Networks Cry Uncle Over Dubious Trump Tower Story....But Won’t Fess Up on Air

August 29th, 2018 4:13 PM

Over the last week, one of CNN’s attempts to prove Trump-Russia collusion fell apart as Michael Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis not only admitted to having been the source for their July 26 piece on Cohen claiming that Trump knew beforehand about the infamous Trump Tower meeting but that his client didn’t actually know if Trump was tipped off.

Even though Davis revealed that second piece of information in an August 22 interview on CNN’s AC360 (with the other coming in a Monday BuzzFeed News post), CNN not only stood by the story but lashed out at anyone seeking to question their reporting. Also, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC confirmed CNN’s scoop and gave 39 minutes 23 seconds to it during their morning and evening newscasts July 27-31.

On Tuesday, the trio behind the increasingly dubious story (Carl Bernstein, Marshall Cohen, and Jim Sciutto) published a post trying to absolve themselves of responsibility even though it didn’t address why Davis was quoted in the original story as having declined comment when, in reality, he was their chief source.

In contrast on Tuesday, CBS updated their own post and NBC’s Hallie Jackson typed a piece explaining the change at For, they did next to nothing by instead relying on an Associated Press wire story about Davis’s flip-flopping.

However, none of those networks have yet to acknowledge on-air the changes to a claim that they had originally hyped as a “bombshell” and “very big news” featuring “stunning new claims” that Cohen could be set to “deliver the goods” on the President.

None could be considered a retraction, but CBS came the closest by adding an update to their originally Cohen/Trump Tower piece and leaving the original intact (click “expand” to read more): 

Last Updated Aug 28, 2018 6:53 PM EDT

Editor's Note: The source for the central claim in this story, published on July 26, 2018, was Lanny Davis, an attorney for Michael Cohen. Davis told CBS News on Tuesday that he could not confirm what he initially told CBS News was accurate. CBS News can no longer report that Cohen was willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the president knew in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. "I should have been more clear and this was my mistake that I couldn't confirm I had full confidence in about what I thought I knew about details," Davis said.

NBC’s Jackson wrote a story entitled “Lanny Davis says he was wrong about Trump Tower meeting and Cohen” and told readers (but not her MSNBC or NBC viewers). Here’s part of her story (again, click “expand” for more): 

Last month, Michael Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, confirmed to NBC News a report that Cohen would be willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the president was told in advance about the now-infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign team and Russians. But on Tuesday, Davis said he was wrong, and apologized.

After CNN reported that Cohen alleged Donald Trump Jr. notified the president about the meeting in advance, Davis confirmed to NBC News that Cohen would be willing to tell the special counsel just that. But Davis was not willing at the time to be identified by name as a source.

Davis now says that his confirmation was erroneous. "I regret not being much clearer in saying I'm not sure about this story," Davis now tells NBC News. "It's a major mistake for which I am 100 percent sorry. Period. I never should have done it unless I was certain and could prove it."

So, to recap, a story originally published by CNN and subsequently confirmed by the networks has fallen apart. Even though they breathlessly gave almost 40 minutes of coverage to the original claim, they should carve out a few seconds to tell viewers about these problems.

As The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported through the lens of what this means for Bernstein: “But Bernstein’s latest blockbuster story has come under heavy fire, beset by a troubling question: Is it accurate?”

That’s quite a question alright. Perhaps CNN should stop denying reality plus badmouthing those raising concerns and let their audience know what went wrong.