CNN Producer: Trump-Russia Story ‘Bull****’ for Ratings

CNN Producer: Trump-Russia Story ‘Bull****’ for Ratings

It’s hard to keep up with the troubles at CNN these days, what with a failed hit piece against an associate of President Trump, which it had to retract (or face potential legal action), that led to resignations of three journalists from the newsroom who were involved with the fiasco.

And now comes the release of an undercover video by conservative activist James O’Keefe of Project Veritas that catches a CNN producer saying the network is aware that the Russia narrative regarding the president, which it covers a majority of the time, is “Bull****” —  but plays it for ratings, anyway. (The video, which CNN’s Anderson Cooper calls “damning,” is linked below.)

What’s going on at CNN? Or more importantly, what has happened to CNN’s brand as a news organization when an internal video of its newsroom explains how the CEO directs them to “get back to Russia” coverage when they know it’s “bull****?”

For its part, CNN has shrugged off the video, telling USA Today in a statement that “CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield. Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it.”

But it’s part of a string of problems CNN has with its decision to join the opposition to President Trump and spin what it can in that goal.

The undercover video comes on the heels of a retracted story on CNN claiming that “Senate investigators were looking at the activities of the $10 billion Russian investment fund in connection to [Anthony] Scaramucci, who served on the executive committee of Trump’s transition team.”

The story was wrong, and relied on one anonymous source, which in itself should have raised red flags with the experienced journos involved with this, who know better, but chose to run with the story anyway.

As NPR notes in its roundup of what’s happened since the story was  retracted, those three veteran journalists involved with the story have left CNN’s employment:

Those who resigned Monday were Lex Haris, the executive editor of CNN Investigates who is a veteran editor at the network; Eric Lichtblau, who edited the piece and had shared a Pulitzer at The New York Times for his reporting on warrantless wiretapping during the George W. Bush administration; and Frank, who had been lured away from USA Today, where he had been a Pulitzer finalist.

Scaramucci has said in a tweet that he accepted CNN’s apology and is “moving on” from the issue. [Update:  NYPost reports that Scaramucci is moving on to the Trump Administration as head of the Export-Import bank.]

But the blowback to CNN’s reputation is creating a bigger blast radius around the cable news company, whose coverage of Trump’s first 100 days as president was ranked among the most negative of most of the major cable news outlets, according to the Harvard Shorenstein public policy center recent study.

One more problem that CNN created for itself involves its decision to remove the story from its site after its veracity was called into question, rather than updating the link to indicate the story was being retracted.

This is a big deal in any news-driven enterprise that relies on a business model of selling advertising against editorial that meets standards of accuracy and quality.

Back in this former journalist’s reporting/editing days, any request to take something “down” from the site – either over potential legal issues, etc., was a big-deal request that went straight up the chain, with sign off by CIO, Editor-in-chief, CEO and generally someone on the board of directors.

Taking down stories or deleting them is never done in a hurry or slap-dash and without consultation up the chain of management, which CNN appears to have skipped. Someone should be reprimanded for that alone.

Did the boss at CNN, Jeff Zucker, get too far involved with that decision without consultation of editorial best practices? It would follow the pattern of politicization of the news that he oversaw during his tenure at NBC before he joined CNN.

CNN is ruining its own political capital by dressing this up as adversarial journalism. It’s not and it’s obvious to everyone but is most partisan audiences.

Here’s the undercover video:




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