CNN, the network that was once known to be the most trusted name in news, has been seemingly in a free-fall since a then newly inaugurated President Trump declared the network “fake news” during a January press conference. Of course, the network had been losing its conservative viewers’ trust for quite some time before that, due to their obvious bias in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Today, however, it seems that distrust of the network and the rest of the mainstream media crosses party lines. According to Gallup, only 32% of Americans say that they have even a fair amount of trust in the mainstream press. Considering that a significantly higher percentage of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, this means that even liberal citizens are beginning to distrust the press.
To understand how we got here and just why the trust in media has sunk to an all-time low, here’s a recap of America’s falling out with the former most trusted name in news.
Fake News and The Russia Dossier
By late January, CNN was reeling from accusations by conservatives that they were biased against Trump, while simultaneously pushing a false narrative that an illegal collusion with Russia had won him the election. Thanks to Trump’s attack on CNN during his press conference, “fake news” entered the American lexicon.
In January, BuzzFeed published an explosive dossier that alleged that Donald Trump not only colluded with Russia, but that he engaged in a perverted anti-Obama ritual in a Moscow hotel room with Russian prostitutes. The story should have rang false to anyone with an iota of common sense, but BuzzFeed ran the piece under the guise of “journalistic transparency.” Myriad Americans cried foul, but CNN gave airtime to the story, which is believed to have originated from internet pranksters on a message board.
CNN Employee Resignations and a Producer Exposed
Although the firestorm from the dossier had died down, CNN was continuing to push its “Trump colluded with Russia” narrative, despite a glaring lack of evidence to support their story. Around the clock, pundits and commentators weighed in that Russia was behind Trump’s presidential victory, despite no cited sources or new information to support their case.
In June, three CNN employees resigned after CNN was forced to retract a Russia-related article that was proven to be completely false. Shortly after, a shocking video emerged of CNN health producer John Bonifield discussing the network’s coverage of the supposed Russian collusion.
In the video, produced by Project Veritas, Bonifield admitted that not only was there no evidence to support the Russia story but that Trump was correct when he said that CNN’s investigation of his ties to Russia amounted to nothing more than a “witch hunt.” Bonifield also confirmed what many already suspected, that the near-constant coverage of the Russia story was all for ratings.
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski’s Blackmail and Bullying
In July, President Trump Tweeted an animated meme that contained old footage of one of his professional wrestling performances, edited to appear as though he was tackling the CNN logo. CNN chose to investigate the origin of the meme, determining it to come from a user from a pro-Trump section of the Internet message board Reddit.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
Shortly after the user was contacted by CNN, he posted a lengthy apology on Reddit, emotionally asking for forgiveness for the meme and other controversial posts he’d published online. CNN senior editor Andrew Kaczynski covered the story and the internet was shocked by a passage in Kaczynski’s article, which seemed to insinuate that CNN was only declining to publish the user’s name because the user had complied with CNN’s demands. Kacynski detailed the steps that the user had taken to prove his remorse for his actions and wrote that CNN “[reserved] the right to publish his identity” if the user did anything in the future that CNN found offensive.
People immediately began voicing their horror at what sounded like a blatant threat, written by Kaczynski on behalf of CNN. While CNN backtracked and tried to explain away the allegations of blackmail, the damage was done. The article had already been published and the consensus was that CNN had threatened a private citizen that if he didn’t behave, his identity and private internet activity would be exposed for all the world to see.
Naturally, people were outraged at CNN. However, people were also outraged at the journalist himself. As people began investigating Kaczynski, some disturbing details emerged about this former BuzzFeed employee’s past.
In April of 2013, during the massive manhunt to find whoever was responsible for the bombing of the Boston Marathon, people began falsely accusing American student Sunil Tripathi of being responsible for the horrific act of terror. One of the people who accused Tripathi with no evidence was Kaczynski. While many of the accusers were internet trolls or private citizens who had no moral obligation to abide by journalistic ethics, Kaczynski was a working journalist who presumably should have known better than to publish such a serious accusation without any evidence to support it.
Shortly after the barrage of false accusations by Kaczynski and others, Tripathi’s body was found floating in the Seekonk River. The 23-year-old Brown student committed suicide. Kaczynski has never apologized for his role in the smear campaign against Tripathi or for the tragic aftermath of those false allegations.