In 2007, CNN sent reporters to Indonesia to defend presidential candidate Barack Obama against charges he attended a Muslim madrassa in grade school. Their screen read “DEBUNKING A SMEAR.” While growing up in Jakarta, Obama attended a Catholic school for two years, and a Muslim school for two years, but was listed as Muslim because his stepfather Lolo Soetoro was Muslim.
But in 2018, CNN sent a reporter to Thailand to spread sleazy, unproven gossip: a “self-described sex coach”/sex worker offering “inside information on Russia’s election meddling” in 2016. What proof does she have? CNN didn't need any. She was pictured with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who knew Paul Manafort, so...there's your Trump conspiracy theory.
In the last five minutes of The Situation Room on Monday, they offered this tabloid tale:
WOLF BLITZER: New tonight, a self-described sex coach is offering inside information on Russia's election meddling. The woman is currently imprisoned in Thailand but says she's willing to trade what she knows for asylum in the United States. Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson actually met with the woman. He's joining us now live from Bangkok. Ivan, tell us how that went.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this is a story that the headline pretty much says it all. This young woman who described herself as a sex coach offering U.S. investigators information she claimed she has about Russian meddling in the U.S. election in exchange for her freedom from this Thai jail and not be deported back to Russia. It is a very strange story.
WATSON (voice-over): She described herself as a seductress, a relentlessly self-promoting 21-year-old named Anastasia Vashukevich, with a social media stage name Nastya Rybka. This Belarus-born woman claims to have evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
The question, is this a desperate ploy to get out of jail or as her friend claims, is this young woman truly in danger because she knows too much?...
I just came out of this detention center where I spoke with Anastasia Vashukevich. It was loud and hot and chaotic. And talking through the bars, she says she witnessed meetings between the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and at least three Americans who she refused to name. He claims they discussed plans to effect the U.S. elections but she wouldn't give any further information, because she fears she could be deported back to Russia.
The sum total of CNN's evidence from the Russian "sex coach" -- zero -- became clear at the segment's end:
BLITZER: And very quickly, any way to assess the validity of the evidence she says she has?
WATSON: Impossible, because she hasn't offered any of that evidence.
CNN apparently doesn't think you should sit on a story until you've actually proven something. They offered at least five Sex Coach segments with Moscow correspondent Matthew Chance on Friday night into Saturday, and then another five Sex Coach segments with Ivan Watson from Monday morning into early Tuesday morning. They all speculate about the anti-Trump collusion dirt, but they don't have any actual facts....at the #FactsFirst network.