On May 14, 2004, Piers Morgan was sacked as editor of London’s Daily Mirror after refusing to apologize for publishing fake photographs that supposedly depicted British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners—even though government officials advised that the photos were staged by hoaxers, not in Iraq but in the northwest of England.
Four years earlier, Morgan had become entangled in a different scandal—and escaped criminal prosecution, although Britain’s Press Complaints Commission declared that he breached journalistic ethics—when he purchased £20,000 worth of computer company stock, and emptied his bank account to buy an additional £47,000 worth of shares in his first wife’s name, as the Mirror’s financial columnists were planning to tout the stock in the paper the following day.
When the column was printed, the stock price immediately doubled.
By November 2012, Morgan was already hosting CNN’s 9 p.m. interview show, Piers Morgan Tonight, when Britain’s Leveson Inquiry, investigating the illegal practice of phone hacking at London’s Fleet Street tabloids, pronounced Morgan’s protestations of ignorance and innocence “utterly unpersuasive,” although Lord Justice Leveson acknowledged that his commission couldn’t prove that the wily former editor was lying.
All of which apparently qualified the 52-year-old Morgan to join the gaggle of gloaters and scolds on Tuesday, including President Donald Trump and his son Donald Jr., who have spent the past 24 hours triumphantly trashing Morgan’s former employer, which aired his ratings-challenged program for 3½ years until CNN President Jeff Zucker summarily canceled it.
“In arguably the most humiliating moment in its history, CNN just accepted resignations from three of its top journalists over a story they got horrendously wrong about President Trump and Russia,” Morgan wrote in a Daily Mail column astonishing in its chutzpah, hypocrisy and amnesia.
“Now, CNN’s high moral ground has crumbled beneath it in spectacular style,” Morgan crowed. “And it’s collapsed because all those involved forgot the golden rule of journalism: if it seems too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true.”
The headline on Morgan’s classy display: “Trump's media enemies know that bashing him makes them big money but CNN's greediness and desperation to get him has cost them dear.”
Aside from Morgan, a sycophantic Trump groupie, the father-and-son Trumps (all of them former stars on Celebrity Apprentice) have been engaging in the Twitter equivalent of dancing for joy.
“Wow, CNN had to retract big story on ‘Russia,’ with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!,” the president tweeted at 6:33 a.m, one of several celebrating the network’s embarrassment.
During one of the increasingly rare on-camera White House press briefings Tuesday afternoon, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders used the podium to urge the American people to watch wingnut sting artist James O’Keefe’s ambush video of a CNN producer, in which O’Keefe’s hapless victim, unaware he was being recorded on hidden camera, labels the Trump-Russia coverage “mostly bullshit.”
“I would encourage everybody to look at it,” Huckabee Sanders said, while complaining about CNN’s “constant barrage of fake news directed at this president…It’s a disgrace to all of journalism…If the media can’t be trusted to report the news, that’s a dangerous place for America.”
“CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat,” was the headline over Greenwald’s Intercept column concerning CNN’s prompt apology and retraction for an inadequately sourced, badly-vetted story on the network’s website that suggested a nefarious link, and a factually challenged secret meeting, between a Russian government banker and Trump transition official Anthony Scaramucci.
Normally, CNN’s quick acknowledgement that the story was flawed—and the extraordinarily severe discipline meted out by management for what seems an honest mistake, notably the resignations of the three respected journalists who prepared it, including a Pulitzer Prize-winner—would prompt widespread admiration for CNN’s fanatical devotion to fairness and accuracy.
Indeed, Fox News’s Shepard Smith seemed to agree with his guest, Wall Street Journal associate editor John Bussey, that “The CNN example is precisely what should have happened. The White House can learn from the CNN example.’”
But instead, Greenwald wrote: “There are substantial professional and commercial rewards for those who do this [write muckraking pieces about Trump and Russia] and—at least until the resignation of these CNN journalists last night—very few consequences even when they are caught.”
Fox News’s Carlson, himself a former host of CNN’s defunct Crossfire show, declared on his eponymous prime-time program Monday night: “CNN’s descent from news organization to political campaign is nearly complete…That channel…has become home for conspiracists on the Russia question worldwide…Overall, 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration has been negative. 93 percent! Idi Amin would get more balanced coverage.”
Meanwhile, Twitter hosted a veritable orgy of anti-CNN rhetoric.
“President Trump should end the press conference have Sean Spicer revoke @ CNN press credentials live,” wrote a tweeter who goes by @ DarkTriad Man, using the hashtags #RevokeCNN and #AmericanPravda.
Frequent “InfoWars” guest Jack Posobiec, last seen disrupting a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Central Park, tweeted: “President Trump should hold a press conference where he just fires questions at CNN reporters over and over.”
Not that CNN was completely without defenders. Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, a Daily Beast contributor, wrote: “An attack on @ CNN for making a mistake & correct it is as much an attack on the First Amendment as banning all guns is on Second.”
And writing to Morgan, Tatler editor Emma Kennedy tweeted: “CNN get it wrong and there’s accountability. When’s Trump resigning for his lies? *waits forever*”