesson that the American media has supposedly learned after the 9/11 attack was that allowing political and military intelligence officials to make all kinds of claims without scrutinizing and questioning and pushing them back is a really destructive thing to do. It propagandizes the population. It leads to things like torture, Guantanamo, the attack on Iraq based on false pretenses. 

And I think you've seen that exact behavior but even worse from the overwhelming majority of the media in the last nine days since the Paris attack. 

STELTER: Even worse. 

GREENWALD: Unfortunately, Brian, actually -- well, I think that CNN is actually unfortunately led the way in this. You've had one intelligence official with the CIA or formerly with the CIA after the next, gone on air and able to say all kinds of extremely dubious claims that print journalists have repeatedly documented in "Bloomberg News" and "The New Yorker", on "The New York Times" editorial page are totally false. 


STELTER: So, you're specifically talking about encryption. 

GREENWALD: -- talking about encryption, about why this terrorist attack happened, about more powers that are needed, about the need to go in and attack -- and attack ISIS with ground troops as well. 

But I do think that's the other aspect is there's been really alarming anti-Muslim climate cultivated in this country, not just by Republican candidates like Donald Trump talking about making them carry ID cards and putting them in databases and closing mosques, but by the American media itself. 

I think the worst example, probably the most despicable interview we've seen in the last several years were two CNN anchors, John Vause and Isha Sesay who told a French Muslim political activist that he and all other Muslims bear, quote, "responsibility" for the attack in Paris because all Muslims must somehow be responsible. You could never -- 


STELTER: But there is a difference between asking questions and making statements. You say they told him that. They were asking a series of questions I know went viral online. 

GREENWALD: No. No, no. They made statements when he was on and after he left. They said, the word responsibility comes to mind. It's time for people like this to accept responsibility. 


STELTER: But aren't you cherry-picking here a little bit? Aren't you cherry picking from 24 hours of television coverage?

[11:25:01] GREENWALD: Brian, you have had CNN, not you personally, but CNN has had John Brennan, multiple tapes of him over and over, has had former CIA, Jim Woolsey, who has come on, zero push back, zero questioning. A CNN reporter stood in President Obama's press conference and said, "Why can't we take these bastards out?", essentially pushing the president towards war in Syria. 

This is the kind of opinionating that comes forth from CNN all the time -- 

STELTER: Let's talk about that quote.

GREENWALD: -- that is never sanctioned, never punished. You're allowed to demonize Muslims. 

STELTER: Let's talk about the Acosta quote. I think it's a really interesting moment that we saw at that press conference. Many people supporting him, some people criticizing him for that question. What I thought Acosta was doing and I want to hear your take was, trying to express what folks in America are feeling and thinking right now, that dissatisfaction with the president's response to ISIS. 

Is it not appropriate for the press the hold the president, even a Democratic, even a liberal president accountable, in that way by trying to express the public's mood, the public's anger? 

GREENWALD: I actually think that it's totally appropriate for the CNN host with the Yasser Louati to express their repugnant opinions. I think it's appropriate for Jim Acosta to voice what American people are saying. But I also think it's appropriate for Elise Labott to go on to Twitter and to speak critically in the mildest way about the U.S. Congress and stand up for the most marginalized people, Syrian refugees, without -- 


STELTER: So, you're saying all opinions. Let's hear all opinions. 

GREENWALD: Elise Labott gets punished. But the two CNN anchors and Jim Acosta and all kinds of CNN anchors who speak critically of Muslims aren't punished and the message that sent is, you're free to stoke anti-Muslim animosity in the United States but what you're not free to do is to defend Muslims. 


STELTER: I don't -- I got to tell you. I hear what you're saying. I personally haven't heard anti-Muslim rhetoric on this network in the way you're describing. I think I've seen a lot more of them on the Internet, on conservative Web sites and on Facebook and Twitter than I have on CNN, but I hear what you're saying. 

But my point about Acosta is that -- 

GREENWALD: Did you watch that Yasser Louati interview? Seriously, did you watch that Yasser Louati -- 


STELTER: I did. But let me go back to my point about Acosta because -- 

GREENWALD: That caused revulsion around the world. That caused revulsion around the world.

STELTER: There's always call from people like you to hold Republican presidents and Republican administrations accountable. To me, what Acosta was doing was holding a Democratic administration accountable through that question in a provocative way. 

GREENWALD: I support what he did. I support what -- I support what he did. I think what Jim did is totally appropriate. I think it's great that Christiane Amanpour can go on CNN all the time and demand that President Obama intervene in Syria, that he attack ISIS with ground troops. That she -- 

STELTER: She hasn't demanded that.

GREENWALD: -- expresses whatever opinions she wants. That to me is journalism, is criticizing politicians. That's why Elise Labott did nothing wrong as well. And the fact that CNN singled her out and punished her doesn't show the objectivity as required of CNN reporters. It shows that -- 


STELTER: I think that's -- 

GREENWALD: -- when you want more war, when you want to stigmatize Muslims, but defending Muslims is not allowed. I think that's what signals it sent.

STELTER: Again, I just think we've seen a lot of what you would say defending Muslims. I think we've seen a lot of variety of coverage. And I do want to share this. This is an interesting point about Elise Labott. So, I was talking with the head of another major network earlier this week and I asked him, what would you have done? He said, I would have done the exact the same thing. I would have had to suspend her because it was editorializing.

I think that's what it comes to, right? That the folks that have to make these news judgments have one view of it. Some journalists like yourself, and I respect to have other views of it. But the people that are in charge end up having to enforce these rules. 

GREENWALD: Brian, you have -- this is the problem with this claim of objectivity, is you have CNN journalists continuously expressing all kinds of opinions. As I said just moments ago, Christiane Amanpour spent hours since 2013 -- 


STELTER: I guess we could debate it all day. I don't think that's true about Christiane. It's different when you're a correspondent in Washington who's actively covering something like the refugee debate. 

But I do hear what you're saying. And we could debate it all day. I tend to agree with you about the idea that journalists in some cases should show more of their opinions through their writing, through their comments on television, et cetera. I think it's different when it's an unedited tweet. But I do hear what you're saying about that.

GREENWALD: OK, but -- 

STELTER: I appreciate you being here to express that point of view this morning. 

GREENWALD: OK, thanks for having me. Appreciate it. 

STELTER: Thank you.