Months ago, Donald Trump aptly described CNN as “fake news.”
Instead of proving the president wrong with consistent journalistic standards, CNN has taken countless actions to prove Trump right.
After CNN’s latest series of gaffes, the network has reached DEFCON 1 status.
Network president Jeff Zucker is doing damage control by sitting for a fluff piece with the left-leaning New York Times.
While CNN withers amid the biggest journalistic scandal in the network’s history, network president Jeff Zucker has turned to the New York Times for help.
“I don’t sleep that much anyway,” Zucker told the Times’ Michael Grynbaum in a rare interview in his office on the fifth floor of CNN’s Midtown Manhattan, New York City newsroom. Grynbaum noted he is not “getting a lot of sleep lately,” either —something that comes as the network faces what amounts to perhaps the biggest scandal in journalism history—but definitely the biggest in CNN history.
Three senior editorial staffers at CNN—a Pulitzer Prize winning editor, a Pulitzer Prize nominated reporter, and the head of the network’s investigative reporting unit—resigned over a week ago as a result of an embarrassing retraction of a very fake news hit piece on President Donald Trump and his associates.
CNN was forced to retract the faulty hit piece after a Breitbart News investigation discovered the entire piece was untrue. It falsely alleged that associates of President Trump—particularly SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci and Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman—were under Treasury Department and Senate Intelligence Committee investigation for supposed ties to a Russian fund.
It turns out that not only did the “meetings” that CNN alleged to have occurred never actually happen, but the Senate Intelligence Committee is not investigating it—and the Treasury Department already looked into the matter but found it to be entirely “without merit,” per a senior administration officials comment to Breitbart News.
CNN retracted the piece after Breitbart News’s investigation—and under pressure from the threat of hefty a lawsuit from Scaramucci—and apologized to Scaramucci. CNN has not apologized to President Trump or to Stephen Schwarzman for maligning them, nor has the network apologized to anyone else falsely smeared in the now-retracted hit piece.
A few days after the embarrassing retraction—reportedly the first of Zucker’s tenure at the top of the network—the reporter on the byline, Thomas Frank, resigned, as did the story’s editor Eric Lichtblau. Investigative unit chief Lex Haris also resigned.
From there, the network has spiraled into chaos that has lasted nearly two weeks. The chaos is fueled by further mistakes: a lack of transparency from the network’s public relations team and from Zucker, a refusal to course correct away from deep problems with journalistic integrity inside CNN, and by more damning revelations about CNN including from undercover videos of CNN producers and talent published by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas.
On Wednesday, CNN found itself facing another backlash — and additional online threats — after it posted a story about a man who created a version of the wrestling video that was later tweeted by Mr. Trump; it did not identify him but said it reserved the right to do so if he resumed his activities. Some users on Reddit took that caveat as a threat, and it prompted a hashtag, #CNNBlackmail. CNN said it had only meant to make it clear that it had cut no deal with the subject of the article, though some media critics called it an unusual choice. For CNN, it was yet another dust-up felt by its 3,500 employees as they pursue day-to-day responsibilities and worry about the usual industry concerns, like ratings. CNN has recently placed third in weekday prime time, behind the more ideologically driven coverage of Fox News and MSNBC.
CNN’s handling of Trump’s retweet of the wrestling gif was woefully inept. Instead of brushing it off, the network tried to turn it into a kill shot on Trump.
They burned any sympathy they may have garnered by portraying the gif as some sort of national crisis worthy of impeachment.
And it turns out they threatened to blackmail the wrong guy — a different online user is the one who spread the gif.
The article continued:
CNN’s New Day anchor Chris Cuomo—whose producer Jimmy Carr has been exposed in O’Keefe’s Project Veritas videos—even compared CNN to “the Thunderdome.” And the day after the three senior editorial staff resigned, Grynbaum notes, Zucker “phoned in from London to a companywide conference call, telling employees that the heightened scrutiny meant there could be no room for error.”
But besides all that, even the appearance of Zucker in the media on this front—it is extraordinarily rare for a chief executive of a television news network to appear in the media during a crisis—has to be worrisome for network investors and corporate leadership. In other words, it is less about what Zucker is actually saying and more about the fact he is even sitting for an interview at all that is mere proof that CNN is burning.
Another buried revelation in Grynbaum’s piece is that administration officials are considering using the looming merger between CNN parent Time Warner and telecommunications giant AT&T as a leverage point in the war with CNN. Grynbaum wrote:
White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.
When he asked Zucker about the merger, Zucker brushed it off.
“It’s not something I think about,” Zucker told Grynbaum.
Grynbaum was not buying it, because Zucker lost his last job at NBC thanks to that company’s merger with Comcast. “Mr. Zucker, who was ousted as chief executive of NBCUniversal after that company merged with Comcast, declined to comment on the pending deal, except to say that the merger had not affected his journalistic or management choices,” Grynbaum wrote.
Perhaps the most important revelations in the Zucker interview with the New York Times published late Wednesday, however, are what is not said and not asked. There are dozens upon dozens of questions CNN’s public relations team and Zucker are refusing to answer about this network-wide scandal.
CNN’s self-proclaimed title as “the most trusted name in news” has taken an ironic twist, like a 300 pound behemoth nicknamed “Tiny.”
With their reputation in tatters and their ratings tanking, CNN is in crisis.
The network’s best recourse is to drop their vendetta with Trump and report the news without bias.
Or, they can finally admit their left-wing bias and try to siphon off viewers they lost to the unabashedly progressive propaganda machine MSNBC.