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Jeffrey Toobin should opine on the law, not journalism

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

As any media observer can tell you, CNN has been fumbling the ball in the past few years. In fact, it could be argued, no single network has done more to diminish public trust in media than the granddaddy of cable news.

It starts at the top. CNN President Jeff Zucker is the same person who -- while serving as president of NBC Entertainment -- put Trump into millions of American homes as host of "The Apprentice." Practically since the moment Trump entered the political arena, he has bludgeoned CNN, Zucker and the network's reporters and anchors -- often by name. In turn, CNN's on-air personalities have done little to hide their contempt for Trump. Here's a news flash: Personal agendas get in the way of doing good journalism.

CNN's reign of error has included:

-- Eight reporters, anchors and executives attending, in April 2015, an off-the-record dinner at the New York home of Joel Benenson, chief campaign strategist for Hillary Clinton, just two days before the eventual Democratic nominee announced her candidacy in 2015. The meeting was held in secret, and no one reported or confirmed it until it was revealed by WikiLeaks.

-- Piggybacking, in January 2017, on an unconfirmed BuzzFeed story about a tawdry dossier compiled by an ex-British spy that alleged the Russians had incriminating material -- including the unverified claim that Trump caroused with prostitutes in Moscow. Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," at one point scolded BuzzFeed Editor Ben Smith for running the story. Stelter failed to mention that CNN had first reported on the existence of the dossier.

-- Several months later, CNN contributor Van Jones being captured on hidden camera by Project Veritas declaring that "the Russia thing is just a big nothing-burger." After some called for Jones to be fired for helping overcook that nothing-burger by dwelling on the story, CNN's public relations department issued a statement saying the network values different views and that "diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong."

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-- Having to later retract an inadequately sourced story posted on CNN.com. The article incorrectly claimed that Senate investigators were examining a meeting between Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci, who was a member of Trump's transition team, and an executive for the $10 billion Russian Direct Investment Fund, which invests in Russian companies. CNN was threatened with a $100 million lawsuit, and three CNN journalists responsible for the story resigned.

Is this what Jeffrey Toobin, a loyal soldier who has been with CNN since 2002, considers real journalism? If so, why would anyone take seriously what the legal analyst has to say about anything?

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Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group


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