First CNN lost three key staff members after it published, and then pulled, a smear piece on a Trump associate. Then the channel suffered the ignominy of an insider betraying the motives behind its obsession with everything Russian.
This week, America's original rolling news outlet finally received some payback for its obnoxious anti-Russia hysteria. A loathsome, nasty, rotten, sleazy and sordid campaign that has frequently bordered on the racist.
Even better, thanks to the unwitting testimony of a senior producer at the network, we purportedly know the channel’s agenda. Apparently, it’s not political conviction nor the search for truth or anything remotely ethical. No, this has nothing to do with principles, righteousness or the search for the whole story. Instead, it’s about one thing: ratings. Because, in the world of commercial cable news, viewing figures ultimately convert to dollars. Meaning this delirious mania has been about one thing and one thing only: filthy lucre. And lots of it.
On Tuesday, the team at Project Veritas - a right-wing, pro-Donald Trump media observatory - published a sting video showing CNN staffer John Bonifield making a series of admissions. The producer was loose-tongued and evidently miffed at how the network’s president, Jeff Zucker, had canned his pieces to focus on Russia.
“It’s mostly bullsh*t right now (the notion of Trump-Russia collusion). Like, we don’t have any big giant proof,” Bonifield revealed to the reporter secretly filming him.
“So why is CNN constantly like, ‘Russia this, Russia that?’”
“Because it’s ratings… “our ratings are incredible right now.”
Bonifield later explains how wedded CNN has become to its “Red Scare” madness. He describes a meeting in which editors were allegedly instructed by their chief to trade global warming coverage for more Russia derangement.
“The CEO of CNN said in our internal meeting, he said, good job everybody covering the climate accords. But we’re done with it. Let’s get back to Russia." By the way, on Tuesday evening, these tapes were confirmed as legitimate by his employer.
With this in mind, let’s be clear about CNN. We are referring to a network which employs a full-time 'Russia expert' who has, by all accounts, never been to Russia. Not only that, he can't speak the language. But he's brought on air, all the time, pontificating upon a subject he simply doesn't understand, at the expense of bona fide scholars who have devoted years, if not decades, to getting a handle on the issue.
That’s because CNN likes it this way. You see, the channel has no interest in covering Russia fairly. So, having a one-note show pony on hand to trot out the party line is sufficient, despite its ostensible fealty to fairness. Of course, this flies in the face of its published mission statement to “consider a range of varying perspectives and treat controversial subjects, as well as all other subjects, with impartiality.” Because when it comes to this country, there are only two viewpoints permitted. Either Russia is villainous, or Russia is wicked. And forget about hearing from mister in-between - because he's absent from the game.
And this is why someone like the ridiculous Louise Mensch can get a slot on CNN, but countless genuine Russia hands will never grace its studios. It also explains how the aforementioned 'expert,' Michael Weiss, can dupe millions of viewers into believing he has authentic sources in a country he’s seemingly never even visited. One where suspicion of strangers is practically a national sport.
Weiss is employed by the company’s “investigation unit.” His appointment was announced in mid-April by Lex Haris, its then executive editor, who boasted how “Michael will be 100% CNN.” As of now, Haris himself is 0% CNN, because he’s fallen on his sword after the channel’s first calamity of the past week. Thus, the guy who hired a non-Russian speaker, who it appears has never set foot in Moscow, as a Russia specialist, has gotten the bullet over a single-source Russia-focused hit piece. Which is the kind of relatively instant karma which would make John Lennon gleeful.
On Thursday last, the network’s website posted a story about a supposed investigation into a meeting between a Trump associate and the head of a Russian investment fund. While in normal circumstances, there shouldn't be anything particularly wrong with such an exchange, the toxic atmosphere CNN has helped engender makes many of these encounters taboo.
The piece was an attempted defamation of Anthony Scaramucci, a member of the US president’s transition team. By Friday night, it was pulled. Resignations followed. Those of the withdrawn yarn’s author, Thomas Frank, plus Eric Lichtblau, an assistant managing editor in CNN’s Washington bureau, and Haris.
Nevertheless, it feels like CNN only backtracked this time because a prominent American, with powerful friends, was slighted. Because, on air, the Russia sh*tshow continues. With never-ending vitriol directed at both the country and Trump and plenty of innuendo about ties between the two subjects, for which no actual evidence of collusion has ever been presented.
While three of the crew have exited the stage, plenty of other jokers continue to peacock, with their feathers unruffled. The slurs, insinuations, and aspersions are unabated. “Russia, Russia, Russia,” might be the mantra but the only sound editors seem to hear is Ka-ching! As the coffers continue to runneth over in the present tense. Which is all CNN seems to care about, and to hell with the long-term damage to the brand.
Something confirmed by CNN's press office. Which informed Trump on Tuesday: "CNN just posted it's most-watched second quarter in history. Those are the facts." A wonderful mixture of appalling grammar (it's?) and chutzpah, which also lets the truth slip. Because CNN only cares about one thing. Numbers. And ethics, decency, integrity and the truth can go take a hike.
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia.
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