CNN Under Fire Over Statements By Producer Calling Collusion Coverage “Bulls**t” and Retraction of Russian Investigation Story [UPDATED]

I recently ran a column on my concern over the coverage of the Russian investigation and underling legal issues.  While I supported the appointment of the Special Counsel and the investigation into possible obstruction of justice after the firing of James Comey, I have objected to what I see as biased and at times unhinged legal coverage of the underlying allegations.  There has obviously been such bias on both sides as people turn to news sources that offer an echo chamber for their political views.  This week, however, CNN has been under close scrutiny after it retracted a major story on the Russian investigation and three of its top journalists were let go, including respected Pulitzer prize winner Eric Lichtblau.    If that were not bad enough, a conservative filmmaker posted a videotape of CNN Producer John Bonifield talking freely about how the collusion story is nothing by “bulls**t” and how CNN was pushing the story purely for the “ratings.” [UPDATE: O’Keefe has released a new video of CNN host Van Jones saying that the Russian story is a “nothing burger.”]

Conservative Project Veritas has released a video from a hidden camera of CNN Producer John Bonifield who proceeded to dismiss the collusion story as “mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any giant proof.” He then seems to confirm precisely what critics has been alleging in saying that “it’s a business” and “Trump  is good for business right now.”  He further is shown dismissing the ethical concerns: “Its a business . . . all the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school you’re just like, that’s adorable. That’s adorable.  This is business.”   H further said that CNN President Jeff Zucker told them to get off subjects like global change in favor of hammering Trump.  He even says that Trump is “probably right” in calling it a witch hunt.

CNN has dismissed the videotape as merely an example of the difference of opinion among its staff even though this producer in the investigative unit is accusing CNN of knowingly exaggerating the evidence for pure rating.

Here is the videotape:


The controversy over the videotape occurred in the same week that three CNN employees resigned over a retracted story linking President Trump to Russia.  CNN investigative reporter Thomas Frank published a story involving an investigation into a Russian investment fund with possible ties to several Trump associates.  The story involved Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and an internal investigation found that “some standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.”

I have long respected Lichtblau and it was a high price to pay as he, Frank, and Lex Harris resigned under a cloud.  CNN did the right thing in ordering the investigation and the removal of the three journalists was a demonstration of its commitment to the ethical principles raised by the story.  Nevertheless, President Trump went on twitter to taunt CNN and denounce its staff.  

On Tuesday, he tweeted  “Wow, CNN had to retract big story on ‘Russia,’ with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!” He later added “Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!”  He then stated further  “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”

I found the tweets to be again over the top and unfair in light of the action taken by CNN.  Lichtblau has spent his career as one of the best journalists in the world and was just effectively terminated.

Nevertheless, these stories do raise serious questions over the bias in coverage and the economic incentives to not only pursue the collusion stories but to exaggerate the level of the evidence or the underlying law material to those allegations.



61 thoughts on “CNN Under Fire Over Statements By Producer Calling Collusion Coverage “Bulls**t” and Retraction of Russian Investigation Story [UPDATED]”

  1. It really is true that there is fraud in politics, and the election.

    There was fraud when the DNC conspired against Bernie Sanders, when the media refused to ask HRC tough questions about her repeated lies, mishandling of classified information, selling our Uranium to Russia in exchange for personal gain, and her attempts to avoid a subpoena by using her own server and wiping it clean (no, not with a cloth.) There was fraud when Donna Brazile leaked questions ahead of a debate to HRC. And there is fraud in the biased media coverage that continues the meme that all non Liberals are evil racists. Heck, a lot of naive people actually, sincerely believed that Trump, the first sitting President with a Jewish First Family, was secretly anti semitic and was going to send out the death vans. There actually was fear of literal death vans going around social media. (Strange, considering it’s Liberals who are increasingly anti-semitic and in bed with Hamas.) It is true that there is a faction that has been weighting the scales, but it’s demonstrably been the DNC. And it’s true that there was a faction that refused to accept the outcome of the election. Although that was predicted to be Trump supporters, again, it turned out to be Liberals.

    And that’s bad for us.

    I am so inexpressibly tired of each and every story, show, and article by the media being treated like an op-ed. They need to straighten out the news. Save the opinion for the editorial pieces, and everything else should be unbiased, straight news.

  2. An associate of mine who visits persons in their residences for their profession informed me they see a difference between those who have CNN playing on TV and those with FOX News. Anecdotally, nearly all the CNN viewers want to talk politics and many insist on knowing what others’ political leanings are. (a topic best avoided). The FOX viewers are an inverse and talk mostly about the business at hand or other aspects of their life. They also seem to be more relaxed.

    One of the most telling stories was a CNN viewer who insisted that she had to watch CNN “all the time” because she was worried what President might do.

    CNN has a good short term business model in catering to and whipping up fear and loathing in their viewership. Yet, long term they put themselves at risk. I suspect that there is such an intertwining between political leaders and CNN’s administration that even if there is decline in the short term due to CNN being caught at lying so often, they are patient enough to wait a few years and see if their enablers in the Democratic party will return to power and reward them with access and other indirect forms of remuneration.

    I feel CNN deserves to fail as a news organization but it has a large capitalization and much inertia to remain a force in world media. That is about all it has going for it presently.

    1. Fear/anger are great motivators in the short term. But then it implodes from all the negative energy.

    2. It would seem to follow that if Trump had lost the scenarios would be reversed. It has little to do with anything but frustration. I’m shocked and dismayed that you would lower yourself to this level of interpretation. Or is this snide humor. If so, Chapeau.

      1. It would seem to follow that if Trump had lost the scenarios would be reversed.

        Classic projection. And I’m neither shocked nor dismayed your level of interpretation remains as low as ever.

  3. “Lichtblau has spent his career as one of the best journalists in the world”

    one might want to reexamine many of the articles of his that the NYTimes published over the years. do a little fact-checking for once.

    maybe we have a modern day Walter Duranty on our hands

      1. I used to love reading Jayson Blair’s stories. They were imaginative, creative, inventive, demiurgic, and often contained surprises.

  4. Somehow the core issue here keeps getting missed. In the polarizing of the argument between Trump’s culpability and the free wheeling attacks by the deplorable left wing media, one is distracted from the relentless attacks on the left, Democrats, Obama, etc by the right wing and Trump supporters. One is also distracted from the pathological lying by Trump, the stupidity, the ineptitude. Perhaps Trump’s strategy is to keep everyone focused on the left wing media as they keep trying to crucify this savior of the Republic, this self made man, this phoenix who has risen from so many piles of ashes and BS. Lay it all out side by side and Trump himself is the origin of the problem, not some phony innocent target.

    1. “Jeopardy is on in 10 minutes, of course I MUST watch Jeopardy.” Rain Man

  5. “Conservative Project Veritas”

    Can the “Cold Hard Truth” have an ideological bias?

  6. “Nevertheless, these stories do raise serious questions over the bias in coverage and the economic incentives to not only pursue the collusion stories but to exaggerate the level of the evidence or the underlying law material to those allegations.”

    Tell that to Joy Ann-Reid.
    Not one peep from anyone over at MSNBC
    Now it’s all about the Health Care bill.
    I’m sure they are all praying for another distraction from their chicken little collusion-clusterfu#k.

  7. I’ve been hoping for over a year that the Cable TV Execs like Jeff Zucker (CNN), Phil Griffin (MSNBC) and Roger Ailes (ex FNC) would be flushed out into the open to discuss declining journalism standards and what it is does to polarize the nation into “multiple realities”. If these execs and their senior producers had to come out in front of the camera and have a dialog about news selection and framing, I think they would receive some helpful, if intense, feedback. It may be too late for CNN….they have allowed groupthink to overtake their mission, they are playing a very cynical, unconstructive role in national problem-solving. Their ratings stink, and they don’t seem to innovate or respond to change well.

  8. Yes, the entire “Russian Conspiracy” story is a Leftist invention and a hoax–or a “Nothing-burger.”

    However, don’t knock nothing-burgers. For breakfast, I had a nothing-burger, with a vapor side salad, washed down with an air-shake.

  9. I watch several networks. I rate Fox above CNN. Both of these two will put six or more people on the screen at once and all yak at once. Yuk.
    I watched the video above. I won’t watch CNN anymore.

    1. Wow. Sounds like the homeless guy from PA had a cloth, or something, to wipe the college computers with.

        1. It does indeed smell like the Watergate burglars. Couldn’t have Cubans do it in Burlington. They would stick out like..well like a Cuban in VT.!

    2. I am certain there is more to this than a simple burglary. Hopefully, if not thwarted by outsiders, they can lean on the alleged burglar and get him to sing.

      1. Darren:
        My guess is that our stoner/burglar here is a patsy sent in after the data was removed and told to take what he wanted then vamoose. He’ll sing but no one will believe him. I wonder what nick thinks about this scam.

        1. mespo, I think your theory is a logical one. I’m confounded by this. However, the deadly sin of greed is at the core of most crimes, and I’m not speaking of the patsy.

            1. I know. Maybe we should consult w/ Dennis Lehane or John Grisham.

  10. I found the tweets to be again over the top and unfair in light of the action taken by CNN. Lichtblau has spent his career as one of the best journalists in the world and was just effectively terminated.

    You don’t seriously believe those actions were based on their rediscovery of journalistic ethics, do you?

    1. Olly, Journalists are like attorneys, cops, politicians, etc. They take care of their own. This guy will get a promotion and atta boys from all his colleagues.

  11. The only people who bought into “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming” is Rain Man and the rest of you whacked out progressives bent on destroying the Republic.
    Remember I want to be President Corey Booker on live interview saying twice “The Russians are coming”?
    What fools!
    Just a cover for Obama and Clinton.

  12. I always felt that the Russian collusion thing was nowhere. Trump and Putin never had anything to offer each other. But Trump as a businessman, now that’s a real lead. I can see him or his team making deals for big business projects with foreign investors that were based on what he could do for them once he became president. Things only a president can offer. Now that would be impeachable!

  13. What I found most interesting is that although the reporters resigned, they softened the blow by paying them through the end of their contract. The latest is that the execs at CNN are worried about their jobs in a take-over by AT&T. Most of them will be on the street.

    1. “I found the tweets to be again over the top and unfair ….”

      When you want to grab the author of this line, give him a firm shake and instruct him to stop whining, toughen up, grow the hell up and face the truth. The tweets are “unfair” but the lying propaganda machine is …… “one of the best journalists in the world…”

      JT needs to spend a lot less time over thinking the obvious and more time grappling with reality ……….

  14. Just like Fox News and sexism, CNN will be driven by the bottom line.

    CNN has its core liberal viewers and they will dismiss any critism.

    The rest of us will continue to follow the truth.

  15. Trump’s shoddy businesses are padded by Russian billionaires who are themselves linked to Putin. That’s likely the connection and the reason for the orange moron’s continued infatuation.

    The media, the media, the media. Don’t trust any of them, including the media that criticizes the media.

    Trump’s base hated government, especially with Obama in power. Now he has to redirect that rage elsewhere, hence the media obsession.

    He propagated fake news (birtherism, etc.) for years and then melts about it in return. That’s how he operates.

    “I’m rubber and you’re glue” is his guiding principle.

    1. For some it’s RIP, and for others it’s Rot In Hell. The choice is in the bias–exactly as it is when media outlets select and cover the news.

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