CNN Has Yet to Correct, Retract False Claim About Trump and ‘Fine People’ in Charlottesville

Jeff Zucker CNN heroes (Michael Loccisano / Getty)
Michael Loccisano / Getty

CNN has yet to correct or retract its on-air claim, repeated on several recent programs, that President Donald Trump referred to neo-Nazis as “very fine people” in his remarks on riots in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

The network’s obstinacy continues as Breitbart News, the Wall Street Journal, and even Wikipedia have pointed out that Trump was not referring to neo-Nazis with that remark. CNN’s own contributor, Steve Cortes, wrote an op-ed at RealClearPolitics rebuking his own network for the false claim, but CNN has not acknowledged addressed the error.

Trump made clear in his remarks that he was referring to “very fine people” other than the neo-Nazis and violent left-wing Antifa members who clashed in Charlottesville. His point was that there were legitimate protesters who came to Charlottesville to demonstrate against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, as well as legitimate protesters who came to demand the statue’s removal, or to express opposition to the neo-Nazis.

The president added, for clarity: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” He also condemned the neo-Nazis and white supremacists several times — both in that press conference itself and in a speech from the White House devoted to the subject earlier that week.

CNN reported at the time that Trump’s reference to “fine people” meant those who came to protest about the statue.

However, in February 2019, CNN’s Chris Cuomo aired a clip of neo-Nazis marching in a torchlight procession in Charlottesville (taken from a Vice/HBO documentary about the riots), then cut to the clip of Trump’s press conference in which he said there were “very fine people” on both sides.

Cuomo never showed Trump’s full remarks, in which he noted that he was not referring to the neo-Nazis. Worse, Cuomo claimed Trump had failed to note the “ugliness” in Charlottesville, and added, for emphasis: “I’d like to believe that the President of the United States just had an off moment, or said it wrong, he doesn’t mean it. But the facts slap that fiction in the face.”

Other CNN hosts and reporters did the same. Don Lemon introduced a deceptively edited clip similar to Cuomo’s, adding: “Nobody has forgotten — nobody has forgotten — what he said after that deadly white supremacist riot in Charlottesville.” Lemon failed to show Trump’s full remarks, ensuring that they would, in fact, be “forgotten.” CNN’s John Avlon repeated the deceptive edit after the terror attacks against two mosques in New Zealand, adding several other false claims, such as that Trump “wouldn’t condemn” [sic] David Duke during his 2016 campaign.

Other outlets have run misleading reports about what Trump said in Charlottesville, but few other than CNN have been so emphatically, repeatedly wrong, even editing video deceptively to create a false impression of what really happened.

Thus far, however, CNN has failed to correct, retract, or even address its false reporting on the matter.

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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