Veteran CNN investigative journalist Drew Griffin dead at 60


Drew Griffin, CNN’s award-winning Senior Investigative Correspondent known for turning even the most boring interviewees into a story, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer, his family said. It was 60.

A gifted storyteller, Griffin had a well-earned reputation for holding powerful people and institutions accountable.

“Drew’s death is a devastating loss for CNN and our entire profession,” CNN CEO Chris Licht said in a memo to staff. “A highly regarded investigative journalist, Drew’s work has had an incredible impact and embodied the mission of this organization in every way.”

Griffin worked on hundreds of stories and numerous documentaries during nearly two decades on CNN’s investigative team. His reporting has won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards – including Emmys, Peabodys and Murrows.

“But people meant more to Drew than awards,” Licht said.

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Griffin had an incredibly strong work ethic, colleagues said. He kept his illness a secret from most of his colleagues and was telling until the day he died.

Michael Bass, CNN’s Executive Vice President of Programming, also shared his admiration for Griffin in a memo to the investigative team on Sunday.

“Fearless and artful at the same time, he knew how to push a story to its limits, but also tell it in a way that made everyone understand,” Bass said. “How many times has he gone after a reluctant interviewee? How many times has he spoken truth to power? How many times has he made a difference in something important… It was an honor to be his colleague and to witness his work and the ways he changed the world.”

Griffin’s report had a significant impact and caused change.

He led a year-long investigation that uncovered delays in medical care that contributed to patient deaths at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. The group’s reporting led to the resignation of the VA secretary, followed by the passage of federal legislation and a fundamental change in the way veteran appointments are handled.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki testifies before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on the wait times veterans face to receive medical care on May 15, 2014 in Washington, DC.  The American Legion on Monday called for Shinseki's resignation amid reports from former and current VA employees that as many as 40 patients may have died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Amid his reporting of the high number of sexual assault complaints against Uber drivers, the company changed its background check process and introduced new security features to its app. After CNN’s investigation, Uber announced it would end a policy that previously forced people with sexual assault allegations to go to arbitration and sign non-disclosure agreements.

Patricia DiCarlo, an executive producer of CNN’s investigative unit who worked alongside Griffin for nearly a decade, said Griffin was an excellent writer who crafted pieces into “compelling, must-see television stories.”

“You know when a Drew Griffin story starts — it’s going to be great,” he said. “His way with words set him apart.”

Griffin’s tenacious approach to the most challenging stories and his ability to get some of the most reluctant public figures to open up and give their side of the story underscored his sense of fairness. Still, he never missed an opportunity to ask them tough questions.

Griffin’s decisive, Emmy-winning investigation into fraud claims against Trump University in 2016 exposed the questionable, financially draining tactics of a series of real estate seminars that led to class-action lawsuits by attendees. In an exclusive interview, Griffin pressed a former Trump University instructor about his role in the program — not teaching real estate strategies, but luring participants to pay for more seminars: “We were bringing in the money,” he told Griffin.

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When election denial persisted, Griffin worked to dispel myths of widespread voter fraud by confronting one of the biggest names in disinformation: MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. After reviewing the so-called evidence, Griffin sat down with Lindell for a lengthy interview to evaluate his claims and, ultimately, laid out the truth: Lindell had “proof of nothing.”

There were times, however, when Griffin, like all reporters, couldn’t get his subjects to talk immediately – resulting in memorable on-camera confrontations, particularly with government officials.

When Griffin learned of rampant fraud in California’s state drug rehabilitation program in 2013, he pressed officials for answers. He eventually tracked down the head of the California Department of Health and Human Services, who tried to avoid Griffin’s questions by running to a bathroom, which was locked. Griffin’s investigation resulted in a legislative investigation and a public apology from the program’s director.

More recently, Griffin’s body of work in the wake of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol has exposed the dangers of negative elections and has been cited in court filings by the Justice Department and the House committee investigating the insurgency.

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While investigative journalism was at the heart of Griffin’s work, he often jumped into breaking news – from mass shootings to devastating hurricanes. Among his most memorable moments in the air was during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, when he rescued a man by pulling him from a sinking truck.

Griffin’s confidence, hard work and tenacity spoke for themselves on camera, yet it was his kindness and compassion that defined him behind the scenes. Few in the audience would know that after these tough interviews, Griffin would often craft handwritten thank you notes to those featured in a story. And, while fiercely private, Griffin took great care to finish the big stories – some of which swept him around the world – so he could go home and spend time with his family.

Colleagues remembered the veteran journalist as a kind, consummate professional who took time to mentor younger reporters, cared deeply about his team – and was always ready to help.

DiCarlo compared her time working with Griffin to “winning the career lottery.”

“There are so many people who worked with him and loved him — this is a devastating loss,” DiCarlo said, reflecting on the team of producers who worked closely with Griffin on his stories. “There was no one else like him. We were Team Drew.”

Drew Griffin and his three children on a family trip.

A native of Chicago, Griffin began his career as a reporter/cameraman for WICD-TV in Champaign, Illinois. He spent stints working for television stations in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Washington. He became an investigative reporter when he joined KIRO-TV in Seattle. He joined CBS 2 News in Los Angeles in January 1994, where he worked as a reporter and anchor and helped build the station’s investigative reporting team and won several local awards.

When he wasn’t chasing his next scoop, family members said he enjoyed traveling with his wife Margot, playing the trumpet or enjoying a round of golf with friends. He also adored his three children whose names were inspired by jazz greats – daughter, Ele Gast. sons, Louis and Miles Griffin – and two grandchildren.


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