CNN’s Latest Retraction Is Just The Tip Of The Fake News Iceberg

CNN fake newsCNN recently was forced to pull one of its Russia-Trump conspiracy stories that “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.” The discredited story was based on a single anonymous source who connected Anthony Scaramucci, a prominent ally of President Trump, to a Russian investment fund managed by a Kremlin-controlled bank.

Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau, and Lex Harris, three of the highly awarded journalists responsible for it, resigned. The dramatic move led prominent NeverTrump Republicans to effusively praise the media outlet:

John Podhoretz @Jpodhoretz: CNN published a bad story, pulled it, apologized, 3 journalists quit.  That’s impressive and decisive action.  Yelling “Fake News” unfair.

Seth Mandel @SethAMandel: Whoa.  Lichtblau is one of those leaving.  CNN is taking this really seriously and setting quite an example for media accounability.

These reactions were the only response from conservatives that CNN host and senior media correspondent Brian Stelter highlighted in his June 26 newsletter.

No media outlet is perfect. Even the best reporters make serious mistakes. When that happens, as it will, it’s best to take responsibility and move on, as CNN did in this case. Certainly this decisive action taken in response to a serious problem is a great start.

But taking responsibility for just one of the many flawed stories CNN has been pushing is nowhere near sufficient a response to the institutional problems plaguing the media outlet. The serious problems with CNN’s approach to the Russia-Trump collusion conspiracy are much deeper than just one story, go back many months, and involve several stories and larger themes that no one at CNN has bothered to sufficiently explain. Let’s look at a few of those stories.

The ‘Dossier’ Story

Because of Trump’s kind words about Putin and Russia, Russia’s role in the hacking of Hillary Clinton-related emails, and the shock of Clinton’s loss forcing people to seek an explanation, a Russia narrative took off shortly after the election. “Shattered,” a new book about the 2016 Clinton campaign, helps explain a bit about why:

In other calls with advisers and political surrogates in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss. ‘She’s not being particularly self-reflective,’ said one longtime ally who was on calls with her shortly after the election. Instead, Hillary kept pointing her finger at Comey and Russia. ‘She wants to make sure all these narratives get spun the right way,’ this person said.

That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

In Brooklyn, her team coalesced around the idea that Russian hacking was the major unreported story of the campaign, overshadowed by the contents of stolen e-mails and Hillary’s own private-server imbroglio.

The Clinton campaign might not have been good at winning, but they were good at working with a largely compliant media. By December, the Russia narrative was set. Obama intelligence officials were leaking damaging information to prominent media outlets throughout the month, but things really got going in early January.

That’s when senior Obama intelligence officials leaked to CNN that they had briefed President-elect Trump on the existence of the “Russian dossier” full of compromising claims about him. This opposition research document had been floating around DC throughout the campaign but was not taken terribly seriously prior to the CNN report.

CNN’s story, bylined by Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein, was absolutely explosive. Headlined, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” it could not have sounded worse. Let’s review just how this information was presented:

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.

The classified briefings last week were presented by four of the senior-most US intelligence chiefs — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.

To make it absolutely clear what the significance of the story was:

Some of the memos were circulating as far back as last summer. What has changed since then is that US intelligence agencies have now checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough to include some of the information in the presentations to the President and President-elect a few days ago.

This is the story that really got the Russia collusion conspiracy going. The unlikely heroes of this story are the folks at BuzzFeed, who published the actual dossier almost immediately after CNN’s story went live. At first, it broke the Internet, as journalists highlighted the more explosive claims in the dossier, such as that the compromising information on the president included information that he paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed that the Obamas slept in at the Moscow Ritz.

But publishing the dossier revealed to everyone how unbelievably stupid and shoddy it was. It was a complete joke, more or less. It didn’t make Trump look bad, it made the intelligence chiefs who claimed to be taking it seriously look like a bunch of amateurs.

The man who wrote it had paid sources for information using middlemen. Allegations contained in the document were immediately disproven, such as one “collusion” claim about a meeting between a Trump attorney and a Russian official in Prague. The attorney had never visited Prague.

We know (or so an anonymous leaker told CNN months later) the FBI used the dossier to secure a warrant to spy on an American citizen associated with Trump. And we know (or so anonymous sources told the Washington Post in February) that the FBI was trying to pay the opposition researcher who created the document, to continue to come up with info on Trump before the election. (The FBI refuses to confirm or deny if they did in fact pay him.) We also learned that the firm behind the dossier may have been funded by Russians.

But thanks to BuzzFeed, we now know that the document includes basic errors in fact, claims that are verifiably wrong, financially outlandish claims, sexually outlandish claims, implausible political claims, and contradictory information on business deals. CNN had the opportunity to verify the details prior to publication. They should have checked the easily confirmable or refutable details before they ran to press. If BuzzFeed hadn’t published the document, the dramatic framing the story’s authors chose would have been out there for months as opposed to exposed as laughable and dodgy almost immediately.

I know that when senior intelligence chiefs are handing over juicy details and positioning their significance as explosive, it’s tempting to just run with it. But there’s a reason journalists are encouraged to be skeptical of claims made by people who are not willing to sign their names to the information. It’s because it’s easily manipulated. By being too trusting of the anonymous Obama officials who gave them the information, CNN potentially missed a much more interesting story about intelligence chiefs playing politics not just in the weeks before the inauguration but, indeed, throughout much of the 2016 campaign.


It’s hard to narrow down from the dozens of CNN stories that pushed claims of Trump colluding with Russia, but let’s look at this one from March, headlined, “US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians.”

The headline couldn’t be more explosive. The copy, however, is anything but. The words “suggests,” “indicates,” “suspected,” “possibly, “may,” “not conclusive,” and “possible” were no barrier to breathless hours of coverage from the media outlet, an example of which you can see at the link above. The story was bylined by Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Jim Sciutto.

Another story, by Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, and Evan Perez, made the outlandish claim that “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.” I’m not in constant contact with my own family whom I live with, but okay, CNN.

Also, now is probably a fine time to mention that Sciutto is a former Obama administration employee, information I’ve never seen mentioned as he reports on leaks from intelligence agencies.

Susan Rice

House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) revealed that some Obama administration unmasking of Trump associates concerned him. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported that none other than Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice was one of the people responsible for the unmasking of Trump officials’ identities. The information was disseminated widely through the government. And there is no word yet whether any of the massive amounts of leaking from intelligence officials was related to this unmasking and dissemination.

At the time of Nunes’ initial claim, Rice had been asked if she knew anything about it. She told her interviewer she did not, though she has a reputation for giving others false information. So the news that Rice was one of the unmaskers was pretty big.

CNN chose to cover it by downplaying it every step of the way. CNN’s national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who in addition to being a former member of the Obama administration is also an old colleague of Susan Rice’s husband, said, “this appears to be a story largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation.” He also wrote this hilarious tweet, and note the role the word “improperly” plays in it:

Jim Sciutto @JimSciutto: Just in: “The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false.” -Person close to Rice tells me.

Host Don Lemon said, “We will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion.” The chyrons kept claiming the Rice story was “false” even though she herself didn’t deny she had unmasked information on U.S. citizens who were political opponents.

The Comey Testimony Debacle

Another black eye for CNN came just a few weeks ago when the media outlet published and repeatedly broadcast another false Russia-related story. That one, bylined by Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper, and Brian Rokus, received heavy play on air and online. It was based on sources extremely close to former FBI Director James Comey, close enough to describe his thinking. Here’s how CNN originally put it in the first two explosive paragraphs:

In his much-anticipated congressional testimony on Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey will dispute President Donald Trump’s blanket claim that he was told he was not under investigation multiple times, according to sources familiar with Comey’s thinking.

Rather, one source said that Comey is expected to tell senators that he never assured Trump he was not under investigation, because such assurances would have been improper. Another source hinted that the President may have misunderstood the exact meaning of Comey’s words, especially regarding the FBI’s ongoing counterintelligence investigation.

The story dominated CNN’s pre-hearing coverage as viewers were told over and over and over again that Comey would contradict Trump’s claim. Borger said on air, “Comey is going to dispute the president on this point if he’s asked about it by senators, and we have to assume that he will be. He will say he never assured Donald Trump that he was not under investigation, that that would have been improper for him to do so.”

As we all know now, this story was false because these sources were claiming things that were completely false. In fact, Comey’s testimony not only revealed that he told Trump the latter wasn’t under investigation, he did so three times. Just like President Trump said. What’s more, the first instance was initiated by Comey.

When this embarrassingly false story came to light, CNN didn’t pull the story but, rather, issued a very odd “correction and update” along with a massively rewritten headline and story:

This article was published before Comey released his prepared opening statement. The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.

“Does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation” is a very odd way to say “completely confirms in every way what Trump said about being told he was not under investigation.”

No one was fired. No one resigned. No sources who gave false testimony were burned. No explanation from the sources was demanded or published. We still have no idea what happened with this story that was so integral to the media outlet’s Russia conspiracy coverage. Did the sources disappear after relaying false information? What exactly went wrong here? Should these sources have been described as knowledgeable? Were they intentionally misleading CNN reporters?

What’s Going On?

CNN’s hostility to Trump is off the charts. Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy calculated that 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of Trump in his first 100 days in office was negative. This media outlet has the most negative coverage of Trump by far. I recently watched a panel stacked with seven Trump opponents against one Trump supporter. The outlet’s leadership reportedly open discusses “war” with the president.

CNN has also been hit by undercover activists who have caught two employees making statements that contradict the media outlet’s Russia conspiracy focus. One senior producer said the Russia story is “mostly bulls***,” and that Trump is right to say he’s a victim of a “witch hunt.” He also said that the Russia story is being pushed at the outlet simply for ratings. Van Jones, a CNN analyst, was revealed in a snippet of video to call the Russia story a big “nothingburger.”

Both of these employees are saying obvious things that are only surprising because they don’t match what is being said on air. But employees are said to be struggling with how the network is handling itself.

“Staffers at CNN saw the retraction episode as embarrassing, and expressed chagrin at having given Trump such powerful ammunition,” a recent Politico story reports. A New York Times story about the retraction said executives were more worried about the botched Comey story.

Among newsroom executives, however, the big concern was a bungled story earlier in June, which incorrectly predicted the congressional testimony of James B. Comey, former F.B.I. director. Mr. Zucker was deeply upset about the error and the ensuing correction, and made clear to his staff that the network would not tolerate mistakes amid such intense public scrutiny.

But whether it’s the embarrassingly false Comey story, the discredited dossier hit job, the retracted collusion story, or any of the other thinly sourced and overhyped collusion stories, all of these problems are similar. The journalists are getting bad information from anonymous sources, not being transparent about what has gone wrong when sourcing fails, and generally being too credulous with anonymous — always anonymous — sources.

Yes, letting three employees go is a good first step. But more needs to be done to restore credibility.

From - The Federalist - by Mollie Hemingway

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4 years ago

I don’t care to read anymore news put out by CNN as they are all false and fake, and frankly, I think they are out just to disrupt people’s lives and good names and see them get ruined. There ought to be law that when a news media behaves such as CNN has, that they could lose their license altogether. There are more important news that need to be covered especially since we are living in troubled times where our lives could be in real danger with the North Korean threats, that they didn’t think it was necessary to put out, but putting out fake news was more important to them instead. Now the tables could turn around on them and they could find themselves without a company and without jobs, and what other news media would want to hire liars anyway? This should also be a warning to the other news media and their employees. Journalists are supposed to be honest and responsible…are there any left anymore?

Gary Ross
4 years ago

I’ll never trust anything the liberal media says again, regardless of how may retractions they do. The damage has been done and in a vicious way. Yet at the same time, those responsible are not being brought to justice. Why not? I don’t trust what the government tells me either, for the same reasons. I believe Trump, and he’s one of just a few I will actually listen to. All others are merely “entertainment” when I’m in the mood for such things as that, which is very rare. The only thing that will begin to regain my trust is when Clinton, rice, Obama and all the others are charged for the crimes they committed, including wasting tax payer money on their fake news crap, then brought to justice and made an example of.

4 years ago

I tried submitting the AMAC CNN FCC letter of complaint but found it too difficult and was more related to broadcaster issues then news complaints. AMAC should consider a petition to the FCC to revoke CNN’s license.

Leroy Schacht
4 years ago

Go get those liers

4 years ago

Was it “bad information from anonymous sources” or manufactured propaganda contrived by desperate, disillusioned DemocRATs? Hmm…

4 years ago

3 “journalists” fell on their swords to protect higher-ups at CNN! This wasn’t an isolated case of 3 reporters, it’s a disease running rampant throughout CNN! Resignations need to start at the top and go all the way down!

4 years ago
Reply to  RJFL99

In the careers and lives of some
Being a nasty lib is the first and highest priority
And then they count themselves as being among the smartest in the room
A shortcut to high self esteem

4 years ago

In Newts new book he talks a lot about IYI. It’s fascinating, absolutely fanscinating. IYI, intellectuals yet idiots. You all need to understand what IYI MEANS. You need to wrap your head around it. Then you’ll understand why things are the way they are. Have you ever wondered why things always seem to go against your core beliefs? All the gay stuff, always siding with the gays, when in reality 90% of people are not gay, and 90% of us don’t care about glbt stuff. And guns? And boys using girls bathroom? And the illegals, all these decisions are made by the IYI people. President Trump will save us from IYI. But it was so close to being too late.
I could explain IYI. Youll be amazed how much sence it makes.

4 years ago


Randy S.
4 years ago

Thanks CNN. Finally cancelled DirectTV and watching news. Best monthly savings ever! Hope all CNN advertisers choke and go broke.

Clark Kent
4 years ago
Reply to  Randy S.

Hitting CNN in their wallet by boycotting their advertisers is the ONLY way to get their attention. ‘When I feel the heat I see the light’.

4 years ago

anytime CNN talks about a story not meeting their ‘journalistic standards’.. that is BAD.. because they have no journalistic standards.

4 years ago
Reply to  Fatboy46

They have standards
But of some othet sort
That they strictly adhere to.

Ronaldo Olson
4 years ago

I just joined the Amac because of this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwEr8BFBB0g Does anyone have a link to the FCC complaint ?

4 years ago


4 years ago

Exposure and pushback against CNN (and others) for biased slanted coverage, fake news and maybe even going so far as using libel and slander.
How sweet it is.
Unfortunately too much of the trash they’ve put oit has been consumed by too many.

Walt Petersen
4 years ago

As far as I’m concerned their FCC license should be revoked & not renewed under at all.

Loran White
4 years ago
Reply to  Walt Petersen

I filed a complaint with the FCC against CNN for telling the public lies. It doesn’t take long at all to file. I think if enough of us do this maybe the FCC just might do something.

4 years ago
Reply to  Loran White

Broadcasting False Information, IS an FCC RULE, here is the link to file a complaint! it only takes about 30 seconds to file it!

Dave M.
4 years ago

CNN shouldn’t publish ANY article that they can’t identify the source and CHOOSE to use an anonymous source. That isn’t journalism and isn’t responsible.

Dr. Cissero
4 years ago

CNN = Created News Network!!
This is nothing new, just go back into the archives of the New York Times and it created news of Fidel Castro , making him an agrarian reformer fighting for “social justice”.

Hipolito Velez
4 years ago

Outstanding reporting, Ms. Hemingway! Those wanna-be journalists at CNN can take a lesson (or many) on how it’s properly done by your example. Excellent breakdown of events, principal characters and timeline (jn other words, the who, what, where, when and how – the rules of basic journalism) makes for easy presentation and integrity of information. A job well done! I’d much rather get my news from journalists such as yourself anytime rather than CNN any day. Thank you!

4 years ago

CNN recently was forced to pull one of its Russia-Trump conspiracy stories that “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.” Your article indicates that cnn has standards, I strongly believe that in itself, is fake news. They have proven beyond any doubt they do not.

Wayne Peterkin
4 years ago

What CNN is doing as well as much of the mainstream media including ABC, NBC, and CBS along with the New York Times, Washington Post, and those like MSNBC is purely despicable. And that is why I refuse to support any of them by watching their broadcasts or reading their trash. The press has always been supposed to be the “watchdogs” over government. But as that press has grown more ideological having an agenda, they have given relatively mild passes to their ideological brethren like the Clintons and Obama while relentlessly attacking any and all conservative voices and none more so that President Trump. There is a very powerful effort in progress to push this nation away from our founding principles and toward the tyranny of socialism controlled by the elite few. No less an intellect than Ayn Rand said “There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force – socialism by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.” The “Fake News” we see today is just more media erosion of the foundation of our country, and it all starts in education.

Lee McQuillen
4 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Peterkin

Wow! Have you ever got it right! Nice job!

4 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Peterkin

Excellent Post Wayne, right on the mark!

4 years ago

I am surprised that CNN’s board of directors and share holders are allowing Mr. Zucker to use the network for his personal attacks on President Donald Trump. The credibility of CNN has been diminished by its practice of using negative opinions as journalism. CNN is now known for broadcasting fake news!

Lee McQuillen
4 years ago
Reply to  Wes

For quite some time we have referred to CNN as the Clinton News Network and give it the credibility it deserves – none!

Dolores Adams
4 years ago

I know we have freedom of speech, but CNN has gone way beyond this. This is slanderous and very vicious. They are angry because Donald Trump won the presidency. This kind of treatment with lies and death threats must be stopped.

Linda Fisher
4 years ago
Reply to  Dolores Adams

I hope President Trump’s lawyers are going to solve these issues once and for all.

4 years ago
Reply to  Dolores Adams

it is also dangerous in considering those who watch this propaganda and they do not search for differing opinions. They are truly the uninformed, yet they listen to this garbage spewed every day, contributing to disdain and hate……..very dangerous and unhealthy to our democracy and this should be the filter with which the FCC looks at what is reported on CNN 24/7!

4 years ago
Reply to  Dolores Adams

With this kind of mindset that CNN is shoving down the throats of tv viewers, is not only dangerous but could actually get people killed…it almost happened when Rep. Scalise was shot in Washington!.. I still think there ought to be a law that if and when a big news media company crosses over the line and does not provide honest journalism to the public. that they could lose their license…is it with the FCC? And that should also go for the other companies that have the motives as CNN. When they continue to shove fake news down people’s throats day in and day out, about something so stupid, sooner or later some of the vulnerable viewers will believe them and that’s when things can get real ugly, almost like a brain-washing of sorts. If they cannot report the real news then they have no business being licensed by the FCC…and the FCC should be taking an interest in these suspect companies and investigating them and doing something about their dishonesty and lack of integrity, starting at the top all the way down to the reporters. There are consequences to pay when they are being deliberately dishonest with their news just because they want higher “ratings.” Project Veritas did an excellent job of exposing CNN, and they put the other stations on notice as well. I go to OAN (One American News) for the real news and they’re great! I like to watch the Daily Ledger on OAN as Mr Ledger tells it like it is and also, Liz Wheeler on The Tipping Point also on OAN. I have AT&T Uverse and they carry OAN…I don’t know about the other companies.

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