After President Obama took a tough stand against Russia, expelling a number of Russian diplomats and a “nest of spies” from U.S. beach houses they’ve apparently occupied for several decades, CNN reported that Russia was retaliating for the attack by closing an American school in Moscow that served the children of English-speaking diplomats.
#BREAKING: A US official says Russian authorities ordered the Anglo-American School of Moscow to close as retaliation for US sanctions
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 29, 2016
But early Friday, the Kremlin denied CNN’s report, noting that while it had, at first, contemplated retaliation, it was now approaching the American problem diplomatically, a break from normal procedure.
A Russian spokeswoman even claimed on Facebook that she was outraged at the “false news:” You should not write that ‘Moscow denied…. Or Moscow will not.…Write as it is: ‘The CNN TV channel and other Western media have again spread false information citing official American sources.’”
CNN’s report on the school, sourced to “a U.S. official briefed on the matter”, remained online as of Friday evening (the school itself is closed for the winter holidays).
After Russia’s denial, Vladimir Putin himself took the opportunity to poke at Obama, inviting the children of American diplomats to a Christmas party at the Kremlin.
Creepy as that is, it’s far from closing a school — and the “fake news” story had permeated the media, with numerous, mainstream outlets reporting on the school closing as fact.
Everyone from International Business Times to The Hill to the Daily Beast ran with the story. Politico made it a glaring headline on their site. Radio Free Europe cited CNN as the official source of the information. Many of these news outlets still haven’t pulled the story.
The fake story is an embarrassment for CNN, which has been doing extensive coverage of the so-called “fake news” epidemic. This won’t increase anyone’s confidence in reporting on the bizarre changes in Russo-American relations in the last 24 hours.