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CNN’s Perpetual Purgatory Of Amateur Hour

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In the era of Trump, CNN now lives by a new code: retractions and resignations. This has become more evident over the past month, during which CNN has exhibited a reckless disregard for the truth. Two major stories that portrayed President Trump in a negative light had to be retracted, one of which led three of the network’s journalists to tender resignations, and a series of surreptitiously recorded videos uncovered a corporate culture more concerned with the bottom line than with the news.

One of CNN’s latest aberrations of journalistic integrity involved what can only be described as pathologically vindictive behavior directed at a private citizen that dared to make a joke about the multibillion-dollar corporation. CNN issued an unambiguous threat to reveal the identity of Reddit user “HanAssholeSolo” who claimed to be the originator of the WrestleMania XXIII video tweeted by President Trump that featured the President tackling a man with a CNN logo superimposed over his face, even though CNN openly admitted that revealing his identity would be a cause of “concern for his safety.”

CNN’s problems were made much worse when it was revealed that the network targeted the wrong person. According to an analysis by BuzzFeed, HanAssholeSolo’s GIF was not what the President tweeted. The President tweeted a video (not a GIF) with sound that was longer in duration, possessed a distinct aspect ratio, and processed colors differently than HanAssholeSolo’s GIF. After recounting a portion of HanAssholeSolo’s interview with CNN, in which he said he did not give the White House permission to use his GIF, BuzzFeed responded, “Well, that’s because they didn’t use his GIF. They used a video that had been remixed from it that they found from a third-party user on some completely different social network.”

On the same day it threatened the Reddit user (July 4th), CNN also published a fake quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro perhaps said it best:

Do you know how dumb you have to be to run a story that has a fake quote from Abraham Lincoln? It’s not like he’s making new stuff up everyday. Abraham Lincoln. It’s not like he’s coming out with new material that you have to vet. He’s been dead for 150 years.

Even though CNN decided to tag along with President Trump while he visits Poland and attends the G20 summit this week, CNN’s turmoil at home has overshadowed the network’s trip abroad. On Thursday, the network continued to circulate provable lies.

During a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, President Trump made the point that only three (not 17) United States intelligence agencies were involved in the assessment that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. Jim Acosta, CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent, was ignorant of that basic fact. So in a report following the joint press conference, Acosta tried to claim that this verifiably accurate statement was “fake news”:

The other thing that was ‘fake news’ coming from President Trump is when he said, well, I keep hearing it’s 17 intelligence agencies that say Russia meddled in the election, I think it’s only three or four. Where does that number come from? Where does this ‘three or four’ number come from? My suspicion . . . is that if we go to the Administration, and asked them for this question, I’m not so sure we’re going to get an answer. And if we do get an answer, it’ll probably be off camera.

That number comes from the May 8th testimony given by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In this testimony, Clapper said explicitly, “As you know, the [Intelligence Community Assessment] was a coordinated product from three agencies; CIA, NSA, and the FBI not all 17 components of the intelligence community.” Additionally, this fact forced two major news outlets to issue a total of five corrections (four from the Associated Press and one from The New York Times) to account for their previous false reporting.

Acosta’s obliviousness to all of these developments raises serious questions of competence. Moreover, that Acosta circled back to his odd and, frankly, creepy desire to capture everything on camera reveals that it was never about facts. Quite to the contrary, Acosta’s commentary made clear that, instead of conducting a simple Google search, he would rather reduce his role to one of reflexive opposition.

In another embarrassment, CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza tweeted a selectively edited video that, in its condensed form, depicted the wife of the Polish president walking past President Trump to shake hands with the First Lady. Cillizza implied that the video showed the Polish first lady snubbing President Trump. This, however, was exposed as a lie. One who watched for two second after Cillizza’s cut would clearly see the first lady of Poland and President Trump shaking hands after she shook hands with the First Lady.

Finally (for now), Nic Robertson, CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor, peddled the verifiably false claim that Angela Merkel intentionally chose Hamburg, Germany as the location for the G20 summit for the purpose of exposing President Trump to protesters. Unfortunately for Robertson, the location for the G20 summit was selected in June 2016 (five months before the Presidential election).

Individually, these lapses in judgment could be explained away as a mere lack of editorial oversight. But taken together, they reveal a disturbing pattern that is indicative of a corporate culture more akin to a political party rather than a news organization. Indeed, the fact that every aspect of CNN’s current crisis is connected to its coverage of President Trump is likely no coincidence. And so the network that has desperately sought to connect President Trump to President Nixon in every conceivable way seems to have overlooked President Nixon’s most important lesson, which he outlined in his farewell address to the White House staff the day he resigned:

[A]lways remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.

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