CNN, the network that has fared the absolute worst all year in terms of credibility problems, has had its own very fake news scandal reignited right before the end of the year by two of the worst perpetrators of fake news at CNN.
Lead Anchor Jake Tapper falsely alleged on Wednesday morning that Paul Nehlen is a “Breitbart favorite,” despite the fact that Breitbart News has cut all ties with Nehlen and removed his contributor page from the website after the challenger of House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District made a series of anti-Semitic and pro-white supremacist comments. These developments fit a larger pattern of very fake news from CNN after CNN spiked a fake story it had planned to print about Breitbart News last week and comes in a year where the network has seen top talent forced to resign amid getting caught printing inaccurate and unverified information. All of this comes as another CNN writer, Oliver Darcy, printed demonstrably inaccurate allegations against Breitbart News on Wednesday that were made with a reckless disregard for the truth — false statements that CNN has removed from an article after publication without notifying its readers of the fact it made an edit to the piece post-publication.
A series of actions by CNN operatives over the past week plus — culminating in a demonstrably false tweet about Breitbart News on Wednesday morning from Jake Tapper — have thrown the network into turmoil turning into the new year, rejuvenating a scandal that CNN had hoped was in its rear-view mirror. These actions by CNN’s various agents, the most prominent of which is Tapper but others network-wide have proven to be involved, cap off a horrendous year for CNN.
Tapper has previously been caught inflating his own background. This summer, as Breitbart News exposed, Tapper inflated his credentials with working class voters in Pennsylvania, acting as though he comes from a middle class background when he does not. As Breitbart News reported back then, Tapper claimed he came from the middle class — but he actually went to an elite expensive private high school and then was a legacy admission into Ivy League school Dartmouth. Tapper’s father went to Dartmouth before he did.
The beleaguered CNN anchor has had historic troubles in the rankings. While CNN brags about how he regularly outpaces MSNBC, Tapper has come under fire for bad ratings from ex-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
But that has not alleviated the concerns about Tapper inside CNN, including with his quick-on-the-trigger Twitter account where he sometimes fires too fast and loose for the facts. Now, Tapper has been caught printing demonstrably false allegations against Breitbart News as part of a larger effort by CNN to engage in attacks on Breitbart News and its Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon. This latest example finds Tapper abandoning his appearance of neutrality and objectivity for an outright smear that is baseless in fact, something that seriously threatens the core of CNN’s business model at a time when the network cannot afford mistakes.
What’s more, another agent of CNN — a reporter who covers media for its online outlet — has now been caught printing a demonstrably inaccurate claim about Breitbart News and Bannon, something that was easily proved to be false and demonstrates that the network has operatives working with a reckless disregard for the truth.
It all started when Oliver Darcy, a CNN media reporter, last Friday reached out to Breitbart News saying that he had two sources telling him that Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and President Donald Trump’s successful general election campaign CEO, was somehow plotting his own presidential campaign in 2020 and that this reporter was telling people he was. The claim is demonstrably false and completely untrue — but in pushing the very fake news, Darcy inadvertently reopened a can of worms CNN had hoped it would close, re-igniting the network’s lack of transparency regarding the resignations of three senior journalists this past summer over very fake news the network printed. This summer, CNN printed a blatantly false story about the Russia scandal that it was forced to then retract in full, and the three journalists responsible for it — a Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, and the head of CNN’s investigative unit — were forced to resign in disgrace from the network.
This all comes as Tapper, a lead anchor at the network, printed what were false allegations against Breitbart News on Wednesday morning via his Twitter account. Tapper tweeted that Paul Nehlen, a 2016 and 2018 candidate for Congress in the GOP primary against House Speaker Paul Ryan, is a “Breitbart favorite” while bashing Nehlen — rightfully so — for his public anti-Semitism. Nehlen, who ran against Ryan last cycle on the economic nationalist agenda of renegotiating trade deals, has recently publicly come out making several white supremacist comments — something he had not done before. Nehlen has announced his plans to run against Ryan again this cycle, and while Breitbart News did cover his race in depth in 2016 — something that was highlighted by everyone from now President Donald Trump via Twitter to CNN and many others — this news outlet has cut all ties with Nehlen after he made a number of clearly anti-Semitic and white nationalist comments via his Twitter account this past couple weeks. Breitbart News pulled down his contributor page earlier this week, and allies of Bannon have made clear publicly for more than a week that Bannon does not support Nehlen and cut ties as soon as he found out about these comments.
CNN has since activated Darcy in an effort to cover up Tapper’s activity and fix the mistakes that his co-worker has made — a transparent bid to fix the serious mistake that one of CNN’s lead on-air personalities made and something that sets up yet another round of grueling scandal for CNN to deal with heading into the new year, even as the network had hoped it would leave its problems behind in 2017. A piece Darcy published on Wednesday, however, contained demonstrably false allegations against Breitbart News that CNN — after Breitbart News contacted its corporate communications leadership — stealthily removed from the article without notifying readers. The since-removed false allegations were published with a reckless disregard for the truth.
Darcy has brought the very fake news scandal – for which CNN has resisted all efforts for transparency, infuriating senior staff, including several high-profile on-air network talents – back to the forefront with his sloppy attacks on Breitbart News, forcing CNN executives to again deal with a serious credibility crisis storm they thought they had previously weathered.
Here’s how it all went down, from the beginning.
Darcy, last Friday, sent a press request to Breitbart News about the claims that Bannon was somehow plotting a presidential campaign. The request came from Darcy after a story in Vanity Fair magazine from Gabe Sherman claimed that Bannon was plotting a presidential campaign in 2020.
“‘I HAVE POWER’: IS STEVE BANNON RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT?” was the headline on Vanity Fair’s article.
“In October, Bannon called an adviser and said he would consider running for president if Trump doesn’t run for re-election in 2020. Which Bannon has told people is a realistic possibility,” Sherman wrote in the piece, citing anonymous sources.
But that, per sources close to Bannon who spoke to Newsweek right after the Vanity Fair piece, is not true.
“STEVE BANNON IS NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 2020, ASSOCIATES OF TRUMP’S FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST SAY,” Newsweek’s headline from Alex Nazaryan read.
The story quoted several people with actual intimate knowledge of Bannon’s plans, including an official spokesperson who denied the inaccurate report: “#FakeNews. Steve is 100% not running for President. He is not a politician.”
“NO,” a second Bannon associate told Nazaryan. “Steve 100% not running for President.”
A third Bannon ally said: “Chalk this up to fake news. Steve has repeatedly and very publicly said he believes that President Trump will win reelection in 2020 with even more votes than when he defeated Crooked Hillary Clinton in a landslide last year – in fact, Steve has said Trump will get more than 400 electoral votes.”
What Bannon is really doing, this source said, is “building and cultivating a movement designed to help President Trump enact his economic nationalist agenda.”
Publicly, Bannon has repeatedly undercut this narrative. In fact, at the Values Voter Summit in October, Bannon predicted that, not only will Trump run again for president in 2020 but, because of his massive success as president with economic nationalism, he will win with more than 400 electoral votes.
“President Trump’s not only going to finish this term, he’s going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020,” Bannon said in his October address to the Values Voter Summit.
Interestingly, on Thursday of last week, even Darcy himself tweeted a statement from a Bannon spokesperson shooting down the very fake news.
So when Darcy reached out to Breitbart News about the very fake news that had already been debunked, he knew it was very fake news by the fact that he tweeted about it himself on Thursday. This is the content of the email Darcy asked Breitbart News to respond to: “Matthew Boyle told people in recent weeks that Bannon was considering a future run for the Oval Office, per two people familiar with his comments.”
Since Darcy was seeking comment on something that he knew did not happen, we asked Darcy if he would agree to run a statement from me in full. He agreed, and so we sent him a statement that made it very clear that not only was the lie he was pushing more very fake news but that he would — if CNN has any ounce of belief in journalistic integrity — find himself in league with his former colleagues who were forced to resign earlier this year after they were caught printing similarly fake news.
“Just like when Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau, and Lex Harris were forced to resign from CNN after getting caught this year printing demonstrably untrue allegations, this is 100 percent very fake news from CNN,” I told Darcy. “If the network prints this inaccurate allegation and does not hold Oliver Darcy accountable for printing this fake news, it is proving again it does not believe in journalistic integrity or accuracy.”
What is interesting here is that, originally, Darcy had insisted to us that he had this story locked down — even though it was demonstrably very fake news — and was absolutely going to run it on Friday. But late Friday after he received our statement demonstrating it was very fake news, he changed his tune and was unclear about when or if it would run at all. As of press time here at Breitbart News nearly a full week later, Darcy has not run the piece — and sources inside CNN tell Breitbart News that there are serious deliberations among senior management about what they now understand to be a mistake, which is allowing Darcy to report things like this without oversight from senior management on Breitbart News. It appears at this time that Darcy’s plans were foiled, and the network’s leadership — per CNN sources — have spiked his very fake news plans.
CNN spokeswomen Lauren Pratapas and Emily Kuhn have not replied to in depth detailed requests for comment on why the network — with Oliver Darcy acting on its behalf — is again refusing transparency, openness, or accountability with regard to the forced resignations of Lichtblau, Frank, and Haris. They also refuse to answer whether Darcy will be held accountable for his actions — a clearly demonstrated effort to print something he knew to be false — in the same way Lichtblau, Frank, and Haris were — or if CNN is done altogether with journalistic integrity. They also are refusing as of this time to make network president Jeff Zucker available for comment on CNN’s practices and how it handles avoiding the printing of very fake news like the inaccuracies that Lichtblau, Frank, and Haris resigned over and the ones that Darcy was attempting to print on Friday.
The network’s lack of transparency on this entire debacle of what started with Frank, Lichtblau, and Haris and has now transcended to Darcy’s actions — a conscious decision by someone acting as an agent of CNN to re-ignite the scandal — among other serious mistakes network-wide, have earned CNN a public drubbing from all corners.
“From the beginning, CNN was reluctant to say what went wrong,” the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi wrote about the Russia story weeks later, something that remains true to this day.
“On Thursday, June 22, it published an article on its website, reporting that a Senate committee was investigating alleged ties between a Russian-government investment fund and people associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” Farhi wrote, continuing:
The article said that federal investigators were looking into a January meeting between then-White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci and the fund’s director, a Russian national named Kirill Dmitriev. The story was based on information from an anonymous source. By late the next day, its reporting under fire, CNN took some extraordinary steps: It retracted the story and apologized to Scaramucci. In the article’s place, a brief editor’s note said that the story ‘did not meet CNN’s editorial standards’ and had been removed. It didn’t say that the story was wrong. On June 26, a Monday, the news organization did something even more remarkable: It asked for and accepted the resignations of the three journalists — one a Pulitzer Prize winner, another a Pulitzer finalist — who were principally responsible for reporting and editing the article. And then it said little else, declining to explain what had happened.
The network’s stunning lack of transparency has earned it serious rebukes from even the president of the United States, who has a penchant for bashing fake news but now, after this scandal has rocked CNN all year, has something to grip onto to back up his point. For an organization that claims it supports the truth, accuracy, honesty, and journalistic integrity — and continually beats up on Donald Trump with those claims — it has been surprisingly and shockingly silent about its own messy house when it comes to those very things.
But the CNN agents’ actions did not end there. After getting caught last week and abandoning prior plans to falsely attack Breitbart News, Tapper falsely attacked Breitbart News on Wednesday morning. After Nehlen tweeted that he was reading a book that blames Jews for anti-Semitism — something that is obviously inaccurate and entirely unacceptable — Tapper shot back with a criticism of Nehlen via Twitter. But in his criticism of Nehlen, Tapper falsely attacked Breitbart News by claiming Nehlen was a “Breitbart favorite.”
Arthur Schwartz, an ally of Bannon’s and Breitbart News, tweeted back at Tapper that his comments were a “lie,” something Tapper quote-tweeted saying simply: “Bannon ally says Bannon has cut ties with Nehlen.”
But that is not all. A high-ranking editor at CNN then, per a senior official with the network, assigned Darcy to follow back up with Breitbart News about this whole debacle with Nehlen, and he sent a comment request to Breitbart News with a tweet from Joel Pollak — a senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News — in which he again confirmed that Breitbart News has cut ties with Nehlen. Darcy asked if Pollak’s tweet is the “official Breitbart editorial position,” as if Pollak’s comments and Breitbart News pulling down Nehlen’s contributor page, as well as all the other statements made weeks ago, were not enough to confirm what the news organization believes. When Darcy was informed — yet again — that Bannon and Breitbart News have cut ties with Nehlen, and that Bannon considers Nehlen “dead” to him, Darcy still did not consider that enough and kept pushing for more with further emails for comment to others at Breitbart News.
On Wednesday afternoon, Darcy published a piece online under this headline: “Bannon adviser: Ryan challenger Paul Nehlen is ‘dead to us’ after inflammatory tweets.”
The story contained no new information –e verything was previously public weeks ago — but it did contain a demonstrably false line that could have been avoided had Darcy done basic journalism and fact-checking. “But in the last 24 hours, Breitbart and Bannon, a former White House chief strategist, have moved to distance themselves from him,” Darcy wrote on Wednesday about Nehlen’s relationship with Breitbart News.
That statement is provably false. In fact, Schwartz — the Bannon adviser whose comments CNN based its entire Darcy story on Wednesday — had previously tweeted back on Dec. 19 that Bannon was done with Nehlen:
After CNN’s corporate communications team of Kuhn and Pratapas were contacted about Darcy’s reckless disregard for the truth in printing this inaccurate claim that Breitbart News and Bannon had distanced themselves from Nehlen just “in the last 24 hours,” the network removed the false statement from Darcy’s article. That section now reads: “But Breitbart and Bannon, a former White House chief strategist, have recently moved to distance themselves from him.”
More than an hour after the original publication of the article — and more than an hour after important alterations to remove this inaccurate information were made — CNN finally included a partially inaccurate “update” at the end of the piece.
“Update: This article has been updated to reflect information provided by Schwartz after it was published,” the CNN “update” reads.
But the “update” does not note that inaccurate information was pulled out of the article and that significant alterations were made. It also does not note that the “information provided by Schwartz” that forced the correction and alteration after publication was public, on Twitter, since Dec. 19. It similarly does not include the fact that the “update” came after Kuhn and Pratapas were informed of the fact that CNN and Darcy published inaccurate information with a reckless disregard for the truth — public statements available on Twitter would have debunked it. Kuhn and Pratapas have not replied to another request for comment late Wednesday when asked why this “update” is incomplete in all of those and other regards — and have not agreed to be transparent about a forthcoming investigation into CNN’s conduct on this matter. The fact that the network is covering this up, combined with everything else he and Tapper and others have done in recent weeks, severely threatens the network’s ability to move forward into 2018 while leaving its setbacks and mistakes behind in 2017.