President Donald Trump went back on the attack against CNN Saturday morning, accusing the network of making a “vicious and purposeful mistake” when it was forced to correct a story about the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
In a pair of early-morning tweets, Trump called on CNN to fire “those responsible” for the error and suggested CNN should change its slogan from “the most trusted name in news” to “the least trusted name in news.”
Fake News CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake yesterday. They were caught red handed, just like lonely Brian Ross at ABC News (who should be immediately fired for his “mistake”). Watch to see if @CNN fires those responsible, or was it just gross incompetence?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017
CNN’S slogan is CNN, THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS. Everyone knows this is not true, that this could, in fact, be a fraud on the American Public. There are many outlets that are far more trusted than Fake News CNN. Their slogan should be CNN, THE LEAST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017
The president’s tweets appear to have been prompted by a correction CNN issued on Friday of a report that Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and others within the Trump administration received an email offering access to hacked documents from Democrats.
CNN initially misreported that Trump’s eldest son received a “heads-up” email from WikiLeaks on September 4, 2016. The email was actually sent on September 14, 2016, after WikiLeaks had already made the documents public, the Washington Post and other outlets later reported. CNN corrected its story on Friday.
CNN’s error lands a week after ABC News journalist Brian Ross erroneously reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that Trump, as a candidate, had directed him to make contact with the Russians during the 2016 election. Flynn, who on December 1 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, was directed to make contact after Trump’s election during the transition period.
ABC News initially issued a “clarification” of the story, later apologizing and suspending Ross for four weeks.
Trump tweeted about Ross on Saturday and last weekend as well, blaming him for a short-lived stock market correction apparently spurred by the initial report.
People who lost money when the Stock Market went down 350 points based on the False and Dishonest reporting of Brian Ross of @ABC News (he has been suspended), should consider hiring a lawyer and suing ABC for the damages this bad reporting has caused - many millions of dollars!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
The erroneous reports have fueled Trump’s sustained and often unjustified attack on the media, a tactic he uses to discredit stories he doesn’t like and rile up his base.
As Vox’s Andrew Prokop explained earlier this year, Trump sees his attacks on the press as a way to solve problems elsewhere.
Trump’s CNN tweets could also provide fodder for the impending AT&T–Time Warner Case
Trump’s tweets might also fuel suspicion that the Justice Department’s effort to block AT&T’s bid to buy Time Warner, CNN’s parent company, is being influenced by the president himself. The government sued to block the $85 billion telecom deal in November. A trial date for the case has been set for March 19.
Most antitrust experts agree that the government has a legitimate case against the deal, which would combine AT&T’s distribution networks with Time Warner’s news and entertainment content. But they also say Trump’s war on CNN could complicate things, even if only as a distraction or an argument AT&T is likely to invoke.
Eleanor Fox, law professor at New York University, recently told me that the case against the AT&T–Time Warner deal is a “credible” one. Although it’s an uphill fight, Trump’s comments do color the scenario.
“It is unfortunate that Trump has made public his battle with CNN, because it could, in the judge's mind, undercut the seriousness of the case,” she said. “I would hope that a judge can separate the two, and maybe the judge will, but there is always the possibility that the judge will be influenced by the political aspects.”