CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker is pushing back against critics accusing the news network of being one of the chief propagators of a debunked Trump-Russia conspiracy theory after special counsel Robert Mueller cleared the president’s 2016 campaign of alleged collusion with the Kremlin.
In an interview with the New York Times, Zucker said he was “entirely comfortable” with CNN’s Trump-Russia coverage and suggested it was entirely appropriate to give near around-the-clock-coverage due to the story’s magnitude. “We are not investigators. We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did,” the CNN chief wrote in an email. “A sitting president’s own Justice Department investigated his campaign for collusion with a hostile nation. That’s not enormous because the media says so. That’s enormous because it’s unprecedented.”
According to a four-page summary of Mueller’s findings written by the Justice Department, investigators found no evidence President Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the election.
Zucker neglected to mention CNN’s steady stream of conspiracy-theory punditry and several stories which proved demonstrably false.
Last December, CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju reported that Wikileaks emailed Donald Trump Jr. access to information nearly two weeks prior to their public release. However, the network failed to verify the email’s date — September 14th, 2016 — by which time the emails had already been released. In June, CNN reported former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was being investigated for meeting with a Russian banker ahead of President Trump’s inauguration. Scaramucci denied the claim and CNN eventually apologized for its inaccurate report. CNN Executive editor Lex Haris, editor Eric Lichtblau, and journalist Thomas Frank resigned in shame over the story.
Further, CNN claimed in July that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, was prepared to tell special counsel investigators that the president possesses advanced knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr. and a Russia lawyer, and others. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, later told CNN had “mixed up” its facts and denied claims that Cohen had any such knowledge about the meeting.
Over the course of the Mueller probe, CNN gave a platform to Trump-Russia collusion pushers such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Washington Post opinion writer Max Boot. For example, appearing February 19th on CNN’s State of the Union, Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed that there is “compelling” evidence in “plain sight” of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
“You can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence. Now, there’s a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt,” Schiff told host Dana Bash.
In 2017, an undercover investigator for Project Veritas filmed CNN Supervising Producer John Bonifield saying that the Russia conspiracy theory was “mostly bullshit” and the network was promoting it so heavily — without real evidence — “because it’s ratings.”