A CBS News crew pulled frontline healthcare staff away from their patient care duties at Cherry Health Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week in order for the network to dramatize their COVID-19 coverage for a May 1 “CBS This Morning” segment.
An insider witness contacted Project Veritas to expose the situation at the medical center, according to James O’Keefe, founder and CEO of Project Veritas. Alison Mauro, a nurse at the facility, was recorded on hidden camera saying she and other medical professionals working the drive-thru testing site did not administer swab tests as CBS News was filming, but actual patients there for testing had to wait longer because of the staged coverage. The recording captured Mauro stating, “We pretended. There were a couple of real patients, which made it worse.” Another nurse recorded with a hidden camera by a Project Veritas insider is heard saying, “It’s annoying because we could have done other stuff.”
This staged footage accompanied a narration by CBS News reporter Andriana Diaz in which she interviewed Cherry Health CEO and President Tasha Blackmon. In the report, Blackmon told Diaz the facility needed gowns and N95 masks. However, in a phone call with Project Veritas, Blackmon stated, “We and CBS News had nothing to do with that line.” Blackmon additionally told Project Veritas that she did not instruct anyone to get in the testing line and didn’t know who was in the cars being filmed.
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In the footage, which shows a long line of cars waiting in queue at the drive-through testing site, Diaz also reported, “We found a 25 percent increase in testing at Cherry Hill.” As it turns out, evidence secured by Project Veritas reveals that the footage intentionally skewed the actual demand for coronavirus tests in Grand Rapids, and indicates Cherry Hill and CBS News padded the testing line for the sake of appearances as the operation was being highlighted in a national news story.
The network issued a statement denying these allegations: “CBS News did not stage anything at Cherry Health facility. Any suggestion to the contrary is 100% false,” notes the statement.
CBS News has since pulled the Cherry Health portion of Diaz’s story. Given that large national broadcasters stand by their on-air work as often as possible, the network’s pulling of the Cherry Health coverage amounts to a significant concession that something definitely went awry in Grand Rapids—albeit, it stops short of an actual admission of perpetuating “fake news.”
Last night, Cherry Health CEO Blackmon issued a new statement that completely contradicts her earlier statement on the matter. The statement reads: “…we learned that a few staff were encouraged to pull their cars up in the testing line to provide a visual backdrop showing how busy the testing site can get… This was done with the intention of protecting patient privacy since many of the patients scheduled for a COVID-19 test on that day declined to be filmed for HIPAA reasons…and expressed deep remorse for this unfortunate situation.”
In the days since this staged situation was exposed, Cherry Health’s story is changing. Will CBS News’ story be changing soon?