Three CNN employees departed the news organization shortly after a story accusing President Donald Trump‘s administration of having a connection with a Russian investment firm was retracted.
The man who wrote the story, Thomas Frank, investigative unit editor Eric Lichtblau and editor Lex Harris are no longer with CNN, the company announced June 26 after a review of the story in question.
“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a spokesman for the company said.
Frank is a veteran reporter that has spent over 30 years in the newspaper business, even garnering a nod as a Pulitzer Prize nominee and working oversees reporting on the war in Iraq.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Frank Issued a Retraction on a Story About Trump’s Connection to a Russian Investment Fund
Frank’s story, which was published to CNN.com and didn’t appear on the TV news network, cited just a single anonymous source. It spoke of how investigators in the Senate were looking into a meeting between Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financer who founded SkyBridge Capital and an executive for the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10 billion fund that invests directly into Russian companies.
Scaramucci served on Trump’s transition team prior to him taking office January 20, so the meeting that Frank alleged that he had with the Russian company would certainly be scrutinized with ongoing FBI investigations. But Scaramucci has said that the story simply is not true.
After looking into the matter more thoroughly, CNN decided to remove the story from its website and issued a retraction.
2. CNN Said Frank & the 2 Others Didn’t Follow Standard Processes When Writing the Story
After the story in question was published Jun 23, the news organization said that it launched an investigation into the matter and found that it in fact “didn’t meet CNN’s editorial standards.”
Typically, stories such as those with just one anonymous source are reviewed by multiple departments within the company before they are published, Brian Stelter wrote in a story posted to its website. That includes fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers that work for the company.
“This breakdown in editorial workflow disturbed the CNN executives who learned about it,” Stelter wrote.
Staff members in CNN’s editorial department held a meeting June 26, and those from its investigative unit did say that the retraction on Frank’s story didn’t mean the facts were wrong.
“It meant that the story wasn’t solid enough to publish as-is,” somebody at CNN briefed on the investigation said.
After the retraction was entered, Scaramucci said he was pleased with how CNN responded to the story he deemed as incorrect and wished to move on from the matter.
3. Frank Was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist & Received Other Journalistic Honors
Frank was a reporter for CNN Investigates where he reported on government affairs in Washington D.C. Before coming to CNN, Frank spent 32 years as a newspaper reporter and was an investigative reporter for USA Today for five years.
At USA Today, he received strong recognition for a series of stories that he wrote about government pensions.
Frank’s articles dove into elected officials who receive pensions for their legislative service. In one instance, he wrote about former South Carolina Sen. David Thomas, who started collecting a pension without leaving office. Thomas and some of his colleagues utilized a law that was passed in 2002 where legislators are allowed to receive their taxpayer-funded pensions — instead of a salary — after serving 30 years or more.
That series earned him Pulitzer Prize honors, as he was a finalist for the prestigious award in 2012. In addition to that recognition, he was honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, the National Press Foundation, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the National Press Club and the Loeb Awards.
Frank won an award from the National Press Club in 2015 for a series of stories that showcased the negligence of aircraft manufacturers, safety investigators and more in deaths on private airplanes and helicopters.
4. Frank Covered the War in Iraq
While Frank worked fro Newsday from 1998-2004, he reported from Iraq numerous times and was the publication’s reporter overseas when the U.S. Army invaded the country in 2003. Shortly thereafter, he covered the 2004 presidential election and reported on homeland security after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
At Newsday, Frank was the first reporter to cover the U.S. military’s use of cluster bombs, his LinkedIn account said.
After working at Newsday for almost seven years, he got hired at USA Today and also did various work as a guest journalist. His appearances included being on CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, National Public Radio and more.
5. Frank Graduated From College in Connecticut
Frank went to Wesleyan University in 1980 and graduated from the Middletown, Connecticut college in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree.
Wesleyan is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1831. It emphasizes studies of arts and sciences.
After graduation, Frank got his start in the industry as a reporter for The Express-Times, where he was a City Hall reporter covering government and politics. After his time there, he moved on to The Providence Journal where he also worked as a City Hall reporter. He spent almost seven years there before landing a job as The Denver Post’s Capitol Bureau reporter. There, he covered state government and did so for just over two years prior to switching jobs to Newsday.