CNN Draws Major Backlash for Giving Promotion to Notorious ‘Russian Collusion Hoaxer’

CNN Draws Major Backlash for Giving Promotion to Notorious ‘Russian Collusion Hoaxer’

Where do you go after peddling dual lies in the establishment media — the Donald Trump Russiagate hoax and the fiction that Hunter Biden’s toxic laptop was Kremlin disinfo?

To the top, of course. At least at CNN.

On Monday, the network you probably only end up watching when your flight is delayed for a few hours announced that Natasha Bertrand, a former reporter at Politico whose stances on the Steele dossier and Hunter’s laptop remain controversial blunders that she hasn’t disowned to any significant extent, was being promoted to correspondent.

In her new role, the network said in a media release, Bertrand will be “covering national security, the news organization announced today. She is based in Washington, DC and will continue to focus on national security and politics across CNN’s platforms.”

Great. No news as to whether CNN will be hiring Michael Dukakis as an in-house expert on how to win presidential elections, but expect that announcement from network communications any day now.

“Bertrand’s robust coverage remains an integral part of CNN’s national security and political newsgathering operation, breaking a variety of stories including the widespread use of dumb bombs by Israel in Gaza and the extent of secrecy surrounding Secretary Austin’s hospitalization,” the release continued.

“Bertrand also played a vital role on the team that broke the story of the missing Russian intelligence binder under former President Donald Trump and was part of the team that won an Emmy for coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine where she was reporting on the ground from NATO.

“Previously, Bertrand covered national security and politics for POLITICO, The Atlantic and Business Insider. She graduated from Vassar College in 2014 with a dual degree in political science and philosophy.”

Yeah, so about that last part of Bertrand’s résumé: Note that they don’t elaborate on her “accomplishments” there. That’s because she’s best remembered for her missteps there.

In 2020, The Washington Post’s media critic, Erik Wemple, did an in-depth series about how the media handled the Steele dossier — a falsified, unverified and, in some cases, unverifiable farrago of opposition research the FBI used to start investigating the non-existent links between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Part 12 of the series, published in February 2020, dealt with Bertrand’s history of being spectacularly wrong about the dossier’s veracity or trying to turn mere speculation into concrete fact.

That history is too long to sum up here, but Wemple’s estimation of Bertrand’s objectivity and reliability can best be summed up by an anecdote at the top of the story, where Bertrand was appearing on MSNBC to comment on a report that the Kremlin favored Trump in that November’s election.

Joy Reid, then a fill-in host at the network, “turned to Politico national security reporter Natasha Bertrand with a question about whether Trump ‘wants’ Russian meddling or whether he can’t accept that ‘foreign help is there.’ Bertrand responded: ‘We don’t have the reporting that suggests that the president has told aides, for example, that he really wants Russia to interfere because he thinks that it’s going to help him, right?’”

“No, we don’t have that reporting — though there’s no prohibition against fantasizing about it on national television,” Wemple wrote.

“Such is the theme of Bertrand’s commentary during previous coverage of Russian interference, specifically the dossier of memos drawn up by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. With winks and nods from MSNBC hosts, Bertrand heaped credibility on the dossier — which was published in full by BuzzFeed News in January 2017 — in repeated television appearances. Her written work has appeared on Business Insider, the Atlantic and Politico, where she is now a national security reporter. Along the way, she bootstrapped her punditry into a contributor’s role on MSNBC.”

Keep in mind, Wemple is not some kind of token conservative on the WaPo staff, although he does not infrequently skewer reporters who buy into their own hype too frequently. (Cough, cough, Bertrand, cough.) This is a confirmed liberal on the liberal mouthpiece of the Beltway essentially calling Bertrand a careerist hack who was conveniently gullible when it came to the Steele dossier and all things Trump/Russia related.

This did not warn her off, however, when the sordid tale of Hunter Biden’s laptop broke. Then, Bertrand perfervidly echoed the sentiments of intelligence insiders who signed off on a letter that said the laptop’s release just before the election “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation” in a story for Politico.

In fact, she went further: The story’s headline was “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” That, in fact, is not what they said, whether it was out of prudence or the fact that they knew that to be untrue.

According to the New York Post, during a February 2023 interview, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — no friend of Trump or the right, again — said that Politico had deliberately misrepresented the contents of what they had signed onto.

“All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation. Politico deliberately distorted what we said. It was clear in paragraph five,” Clapper told the Washington Post.

Bertrand’s report claimed that, “While the letter’s signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them ‘deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case’ and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin’s hand at work.”

As it turned out, the laptop wasn’t Kremlin disinfo but a case of a man in the throes of drug addiction forgetting a highly toxic laptop he brought in for repair, which opened up a Pandora’s box on the Biden administration. Furthermore, despite the fact the FBI had told Twitter on the day the New York Post’s report on it was published that the contents were real and not a fabrication, voices like Bertrand’s made it easier for social media to censor coverage of the laptop.

And as for the unequivocal headline on the Politico story, it’s unclear whether that was Bertrand’s handiwork or not. She did know, however, that it inaccurately described the contents of the letter and, if it was someone else who wrote the headline, she could have demanded her byline be taken off. Surprise of surprises, she didn’t — and not only that, the headline remains the way it was until this very day.

Needless to say, this promotion was not met with the kindest of reactions on social media — including criticism from Federalist editor-in-chief Mollie Hemingway, Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald and others:

Yes, we all make mistakes. The difference is that Natasha Bertrand has made a career out of her mistakes, not in spite of them. She’s cheerfully ping-ponged from one high-profile gig to the next on the back of speculation and lies.

She hasn’t apologized for them because 1) she’s not sorry and 2) she doesn’t need to. These may be lies, but they’re convenient ones. Expect plenty more of them on CNN as she spends the 2024 election season “covering national security” — presumably with all of the meticulousness and objectivity she covered the 2016 and 2020 elections with, as well.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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