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tv   Journalists on Covering Opioid Addiction Abuse  CSPAN  October 21, 2017 1:50pm-2:18pm EDT

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addicts but then at the end their end with that national emergency if not for "the washington post" article i knew right then that nobody would believe after that article. the was a personal whatsoever. i applaud them and the white house is sincere about this because if you had not done that. >> thank you for the kind words.
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[applause] >> dan and making a tremendous point and responding we will move on to the next portion of the program stay with us. [applause] >> congress returns on monday. the housemates at 2:00 p.m. eastern for a legislative business. a little later in the week, they are expected to take up the senate budget resolution with a final vote possible by thursday. if that passes the house, it would allow congress to move ahead with tax reform. watch the house live on c-span. and the said it is also back on monday, to consider a $36.5 supplemental for
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hurricane and fire relief. already approved by the house. a procedural about -- vote to events the bill is set for 5:00 p.m. eastern. you can see this live on c-span two. tomorrow on c-span, watch senator john mccain's beach, the liberty medal in philadelphia. he talked about the lead for u.s. leadership in the world. sunday, 6:30speech p.m. eastern time on c-span. x would you rise for a moment. >> would you rise for a moment, stretch, close your eyes -- icu. trust me, empathy. i want you to stretch your imagination. [car crashing]
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>> that is how quick it happens. no warning. german villains junior talks about his own paralysis and his work to help paralyzed veterans. >> this is the problem. i see from a patient's perspective, policy perspective, advocates perspective. you have to empathize. make it the will ideal provider for veterans who have gone to combat and sacrificed. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's "q&a." fromxt on c-span, turning -- journalists from "the washington post and "this is the -- tes -- 60 minutes
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ms. casey: it is so great to see all of you here. i'm libby casey with "the washington post." i'm one of our on-air reporters, and i am joined by the team that made this story happen. it is great to have you well on -- guys on stage and get to hear from you in person. lenny bernstein, health and medicine reporter here at "the washington post," scott higham, investigative reporter at "the washington post," and ira rosen, producer at "60 minutes," who made this piece happened through the "60 minutes" perspective. we will talk about two things in the next little while, where we go from here, but also we want to start with how this collaboration came to be because , the post and "60 minutes" have not worked together on something like this in a nearly a decade. so let's start with where does a reporting story start? lenny, how did you even get the idea? you know, we see the end result
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18 months later. where did this piece start? mr. bernstein: in the beginning of 2016, we had a project launched on the national desk at the post, and the idea was to try and explain to people why so many people were dying of opioid overdoses, particularly in middle america, particularly middle-class whites, and i had an editor who said to me i want you to explain how all these hundreds of millions of open to -- opioid cogan on the street. it does not make sense to me why we cannot keep them in the supply chain? i started reading up on it and calling around, and indeed, there had been a lot of coverage of the manufacturers and doctors and pharmacies, but nothing on the wholesale distributors. i realize there was an opportunity to write about their role. i started calling around and somebody said you have to call joe ramis cc. this is what he has been doing for the past decade. pure luck, he had recently been
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forced out of his job. he was very upset about what was going on. started talking. i could not get him off the phone. ms. casey: if you want to join us, you can tweet us #postlive. key here,butors or so and i want to pause for a moment. these are companies i have never heard of before. but they are a crucial part of your reporting. give us a sense of the scope of this? mr. bernstein: the distributors are, the three biggest readers are among the top 25 largest companies in america. nobody has ever heard of them. we have not heard of them. they take drugs from the manufacturer and bring them to the pharmacies and other places where we all buy them. it makes them the most important point in the supply chain if you want to choke off the pills that are getting onto the street and being used by users and dealers. ms. casey: did you know that
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story at the time? you get this guy on the phone, you go to scott and say hey, i might have somebody here. where did this collaboration began? mr. bernstein: joe started exporting this to me, and most reporters have had that conversation where the guy on the other end of the phone says everybody is corrupt except for me, then you start checking it out and actually, everything joe said it checked out. i took it as far as i could, but very smart editors at "the washington post" realized it needed an editor, so they connected me with scott. ms. casey: where did it go from there? mr. higham: we kept hearing these stories that the dea was slowing down its cases, and a lot of these cases being made in the field against these companies were going nowhere, hitting a brick wall in d.c.. we started putting together a list of people who were working in the field who had either been whoent dea investigators or had retired recently. we began cold calling them,
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calling them at home, their cell phone, sending emails, calling people across the country. we soon began to connect with people who were very, very upset. these people work for something called vision of diversion control at the dea, which is again, something that lenny and nevera number -- had heard of before. i have been a reporter from all 30 years and i did not know this division existed. it is a group of dedicated men and women who do nothing but regulate the pharmaceutical industry and make sure that pharmaceuticals do not spill onto the streets. these men and women were deeply frustrated, because they were making cases against these companies to try and stop the flow of drugs, and the cases were getting stalled at headquarters, and they could not understand why. people in these communities were dying left and right, and they were the ones who, on the front moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters coming to them and saying what are you doing to stop this epidemic? they would
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say look, we are doing the best we can. that was the first thing we did, we documented the slowdown of cases at the dea in the face of what we later found out to be intense pressure from capitol hill and from the pharmaceutical industry. ms. casey: how did "60 minutes" get involved? mr. rosen: we are blessed to be working with these guys. they are fantastic reporters, but all of this begins with the fact that people have to trust each other. i have had a relationship with jeff lane, was a fantastic investigative editor here. we did a story with john solomon when he was a reporter here on bullet blood technology in the fbi lab, and it ended up in a number of people getting freedom jail, -- freed from jail, the lab changing their analysis of things. touchnd i had stayed in and talked about what could we do, what would be the right
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story to do. it ultimately ended up with marty baron and the executive producer of 60 minutes having one phone call. story thate first marty or jeff had brought up in we said that is what we have to do. ar whatike let us he else they have, but they said this is what we have to do. ms. casey: what was it about the story? mr. rosen: when you have 200,000 people dying in the united states and still many people are unaware of the scope of this, that is a big story. -- as i joked with my friends here, you do not have 200 thousand people dying without leaving a paper trail. that is the way i kind of approached it. about thisnderful collaboration was that each one of us brought a different talents. it is like bringing three chefs into a restaurant who each had different skill sets. we were able to stare sources,
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-- share sources, editorial approaches, we stole lines from each other's stories, and we trusted each other. they looked at our copy, we looked at their copy, provided ways, and itoth was really a true collaboration. these guys have done a fantastic itry, in october 2016, but dropped a couple weeks before the presidential election and it was buried. nobody noticed it. with the approach to the new bill, it gave it a new impetus to take a second look at the story. ms. casey: it is so different, getting somebody to talk to a print reporter then it is to talk to a camera. how did you deal with sources, especially joe, who stands out in this story? he is 70 cbs has called -- -- somebody cbs
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has called the biggest whistleblower in 50 years. we had a lunch >> -- >> we had a lunch and just chatted, and it is the same with any relationship. a certain level of trust develops. whitaker is a guy who is a total gentleman, an honest guy who has been in the business forever. he did the interview with joe. he is the correspondent on the broadcast, and i think it developed a great chemistry between bill and joe, almost instantaneously. we were all in the room and watched it happen. it's kind of unfolded is the interview is going on, and scott and lenny are writing down suggestive questions as well, that is what i mean by a true collaboration. they became coproducers during that segment while we were doing that interview. the other interviews as well. ms. casey: i asked lenny if he had ever worked with "60 minutes
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" or done anything with you before, and he looked at me like i had asked him if he was the king of england. [laughter] reporter, in: i'm a do not get an opportunity to work with "60 minutes." i did not get an opportunity to work with scott before this happened. so this was like a dream come true for me. i also want to say that there is magical thatind of when you sit a guy down with bill would occur three feet away, we had talked to joe many, many times and got great information with him, then you read what comes out of his mouth when he is talking to 60 minutes , and you are like oh my god. there is something about it that to talk. a. rosen: i think it is testament to bill whitaker's interview style. i do not know -- i'm sure many of you have, but to see him in action, basically what he did and ira helping
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behind the scenes with this, but sat joe down, and bill is sitting directly across from him. their knees are practically touching, and they basically did for fourim get up hours. maybe a bathroom break, but that was it. they did not feed him, they gave him a little bit of water. [laughter] mr. higham: it was like he was at the bottom of an air force base and interrogated by the cia, but you are being interviewed by a guy who is so ,killed and is such a gentleman and puts you at ease. i really learned so much watching bill interview him. he took him from the very beginning of his career at the dea and walked him through this entire episode of him being the insider of the 21st century. it was a remarkable thing to see. it was the narrative arc, and bill walked him through his own life. mr. bernstein: the key to an
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interview, which will certainly knows about, is you have to have a conversation with somebody. like we are having here. have to listen to the persons answer, not just check off and go through questions. by doing that, it gets him to go to the next level. it gets it deeper. in many ways, it is what television brings to an interview. i'm not saying that newspapers sometimes newspapers get the quote, and thank you, we will see you later. the tv kind of explores the deeper aspects of things, and it kind of brings it out. when you have something like when they were talking about drug dealers in lab coats, that quote that was in the piece, bill immediately reacted. you know what horrible thing that is? because i was it, there, i arrested those guys, and i authorized it. there is a whole sequence that develops from something like that that you get on tv. ms. casey: you can join the
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conversation by joining twitter, #postlive. and you tried to talk with congressman tom marino of pennsylvania, who was nominated to be the drugs are but no czar but no drug longer is. you were thrown out of his office. did you just show up with the 60 minutes film crew, which is the scariest thing i can imagine coming in my front door? mr. rosen: this was one of the most viewed broadcast in recent history, but when we rocked in -- walked in and bill turned to sittingr guy behind the desk and said hi, we would like to talk to congressman marino, the guy behind the desk looked like he was going to faint. i have been covering washington for 17 years, and i have interviewed lots of members of congress and lots of people. onot of people will hang up
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you or slam the door or whatever, but i have never had the police called on me. ms. casey: did you say that happened to you all the time? mr. higham: that was a new one. mr. bernstein: no, it never happened before in washington. mr. rosen: we have done a lot of these kind of situational walk-ins, and frankly, most of the time the congressmen come out and try to make the best of it. extraordinary in terms of the reaction. clear, we: and to be made numerous attempts to set up an interview with the congressman. we contacted his office, send our emails, so this was last ditch thing. it was not like we wanted to ambush him. but we really felt like kyoto nation explanation to the public as to why he introduced this legislation, and we felt as a public official that he should be held accountable for the legislation. and he refused to talk about it. so we went to pay him a visit. ms. casey: let's talk about what
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has happened since that 60 minutes broadcast and the washington post piece aired on sunday. to decidere is not what change is effected. you are telling the story, and the story has a length of its own and the public decide where to go from here. but we did see president trump address this and a press conference as well as on a radio show. he talked about tom marino, and the president said tom marino said look, if there is a perception that he has a conflict of interest with insurance companies, even if there is a perception of conflict, he does not want anything to do with it. the white house ever respond, are they savvy to what this story broke and what the future -- feature of this was? mr. higham: was the white house? they definitely work. i think they knew the story was in the works as well. impactd not know how the would be.
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i think one of the things about collaboration is it crosses all the various social platforms. you are covering tv, news, all the other various things. and we also share an audience. we have different audiences, the washington post and cbs. the washington post audiences being introduced to 60 minutes and vice versa. it actually helps bring up everything. , trump from what i know is -- president trump is a regular watcher of "60 minutes." mr. bernstein: not a regular reader of the washington post. [laughter] mr. rosen: i think that night he was tuned in, from what i understand. mr. bernstein: i think one of the things you have not seen as the hundreds and hundreds -- maybe into the thousands of emails that we are getting from , and they basically are two themes, at least the ones that i am getting. number one, a time when the press is under so much pressure
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and under attack from the highest levels of our government, thank you for doing this. the other one is i know somebody who died of an upgrade or -- opioid overdose. if i had to break it down into two very broad categories, that is what i am reading and hearing, and i think those two things combined with some of the other elements of this story are what is producing this sense of outrage. ms. casey: i want to reflect on a comment that was sent to you this morning, lenny, by dori burkey, who is here with her husband, talking about the loss of her son. she said it just does not happen to us. we are not the family who would have someone died from -- die from this epidemic. are you hearing from people who of this isame sense continuing to get worse and affect people on a very personal level? at this point in
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the epidemic, it does happen to people like them. there is no segregating of populations with the opioid epidemic. it crosses party, ethnicity, where you live, all of those lines. they are gone now. in 2016, there will be about 62, 60 4000 people who have died of drug overdoses when the final numbers are in. more than half of those will be opioid overdoses. while the burkey's were shocked, ,ecause there is such a normal average, working class, middle class family, they did not expect this to happen to them, it does. it happens to everyone at this point, from the wealthiest folks on down. ms. casey: will this get worse before it gets better? mr. bernstein: i suspect it is. i hope not, but i suspect that the curve has not been bent yet. i fear what is going on right now, i hear it anecdotally and
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there are early indications of 2017 being even worse. the one glimmer of hope right now is that doctors have started to reduce the number of descriptions for these things they write, so that will keep future substance abusers, that will keep the number of future substance abusers down somewhat, but i fear we will see larger numbers before we see some smaller ones. ms. casey: what have you been seeing since the stories have broken? mr. higham: there is obviously not just a mad -- -- there is a mad -- to get someone to rub the drugs are's office, but there is also a lot of pressure now being put on this law that mr. marino has introduced, along with a handful of other members of congress. we will see what happens with that. the dea chief judge has written 115 page legal analysis of this this in which he says amount is 40 years of law, and it makes it very difficult for
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the dea to do with job. -- its job. a.g. sessions yesterday, along with the deputy attorney general, said they were looking at this very seriously. i think there is a lot of people at the justice department, perhaps of the white house legal counsel taking a look at the law and what it says. if you or i were to read this law, it is a lot of gobbledygook, but if you are a drug lawyer or somebody in that world, you know exactly what those words mean and exactly what those words will do. i think that is one of the reasons it slipped through congress, because people said well, it is the ensuring patient access and drug enforcement act. why would you be opposed to something like that? it does nothing to ensure patient access, it improve enforcement of the nation's drug laws, it actually does the opposite. withinink that is from next step, what happens to that law. there have been calls to repeal it, and we will have to see what happens.
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mr. bernstein: we just heard from some of the senators that they will be hearing a -- holding a hearing soon on the bill. ifould not be surprised joanna cece -- joe is their first witness. ms. casey: scott, you have gotten so many mills as well, lots of personal accounts. this has happened in my family, thank you for reporting this, this story gets of the fundamentals of government. it is not hit my schoolhouse memory, warehouse the bill becomes a law, and then changes it and votes on it. are you getting feedback from people who are glad that you are taking the scales from our eyes as to how legislation really happens here in washington? absolutely. we have a lot of readers calling and writing, saying thank you very much. you are holding people accountable. this is exactly what journalists are supposed to do. i have got notes from people saying i have never written to a
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reporter in my life, thank you very much. i have been doing this for a wild. it has been a humbling experience, and i think what we were able to do is pull the curtain back on how washington really works, and it is not very pretty. legislation,right members of congress do not pay attention to that legislation. a lot of them take money from special interests without really understanding what is behind that money or just turning a blind eye to what these corporations really want. but these companies do not give money to members of congress for nothing. they usually want something in return. i think what the washington post and 60 minutes has shown the country is that our elected representatives need to pay a little more close attention to what is happening in the halls of congress. mr. rosen: we have a comments section on the 60 minutes webpage, and normally after a story i have done, it is if d50. you guys should be strung up, you totally missed it, you media
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lefties -- this is the first time that in reading the comments, it is almost universal. good for you, congratulations, do more of it -- i have never had a story in the years i have been there that has been so positive in the comments section. as you know, the united states is divided. these comments were not divided. and i think that goes back to what libby and lenny were saying, there is no bound to this epidemic. everyone knows somebody who has been affected. everybody knows somebody who has died, or know somebody who knows somebody who has died. these arerepublicans, democrats, these are families that have no political bent whatsoever. this is not a political issue, and i think that is why there has been such an outpouring of appreciation from all kinds of people, because this has nothing to do with politics. ms. casey: people on twitter are
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generally wondering are enough people covering the epidemic? are enough news organizations covering this, especially from an investigative lens? they are asking where else can this reporting go? we do not expect you to dive to exactly what you are working on. [laughter] cancasey: but what insight you give us into where this goes? mr. bernstein: everyone knows regional newspapers have been hit very hard over the past 10, 12 years. all of them are covering the opioid epidemic, but they do not have the luxury sometimes an hour to news organizations to spend six months on an investigative piece like that. we are grateful for that opportunity. i think that some of them are doing a dam good job -- damn good job of collecting what is going on in their communities. mr. higham: someone in west virginia just won a pulitzer prizfo

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