CNN faced a major $100 million libel lawsuit, the real reason Russia story journalists were forced to resign

The three journalists responsible for CNN’s retracted story smearing a presidential adviser were asked to resign as the network feared a major lawsuit.

The threat of a $100 million libel suit apparently prompted the retraction and the ousting of the staffers behind the story, according the New York Post.

The report last week claimed Congress was investigating Anthony Scaramucci, a member of President Trump’s transition team, for ties with Russia. CNN later deleted the story and replaced with an editor’s note stating it “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.”

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According to The Post:

The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition-team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.

CNN immediately caved after Scaramucci, a financier and frequent network guest, cried foul and threatened to take legal action, sources said Tuesday.

The journalists who headed up the CNN Investigates unit, reporter Tom Frank, editor Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris, were urged to resign by the network following the botched story which relied on false claims by one anonymous source.

“They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately,” a source told the Post. Staffers at the network were reportedly angry at “having lost the moral high ground because of this story.”

Meanwhile, Zucker attempted to rally the troops with a conference call Tuesday, sources told the Post.

“Zucker stressed that this issue was a ‘lapse in editorial standards’ and said it was a lesson to all reporters and editors to continue to strive for strong, accurate reporting,” one source said, while another noted the worries about the proposed merger.

“It’s not just Jeff Zucker, all Time Warner executives are anxious about if they will survive the merger,” a media source said Tuesday. “What is interesting is that the AT&T execs who will decide who goes and who stays are [AT&T CEO] Randall Stephenson and [AT&T Entertainment Group CEO] John Stankey — who have a very good relationship with the current administration.”

As for Scaramucci, he was reportedly getting congratulatory “slaps on the back” following the CNN debacle.

“Everyone at the White House has been high-fiving each other over Anthony’s success in embarrassing CNN,” a guest at the wedding of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton in Washington, DC., Saturday told the Post. “Trump is thoroughly enjoying this, and Anthony got endless slaps on the back at Steve’s wedding.”

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Scaramucci tweeted an acceptance of CNN’s public apology Friday and on Tuesday, he retweeted  a message from CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter saying that “nothing in my story should be taken to imply that Scaramucci is under investigation.”

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