CNBC allowed senior contributor and potential Republican Senate candidate Larry Kudlow to conduct a softball interview with Donald Trump. During the February 8 interview, Trump thanked Kudlow for endorsing his tax plan and Kudlow backed Trump's anti-refugee proposal.
When Trump released his tax plan in September, Kudlow responded: “I really like Trump's plan. ... One of the things I just love about it is the 15 percent corporate tax rate.” Trump reacted by tweeting, “Highly respected economist @Larry_Kudlow is a big fan of my tax plan--thank you Larry."
During CNBC's October 29 Republican debate, Trump cited Kudlow's support as evidence he has a serious tax plan:
JOHN HARWOOD: Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a Presidential campaign?
TRUMP: It's not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question, the way you say that. Larry Kudlow, as an example, who I have a lot of respect for, loves my tax plan. We are reducing taxes to 15 percent. We're bringing corporate taxes down, bringing money back in, corporate inversions. We have $2-1/2 trillion outside of the United States, which we want to bring back in.
When co-moderator John Harwood pointed out that economists have called the plan unrealistic, Trump replied: “Then you have to get rid of Larry Kudlow, who sits on your panel, who is a great guy, who came out the other day and said, 'I love Trump's tax plan.'”
Kudlow affirmed his support for Trump's tax plan following the debate, stating: “I've endorsed Donald's 15 percent corporate tax rate many times. ... He's spot on. And I'm honored that he mentioned me. Honored.” The CNBC contributor has tweeted that Trump is a “first-rate person. I could vote for him.”
During a February 8 New Hampshire town hall, Trump rebutted criticism from Jeb Bush by citing Kudlow: “I just talked to Larry Kudlow, the great economist, and he was saying Trump has the best tax plan, I'm doing the biggest tax cut.”
CNBC tasked Kudlow with interviewing Trump on the February 8 edition of Power Lunch.
During the interview, Trump again thanked Kudlow for supporting his tax plan: “You gave us very high marks, which I appreciate. You've seen it.”
Kudlow later backed Trump's plan to ban Syrian refugees, telling him: “In effect, a wartime moratorium. I mean I think that we have to do to protect the homeland.”
Kudlow has been interviewing several Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire for CNBC.
CNBC has allowed Kudlow to remain on its airwaves even as he is “moving toward” running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Veteran journalism experts and two former NBC News presidents have criticized the financial network for allowing Kudlow to use his platform to help his potential campaign.
CNBC anchors have appeared to embrace Kudlow's Senate aspirations. During the February 8 broadcast of Closing Bell, co-anchor Bill Griffeth closed by calling Kudlow “senator” and added, “Was that out loud?” On February 1, Squawk Box co-anchor Joe Kernen called Kudlow “senator-designate.”
The channel has claimed that “Kudlow is not a CNBC employee and no longer anchors a show and hasn't since March 28, 2014. He is now a senior contributor.” Despite being a purported non-employee, CNBC has had him "report" on the presidential primary, called him one of its “top” contributors, included him in its October debate coverage, and now allows him to throw softballs at Donald Trump.