Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and a close ally to the White House, admitted in congressional testimony on Tuesday that he feels “no obligation to be honest with the media.” That should have come as little surprise for journalists -- lying to reporters is one of the things for which Lewandowski is best known, along with physically accosting them -- but it did present them with an interesting test: How do you report on someone who has admitted under oath that he lies to the press?
Lewandowski’s admission of dishonesty didn’t keep him off of Fox News’ “news” or “opinion” shows after the hearing -- and in fact, both ignored that revelation, perhaps signaling that the network is eager for its audience to be lied to.
But CNN also booked him for a Wednesday morning segment. The move, which swiftly drew criticism on Twitter, was in keeping with the network’s tendency since the 2016 campaign to air purportedly confrontational shout-fests with pro-Trump liars that yield much heat but little light. And the resulting segment shows just how useless this particular brand of CNN programming is.
Over the course of the 15-minute New Day spot, Lewandowski led co-host Alisyn Camerota in circles on whether he was bound by the Trump White House’s executive privilege claim and lied about the contents of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Even as he lied, he repeatedly accused Camerota of being the “disingenuous” one. When Camerota finally raised Lewandowski’s testimony that he felt “no obligation” to tell the truth during an interview, he immediately pivoted to a harangue about the honesty of CNN and its employees.
In a particularly nonsensical turn, having established that Lewandowski might be lying to her audience, she then asked him a series of fact-based questions as if anyone could have any confidence in the veracity of his answers.
Lewandowski got a lot out of CNN’s decision to treat him as a credible interview subject: His congressional testimony amounted to “trolling to please his old boss,” as the network’s own Chris Cillizza noted, and CNN gave him a platform to further that strategy. The appearance allowed him to portray himself as standing up to the Democratic Congress and the media alike in support of the president. He even used the opportunity to promote the website he’s set up to harvest email addresses for a potential 2020 U.S. Senate run in his home state of New Hampshire.
CNN’s viewers, meanwhile, got nothing out of it. The interview produced no information that could not have been provided more efficiently with a simple report on Lewandowski’s hearing, without giving an admitted liar an opportunity to confuse the network’s audience with his lies.
The disparity in benefits harkens back to CNN’s foolish decision to hire Lewandowski to provide political commentary during the 2016 campaign, after he was officially fired from the Trump team. The result was a months-long humiliation for the network as it became clear that Lewandowski had really never stopped working for Trump: He continued to advise the candidate and cash “severance” checks through the end of the campaign while dishonestly shilling for him on CNN’s airwaves, then quit immediately following the election.
CNN’s hosts should think about the way Trump’s liars use the network before hosting someone like Lewandowski again. But they won’t. CNN’s executives have hired a stable of people just like him, bringing them on air to lie to their viewers, and no matter how many times that strategy blows up in their faces, and how many times their audience is misled, they just won’t quit it.