From bombshell to dud: CNN botches report on Trump, WikiLeaks
President Donald Trump roasted CNN Friday evening during a “Merry Christmas” rally in Pensacola, Florida, for the false report the network corrected earlier in the day.
“CNN apologized a little while ago,” Trump said, adding that CNN “should’ve been apologizing for the last two years.”
CNN’s Friday report initially said Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and others from his 2016 campaign team had received an email on September 4, 2016, with access to Hillary Clinton emails obtained by WikiLeaks. The whistleblower site published those documents online on September 13, so the nine-day advance would seem like quite the scandal. CNN has purported WikiLeaks to be an arm of the Kremlin, so finally, was there some allusion to collusion? Not quite, despite the fact that CNN cited multiple unnamed sources for the September 4 date.
Hours later, CNN corrected the findings only after the Washington Post reported that the email was actually sent on September 14, a day after WikiLeaks published the Clinton emails for the whole world to see. CNN then claimed it obtained a copy of the email, confirming the Post’s reporting. A retraction, rather than a correction, was actually called for, many CNN critics on social media said.
The person who sent the message to Trump and his staffers was someone in the email exchange named Michael J. Erickson. CNN reported that congressional investigators are not certain who Erickson is. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tweeted the email was not sent by his organization.
CNN's Brian Stelter took to Twitter to relay a message about the reporters of the story after an unnamed CNN spokeswoman said there “will not be disciplinary action in this case because, unlike with Brian Ross/ABC, @MKRaju followed the editorial standards process. Multiple sources provided him with incorrect info.”
The fake news, nevertheless, had already made its way around the country, helped on its merry way by members of Congress. Representative Ted Lieu (D-California) tweeted that Trump Jr. broke the law when he received the email mentioned in the CNN report.
Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald took to Twitter after Lieu’s tweet, and called for a complete retraction of the CNN story, as a high volume of traffic already saw Lieu's deleted tweet.
It wasn’t just CNN that carried the story, however. MSNBC's Ken Dilanian was also reporting on the email sent to Team Trump, citing two unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the matter. Greenwald questioned the legitimacy of the sources that provided Dilanian with his information.
“It's plausible that one person accidentally misread a date on an email. It's completely implausible that ‘multiple sources’ – talking both to CNN and MSNBC – all accidentally misread the same date in the same way toward the same end,” Greenwald tweeted.
CBS News also reported the incorrect date of the email as being September 4, instead of the real date of the email sent on September 14, and again, unnamed sources were cited.
Investigative reporter Mike Cernovich later lampooned CBS News for not completely retracting the story and said: “Hahahahahahaha! This story completely flipped and is dead. They got a date wrong, and the date of the email was the basis for the story. Rather than correct or retract it, they pretend it’s a developing story.”
After the fallout from the botched report, Trump Jr. criticized CNN for not fully retracting the story, as opposed to correcting it, as they did Friday.
“What are the odds that @cnn has the decency to make a full retraction??? You know, a real one, not hidden on their website or with a 3am tweet. I’m guessing slim to none.”
Earlier this month, ABC News' investigative reporter Brian Ross reported that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump ordered Lieutenant General Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. The information was later found to be incorrect.