CNN Head Urged Producer to Push COVID-19 Death Numbers for Ratings, Tech Director Recorded as Saying
A CNN head has personally intervened to order the cable network’s staff to display the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the broadcast, according to CNN technical director who was caught on hidden camera making the comments. The goal was to boost ratings, the director said, explaining that “fear really drives numbers” and “is the thing that keeps you tuned in.”
“COVID? Gangbusters with ratings, right? Which is why we [CNN] constantly have the [COVID] death toll on the side, which I have a major problem with, with how we’re tallying how many people die every day,” the executive, Charlie Chester, is heard in the video as saying to a reporter with Project Veritas, an undercover journalism nonprofit.
Sometimes, Chester said, he would be told by his director to pull the death count down only for the head of the network to intervene.
“The special red phone rings and this producer picks it up. You hear [murmurs], and every so often they put it on speaker and it’s the head of the network being like, ‘There’s nothing that you’re doing right now that makes me want to stick. Put the [COVID death toll] numbers back up, because that’s the most enticing thing that we had. So, put it back up,’” Chester said in the video published on April 14.
He didn’t mention names, but CNN chairman is Jeff Zucker.
CNN didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A day prior, Veritas released another video where Chester says that the network worked during the 2020 presidential election to help President Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump.
“Look at what we did, we got Trump out,” Chester said. “I am 100 percent going to say it. And I 100 percent believe it that if it wasn’t for CNN, I don’t know that Trump would have got voted out.”
He called the network’s efforts “propaganda.”
“Our focus was to get Trump out of office, right? Without saying it, that’s what it was,” he said.
As an example, he said CNN was “creating a story” that questioned the former president’s health.
“Trump was, I don’t know, like shaking his hand or whatever … we brought in like so many medical people to like all tell a story that, like, it was all speculation that he was like neurologically damaged, that he was losing it, he’s unfit to, you know, whatever,” Chester said. “We were creating a story that we didn’t know anything about.”
When asked by the journalist about whether the network had any concerns about Biden’s health during the election period, Chester said that CNN often showed clips of Biden jogging and wearing aviator sunglasses, to “paint him as a young geriatric” and to show that he’s “healthy.”
CNN wouldn’t make “a huge story” out of the incident where Biden was filmed tripping while going up stairs.
“You talk about that briefly,” Chester said.
Veritas previously conducted an undercover investigation of CNN in October 2019 which showed staff members saying the network was biased to the left and incessantly focused on Trump to the detriment of other topics.
Like Chester, they largely blamed their issues with the network on its leadership, particularly Zucker.