Proving there are more important concepts than ideology, the left-wing media giant CNN launched an attack on the progressive news outlet, The American Prospect, for allegedly reporting facts the gatekeeping organization did not like.
In an encouraging twist, The Prospect fought back against CNN’s smear of “misinfo,” with their executive editor, David Dayen, taking the established network to task on Twitter over their “sleazy” practices.
Dayen addressed the Friday “Reliable Sources” newsletter written by CNN’s Oliver Darcy in a series of tweets, one reading, “We're going to have more on this in a followup. But it is so sleazy of CNN to duck us for a week, then have their "media" "reporter" run a BS story that lumps us in with conspiracy theorists. With the "evidence" that an untrustworthy agency said so.”
We're going to have more on this in a followup. But it is so sleazy of @CNN to duck us for a week, then have their "media" "reporter" run a BS story that lumps us in with conspiracy theorists. With the "evidence" that an untrustworthy agency said so.— David Dayen (@ddayen) March 27, 2021
The spat began on March 22 when The Prospect’s Marcia Brown wrote an article entitled “Did CNN Air a Staged Migrant Crossing of the Rio Grande?”
In the thoroughly reported piece, Brown chronicles allegations that a video report of migrants crossing the border, which aired on CNN on March 12, was in fact depicting a staged event.
In the original reporting by CNN’s Ed Lavandera, he narrates the chilling scene of illegal immigrants being ferried across the Rio Grande River by a masked coyote.
However, according to Brown’s reporting, the sight may be startling for a different reason altogether:
“But the scene may not be all that it appears to be. Immigrant rights advocates and others claim that the footage was staged, potentially with the cooperation of the Border Patrol. CNN was warned that the clip appeared to be a fabrication before it aired, but the network decided to run it anyway.”
The article goes on to report the opinions of qualified stakeholders, including a former Border Patrol agent, the director of a Texas conservation organization, and a volunteer helping migrants seek asylum.
CNN was not directly accused of setting up the alleged charade, but notably, they reportedly refused to respond to the Prospect’s requests for comment.
In a scripted response, CNN’s head of strategic communications, Matt Dornic, addressed the issue on Twitter, replying to a former Border Patrol Agent’s tweet, “CNN did not participate in any type of coordinated effort to shoot a staged scene of migrants crossing the river nor have we found any credible evidence that suggests our team was unknowingly part of a set-up by Border Patrol or anyone else.”
CNN did not participate in any type of coordinated effort to shoot a staged scene of migrants crossing the river nor have we found any credible evidence that suggests our team was unknowingly part of a set-up by Border Patrol or anyone else.— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) March 19, 2021
Then, days after The Prospect article to which CNN allegedly offered no response, the network released Darcy’s newsletter attacking The Prospect’s reporting.
The newsletter begins by establishing the moral weight CNN feels they have to endure in their self-prescribed position of arbiter of truth. Darcy writes,
“It's impossible to keep track of — nevertheless take the time to debunk — all of the conspiracy theories that find their ways to audiences on a weekly basis. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that our information environment is overrun with unsubstantiated assertions and outright lies”
The newsletter goes on to address the “progressive website called The American Prospect,” coincidentally a three-decade-old print magazine, completely dismissing its reporting. Writing under the “Damage done” subheading,
“Now, you probably didn't hear about this particular conspiracy theory that went viral this week. And that's my point. For every piece of misinfo that is dismantled by a fact-check, there are several more that flourish relatively unchallenged.” [Emphasis not added].
In response to this newsletter comparing his reporter’s work to a “conspiracy theory,” Dayen took exception and made quite clear as to why in a substantial tweet thread. He points out no less than five factual inaccuracies in the six brief paragraphs the newsletter devotes to the Prospect’s reporting.
Dayen even releases the questions the Prospect originally send to CNN regarding the original border crossing incident. The questions that CNN refused to answer before they took to their “Reliable Sources” newsletter to go on the attack.
Ultimately Dayen gets at the heart of the issue, writing of CNN’s “sleazy” reporting, “And what really pains me is that this smears a young reporter, Marcia Brown, who has spent years on the immigration beat, was just at the border, and knows a ton more than Oliver Darcy about what's really happening there. It's disgraceful.”
And what really pains me is that this smears a young reporter, @Marcia_Brown9, who has spent years on the immigration beat, was just at the border, and knows a ton more than @oliverdarcy about what's really happening there. It's disgraceful.— David Dayen (@ddayen) March 27, 2021
Nobody here is claiming CNN was responsible for staging an illegal border crossing to get the footage, and nowhere was that claimed as truth in Brown’s original reporting, either. And yet, the network million(s) of Americans get their news from responded as they did, with a newsletter claiming to be “Reliable Sources” no less.
As for the allegations reported in Brown's originally story, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have vehemently denied participating in the staging of any border event, both on twitter and in a statement to CNN.
Their statement reads, "CBP categorically denies any suggestion that the United States Border Patrol (USBP) staged a migrant crossing for a media story. What is true, however, is the fact that this specific location accounts for the highest number of illegal crossings by family units and unaccompanied alien children in the Rio Grande Valley sector. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and high traffic in this area, USBP established a temporary outdoor processing facility nearby to quickly place family units into administrative proceedings."