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Late Monday night, the White House officially announced they believed that a possible chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad was imminent. The Congressional Budget Office released its score on the Senate healthcare bill, revealing it would add tens of millions of people to the ranks of the uninsured. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, appears to be enamored with the fact that CNN had to retract a major scoop on his potential ties to Russia.
Over the weekend, the network published a story claiming that Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci had ties to a Russian investment fund and that a Senate committee was investigating him as a possible go-between for Trump and Moscow.
Almost immediately after Scaramucci challenged the story, which was based on a single anonymous source, CNN retracted the story. The news outlet issued an apology to Scaramucci, who accepted it. Three employees involved in the publication resigned. The news apparently made its way to the president on Tuesday, where it fueled his belief that CNN has been out to get him.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
Trump also retweeted a graphic by a guy who films Grand Theft Auto tutorials calling CNN ‘Fake News Network,’ a play on Trump’s favorite dig at the media.
Trump also fired off two retweets of Fox & Friends stories calling the Russia accusations bunk.
Mark Levin: The collusion is among the Democrats https://t.co/Qrca7r01BI— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) June 27, 2017
Hannity: Russia allegations 'boomeranging back' on Democrats https://t.co/lvdrpxpcp9— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) June 27, 2017
The retraction by CNN has given major fuel those on the right who believe the network has an agenda against Trump. While a retraction—embarassing as it is—should show that the network holds itself to a certain editorial standard, it was not treated in that fashion this morning online, where it was instead seen as proof positive that the network would do whatever it could do to take down Trump.
Amid all of this, conservative raconteur James O’Keefe—who has faced his own accusations of producing false news—published an exclusive video filmed on CNN property, of producer John Bonifield, who was recorded by an employee of O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. In the video, Bonifield was asked why CNN was obsessed with the Russia story, and he said “ratings.”
Bonifield is a producer on CNN Health, working with their medical team. But it’s the kickoff to a campaign by the alt-right they are calling “American Pravda” or “American Truth,” which they claim will ultimately expose CNN and other networks. They are certain these two factors—the retraction and the admission from a CNN Health producer that Russia stories produce big ratings—is unassailable proof the media is colluding against Trump.
In the extended version of the video, Bonifield says the Russia story “could be bullshit,” and that he thinks the president is right to call it a “witch hunt.” He added that CNN boss Jeff Zucker said he wanted the staff to stay on Russia after finishing their work with the Paris Climate Agreement.
The reaction from the right was gotcha glee. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., enthusiastically led the charge.
He has very good instincts about these kind of things. https://t.co/z2WfeJIObb— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 27, 2017
Trump, for his part, contradicted the assertion that CNN’s ratings were up, and said that the network would be forced to make major changes.
Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
He went on to challenge every other network and two top news outlets, accusing them of also being “fake news.”
Update 12:34am CT, June 27: According to CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, the network notes that John Bonifield is not involved in politics coverage, and they stand by his right to express displeasure with their coverage.
David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]