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CNN's Retracted-Story Mess Just Got Way Messier

By Published on .

Ad Age "Media Guy" columnist Simon Dumenco's media roundup for the morning of Tuesday, June 27:

Today's accidental theme, dear reader, is environmental protec ... -- oh, who am I kidding? Today's theme is Russia (see No. 1, below), Russia (No. 2), Russia (No. 3), Russia (No. 5), Russia (No. 7). Anyway, let's get started ...

1. "Three prominent journalists at CNN resigned on Monday after the cable news network was forced to retract and apologize for a story on its website involving a close ally of President Trump," The New York Times' Michael M. Grynbaum reports in a Monday evening post that's also in today's print edition. "The article -- linking Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge-fund manager and Trump confidant, to a Russian investment fund supposedly being investigated by the Senate -- was removed from CNN.com late last week after the network decided it could not fully stand by its reporting."

The Times piece is headlined "3 CNN Journalists Resign After Retracted Story on Trump Ally." Wondering how CNN spun it? Here you go: "Three journalists leaving CNN after retracted article." "Leaving"? That's ... cute.

CNN's account of its internal crisis was written by "Reliable Sources" (!) host Brian Stelter, who notes that,

The departures of [Lex] Haris, [Eric] Lichtblau and [Thomas] Frank are likely to come as a surprise to colleagues, particularly given the reputations of the three men. Frank worked for USA Today and Newsday for three decades, pursuing investigations and covering the Iraq war as an embedded reporter, before coming to work at CNN. ... A veteran of The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006, Lichtblau joined CNN just three months ago. Haris, who was named the executive editor of CNN Investigates in January, was previously the executive editor of CNNMoney.

2. Guess who noticed what went down at CNN?

And guess who responded?

I call Fake Grammar! Anybody else notice? Ah, yes: "President Trump and CNN get into Twitter battle with a false fact and typo" -- thanks, Daily News.

3. Meanwhile, over at Breitbart News, the main story on the homepage this morning is titled "Project Veritas Undercover Investigation: CNN Producer Admits Network Hyping 'Mostly Bullsh*t' Trump-Russia Scandal for 'Ratings.'" Breitbart's Matthew Boyle writes,

James O'Keefe's Project Veritas has struck again: This time, a senior CNN producer was caught on camera by one of O'Keefe's investigators admitting that the network's relentless bashing of President Donald Trump with the Russia scandal lacks proof. "Could be bullshit. I mean, it's mostly bullshit right now," the CNN producer, John Bonifield, said in a video O'Keefe's Project Veritas released on Tuesday, when asked about his thoughts on the Russia investigation. "Like, we don't have any giant proof."

It would appear that Bonifield likely has little or nothing to do with CNN's Trump-Russia coverage. As Breitbart notes further down in its piece,

Bonifield is a supervising producer for CNN Health. According to his biography on CNN's website, Bonifield works with the CNN Medical Unit and "primarily with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen."

+ flashback: "Sting of Myself: Amateurish spies like James O'Keefe III attempt to sway the 2016 campaign," a May 30, 2016 piece by The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, just in case you need a refresher course on O'Keefe.

4. Is there any news that's not Russia-related? Hmmm, let me see. Ah, yes, check out this how-the-system-really-works piece from Politico's Josh Dawsey and Burgess Everett: "Republicans eye billions in side deals to win Obamacare repeal votes" (subhead: "The White House and Senate GOP leaders have nearly $200 billion in savings to divvy up among senators' priorities to secure votes for the imperiled bill").

5. Oh, also in not-Russia news, last night Us Weekly sent out a email blast with the subject line "Eminem Has a Beard Now! See the Pics" -- which linked to this story: "Eminem Has a Beard Now, Looks Totally Different -- See the Pic." If you click, I won't tell anyone, I swear.

+ flashback: "Russian Religious Leader Wants Men to 'Protect Themselves From Homosexuality' by Not Shaving Their Beard," via Newsweek last week, ICYMI.

6. "Alec Baldwin will return to SNL next season with his spot-on Donald Trump impersonation," per The Washington Post.

7. And finally, as noted in yesterday's media roundup, Stephen Colbert paid a little visit to, yes, Russia last week. On last night's "Late Show," he talked about how his surprise trip went:

You know who did know I was in Russia? Russian intelligence. Hardcore fans, evidently. Followed me everywhere! Also got some attention from American intelligence. Couple of guys seemed to pop up wherever we went. But you know, it's important to keep your eye on a comedian, you know, while he's in Russia, you know, doing jokes. I could be giving state secrets to the Russians. Oh wait -- someone's already got that covered. My apologies.

Thank you to Brian Braiker, George Slefo, Jessica Wohl and and Chen Wu for their roundup suggestions.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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