Since joining CNN as a political commentator in June, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has repeatedly defended the rhetoric and actions of Trump and his campaign, calling criticism of Trump’s Star of David tweet “egregious” and saying that Trump’s comment calling someone “my African-American” is “a term of endearment,” among others.
CNN Hired Corey Lewandowski As Political Commentator
CNN’s New Contributor Has History Of Badgering Press, May Be Legally Barred From Criticizing Trump. CNN in June hired Lewandowski as a political commentator. Lewandowski has a history of physically confronting reporters, including reporter Michelle Fields, who he allegedly manhandled during a March event. He also has reportedly made “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.” It is also unclear whether Lewandowski signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Trump campaign that could legally bar him from criticizing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. [Media Matters, 6/23/16, 6/29/16]
Trump Campaign Continues To Pay Lewandowski Severance. CNN anchors Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon have both noted that Lewandowski is “still receiving severance from the Trump campaign” while he works as a commentator for the network. [Media Matters, 7/13/16]
Lewandowski Has Used His CNN Platform To Reportedly Defend Trump’s Actions And Rhetoric
Lewandowski Defended Mysterious Payment From Trump Campaign
Wash. Post: Trump Campaign Paid Firm Days After It Was Formed. The Washington Post reported that a company called Left Hand Enterprises LLC “received two big payments” from the Trump campaign totaling “$730,637 over five days” to print and send direct-mail advertisements. The first payment was made to the company just three days after it was formed, raising questions about what the company actually did for the campaign. From the June 23 report:
On April 25, a new company called Left Hand Enterprises LLC was formed in Delaware, listing its address at an incorporation service provider in Wilmington.
A few days later, the firm received two big payments totaling $503,133 from Donald Trump's presidential campaign to print and send a major shipment of direct mail. The campaign cut another $227,504 check to Left Hand Enterprises on May 2, new campaign finance filings show.
The rapid series of payments — $730,637 over five days — made Left Hand the 10th biggest vendor to the Trump campaign for the entire election cycle. But why it was hired, and what work it provided, remains a mystery even to some top Trump aides.
The first two payments to Left Hand were made on April 28 and April 29 — just days before the crucial May 3 Indiana primary, where Sen. Ted Cruz made his last unsuccessful stand against Trump. Since direct mail firms usually require payment before sending out a shipment, Left Hand would have had very little time to get leaflets to mailboxes in Indiana before voters went to the polls, according to people who work in the industry. [The Washington Post, 6/23/16]
Lewandowski: I Was Not Responsible For Payment, But If It Was Inappropriate, Trump “Will Find it And Fix It.” Lewandowski said he was not responsible for the payments to Left Hand, but he defended Trump, claiming that “if there is anything that has not been appropriate, Mr. Trump will find it and fix it.” He also said if the money wasn’t spent properly, “we’ll make sure that the money’s returned properly.” From the June 23 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
ERIN BURNETT (HOST): The Washington Post is reporting a new company called Left Hand Enterprises, it was formed in April, it got two big payments, about three quarters of a million dollars from the Trump campaign and it got it in just a few days. That means it went from not existing to getting three quarters of a million dollars in money in just a few days. It was in the top 10 biggest vendors to the Trump campaign. And of course Corey, as you know, this is a campaign that as of the latest filings had only $1.3 million cash on hand this month, right? So we're talking half of that would be going to one vendor. What is this company? What did it do for the campaign? Can you tell us?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well, so the company was listed as a direct mail expense and that company was supposed to be doing direct mail in the states of Nebraska and Indiana. And let me tell you this. And I’m not trying to pass the buck. But I can tell you that if there is anything that has not been appropriate, Mr. Trump will find it and fix it. And I can tell you that this campaign that I have no longer -- that I'm no longer part of -- but I was very diligent in watching where that money was spent, and I can tell you that every vendor knows that we deserve, that Mr. Trump would get the best price, the best rate and whatever may be on Left Hand Enterprise, whatever their job is supposed to have been done, was done effectively and efficiently, and if it wasn't, we'll make sure that the money’s returned properly.
BURNETT: So were you responsible then for Left Hand Enterprises?
LEWANDOWSKI: I was not responsible for that. That came out of a separate budget which I didn't have under my purview. But let me tell you this. I can tell you, because I've worked there for an extended period of time, that every dime that goes out of that building through that campaign, is scrutinized and looked at and vetted and I would be sure right now based on the story that The Washington Post is reporting is that there’s an internal audit taking place right now, to ensure that every dime was spent properly, and Donald Trump is the only person who does this, to watch his -- he watches this money, because it's been his money for so long. And that's what he would do with the federal government as well.
BURNETT: So Corey, just to be clear, so I understand. You're saying that you know that it was for direct mail. Obviously, it's a huge amount of money, especially for two states. Indiana, obviously, a significant one. Nebraska, less so in the process. But if it wasn't under your purview, whose was it under? At that time Paul Manafort, who would just have come in?
LEWANDOWSKI: That's right. There were two separate budgets in the campaign, and this was the direct obligation of -- this did not fall in my purview; this was done under the state operations budget of which was held and responsible through another party and not mine. So just to be clear, I am certain that the money was spent wisely. It was spent in the best accord with what the campaign standards are. But it wasn't something I was directly responsible for. [CNN, Erin Burnett OutFront, 6/23/16]
Wash. Post’s Callum Borchers: Comment Showed Lewandowski Forgot “He Isn't Donald Trump's Campaign Manager Anymore." Washington Post reporter Callum Borchers wrote Lewandowski’s response showed that he “seemed to forget that he isn't Donald Trump's campaign manager anymore.” Borchers added, “Lewandowski is no longer part of the ‘we’ in the Trump campaign, and his job isn't to ‘make sure’ that money is returned. His job now is to analyze the presidential race for CNN.” [The Washington Post, 6/24/16]
Lewandowski Defended Trump’s Alleged Illegal Solicitation Of Money From Foreign Nationals
FEC Complaints Filed Over Trump Campaign’s Alleged Solicitation Of Donations From Foreign Nationals. Two watchdog groups on June 29 announced they would file complaints with the Federal Election Commission alleging the Trump campaign broke federal law by sending fundraising emails to multiple foreign elected officials. Elected officials in Scotland, Britain,, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland claim they have received fundraising appeals from the Trump campaign. [Talking Points Memo, 6/29/16, 6/29/16]
Lewandowski: Trump’s Solicitations To Foreign Nationals Are “Perfectly Legal.” Lewandowski claimed the solicitations were “perfectly legal” because the recipients likely “opted into an email system” from the Trump campaign. From the July 1 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Hey Corey, I want to ask you about this tweet that this member of British parliament has put out saying that she received two campaign solicitations for donations from the Trump campaign, actually signed from Donald Trump Jr. She's British. She wrote here, she tweeted – well wait, let me just read you a portion of the solicitation that she got. “If you haven't given yet, I'm asking you to donate right now to help out the campaign at this critical time,” the Trump campaign. Well that's illegal to be soliciting donations from foreign leaders or foreigners. So what's going on there?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well my guess is the individual opted into an email system because that I know of, the Trump campaign has never purchased a list to solicit any information and so if it's an opt-in and they send a request out to the list of people who opted in to be part of this, that's perfectly legal. Now, there are people who live overseas that are expatriates who have the opportunity to donate to a campaign, as you know; as long as they’re U.S. citizens, they can do that.
CAMEROTA: Right, but she's not a U.S. citizen.
LEWANDOWSKI: I don't know the status of this particular individual.
BAKARI SELLERS: That's also highly unlikely.
LEWANDOWSKI: It is very possible that people who live overseas who want to participate in the U.S. presidential process have the opportunity to do that.
SELLERS: What's more likely is that the Trump campaign, it's been run kind of like the Bad News Bears, have been dumping many of their mail lists from their respective corporations and companies throughout the world. When you dump those mail lists into a campaign account, you begin to send mail to people who don't have any ability to vote in the United States. And so that is what they did and they slipped up. I don't think it was intentionally something that was illegal, but it just shows you the type of campaign that’s being run. And it's not one that's a general election presidential campaign.
CAMEROTA: There is now, Corey, an FEC complaint, an investigation.
LEWANDOWSKI: Hold on, one second, one second. This notion, this accusation that the Trump campaign is using corporate resources to be part of the campaign is absolutely, unequivocally false. And if anybody has a problem with their email system, it's clearly the Hillary Clinton campaign and the State Department that she oversaw at the time. [CNN, New Day, 7/1/16]
Lewandowski Defended Trump’s “Star Of David” Tweet
Trump Deleted Anti-Clinton Tweet With Star Of David Shape. Donald Trump on July 2 tweeted a photo of Hillary Clinton’s face next to an image of a Star of David shape with the words “Most corrupt candidate ever!” over a pile of cash. Trump subsequently deleted the tweet after criticism and tweeted the same image with a circle instead of a star shape. [The New York Times, 7/2/16]
Media Figures Criticized Trump For The Tweet. Multiple media figures criticized Trump for the tweet. Bloomberg’s John Heilemann said it was “not the first time [he] has tweeted things that have their origins in the nastiest, most disgusting corners of the alt right universe in Twitter,” and that he needs to “cut it out.” MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski said the tweet was “part of a serious pattern that is on the record.” [Media Matters, 7/5/16, 7/5/16]
Lewandowski: Controversy Over Tweet Is “Egregious.” Lewandowski claimed Trump’s social media director “went to an anti-Hillary Twitter site and found this image of the star and copied that image and used it on a graphic,” adding that “for a firestorm to be created over an image which [Trump’s social media director] took off of someone else's site I think is a little egregious.” Host Alisyn Camerota noted that was “not possible” because “that very same image first appeared on June 15” from an “Islamophobic and racist” Twitter account. From the July 5 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Let's start, first, with this Star of David tweet. Corey, can you explain, inside the campaign, how this works with social media? Because this isn't the first time there was a controversial tweet. How did it work that this graphic that had appeared on a neo-Nazi message board would make its way to Donald Trump's Twitter feed?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well, let me first say that director of social media for the Trump campaign is a good friend of mine. His name is Dan Scavino, and he basically does this job by himself. And if you look at Mr. Trump's Twitter feed, he's put out over 30,000 tweets since he's started on Twitter. And what Dan did, and what he said he did, is he went to an anti-Hillary Twitter site and found this image of the star and copied that image and used it on a graphic, which he designed wholly on his own.
CAMEROTA: But that's not possible, Corey.
LEWANDOWSKI: That's what he said he did.
CAMEROTA: I know that's what he said he did, but it’s not possible. And the reason it's not possible is because that very same image first appeared on June 15. So weeks ago, on this -- from this Twitter user, “Fishbonehead1,” who frequently posted Islamophobic and racist memes. He had the original image before his account was deleted. Then it appeared on this message board that's a white supremacist neo-Nazi website. So he didn't create the image.
LEWANDOWSKI: He didn't say he created it. He said he took it off of --
CAMEROTA: Off of there.
LEWANDOWSKI: No, he said he took it off a Twitter site, which was an anti-Hillary Twitter site, and he took that image. And, look, that very well could have happened. I know Dan very well. He's a good man. He's got two young children. He is not anti-Semitic in any way, shape or form. He's been a very loyal person, and for a firestorm to be created over an image which Dan took off of someone else's site I think is a little egregious, I have to tell you. Let's talk about what the real issue is: that Hillary Clinton spent three-and-a-half hours being investigated and having an interview with the FBI. Now the image --
CAMEROTA: That is what you want to talk about, but it gets eclipsed by some of this. I understand that that's what you want to talk about. And we will get to Hillary Clinton, but we just have to -- we have to finalize this, how it happened. Because, you know, Michael Caputo, who you used to work with on the --
LEWANDOWSKI: Let me just talk about Mike Caputo. Mike Caputo never worked for the campaign. He was fired from a job as a volunteer. So Michael Caputo has nothing --
CAMEROTA: Over a tweet.
LEWANDOWSKI: Over a tweet.
CAMEROTA: Should Dan Scavino lose his job over this?
LEWANDOWSKI: Absolutely not. There was no malice intent of what Dan Scavino did. What he did was he took an image that he saw on the web, and he put it on a tweet, and put it out. Look, if Dan thought this would be anti-Semitic in any way, shape or form, it never would have been approved. This isn't a 20-person social media team is the difference. Unlike the Hillary Clinton campaign, which may have 10 or 15 people, you have one person who looked at it, made a good decision in the best of their ability, and put out because it was so -- so not so nonsensical that he didn't think anything to it.
CHRISTINE QUINN: Let me say a couple things. First of all, it defies logic that an intelligent person who would be running social media for a presumptive nominee to be president of the United States would have no sense when you took that shaped star and put it on a pile of money and put the word “corrupt” and other words in it, it defies logic. [CNN, New Day, 7/5/16]
Lewandowski Rationalized Trump’s Claim That Clinton Bribed Attorney General Loretta Lynch
FBI Director James Comey: “No Charges Are Appropriate In This Case.” FBI Director James Comey announced on July 5 that he would not refer criminal charges to the Department of Justice relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state, saying that “no charges are appropriate in this case.” Comey said the investigation “was done competently, honestly, and independently,” and that “No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.” [Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/16]
Trump Claimed Clinton “Bribe[d]” Loretta Lynch So The AG Wouldn’t Charge Her. Trump claimed during a North Carolina rally that Clinton tried to “bribe” Attorney General Loretta Lynch in order to avoid criminal charges. From a July 5 Washington Post piece:
Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Hillary Clinton of trying to “bribe” Attorney General Loretta Lynch by raising the possibility that she might keep Lynch in her position if she's elected president, even as Lynch's department oversees a case examining Clinton's use of a private email server.
The claim of a potential job offer, apparently based on a news report and erroneously attributed to Clinton herself, marked an extraordinary escalation in Trump's rhetoric against his Democratic rival on the day the FBI director said his agency will not recommend criminal charges against Clinton for using the private server.
At a rally here in Raleigh, Trump said that “at least according to what I saw on television, which you can't always believe,” Clinton “said today that we may consider the attorney general to go forward. That's like a bribe isn't it? Isn't that sort of a bribe? I think it's a bribe.”
“It's a bribe!” he growled few moments later .
Clinton has never said publicly that she is considering keeping Lynch on as attorney general. The New York Times reported that Democrats close to Clinton said she may opt to retain Lynch. [The Washington Post, 7/5/16]
Lewandowski: Lynch May Have “Ulterior Motive” To Reach The “Right Finding” In Order To Keep Her Position. When asked why Trump accused Clinton of bribing Lynch, Lewandowski claimed that Trump was suggesting that Lynch may have “an ulterior motive” to have “the right finding … so that I want to keep my position.” From the July 6 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Director Comey certainly gave Donald Trump material with which he could make hay, but Donald Trump went further. And he said that he believed that Hillary Clinton had bribed Loretta Lynch, the attorney general.
“It's a bribe.” What did he go there?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well The New York Times reported yesterday that a source close to Hillary Clinton said that there was the potential that if Hillary Clinton was elected president that she would consider keeping Loretta Lynch on as the attorney general.
CAMEROTA: And that rises to the level of a bribe to you?
LEWANDOWSKI: I think what that says is do we have an ulterior motive here in making sure that the right finding is put forth so that I want to keep my position? Now that's a source close to Hillary Clinton in The New York Times saying that. [CNN, New Day, 7/6/16]
Lewandowski Defended Trump For Calling A Black Man “My African-American,” Saying It’s “A Term Of Endearment”
Trump: “Look At My African-American Over Here.” During a California rally Trump pointed to a black man and said, “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?” From a June 6 CNN article:
Donald Trump sought to tout his support among African-Americans on Friday by pointing out a black man in the crowd and calling him “my African-American.”
“Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him,” Trump said. “Are you the greatest?”
Trump's remark came as he recalled an incident in March when a black supporter of his assaulted a protester at a rally in Arizona as he was being escorted out of the building by police. The comment didn't generate a noticeable response from Trump's audience.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN Trump was “just referring to a supporter in the crowd. There's no ill will intended, obviously.” She added Trump was “grateful for this person's support.”
Hicks also rejected the suggestion that Trump's use of the possessive “my” to refer to the supporter was racist, saying such a charge was “ridiculous.” [CNN, 6/6/16]
Lewandowski: It Was A “Term Of Endearment.” Lewandowski claimed the phrase was a “term of endearment” and was “taken out of context” because it means “I want you as part of my team.” From the July 11 edition of CNN’s New Day:
CHRISTINE QUINN: Let me just say, I don't think hate is something that does engage people in politics. Government is supposed to be about moving us to our best selves and our best moment of opportunity. And you can't say that Donald Trump has not said things and done things on this presidential campaign trail that are -- he has done things that are full of hate, and really beneath the role of president of the United States. His attack on Mexican-Americans, his attack on an American judge of Mexican origin, saying he isn't qualified to rule in cases. His horrible stances on immigration. Even the way he spoke to an African-American man at his rally, calling him “my African-American.”
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Whoa, hold on, hold on.
The way Mr. Trump talks, anybody who knows him, and I know him very well. He would say “my Corey. You're my Corey.” That's a term of endearment. It’s not a pejorative term. It’s a term that means, I want you as part of my team. That’s what I want. And so for someone to take that out of context and say something other than that, they don't know him and they want to make a news story. [CNN, New Day, 7/11/16]
Wash. Post’s Callum Borchers: Comment Shows Lewandowski Presenting “Skewed” Version Of Reality. Washington Post reporter Callum Borchers criticized Lewandowski’s defense of Trump’s remark, writing, “[Trump,] as far as I can tell, never called him ‘my Corey.’ Borchers added that “‘my Corey’ and ‘my African American’ are not the same thing” and that Lewandowski was “present[ing] a skewed, one-sided version of reality.” From a July 11 article:
For the record, Trump spoke glowingly about his ex-aide at various times during the campaign — most notably when Lewandowski was charged with simple battery after grabbing a female reporter by the arm — and, as far as I can tell, never called him “my Corey.” Maybe Trump saved this “term of endearment” for tender moments behind the scenes, but we can safely say it is not part of his regular public speaking pattern.
Even if it were, “my Corey” and “my African American” are not the same thing. Obviously. Ownership of African Americans is part of this country's history. Ownership of people named Corey? Not so much.
Anyway, it is certainly possible that Trump meant no harm. But even as Cheadle said he sensed no malice, he added that it is easy to understand why “my African American” would confuse or bother some people.
[Lewandowski] could, like Cheadle, have defended the remark as innocent while acknowledging the poor phrasing. But he didn't.
Instead, Lewandowski continues to present a skewed, one-sided version of reality. [The Washington Post, 7/11/16]