HLN host Dr. Drew Pinsky has apologized for citing a Breitbart.com report raising questions about Hillary Clinton's health, saying it "violated HLN and CNN's editorial standards and I was wrong to have mentioned the unsubstantiated report."
During the third Democratic presidential debate, Clinton returned to the stage late following a commercial break. According to The New York Times, she had visited the restroom.
But Breitbart News detailed a far more sinister -- and entirely baseless -- theory. Their January 6 report quoted right-wing radio host John Cardillo -- a Dr. Drew contributor -- who said that according to a "strong source," Clinton's absence was due to a "flare up of problems from [a] brain injury," a reference to her hospitalization for a concussion and blood clot she suffered in December 2012. The piece also included conspiracies about Clinton's health from notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone.
During the January 19 edition of his HLN program, Pinsky referenced that report, saying that "an anonymous source told Breitbart.com that, that delay was due to something related to her past brain injury." Later in the program Pinsky hosted Cardillo, who said that he had provided that information and that the story was "predominantly my source." Pinsky later noted that the story "is hearsay. We cannot confirm it."
In a statement posted on HLN's website following the broadcast, Pinsky apologized for raising the report:
"Earlier tonight, I mistakenly raised an anonymously sourced report about Hillary Clinton's health. By doing so, I violated HLN and CNN's editorial standards and I was wrong to have mentioned the unsubstantiated report. I regret the error and will make sure, in the future, to apply the rigorous editorial standards we have in place here. I apologize to our viewers and Secretary Clinton for falling short tonight."
Following initial reports of Clinton's concussion, right-wing media accused Clinton of faking her condition in order to avoid testifying on the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. According to her physician, Clinton "had follow-up testing in 2013, which revealed complete resolution of the effects of the concussion," and she is in "excellent physical condition."
A network that employs one contributor who repeatedly threatened to pull a "gun" on government employees and another who praised U.S. Marines for apparently urinating on dead Afghans is now hosting discredited liar Andrew Breitbart to provide political commentary. CNN anchors previously said that Breitbart lacks credibility following his use of deceptively edited video to smear former Obama administration official Shirley Sherrod as a racist.
Breitbart has appeared on CNN four times this year, including interviews with the network's hosts Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan in panel segments during their coverage of the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina and New Hampshire Republican primaries. Pinsky also hosted Breitbart on the January 20 edition of his show, Dr. Drew.
CNN is well aware of Breitbart's history of fabrications and his lack of credibility. After his infamous Sherrod smear unraveled, CNN's own Anderson Cooper calling his actions "a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse." Cooper joined a wide array of media who criticized Breitbart's tactics and pointed to what Ben Smith called his "growing credibility problem."
As recently as last November, CNN's Don Lemon reported that a remark from President Obama had been "taken out of context" in an ad produced by Mitt Romney's campaign and commented, "for those on the right who are jumping on the lazy bandwagon, perhaps they should remember that context is everything. And there's always the videotape. Just ask Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod."
Even Morgan has said that it is "perfectly natural to be suspicious of Mr. Breitbart" and "understandable people might be at least skeptical" of his reporting "given his track record."
In 2010, ABC News drew widespread criticism, including from its own newsroom, after Breitbart's website reported -- and Media Matters confirmed -- that he would be providing analysis for the network during its election night coverage. ABC's George Stephanopoulos had previously called out Breitbart for pushing claims about Shirley Sherrod that were "clearly not true." The network subsequently announced that Breitbart would "not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage," but rather would be "participating in an online-only discussion and debate" for ABCNews.com. After many recriminations, with Breitbart saying he had been promised broadcast time and ABC responding that he had "exaggerated the role he would play," ABC dropped him from its elections coverage.
Surely CNN can also find a conservative to discuss elections who hasn't had his credibility rightfully criticized by the network's own anchors.