MINNEAPOLIS — CNN apologized to Julian Assange on Wednesday after an on-air pundit accused the WikiLeaks founder of being a pedophile in the morning, but the network has so far failed to address a similar accusation made by another talking head later in the day.
“I think there’s an effort to protect WikiLeaks from a pedophile who lives in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London,” Mudd said, referring to the WikiLeaks founder.
WikiLeaks quickly fired back via social media, threatening a lawsuit against CNN.
We have issued instructions to sue CNN for defamation:https://t.co/YLfyQ9ROCy
Unless within 48h they air a one hour expose of the plot.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 4, 2017
Later in the day, Mike Rogers, a CNN national security commentator with a background in Congress, the Army, and the FBI, appeared on “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” where he leveled allegations similar to Mudd’s.
In a discussion of President-elect Donald Trump’s recent embrace of Assange, Rogers argued that Trump needs “someone to explain to him who Julian Assange is.”
“I think if he knew all of the details — this person is wanted for rape of a minor. He is hiding in the basement of an embassy because he is a fugitive from justice, number one. Number two, he has released information harmful to the United States that I do believe jeopardize soldiers in the field.”
Assange entered the Embassy of Ecuador in London on asylum in June of 2012, and he’s remained there ever since. Although never formally charged, he was wanted for questioning in Sweden on charges of sexual assault after he allegedly refused to wear a condom during sex with two adult women in 2010. Swedish officials had refused to question Assange at the embassy until November of 2016, and Assange feared that if he traveled to Sweden for questioning he would be subsequently extradited to the United States to face serious charges under a secret, ongoing grand jury.
A United Nations panel ruled in February of 2016 that Assange’s confinement is considered “arbitrary detention” and ordered his immediate release. Despite the ruling and three days of questioning by Ingrid Isgren, Sweden’s deputy chief prosecutor, Assange remains in the embassy on threat of arrest should he ever set foot outside.
No credible evidence has ever linked Assange to improper behavior against minors, but WikiLeaks’ tweets linked to a series of allegations made against him during the election by Todd & Clare, a Houston-based dating site, which accused Assange of attempting to contact an underage girl in the Bahamas for the purposes of sexual assault.
Writing in October for McClatchy DC, Tim Johnson pointed out many inconsistencies in the story provided by Todd & Clare representatives and noted that the company had been granted unusual access to the United Nations. Johnson reported:
“The company’s operating address is a warehouse loading dock in Houston. Its mail goes to a Houston drop box. Its phone numbers no longer work. WikiLeaks says Texas officials tell it the entity is not registered there either under toddandclare.com or a parent company, T&C Network Solutions.”
Further, there was little or no evidence to support the allegations against Assange.
In addition to deleting a tweet which contained a link to video of Mudd calling Assange a pedophile, “New Day” issued a retraction via Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.
We've deleted a tweet that included a video clip from New Day earlier this morning. Here's our statement: pic.twitter.com/qJqTtzy69T
— New Day (@NewDay) January 4, 2017
The statement read:
“An analyst on our air earlier today asserted that Julian Assange was a pedophile, and regrets saying it. In fact, CNN has no evidence to support that assertion.”
As of Thursday afternoon, however, no similar retraction had been made regarding Rogers’ comments.
Assange and WikiLeaks have been targeted by a swell of attacks in the mainstream media since the site published extensive archives of emails taken from Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the private email account of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, during the election. Assange has repeatedly denied accusations that he is a Russian agent, and suggested Podesta’s email hacking should be attributed to poor security, not a government plot.