CNN’s promotion of a “single mother” who actually wasn’t the parent of three children fearing eviction this month was the latest example of a network guest peddling a false or questionable narrative on its airwaves.
CNN has been burned numerous times in recent years by its guests.
Most recently, CNN helped raise $230,000 for Dasha Kelly, a “single mother” of three children who was allegedly fearing eviction after the end of the federal eviction moratorium. After promoting a GoFundMe link for the mother, the network also invited her back to appear with Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., after President Biden announced a new moratorium on evictions despite potential constitutional conflicts.
However, Kelly admitted that she was not actually the mother of the three children, but rather was close to them as the girlfriend of their father. CNN later corrected the story, but only after hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised.
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Another recent example included CNN spotlighting Tennessee’s former vaccine manager Dr. Michelle Fiscus. Fiscus alleged in July that she received a muzzle in the mail as a threat, claiming that Republicans sent it to stop her criticisms of Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
“They obviously didn’t know me because they sent me a size three which is for beagles and I’m obviously a pit bull, which requires a size six,” Fiscus said to CNN.
However, a probe soon found that the muzzle was paid for by Fiscus’ own credit card, undermining her claim that it was sent as a threat. However, she continues to deny she sent the muzzle to herself, and an investigation is ongoing into the strange saga.
In another COVID-related scandal, CNN heavily promoted fired Florida health official Rebekah Jones after she claimed that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was lying about his state’s COVID-19 statistics. From May 2020 to December 2020, Jones made at least nine on-air appearances on CNN, including five with Chris Cuomo.
In May 2020, Jones claimed she had been fired for refusing to alter data regarding Florida’s COVID response. However, a devastating National Review piece revealed in May 2021 that she “did not have the ability to edit the raw data” in Florida’s COVID database and outlined a history of false statements and abusive behavior.
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There was also Miles Taylor, the ex-Trump administration official and the “Anonymous” author of a New York Times op-ed and later a book slamming former President Donald Trump as unfit for office. There was much speculation that “Anonymous” was a top Trumpworld figure in the vein of Kellyanne Conway or even Vice President Mike Pence, but it turned out to be the Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security.
Taylor, by then an outspoken anti-Republican pundit, lied on CNN when asked point-blank by Anderson Cooper if he was “Anonymous” in August 2019, saying “I’m not.” CNN hired him as a contributor a month later, and he admitted in October he actually was “Anonymous.” Despite his admitting to lying on the air, he was retained by CNN as a contributor until the end of 2020.
It’s not just guests who have put CNN in a bad spot. From local stories to national celebrities, CNN has repeatedly pushed stories whose narratives on the surface didn’t hold up. In many cases, it’s led to some humiliating results.
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Most notably, CNN was one of many media outlets that promoted “Empire” actor Jussie Smollet’s claim he was assaulted by White Trump supporters in Chicago in 2019. Weeks after the “attack,” Van Jones compared the Black actor to Jackie Robinson. Don Lemon also considered him a friend who reached out to him shortly after the alleged attack.
After an investigation, police soon discovered that Smollett likely orchestrated the supposed hate crime against himself, hiring two Nigerian brothers to “assault” him and drive up public sympathy. Nevertheless, Lemon implied the events surrounding Smollett were “not his fault.”
A CNN opinion piece also echoed his words one month later.
“He lost because — not his fault. Maybe people were — I don’t know what they were saying to him, maybe because of his representatives. Who knows? But it was handled poorly,” Lemon said in 2019.
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In another national news story, CNN catapulted the Covington Catholic High School students into the spotlight by promoting the video that allegedly featured the Kentucky teen boys harassing a Native American man. CNN also interviewed the man, Nathan Phillips, to share his version of the events. The interview also pushed the idea that Phillips “just sort of decided to try and stop this or at least have an impact on it, calm the waters” of the unruly teenagers.
When full footage showed that Phillips confronted the boys first, the story quickly collapsed. CNN was also forced to pay a large settlement to Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann for a lawsuit seeking damages for “emotional distress Nicholas and his family suffered” from its reporting.
In some cases, CNN doubled down on a narrative in spite of a story blowing up. In 2017, CNN reported on racist slurs being sent on the message boards of five Black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. After further investigation, it was soon discovered that a Black cadet had sent the messages.
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Regardless, CNN published an opinion piece titled “Air Force Academy hoax doesn’t change overall picture on hate crimes.” The author, Frida Ghitis, insisted the attitude following the hoax “is true no matter what caused the general to call an all-hands meeting that day at the Air Force Academy.”