Drew Griffin, CNN’s award-winning senior investigative correspondent known for getting even the most temperamental interview subjects to commit to a story, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer, his family said. He was 60 years old.
A gifted storyteller, Griffin had a well-deserved reputation for holding powerful people and institutions accountable.
“Drew’s death is a devastating loss to CNN and our entire profession,” CNN CEO Chris Licht said in a memo to staff. “A highly acclaimed investigative journalist, Drew’s work has had an incredible impact and embodied the mission of this organization in every way.”
Griffin has worked on hundreds of stories and multiple documentaries over nearly two decades on CNN’s investigative team. His reporting has won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards – Emmys, Peabodys and Murrows among them.
“But people mattered more to Drew than awards,” Licht said.
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Griffin had an incredibly strong work ethic, his colleagues said. He hid his illness from most of his colleagues and had reported 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 shrewd at the same time, he knew how to push a story to its limits, but also tell it in a way that would make everyone understand,” Bass said. “How many times has he pursued an interrogated person despite himself? How many times has he spoken truth to power? How many times has he made a difference about something important…It was an honor to be his colleague and to witness his work and how he has changed the world.
Griffin’s reporting had a significant impact and sparked change.
He led a year-long investigation that uncovered delays in medical care that contributed to the deaths of patients at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide. The team’s reports led to the resignation of the VA Secretary, which was followed by the passage of federal legislation and a fundamental change in the way veterans’ appointments are handled.
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Amid its reports of the high number of sexual assault allegations against Uber drivers, the company has changed its background check process and introduced new safety features to its app. Following CNN’s investigation, Uber announced it would remove a policy that previously forced people with sexual assault complaints into arbitration and required them to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Patricia DiCarlo, executive producer of CNN’s Investigative Unit who worked alongside Griffin for nearly a decade, said Griffin was an exceptional writer who turned plays into “compelling, compelling television stories.”
“You know, when a Drew Griffin story starts – it’s gonna be awesome,” she said. “His way with words sets him apart.”
Griffin’s tenacious approach to the toughest stories and ability to get some of the most reluctant public figures to open up and tell their side of the story underscored his sense of fairness. Yet he never missed an opportunity to grill them with tough questions.
Griffin’s incisive, Emmy-winning investigation into fraud allegations against Trump University in 2016 uncovered the questionable and financially draining tactics of a series of real estate seminars that culminated in class action lawsuits by the participants. In an exclusive interview, Griffin pressed a former Trump University instructor on his role in the program — not to teach real estate strategies, but to get attendees to pay for more seminars: “We were bringing in money,” he told Griffin.
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When voter denial persisted, Griffin worked to dispel myths of widespread voter fraud, confronting one of the biggest names in misinformation: MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. After reviewing the so-called evidence, Griffin sat down with Lindell for a lengthy interview to assess his claims and ultimately exposed the truth: Lindell had “proof of nothing.”
There were times, however, when Griffin, like all reporters, couldn’t get his subjects talking right away, resulting in some memorable on-camera confrontations with government officials, in particular.
When Griffin learned of rampant fraud in California’s state drug rehabilitation program in 2013, he pressed officials in charge for answers. He eventually tracked down the head of the California Health and Human Services Agency, who tried to dodge Griffin’s questions by running to a locked bathroom. Griffin’s investigation culminated in a legislative inquiry and a public apology from the program director.
More recently, Griffin’s body of work following the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has exposed the dangers of election deniers and has been cited in court documents by the Justice Department and the select committee of the Chamber investigating the insurrection.
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While investigative journalism was central to Griffin’s work, he often dabbled in breaking news coverage — from mass shootings to devastating hurricanes. Among his most memorable on-air moments was Hurricane Harvey in 2017, when he rescued a man by pulling him from a sinking van.
Griffin’s confidence, hard work and tenacity spoke for themselves on camera, but it was his kindness and compassion that defined him behind the scenes. Few viewers would know that after these hard-hitting interviews, Griffin often penned handwritten thank you notes to those who appeared in a story. And, though intensely private, Griffin took great pains to wrap up the big stories — some of which took him across the world — so he could return home and spend time with his family.
Colleagues remember the veteran journalist as a kind and accomplished professional who took the time to mentor young reporters, cared deeply about his team and was always ready to lend a helping hand.
DiCarlo compared his time working with Griffin to “winning the career lottery”.
“There are so many people who worked with him and loved him — it’s a devastating loss,” DiCarlo said, referring to the team of producers who worked closely with Griffin on his stories. “There was no one else like him. We were Team Drew.
Originally from Chicago, Griffin began his journalism career as a reporter/cameraman for WICD-TV in Champaign, Illinois. He has worked 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’s not looking for his next scoop, his family members say he enjoys 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 – his daughter, Ele Gast; sons, Louis and Miles Griffin – and two grandchildren.