Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is still being paid by the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s campaign while simultaneously drawing a salary as a CNN contributor to discuss the candidate on-air, according to the network.
These references appear to be the first time CNN has disclosed the severance payments even though Lewandowski was hired nearly three weeks ago, raising questions about when the network became aware that its commentator was still being paid by his former employer.
Media observers have harshly criticized CNN over Lewandowski’s hiring pointing to his non-disclosure and likely non-disparagement agreements with the Trump campaign as “profoundly disturbing” ethical conflicts. Since his hiring, Lewandowski has by his own admission continued to advise the Trump campaign, even pushing a camera away from the candidate during a campaign stop.
In his on-air appearances, Lewandowski has acted more like a spokesman for the campaign than as an independent commentator, defending all of Trump’s actions in a way that, as one Washington Post reporter noted, indicates he “has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee.”
That pattern continued during the segments in which CNN revealed that he is receiving severance from the campaign. In his New Day appearance on July 11, Lewandowski defended Trump from criticism of his reference to a perceived supporter as “my African-American” by stating, “The way Mr. Trump talks, anybody who knows him, and I know him very well, he'd say, my Corey. You're my Corey. That's a term of endearment. It's not a pejorative term.” In his CNN Tonight appearance on July 12, his statements about Trump’s beliefs about race in America led Lemon to interject, “don’t give me talking points.”
The network’s defenders have pointed out that political operatives regularly join the ranks of paid on-air pundits, and noted that CNN also employs contributors with ties to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But employing a contributor who continues to be paid by the candidate whose performance and positions he is being asked to analyze appears unprecedented.