CNN Mess Unfolding: Carelessness Internally Spreads Scandal as Very Fake News Stains High Level Talent

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The trail of damage left behind in the wake of the resignations of three top CNN editorial officials is hurting many senior top CNN talent, as well.

CNN investigative unit editor Eric Lichtblau, one of the officials who resigned after his involvement in a very fake news piece with reporter Thomas Frank and investigative unit chief Lex Haris, was on the byline of another fake news piece that CNN published prior to former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month.

Also on the byline were The Lead with Jake Tapper anchor Jake Tapper, chief CNN political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN politics producer Brian Rokus. The piece turned out to be entirely inaccurate as to what Comey would actually say in his testimony before the committee.

A source with knowledge of the matter told Breitbart News that Tapper’s inclusion on the byline is not his fault and was entirely accidental. He had, this source says, emailed around to CNN’s team a different detail he learned from a source about Comey’s forthcoming testimony—not the detail that Comey was, as CNN inaccurately reported, going to testify that President Donald Trump’s claims Comey told him multiple times he was not under FBI investigation were untrue. Other CNN staff apparently added Tapper to the byline on the piece without his knowledge. It is as of yet unclear how Borger or Rokus were added onto the byline.

CNN spokeswomen Emily Kuhn and Lauren Pratapas have not responded to requests for comment or to requests to interview Tapper and Borger—two of CNN’s highest profile on-camera personalities. Tapper refused to comment when reached by email from Breitbart News, and he referred Breitbart News to Pratapas for interview requests and other details.

The anonymously-sourced story that included Lichtblau, Tapper, Rokus, and Borger on the byline claimed in its headline that “Comey expected to refute Trump” in his Senate testimony. As The Hill newspaper’s Joe Concha wrote in a piece afterwards, the CNN report inaccurately claimed: “The CNN report said Comey was expected to dispute President Trump’s claims that Comey said he was not under investigation on multiple occasions.”

This “reporting” on CNN, based on unnamed sources, per Concha “said Comey’s conversations with the president ‘were much more nuanced,’ and that Trump drew the wrong conclusion.”

Essentially, they reported that Comey was going to testify that he did not tell President Trump he was not under FBI investigation—as Trump said he repeatedly did in a letter to Comey informing him he was fired. That turned out to be entirely untrue. Comey testified that he did in fact inform President Trump he was not under investigation, and that President Trump was telling the truth.

As such, CNN’s piece from Lichtblau, Borger, Tapper, and Rokus was—after Comey’s testimony supported Trump’s account of the matter—updated and a correction was appended.

“CORRECTION AND UPDATE: This article was published before Comey released his prepared opening statement,” the correction reads. “The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.”

The new headline changed the focus of the story: “Comey unlikely to judge on obstruction.”

Per Concha’s story, before the embarrassing correction that set the predicate for this larger very fake news scandal consuming CNN network-wide now, Borger actually peddled the inaccuracy on television.

“Comey is going to dispute the president on this point if he’s asked about it by senators, and we have to assume that he will be,” Borger said on live television on CNN, per The Hill article. “He will say he never assured Donald Trump that he was not under investigation, that that would have been improper for him to do so.”

It does not appear that Borger has ever apologized for making that inaccurate statement on television, and it does not appear that CNN made the same correction it did online on television. Traditionally, outlets that believe in journalistic integrity make corrections and retractions and updates in the same medium that a mistake was made. CNN did make a correction to this online, but it did not on live television, where Borger pushed the inaccuracy.

Multiple sources network-wide, and many CNN insiders, tell Breitbart News the editorial staff at CNN is widely embarrassed at the way the network has handled this and most want more accountability and transparency from CNN leadership.

The very fake news scandal inside the network exploded late last week after CNN was forced—following a Breitbart News investigation— o retract an entirely inaccurate hit piece on President Donald Trump and his associates Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci. The false piece, published late Thursday last week and retracted late Friday night after Breitbart News’s investigation, alleged inaccurately that Trump and his associates were under Treasury Department and Senate Intelligence Committee investigation for supposed ties to a Russian investment fund. It turns out neither allegation is true, as Breitbart News discovered in its investigation of the inaccurate hit piece.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is not investigating this matter, as Breitbart News discovered, and the Treasury Department already looked into it and determined it to be “without merit.” The allegations stemmed from a conspiracy theory that far-leftwing anti-Trump “resistance” movement leader Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) hatched in the annals of her U.S. Senate office back before Trump was inaugurated, when she pressed now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to look into the matter. It turns out, as Breitbart News’s investigation found, Mnuchin’s team did and determined it to be a farce.

CNN on late Friday, as a result of Breitbart News’s investigation, deleted the article off the internet, then issued a retraction and apology to Scaramucci. CNN has still not apologized to President Trump or to Schwarzman or to others inaccurately maligned in the hit piece.

The shoddily-handled matter at CNN has eventually resulted in the resignations of Lichtblau, an editor in CNN’s investigative unit who joined the network this year from the New York Times, and reporter Thomas Frank, as well as investigative unit chief Lex Haris. But the handling of the matter from CNN as a network has been very problematic.

After the poorly-handled retraction, CNN sources leaked to BuzzFeed a document detailing the beginning of company-wide changes to its “Russia-related content” editorial processes. Zucker, along with the head of CNN’s HR department, began an ongoing internal investigation into the matter. But CNN public relations, including CNN corporate spokeswoman Emily Kuhn, have refused to answer any questions publicly about the matter. They have refused to provide Zucker, the network president and head of the internal investigation, for any interviews and continue to hide him away from the public eye despite calls from many—including the son of President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr.—for him to appear in an on camera press briefing to answer questions about the biggest scandal that has faced the network yet. CNN public relations originally actually refused to comment to the network’s own media reporter, Brian Stelter.

The report of the three resignations first surfaced in the Washington Post under media reporter Erik Wemple’s byline. The CNN statement there and in the subsequent CNN piece from Stelter did not include on-record statements, only anonymous spokesperson statements or statements from “CNN.” It has also left many questions, including how this process played out—in which CNN went three days without answering questions about this—and exactly who is responsible and if these decisions encompassed only the three officials who resigned. The findings and nature of CNN’s supposed internal investigation are still officially secret, save for sparse CNN leaks, and exactly what went down and how this scandal—which has now been critiqued by President Trump himself via Twitter on Tuesday—metastasized to where it is now, are still secretive.

CNN has also not detailed for the public and its viewers and readers what exactly it is doing internally editorially to prevent future scandals, and it continues to refuse to answer what will happen with others who are connected to this very fake news debacle.

Meanwhile, a video from James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas published early Tuesday breathed even fresher life into the burgeoning network scandal—already the worst in CNN’s history and perhaps the worst in journalistic history period.

The video shows a senior CNN producer based in its Atlanta headquarters admitting that there is no evidence to back up the Russia scandal with which CNN has hammered President Trump, that it appears to him the President has not committed any crime, and that CNN is under orders from Zucker to change the conversation from newsworthy topics like the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords back to the Russia scandal to hurt Trump and boost ratings. He even says in the video that he believes President Trump is right to believe the media is “witch hunting” him on Russia, and that if there were proof of any wrongdoing by the president, it would have leaked by now.

CNN issued a statement to the Hollywood Reporter standing by the producer who made these comments, John Bonifield.

“CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield,” CNN told the Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr in an anonymous statement. ”Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it.”

Kuhn, CNN’s corporate spokeswoman, has refused to answer when asked by Breitbart News whether the network believes that the CNN producer’s comments are representative of the prevailing viewpoint inside the network and among its corporate leadership.

President Trump’s White House believes that CNN’s complete collapse over the past 100 hours is vindication for the president and his agenda. Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president and former national security editor for Breitbart News, appeared on Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM Patriot 125 on Tuesday morning calling this whole scandal vindication for Trump and his allies.

“I think this is the day when the left rues ever coming up with the phrase ‘Fake News,’ because now we have the evidence. We have the consequences of systematic generation of Fake News, happening at the epicenter of one of the places that was producing the most of it,” Gorka said on the program.

President Trump himself, meanwhile, hammered CNN and the whole media on Twitter Tuesday.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza, meanwhile, has lost his mind as this scandal continues burgeoning–desperately arguing the scandal is finished.

This is the latest in Breitbart News’s ongoing investigation of CNN. More information is forthcoming.


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