CNN and MSNBC couldn’t confirm BuzzFeed’s now-debunked report claiming President Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress – but that didn’t stop the networks from using it as the impetus to talk about impeachment throughout the day.
The Daily Caller reported, citing TV clipping service Grabien, that CNN and MSNBC mentioned the words “impeach,” “impeachment,” or “impeachable,” a whopping 179 times on Friday after before Mueller’s team released a statement pushing back against BuzzFeed’s alleged scoop.
“CNN mentioned impeachment 82 times while MSNBC mentioned it a whopping 97 times,” Daily Caller media editor Amber Athey wrote. “The review included only original Friday programming and ran up until each network learned that BuzzFeed’s report was in dispute.”
BuzzFeed published their exclusive late Thursday, citing two anonymous federal law enforcement officials, who alleged that the special counsel had evidence that the president told Cohen to lie about dealings regarding a potential Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election. Some industry insiders were skeptical, as news organizations such as the New York Times couldn’t match the damaging claims.
But CNN and MSNBC ran strong with the report, often adding disclaimers such as "if true" throughout the day as they covered the report.
“Others repeated the story more uncritically and suggested that the president would be forced to resign and might even face obstruction of justice charges,” Athey wrote.
Athey pointed out that MSNBC’s Katy Tur even said "Trump is facing the most damning report to date for his presidency. A story that could lead to his impeachment.”
Late Friday, the story being pushed by the liberal news organizations came to a sudden halt when the office of the special counsel released its rare statement.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, & characterization of documents & testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr stated.
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has stood by the report.
MSNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal, invested $400 million in BuzzFeed, with $200 million being invested as recently as Nov. 2016.
Jon Levine, media editor for the Wrap, tweeted that “it’s clear” that based on the special counsel’s statement, BuzzFeed’s story was “not ready for the wall-to-wall cable news coverage it received.”