CNN's Stelter Highlights “Ethical Questions” Around His Network's “Controversial” Lewandowski Hire

Brian Stelter: Lewandowski Is “The Most Controversial Addition To CNN In Several Years”

From the June 26 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources

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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): This week the revolving door between politics and television swung really, really fast. Three days after Donald Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, CNN hired Lewandowski. He is now a pro-Trump political commentator, paid to come on the air and debate opponents and answer questions about this topsy turvy election. His hiring was instantly controversial. In fact, I would say he's the most controversial addition to CNN in several years. For one thing, he's been openly hostile to reporters all throughout the campaign, including some of CNN's own reporters. And in March, he was accused of battery by then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. She said she was grabbed when she tried to ask Trump a question. Lewandowski was charged with a misdemeanor, but the state attorney then declined, to not prosecute. There are also questions about whether Lewandowski is able to say what he really thinks about Trump. After all, he's been professing fierce loyalty to Trump even after being fired. Is this because he signed one of Trump's notoriously restrictive nondisclosure agreements? 


So he didn't directly answer the question about nondisparagement clauses. Those basically mean you can't go out and trash talk your old boss. Now whether Trump's lawyers will try to enforce it is another question altogether. But you can see why there's concern about this hiring. One gossip columnist this weekend even said there's a, quote, revolt brewing here in the newsroom at CNN. So I approached this story the same way I would if I worked at my former employer, The New York Times. I called and emailed more than dozen sources all around CNN and I found no signs of a revolt and no organized protest about Lewandowski's hiring. But I did find some discomfort. There are some people that are uncomfortable with the hiring, and there might be some awkward moments in the makeup room. But everyone I asked also said they understood the hiring, understood the logic of it. The reality is that Lewandowski was not hired to dish dirt about Trump and he was not hired to be a reporter. He was hired to defend and explain and channel Trump's views. CNN has a roster of anti-Trump conservative commentators and anti-Trump, pro-Clinton liberals. And as someone who looks for balance while watching TV and while hosting this show, I think it makes sense to add another pro-Trump voice. But I also understand these ethical questions that have been brought up.


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