The outlet’s communications team notified Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe after he managed to join the network’s conference call that this “may be a felony,” adding that they had “referred it to law enforcement.”
Legal experts say this may be a felony. We‘ve referred it to law enforcement.
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) December 1, 2020
The threat to take the matter to the authorities set off a raging debate online, as netizens-turned-lawyers sparred over whether Project Veritas broke the law, some insisting that publishing the recordings is precisely the role of reporters.
“It’s literally how journalism works,”said conservative pundit Mike Cernovich, adding to CNN: “sorry you don’t support the First Amendment.”
He and several others followed up with links to a CNN story published in October based on similar surreptitious recordings – in that case of First Lady Melania Trump – suggesting the network may have run afoul of the same supposed “felony” statute.
Some users took to CNN’s defense, arguing that O’keefe and company did, in fact, violate consent laws, proposing a litany of crimes Project Veritas may have committed in obtaining or sharing the recordings.
It is and should be illegal to record or film someone (not in public) without their permission. https://t.co/lgw1gJWBUd
— Vernal Equinox (@SpringF_kx) December 2, 2020
Party consent rules only apply if you’re a legitimate party to the communication. Eavesdropping uninvited on a conference call makes you not a legitimate party so no safe harbor is available.
— Mistake Not… (@CornFedIABoy) December 2, 2020
It’s not about the recording, it’s about accessing a computer system to which he was not authorized. If someone gave him the code, that doesn’t make him an authorized user of the systems.
This is wire fraud territory, son.
— Dog Congress (@dog_congress) December 2, 2020
Other detractors couldn’t help but poke fun at the media giant, prompting a wave of references to the embarrassing saga of CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who was suspended from his job at New Yorker earlier this year after flashing his penis to colleagues on a live Zoom call in what he said was an “embarrassingly stupid mistake”.
We know what your legal "experts" do on calls, CNN.
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) December 1, 2020
You bring Lubin' Toobin back for some legal commentary and consultation…#CNNTapes
— ANDY W. (@Righteous_Lab) December 2, 2020
Better check your legal exposure with Toobin
— Terry Kinder (@tkinder) December 2, 2020
The series of leaked clips – the first of which were published on Tuesday night, with more set to be released in the coming days – show CNN staff, including president Jeff Zucker, discussing editorial matters during daily morning briefings. In one recording, an individual identified as special correspondent Jamie Gangel is heard urging colleagues to not give President Trump “too much of a platform on his not conceding” the 2020 race.
LEAKED AUDIO FROM @CNN 9AM CALL: “News organizations have to be very careful & very responsible about not giving @realDonaldTrump too much of a platform on his not conceding…” – @JamieGangel #CNNTapes pic.twitter.com/LoCqh79pOG
— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) December 2, 2020
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