CBS News' hiring of Mick Mulvaney is an embarrassment

Mick Mulvaney

Citation Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and his presidency concluded when an angry mob he incited with lies stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow American democracy. But some mainstream news outlets still just can’t help themselves from rehabilitating his cronies.

CBS News is the latest to risk its credibility in this fashion. The network announced on Tuesday that it had hired Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff, as a contributor. “So happy to have you here, … you’re the guy to ask about this,” anchor Anne-Marie Green said while introducing him for his debut segment criticizing President Joe Biden’s proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

What does Mulvaney bring to the table for CBS News that it wouldn’t get from a different right-wing multimillionaire who wants to keep taxes low?

Well, according to Mulvaney, he has unique insight into Trump. “I'm familiar with his manner and style and know a little about how he thinks,” he wrote in a November 7, 2020, op-ed for The Wall Street Journal.

In that piece, which was headlined, “If he loses, Trump will concede gracefully,” Mulvaney criticized media outlets for suggesting that he would not “participate in a peaceful transition of power.” Mulvaney concluded: “The U.S. needs to know that the winner is actually the winner. And once Americans know that, I have every expectation that Mr. Trump will be, act and speak like a great president should—win or lose."

That statement did not age well. Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him put American democracy in grave peril. He still refuses to acknowledge his defeat and has sought to purge the GOP of officials who were unwilling to participate in his effort to remain in power.

Mulvaney also knows how to speak truth to power. As White House chief of staff when the novel coronavirus was spreading across the country in February 2020, he went to the Conservative Political Action Conference and put his finger on the real problem — the press. Mulvaney criticized journalists for giving the pandemic “so much attention” because “they think this is going to be what brings down the president.”

“We know how to handle this,” he said.

Trump and Mulvaney did not, in fact, “know how to handle this,” leading to a catastrophic death toll from COVID-19, which has now taken the lives of roughly 1 million Americans.

Mulvaney also speaks bluntly. For example, as reporting revealed that Trump had conditioned vital military aid to Ukraine on its government’s willingness to open an investigation that would benefit him politically, some Trump partisans denied that there had been an explicit quid pro quo. But Mulvaney, who as head of the Office of Management and Budget had overseen the scheme, had the guts to go to the White House lectern and explicitly say that’s exactly what had happened and that reporters should “get over it” (though he later blamed the media for misconstruing his words to “advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump”).

At least he doesn’t have any obvious conflicts of interest in commenting on tax policies that impact the wealthiest Americans — other than the fact that he now runs a hedge fund and a lobbying firm, that is.

With a resume like that, there’s really no way CBS News could turn him down.