Matt Gaetz teased a ‘fight back’ ad, trying to shift attention from sex-trafficking allegations by alleging that CNN is out to get him

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

  • Matt Gaetz tweeted an ad due to air in a self-styled fightback after allegations against him.
  • Gaetz was accused of trafficking teenagers and paying for sex, which he strongly denies.
  • His ad features undercover footage of a CNN employee, presented to suggest the network is trying to harm him.
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Rep. Matt Gaetz is planning to push back at allegations he was involved in sex trafficking via an ad campaign targeting CNN, according to reports.

Politico first reported on the planned six-figure ad campaign, in which Gaetz will portray the federal investigation into the trafficking allegations and media coverage of it as part of a “fake news” plot to oust him from Congress.

Gaetz tweeted the video on Wednesday:

The Florida lawmaker has strenuously denied allegations of trafficking, that involve claims he was involved in a sexual relationship with a minor.

The ad will run on local networks in Gaetz’s district, as well as on some national TV networks, the Friends of Matt Gaetz campaign committee told Politico.

The clip shows that the ad will feature footage from Project Veritas, the conservative activist group that aims to expose what it claims is bias and malpractice in liberal institutions and the media.

The groups has been accused of unethical practices and spreading disinformation by deceptively editing its clips.

The ad attacks CNN, featuring hidden-camera footage of Charles Chester, a technical worker at CNN, discussing its coverage of the Gaetz scandal.

Chester, who does not appear to be a journalist, describes Gaetz as a “problem for the Democratic party” and suggests that CNN will produce further stories to “keep hurting him.”

Chester was lured into discussing CNN by a female Project Veritas employee who posed as a Tinder date and secretly filmed their conversations, a CNN source told Mediaite.

Gaetz became known as one of Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress during the Republican’s 4 years in office.

The investigation into Gaetz’s alleged involvement in trafficking stems from a separate criminal probe into an associate, Joel Greenberg.

Greenberg worked as a local tax official, and is suspected of crimes including trafficking, financial offences, and a bid to smear a political rival with false rumors.

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Dr. Deborah Birx says every American COVID-19 death after the first 100,000 could’ve been mitigated, but a Democratic lawmaker says she’s to blame for ‘enabling’ Trump

Deborah Birx
Some accused Birx of being “complicit” by not pushing back against Trump.

  • Dr. Deborah Birx said thousands of Americans died preventable COVID-19 deaths.
  • During a CNN interview, she said everything after the first surge could’ve been mitigated.
  • But some people, including Rep. Ted Lieu, responded by accusing her of enabling Trump.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a former member of the White House coronavirus response team, said thousands of Americans died preventable COVID-19 deaths and that everything after the initial surge could’ve been mitigated.

Birx was speaking during an interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the network’s upcoming coronavirus documentary that airs Sunday.

A clip of Birx’s comments was shared on Saturday.

“I look at it this way: The first time we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” said Birx, who served under the Trump administration. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

According to Birx, more than 80% of American deaths could have been mitigated: At this point, nearly 550,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, per Johns Hopkins University data. The US reached 100,000 deaths by the end of May 2020.

Read more: Insider found 20 governors haven’t gotten their COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s who – and why.

Birx was a controversial member of the coronavirus task force and was often criticized for not explicitly pushing back on President Donald Trump when he contradicted the advice of public health officials and medical experts on preventing coronavirus transmission.

Some of that criticism resurfaced Saturday as the clip of her CNN interview made the rounds on Twitter.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who also served as an impeachment manager against Trump in January, accused Birx of being partly responsible for preventable deaths.

“The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers,” Lieu said in a tweet. “And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”

Many others on Twitter chimed in as well, accusing Birx of being complicit. Some also recirculated an old clip from March 2020 in which Birx praised Trump as being “attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data.”

She has since said she liked working on the road under the Trump administration because she wasn’t “censored” like she was at the White House.

Another doctor interviewed by CNN Saturday said he agreed with Birx about the preventable COVID-19 deaths, but that it “happened on her watch.”

“She was the White House pandemic coordinator. This was her job,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner of George Washington University said. “And if things weren’t being done to her liking, her duty was to stand up and speak up.”

As for how many deaths were preventable, Reiner compared the US to Germany, a country he says had a “mediocre” pandemic response. And yet if the US had a similar number of deaths per capita as Germany did, only 300,000 Americans would be dead.

“A quarter of a million Americans would be alive today,” he said.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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CNN defended Chris Cuomo for using Andrew Cuomo’s power as New York governor to access COVID-19 tests when they were hard to find

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Chris Cuomo (left) interviewing New York governor Andrew Cuomo (right) on CNN in May 2020.

  • CNN defended anchor Chris Cuomo from claims that he accepted favors from his brother.
  • Andrew Cuomo secured family members priority COVID-19 tests last year, according to a report.
  • CNN said Chris Cumo was concerned he might be contagious and was acting as anyone would.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

CNN has defended Chris Cuomo after allegations that his brother, Andrew Cuomo, used his authority as governor of New York to secure family members priority coronavirus tests last year.

In statement Wednesday, the network said that Chris Cuomo was acting “as any human being would” in allegedly accepting his brother’s help.

“It is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would,” said a spokesperson for the network told The Washington Post.

Cuomo, who has a primetime news show on CNN, has not personally commented on the allegation.

CNN did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for further comment on the claims.

On March 31 last year, Chris Cuomo announced that he had tested positive for the illness, and quarantined for several weeks afterwards. He did not reveal how he had obtained a test to learn of his diagnosis.

Andrew Cuomo is facing the greatest crisis of his political career over allegations he sexually harassed female colleagues, and concealing COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Chris Cuomo has been criticised for a series of earlier softball interviews with his brother last year over his handling of the coronavirus.

As pressure on the governor mounted, Cuomo told his CNN audience that he would not cover news about his brother, but said that his colleagues at CNN would.

The statement defending Chris on the issue of the tests came after a report by the Albany Times-Union described how Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker arranged tests for Cuomo family members including his brother, mother, and sister in the early weeks of the pandemic.

At the time, tests were not widely available to the public.

According to the report, members of Cuomo’s family were tested several times at their homes, with samples from the tests bumped to the front of the queue for processing.

The governor’s office has denied the allegation that favoritism played a role in establishing who got the test.

“Among those we assisted were members of the general public, including legislators, reporters, state workers and their families who feared they had contracted the virus and had the capability to further spread it,” said the office.

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CNN ratings are dramatically down since Trump left office. The network lost nearly 50% of its target audience during primetime hours.

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The CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • CNN had record-breaking viewership during the finals months of Trump’s presidency.
  • But there has been a dramatic decline in ratings since Inauguration Day, according to new research.
  • CNN has lost 36% of its primetime viewers since January 21, the Nielsen Media Research data said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

CNN has seen ratings plummet since former President Donald Trump left the White House, according to a Fox News report on Nielsen Media Research data.

The network averaged 2.5 million primetime viewers between the day after the election- November 4, 2020 – and Inauguration Day on January 20, 2021, Fox News reported.

Since President Joe Biden was sworn in, however, those numbers have dropped dramatically. An average of 1.6 million viewers tuned in during primetime hours between January 21 and March 15, Fox News said. That’s a downturn of 36% since Biden took office.

Primetime viewers also ditched CNN in the period between December 28 through to January 20. The network hemorrhaged almost half (49%) of its primetime viewers, Fox News reported. An average of 3.1 million primetime fell to just 1.6 million, the media outlet said.

The primetime numbers are abysmal among CNN’s key audience. The network’s target age group is those aged 25 to 54, according to MIT Media Lab. CNN has seen a 47% drop in viewership in that demographic during Biden’s inauguration and March 15, Fox News said.

During daytime hours, CNN’s ratings aren’t faring much better. The network saw the number of daytime viewers drop by 34% in the period between the election and Inauguration Day, according to Fox News. Among the key age demographic, CNN lost 58% of those aged 25 to 54.

CNN thrived during the Trump presidency. The network hit a 40-year viewership record in November 2020, The New York Times reported.

But there’s “palpable concern” that the former president’s departure will cause a sustained slump in cable-news ratings, Variety‘s Brian Steinberg said.

Network executives have reportedly been fretting over a post-Trump era, with several journalists and executives telling The New York Times that they are “uneasy” about the year ahead.

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CNN’s Chris Cuomo said he won’t cover allegations about his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but his colleagues will

chris cuomo andrew cuomo cnn
Chris Cuomo on Cuomo Prime Time on March 1, 2020.

  • CNN’s Chris Cuomo won’t be covering news on his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he said.
  • Gov. Cuomo has been accused of harassment and is under scrutiny for his handling of COVID-19 data.
  • “Obviously, I cannot cover it, because he is my brother,” the anchor told his audience Monday. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo told his viewers Monday that he won’t be covering allegations made about his older brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but that the rest of the network would.

New York Gov. Cuomo has been accused by three women of making unwanted advances toward them, including two former staffers. He is now facing calls from lawmakers to step down.

He is also under intense scrutiny for his handling of COVID-19 data. In January, New York Attorney General Letitia James accused him of undercounting nursing-home deaths by as much as half.

This was followed in February by reports that his administration withheld those numbers over fears the report might be used in an investigation – which led to calls for him to be stripped of his emergency powers. 

Chris, who hosts the weeknight “Cuomo Prime Time” show, addressed the issue on Monday. 

“Obviously, I’m aware of what’s going on with my brother,” he said. “And obviously, I cannot cover it, because he is my brother. Now, of course, CNN has to cover it. They have covered it, extensively, and they will continue to do so.”

He continued by saying he cares “deeply” about the issues involved, but that he would be using his show to look at other news. 

Media commentators have accused the anchor of having a conflict of interest in former coverage of his brother, having conducted several friendly interviews with him over the past year. 

A network ban on interviews between the two – in place since 2013 – was lifted in March last year as New York emerged as a hot spot for COVID-19, making coverage of the city a major news item, The New York Times reported. And at the end of March, the governor tested positive for the virus. 

The network told The Washington Post in February that it had taken the decision because it was an “extraordinary time.”

“We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest,” a CNN spokesperson said. 

The one-on-one interviews, focusing on Andrew Cuomo’s response to the pandemic, raised eyebrows across the media spectrum, Mediaite reported.

andrew and chris cuomo cnn
Chris Cuomo (left) interviewing New York governor Andrew Cuomo (right) on CNN in May 2020.

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple said the coverage was “over-the-top praise when the governor is up; silence when he’s down.” Former CNN digital producer Steve Krakauer told Fox News it was a “conflict of interest.”

In a June interview, Chris Cuomo hailed his brother as “the best politician in the country,” adding, “Of course, I’m not objective,” Mediaite reported. 

CNN did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

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Trump supporters and right-wing reporters wouldn’t stop heckling CNN’s Jim Acosta during second day of CPAC

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CNN reporter Jim Acosta is confronted by gun rights activist and founder of the conservative website Liberty Hangout, Kaitlin Bennett as he attends The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando,Florida, on February 26, 2021.

  • CNN’s Jim Acosta was heckled by Trump supporters and right-wing reporters during CPAC on Friday.
  • Videos of the event show Acosta being taunted on multiple occasions.
  • Acosta responded to the incidents on Twitter, writing: “I thought they were against cancel culture.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta was filmed being heckled by Trump supporters and right-wing reporters while he was trying to cover the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida on Friday.

Several videos posted online show Acosta, who was there to report on the event himself, being followed by a maskless crowd of people, chanting “CNN sucks!”

One video of the event shows gun rights activist and founder of the conservative website Liberty Hangout, Kaitlin Bennett, followed Acosta with a microphone as she asks him about “BLM violence” and Antifa. 

Bennett, who wears her mask on her chin, asks Acosta to “denounce antifa by name. Denounce their violence, BLM and antifa.”

As Acosta walks on ignoring the questions, she continues to follow him and says: “You’re willing to talk about Trump violence. Why won’t you talk about Democrat violence?”

After a few seconds of silence, Acosta replies: “Ma’am, I am sorry I’ve already spoken to you.”

Watch the moment below.

 

On another occasion, Acosta is in the middle of an interview when a reporter from the conservative online magazine, The Federalist, interrupts him and repeatedly asks him why CNN hasn’t been reporting on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his recent sexual abuse allegations.

In a video of the incident, posted to Twitter, the reporter, David Marcus can be heard shouting: “Hey, hey, hey, Jim! Hey, Jim, I’m David Marcus from The Federalist; when are you guys going to start covering Cuomo?” 

When Acosta replies “We do, we do,” Marcus interrupts again and says: “No you don’t, no you don’t, no you don’t. He killed 10,000 people and he’s accused of sexual assault and you guys wanna talk about Ted Cruz. When are you going to start covering Cuomo?”

“Sir, let me just finishing this interview, and then I’ll talk to you if you don’t mind,” Acosta responds. 

Watch the moment below. 

 

CNN has reported extensively on both the sexual abuse allegations against Cuomo as well as his nursing home COVID-19 scandal.

Marcus later went on to defend his behavior toward Acosta, telling The Hill: “The dude walked into the lion’s den. That’s clearly what he was doing here. And when you walk into the lion’s den sometimes you gotta face the lion.” 

Acosta himself responded to one of the videos of him being followed by Trump supporters, commenting: “I thought they were against cancel culture.”

 

Acosta is CNN’s chief domestic affairs correspondent who gained national attention after he routinely got into arguments with former President Donald Trump during his time in the White House.

Trump once called Acosta a “rude, terrible person” during a 2018 press conference. The former president has always been very vocal about his dislike for CNN, often mocking their ratings and calling them the “fake news media.”

Since then, Acosta has become a frequent target to Trump supporters at events or rallies.

CPAC has provided a base for Trump supporters to come together this week to continue touting unfounded claims of election fraud. The largely maskless crowd booed and heckled the hosts of the event on Friday when they were asked to wear masks.

The former president is expected to speak at the event on Sunday, making his first public appearance since leave office last month. 

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A Biden official says the White House’s response to the SolarWinds attack may come within weeks

biden vaccine
President Joe Biden

  • The Biden administration may respond to SolarWinds attack within weeks.
  • National security advisor Jake Sullivan said the administration is considering new sanctions. 
  • You “will be hearing about this in short order,” Sullivan said on CNN on Friday.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The White House may respond to the SolarWinds hacks within weeks, a senior administration official said on CNN

Jake Sullivan, national security advisor, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that President Joe Biden’s administration may respond “weeks from now.” Sullivan said it would consider new sanctions, as one of a “broad range of responses.” 

SolarWinds, an IT firm providing software to the US government, was the target of a massive cybersecurity attack discovered late last year. The breach, which included systems at the US Treasury Dept. and Homeland Security, had gone undetected for months. 

In January, a joint US intelligence task force issued a statement saying the hack was “likely Russian in nature.”

“We believe we can go further than that,” Sullivan said on Friday.

He added: “We are in the process of working through, with the intelligence community, and his national security team, a series of steps to respond to SolarWinds, including steps that will hold who we believe is responsible for this accountable, and you will be hearing about this in short order.”

On Wednesday, Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, said the US intelligence community is still “looking at who is responsible,” but that it was likely of Russian origin. 

She said at least nine federal agencies and 100 private companies were compromised. She added that the response might be “several months” away, a longer timeline than Sullivan gave. 

“The hackers launched the hack from inside the United States, which further made it difficult for the US government to observe their activity. Even within federal networks, a culture and authorities inhibit visibility, which is something we need to address,” said Neuberger in the White House Briefing Room.  

The government’s response so far has focused on removing the hackers, improving cybersecurity, and considering how to respond, she said. 

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Biden says he’s ‘tired of talking’ about ‘former guy’ Trump in first town hall as president

joe biden
President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 16, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden referred to Donald Trump as “the former guy” in his first town hall.
  • “I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump,” Biden said Tuesday evening.
  • Trump has remained in the national spotlight in recent weeks given his impeachment trial.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden tried to steer clear of conversation about his predecessor in his first town hall as president on Tuesday evening.

“I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump,” Biden told an audience in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the CNN event.

Biden, who referred to Trump as “the former guy,” tip-toed around questions from CNN host Anderson Cooper about the former president. Cooper pressed Biden for any reaction to Trump’s recent acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial, yet Biden did not weigh in.

“For four years, all that’s been in the news is Trump,” Biden said. “For the next four years, I want to make sure that all the news is American people.”

Biden spent most of the town hall touting his COVID-19 stimulus package, which includes funding to vaccinate Americans and reopen schools, among several other provisions. He also plugged other priorities of his administration, including raising the federal minimum wage, reforming immigration, and offering student-loan debt forgiveness.

Biden took office last month, but his legislative agenda has been stalled in Congress as Trump’s second impeachment trial took center stage. 

All 50 Senate Democrats and seven Republicans found Trump guilty of “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the Capitol riot on January 6, but the two-thirds majority votes required to impeach the former president was not met.  

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Sen. Tom Cotton denies asking staffer to bring him a gun during US Capitol siege

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) questions President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at the US Capitol on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Sen. Tom Cotton denies asking an aide to bring him a gun during the Capitol Siege on January 6.
  • A spokesperson challenged a CNN report that he’d asked for a firearm.
  • Cotton declined to challenge the final result of the 2020 election, breaking with other Republicans.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

US Sen. Tom Cotton’s office is denying the Arkansas Republican asked one of his staffers to bring him a gun during the January 6 siege on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

CNN’s Jamie Gangel made the claim on-air Wednesday evening, saying Cotton told her he was prepared to shoot rioters.

But a spokesperson for the senator, Caroline Tabler, denied that report.

“Senator Cotton did not have or request a gun that day,” Tabler told Insider, “nor does he need one to defend himself and others under any circumstances.”

Though a reliable conservative vote in the Senate, Cotton had angered Trump supporters by refusing to join Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley in challenging the outcome of the 2020 election.

“I will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on January 6,” he said in a statement issued 72 hours before the insurrection.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Trump was ‘loving watching the Capitol mob,’ former White House official tells CNN

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Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Donald Trump enjoyed watching his supporters ransack the US Capitol, former aides told CNN.
  • He was “loving watching the Capitol mob,” a former senior White House official said.
  • Last month the House impeached Trump for inciting an insurrection.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Then-President Donald Trump enjoyed watching his supporters ransack the US Capitol, former aides to the ex-president told CNN.

The January 6 riot, which followed a Trump speech falsely claiming he won the 2020 election, resulted in five deaths, including the killing of a US Capitol Police officer.

As the violence unfolded last month, Republicans and Democrats alike pleaded with Trump to intervene – to call on his supporters to stop. For hours, however, he remained silent, ensconced at the White House and consuming cable news.

There, a former senior Trump official told CNN, the president was enjoying what he saw on the screen: people – some in MAGA hats and with Trump flags – breaking into a co-equal branch of government.

Trump was “loving watching the Capitol mob,” a former official said to CNN.

Last month, The Washington Post previously reported that Trump was slow to act on calling for an end to the mob – which he did hours after it began in a video posted to Twitter where he called the rioters “special” – because he was watching it live on television.

“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” a then Trump advisor told The Post. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

The Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump soon after, charging him with inciting an insurrection. His second impeachment trial in the Senate begins Tuesday.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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