CNN got so scared of the prospect of a $100 million libel suit that it quickly retracted a poorly reported story that maligned a close ally of President Donald Trump, and also forced the exit of the three staffers behind the contentious story.
The New York Post reported that the subject of the questionable CNN story, Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci, threatened CNN that he would take legal action for the damaging and inaccurate report.
Financier and frequent CNN guest Scaramucci received an unusual public apology from CNN due to his threat of a huge lawsuit against the network. The New York Post reported that Scaramucci, even with CNN’s apology, still hired a top Manhattan lawyer to exert more pressure on CNN and “look after his interests in this matter” as told by a source.
Sources of New York Post also said that the three journalists responsible for the disputed report namely reporter Tom Frank, editor Eric Lichtblau and CNN Investigative Unit Head Lex Haris were asked to resign. A New York Post source said: “They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately.”
Interestingly, CNN”s coverage of Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of the cable network’s corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T and the big belief among media executives that CNN President Jeff Zucker cannot survive a merger.
Zucker was believed to be scared of facing a high-profile suit from Scaramucci while the U.S. Justice Department examines the proposed $85.4 billion media merger.
There’s a brewing internal chaos in CNN, though, resulting from the development to the Scaramucci report. A CNN insider told New York Post that staffers are “furious at having lost the moral high ground because of this story.” Sources also said that Zucker made an attempt to rally his staff during a Tuesday morning conference call.
New York Post reported that the source said: “ Zucker stressed that this issue was a “lapse in editorial standards” and said it was a lesson to all reporters and editors to continue to strive for strong, accurate reporting.”
Recent rumors have flown that Zucker could be fired if the AT&T deal goes through. AT&T executives CEO Randall Stephenson and Entertainment Group CEO John Stankey will ultimately decide on who will be kept and who will have to be let go in the event of a merger. The two top executives of AT&T also happen to enjoy a very good relationship with the Trump administration.