Three CNN Investigates employees resign over retracted Russian story

This was posted on Monday, June 26, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Three employees on CNN’s new investigative unit have resigned following a retracted online story regarding the Senate’s Russian investigation.

Thomas Frank, a veteran reporter who wrote the story; his editor Eric Lichtblau who recently came from the New York Times; and Lex Haris, the man who oversaw the CNN Investigates unit and has worked at CNN since 2001, chose to depart Monday. Frank and Lichtblau worked out of the CNN D.C. bureau; Haris was based in New York.

A spokesman for CNN said: “In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication.”

The story, which linked Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge-fund manager close to Donald Trump, to a Russian investment fund allegedly being investigated by a Senate intelligence committee, did not go through the proper fact-checking process, CNN said. The retracted story cited a single anonymous source.

“The story wasn’t solid enough to publish as-is,” one of the people briefed on the investigation told CNN media writer Brian Stelter.

As The Washington Post noted, this mistake provided right-wing media fodder that feeds into the perception that CNN is improperly going after Trump. Breitbart dubbed the news “Very Fake News” in a headline.

In the past couple of years, CNN has been aggressively beefing up its investigative forces.

“CNN needs to be an organization that breaks news, not just an organization that covers breaking news or talks about breaking news on television,” Andrew Morse, the executive vice president of editorial for CNN/U.S. and general manager of CNN digital worldwide, told NPR in January. “There’s no better way to do that than to invest in investigative reporting.”

UPDATE from AP on Tuesday morning: 

CNN says President Donald Trump is wrong to suggest the network is failing.

The president, in a morning tweetstorm related to CNN’s retraction of a story about a Trump associate’s meeting with a Russian financial leader, suggested that the network is looking at management changes. “Ratings way down,” the president tweeted.

But CNN’s public relations team tweeted back at him Tuesday morning that the network just recorded its most-watched second quarter in history.

Said CNN: “Those are the facts.”


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