President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Tuesday to sound off after three employees on CNN’s new investigative unit resigned Monday over a retracted online story regarding the Senate’s Russia investigation.
"Wow, CNN had to retract big story on 'Russia,' with 3 employees forced to resign," he wrote. "What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!"
He added later: “Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!”
He continued: “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
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 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.”
– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
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