John Bonifield, a supervising producer for CNN, is the target of the latest sting video by James O’Keefe, a conservative activist known for his controversial undercover techniques.
O’Keefe runs Project Veritas, which bills its mission as being to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.” However, the video tactics Project Veritas employs have led to a recent lawsuit against the group.
In the latest video, a man whom O’Keefe purports is Bonifield discusses CNN’s handling of the Russia investigation and President Donald Trump, saying at one point that CNN is covering the Russian investigation because of ratings and that Trump “is probably right to say like, look, you are witch hunting me.” The video had thousands of views in just a few hours after it was posted on June 27.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bonifield Works for CNN Health as a Supervising Producer & CNN Is Standing By Him
According to his LinkedIn page, Bonifield has held many positions at CNN, most recently serving as a supervising producer for CNN Health, a position he has held since 2015.
His page lists other positions he’s held at CNN: Field producer, CNN Health; Senior producer, CNN Health; Producer, CNN Health; Tape Producer, CNN Health; Associate Producer, CNN Health; Associate Producer, CNN U.S. – Morning and Dayside Programming; CNN Media Coordinator; CNN Feeds Coordinator; and CNN Video Journalist.
The news network issued a statement Tuesday afternoon standing by its employee and noting he is not involved in coverage of Trump or the Russia investigation.
“CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield. Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it,” the statement said.
Other than CNN, he does not list any other company under employment.
Bonifield’s CNN profile page says that he “is a supervising producer for the CNN Medical Unit, working primarily with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.” Recent stories by Cohen and Bonifield include a piece on people in wheelchairs learning to stand again and a piece on mortality rates in children’s heart surgeries.
2. Bonifield Writes on Twitter That He Is a ‘Proud Kansan’
On Twitter, Bonifield says that he is from Kansas.
“Senior Producer for CNN Senior Medical Correspondent @elizcohencnn; writer/reporter for @cnn.com and proud Kansan,” his Twitter profile says.
His most recent tweet dates to 2016, when he wrote about an elderly couple who “broke hearts” when they were moved to the same home. His tweets mostly focus on promoting stories. For example, he wrote, “on assignment in savannah. profile of a young black obgyn doctor for cnn’s black in america reporting. waiting right now for a baby to born.”
Another time, he tweeted, “Innovative approaches to beat back death… watch ‘Another Day: Cheating Death’ Saturday and Sunday at 8PM ET on CNN.”
Bonifield was named, along with CNN host Anderson Cooper and Cohen, in a defamation lawsuit filed by a Florida doctor who claimed CNN miscalculated an infant heart surgery mortality rate.
The doctor claimed “the producers were repeatedly told that the mortality rate they calculated was misleading,” a contention that CNN denies.
3. Bonifield Bills Himself as a Multi-Media Professional
On LinkedIn, Bonifield describes himself as a “multi-media professional with extensive television and web content experience. Skilled in writing, producing and marketing attention-grabbing, high-quality audiovisual and text stories for national and international distribution on TV, the web and mobile devices.”
According to his LinkedIn page, he graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University.
4. The Video Allegedly Captures Bonifield Talking About CNN’s Coverage of the Russia Investigation
You can watch the video that James O’Keefe posted on YouTube above. Be aware, though, that it’s not clear whether more raw footage exists or whether the video has been selectively edited. The video is titled, “American Pravda.”
In it, O’Keefe identifies the man captured by the hidden video as John Bonifield, a CNN producer. It’s not clear whom the other man was (he’s identified as a “PV journalist”) or why Bonifield would have spoken with him so openly. The man says, “Then why is CNN constantly like, Russia this, Russia that?”
In the video posted by O’Keefe, the man he identifies as Bonifield responds, “Because it’s ratings.”
“Because it’s ratings?” the man, identified as a “PV journalist,” queries further. “Our ratings are incredible right now,” says the man O’Keefe identifies as Bonifield.
At another point in the video, the “PV journalist” says, “But honestly, you think the whole Russia sh*t is just like bullsh*t?” The man said to be Bonifield responds, “Could be bullsh*t. I mean, it’s mostly bullsh*t right now. Like, we don’t have any big giant proof.”
He also says, “I just feel like they don’t really have it but they want to keep digging” and “And so I think the President is probably right to say like, look, you are witch hunting me.”
Project Veritas also claims that Bonifield brought up CNN head Jeff Zucker, saying, “Just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords and for a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN (Jeff Zucker) said in our internal meeting, he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we’re done with that, let’s get back to Russia.”
It’s been a bad week for CNN. The O’Keefe video comes on the heels of the resignations of three CNN journalists after the network retracted and deleted a story on Russia.
5. O’Keefe’s Tactics Are Controversial & the Subject of a Lawsuit
O’Keefe, who tends to target liberals, uses controversial techniques.
A June 2017 Washington Post story reports that O’Keefe’s Project Veritas has been hit with a $1 million conspiracy lawsuit.
The attorney representing a consulting organization that worked with the Hillary Clinton campaign told The Post that “Project Veritas infiltrated a Democratic consulting firm under false pretenses, secretly recorded private conversations and published deceptively edited footage — all to mislead the public and hurt former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the White House.”
The lawsuit contends that Project Veritas violated wiretapping laws, according to The Post. O’Keefe called the lawsuit an intimidation tactic, The Post reported.