State Department Says CBS News 'Intentionally Misled' Viewers on Sunday


The State Department has accused CBS News of intentionally misleading its viewers about remarks made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the origin of the coronavirus.

On “60 Minutes” Sunday evening, the network aired a segment critical of the Trump administration’s response to the virus, and it included a small portion of Pompeo’s interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on May 3.

The “60 Minutes” segment, which was narrated by the network’s Scott Pelley, used partial quotes from Pompeo’s interview with Raddatz to paint an incomplete picture of the secretary’s stance on the origin of the virus and suggest that Pompeo was at odds with national intelligence and health experts on the subject.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus took issue with the reporting of CBS News, which she accused of attempting to “mislead.”

“@CBS News intentionally misled its viewers with a report Sunday evening that failed to accurately portray the clear intent of Secretary Pompeo’s remarks to Martha Raddatz on ABC News regarding the origin of the virus in Wuhan, China,” she wrote.

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Ortagus further criticized the network for failing to air Pompeo’s comments on ABC in their full context, which clearly showed that the department head is joining the scientific community in waiting for a consensus about the origin of the virus.

“This reporting — intending to deceive — seeks to obfuscate the Secretary’s core point: the Chinese Communist Party continues to refuse calls for transparency, thereby compounding its cover-up, and further risking American lives,” she wrote.

The “60 Minutes” segment aired only partial remarks from Pompeo, who told Raddatz he has no reason to disagree with the findings of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and assessments from U.S. intelligence about China’s role in the international spread of the coronavirus.

“Last Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to resurrect a debunked theory that the virus was manmade in China,” Pelley said in the segment.

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“60 Minutes” further claimed Pompeo was attempting to “have it both ways” after airing comments of the secretary telling Raddatz he agreed with a theory that the virus was manmade, only to follow up moments later by saying he also agreed with a consensus that intelligence officials believed the virus was naturally occurring.

“The same day Pompeo tried to have it both ways, President Trump repeated the theory of a Chinese lab accident,” Pelley said. “The administration has offered no evidence of an accident or genetic engineering.”

But the “60 Minutes” segment left out the context of Pompeo’s seemingly contradictory comments, in which he apparently misspoke and corrected himself.

“The best experts so far seem to think it was manmade, I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” Pompeo told ABC’s “The Week,” according to an official State Department transcript of the interview.

Raddatz then said, “Your office of the DNI says the scientific consensus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

“That’s right, I agree with that. I’ve seen their analysis. I’ve seen the summary that you saw. … I have no reason to doubt that that is accurate.

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Raddatz pressed Pompeo, apparently trying to set the record straight on whether he was claiming that he believed the virus was created by scientists in a Chinese lab.

“Just to be clear, you do not think it was manmade or genetically modified?” Raddatz asked.

“I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said,” Pompeo said when asked directly if he believed the virus was manmade. “I have no reason to believe that they’ve got it wrong.”

Pompeo made it very clear that he agreed with whatever conclusions were being drawn by intelligence officials, but the context of that was lost in the “60 Minutes” segment.

On Wednesday, Pompeo further told reporters there was “no separation” between him and experts on the subject of the origin of the coronavirus.

“We’re all trying to figure out the right answer, we’re all trying to get to clarity,” the secretary of state said at a media briefing on Wednesday. “There are different levels of certainty assessed at different places; that’s highly appropriate. People stare at data sets and come to different levels of confidence. Every one of us stares at this and knows the reality. The reality is this came from Wuhan.

“Every one of us stares at this situation and says, ‘Who can provide the answer to precisely where patient zero was from, where this actually came from?’ We all know who can unlock the keys to that.  Every one of those leaders … we all know how to get to this answer. That’s where the focus needs to be. It’s where our focus is.”

The comments, like the full context of Pompeo’s comments to ABC News, did not make it into the “60 Minutes” segment.

President Donald Trump excoriated CBS News for its reporting.

“@CBS and their show, @60Minutes, are doing everything within their power, which is far less today than it was in the past, to defend China and the horrible Virus pandemic that was inflicted on the USA and the rest of the World,” Trump said Sunday on Twitter. “I guess they want to do business in China!”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also criticized the network on Twitter.

“60 Minutes on CBS is the second example in 24 hours of completely dishonest editing, this time of @SecPompeo,” she wrote.

“CBS cut out the portion of Pompeo’s remarks where he clearly acknowledges that he agrees with the intelligence community assessment.”

The “60 Minutes” segment aired mere hours after NBC News’ Chuck Todd was caught using a deceptively edited clip that falsely portrayed Attorney General William Barr as stating that the Justice Department dropped the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for apparent “political” reasons.

“Meet the Press” later apologized on social media.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.