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Blue State Blues: ‘Facts First’ CNN Must Retract Charlottesville Hoax

CNN President Jeffrey Adam 'Jeff' Zucker gives a speach on the first day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) on February 26, 2018 in Barcelona. The Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, is held in Barcelona from February 26 to March 1. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE …
LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images
JOEL B. POLLAK

CNN is lying to the American people, reporting many times in the past several weeks that President Donald Trump called neo-Nazis “very fine people” in the wake of riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — even though its own reporting at the time disproves that claim.

Over the past several weeks, Breitbart News has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that CNN’s reporting is false. It seems likely the result of deliberate editorial policy.

The facts are simple enough — because CNN reported them correctly in August 2017, when President Trump made the “very fine people” remark at a press conference, his third public statement about the Charlottesville riots.

Trump condemned the neo-Nazis and other extremist groups on the right and the left, while noting that some of the people present on both sides were not extremists and had attempted to stage a legitimate protest.

On the right, that protest was against the removal of a statue of Confederate war hero General Robert E. Lee, and the renaming of the park in which the statue had been erected decades before. On the left, the legitimate protest consisted of peaceful counter-demonstrations against those in favor of the statue, as well as against the hordes of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who had hijacked the statue issue for their own evil purposes.

There was also legitimate criticism to be made of the president’s response — not at the press conference, but several days before, on Aug. 12, 2017, when he first reacted to Charlottesville. He condemned “violence on many sides,” but did not single out the neo-Nazis or, indeed, the left-wing Antifa thugs who battled them in the streets. (Former President Barack Obama also reacted without naming any specific group on either side.)

To Trump’s many critics, that was not enough. Many of them believed he had a special duty to condemn the neo-Nazis because some on the extreme right supported him for president in 2016. And no matter how often Trump disavowed them, his critics continued to link him to them, partly because they felt his disavowals had not been strong enough, and partly because literally every Republican candidate is accused of being Hitler.

So in response, Trump issued a second statement — before the Charlottesville press conference. Speaking from the White House on Aug. 14, 2017, the president singled out the extreme right: “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said, as reported by CNN.

He condemned them again at the now-infamous Aug. 15, 2017 press conference at Trump Tower in New York City. His comment about “very fine people” excluded neo-Nazis. It referred speficially to those “who came out to protest the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue,” CNN reported. (Trump predicted other, less offensive, statues would follow; indeed, this month, a California city removed a statue of President William McKinley.)

For the last several weeks, major anchors, reporters, and contributors at CNN have falsely reported that the “very fine people” comment referred to neo-Nazis. Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, and others have even edited video deceptively for the purpose, showing footage of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, then cutting to footage of President Trump talking about “very fine people” as if he were referring to them.

In addition, when Democrats like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have made false claims about Charlottesville on CNN shows, the network’s hosts have not bothered to correct them. (They are not shy to correct the president or his surrogates, even when they are arguably in the right.) None of the CNN executives, hosts, or reporters whom Breitbart News contacted has returned comment, nor has the network disputed Breitbart’s reporting.

The latest example occurred Thursday evening, when CNN’s Erin Burnett hosted Republican Steve Cortes and Democrat Keith Boykin. When Boykin said, “When violent people were actually marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville, the president said they were ‘very fine people’,” Cortes tried to correct him: “No, he did not say that … No, on both sides of the monument debate. That’s an incredibly important dissociation.”

Burnett, looking disgusted, shook her head and said: “He didn’t say it was on the monument debate at all. No. They didn’t even try to use that defense. It’s a good one, but no one’s even tried to use it. So you just used it now.”

Perhaps Burnett simply does not know: perhaps she has never read the transcript of Trump’s remarks, or CNN’s own reporting at the time. Regardless, her response was wrong — but consistent with network policy.

The lie about “very fine people” in Charlottesville is not an ordinary factual error. It is a hoax, one of the most divisive myths in American politics, scaring millions into believing their president sides with violent right-wing extremists.

The normally hyperactive media “fact-checkers” are also complicit in their silence about CNN’s fraudulent reporting. It has gone on too long.

“Facts first” CNN must retract the Charlottesville hoax.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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