After months away, pro-Trump commentators return to CNN

As the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, many things changed, big and small. One small thing that changed is that CNN’s cadre of pro-Trump commentators virtually disappeared from the airwaves.

Since early March, CNN has rarely featured its pro-Trump pundits David Urban, Alice Stewart, Scott Jennings, Rob Astorino, James Schultz, Rick Santorum, and Sean Duffy. According to Media Matters’ internal database, between March 9 and May 15, there was only one appearance by one of these pundits on weekday CNN programming: Rick Santorum appeared on Inside Politics on April 13.

That brief time of rationality is at an end, sadly, as the network hosted James Schultz and Rick Santorum on Monday, May 18. 

Schultz was on CNN Newsroom to discuss Trump's abrupt firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. (Trump admitted later in the day that he fired Linick at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.) Schultz, a former ethics lawyer in Trump’s White House, used the opportunity to deny the notion that Congress needs to be notified when an acting inspector general is fired.

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Citation From the May 18, 2020, edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom

(Click here for transcript)

Later in the day, the network hosted Santorum to discuss the remarks from Attorney General Bill Barr on former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden. Santorum also used the opportunity to push misinformation, suggesting that parts of the right-wing “Obamagate” nonsense might actually be legitimate. No one pushed back on his claim.

Video file

Citation From the May 18, 2020, edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom

(Click here for transcript)

The other pro-Trump commentators have not been seen on weekday CNN programming in over two months now: Scott Jennings last appeared on March 6; Alice Stewart on March 4; David Urban on March 2; Sean Duffy on January 22; and Rob Astorino on December 2.

CNN has repeatedly cycled through pro-Trump commentators. Current Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany remade herself as a pro-Trump commentator after initially criticizing candidate Trump in 2015. Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Paris Dennard, Ed Martin, Jason Miller, Stephen Moore, Ken Cuccinelli, Jack Kingston, Matt Whitaker, Steve Cortes, and Ben Ferguson are a few others who have played the role.

CNN doesn’t have to platform so many pundits, and the network certainly doesn’t have to platform so many outright lies and distortions.