Staffers at CNN aren’t worried about the latest leaks from Project Veritas’ “Expose CNN” campaign, though the passcode to the network-wide 9:00 a.m. editorial call was changed ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. If anything, they’re annoyed at the “gross” tactics used to obtain undercover videos of junior staffers discussing network operations.
“I don’t even know what [it] is,” said one staffer when asked about Project Veritas’ latest campaign against the network.
“No one is talking about it,” said another.
Monday, Project Veritas, a right-wing activist group that has tried to conduct previous sting operations to expose journalistic bias, released its latest video targeting CNN. The “Expose CNN” operation relies on video footage taken by Cary Poarch, who listened in on the morning editorial call and is promoted by Project Veritas and founder James O’Keefe as someone who was a CNN “insider” at the network’s D.C. bureau. But according to a CNN spokesperson, Poarch wasn’t a CNN employee and was instead a freelance satellite truck operator whose company had been contracted by the network. Poarch had given notice that he was leaving the company prior to the release of the tapes, the spokesperson said.
Included in the videos, some of which contain noticeable cuts, are clips of people talking about CNN’s bias against President Donald Trump. Yesterday the president tweeted supporting the project.
“Project Veritas-Obtained Undercover Videos Highlight Jeff Zucker’s (@CNN) Campaign To Destroy Trump. Videos Reveal @CNN’s BIAS!” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews Does this sound like a good, or even great, lawsuit?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2019
The videos show conversations with two CNN media coordinators, Nick Neville and Christian Sierra. A CNN insider told TheWrap that while there isn’t much worry about the content of the videos — “I don’t think anybody really cares about this” — especially outside the D.C. bureau, if there is any outrage, it’s that O’Keefe targeted junior staffers.
“It’s so ugly, with no regard for the fact that you could ruin these kids’ careers because they thought you were their friend,” the CNN insider said, adding, “O’Keefe doesn’t tell his audience a media coordinator is essentially like an assistant or a junior staffer who is doing, like, video logging.”
The insider said Project Veritas “tricked” the media coordinators, which is “gross,” but a typical tactic for the operation: “He preyed on kids who were starting their careers, gave them booze, set them up. They thought that they were his friend and then they cut deceptively — deceptively cut out their leading questions … It’s really sad.”
“I don’t really want to star in this film,” joked a staffer outside of the D.C. bureau of the yet-unreleased videos O’Keefe has said are coming. The staffer added, “No one has said a word about it so I don’t think folks are too concerned about it.”
Other releases during the “Expose CNN” rollout included calls from CNN President Jeff Zucker, who told staff to focus on impeachment news.
“What media company doesn’t make active decisions on coverage trends based on a number of factors (mainly money)?” asked a former CNN staffer who requested anonymity. “To think that any of them will be truly objective is delusional. The line being drawn between those decisions and Jeff Zucker’s personal feelings is very thin, in my opinion.”
An email obtained by TheWrap confirms the passcode to the morning call changed Tuesday, but multiple staffers confirmed jt changes regularly. One insider said, “I’m sure when they find out somebody is listening in, they change it … but 4,000 people could potentially have that call-in number. There’s not really anything to hide.”
Project Veritas targeted CNN in 2017 as well, releasing videos of an associate producer speaking candidly over drinks, slamming both presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and CNN’s Chris Cuomo. Disclosure: This reporter worked for CNN at the time.
Reached for comment Tuesday, a CNN spokesperson told TheWrap, “There’s even less to comment on today than there was yesterday.”
A representative for Project Veritas did not immediately return a request for comment on reaction to the new campaign.