On Tuesday, Project Veritas CEO and founder James O’Keefe shocked us all, including CNN executives, when he live-streamed himself revealing to CNN President Jeff Zucker that he had been listening in on, and recording, the network’s morning editorial meetings for months.” In traditional Project Vertas fashion, O’Keefe has released key pieces of these recordings slowly over the following days. Some of the most notable tidbits include instructions to “go well after” Sen. Lindsey Graham and to downplay Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential election. Not to mention an uncomfortable condemnation of Cuban “culture” in light of the demographic’s support for Trump
“This is yet another investigation Project Veritas has conducted into CNN, and once again they’ve demonstrated their partisan political agenda and total disconnect with journalistic ethics,” O’Keefe said.
Regarding the election, Zucker can be heard saying at one meeting that “we need to not normalize” Trump’s actions surrounding the election results.
“This is a president who knows he’s losing, who knows he’s in trouble, is sick, maybe is on the aftereffects of steroids or not,” Zucker said. I don’t know. But he is acting erratically and desperately, and we need to not normalize that.”
“He is all over the place and acting erratically, and I think we need to lean into that,” Zucker said.
CNN field producer Stephanie Becker added that the network needed to emphasize the need to “get the transition going right,” suggesting that the team invoke images of 9-11.
“On the issue of why it’s important to get the transition going right, the 9-11 report talks about one of the problems was that the trouble that was brewing that lost during the transition,” said Becker So, if you want a good, concrete example of what happens when you don’t have a good transition, well, look at the Twin Towers.”
A look at CNN coverage from recent months shows the team had no problem working in lockstep with Zucker’s directive.
Right on the network’s election results page readers were warned: “Don’t expect Trump to accept reality anytime soon and concede the race, sources say,”
As it appeared that the election saga would continue to play out for some time, CNN offered a breakdown of “The tragedy of Trump’s refusal to concede. The opinion piece published Nov. 14 lamented that “President Trump seems focused on challenging the election results with spurious claims about voter fraud while spreading disinformation aimed at delegitimizing the President-elect.”
“He is devoting his energy to Twitter rants, and also lawsuits — which keep getting thrown out — rather than concerning himself with the important work of governance. It seems apparent that in his final days in the White House, Trump will continue to stoke division rather than call for unity.”
“Of course, none of this should come as a surprise,” the piece continued. “Before the election, the President made it clear he would be willing to dispute the results if he lost. For months, he made baseless claims about voter fraud, questioned the legitimacy of the election, and refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. This is a President who has always prioritized his own power over the well-being of the American people and the health of our democratic institutions. He is a President who has proven himself incapable of turning over a new leaf, despite some commentators who assumed, time and time again, that it would happen.”
More recently, CNN Politics Senior Writer Zachary Wolf explained on November 24th that “Donald Trump doesn’t need to concede — it’s a custom, not the law.”
“At some point — maybe not today and maybe not until legal options are exhausted — it will become clear to people around Trump and to Republicans in Congress that this thing is over,” Wolf explained.
“It might be a fitting coda to Trump’s leadership style that he would refuse to acknowledge his loss,” he continued, adding “The constitution is very clear that a new president will take the oath of office on January 20 at noon.”
“That will happen if Trump loses graciously or if he has to be escorted out of the Oval Office by Secret Service, although it’s not exactly clear what the Secret Service would do in the event Trump wouldn’t leave,” Wolf added
Project Veritas’ tapes also revealed Zucker instructing his employees to specifically target Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“Frankly, if we’ve made any mistake, it’s been that our banners have been too polite, and we need to go well after Lindsey Graham,” he said.
“There’s a ton going on. Let’s stay strong. Let’s stay newsy. Let’s stay urgent. Let’s be smart. There is a lot of news out there, and Lindsey Graham really deserves it,” he said.
And “go well after” him they did.
CNN ran multiple headlines over the course of just a few days, hammering Graham for exploring the idea that some ballots may be inadmissible upon review, and the idea of election tampering in general.
Some of these headlines, published over just a two day period, include “Georgia secretary of state says Lindsey Graham implied he should try to throw away ballots,” “Lindsey Graham fuels Republican civil war in Georgia,” and “Lindsey Graham just crossed another line in defending Trump.
“In these morning calls, Jeff Zucker orders his people to suppress some stories—not because they are false—but because they will hurt his political agenda,” said O’Keefe, adding, “When Zucker tells CNN reporters, hosts, producers and editors to hype stories because they fit his narrative, or to target public officials like Sen. Lindsey Graham, it’s because they do not toe the Zucker line”
In another recorded meeting, CNN senior vice-president Cynthia Hudson can be heard explaining that Cuban-Americans have supported Trump because they are “attracted to bullies.”
“Trump has used the communism, socialism, rhetoric as part of his hook for the Cubans in Miami, how that has resonated and how the Biden team, has not done enough to counter that,” she said.
“This is all that, that the only reason [Cubans in Miami] are supporting Trump is because of that [Biden is socialist] narrative—and that narrative, and the fact that sadly, I have to say, there’s a population that’s very attracted to bullies,” she said.
Project Veritas says that nobody on the call objected to these comments.
“No one is countering it properly in Florida, the Cubans are going to vote for Trump and that’s terrifying,” she said. “I think that there is a way to counter the [Biden is a socialist] narrative in Florida that is not being taken advantage of.”
Just six days ago CNN ran an op-ed titled “How Democrats can win back the Cuban-American vote.” It speaks for itself:
Each race involved unique issues, but there was one constant: the Republican candidate’s exploitation of the Latino community’s trauma at the hands of socialism, coupled with a blind support of Trump… As she recounted this story, she couldn’t understand how Cubans today could praise a man endorsed by the KKK’s former leader. (Trump publicly disavowed David Duke’s endorsement, after being criticized publicly for seeming to resist doing so.) When the disheartening presidential-election results came in, I couldn’t even be surprised when comedian Jaboukie Young-White tweeted, “The KKKubans came out in full force.” Meanwhile, Rep. Gimenez’s victory speech called his victory “a rejection…of the evils of socialism and communism.” My mother, who was watching the results in real time at home, lamented, “I’m ashamed to be Cuban.” While Cubans are not a monolith, I couldn’t blame her…Beyond triggering language about a place where none of them live anymore — Cuba — Cuban-Americans benefit from Democratic policies. By voting for Trump, working-class people in Miami are voting against their own interests. The Democratic Party needs to do the challenging work of going into these communities and communicating what their party stands for.
A piece from mid-November sought to examine what the election “reveals” about Latino voters. It compared the supposed fact that “Trump Republicanism thrives on the oversimplified division of people into ‘good’ and ‘bad'” to Latino ideals of machismo and weakness.
“Economic debate is reduced to identifying bad ‘socialist’ actors, the crisis of democracy solved by identifying the press as ‘bad people,’ effectively relegating serious discussion of issues like minimum wage, climate change and racial inequality to irrelevance,” it explains.
Zucker also can be heard on the tapes telling his team to disregard Hunter Biden Laptop From Hell reports, referring to “The Breitbart, New York Post, Fox News rabbit hole of Hunter Biden, which I don’t think anybody outside of that world understood.”
Another male attendee chimes in, saying “Obviously, we’re not going with the New York Post story right now on Hunter Biden, which seems to be giving its marching orders to Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber about what to talk about today.
“Obviously, Hunter Biden’s lawyer is quoted in the New York Post, and we’ll just continue to report out, this is the very stuff that the president was impeached over, this is the stuff that Senate committees looked at and found nothing wrong in Joe Biden’s interactions with Ukrainians–,” he said.
Zucker also reportedly told the team to avoid covering the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine.
In one instance, a male participant can be heard saying, “Having an email that – perhaps there was a meeting with someone from Burisma it seems, Rudy Giuliani’s sort of ‘dream-a-vision’ of how to throw stuff at the wall in these closing days of the campaign.”
Another male said, “Hey, Jeff, it’s just David, on the Burisma story, and we should be awfully careful about that obviously, but I do think there’s a media story. What in the world are Maggie Haberman and Jake Sherman doing retweeting that story?”
CNN’s coverage of the laptop debacle was sparse. Where existent, it was aggressively dismissive. Headlines included “The anatomy of the New York Post’s dubious Hunter Biden story.”
“This is a classic example of the right-wing media machine,” Brian Stelter said of the laptop coverage, calling the laptop a “manufactured scandal.”
“Fox and Trump have this in common: They want you to stay mad and stay tuned, he added.
CNN did finally decide to weigh in on the laptop, but not until it latched on to investigations into whether it was “tied to Russian disinformation effort targeting Biden,” only to have to report days later that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said there was “no intelligence to support” such a claim.