CNN’s decision to hire Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s fired campaign manager, was met with a serious amount of outrage both within the network and from viewers. The one-time Trump staffer is reportedly being paid roughly $500,000 to deliver Trump campaign talking points on CNN. He’s also a man who has been known to violently attack reporters (including, notably, one from CNN just months ago), spew sexist filth towards the woman who have the misfortune of working near him, and otherwise be a belligerent jerk. He’s also signed a legal document that swears he will never disparage Donald Trump in public – making his benefits to CNN as a “political commentator” mean squat. (I spoke briefly with CNN’s Brian Stelter about whether the network knew about this non-disparagement agreement before they hired Lewandowski, and he assured me they did. A disturbing detail to say the least.)
Despite all of these problems, CNN’s own “investigation” into Lewandowski’s hire has found that this was a nearly flawless move. Responding to a Page Six report that had multiple sources within CNN saying the news that Lewandowski was their newest coworker sent the staff into “near revolt,” Stelter said those claims were false. CNN’s newsroom, according to Stelter, may have some “discomfort” with the hire, but nobody is very upset. On Stelter’s Reliable Sources, he assembled a panel (including another former Trump staffer that the network employs) to assure viewers that the Lewandowski hire was money well spent.
Things did not go as planned.
After Stelter put on a brave face about the decision and the other panelists nodded along, guest David Zurawik, a Baltimore Sun media critic, rained on the self-congratulatory parade. Paying a Trump employee half a million dollars for “access” is not only a waste of money, but it is insulting to CNN’s reporters whom, one might think, are given paychecks specifically to uncover the sort of information hand-fed to Lewandowski.
The other thing I do want to say about getting information about the process from Lewandowski,” Zurawik said. “Brian, if the folks at CNN, who I think have the best political reporters on television — if you guys need to pay him to tell you whats going on inside the Trump campaign, give your money back, you’re not earning your paychecks.”
“Let’s find out the old fashioned way,” he added. “By reporting it, not paying weasels to tell you about it.
To his credit, Stelter seemed to agree. While he stood by his claim that this was smart “television-wise,” he admitted that “journalistically, there are questions.” Given the fact that CNN is supposed to be a news network, it’s fair to say that’s a pretty troubling issue.
As Zurawik points out, putting a guy like Lewandowski on the air gives the Trump campaign free air time to essentially run political ads for free and into the homes of millions of people who tune into the network with the assumption that what they are getting is something close to “objective news.” When Corey Lewandowski inevitably shills for Trump, viewers might understandably assume that this is a “political commentator” stating his opinion, not a de facto Trump staffer parroting talking points he heard from his former boss.
Featured image via CNN