Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.
Last week, CNN published a story about Anthony Scaramucci, an associate of President Donald Trump, being tied to a Russian investment fund.
The claim turned out to be untrue. As a result, CNN retracted the story and apologized for not meeting the company’s editorial standards.
The story caught the attention of President Donald Trump, too. Trump called out CNN for publishing such a poorly sourced article. In fact, the article only cited one anonymous source to back up its claims.
Following the backlash, CNN imposed new guidelines that anything Russia-related has to be cleared with executive management. In addition, three journalists resigned from the publication after all the outcry.
But a report from the New York Post throws into question if CNN’s reason for retraction was more than just editorial standards. The report alleges that CNN was pressured to take severe action over the publishing of the fake story due to an impending corporate merger and the prospect of a $100 million lawsuit:
The specter of a $100 million libel suit scared CNN into retracting a poorly reported story that slimed an ally of President Trump’s — and forcing out the staffers responsible for it, The Post has learned.The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.CNN immediately caved after Scaramucci, a financier and frequent network guest, cried foul and threatened to take legal action, sources said Tuesday.Scaramucci got an unusual public apology but still hired a top Manhattan lawyer to put further pressure on CNN and “look after [his] interests in this matter,” one source said.
The report also says that CNN forced the journalists’ resignations:
Sources also said the three journalists responsible for the retracted story — reporter Tom Frank, editor Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris, who headed the CNN Investigates unit — were urged to resign.“They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately,” one source said.
CNN has yet to comment on the New York Post’s claims. The report lands in the middle of what is turning out to be a disaster of a week for the cable news network.
On Tuesday, James O’Keefe released an undercover video of CNN producer John Bonifield calling the network’s coverage of Trump-Russia scandal “bullsh*t.” In the video, Bonifield claimed that Zucker steers the network to cover the Russia allegations nonstop.
The video, which CNN has roundly downplayed, comes in the wake of the network being forced to delete, correct, or remove at least four pieces of content from its news site or social handles in the month of June.
CNN had to correct a claim by an unnamed source that former FBI Director James Comey will deny ever telling Trump he was not under investigation. In the story, originally titled “Comey expected to refute Trump,” the source’s claim was proved untrue by Comey’s written testimony.
The network has had its White House correspondent correct a report about Trump not visiting Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the hospital after being shot by a left-wing zealot and was forced to delete and correct tweets stating that only the Democratic Party was praying before the Congressional Baseball Game.
Trump branded CNN as “fake news” and “very fake news” in the early days of his presidency. The network, clearly bothered by the assertion, has strongly pushed back on the moniker.
CNN has also been forced to fire two of its well-known, on-air talent this spring. Kathy Griffin, CNN’s long-time New Year’s Eve co-host, was fired after engaging in a stunt where she beheaded Trump. Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American author and religious scholar, had his “True Believer” series canceled by the network after a tweetstorm where he called the president a “piece of sh*t.”