CNN’s Russia story debacle came at the worst possible time for the network

CNN’s Russia story debacle came at the worst possible time for the network, by Paul Farhi at the very PC WaPo.

Lex Haris, CNN’s investigations editor, traveled to a journalism conference in Phoenix last week. In hindsight, his timing was terrible.

While Haris was away, his group published a story on CNN.com that reported — citing a single anonymous source — that Senate investigators were looking into a meeting between a member of President Trump’s transition team, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci, and an executive of a Russian investment fund before Trump took office. The story seemed to advance the narrative of ties between Trump campaign officials and people close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

One problem: When challenged on the particulars of the story, CNN acknowledged that it couldn’t stand by it. It retracted it and apologized to Scaramucci on Saturday. On Monday, Haris and the editor and reporter of the piece, Eric Lichtblau and Thomas Frank, resigned from CNN.

The Scaramucci story was another ill-timed setback for CNN, which like other news organizations is under intense scrutiny from Trump and his supporters. The highly charged environment has led CNN Chairman Jeff Zucker to stress internally the need to “play error-free ball” in reporting on Trump. …

Among its other high-profile debacles over the past month, CNN fired comedian Kathy Griffin, who co-hosted its New Year’s Eve program, after she took part in a photo shoot in which she posed with a bloody facsimile of Trump’s severed head. It corrected a story that wrongly predicted what former FBI director James B. Comey would say about Trump in his congressional testimony. And it subsequently canceled a new series, “Believer,” and fired host Reza Aslan after he described Trump in vulgar terms on Twitter.