A CBS News crew pulled medical professionals off the floor at the Cherry Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to line up in their vehicles so a CBS film crew would have a long line for their COVID-19 coverage.
“Our insider witnessed the whole thing and came to Project Veritas, because he knew we would protect him,” said James O’Keefe, the founder and CEO of Project Veritas.
“The insider told us that medical personnel were taken away from treating patients and making the line longer for actual patients wait for the COVID-19 test,” he said.
In an interview with the insider, O’Keefe asked the insider: “You're telling me you're a hundred percent certain that CBS News, CBS News Corporation--national, staged a fake event. They faked the news. They faked the reality and broadcasted that to all of their audience last Friday on “CBS This Morning.”
The insider said to him: “A hundred percent. Absolutely.”
Nick Ross, a corporate cleaning site supervisor at the Cherry Health facility, said he was there when the CBS News crew arrived and set up the video shoot at the COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot, "Apparently the news crew wanted more people in the line because they knew it was scheduled.”
Maria Hernandez-Vaquez, a professional registration specialist, told the insider that Cherry Health Director of Quality and Informatics Glenda Walker helped to organize the facility’s workers into the COVID-19 testing line.
“It's just annoying cause we could have done other stuff,” said one registered nurse there recorded with a hidden camera by a Project Veritas insider.
The nurse said personnel at the medical center were given the heads-up to expect the CBS News crew. “We knew they were coming. We had no clue that we’re going to have to, like, do fake patients.”
Another registered nurse said she and other medical professionals working the drive-through testing site did not administer the actual swab swipe as CBS News was filming, but the actual patients were made to wait longer because of the manufactured line. “There were a couple of real patients, which made it worse.”
The footage was used to accompany CBS News reporter Andriana Diaz’s narration and interview with Tasha Blackmon, the president and CEO of Cherry Health.
In the CBS News report, Blackmon told her facility needed gowns and N95 masks, which filter incoming breath to protect the medical professional.
Cherry Health President and CEO Tasha Blackmon told Project Veritas in a phone conversation: "We and CBS News had nothing to do with that line."
Blackmon said she had not viewed the preview of the Project Veritas report that had been emailed to her, and that after reviewing the matter with her team, she would give Project Veritas a statement. Project Veritas followed up with phone calls and emails, but there was no further response before the deadline.
Project Veritas also spoke to CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, who agreed to review a preview of the report and send a statement.
The CBS News statement reads in full:
CBS News did not stage anything at the Cherry Health facility. Any suggestion to the contrary is 100% false. These allegations are alarming. We reached out to Cherry Health to address them immediately. They informed us for the first time that one of their chief officers told at least one staffer to get in the testing line along with real patients. No one from CBS News had any knowledge of this before tonight. They also said that their actions did not prevent any actual patients from being tested. We take the accuracy of our reporting very seriously and we are removing the Cherry Health portion from the piece.
“CBS This Morning” Executive Producer Diana Miller gave an interview to her parent company’s website Viacom.com, where she said the morning TV news show was making its coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic a priority.
“Whenever you’re chasing a story that’s developing, there are threads that emerge. Focusing on first responders has been important for us because they are on the frontlines, and it’s important we’re showing the reality of the situations they are in every day,” she said.
“We’ve always been driven by the news and want to provide context and clarity on the important stories of the day,” Miller said.
Correction: We have an additional note and a two-word correction. At 1:08 and 7:18 Alison
Mauro-Lantz was quoted saying, “we pretended;” it was said by Christy Herrema Breuker, another registered nurse at Cherry Health. All other quotes attributed to Alison Mauro-Lantz are accurate.