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Three reporters resign from CNN after article retraction

Lars Lonnroth, Assistant news editor

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An online story posted by CNN tying a member of the Trump Campaign to a Russian investment fund has lead to three journalists in the network’s “CNN Investigates” division to resign on Monday only three days after the article was retracted by the network.

In the now-retracted June 22 article, it claimed the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was scrutinizing The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) after a January meeting between the fund’s CEO, Kirill Dmitriev, and Anthony Scaramucci, a member of the Trump Transition team, citing a single anonymous source.

In the network’s two paragraph retraction, the network said it had retracted the article because the piece “didn’t meet CNN’s editorial standard” and apologized to Scaramucci for the error, an Editor’s Note on the CNN’s website said.

“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a spokesperson for CNN said in a statement to The LION.

The reporter of the story, Thomas Frank, resigned from the organization in addition to two other editors involved in the publication of the story: Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Eric Lichtblau—who joined CNN three months ago from The New York Times—and the Executive Editor of “CNN Investigates,” Lex Haris.

“On Friday, CNN retracted a story published by me and my team. As executive editor of that Team, I have resigned,” Harris said in a statement to CNN’s Chief Media correspondent Brian Stelter. “I’ve been with CNN since 2001, and I am sure about one thing: this is an organization that prizes accuracy and fairness above all else.”

According to the CNN report, there were apparently editorial procedures in place that the reporter and editors involved in this story didn’t follow.

During a staff meeting Monday with members of the investigative unit, the staffers were told that the facts of the story may not be incorrect, but the article was not at a point where it was publishable, CNN reported.

Despite that, a spokesperson for RDIF alleged in Russian state-media that the story had claimed incorrectly the fund was an entity of the Russian-owned Vnesheconombank bank which is currently under sanctions.

“CNN’s [original] report contained factual inaccuracies which we have pointed out to the journalists concerned and expect to be corrected,” the spokesperson for the fund told Russian-controlled Sputnik News, noting that the fund was not sanctioned by the U.S.

Scaramucci posted on Twitter that he had “done nothing wrong” when the article first came out, and a report from Politico indicated that he contacted CNN and suggested that if the story wasn’t taken down there would be a “possibility of a lawsuit,” citing a person familiar with the matter.

After it was removed, Scaramucci took to Twitter to clear things up.

“CNN did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted. Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on,” he wrote in response to the retraction.

However, allies of Trump still took to Twitter to deride the network for their handling of the story.

“Does @CNN use More FAKE NEWS to COVER UP FAKE NEWS culture? I call total BS press release by Zucker Stenographer,” Fox New’s Sean Hannity said, referring to CNN’s President Jeff Zucker.

The disappearance of the original story was first reported by BuzzFeed, who then proceeded to contact CNN. Buzzfeed also reported on a leaked memo from Rich Barbiere, executive editor of CNN Money, that ordered any “Russia-related Content” must be cleared by him or CNN Vice President Jason Farkas, “no exceptions.”

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Three reporters resign from CNN after article retraction