President Trump renewed his attack on CNN as “fake news” on Tuesday morning after conservative provocateur James O’Keefe released a video of CNN producer John Bonifield criticizing the cabler’s coverage of Trump’s ties to Russia.
Early Tuesday, Trump suggested in a tweet that “Fake News CNN” was in for a management shakeup. The video released by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas features a nine-minute discussion with Bonifield, supervising producer of the CNN Health unit, in which Bonifield criticizes CNN’s heavy focus on the probe into the Trump administration’s connection to Russian officials.
Bonifield describes the Trump-Russia story as “mostly bulls—” and said the coverage was driven by the desire for ratings. He also says that Trump is “probably right” to describe the media’s focus on Russia’s ties to his administration as a “witch hunt.” Bonifield does not appear to realize that he is being videotaped by a man whose face is not seen on camera and is identified only as “PV Journalist” on screen.
CNN said in a statement that the network “stands by” Bonifield.
“Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it,” the cabler said.
Earlier in the day, CNN did respond via Twitter in a reply to Trump challenging the President’s claim that CNN ratings are “way down!”
Trump later renewed his attack on other mainstream news organizations, including the New York Times and the Big Four network news divisions.
The President’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also challenged mainstream media outlets to report on the Project Veritas video.
A CNN source pointed to the fact that Bonifield is not directly involved in CNN’s breaking news or investigative reporting on the Trump-Russia connection, which is the subject of multiple federal investigations. The source noted that employees frequently have differing opinions about editorial coverage decision and that CNN has internal processes for staffers to make their concerns known.
O’Keefe is known for his undercover video operations designed to discredit and embarrass Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. He made his mark in 2009 with a video targeting the community organizing group ACORN that purportedly featured staffers discussing various illegal activities. ACORN lost its federal funding as a result of the video. O’Keefe has regularly been accused of stagecraft and of twisting the words of his targets through heavy editing of his sting videos.
On Tuesday, O’Keefe pressed CNN and its senior media correspondent Brian Stelter to address the Bonifield video.
Reaction to the Project Veritas video spread quickly through conservative media channels and was celebrated as evidence of bias toward the Republican administration. The release of the Bonifield video came one day after three prominent CNN editorial staffers resigned following the retraction of an online story posted last Friday about a Trump supporter’s alleged ties to a Russian investment fund.