Jeff Zucker | Media Matters for America

Jeff Zucker

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  • CNN’s chief is criticizing the president's war on the media. Last year, he hired Trump’s top press abuser.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN President Jeff Zucker criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for its strategy of trying to delegitimize the press for political purposes, warning that his network’s reporters now regularly receive threats. But CNN itself has played a key role in that effort, rewarding key figures in the Trump team’s anti-press campaign with jobs at the network.

    Zucker told HuffPo that the “shameful” effort “does disservice to this country and its position in the world and ... allows for a heightened sense of rhetoric against journalists and media organizations. And it is unconscionable and dangerous and they should know better.”

    CNN's chief is absolutely right. The attacks on the free press from the Trump administration and its media allies are unprecedented in their vitriol. Reporters covering Trump rallies often feared for their physical safety as Trump would whip his crowds into an anti-press frenzy. A Republican congressman’s assault last month on a reporter who sought to ask him a question represented a frightening new turn, with anti-press rhetoric turning swiftly to violence.

    But Zucker’s concern for the journalists he employs and their colleagues around the country would be more compelling if he had not previously decided that former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who oversaw many of the campaign’s most despicable attacks on journalists, was a great fit for the network.

    Lewandowski earned notoriety for his open hostility toward -- and physical altercations with -- journalists trying to cover the campaign. He reportedly pushed a CNN reporter who was trying to ask a question and threatened to pull the credentials of another. He was said to have propositioned female journalists who sought to cover Trump. And most infamously, he was charged with misdemeanor battery after he forcibly grabbed reporter Michelle Fields for the crime of trying to ask Trump a question (the state declined to prosecute).

    After all that -- and in spite of a nondisclosure agreement that likely prevented him from criticizing Trump -- Zucker’s CNN hired Lewandowski in June 2016 to represent his former boss on the network. Journalists inside CNN and out promptly savaged the network for its “inexcusable” action.

    But Zucker repeatedly defended Lewandowski’s hiring on the grounds that the network needed to have a supporter of the Republican nominee on the payroll. This argument did not meet the smell test: The network already employed several Trump supporters and had no trouble finding others to appear on their airwaves, none of whom had records of physical altercations with journalists.

    The reality is that time and time again during the presidential campaign, Zucker was willing to do what it took to curry favor with the Trump campaign, providing the Republican front-runner with an ocean of coverage because he thought Trump gave the network great ratings. Now that Trump is president, he’s stuck in the unenviable position of having to deal with the result: A president willing to publicly declare his network “fake news.”

    Meanwhile, the pro-Trump pundits Zucker’s network employs play a key role in the administration’s effort to delegitimize the press by defending that strategy on the network’s own airwaves. CNN’s Jeffrey Lord laughed off Trump’s unhinged February press conference, during which the president launched dozens of attacks on reporters and media outlets, as the “launch of a new reality television show called ‘Beat the Press.’” In October, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Trump campaign aide Jason Miller if he was comfortable with the way Trump lashed out at the press and threatened to sue journalists. Miller responded by blaming the “biased” media. In March, CNN hired him as a political commentator.

    It’s great that Zucker now wants to stick up for his reporters when the president’s supporters chant “CNN sucks” at Trump rallies. But the administration's attacks on journalists did not come out of nowhere; they were completely predictable. Instead of punishing the Trump campaign for its actions “against something that is guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States” when it could have made a real difference, Zucker rewarded its anti-press lackeys.

  • After Months Of Trump Attacks On CNN, The Network Hires His Former Campaign Adviser

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    CNN’s newest commentator is Jason Miller, a top communications aide to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign who was originally tapped to be his White House communications director. The Miller hire appears to be an effort to appease the president, who has spent months trying to delegitimize the network.

    The news broke less than 24 hours after CNN president Jeff Zucker decried Trump’s description of news outlets as the “enemy of the people” at a media conference. Zucker called that statement “dangerous, unprecedented, and shocking” and an effort to undermine “aspects of the American system.” He also said it was “shocking to watch how many members of the political establishment have not been willing to stand up to that statement.”

    For months, Trump has been engaged in what he has described as a “running war with the media,” which he claims is “dishonest.” He has described major news outlets -- including CNN -- as “the enemy of the American people.”

    CNN has been a particular target of the president’s vitriol. During a January 11 press conference, Trump attacked the network’s report that top U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian operatives may have compromising information about him. After CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask Trump a question, he lashed out at Acosta’s “terrible” news outlet, shouting, “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”

    Trump continued his attacks on the network during his February 16 press conference, mocking Acosta, suggesting that Zucker owes his job to Trump, and describing the network’s programming as “so much anger and hatred.” He has also repeatedly attacked CNN on his Twitter feed.

    Zucker, who helped revitalize Trump’s relevance when he gave the now-president his prime-time NBC program The Apprentice, has repeatedly spoken out against Trump’s criticism. But now he has apparently rewarded Trump’s actions by putting one of his former top advisers on the payroll.

    Miller served as the Trump campaign's senior communications adviser and spokesman for the president-elect, then was tapped for the role of White House communications director before withdrawing for family reasons. He joins paid Trump advocates Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany at the network.

    It’s not the first time Zucker has provided a Trump aide who lost their position in the president’s orbit with a cushy commentator gig.

    After Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski last year, Zucker quickly swooped in with a hefty contract. The deal was a farce: Lewandowski had a history of open hostility toward the press; he was likely prevented from criticizing Trump due to a non-disparagement agreement; he remained on Trump’s payroll for months after joining CNN; he continued to advise Trump on strategy and travel with the candidate; and he used the platform for egregious shilling on Trump’s behalf. Zucker continued to defend the hire until, in a final humiliation, Lewandowski quit after the election to pursue other options.

    Miller doesn’t have Lewandowski’s history of vitriolic attacks on reporters, but CNN shouldn’t expect him to defend the network from Trump. In October, Wolf Blitzer asked Miller if he was comfortable with the way Trump lashed out at the press and threatened to sue journalists. Miller responded by blaming the “biased” media, claiming that “there are entire networks on TV that, every time you turn them on, it’s one big attack against Mr. Trump.”

    Now when CNN gets attacked by the president, the network will be paying Miller to explain how it deserves the treatment.

  • Trump Reportedly Outraged That CNN Doesn't Cover Him Like Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    According to sources from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, President Donald Trump is angry that CNN and CNN chief Jeff Zucker do not grant him the favorable type of coverage he receives from Fox News

    Trump has made it no secret his contempt for CNN, recently lambasting the network’s ratings in a January 24 tweet praising Fox’s inauguration coverage.

    Trump’s tweet comes on the heels of his January 11 attack on CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, refusing to answer the journalist’s questions and calling CNN “fake news.” After the press conference, Acosta was threatened by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said he would remove Acosta if he treats Trump disrespectfully. The next Sunday, Trump’s team failed to appear on CNN’s Sunday news program, State of the Union, but sent representatives to MSNBC, Fox, CBS, and ABC.

    Trump also attacked the network before and immediately after the election, questioning the credibility of the network, and attacking individual journalists as dumb, lightweights, who aren’t real journalists.

    According to a report from Gabriel Sherman, Trump’s antipathy towards CNN may be personal.Sherman quoted one high-level CNN source as saying, “Trump thinks just because he’s known Jeff that CNN should be covering him like Fox News does”:

    According to people close to both sides, Trump has told White House staffers that he feels personally betrayed by CNN chief Jeff Zucker.

    Trump complains that Zucker should be programming CNN more favorably toward him because of their long relationship, which can be traced back to 2004 when Zucker put The Apprentice on NBC. Trump has also said to White House staffers that Zucker owes him because Trump helped get him the job at CNN.

    According to CNN sources, Trump’s claim that he assisted Zucker in landing the top job at the network is false. Trump seems to have gotten the idea because he praised Zucker to Turner Broadcasting’s then-CEO Phil Kent at a charity dinner in the fall of 2012, a few months before CNN hired Zucker. But CNN sources say Turner had already decided to hire Zucker by that point. “This is entirely personal,” one CNN high-level source said. “Trump thinks just because he’s known Jeff that CNN should be covering him like Fox News does.”

  • “You Showed Empty Podiums!”: GOP Operatives Blast CNN President Jeff Zucker For Network’s Obsessive Trump Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential primary campaign operatives blasted CNN President Jeff Zucker for his network’s obsessive coverage of now president-elect Donald Trump, calling it “unfair” and obsessive.

    In October, Zucker admitted that he recognized “there was a little bit of a phenomenon to Donald Trump” and acknowledged that the network gave “him quite a bit of coverage,” but said he had no regrets.

    Politico’s Hadas Gold and Gabriel Debenedetti wrote that Zucker “was jeered and heckled” during a conference at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute Of Politics with operatives from several campaigns that criticized his networks’ obsessive coverage of Trump. Former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager refuted Zucker’s claim that the network “continuously asked the other candidates to come on and do interviews,” saying, “I don’t remember getting invited to call in.” According to Politico, others piped in that they “didn’t get that call,” would “be invited for eight seconds,” or would be invited on “at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.” One of former GOP candidate Marco Rubio’s senior advisers explained that it wasn’t just interviews CNN gave to Trump, the network also aired “empty podiums” awaiting Trump rallies and “hours upon hours of unfiltered unscripted coverage of Trump.” From the December 1 article:

    GOP campaign managers who worked for President-elect Donald Trump's primary opponents shouted Zucker down with increasing anger as he defended how much airtime the network gave Trump, and claimed it allowed other candidates to dial in to shows by phone.

    Zucker defended CNN’s coverage, though he admitted it perhaps aired too many of Trump’s early rallies “unedited” -- an admission he has made before.

    But the room grew more and more animated as Zucker went on to say that many campaign managers thought it was “unfair” how much coverage and attention Trump was getting.

    "I have to respectfully push back on the campaign managers who spoke here today, because frankly, respectfully, I think that’s bullshit. Donald Trump was on CNN a lot,” Zucker said, refusing to back down. “That’s because we asked him to do interviews and he agreed to do them. We continuously asked the other candidates to come on and do interviews."

    [...]

    “I don’t remember getting invited to call in, though,” Sarah Isgur Flores, Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager said, kicking off a parade of comments.

    More irritated voices across the room quickly chimed in: “We didn’t get that call.” “We’d be invited for eight seconds.” “At 2 o’clock in the afternoon we’d be invited on,” another said sarcastically.

    “All of the Republican candidates were invited to come on,” Zucker said. “Cable news in general, CNN in particular, should not be held responsible for the fact that Donald Trump said yes to those interviews.”

    [..]

    "It’s not the interviews,” Rubio senior advisor Todd Harris said as another audience member shouted, "You showed empty podiums!"

    "You showed hours upon hours of unfiltered unscripted coverage of Trump, this was not about interviews,” he added.

    In fact, Zucker gave Trump his start in reality TV during his time as the head of NBC Entertainment when he launched The Apprentice, later giving him “astonishing amounts of free exposure in the Republican presidential primary … often unfiltered and without critical fact-checking.” Zucker repeatedly defended his network’s “heavy focus” on Trump and their hiring of Trump boosters -- including the ethical nightmare of CNN’s hiring of Corey Lewandowski, who was at times simultaneously paid by the Trump campaign and the network and was likely prevented from criticizing Trump.

  • CNN’s Final Humiliation: Corey Lewandowski Quits To Work For Trump

    The Network Should Have Fired Him Months Ago

    Blog ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO

    Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President-elect Donald Trump turned professional Trump propagandist for CNN, has resigned from the network amid reports that he is seeking a job in the new administration. His resignation just days after Trump’s win underlines the farcical nature of his employment as a “political commentator” for CNN during the election. And the nature of his exit -- proactively resigning to potentially go back to officially working for Trump rather than being fired by CNN for obvious ethical reasons -- should humiliate the network.

    CNN hired Lewandowski shortly after he was fired by the campaign in June. His hiring was immediately and widely criticized, both due to his history of open hostility toward -- and even physical altercations with -- the press, and the fact that he was likely prevented from criticizing Trump due to a non-disparagement agreement. The New York Times reported Friday that Lewandowski “has been frequently spotted this week at Trump Tower in Manhattan, chatting with senior aides and attending meetings,” and that he is seeking a senior adviser role in the administration and is in consideration for a leadership role with the Republican National Committee.

    CNN president Jeff Zucker repeatedly defended Lewandowski’s hiring, even as it became clear that he was still drawing large “severance” checks from the campaign, advising Trump on strategy, helping to prep him for the debates, and flying on the candidate’s plane while working for the network.

    Zucker’s defense for hiring Lewandowski is that he provided needed pro-Trump balance to CNN’s airwaves while supposedly being able to offer expert information from someone who had been inside the campaign apparatus. But CNN’s airwaves were already filled with Trump apologists, and Lewandowski’s reported non-disclosure agreement essentially prevented him from sharing any unique insight into the campaign. So what CNN viewers got instead was a lot of dishonest shilling on Trump’s behalf -- and given the nature of Trump’s campaign, there was no shortage of scandals for Lewandowski to spin to CNN’s audience.

    When video of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women emerged in October, Lewandowski downplayed the seriousness of the comments by telling CNN viewers that “we’re not electing a Sunday School teacher” and stressing Trump’s leadership ability. (In a separate appearance a few days later, Lewandowski announced that “nobody cares” about Trump’s comments before pivoting to talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails.)

    When women came forward alleging that Trump had assaulted them, Lewandowski cast doubt on the veracity of the claims, suggesting it was suspicious that they had waited until so close to the election to come forward.

    When The New York Times published tax documents suggesting Trump had been able to avoid paying federal income tax for years, Lewandowski tried to obscure the nature of the report by accusing the Times of a “felony” for publishing its article and encouraging the candidate to sue the paper “into oblivion.”

    When a fellow panelist questioned Trump's years-long racist crusade questioning President Obama’s birthplace, Lewandowski questioned (to the horror of dozens of journalists) why Obama hadn’t released his college records, asking, “Did he get in as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn't from this country?”

    There are plenty of other lowlights from Lewandowski's CNN tenure, but you get the idea.

    Lewandowski’s resignation essentially confirms what was already an open secret: he never really stopped working for Trump -- his role just changed. Media Matters had for months been calling for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski over ethical concerns, but now that he’s resigned, CNN can’t even salvage a small bit of journalistic responsibility over the Lewandowski debacle.

    In effect, CNN just paid Trump’s close ally for five months to spin on Trump’s behalf while auditioning for a job in the Trump administration. The network’s journalists should be embarrassed that their executives had so little regard for CNN’s credibility.

  • Journalists Condemn CNN's Lewandowski Embarrassment After Trump Campaign Manager's "#teamwork" Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    CNN’s ethical dilemma over its employment of Corey Lewandowski, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as a political analyst was on display once again when current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her and Lewandowski with the caption “#teamwork #NH.”

    CNN’s use of on-air Trump surrogates has drawn widespread condemnation, with media critics pointing out that the practice has undercut the “work of [CNN’s] journalists.” Despite these concerns, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has stood by the network’s decision to give Trump surrogates a platform to spread lies and derogatory rhetoric, claiming that CNN has a responsibility “to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for” Trump, rather than to provide viewers with accurate analysis.

    Lewandowski has been at the center of CNN’s ethical dilemma, with many criticizing the network for employing him as an analyst while he was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign, advising the Trump campaign, working on debate prep for the Trump campaign, traveling with the Trump campaign, and campaigning with Trump.

    A week after calling on the “@CNN Dream Team” of Trump surrogates to “stay strong,” on November 4, current Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her, press secretary Hope Hicks, and Lewandowski, captioning the tweet “#teamwork.” The tweet spurred criticism from members of the media, with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple saying it “should shame everyone at CNN” and noting that “now we know that officially and unequivocally, the Trump campaign regards a paid CNN commentator as part of the team.” Others called the tweet -- and what it signifies about the relationship between a CNN analyst and the Trump campaign -- “totally inappropriate.”

    Sign Media Matters petition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.

  • Media Critics: CNN’s Use Of Pro-Trump Surrogates Undercuts The Network’s Journalism

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Media critics say CNN’s use of paid pro-Trump surrogates has undercut the network’s journalism and the “goal of informing its audience.”

    After the third and final presidential debate, Trump surrogates scrambled to spin Donald Trump’s statement that he may not accept the results of the election, putting forward a litany of absurd claims. On CNN, that role was filled by the network’s roster of paid contributors who were specifically hired for their willingness to defend Trump.

    New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen criticized the “candidate surrogate” system CNN invested in during this campaign cycle, explaining that CNN’s “Surrogates are unwilling to defend Trump, so they change him into a man more defensible.” He added that because CNN’s Trump surrogates frequently attempt to mislead the network’s audience, CNN has “wasted our time, undermined the work of their journalists, and made the election-year discussion more opaque [than] it would have been if they had never invited these people on set.”

    The Columbia Journalism Review’s David Uberti similarly wrote that having the Trump surrogates on-air to spin the widely condemned remarks made by Trump during the debate “overstepped CNN’s reporting and undercut its purported goal of informing its audience”:

    The consensus headline from the third and final presidential debate was Republican candidate Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the 2016 election results. It was a stunning rebuke of American political norms from the nominee of a major political party, and it quickly dominated coverage online Wednesday night and in major print newspapers Thursday morning.The Associated Press’ lede said Trump is “threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy.”

    At CNN, however, confusion initially reigned. The network’s journalists expressed shock at Trump’s comments within seconds of the debate’s conclusion. “One of the most stunning things I’ve ever heard in a presidential debate, ever,” said Jake Tapper, the network’s chief Washington correspondent.

    […]

    But pro-Trump contributors attempted to muddle this point during a panel discussion after the debate, when viewership was likely highest. Their baseless speculation that the election might somehow be rigged overstepped CNN’s reporting and undercut its purported goal of informing its audience. The comments, which drew stern rebuttals from other CNN on-air talent, highlight how the network’s pursuit of the appearance of objectivity in 2016 has distorted its final product on television. It also provides a clear example of how the channel’s model puts CNN journalists in the awkward position of fact-checking CNN contributors in real time.

    Uberti concluded: “CNN pays pro-Trump contributors to provide it with a shinier veneer of objectivity. But it’s become all too clear in recent months that this mission actively harms its journalists’ pursuit of the truth. The news organization must clarify where its real priorities lie.”

    CNN’s reliance on Trump surrogates to provide defense for a “candidate who doesn’t exist” has come under increased scrutiny over recent weeks, with their decision to hire former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was still receiving payment from the Trump campaign, as a paid political analyst.

    Media Matters’ Carlos Maza highlighted CNN’s Trump surrogate problem, noting how surrogates refuse to answer legitimate questions about Trump’s positions and controversies and instead point unrelated discussions that devolve into personal attacks.

     

  • The Washington Post: CNN’s Zucker Defends Corey Lewandowski And Ignores The Ethical Problems With His Employment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker for skirting the issue of hiring former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski by offering a dishonest defense of the decision.

    CNN hired the Republican presidential nominee’s former campaign manager in June, a week after he was fired from the campaign for allegedly manhandling a reporter. Since joining the news organization, Lewandowski has echoed and defended Trump’s most questionable statements, including reviving Trump’s birther claims against President Obama and recommending that the Republican nominee sue The New York Times “into oblivion.”

    Jeff Zucker’s decision to hire Lewandowski came under fire after it was discovered that he was still being paid by the Trump campaign, which CNN said was severance pay. In August, Lewandowski announced on Twitter he was joining Donald Trump and his campaign in New Hampshire. In September, The Washington Post discovered Lewandowski was doing “consulting work” for Trump, and he recently joined the campaign for more events in Maine and New Jersey.

    Zucker defended hiring Corey Lewandowski during an October 14 interview at the Harvard Institute of Politics, claiming it is necessary to have someone who represents the “14 million people who voted for” Donald Trump, and that opposition to Lewandowski’s presence at CNN is “because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy.” Wemple discounted Zucker’s defense, explaining that “the critical case against” employing Lewandowski “rests on ethical considerations.” From Wemple’s October 17 Washington Post blog post:      

    In an extensive interview on Friday at the Harvard Institute of Politics, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker faced a question about the No. 1 ethical issue facing the 24/7 cable network over the course of campaign 2016. “What was your thought process in hiring [Donald] Trump’s former campaign manager and surrogates in general and where do you draw the line for CNN between reporting on the campaign and becoming a mouthpiece for the campaigns?” asked a member of the audience.

    No stranger to tough questions about CNN’s moves, Zucker, a Harvard graduate, took this one in stride. For months, critics of the channel have ripped the June decision to hire Corey Lewandowski just after he’d been fired from his job as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. As he broke into the CNN commentating lineup, he was asked about any nondisclosure and non disparagement clauses that might swamp his candor. His responses were unconvincing. Then CNN revealed that he was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign — payments that continued in July and August; a final pay-out occurred last month.

    [...]

    Speaking specifically to the Lewandowski situation, Zucker said this: “So, look, you know — the Trump surrogate voices, including Corey Lewandowski … are there to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for him. Now, I know that there’s are a lot of people who don’t like Corey Lewandowski or the other Trump surrogates that we have on staff,” he said. “I think a lot of that is because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy and that’s just a projection of ‘How could you have those people on the set?’ Well, we have them on the set because somebody’s got to represent 14 million people who voted for the guy. I understand that there are people who might not like that, who might not like those people who are supporting him, but that’s what happened.”

    CNN is entitled to rejigger its lineup of commentators in reaction to political events. Such is its prerogative. What it may not do, however, is recast the controversy over Lewandowski’s employment as a matter of taste. Though some folks surely object to Lewandowski because they simply do not like him, the critical case against the move rests on ethical considerations. Lewandowski was hired fresh off the Trump campaign, and evidence is strong that he remains part of its inner circle, as both Politico and the New York Times reported last month.

    [...]

    Though many commentators have certain loyalties and affections, Lewandowski is all but prohibited from indulging in Trump-oriented skepticism while on CNN airwaves. That is the problem with Lewandowski. Not that certain people don’t like him.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • CNN Shouldn’t Suspend Corey Lewandowski. The Network Should Fire Him.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    It’s long past time for CNN to cut ties with former Donald Trump campaign manager and current Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski.

    Earlier today, Mediaite reported that according to its sources, CNN had suspended Lewandowski. A CNN spokesperson has told media reporters that this is not true, though some CNN staff apparently believed that it was.

    CNN’s decision to hire Lewandowski has been widely criticized as an ethical morass from the start. Media ethicists and journalists have been condemning CNN for months.​

    Here’s what we know is happening right now:

    Corey Lewandowski is getting paid by Donald Trump.

    Corey Lewandowski is advising Donald Trump.

    Corey Lewandowski is getting paid by CNN to talk about Donald Trump.

    CNN and the Trump campaign both refer to the payments Lewandowski continues to receive from the Republican presidential nominee as “severance” rather than payment for “services rendered.” But according to the Trump campaign’s own filings, the payments are for “strategy consulting,” and Trump’s spokesperson says they will continue through the election.

    As of yesterday, CNN’s president was still defending this stain on CNN’s reputation.

    This is unacceptable.

    CNN should cut ties with Lewandowski immediately.

  • Report: Trump Campaign Continues To Pay CNN’s Corey Lewandowski For Consulting Work

    Consulting Payment Appears To Differ From Severance From Trump Campaign, Which CNN Discloses

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August” by the Republican presidential nominee's campaign for “‘strategy consulting,’” according to The Washington Post. The payment escalates CNN’s unprecedented conflict of interest in which Lewandowski is on the payroll of both CNN and the campaign, and it raises questions about the extent of Lewandowski’s role in the Trump campaign.

    Lewandowski, who was hired by CNN as a political commentator in June, is still currently receiving severance from the campaign. Lewandowski’s firm was also paid a “regular $20,000 monthly fee” for “advice” in July by the Trump campaign.

    The ethical morass that has accompanied Lewandowski’s appearances on CNN given that he still advising, traveling with, and drawing payment from Trump has drawn sustained outcry from journalists and media ethicists. CNN President Jeff Zucker recently defended Lewandowski’s hiring and admitted that he was aware that the former campaign manager continued to receive severance payments from the campaign at the time of his hiring.

    The Washington Post reported on September 21 that Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as ‘strategy consulting,’” once again raising “anew the conflict of interest issue that has dogged the cable network’s hiring of Lewandowski.” The Post wrote that although CNN has been “introducing [Lewandowski’s] appearances … by mentioning that he receives severance from Trump,” the August payment for “‘strategy consulting’” suggests “that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than ‘severance’ would suggest.” The Post further noted that if CNN is in fact paying Lewandoski to comment on a candidate and campaign he is compensated by, that would be “a conflict that most journalistic organizations prohibit.” From the September 21 Washington Post article:

    CNN commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as “strategy consulting,” raising anew the conflict of interest issue that has dogged the cable network’s hiring of Lewandowski.

    CNN has said previously that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski and his consulting firm were “severance” for his employment by Trump. It began introducing his appearances on the air last month by mentioning that he receives severance from Trump.

    But the payments continued in August, according to Trump’s campaign expenditure filing released Tuesday night. The description used by Trump’s campaign in the filing — “strategy consulting” — also suggested that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than “severance” would suggest.

    If so, it would put CNN in the position of employing a person who is also compensated by the campaign and the candidate he comments on — a conflict that most journalistic organizations prohibit.

    Representatives of CNN and Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment early Wednesday.

    Lewandowski has apparently maintained close ties with the campaign despite being fired by Trump and escorted from Trump Tower by security officers in June. Various news reports have described him as an “informal” adviser to the campaign.

    CNN chairman Jeff Zucker has repeatedly defended the hiring of Lewandowski, most recently at an employee town hall meeting on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post. Zucker has said the network needed to add pro-Trump voices to balance the stable of commentators who support Hillary Clinton and that Lewandowski brought inside knowledge of Trump’s campaign.

    For information on Media Matters’ petition for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, please click here.

  • Huffington Post: CNN's Zucker Continues To Defend Hiring Of Corey Lewandowski

    Zucker Acknowledges Knowing That Lewandowski Was Receiving Payment From Trump Campaign While Working As Paid Analyst On CNN

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    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.

    Further complicating CNN’s ethical dilemma, Lewandowski has admitted to traveling with the Trump campaign and is reportedly advising Trump in preparation for the upcoming debates.

    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.