Three CNN Journalists Resign After Russia Story Snafu

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Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris have all left the company in the wake of the story.

Over the weekend, BuzzFeed broke the news that CNN had taken the unusual step of removing a story from its website about a supposed congressional investigation into a meeting between financier and Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund. The story, which was published Thursday and pulled down Friday, was replaced with an editor's note that said it "did not meet CNN's editorial standards."

On Monday, the other shoe dropped, and three experienced journalists involved with the story — Thomas Frank, who wrote the piece; the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lichtblau, who edited the piece; and Lex Haris, executive editor of CNN Investigates — resigned from the network. The last day for all three was Monday.

"In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story's publication," a network spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. The news was first reported by The Washington Post.

While the decision to pull down the story entirely, rather than correcting it, showed that CNN viewed the mistake as a serious one, the resignations still come as a surprise considering the reputations of some of the journalists involved. 

Lichtblau, in particular, was a high-profile poach from The New York Times, where he worked for 15 years. "Wow. @EricLichtblau is one of the most thorough, smart and ethical journalists I know," Times reporter John Schwartz wrote Monday evening on Twitter.

CNN, over the last few months and years, has been extremely aggressive in hiring well-known reporters from major outlets and putting a lot of resources into building out a digital reporting team that rivals few others. The network has also been a well-worn target of President Donald Trump and his allies, who have accused it of publishing "fake news" and treating him and his administration unfairly.

The story is likely to be seized on by CNN's detractors, though it's clear that the network acted very quickly to redress the situation. The spokesperson did not respond to a THR question about whether the staffers voluntarily resigned or were encouraged to do so.

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