CNN’s newest commentator is Jason Miller, a top communications aide to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign who was originally tapped to be his White House communications director. The Miller hire appears to be an effort to appease the president, who has spent months trying to delegitimize the network.
The news broke less than 24 hours after CNN president Jeff Zucker decried Trump’s description of news outlets as the “enemy of the people” at a media conference. Zucker called that statement “dangerous, unprecedented, and shocking” and an effort to undermine “aspects of the American system.” He also said it was “shocking to watch how many members of the political establishment have not been willing to stand up to that statement.”
For months, Trump has been engaged in what he has described as a “running war with the media,” which he claims is “dishonest.” He has described major news outlets -- including CNN -- as “the enemy of the American people.”
CNN has been a particular target of the president’s vitriol. During a January 11 press conference, Trump attacked the network’s report that top U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian operatives may have compromising information about him. After CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask Trump a question, he lashed out at Acosta’s “terrible” news outlet, shouting, “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”
Trump continued his attacks on the network during his February 16 press conference, mocking Acosta, suggesting that Zucker owes his job to Trump, and describing the network’s programming as “so much anger and hatred.” He has also repeatedly attacked CNN on his Twitter feed.
Zucker, who helped revitalize Trump’s relevance when he gave the now-president his prime-time NBC program The Apprentice, has repeatedly spoken out against Trump’s criticism. But now he has apparently rewarded Trump’s actions by putting one of his former top advisers on the payroll.
Miller served as the Trump campaign's senior communications adviser and spokesman for the president-elect, then was tapped for the role of White House communications director before withdrawing for family reasons. He joins paid Trump advocates Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany at the network.
It’s not the first time Zucker has provided a Trump aide who lost their position in the president’s orbit with a cushy commentator gig.
After Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski last year, Zucker quickly swooped in with a hefty contract. The deal was a farce: Lewandowski had a history of open hostility toward the press; he was likely prevented from criticizing Trump due to a non-disparagement agreement; he remained on Trump’s payroll for months after joining CNN; he continued to advise Trump on strategy and travel with the candidate; and he used the platform for egregious shilling on Trump’s behalf. Zucker continued to defend the hire until, in a final humiliation, Lewandowski quit after the election to pursue other options.
Miller doesn’t have Lewandowski’s history of vitriolic attacks on reporters, but CNN shouldn’t expect him to defend the network from Trump. In October, Wolf Blitzer asked Miller if he was comfortable with the way Trump lashed out at the press and threatened to sue journalists. Miller responded by blaming the “biased” media, claiming that “there are entire networks on TV that, every time you turn them on, it’s one big attack against Mr. Trump.”
Now when CNN gets attacked by the president, the network will be paying Miller to explain how it deserves the treatment.