On Tuesday, a federal judge in Georgia ruled that CNN may have acted with “actual malice” in a misleading report at the center of a lawsuit. Judge Orinda Evans allowed a lawsuit filed against CNN by St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach to move forward.
In 2015, CNN reported that St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach had an infant mortality rate for open-heart surgery that was three times the national average. Reporters from “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees” visited Davide Carbone, the CEO of the hospital, who refused to talk to them.
He was later forced to resign.
Mr. Carbone filed a defamation lawsuit against the network after the segment aired, claiming it was a “series of false and defamatory news reports.” Mr. Carbone argued this was an intentional manipulation of the data. Independent experts have at least corroborated the data was incorrect.
The lawsuit alleged that “by knowingly comparing a mortality rate for Dr. Black based only on open-heart surgeries to a mortality rate based on both open-heart and closed-heart surgeries, the CNN Defendants knowingly and artificially inflated Dr. Black’s mortality rate vis-à-vis the STS national average.”
Put simply, CNN intentionally presented viewers with an “apples-to-oranges” comparison for the explicit purpose of creating outrage. CNN had attempted to have the case dismissed, but were unsuccessful.
“The Court finds these allegations sufficient to establish that CNN was acting recklessly with regard to the accuracy of its report,” Judge Evans wrote in her ruling.