“It’s mostly bullsh*t right now. Like, we don’t have any big giant proof,” Bonifield tells a reporter in secretly-filmed footage released by conservative activist James O’Keefe via Project Veritas.
O’Keefe formed Veritas in 2010 claiming its mission is to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct.” It has since been sued for its information-gathering methods, primarily targeting liberal organizations, and presenting its findings in a misleading, highly edited format.
In this latest Veritas sting, Bonifield, Supervising Producer at CNN Health, makes the admissions to an unidentified journalist, who is heard in a brief edit of clips asking about the Russian narrative in CNN’s reporting.
“So why is CNN constantly like, ‘Russia this, Russia that?’” the journalist asks, to which Bonifield responds, “Because it’s ratings.”
“Our CIA is doing shit all the time, we’re out there trying to manipulate governments,” Bonifield says.
“I think the President is probably right to say, like, look, you are witch-hunting me,” Bonifield admits.
CNN’s Russia tactic has paid off, Bonifield admits: “Our ratings are incredible right now.”
Bonifield explains how far CNN pushed the Russia line, describing a meeting in which reporters were told by the CEO to stop covering climate accords, urging instead “Let’s get back to Russia.”
“It’s a business, people are like the media has an ethical phssssss…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,” Bonifield says in the video.
Bonifield does not mention CNN’s current CEO Jeff Zucker by name in the video, which O’Keefe says was filmed in Atlanta in a video monologue.
RT has reached out to CNN for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
Three CNN journalists resigned this week following the retraction of a story published on their website which investigated a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials.”
CNN claims the initial publication of the article, which contained only one source for the claim, was due to a “breakdown in editorial workflow.”
O’Keefe’s record as a highly controversial conservative activist goes back almost a decade. He previously had a deal to publish his sting videos on a Breitbart site, biggovernment.com.
In May 2015, the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Project Veritas. Donald Trump later cited an O’Keefe video depicting democrats advocating incitement of violence at Trump rallies.
The Intercept reports O’Keefe is the subject of a million-dollar lawsuit that alleges he broke local and federal wiretapping laws in a sting operation on Democracy Partners, dubbed as “modern-day Watergate burglars.”
The lawsuit claims O’Keefe and his organization infiltrated a Democratic consulting firm under false pretenses, secretly recorded conversations and published heavily edited footage of the conversations.
O’Keefe claims the lawsuit is an intimidation tactic to impede Project Veritas’ “army of guerrilla journalists” and their pursuit of the truth.
Project Veritas released 119 hours of raw audio in February that O’Keefe claimed came from CNN.
Ongoing accusations that Russia assisted Trump’s campaign have plagued his presidency, with allegations that the hack of the Democratic National Committee which leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s team was ordered directly by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
No evidence has been produced to back up the claims, which Moscow has resolutely denied.