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The DC press corps, desperate to sink Trump, post a new story about Russian election meddling daily. Most of these stories share the common threads of unnamed sources, assumption of bad faith, and wild conjecture. A particularly odious example was a CNN piece published late last week claiming that Senate investigators were looking into Trump backer Anthony Scaramucci’s connections to a Russian investment fund. The allegation was made on the word of a single unnamed source.
Friday night the story vanished from CNN’s website, and some hours later, was replaced with a formal retraction notice and an apology to Scaramucci. After a busy weekend, all three journalists involved with the piece have resigned from the network: Thomas Frank, who wrote the story; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit.
The departures of Haris, Lichtblau and Frank are likely to come as a surprise to colleagues, particularly given the reputations of the three men.
Frank worked for USA Today and Newsday for three decades, pursuing investigations and covering the Iraq war as an embedded reporter, before coming to work at CNN.
He was part of an ambitious new investigative unit that was created last winter, bringing together existing teams from within the company and new hires like Lichtblau.
A veteran of The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006, Lichtblau joined CNN just three months ago.
Haris, who was named the executive editor of CNN Investigates in January, was previously the executive editor of CNNMoney.
Although CNN didn’t admit that the story necessarily wrong, they determined their editorial processes were not followed. In a tweet over the weekend, Scaramucci said, “CNN did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted. Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on.”
Though this discipline won’t end the DC press corps’ mania for Kremlin conspiracies, it’s good to see one of the most egregious examples retracted and the journalists punished. The mainstream media has gotten way over its skis on the Trump/Russia allegations and perhaps this incident will give them pause before clicking “publish.”