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MEET DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER  CNN image of reporter Donie O'Sullivan, smiling and dressed in a dark lounge suit

Photo credit of Donie O'Sullivan: CNN  

07 January 2021

On a day of unprecedented mob chaos and insurrection on Capitol Hill in Washington DC – the seat of the US government and symbol of the country’s democracy – there was one journalist whose reporting, in the eyes of many, stole the show.

CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan, who is a Queen’s MA in Legislative Studies and Practice (2013) graduate, reported live and unphased from the scene, home to the domed US Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court complex, for several hours.

Five people died on Wednesday (06 January) after pro-Trump protesters, whipped up by the President who had addressed volatile crowds earlier in the day in front of the White House, stormed the US Capitol building to disrupt the ceremonial certification of Joe Biden’s November 3rd election victory.

A reporter covering the intersection of technology and politics, Donie, who is from Cahersiveen in County Kerry and who is now a US citizen, also has a BA in History, Politics and International Relations from University College Dublin.

Part of the CNN Business team he works closely with the network’s investigative unit tracking and identifying online disinformation campaigns targeting the American electorate. He also covers how social media platforms, Congress, and the American intelligence community are responding to the threat of disinformation and troll campaigns. In recent months Donie also focused on the ways in which President Trump and President-elect Biden are using social media in their campaigns.

Delivering his report in a very professional, calm and informative manner, Donie highlighted the damaging effects of conspiracy theories and hate speech in his live TV report and, amidst extraordinary scenes, noted that he had heard one of the protesters say ‘next time we’re coming back with rifles.’

As CNN host Wolf Blitzer urged him to ‘stay safe’ from the broadcaster’s Washington DC studio, Donie said:  

"We're seeing the results of that play out on the streets in our nation's capital today," he said. "We're beyond the fact that in 2016, we heard about Russian trolls, and people tried to write off anything about social media saying it's only a few Facebook posts, what harm? Well, here's the harm.

"The harm of conspiracy theories, the harm of lies, the harm of people living in these online and Trump media echo chambers where they're so deluded they can't get to grips with reality and that Joe Biden will soon be President."

Joining CNN as a producer in June 2016, two years later he became a reporter in New York, covering disinformation campaigns, Russian trolls, and everything in between. He was part of a team that uncovered several major Russian government-linked social media campaigns targeting Americans in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

Donie’s findings were later used by Congress investigators and others examining the extent of Russian meddling ahead of the election.

He previously was part of CNN's Social Discovery team, finding and verifying videos, pictures, and eyewitness accounts from social media during breaking news events.

Before moving to CNN, he worked for Storyful, a social media verification news agency, for two and half years in New York and Dublin. Before that, and as part of his Master's degree at Queen's, he undertook a nine month placement at the Northern Ireland Assembly with the Enterprise, Trade, and Investment Committee.

Praised by many for keeping his cool under pressure, Donie has been trending on social media in Ireland and elsewhere overnight. Among those highlighted in today’s Irish Times for singing his praises were John King, CNN Anchor and legendary Chief National Correspondent, who described him as ‘awesome’ and screenwriter Declan Lawn said of him: “All the other CNN correspondents can’t believe this stuff and are freaking out but Donie O’Sullivan is strolling around like he’s seen far worse coming out of a Carlow nightclub.”

And Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee, a former Queen’s Graduate of the Year, described Donie with the words “What a man”.

Responding to the outpouring on social media, Donie said on Twitter that he was “overwhelmed by all the love from Ireland tonight”.

For enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.

Photo credit: CNN  


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