Project Veritas released an undercover video Monday showing a CNN supervising producer saying that reporting on the Russia investigation is "mostly bullshit" but leads to high ratings.
Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe introduced the video as the first in a series called "American Pravda" seeking to expose mainstream media outlets' slanted coverage. In the video, CNN producer John Bonifield said the network's focus on potential ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia is based on ratings.
"I mean, it's mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don't have any big giant proof," Bonifield said of the Russia story. It is unclear when he made the statement.
"And so I think the president is right to say, like, ‘Look, you are witch-hunting me. You have no smoking gun. You have no real proof,'" Bonifield said.
He explained that ratings motivate CNN's focus on the Russia story. Asked why the network aired so much Russia coverage, Bonifield said, "It's ratings."
"Our ratings are incredible right now," he added.
Bonifield said that the emphasis on Russia came from upper management. He detailed a meeting in which President Jeff Zucker advised staff to focus on the Paris climate accord for a day and a half before returning to Russia.
"The CEO of CNN said in our internal meeting, he said, ‘Good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we're done with it. Let's get back to Russia,'" Bonifield said.
Bonifield also described a jaded business culture at CNN and in cable news generally.
"All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school, you're just like, ‘That's adorable, that's adorable. This is a business,'" he said.
"They gotta do what they gotta do to make their money," Bonifield added. "And so I love the news business, but I am very cynical about it. At the same time, so are most of my colleagues."
Bonifield said that CNN would have turned off its liberal viewers if the network strongly scrutinized former President Barack Obama, but Trump is "good for business."
O'Keefe said in the video that this exposes CNN's "editorial bias and anti-Trump agenda."
O'Keefe concluded the video by discussing CNN's retraction of a recent story tying a Trump associate to a Russian financial group. He called the journalists who resigned as a result "victims of fake news."
In February, O'Keefe released undercover audio from CNN employees discussing haphazard reporting of poll numbers, insulting Fox News, and claiming the "primary role of a journalist" is to "aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."