24 Times CNN Got It Wrong

We've all watched news bloopers now and again. Whether it's reporters scattering their words or the weatherman pulling out the wrong stats, the best bloopers have been funny enough. However, there are cringy reporting moments that we'll never forget, some of which left us with mouths wide open. The most memorable ones are courtesy of CNN. Here are 24 times CNN got it wrong:

1. The Persian Gulf War

The Persian Gulf War, USAF aircraft fly over retreating Iraqi forces in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm
Image Credit: US Air Force – Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

In 1990-1991, CNN continuously broadcasted stories about American soldiers in the Persian Gulf War but was keen to leave out specific extreme images of the event. Most viewers concluded that the reports were nothing more than propaganda. Reporters went on to describe the sight of bombers taking off from Saudi Arabia as “sweet and beautiful,” a report that left a bad taste in many people's mouths.

2. Operation Tailwind

U.S. Army Sgt. Gary M. Rose is helped from a helicopter landing area after Operation Tailwind
Image Credit: US Army personnel – Ted Wicorek, Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

CNN ran a report that the U.S. military used sarin gas against Vietnamese soldiers in 1998. However, the Pentagon distanced itself from the story, with critics wondering how the tricky atrocity went unnoticed. CNN issued a retraction after a two-week inquiry into the claim with the story producers losing their jobs.

3. Bahraini Protests

Bahraini Protests
Image Credit: Al Jazeera English – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

In the media coverage of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Amber Lyon, a correspondent, met with Tony Maddox, the president of CNN International, about a feature highlighting the impact of democracy in the Middle East. The documentary aired in the United States but never on CNN, a move that defeated its purpose as CNN is the most-watched news channel in the country.

4. Margaret Thatcher's Death

Protestor on 13 April 2013 with an image of Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher with the caption "Friends Reunited" Celebrating Margaret Thatcher's death and the death of what she believed in.
Image Credit: gnatlou93 – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The picture CNN picked out when covering the death of the U.K. Prime Minister on April 8, 2013, was that she took with Jimmy Savile, the disgraced BBC presenter. The picture caused controversy as Savile was under legal investigation. The news channel featured the photograph four times, leading watchers to believe CNN was biased.

5. Iranian Protests

Iranian Protests 2014
Image Credit: Fars Media Corporation, CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

In 2014, the television network faced criticism because it didn't feature live coverage of the protests in the Iranian elections. As the U.S. and Iran are not allies, this move showed bias on the network's part and an inability to put their personal feelings to the side.

6. The Venezuelan Government Conflict

Tareck El Aissami
Image Credit: EneasMx – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

CNN and CNN Espanol's reporting completely took aback Venezuelan authorities; they banned their broadcast for two days. The investigative team received word that the Venezuelan Embassy in Baghdad has been selling passports to Middle Eastern countries and members of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah illegally. However, the Venezuelan government confirmed the genuineness of the passports. 

7. Essex Trucks Demise Reports

Essex lorry truck deaths CNN
Image Credit: CNN.

October 23, 2019, was a horrific day, and 39 bodies were in a refrigerated truck in Essex, United Kingdom. Initial reports stated the smuggling of 31 men and eight women who were Chinese nationals. The Chinese government confirmed that they couldn't verify the identity of the victims. Even after the statement, CNN continuously insisted on the victims' Chinese nationalities and wondered why they would want to leave their country in such a risky manner. The Chinese government spokesperson rebuffed the statements, questions, and reporters.

8. Ukraine-Russian Invasion

Image Credit: Artography / Shutterstock.com.

During this challenging and shocking time in 2022, when Russia decided to invade Ukraine, CNN played the song “Chicken Fried” in a split-screen Applebee commercial and war coverage. You can only imagine the backlash that followed the media outlet's actions!

9. Nong Bua Lamphu Massacre

Nong Bua Lamphu Massacre
Image Credit: CNN.

In the 2022 massacre, a CNN reporter on-site came under fire for leaving the crime scene by climbing over the fence and, consequently, police tape. Due to this, the reporter received a fine. Authorities termed CNN's story as “insensitive” and “unethical.” After the steam blew over, the network issued an apology.

10. Semi-Automatic Weapons

Image Credit: Todd Huffman – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

On May 15, 2003, CNN featured a story showing two sheriffs demonstrating the firing of automatic firearms while at the same time emphasizing The Federal Assault Weapons Ban that was to expire the following year. The Assault Weapons ban focused on semi-automatic ones, not automatic ones, which the National Firearms Act had already restricted. CNN got the story all wrong!

11. Jon Stewart's Appearance on Crossfire

Jon Stewart on Crossfire
Image Credit: CNN.

On October 15, 2004, comedian Joh Stewart appeared on Crossfire and was critical of the arguments on the show. He nicknamed the hosts “partisan hacks” and demanded they “stop hurting America” and left the host with a few choice profanities. After a while, the network canceled Crossfire, and the host admitted he had resigned from the show because of its partisanship many months before the comedian's appearance. He added, “CNN was a frustrating place to work.”

12. The Blackmail Controversy

Donald Trump punching CNN
Image Credit: WWE.

When ex-U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted a video punching WWE owner Vince McMahon (whose face turned the CNN logo by editing) on a Wrestlemania appearance, CNN blamed the post on a Reddit user and went further ahead to detail their process of unmasking the user. Once the story aired, the user posted a series of apologies for that and all of his other posts. Social media users accused CNN of blackmailing the Reddit user and coming up with conspiracy theories using the hashtag #CNNBlackmail.

13. Lincoln Memorial Confrontation

A screenshot from a video showing Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Image Credit: KC Noland – Fair Use/Wiki Commons.

Nick Sandmann sued CNN for $250 million in damages for the broadcast's “direct and vicious statements” against him.  His lawsuit came about after they inaccurately reported that he had a confrontation with a Native American elder, a report which showed the teen as the aggressor. After additional investigation, it was found that Sandmann was nowhere near the fight. The case settled for an undisclosed amount for the emotional distress Sandmann's family went through. 

14. The Kenosha Unrest

The Kenosha Unrest CNN
Image Credit: CNN.

On August 26, 2020, CNN featured a burning building in a news caption titled, “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests After Police Shooting.” For obvious reasons, the caption received a lot of criticism from online users and the then-president's son, Eric Trump.

15. Dubai Expo Propaganda Allegations

Dubai Expo 2020
Image Credit: Skv282 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

In July 2021, CNN self-claimed as the official broadcaster for the Dubai Expo 2020, whose inauguration was in October 2021. However, human rights groups quickly criticized the arrangement between CNN and the Emirates, making us think CNN should have declined the offer.

16. The Firing of Octavia Nasr

CNN Anchor Octavia Nasr
Image Credit: CNN.

When Octavia Nasr, Middle East correspondent, sent out a tweet saying that the passing of a Hezbollah giant she respected saddened her, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, she found herself in hot water. She lost her job after her tweet created an online uproar. Her CNN blog highlighted that she shouldn't have made such a simplistic statement, but she had lost all credibility when she commented on CNN.

17. WikiLeaks Emails

Chris Cuomo CNN
Image Credit: Senator Chris Coons – DNC, Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

While covering the 2016 elections, anchor Chris Cuomo mentioned downloading emails that were hacked and stolen from the WikiLeaks website was illegal, and only the media could do so on legal grounds. This statement proved false.

18. Brooke Baldwin's Slip Up

Brooke Baldwin CNN
Image Credit: Patrickbenson96, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The 2015 Baltimore riots showed a CNN host in a controversial light as Brooke Baldwin stated, “Soldiers who became police officers are arriving from war, yet they don't know their communities yet are ready to battle.” When critics pushed back Brooke's comments, she recanted and said she was only repeating something she heard.

19. The Russia Collusion

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump Shaking hands in 2019
Image Credit: Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

CNN reporters stated that ex-U.S. President Donald Trump was in collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 elections. They got more specific, saying, “Trump is lashing out because the walls are closing in” until Robert Muller's 2019 report found there wasn't any collusion.

20. Hunter Biden Laptop

Hunter Biden laptop
Image Credit: Prime Minister's Office (GODL-India), GODL-India/Michal Stanke – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

CNN was an expert at downplaying Hunter Biden's laptop gate, which the Washington Post and New York confirmed as authentic. CNN refused to report the story and chalked it up to “Russian misinformation.” The public had questions wondering about Hunter Biden's questionable overseas business dealings.                           

21. Misrepresentation of Joe Rogan and Ivermectin

The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe Rogan
Image Credit: Spotify.

When CNN hosts referred to Joe Rogan, a podcasting giant, as “a lying horse dewormer” when he announced his doctor prescribed Ivermectin after testing positive for Coronavirus, it left the public feeling underwhelmed. People responded with plenty of comments, causing Dr.Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, to admit his colleagues were wrong.

22. The Promotion of Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollet
Image Credit: Dominick D – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

CNN promoted Jussie Smollett's self-inflicted attack by MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporters. They emphasized the support “political heavyweights” like Nancy Pelosi and “Hollywood A-listers” offered the actor. When the truth emerged during the actor's indictment, CNN hosts started recanting their statements.

23. The Supreme Court's Decision

United States Supreme Court Building At Dusk
Image Credit: Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

CNN rushed to report that the Supreme Court upheld President Obama's healthcare overhaul. However, the cable channel got it wrong initially by saying the court struck down the law's mandate when, in fact, there was a 5 to 4 vote.

24. The Russian Investment Fund

donald trump MSN
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Respected CNN writers and editors Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau, and Lex Haris shook the media channel, considering they were highly respected officials. The three didn't follow standard editorial procedures and polished an article stating a Russian investment funding Trump officials. It was later found the CNN staff didn't have any solid evidence to publish the article. 

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post, Fox News.