Lending a new dimension to the phrase “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” recently fired Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has joined CNN as a political commentator. Presumably now if he wants to grab a reporter so hard that she’s left with bruises on her arm, his case will be handled by CNN’s human-resources department instead of the local police department.
Lewandowski’s hiring by CNN isn’t a huge surprise – some reporters were predicting it the minute news of his firing from the Trump campaign hit on Monday. Hiring former campaign managers and political flacks is a long tradition by news networks, which is why George Stephanopoulos hosts a Sunday-morning chat show and David Gergen will be chatting with Lewandowski on CNN’s set. As an insider to the absurdist carnival midway that is the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, Lewandowski in theory could offer some insights into the candidate and his possible thinking as we trudge through the remaining four and a half months of this election season.
Whether Lewandowski will be able to offer such insights is a whole other question, of course. He doesn’t have a long track record of incisive news commentary or work in the political realm outside of the Trump campaign that we can use to weigh his qualifications. What he has is a year of barely leaving Donald Trump’s side as the real-estate mogul has made his improbable run to the Republican nomination, plus some name recognition, very little of it positive, which we’ll get to shortly.
Because Lewandowski’s visibility is just one of a couple of aspects of this hiring that should bother anyone who cares about such quaint notions as journalistic integrity, or does not believe in rewarding bad behavior with new jobs and, for CNN, possibly increased ratings.
First, CNN. For all the right-wing complaints of liberal bias in the mainstream media, the major news organizations often go out of their way to hire commentators from across the ideological spectrum in an effort to appear “balanced.” This satisfies no one, except perhaps the restless ghost of David Broder, the one-time high priest of the Church of Both Sides in media circles.
Over the years, CNN has tried to counter charges of left-wing bias by hiring a string of conservative commentators who almost inevitably flame out the minute they leave the protective bubble of right-wing media for the bright lights of reality. This has led to the network turning over valuable airwaves to the likes of Dana Loesch (whom they had to briefly suspend over comments she made on-air supporting U.S. Marines for urinating on the corpses of Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan), Erick Erickson (most famous for calling a Supreme Court justice a “goat-fucking child molester), and, this election season, Amanda Carpenter and Jeffrey Lord.
Carpenter is a one-time high-ranking staffer for former Senator Jim DeMint and current bane of the Senate Ted Cruz. In her latter capacity, she was a relentless cheerleader for Cruz’s brand of obstructionism who parroted her boss’s lies about the Affordable Care Act that he used as an excuse to shut down the federal government.
Jeffrey Lord, meanwhile, is a racist asshole who has spent his time on CNN being an apologist for Trump, legitimating for a mainstream news organization the candidate’s more noxious views on immigration and race. Because the Church of Both Sides commands that we hear out the opinions of people who dress their white nationalism up in expensive suits in hopes you won’t notice the white robes peeking out beneath.
Now CNN has turned to Lewandowski, a conservative who comes with a ton of baggage. In addition to the incident in March where he grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and was later charged with misdemeanor battery (the charge was ultimately dropped), the now-former campaign manager has a string of controversies in his past, mostly related to his behavior around co-workers and employees. He seems to have a particular problem with women; in addition to the Fields incident, he was spotted having a screaming match with Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks in the middle of 61st Street in New York just last month.
Plus, Lewandowski likely signed the same non-disclosure agreement that is a condition of working for Donald Trump, so how much insight he’ll be able to offer with that constraining him is anybody’s guess.
So this is who CNN just hired to provide political commentary: an angry misogynist with a brutal temper and a long trail of pissed-off colleagues who wouldn’t shed a tear if he fell under a moving F train. A man who may not be able to be much more than a cheerleader for his former boss’s campaign. (And based on his post-firing appearances, may not want to be.) A hothead who once threatened one of CNN’s reporters for daring to leave the press pen at a Trump rally. (Boy, that will make any meet-ups by the office coffee machine super awkward!) That a major network would reward this clueless bully with a contract says something about the state of television news, and it is not something good.