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  • A Year After Marriage Equality, It's Time For Media To Stop Giving Anti-LGBT Liars A Pass

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    In the year since the Supreme Court struck down state-level same-sex marriage bans, anti-gay extremists have continued to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality in the media. After more than 12 years of pushing lies and wildly inaccurate predictions about the consequences of marriage equality, it’s time for the media to stop letting anti-gay activists comment on LGBT rights without disclosing their proven track record of dishonest extremism.

    It’s been a year since the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision which found state-level same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. In the decade leading up to the decision, anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders peddled specious talking points about the consequences of “redefining traditional marriage.” In media appearances, these figures predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a “slippery slope” to legalized bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; pushed the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men; and hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

    Several of these groups were so deceptive that in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), designated them anti-LGBT “hate groups” for “propagating known falsehoods” and pushing “demonizing propaganda.” One of these groups was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose officials have accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children into homosexuality and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for engaging in gay sex.

    For years, major cable news networks have hosted FRC representatives to comment on LGBT equality without identifying FRC as a hate group. Despite the efforts of progressive Christians to stop outlets from letting FRC representatives conflate their extremism with mainstream Christianity, the group continues to have a significant media presence. Since last June’s Obergefell decision, mainstream media outlets have continued to call on FRC to discuss LGBT rights, including:

    • The New York Times, NPR, and USA Today all cited FRC’s commentary on the Obergefell marriage equality decision without noting the group’s history of hate.
    • ABC's This Week invited FRC's Ken Blackwell -- who previously blamed same-sex marriage for a mass murder -- to discuss the court's decision.  
    • NPR featured FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg -- who spent 10 years as a "professional actor" before joining FRC -- to debate same-sex parenting.
    • FRC’s President Tony Perkins appeared on MSNBC to discuss meeting with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump assemble an “Evangelical executive advisory board,” featuring anti-LGBT extremists.

    In the past year, the media have given other anti-LGBT hate groups similar passes. In September, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters failed to identify Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBT hate group representing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, instead calling it merely a “Christian” or “conservative” organization. In April, major news outlets largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender-inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT hate group.

    The few instances when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer did properly identify hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were predictably outraged. Right-wing anger at journalists who expose anti-LGBT extremism illustrates why it’s so vital to disclose when sources or commentators represent hate groups. The public has a right to know that the same groups with a track record of fearmongering about children’s safety to oppose marriage equality are now those peddling the anti-LGBT movement’s new favorite myth that LGBT nondiscrimination protections endanger the safety of women and children in bathrooms.

    A year after Obergefell, it’s time for the media to stop letting the same extremists use media appearances to float new lies and recycle mythical talking points to oppose LGBT equality. Outlets seeking to provide balanced coverage of LGBT rights ought to find commentators who don’t have a decade-long track record of spreading hateful lies about LGBT people. 

  • The Problem With The Media’s ‘Trump Is Pivoting’ Narrative

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.

    Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.

    As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.” 

    In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.

    In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.

    Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”

    CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:

    “It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”

    GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.

    The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.

    Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:

    But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.

    Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”

    The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.

  • Fox News Praises Trump’s Widely Panned Brexit Response Because He Was “In The Right Place”

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News’ John Roberts praised Donald Trump’s widely mocked response to the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, known as “Brexit,” claiming that Trump was “at exactly the right place, at the right time, on the right side of the issue.”

    Following the UK vote which caused worldwide economic turmoil, Trump gave a “bizarre” speech that focused on his new golf course in Scotland instead of the Brexit results. When Trump finally spoke on the referendum after being pressed by reporters, he praised the vote and welcomed the historic crash of the British currency for potentially having a positive financial effect on his Scottish golf course:

    Visiting the golf course he owns in Scotland, he praised the referendum vote, saying the British had chosen to “take their country back,” but only after he touted the sprinkler system, the drains and the luxury suites at his Turnberry resort.

    Even as his campaign sent out a fundraising email hailing the British vote as a “brave stand for freedom and independence,” he seemed at one point to welcome the crash of the British currency that threatened to undermine financial markets, noting that he might gain from it.

    “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry,” he said.

    Trump’s response was immediately panned throughout the media. MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said she was “gobsmacked” at Trump’s response, noting that it highlighted the way Trump has been using his presidential bid to further his business interests. CNN’s John Avalon described Trump’s response as “completely insane,” and The Washington Post called it “a widely broadcast infomercial.”

    But on the June 26 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, Fox’s senior national correspondent John Roberts had a different view of Trump’s speech, claiming that the referendum offered Trump “the opportunity to say he has his finger on the pulse of national populism” and praised Trump for being “at exactly the right place, at the right time, on the right side of the issue”:

     

    CHRIS WALLACE: Donald Trump seemed to be at the right place at the right time, but some say HRC’s response could have been sharper.

    [...]

    JOHN ROBERTS: Donald Trump’s trip to Scotland was supposed to be all about business, but it quickly became all about politics in a way that may give him a boost back home. It was a trip that was giving Republican leaders fits, ill-timed and unnecessary, they said. Yet in true fashion, Trump found himself at exactly the right place, at the right time, on the right side of the issue.

  • Before Hiring Corey Lewandowski, CNN Cared About Attacks Against Its Staff

    CNN Banned Roger Stone After He Lashed Out At Network Personalities

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    CNN hired Corey Lewandowski despite the former Trump campaign manager reportedly “pushing a CNN reporter” and making “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.” CNN’s actions are at odds with how it handled Roger Stone: the network banned the Trump ally as a guest in February after he wrote a series of incendiary tweets attacking network personalities.

    Stone is a longtime friend and former employee of Trump. He had become a favorite guest on the network to provide a pro-Trump point of view (unlike Lewandowski, Stone was not on CNN’s payroll). Media Matters noted at the time that Stone had attacked CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and former CNN analyst Roland Martin on Twitter with racist and sexist slurs. The network subsequently stated that Stone would no longer appear on its airwaves.

    Media Matters at the time praised CNN for correctly handling Stone by removing him from its airwaves. But CNN has reversed course in how it handles on-air Trump supporters with histories of wretched behavior toward journalists by hiring Lewandowski as a paid contributor.

    BuzzFeed reported in March that Lewandowski made “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexual comments about female journalists.” The outlet also reported that he was “accused of pushing a CNN reporter who tried to ask the candidate a question.” In November, CNN reporter Noah Gray tweeted video of Lewandowski threatening to pull his press credentials if he didn't return to the media "pen" during a campaign event.

    Reporters told Politico in March “that Lewandowski has made sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists who have covered Trump’s presidential bid. One reporter who was on the receiving end of such comments described them as ‘completely inappropriate in a professional setting.’”

    Due to this behavior, Lewandowski’s hiring has drawn harsh criticism from journalists across the political spectrum, including at CNN. Politico reported yesterday that “Some CNN staffers were privately grumbling on Thursday about Lewandowski's hiring, especially in light of how he has treated journalists. Lewandowski personally placed a POLITICO reporter on the campaign's ‘blacklist’ and earlier this year, he was charged with misdemeanor battery for forcibly grabbing reporter Michelle Fields as she tried to ask Trump a question following an event in March (prosecutors ultimately declined to pursue the case).”

    The Daily Beast similarly reported that one “insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, described CNN staffers as ‘furious with [CNN head] Jeff [Zucker]’ for hiring Lewandowski.” Another insider “described some CNN staffers” as “simply resigned to the new hire.”

    Michelle Fields said: “My heart goes out to all his new female coworkers who will have to deal with him daily. I imagine CNN HR will be busy this year.”

    Stone and Lewandowski are nemeses despite their support for Trump. Stone said today on The Alex Jones Show that Trump was correct to fire Lewandowski and that CNN is “the most anti-Trump” network.

  • Right-Wing Media's Obsession With Planned Parenthood Is Thwarting Local Efforts To Reduce HIV Rates

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    Right-wing media have been adamant that Planned Parenthood should not receive any government funding, even for programs that have nothing to do with abortion. But withholding health care funds from Planned Parenthood is the medical equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face, as evidenced by the defunded local affiliates whose HIV prevention programs have become far less -- or completely -- ineffective.

    National HIV Testing Day -- on June 27 this year -- is a day to promote HIV testing, prevention, and education. While HIV is not limited to any one demographic, it is more highly concentrated in economically disadvantaged areas. HIV is also particularly prevalent in black, Hispanic/Latino, gay, and transgender communities. While 1.2 million people were living with HIV, 13 percent aren't aware of it. Prevention programs supported by federal grants help provide accessible HIV testing and public education and are critical to reducing new diagnosis rates each year. However, right-wing media’s insistence that Planned Parenthood should not receive funding to service HIV programs has resulted in fewer places for people to turn.

    Right-wing media frequently call for eliminating all government funding to Planned Parenthood, pushing the myth that doing so wouldn't impact service provision. But in reality, Planned Parenthood provides a variety of medical services and is an important -- and sometimes the only -- resource for communities most impacted by HIV.

    Earlier this month, The Texas Observer reported that Harris County -- which had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the state in 2014 -- hadn’t conducted any HIV tests since ending a nearly 30-year-old contract with Planned Parenthood in December. When announcing the contract termination, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) told lawmakers that it expects “healthcare to benefit from these changes.” Planned Parenthood had previously received $600,000 annually to provide “HIV screenings in the Houston area, including in Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties,” while “specifically tailoring” its services to reach populations in the “Harris County jail, local bars and nightclubs, and college campuses.” Yet since canceling Planned Parenthood’s contract, equal replacements have not been funded. For example, as the Observer reported, Harris County’s health department had received less than half of the amount previously allocated to Planned Parenthood and was “still in the planning stages for its [HIV prevention] program.” The disruption in Harris County’s HIV program is similar to the problem Texas officials created last year when they removed Planned Parenthood from the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, leaving the Waco area without a provider.

    Meanwhile, Ohio state officials may create a similar disruption in Stark County’s HIV prevention programs due to a new law that redirects $1.3 million in funding away from Planned Parenthood clinics to providers that don’t offer abortion. This law has a potential impact on all Planned Parenthood clinics, not just those that provide abortion, including a clinic in Stark County that has received state funding for HIV prevention “for decades.” In March, the Ohio Department of Health sent the Canton city health department a letter saying that because of the new law, it could no longer work with “agencies that promote or perform nontherapeutic abortions.” A federal judge has temporarily blocked implementation of the law, pending a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. One of the findings in the judge’s order was:

    Plaintiffs explain that only certified and trained HIV testers can provide testing under the HIV Prevention Program, and officials in Canton have reported that they have not been able to locate a replacement for [Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio] under this program.

    As The Repository reported, Canton health officials saw benefits to contracting with Planned Parenthood for HIV testing, specifically because people would feel comfortable going there for care:

    Canton City Health Commissioner James Adams said the health department wants to test lots of people and reach diverse populations, and not everyone feels comfortable going to a governmental agency for testing. He said finding an agency that addresses a similar population to Planned Parenthood would pose a challenge.

    Removing Planned Parenthood from programs for HIV testing already had disastrous results for Scott County, Indiana. In 2011, Indiana passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. As a result, five clinics closed, leaving Scott County without an HIV testing center during an exploding HIV crisis.

    Right-wing media figures who advocate for cutting government funding to Planned Parenthood are ignoring the evidence that this country’s health care problems worsen as a result. When news outlets propagate misinformation about defunding Planned Parenthood, it doesn’t just impact those who seek abortion care, but also punishes the poorest and most marginalized communities in the country.

  • Wash. Post’s Wemple Highlights Yet Another Conflict Of Interest In CNN’s Hiring Of Trump’s Former Campaign Manager

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted that, among the various ethical concerns with CNN’s hiring of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, an ongoing defamation lawsuit involving Trump and Lewandowski could pose “another conflict of interest” for CNN’s new hire. Wemple wrote that Lewandowski’s hiring has “reduced” CNN to a “pitiful reality” in which they must warn viewers “that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.”

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a “salaried” political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns both over potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring and the way Lewandowski has aggressively handled the press in the past.

    Wemple noted possible conflicts of interest in a June 24 Washington Post article writing that an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski by a Republican consultant could be another “possible [source] of taint” for CNN’s arrangement. Wemple highlighted questions which have arisen about whether Trump is “footing the bill” for the both of them, noting how the “entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty” to provide analysis about Trump. Wemple added that this concern, among several others, is forcing other CNN employees interviewing Lewandowski “to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.” Wemple ultimately wrote that “Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes”:

    In his first appearance as a CNN contributor, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed an unsurprising reverence for his ex-boss. Appearing last night with host Erin Burnett, Lewandowski was careful to refer to “Mr. Trump,” the proper honorific for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He leveled no criticisms of the candidate. And he said this, too: “I am fully committed in my private time with my family and my friends and telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person that is going to save this country for my children and hopefully their children someday.”

    [...]

    The hiring of Lewandowski, accordingly, has reduced CNN to this pitiful reality: A true journalist like Burnett is forced to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised. Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes.

    Yet there are other possible sources of taint for Lewandowski and his former boss. These two fellows worked together on a presidential campaign for a year, gathering some enemies along the way. One of them is Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and PR adviser.

    [...]

    A defamation suit filed by Jacobus in New York County claims that those representations are false. It was the Trump camp, contends Jacobus’s complaint, that wooed her. She’s seeking $4 million in damages, just for starters.

    Why mention this suit in the context of Lewandowski’s work for CNN? Because both he and Trump are named as defendants in the civil action. And according to court documents, a single law firm — LaRocca Hornik Rosen Greenberg & Blaha — is representing both of these men. Defending a defamation suit can cost significant sums. This blog has asked the Trump campaign as well as Lewandowski how the pay arrangements are proceeding. Is Trump footing the bill? Is Lewandowski? Have there been any changes in how the costs are handled since Lewandowski left the campaign?

    Inquiries to Lewandowski, the Trump campaign, CNN and the law firm haven’t yet fetched a single response.

    Little extrapolation is required to appreciate how this entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty to call balls and strikes on CNN. If Trump is paying for legal representation, for instance, why would Lewandowski call a bunch of balls and imperil the arrangement?

    Those considerations stand apart, of course, from another set of considerations: That Lewandowski, with a big assist from his boss, slimed someone who dared to criticize Trump — and comes away with the reward of a CNN contributor gig.

  • National Association Of Hispanic Journalists Reminds Media To Avoid Anti-Immigrant Slurs In Coverage Of SCOTUS Decision

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) released a statement calling on media to “stop using the dehumanizing term ‘illegals’” in their coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision blocking one of the president’s executive actions on immigration.

    On June 23, the Supreme Court split evenly on Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), a deadlock that affirmed the lower court’s decision to block implementation of the program. In a statement sent through its electronic mailing list, NAHJ urged media reporting on “the SCOTUS indecision” to use “accurate terminology” in their coverage, reminding journalists of their decade-long campaign to stop the use of “pejorative” terms like “illegals” or “illegal aliens.” According to the NAHJ, by using the pejorative terms, media appropriates “rhetoric used by people on a particular side of the issue.”

    The anti-immigrant term has been continuously pushed by conservatives, ranging from Republican lawmakers to Fox News figures to radio hosts. Other national media figures have been guilty of also adopting the slur, although an increasing number of outlets have revised their policies to advise the term “illegal” be used only when referring to an action, not a person. Latino journalists like Univision and Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, former Telemundo president Nely Galán, and undocumented journalist José Antonio Vargas have urged media not to use the term, pointing out, as Vargas did during an appearance on Fox News, the term “is not only inaccurate but really dehumanizing.”

    From the June 23 NAHJ statement:

  • CNN Hosts Countless Pro-Trump Guests -- Why Does It Need Corey Lewandowski?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    CNN hired former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski despite his non-disclosure agreement with Trump and history of anti-press behavior. CNN hardly needs to pay for another pro-Trump voice given it already hosts a wide number of Trump supporters.

    Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple wondered “How many Trumpites does CNN need” when the network already has paid pro-Trump analysts Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany. He added: "Must CNN have three paid commentators who do nothing but defend their candidate?" 

    A Media Matters look at CNN’s coverage shows that CNN has had no problem finding various Trump supporters during the presidential campaign. Here are over 30 examples:

  • What We Do And Don't Know About CNN's Corey Lewandowski Ethics Nightmare

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Corey Lewandowski

    Yesterday, CNN announced that it had hired Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager of Donald Trump’s campaign who was fired on Monday. Based on what we already know, the hire presents an ethical nightmare for CNN. But there are still many unanswered questions about the hire that could make things worse.

    Lewandowski was known during his tenure with the campaign as Trump’s anti-press enforcer, drawing criticism for physical altercations with at least two reporters (one of whom worked for CNN) as well as reportedly making “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.”

    Here’s what we know -- and don’t know -- about the Lewandowski hire:

    We know:

    Lewandowski has a non-disclosure agreement. During Lewandowski’s first appearance on CNN as a contributor, host Erin Burnett asked him if he had signed a nondisclosure agreement when he worked for the Trump campaign. He replied that he had.

    He won’t say if he has a non-disparagement agreement. Burnett also noted that CNN had previously obtained a copy of the agreement that Trump campaign staff signed and that it included language stating that “during the term of your service and at all times thereafter, you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the company, Mr. Trump, any Trump company, any family member or any family member company.” Lewandowski refused to directly answer Burnett’s question as to whether his agreement included such a clause.

    At least one outlet decided not to make an offer to Lewandowski over ethical concerns. CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that according to a source at MSNBC, the network’s executives had also met with Lewandowski to discuss hiring him as a contributor but ultimately decided against making an offer, “mainly due to ethical concerns.”

    Journalists across the political spectrum hate this hire. After Politico broke the news, reporters and pundits from the left, right, and center condemned CNN for hiring Lewandowski. They highlighted his past history with journalists, particularly female ones, and questioned the ethics of the hire.

    Including at CNN. Stelter reported that Lewandowski’s hiring was “highly controversial, even within the newsroom, in part because he has a reputation for being hostile toward journalists.” Politico’s Hadas Gold similarly reported, “Some CNN staffers were privately grumbling on Thursday about Lewandowski's hiring, especially in light of how he has treated journalists.” The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove reported that CNN staffers are “furious with” CNN president Jeff Zucker.

    Media critics agree. In the words of former CNN bureau chief Frank Sesno, who now directs George Washington University’s media and public affairs department, “Lewandowski’s credibility becomes CNN’s credibility. If he peddles talking points and lies, then CNN will be peddling talking points and lies—to their own peril.”

    We don’t know:

    Whether Lewandowski actually has a non-disparagement agreement. Can Lewandowski criticize Trump, his family members, or his company without violating the terms of his contract with the presumptive GOP nominee? Based on Lewandowski’s responses to questions about the campaign, it sure seems like the answer is no. But we don’t know for sure.

    Whether CNN knows if Lewandowski has a non-disparagement agreement. It seems unbelievable that CNN’s executives would have hired Lewandowski without knowing the terms of his contract with the Trump campaign. But if they do know about it, they haven’t passed that information on to their reporters, who have been forced to ask Lewandowski about it and watch him evade the question.

    Whether CNN’s executives considered Lewandowski’s behavior toward journalists, particularly women, in the hiring process. Does the network care that the person they have hired to do commentary reportedly physically pushed one of their own producers when he tried to ask Trump a question? Did they take into account his reported behavior with female journalists when they were considering hiring him? As Michelle Fields, who was manhandled by Lewandowski, put it, “My heart goes out to all his new female coworkers who will have to deal with him daily. I imagine CNN HR will be busy this year.”

    What role Trump played in Lewandowski’s hiring. A Deadline source claims that “Trump was involved in brokering the deal” between Lewandowski and CNN. The network previously hired Jeffrey Lord as a contributor on Trump’s recommendation, Lord said.

    Who is paying for the lawsuit against Trump and Lewandowski. GOP operative Cheri Jacobus is currently suing Trump and Lewandowski together in a $4 million defamation suit. If Trump is funding the defense in whole, that would represent a massive conflict of interest for Lewandowski.

    What Lewandowski offers CNN that its current Trump backers don’t. CNN already employs two commentators who were hired specifically because they support Trump: Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany. If Lewandowski can’t tell CNN’s audience what he saw while running Trump’s campaign, and can’t provide candid criticism of the candidate without violating a contract, what does he offer the network other than another voice pushing canned talking points?

  • Wash. Post Columnist Has Four Questions For CNN Following Hiring Of Former Trump Campaign Manager

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post columnist Eric Wemple posed four questions about CNN’s hire of recently fired Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski that emphasize the ethical and journalistic problems the network faces while paying him to provide political commentary.

    Reporters widely criticized CNN’s hire of former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, highlighting Lewandowski’s alleged physical assault of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and prior reports of the Trump campaigns hostility to press under Lewandowski’s direction. CNN staff had previously slammed Lewandowski’s behavior as “inexcusable” and called for Trump to fire him from his position as campaign manager..

    CNN reported earlier this week that Lewandowski was likely required to sign a non-disparagement agreement, which would prevent him from criticizing the campaign in any way. When asked about this by CNN’s Erin Burnett, Lewandowski dodged the question by stating “I’m a guy who calls balls and strikes.”

    In his June 23 column, Wemple poses four questions that confront problems within CNN’s newest hire and ask “Is there any dignity or occupational pride at CNN?” From The Washington Post:

    Now we know how to view Corey Lewandowski’s interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on Monday after he was fired from the campaign of Donald Trump: As an audition.

    [...]

    The setup raises a number of questions:

    1) How many Trumpites does CNN need? When the political talk turns to Trump, as it always does, CNN has two political commentators to provide analysis: Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan political director prone to ridiculous invocations of history to defend Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany, whose defenses of the candidate tend to be more conventional, though no more convincing. 

    [...]

    2) How will CNN deal with a clear conflict of interest? In his interview with Bash, Lewandowski said something that should have given pause to CNN executives: He will still serve as the chair of the New Hampshire delegation to the Republican convention. 

    [...]

    3) Openness? Though Lewandowski maintained his composure under questioning by Bash, he didn’t provide a great deal of insight. 

    [...]

    4) Is there any dignity or occupational pride at CNN? Corey Lewandowski is the fellow who grabbed the arm of reporter Michelle Fields and later claimed that she was “delusional” for having claimed as much. Corey Lewandowski is the fellow who yelled at CNN staffer Noah Gray to stay in his media pen or suffer the consequences. Corey Lewandowski also allegedly pushed Gray in a separate dustup. Yet CNN says, Give that man a contract!