CNN CEO Jeff Zucker defended the hiring of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a paid CNN political analyst while also noting he was aware of the former aide continuing to receive payment from the campaign at the time of his hiring.
Lewandowski, who is still currently receiving severance from the campaign was hired by CNN as a political commentator in June. Since joining CNN, Lewandowski has used his platform to relentlessly defend Trump, including defending his attacks on a Gold Star family, claiming Trump’s solicitations of foreign donation are legal, and reviving Trump’s birther conspiracy theory.
In a September 20 article, The Huffington Post highlighted Jeff Zucker's continuing defense of Lewandowski, and despite knowing at the time of his hiring that Lewandowski was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign while CNN is paying him for his analysis. According to the Huffington Post article:
Lewandowski, who presumably can’t speak candidly about the Trump campaign due to a non-disclosure agreement, was flowing with praise for his former boss right out of the gate.
In mid-July, CNN began to disclose that Lewandowski was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign during his on-air appearances, though the network didn’t explain why it began doing so then.
At Tuesday’s town hall, Zucker said the network was aware of Lewandowski’s severance from the start of his employment.
Zucker has a long history with Trump given that he ran NBC during the launch of Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice.” The veteran TV executive faced criticism early in the 2016 election for the attention CNN paid to Trump, who now rarely appears on the network and routinely bashes it as favoring Hillary Clinton.
CNN, which already employed several prominent conservative commentators, added several pro-Trump pundits this cycle, including Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany and Scottie Nell Hughes. Zucker publicly praised Lewandowski as having “done a really nice job” in an August interview that ran the same day the Republican operative revived Trump’s toxic birtherism.
CNN host Jake Tapper, who moderated Tuesday’s employee town hall, also emphasized that many of the network’s stable of conservative pundits were Trump critics and that it’s important to have people on air representing the views of the tens of millions of Americans expected to vote for the Republican nominee.
For information on Media Matters’ petition for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, please click here.