CNN was better off when it devoted round-the-clock coverage to missing planes in black holes and human excrement overflowing on cruise ships. Now the network is just a series of embarrassments.
CNN blared an “exclusive” headline Monday with a story purporting that US intelligence made the decision to “extract” a spy that it had working within the Russian government because officials believed his cover may have been compromised by President Trump having “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence.”
That dispatch from Jim Sciutto, CNN’s “chief national security correspondent,” would have certainly been a smash if it weren’t for vehement denials by the administration and subsequent reporting that contradicted the crux of the story — that it had been Trump who screwed up the intelligence operation.
During a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called CNN’s reporting “materially inaccurate.”
Stories in both The New York Times and The Washington Post further obliterated the CNN narrative. According to the Times, it wasn’t Trump, but the heightened media scrutiny on Russia following the 2016 election that caused concern for the spy’s safety. It was only when news outlets began piecing together the spy’s identity that the CIA — in “late 2016,” the Times said — began trying to extract the source from Russia. Barack Obama was still president in late 2016.
The Washington Post likewise reported that Trump “was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset.”
And yet, as of this writing, CNN has not made a single change to the fundamental allegation of the story. So much for that apple that isn’t a banana and “facts first”!
CNN’s Spy-Gate yarn was only the latest in a series of major screw-ups by the cable network, some that it has admitted to and some that it hasn’t.
And by what I’m sure is pure coincidence, all of the awful reporting has taken place in negative stories about the president.
Last summer, Scuitto was the lead reporter on a story asserting that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney (now serving a three-year prison sentence), would testify in front of Congress that the president knew in advance about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, who had promised to provide the campaign with damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
If true, that would have meant Trump himself had potentially invited Russia’s interference in the election and that he may have willingly attempted to collude with the Kremlin.
But Cohen never ended up testifying to that. Yet CNN’s report is still up and running, uncorrected.
In December of 2017, CNN reported that Trump’s campaign had advance access to the DNC emails that had been stolen and were published by WikiLeaks during the election. Those emails are believed to have been stolen by Russians and, if true, CNN’s report would have again provided further evidence that Trump’s campaign and perhaps Trump himself were coordinating with Vladimir Putin to swing the election.
But the story wasn’t true, and this time, CNN issued a correction, admitting that it had misread some dates on emails sent by Trump’s son, Don Jr.
There’s more: In the summer of 2017, CNN ran a story alleging that former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who had worked on the Trump 2016 campaign, had billions of dollars in financial dealings with Russia.
That wasn’t true, either, and the three journalists who were directly involved in its reporting “resigned” from the network just days later. That was, by the way, after Scaramucci reportedly threatened CNN with a $100 million lawsuit if it didn’t correct the story.
CNN ended up retracting the report and issuing an apology directly to Scaramucci.
All this came under CNN’s supposedly straight-news reporting. Insipid analysis by Chris Cillizza, White House press-room stunting by Jim Acosta and Rose Garden rants by Brian Karem can all be dismissed as desperate ratings grabs by CNN — but that’s all supposed to be separate from the supposedly objective presentation of the news.
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The truth? “The most trusted name” is now the most busted name. This is CNN. No, really. This is CNN.
Eddie Scarry is an author and columnist at the Washington Examiner.