18:01 GMT03 July 2020
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    From genuine scoops to outright falsehoods, from cursing at presidents to getting cuffed live on air, CNN has quite a history and continues to make it – not without an outrageous blunder every once in a while.

    The Cable News Network, aka CNN, aka The Most Trusted Name in News™, is turning 40.

    This age is often associated with a midlife crisis, a period of self-reflection and reassessment. A time to dig deeper into the mistakes you've made and the path you've chosen.

    This is also the age at which many ditch materialistic gifts for something of a bigger spiritual value, and it feels like a perfect opportunity to make a small introspective present, without any malice.

    Here it comes, a carefully-wrapped collection of CNN's lowlights we will always cherish.

    2016 Election and Trump coverage

    CNN has revitalised itself with the rise of Donald Trump in American politics, particularly in the run-up to the 2016 election.

    The network was accused of political bias more than once during that campaign. It started with Bernie Sanders, whose supporters launched a short-lived "Occupy CNN" movement in the spring of 2016, and continued with Donald Trump labelling CNN the original fake news.

    ​CNN eagerly put out stories about Trump's alleged collusion with Russia (it took three years and an FBI investigation to shut that talk down), while its contributor quietly slid questions to Hillary Clinton in advance of CNN debates.

    Trump's election victory only made matters worse. In 2017, CNN published two stories that were supposed to be scoops but backfired heavily instead. According to one article, Trump's ally Anthony Scaramucci was being investigated for alleged links to a Russian investment fund, and another purported that the Trump campaign had received advance access to the embarrassing DNC emails.

    Both stories were debunked, and CNN was forced to issue retractions. The failed Scaramucci article even led to the firing of three reporters who worked on it.

    Bait taken

    In September 2016, Donald Trump appeared to have duped CNN, as well as some other marquee mainstream media, with a deceitful announcement that he would address the debunked theory that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.

    The then-GOP nominee was a well-known advocate of the birther theory, and CNN anticipated the event airing a banner that read "Soon: Trump To Address Birther Issue". There were no catchy headlines that day.

    Trump talked up his new hotel, then let veterans speak for about half an hour, and delivered a four-sentence statement rejecting birtherism and blamed Clinton for starting the theory, before he left without taking any questions.

    "We got played, again, by the Trump campaign, which is what they do", CNN's John King said moments after the event was over. "Voters can know what to do with that".

    His colleague Jake Tapper said the public "got Rickrolled and played". Unlike Rick Astley, Trump was seemingly gonna let them down.

    A little bit too far?

    Despite CNN's mutual antagonism with the Trump administration, its reporters and contributors have sought to maintain journalistic integrity. Sometimes, however, they didn't try very hard.

    In June 2017, CNN ousted Reza Aslan, the host of docu-series Believer on the network, after he called Trump a "piece of s**t" over the president's travel ban on Muslims in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack.

    Just 10 days prior to that, Kathy Griffin was fired as co-host of CNN's annual New Year's Eve coverage. The comedian had drawn backlash after photos were released of her holding up a mock severed head resembling that of Donald Trump.

    And in December 2016, a female producer was caught on a hot mic joking with reporter Suzanne Malveaux about the president-elect's plane crashing.

    The video, which was recorded before a live shot, got uploaded to YouTube and caused quite a stir. CNN calmed down the anger by announcing that it had disciplined the staffer, but would not reveal her name.

    The interview that never aired

    Trump wasn't the only Republican targeted by CNN. In the wake of the deadly Parkland shooting in February 2017, its reporters called out several high-profile GOP members for their perceived unwillingness to go on air and get pressed about gun rights.

    "They're all on Fox, the mothership, because they don't want to be asked about this", Chris Cuomo said on his programme New Day on 15 February. "What are they afraid of?"

    One of the Republicans he mentioned, Senator Ted Cruz, responded that he actually had a 15-minute interview with CNN earlier that day about ways to prevent gun violence, which was never aired.

    Cruz's press secretary Catherine Frazier then revealed that the senator had been invited to come on New Day less than 50 minutes before the programme ended and less than 30 minutes before Cuomo called him out. "What a nice heads up before being gratuitously criticised on air", she said.

    Cuomo maintained that Cruz had declined his invitation to "be tested about how to stop these shootings", without delving into the details of the timeframe.

    Cleveland connection anomaly

    An innocent but still hilarious blunder occurred in May 2013, when CNN aired a split-screen satellite interview that could have well done without the split screen.

    Ashleigh Banfield of CNN and Nancy Grace of Headline News were covering the graphic Ariel Castro kidnapping case in Cleveland, which attracted national attention at the time.

    Both Banfield and Grace bizarrely pretended to be doing the interview from different locations, with Grace holding her airpiece as if she had a bad connection.

    However, the traffic that drove by in the background soon made it abundantly clear that both reporters were standing in the same parking lot, probably within several metres of each other.

    Gangsta rap for... gangsta gran?

    An amazingly weird playlist choice all but ruined what was supposed to be a human-interest story about an old lady in a young person's body.

    CNN chose to play up Fantastic Voyage by Coolio in a 2010 newscast about a black Pennsylvania woman cruising around at 103 years of age.

    The lyrics that played to the footage of the woman getting into her Cadillac Coupe de Ville went: "Ain't no bloodin', ain't no cripin' / Ain't no punk-a** n***a's set trippin' / Everybody's got a stack and it ain't no crack / and it really don't matter... (if you're white or black)".

    Some 20 minutes after the broadcast, anchor Kyra Phillips apologised.

    "We aired some music just a few minutes ago, and, obviously for those of you that heard it, it was the wrong music that aired", she said. "We apologise for that. It was a terrible mistake. And we're working very hard to make up for it".

    Lost in translation

    CNN was briefly banned from working in Iran in January 2006 after it dramatically misquoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    The then-Iranian president told reporters at a briefing that he believed his country had the right to use nuclear energy. A simultaneous translator hired by CNN misinterpreted Ahmadinejad as saying that Iran had the right to nuclear weapons and not energy, an error that brought his remark into a whole new perspective. CNN then re-broadcast the incorrect translation.

    Ahmadinejad had repeatedly denied ambitions to develop nuclear arms, but firmly stood by Iran's nuclear programme. Angered by the misquote, he banned CNN's stringer from the country and allowed the broadcaster to resume work only following a correction and an apology.

    Nerve gas and Laos

    One of CNN's biggest faux pas was a collaboration with Time magazine about a covert 1970 incursion into Laos codenamed Operation Tailwind.

    Valley of Death, a 1998 documentary about the operation, claimed that its goal was to take down G.I. defectors and that the deadly nerve gas sarin was used in the process. It also reported that American and allied Laotian soldiers killed around 100 people in the village that was targeted in the raid, mostly civilians including women and children as well as deserters – something that could qualify as a war crime.

    The Pentagon denied both allegations; in particular, it stated that Tailwind participants used a strong but non-lethal formulation of tear gas, but not sarin, which is designated as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

    The military launched an internal investigation, which concluded that CNN/Time reporting was flawed and did not provide enough evidence to substantiate them apart from accounts of several former military commanders.

    CNN and Time also reviewed their reporting and issued retractions. Three producers left CNN and Peter Arnett, the Pulitzer-winning reporter who narrated the documentary, resigned after being reprimanded.

    Whatever comes to hand

    An eyebrow-raising vintage moment happened during the Persian Gulf War, the conflict that propelled CNN from relative obscurity into a leading role in American news.

    When a live newscast from Saudi Arabia got interrupted by a siren, Charles Jaco slammed a gas mask over his face while his fellow correspondent Carl Rochelle put on a helmet.

    Their reaction seems natural – after all, they were near a war zone – but the fact that Jaco and Rochelle used different protection meant that one of them prepared for a chemical attack, and the other one for a missile strike.

    Rochelle went on to reassure his colleague that no gas had been dropped, but told him that his jumpy reaction was understandable.

    Jaco later said that he had heard criticism from other reporters and admitted that "there were times I've blown it... It disturbs me a lot, those that think I'm increasing the fear. I've got a family back home, too".

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