The Cable News Network is enormous, powerful, and can feel omnipresent in today’s world. Everywhere you go where there’s a TV, it’s likely CNN will be playing, that ticker-tape streaming along the screen, beckoning you into the wide world of catastrophes and trauma. CNN has its own share of trauma, some pretty heady, serious stuff, most recently involving United States President Donald Trump. So hang on to your hat, and take a look at who has made some big mistakes at CNN.
Ashleigh Banfield and Nancy Grace Fakin’ It
After the miraculous recovery of the three women who were the victims of Ariel Castro’s “Cleveland Kidnappings” in 2013, networks everywhere scrambled to get coverage. The young women had been missing for over one decade at the time of their recovery. CNN placed one of their most popular correspondents, Ashleigh Banfield, on the job. She was corresponding with HLN’s Nancy Grace.
Ashleigh was supposed to be on a remote location speaking to Nancy, who also appeared to be in a remote location. Both stations listed Phoenix, Arizona as their location and they both appeared to be in parking lots. Steely eye viewers were able to see the same cars behind both anchors and realized they were actually in the same exact parking lot. Nancy and Ashleigh were pretending to correspond with one another while on location but were in fact merely feet away from one another.
Banned In Iran
CNN once upset the Iranian government after accidentally mistranslating a statement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Subsequently, CNN was temporarily banned from Iran back in 2006. CNN had quoted the Iranian President as saying that “the use of nuclear weapons is Iran’s right,” when he actually said that “Iran has the right to nuclear energy.”
According to government officials he also said within the same speech that “a civilized nation does not need nuclear weapons, and our nation does not need them.” After CNN issued an official apology for their accidental translation the ban was lifted from the network only one day later.
Lou Dobbs Leaves, Returns, Leaves Again
Lou Dobbs, Moneyline host and business correspondent, left CNN in 2000 due to arguments with CNN president at the time, Rick Kaplan, over Dobb’s content.
After Ted Turner, the owner of CNN, requested Dobbs to return, he did. He also increased his rhetoric against immigration and globalization, and led his show, Lou Dobbs Tonight, with a firm hand. Dobbs again announced his resignation from CNN in 2011, stating that he had tried to please the network but that, “neutrality is not part of my being.” According to reports, he was offered $8 million to leave.
Donna Brazile Resigns After Leaked Emails
Donna Brazile worked for CNN as a political commentator, until Wikileaks released incriminating emails from Brazile to the Clinton campaign. Brazile served as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee throughout most of the 2016 presidential election.
Before one town hall event for the presidential campaigners, Brazile sent an email to the Clinton campaign, tipping them off about a specific question, so that Hillary Clinton could have the edge in the debate. Another email revealed the same violation: Brazile tipping off the Clinton campaign of a specific question before a debate. Brazile resigned in disgrace.
Jim Clancy Resigns
Jim Clancy worked as CNN’s international correspondent for a whopping 34 years, until one incident unraveled it all. In 2015 the respected correspondent resigned from his position after he appeared to suggest that the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks were brought on by what he claimed to be the magazine’s pro-Israel position.
“The cartoons never mocked the Prophet. They mocked how the COWARDS tried to distort his word. Pay attention,” Clancy tweeted. And then he tweeted, “The notion that every Muslim is an opponent of truth, justice and the American way needs to be tested. Methinks.” Clancy got into a back and forth with various readers, after which he deleted his entire Twitter account, and resigned from his position. It is speculated if his pro-Palestine leanings were part of the resignation.
Amber Lyon and iRevolution
Amber Lyon was a CNN reporter assigned to travel, along with other CNN employees, to Bahrain to report on the use of the internet by activists in the area. After risking life and limb and being held at gunpoint, Lyon and crew returned home and the report was aired, once. It was never aired again, nor did it air on CNN International, which eventually raised the question, “why?”
Lyon met with the president of CNN once to discuss the issue, and then again after receiving no answer. At the second meeting, Lyon states that she was told to stop asking questions and to stop speaking publicly on the matter. Lyon took the story public and exposed CNN for bowing to pressure from the Bahrain government. She was let go along with others in a reshuffling of the network and continued her fight to have the plight of Bahrain exposed.
Joe Walsh Threatens President and Then Does CNN Interview
In 2016, five police officers were killed by a gunman during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas. Mayor of Texas, Joe Walsh, immediately went on the attack: his target, President Obama.
After the shooting deaths of the officers, Joe Walsh took to Twitter to vent his anger. He tweeted out that “real America” was going to come after Barack Obama, and Black Lives Matter activists. Many took this as a real threat. CNN had Don Lemon interview Walsh afterward, prompting a public flood of criticism from those who believed a man who threatened the President of the United States should not receive air time for that threat. When confronted by Lemon about his tweets, Walsh denied he was inciting violence, saying, “I don’t know of a sane person that would do that. That’s not what I meant, Don.”
Octavia Nasr Sad to See Tyrant Die
Octavia Nasr worked as CNN’s senior Middle Eastern correspondent for over 20 years, and with one tweet, lost her job. Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah was the ayatollah who had a big hand in creating the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Hezbollah has used terrorism and killed many people. Nasr’s tweet came from her CNN affiliated twitter, and read, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” The reaction was swift and overwhelming, and despite Nasr’s explanation that she was referring to Fadlallah’s policies for women and against honor killings, she was fired from her position at CNN.
Roland Martin Shouldn’t Tweet
Roland Martin worked as a political analyst for CNN when he put his tweet in his mouth. During the Super Bowl, Roland Martin appeared to have tweeted out to incite violence against gay people.
He tweeted, “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl,” And then, “Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass,” At first, Martin wasn’t apologetic, saying that people should “deal with it.” After much backlash, he posted an apology on his website and was suspended from his position at CNN.
Don Lemon’s Advice Not Well Received
Don Lemon, a well-known CNN anchor, offered his audience a plan for achieving racial equality although he later denied it was for racial equality, saying he had only meant it for personal empowerment.
The plan did not take into account the overwhelming history of unequal laws that put black people at an economic disadvantage (such as loan institutions refusing loans to black people looking to buy their first house in a safe neighborhood with good schools) and instead focused on personal behaviors. Lemon’s points included chastising young black men for wearing baggy pants, hip-hop for romanticizing prison culture, telling young people to study more, and blaming unwed mothers for having babies. The firestorm was swift, but Lemon stuck to his guns, saying that was the advice his mother had given him as a young boy.
CNN was dubbed by some during the presidential primaries as the “Clinton News Network” in light of the channel’s lack of coverage or celebration over candidate Bernie Sanders’ successes.
According to protesters, since CNN’s first presidential debate coverage, the network spotlit Hillary Clinton and her campaign, giving Bernie Sanders a cold shoulder, and providing biased journalism. CNN is owned by Time Warner, who was the eighth largest contributor to Clinton’s campaign. Bernie Sanders’ rallies were enormous and full of energy and ideas, yet receiving almost no coverage. Over 1,000 protesters converged in front of CNN’s Los Angeles building, holding signs and demanding fair coverage.
In 1998, CNN, along with a partnership with Time magazine, ran an investigative report they called “Valley of Death” which was centered around the charge that the 1970 Operation Tailwind in Vietnam included use of sarin gas to kill U.S. military defectors.
The Pentagon immediately denied the story and issued an inquiry. Two weeks later, The Pentagon called the story “irresponsible” and CNN pulled the story of Operation Tailwind, issuing a retraction. Two veteran journalists most involved in the production, April Oliver and Jack Smith, were fired. Internationally respected reporter, Peter Arnett, who narrated the segment, was reprimanded for his involvement. The reporting collected for the broadcast was impressive and wide-ranging, but the government came down hard on the broadcast, demanding information as waterproof as if in court, which CNN could not provide- being journalists, not lawyers. The story was pulled, but its veracity remains uncertain.
Paula Zahn Respected Journalist Treated Like A Play Object
Paula Zahn is a respected journalist and high-level interviewer and worked for CNN when an ad was run that featured her show,On the Case,along with an image of her face.
Unfortunately, the ad called Zahn “a little sexy” and featured the sound of either a zipper or record player being quickly stopped, depending on who you asked. Many thought it sounded like a zipper and were offended at the sexism. CNN apologized to Zahn–who said she was offended–and to the audience, and the zipper or record-player ad was immediately pulled.
Providing neutral coverage is the primary job of journalists, but in 2014 CNN was accused of doing just the opposite. During the Israel-Gaza conflict, CNN was harshly accused of having an anti-Israel media bias that was altering their depiction of the news.
CNN was accused of ignoring the Israeli side of the war, and reporting on false stories that showed Palestine in a favorable light. CNN was also accused of bias in the way interviews were conducted during the war. At the Time Warner Center in New York City hundreds of protesters assembled to denounce CNN’s coverage of the issue.
Rick Kaplan Shows Preference to Friends
Rick Kaplan was president of CNN from 1997 to 2000. Kaplan has a close relationship with Bill Clinton, who was the president during Kaplan’s run at CNN. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal with Bill Clinton, Kaplan let this friendship alter the way the story was presented on CNN. Kaplan aired specials that were aimed at defending Clinton and attacking his attackers.
Kaplan aired a program called Media Madness in which he described prosecutor Ken Starr as suspicious due to his Republican party membership and his religious affiliations. Kaplan was criticized for using CNN to argue for his personal friend, Bill Clinton.
Fredricka Whitfield Puts Foot in Mouth
Fredricka Whitfield is a news anchor for CNN who found herself enraging her viewers after making a large blunder on air. In 2015, a gunman opened fire on the Dallas Police Department Headquarters, and a standoff between the gunmen and police began.
While reporting on the crime scene, Whitfield inexplicably said, “It was very courageous and brave, if not crazy as well, to open fire on the police headquarters, and now you have this scene, this standoff. So you believe these are the hallmarks of more than one person’s involvement.” She later said on air that she “misspoke” but that just angered people more. She finally issued an apology.
Chris Cuomo Crashes
Chris Cuomo is a CNN anchor who is the son of the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of the current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Chris had a rather embarrassing accident in 2016.
While in the Northampton after a festive party thrown by his beautiful wife, Chris Cuomo was, according to some spectators, drag racing when he crashed the 1969 Pontiac Firebird. Police came, and a report was filed, although a friend claimed it was just for insurance purposes. Once source who claimed to witness the event said that there was a woman in between two cars, waving a flag as if in a race, before Cuomo crashed the car.
CNN Anchor Makes Rude Request
At the 2016 Olympics, CNN host Kamau Bell made what many considered a rude request to famed and accomplished American athlete, Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, a swimmer with 18 gold medals and 22 medals in total.
Phelps was due to carry the American flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, when CNN host Bell made his forward request on air, of Phelps, “And that’s why I would be proud of you for giving up your position to Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad carrying the flag would be much bigger than your one moment. It would be a symbol for our country in this moment when we are mostly known for one of the most contentious, controversial, scandal-ridden, hateful, xenophobic, jingoistic, and just generally unlikeable presidential elections in recent memory. This is at a time when we could use some more symbols of unity and togetherness.”
Elise Labott Tweets Her Way into Trouble
In 2016 the House voted on and passed a bill that would suspend the program that allows Syrian and Iraqi refugees to find safety in the United States.
CNN anchor Elise Labott tweeted after the bill was passed (along with a link to a story about the bill), “House passes a bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish.” After this tweet, The Washington Post, among others, wrote a piece pointing out that this was not unbiased reporting, and might violate editorial guidelines at CNN. CNN responded by suspending Labott for two weeks.
Rick Sanchez Fired
Rick Sanchez was fired from CNN not long after receiving a two-hour block of air time. Mr. Sanchez was interviewed on comedian Pete Dominick’s satellite radio show, where he made contentious remarks about Jon Stewart and “people like him.” He first called Mr. Stewart a “bigot,” and later changed that to “prejudicial.”
When asked who Stewart was prejudiced against, Sanchez replied, “Anybody who doesn’t agree with his view…a white establishment point of view.” It was then pointed out that Stewart is Jewish, to which Sanchez replied that, “Everybody who runs CNN looks a lot like Stewart. And a lot of the people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. To imply that they….are an oppressed minority? Yeah.” A recording of the conversation circulated throughout the net, and Mr. Sanchez was fired.
Trump Cries Fake News
Donald Trump gave his first press conference since being elected the 45th President of the United States, and gave two news organizations a dressing down, including CNN. Toward the end of his conference, reporters began asking questions.
After calling Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage” for printing a 35-page dossier claiming he was being blackmailed by Russia (including that Trump had Russian prostitutes perform a “golden shower” on a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama had previously slept on), Trump turned to a CNN reporter, senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, and said, “Quiet. Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question, you are fake news.”
Bill Weir Gets Mad
Bill Weir is a CNN anchor and lifetime advocate for the health of our environment. While on Twitter, he came across a Fox network tweet that angered him. Fox has a history of promoting climate change denying, and being a science loving guy, this angers Weir.
Fox tweeted out, “Climate doesn’t cooperate with Al Gore’s visit to Denver’s EPA meetings.” Weir tweeted back, stating, “climate is not weather,” and continued on, calling them a choice name for which he later issued an apologetic tweet, saying that he had a “Midwestern blob of guilt” sitting in his chest over name-calling. If CNN’s history over Tweet policing remains the same, Weir better be more careful with his words!
Leniency on Iraq War
One scandal that plagued CNN in the post-9/11 era was that the network remained very lenient and even approving of moves taken by George W. Bush and his administration. Specifically, there were tales of the news censoring themselves in order to prevent the actual story being told, in an effort to align itself with the views of the people at the time.
There was suspicion of the network for it being seemingly supportive of the invasion of Iraq, without much criticism. Other news organizations throughout the world criticized CNN for portraying the invading soldiers as heroes. At a 2002 news conference, the general manager of CNN International said, “Anyone who claims the US media didn’t censor itself is kidding you. It wasn’t a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people.”
Assault Weapon Oops
Another post-9/11 faux pas occurred in 2003, when a CNN correspondent and a Florida Sheriff mixed up semi-automatic with fully automatic weapons in a segment. While discussing the federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was concerned with semi-automatic weapons only, CNN’s John Zarrella and Sheriff Ken Jenne accidentally demonstrated the use of fully automatic weapons instead.
The problem is that fully automatic weapons have been restricted all the way back to 1934 with the National Firearms Act and again in the late 1980s with the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Ultimately, the network had to apologize on air for the confusing mistake.
Inaccurate Serbia Coverage?
In 2008 there was an outcry that CNN was inaccurately covering what was happening in Serbia. When a former leader named Radovan Karadžić from the days of the Bosnia Serbia War was arrested more than a decade on the lam.
CNN showed protests that were taking place that were in support of Karadžić, they also reported on clashes that protesters had with the police. Apparently, CNN actually edited footage that showed the protesters from a much more violent riot from 2006. People at home noticed the errors and some even thought CNN might have done it on purpose.
Margaret Thatcher’s Death
After the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, passed away in 2013. CNN covered her death and used a photograph which showed her with BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and another with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The problem with Jimmy Savile is that he after his death, it was revealed that there had been child sexual abuse allegations against him dating all the way back to 1963. He is now viewed as one of the UK’s most prolific sex offenders. People were outraged that CNN showed Thatcher with people considered to be unsavory and felt as though they were politically motivated reasons.
More About Jimmy Savile
Jimmy Savile worked in radio and television for the entirety of his life. He was an extremely well known celebrity in Britain, until his death in 2011. Jimmy was a lifelong bachelor, and lived with his mother until her death. He was also, indeed, a close friend of Margaret Thatcher and claimed to have spent a dozen New Years holidays together.
After his death, as revealed in an exposé by the Guardian, it came out that the disgraced presenter — who may have been sexually assaulting children — had molested up to a thousand victims. Even the former press secretary for the Royal Family, Dickie Arbiter, said that he had viewed Saville with “concern and suspicion”. He was speaking specifically about the late 80s when Jimmy had apparently attempted to stand-in as an informal marriage counselor for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s dwindling marriage.
Eason Jordan, who is formerly CNN’s chief news executive, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in 2003. In his piece, he revealed that he had lobbied the Iraqi government for 12 years and admitted to withholding newsworthy information in order to keep in good graces with the country.
He also cited his reasoning by saying that he had fears that releasing unsavory news could put the lives of Iraqis working for CNN in danger. He also later seemingly implied that the United States military purposely killed journalists. Eason said that this wasn’t what he was trying to imply but later resigned from CNN and now works for the Malala Fund.
Eason’s Claims Substantiated
Of course, his comments about journalists being killed were substantiated when leaks provided by Chelsea Manning were released. In one famous video, that was released by Wikileaks and entitled “Collateral Murder” United States military forces are shown opening fire on a group of Iraqi men, two of whom were correspondent with Reuters (Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen).
Both men were killed during the attack. A van arrived on the scene, which was in fact a citizen driving with his two children. The military also opened fire on the van, killing the man and severely injuring the two kids. Later, soldiers are shown rescuing the children from the van which had started on fire. One of those soldiers was a man named Ethan McCord. Ethan said upon find the children, “The first thing I thought of … was my children at home”. Ethan also attempted to get help for trauma but was ridiculed and told if he sought help from the mental health officer, “there would be repercussions”.
Tucker Carlson vs. John Stewart
Tucker Carlson co-hosted the now-defunct program Crossfire. In 2004, Jon Stewart appeared on air and the two engaged in a pretty heated debate. Jon, of course known as host of the Daily Show, took issue with the format of the show and the arguments that were shown.
Jon told Carlson that their coverage of news was “hurting America”. After Tucker told Jon that “I think you’re more fun on your show,” Jon responded “You know what’s interesting though? You’re as big a [expletive] on your show as you are on any show.” Less than three months later, Tucker left CNN and Crossfire was also cancelled. The president of CNN at the time, Jonathan Klein, said “I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise.”
Glenn Beck Worked On CNN?!
Can you believe that Glenn Beck worked on CNN?! Around 2006, he had been hired to host a show, even though Glenn had been known for some outrageous commentary. Two years later he left and joined Fox News where he hosted the show that most people are familiar with. He was known specifically for ranting while furiously writing on his chalkboard.
During this time Glenn was apparently suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. This condition directly affected his sleep and doctors apparently told him he probably did reach REM sleep in over ten years. He said this affected his mental capacity greatly, in addition to a variety of other problems including with his eyesight.
Glenn Beck was later diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue. In recent times he has seemingly had a shift in thinking and expressed regret over things he said about President Obama in the past.
He told The New Yorker, “I did a lot of freaking out about Barack Obama. Obama made me a better man.” Glenn even went further to say that he is supportive of Black Lives Matter and “There are things unique to the African-American experience that I cannot relate to, I had to listen to them.” He also spoke out strongly against Donald Trump even comparing him to Adolph Hitler.
Carol Costello on Bristol Palin
In 2014 the Palin family was reportedly involved in the strange incident of a large bar brawl. CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello came under fire for comments she made about the incident. Specifically, she talked about the audio recordings of the Palin family speaking to police were released.
Carol laughed and said it was “quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across.” Bristol was apparently being assaulted by a random man during the encounter so Carol was immediately attacked for making light of the situation. She later issued an apology, although did not offer a direct on-air apology to Bristol.
What Actually Happened?
During the birthday party brawl involving the Palin’s there was a whole lot of craziness that took place. According to other party-goers, the fight started when Bristol’s brother Track Palin confronted other younger sister (Willow’s) ex-boyfriend named Conner Cleary.
This did not go well and a fight broke out. Conner’s father attempted to stop the fight but then Todd Palin got involved and started choking Conner’s father. The party host was a man named Korey Klingenmeyer who then asked the family to leave. At this point Bristol got involved and allegedly hit Korey at least six times. The altercation continued and apparently Sarah Palin started screaming out “You know who we are, don’t you?”
Don Lemon: Does This Offend You?
CNN host Don Lemon regularly comes under fire for a variety of reasons. Including once asking an alleged Bill Cosby victim why she didn’t stop the assault by biting Cosby.
In 2014, the Columbia Journalism Review even labeled Don as “Worst of the Worst”. The following year was no different as he held up a Confederate flag and a sign with the “n-word” on it, and asked “Does this offend you?” Of course, this was quickly criticized and it also became a huge meme on the internet. Where people would replace the sign with various Photoshopped images.
Don Lemon At It Again
Don Lemon came under fire again in during his hosting duties on New Year 2017 when he apparently got drunk on air. He hosted with Brooke Baldwin from a New Orleans bar. He ordered shots, took shots while on air, and began discussing his life. He opined that he would possibly be open to a relationship this year.
At some point he also decided to get either a tattoo or a piercing and ended up getting his ear pierced on air. After Don said “2016 was awful” and was seen requesting more alcohol, CNN dropped the feed. However, people on the Internet totally loved it, so perhaps it will become a yearly ritual.
Brooke Baldwin Offends Veterans
Don Lemon’s New Year co-host, Brooke Baldwin, has also had her own share of controversy. In 2015, Brooke was covering the riots taking place in Baltimore, Maryland following the public’s outcry to police shootings and brutality. Specifically the Baltimore protests were in response to the death of Freddie Grey and the subsequent acquittal of the involved police officers.
Brooke said while covering the events “[they] are coming back from war, they don’t know the communities, and they’re ready to do battle.” She was speaking directly about veterans who go into the police force. Of course, people were immediately outraged claiming that she was insulting veterans. At first, she defended her comments and said that a city official was the one who initially told her that information. However, she later apologized on air for the commentary.
John Cena And WWE Anger
Back in 2007, CNN aired a short documentary about professional wrestling called “Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling”. One of the topics they looked at was the issue of steroid use in the industry. Footage from an interview with wrestler John Cena was used in the documentary.
The WWE and John Cena came out and said that CNN edited his comments to make it look as though he was ambiguous about steroid use. In the original footage John answered the question of if he had taken steroids with the response, “Absolutely not.” However, CNN edited in a different answer that John had said at a different time during filming.
Cena’s Own Words
While there was no denying that John Cena did utter a rather telling comment, he was still upset about the editing. The statement that John Cena and the WWE had issue with was this, “My answer to that question ‘have you ever used steroids’ is – the only thing I can say – I can’t tell you that I haven’t, but you’ll never be able to prove that I have.”
WWE and John demanded an apology by CNN stood firming in their editing saying it was a more expansive response. The network also went back and edited the documentary and included both of John Cena’s comments on steroids in order to appease him and the WWE.
CNN In Contact
In 1997, CNN also came under fire after they allowed real-life journalists to act in the film Contact where they played journalists. The chief complaint is that journalists should only present real-life material as it is very easy for some people in our society to get confused. Contact was a film starring Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey and takes place primarily in an observatory where Jodi’s character is obsessed with contacting aliens.
Over 25 news reporters had roles in the film and there were also clips of Larry King Live and Crossfire. Of course, this was primarily a sign of the times because films often use either real footage of journalist or journalists acting as themselves in various films. As far as we know journalists have not yet announced contact being made with aliens.