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Opinion CNN succumbs to its own Comey hype

In a preview of James Comey’s congressional testimony on Thursday morning, CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto said that the former FBI director’s words could have a resounding impact, even though a lot of his disclosures may seem a bit stale. “It will have import, it will have impact because as credible as we are, hearing it from our mouths vs. hearing it from his mouth for the American population is going to be significant,” said Sciutto.

Bolding added to highlight a point that a great number of people are challenging. On Wednesday afternoon, CNN issued a correction to a story predicting that Comey, who was fired by Trump, would refute Trump’s contention that Comey told him on three occasions that he himself wasn’t under investigation. Speaking on CNN air on Tuesday night, analyst Gloria Borger said, “Comey is going to dispute the president on this point if he’s asked about it by senators, and we have to assume that he will be. He will say he never assured Donald Trump that he was not under investigation, that that would have been improper for him to do so.”

‘In the main, it was not true’: Comey denounces New York Times story

Then, on Wednesday, Comey released his prepared testimony. Among the many newsworthy nuggets in the document was the fact that Comey did indeed provide an assurance to Trump that he wasn’t being investigated personally. CNN promptly issued a correction, which reads, in part, “The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.”

After the news of CNN’s correction surfaced on Wednesday, the “fake news” crowd had a large gathering on social media. A broadly representative sampling:

Not fake news, just wrong news. CNN deployed four reporters — Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper and Brian Rokus — to pursue the story. They had sources. And when they figured out that the piece was mistaken, the network published a correction. All of those things stand in contradistinction to fabled fake news.

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A better term for the story, however, would be “stupid news.”

Consider that the story landed on on Tuesday at around 7 p.m.

Comey released his prepared testimony on Wednesday afternoon.

So CNN assigned four reporters to inaccurately predict testimony that was coming in a matter of hours. Why throw a squadron of talent after what New York University professor Jay Rosen calls an “ego scoop”? Who would ever remember this exclusive? Does CNN believe the entire country is checking its countdown clocks every few minutes?

The network prized the testimony preview because this was COMEY WEEK. According to an account from NewsBusters, CNN hyped the upcoming testimony for 10 hours from noon on June 1 through noon Wednesday. Such big-event hysteria apparently ruled out considerations that testimony prediction would prove to be an ephemeral and pointless pursuit.

This blog is on record as agreeing with Sciutto’s assessment that his network is credible. And CNN staffers know as well as anyone in this business that they pay a higher price than ever for slipping up. They’ll be hearing about this correction for months, including from a certain Twitter user, perhaps. All for a story that wouldn’t have mattered even if it had been right.