White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders slammed CNN in a recent exchange with reporters at the White House, where she described the fake news controversy as a “disgrace to all of media” and encouraged Americans to review a recent undercover video that sheds light on the station’s motivations.
CNN canned three journalists this week after the station was forced to retract a fake news story about “a Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials” that relied on a single anonymous source. An internal CNN investigation allegedly found that the company’s regular editorial process was not followed, according to CNN Money.
Shortly after, investigative journalist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas released video of CNN producer John Bonifield admitting that the Russian collusion narrative is “mostly bullshit right now” and that CNN producers “haven’t seen any good enough evidence to show that the President committed a crime.”
The O’Keefe video also recorded Bonifeld describing how CNN CEO Jeff Zucker pressured editors to focus on the Russian conspiracy story.
Sanders spoke to both the fake news controversy and the undercover video in a meeting with reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
A reporter asked Sanders why Trump continues to attack CNN despite the station’s move to fire those responsible for the fake news story. After the CNN debacle came to light, Trump tweeted: “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
“ … I think it’s the constant barrage of the fake news directed at this president, probably, that has garnered a lot of his frustration,” Sanders said. “You point to that report. There are multiple other instances where that outlet you referenced has been repeatedly wrong and had to point that out or be corrected.
“There’s a video circulating now, whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know. But I would encourage everybody in this room and, frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it,” Sanders said.
“I think if it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think that we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America.”
In the Project Veritas video, Bonifeld confirms that the driving factor at CNN is ratings, not covering the facts.
“It’s a business, people like the media has an ethical phsssss … All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school you’re just like, that’s adorable,” he said. “That’s adorable. This is a business.”
Sanders told reporters the quest for ratings over the truth is “even more scary.”
“I think if that’s the place certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that’s coming directly from the top, I think that’s even more scary, and certainly more disgraceful,” she said. “I hope that’s not the direction we’re headed. I hope that outlets that have continued to use either unnamed sources, sometimes stories with no sources at all – we’ve been going on this Russia-Trump hoax for the better part of a year now with no evidence of anything.”
Sanders said the fake news comes at the expense of real news, and greatly overshadows actual accomplishments by the Trump administration that Americans should be proud of.
“Things like the success at the VA barely get covered – they may get covered for an hour at a time – but this (Russia-Trump) story gets covered day in and day out and I think America is frankly looking for something better, they’re looking for something more, and I think they deserve something better from our news media,” she said.
Sanders also talked about the apparent double standard between for the White House and the media.
“We make the slightest mistake, the slightest word is off, it is just an absolute tirade from a lot of people in this room, but news outlets get to go on day after day to cite unnamed sources, use stories without sources …,” she said.
Playboy columnist and White House reporter Brian Karem attempted to defend reporters at the press conference, though Sanders quickly set him straight.
“You are inflaming everybody right here and right now with those words. This administration done that as well. Why in the name of heavens … any one of us, right, are replaceable. And any one of us, if we don’t get it right, the audience has opportunity to turn the channel, or not read us,” Karem said.
“You have been elected to serve for four years at least, there is not option other than that. We’re here to ask you questions. You’re here to provide the answers. And what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, ‘See, once again, the president is right and everyone else out here is fake media.’ And everyone in this room is only trying to do their job,” he said.
“I disagree completely,” Sanders shot back. “First of all, I think if anything has been inflamed it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media. And I think it’s outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.”