CNN headline claims Trump fired top State Dept. officials, but story says just the opposite

CNN headline claims Trump fired top State Dept. officials, but story says just the opposite
Image: CNN video screen grab)

CNN no longer needs to be scolded for disseminating fake news. Their own stories are now self-correcting.

Take a report released within the hour. The headline — “Trump administration asks top State Department officials to leave” — is pretty unambiguous. So are the first five paragraphs, which support the main thesis:

Two senior administration officials said Thursday that the Trump administration told four top State Department management officials that their services were no longer needed as part of an effort to “clean house” at Foggy Bottom.

Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management, Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Joyce Anne Barr, and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office for Foreign Missions, were sent letters by the White House that their service was no longer required, the sources told CNN.

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All four, career officers serving in positions appointed by the President, submitted letters of resignation per tradition at the beginning of a new administration.

The letters from the White House said that their resignations were accepted and they were thanked for their service.

The White House usually asks career officials in such positions to stay on for a few months until their successors are confirmed.

But then you get to paragraphs seven and eight, the story does a sudden inexplicable about-face. The paragraphs quote State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who, said in a statement:

These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term.

Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service.

The remainder of the piece goes on in a similar vein. Director of Diplomatic Security Greg Starr, we are told, came out of retirement after the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and promised to stay through the end of the Obama administration — and nothing more. Yet another official is quoted as saying of Starr:

This had been on course for over a year. He came out of retirement and promised to stay out [of] the administration. If Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders were elected, he would still be retiring.

Back in paragraph six, the author, CNN correspondent Elise Labott, tries to address the contradictions preemptively, quoting an unnamed senior State Department official who said:

Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong. These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.

So at best, the report is a he said/she said.

If ever there was a story that failed to live up to the promise of its headline, this is it. CNN is making no pretense about reporting the unvarnished truth. News simply doesn’t get any faker.

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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