CNN's Alex Castellanos problem

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

UPDATE: CNN's June 2 transcript misidentifies the speaker; it is Larry Sabato, not Alex Castellanos. CNN does have a history of ignoring Castellanos's conflicts of interest, but this is not an example. Original post follows:

The Washington Post, today:

BP has not ignored the GOP, which has been a crucial ally on Capitol Hill in tamping down calls from liberal Democrats to permanently ban drilling or lift liability limits for the company. … Brunswick has contracted GOP consultants Alex Castellanos and John Feehery to work on behalf of BP, sources familiar with the arrangements said.

CNN, June 2:

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The longer the crisis goes on without a solution, the more people are likely to blame the president and his administration rather than just B.P.

Some obvious questions present themselves:

Was Alex Castellanos working for BP on June 2, or seeking their business?

If Castellanos had ties to BP by June 2, did CNN know about those ties? If so, why did CNN air Castellanos' comments about BP without disclosing his ties to the company? If not, has CNN taken any steps to ensure that it will be aware of similar conflicts in the future? Has CNN spoken with Castellanos about failing to disclose the conflict?

Does CNN have any policies requiring their contributors to disclose conflicts of interest?

If Castellanos had a conflict of interest at the time of the June 2 CNN broadcast, this would not be the first time he has had such an undisclosed conflict of interest. And if CNN looked the other way, that wouldn't be the first time, either.

UPDATE 2: Greg Sargent reports:

In a statement, CNN says that neither [Hilary] Rosen nor Castellanos will be invited on the air to discuss topics relating to BP. "Both Alex and Hilary are contributors used primarily to comment on political issues, and they are not being used to discuss the oil disaster story," CNN spokesperson Edie Emery emails me.

That's all very well and good, but there's an interesting larger issue here: Should networks ever turn their airwaves over to analysts whose selling point to clients is that they have influence with lawmakers currently in power?

One CNN analyst tells Sargent: "When contributors on the networks have agendas before the government they're analyzing, it is a blatant a conflict of interest."

Alex Castellanos
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