In the early afternoon of April 11th, 2021, internal and external communications staffers for embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-1) received a request for comment from newly minted CNN reporter Gabby Orr.
Orr, a former POLITICO employee, would report as her first story for Jeff Zucker’s network that Rep. Gaetz had been denied a meeting with former President Trump. The aim of the story was to weaken support for Gaetz on Capitol Hill as the House returns from recess.
Orr’s e-mail read: “Apologies for bothering you on a Sunday but I wanted to run something by you for confirmation before reporting it out… I was told by two people familiar that Congressman Matt Gaetz asked to meet with former President Trump at [Mar-A-Lago] last week and was denied.”
But Orr did, in fact, “report it out” before receiving any confirmation from either side. And the original CNN story claimed neither side has responded, which wasn’t true.
She was reaching out from an unverified, anonymized ProtonMail account, while her Twitter biography still held her old, POLITICO e-mail address.
A few hours later, Gaetz’s team responded. At least, they thought they did.
“Rep. Gaetz was welcomed to Trump Doral this week and has not sought to meet with President Trump himself. He’s been mostly relaxing with his fiancée this week during recess. GOP establishment types can leak as many lies as they want to their friends at CNN, but a recent poll showed Rep Gaetz’s constituents are overwhelmingly supportive of him, and that’s the only support a Member of Congress needs,” their statement read, in full.
The statement was sent to Orr on multiple channels, including every possible perturbation of a CNN e-mail address for her, her POLITICO e-mail address, and via Twitter direct messages, The National Pulse has verified. Spokesmen tend not to respond to “@protonmail.com” or other easily faked e-mail accounts because they have no way of verifying that it is the actual reporter reaching out. They prefer official emails.
When the story was released, and as of the time of publication, CNN failed to include this whole statement in their story. Instead, they claimed Gaetz staff had not responded.
A journalist reached out to Orr over the matter, who admitted in direct messages to me, an “Honest mistake,” and “a sincere oversight on my end,” adding: “I would never deliberately ignore a spokesperson’s response to a request for comment.”
But even after several “updates” the article still only contains half the Gaetz spokesman comment, and for hours did not reference the most critical part of the story, which came shortly after CNN had to first update its story: the official denial from Trump world.
Trump comms strategist Jason Miller took to Twitter to slam Orr and CNN’s reporting, claiming the entire thing was fabricated.
Why – if Gaetz had really reached out and was openly rebuffed – would Trump’s spokesman bother responding like this? Surely the point would be to hang Gaetz out to dry. But they didn’t.
Miller insisted: “This CNN story is complete fake news. No such scheduling or meeting request was ever made, and therefore, it could never have been declined. Take note that this story has zero on-the-record sources. It’s literally made-up. We are demanding a full retraction.”
He added, in a second statement: “CNN has no on-the-record sources making this claim, no electronic or written or recorded evidence backing up this claim, it flat out never happened, and we demand a full retraction of this story. Who was the editor that allowed this to be printed???”
That CNN failed to approach Miller in the first instance, forcing a post-publication correction would be bad enough.
But the CNN editorial process failed on multiple levels:
- The reporter failed to include the comment from the spokesman of the subject of the story;
- The reporter e-mail from an anonymized, private e-mail account, not an official address;
- The reporter’s contact details in her own biography were incorrect;
- CNN refused to retract the story, even once they learned they had it completely wrong.
But wait, that’s not all.
Rep. Gaetz broke his silence at the Trump Doral event this weekend in Miami on the number of increasingly bizarre allegations against him and even preemptively warned of “anonymous sources” in stories about him.
It took less than 24 hours for his predictions to be borne out.
CNN wrote of the speech, given to the Women for America First group, “Aides saw his last-minute speech at the Women for America First event, which was held at the nearby Trump National Doral resort, as a blatant attempt to reach Trump and his supporters.
“A person directly involved with Trump’s post-presidential operation said the ex-President’s aides ‘were under the impression that Gaetz went down there to try and run into Trump or people around him’.”
But the claim makes no sense for multiple reasons:
- Gaetz arrived at the event, spoke, and left. He did not attempt to “run into” anyone;
- Trump’s whereabouts this weekend were well known. He was hosting at Mar-A-Lago, not Doral, and therefore there was no chance of “running into Trump”;
- CNN accredited 12 reporters to the Doral event to cover Gaetz’s speech, any of whom could have confirmed these details to their own reporter, Gabby Orr.
As of the time of publication, this farcical, anonymously-quoted line remains in CNN’s story.
It is very possible Orr’s representation of the events are as she claims: an “Honest mistake.” But if it was so honest, why does the false article remain on the CNN website, and why do these “mistakes” only ever happen when reporting on conservatives?