CNN: Reckless Laziness

June 17, 2019

CNN may have published information on an attacked drone from a “source” that turned out not to be true. Worse, it appears CNN has not, and may never, issue a correction. In fact, they seem to have actually doubled down. 

Background and Facts

On Thursday June 13 two cargo ships suffered damage in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. described the incident as an attack orchestrated by Iran.

Since the alleged attack, there have been stories published in regards to a U.S. drone being attacked by Iran over the Strait. The possible drone attack has been covered by the media, but there is one difference in their reporting. The difference in this case is what time the attack happened, and recently the number of attacks on drones as well.

CNN published one of the first article about the drone being attacked by Iran (archive link here). The article was last updated 4:53 AM ET, Sat June 15, 2019 and stated the following:

“In the hours before the attack on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the Iranians spotted a US drone flying overhead and launched a surface-to-air missile at the unmanned aircraft, a US official told CNN.”

“The missile missed the drone and fell into the water, the official said.”

“Prior to taking fire, the American MQ-9 Reaper drone observed Iranian vessels closing in on the tankers, the official added, though the source did not say whether the unmanned aircraft saw the boats conducting an actual attack.”

CNN’s reporting was spread and parroted among several different companies. Some notable establishments included Business Insider, The Times of Israel, The Washington Examiner, and others. All used CNN and its source for the news.

However, there were different reports on the event.

Reuters reported on an article originally released on June 13 that an attack on a drone happened after the incident with the cargo ships. There was no report of an attack on a drone before in the Strait of Hormuz before the incident.

“A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday a surface-to-air missile was fired from Iranian territory on Thursday morning at a U.S. drone that was near Front Altair following the attack on the tanker. The missile did not hit the drone, the official said.”

It cannot be confirmed when exactly this information was released by Reuters. The article according to their website was published on Thursday, but they reference speaking to an official on Friday. One source that could be tracked on the other hand was Fox News.

Fox News published on June 15 around 11:00 AM an article with the same information as the Reuters report. You can find an archive copy here. According to them, there was not an attack before in the Strait of Hormuz incident on a drone, but one after.

ABC has also reported that an attack on a drone happened after, not before the cargo ships were allegedly attacked.  This time however the source was an official U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson.

Since the buzz about the drone attack, U.S. Central Command has released a statement regarding the attacked drone. According to their statement:

“On June 13, 2019, according to our assessment, a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9 over the Gulf of Oman to disrupt surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The MQ-9 had arrived minutes earlier at 6:20 a.m. local time at the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and had observed the ship on fire.”

Meaning, the alleged attack on the drone happened after the Strait of Hormuz incident, according to the U.S. Government.

CNN meanwhile had a different take on the situation. CNN reported on the official CENTCOM statement, but also said another attack had happened on a drone flying overhead before the second attack took place. (Archive link found here). CNN as of June 16, 2019 at 10:17 PM CST is the only ones claiming two attacks occurred against drones in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Truth (Opinion)

CNN messed up. For whatever reason, they reported that an attack on a drone happened before the initial attack on the cargo ships, not after. They seem to have televised this information, and several different websites quoted them as having reported this information.

There could be any number of reasons why they reported false information. Someone misspoke, or heard the wrong thing. The drive for major news media outlets to be the first with information is intense, and in doing so factchecking could become a low priority. CNN should have produced an update, and moved on. It would have been embarrassing, but that’s what happens when you mess up. You have to make it right.

What you should not do is what CNN did. CNN appears to be doubling down on the idea that a drone was attacked above the cargo ships before the incident in the strait. They also are reporting what CENTCOM has stated. As such, they are reporting two separate attacks on drones around the incident area. They are the only ones reporting on this.

It is possible that two separate attacks really did happen, but that seems unlikely. The report of the attack detailed by CNN closely resembles the reporting issued by other news media outlets. Further, CNN is not the only organization with access to senior officials. Certainly, if two separate attacks did happen it would be a part of other reports on the incident.

What CNN likely did was double down. They messed up, but that does not mean they have to take responsibility. Instead, it is easier to let the story die down, and let the incident fade from memory. Most people would hardly notice CNN messed up; all they have to do is act like nothing happened.

It’s too bad there are people out there that care, and are more than happy to expose BS.

This is intolerable. It is literally spreading fake news to cover itself. Other websites have covered their report, and unless they are following the story closely they may never know of the screw up. People may have been legitimately misinformed. This is no way to treat a screw up, let alone the public at large. The truth matters darn it.

I casually wonder how often CNN has done this.

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