In perhaps the least shocking development in CNN's retracted Russiagate story saga, the real reason CNN pulled the story and issued its unorthodox apology to Trump associate Anthony Scaramucci has come to light: the network was facing a $100 million libel suit, and at a particularly inopportune moment for CNN President Jeff Zucker.
On Tuesday, The New York Post drew back the curtain on CNN's latest "fake news" debacle — the retraction of an anonymous source-based article which resulted in the resignation of three of its more widely respected journalists — and revealed an ugly scene:
The specter of a $100 million libel suit scared CNN into retracting a poorly reported story that slimed an ally of President Trump’s — and forcing out the staffers responsible for it, The Post has learned.
The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition-team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.
CNN immediately caved after Scaramucci, a financier and frequent network guest, cried foul and threatened to take legal action, sources said Tuesday.
The Post explains that the embattled Zucker — who, according to a BuzzFeed source, was "directly involved" in the investigation of what went wrong with the botched story — was unwilling to risk the $100 million lawsuit at such a precarious time for the company and his own job:
Zucker was afraid of facing a high-profile suit from Scaramucci while the US Justice Department weighs the proposed $85.4 billion media merger.
So, the "fake news" story was retracted and Scaramucci got "an unusual public apology." But that didn't stop the Trump associate from hiring "a top Manhattan lawyer to put further pressure on CNN and 'look after [his] interests in this matter,'" according to a source.
The Post also notes that its sources confirmed what most suspected: CNN pressured the three journalists from its new investigative team to resign. “They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately,” one source told the Post.
A CNN insider described a staff that is fuming about the whole humiliating affair, fearing they have "lost the moral high ground." But Zucker continues to insist that this is actually evidence of CNN's strong journalistic standards and that the story was an anomaly, published without the network's usual top-notch editorial oversight.
Meanwhile, President Trump is having a blast online at Fake News CNN's expense.
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