What We Learned From the CNN Tapes

By A.J. Katz 

James O’Keefe, a self-described “guerrilla journalist, filmmaker, and muckraker” who runs the media watchdog site Project Veritas has tried to “expose the media, particularly the mainstream media” in recent years, leaking audio of secret newsroom conversations that were had at NPR in 2011, and attempting to trick former CNN correspondent – now ABC News freelance correspondent – Abbie Boudreau in an undercover sting back in 2010.

O’Keefe is back at it. He released more audio this morning which he says are conversations that took place inside CNN newsrooms in 2009. “This month, we had someone come forward and offer us more than 200 hours of tapes secretly recorded at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters,” O’Keefe says on a video posted on his site.

“We need your help,” O’Keefe continues. “We don’t have the time or the manpower to go through them all. We would like you to go through the tapes for us, listen to them and transcribe them.” The provocateur is also promising $10,000 to anyone who is able to provide him with additional content which “exposes media malfeasance.”


Drudge Report says O’Keefe is “putting a bounty on the media.”

According to O’Keefe, the voices heard on the recordings include past and present CNN employees. Nicky Robertson, then a CNN assignment desk editor, is heard referring to Fox News as “unbearable” during a conversation. Richard T. Griffths, vp and senior editorial director at CNN, can be heard saying to a group of interns: “What is the fundamental role as a journalist, for us to do? Tell a story, to tell what’s going on, and to aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable…we try to show the ugly side of humanity so we can do something about it. It’s hard, it’s very hard.”

Another person mentioned is Joe Sterling, then a news desk editor for CNN’s The Wire. He is recorded talking to a colleague about climate change. “I mean, science is pretty much on board and there are a few dissenters…there’s no debate. It’s like born-agains saying there’s a debate over creationism. There is no debate.”

Sterling is later recorded saying “I’m a little biased. The only spin I think going on is by Republicans. They hate Obama so much. It doesn’t matter what he does. It doesn’t matter what he thinks.” O’Keefe says that statement “shows blatant media bias against Republicans.”

Conversations about polling data are also in the tapes. A lower level staffer asked her superior why certain polls were accepted by the network why others weren’t. She said one of the CNN polls being used may have been “outdated,” and then said then-CNN polling director Paul Steinhauser instructed her not to use a poll from Rasmussen.

Asked for a comment about the tapes, a CNN spokesperson told TVNewser, “I don’t think there is anything to comment on.”