CNN has suspended political commentator Paris Dennard after a Washington Post report detailed allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior during his tenure as the events director for Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. During Dennard’s time as a political commentator at CNN, he staunchly defended President Donald Trump against reports that Trump sexually harassed and assaulted several women, attacking the reporting and complaining that such stories “destroy[s] people’s credibility” and “tear people down” using “unsubstantiated facts.”
Wash. Post report details Dennard’s removal from his previous position at Arizona State University after an internal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct
Wash. Post: Dennard “was fired from Arizona State University four years ago for making sexually explicit comments and gestures toward women.” According to The Washington Post, Dennard was removed from his previous position at Arizona State University after an “internal investigation by the university concluded that Paris Dennard … told a recent college graduate who worked for him that he wanted to have sex with her.” According to the report, “Dennard did not dispute those claims but said he committed the acts jokingly.” From the Post’s August 22 report:
A conservative commentator who was lauded by President Trump this week as “wonderful” and who has argued that past sexual indiscretions should have no bearing on Trump’s presidency was fired from Arizona State University four years ago for making sexually explicit comments and gestures toward women, according to documents and a university official.
An internal investigation by the university concluded that Paris Dennard, a surrogate during the campaign and now a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, told a recent college graduate who worked for him that he wanted to have sex with her. He “pretended to unzip his pants in her presence, tried to get her to sit on his lap, and made masturbatory gestures,” according to a university report obtained by The Washington Post.
According to the 2014 report, Dennard did not dispute those claims but said he committed the acts jokingly. The investigation began after the woman and a second female employee told superiors Dennard’s actions went too far and had made them uncomfortable.
In an email exchange with The Post, Dennard declined to answer specific questions about the investigation or his departure from the McCain Institute. He said he had not seen the full report and “was led to believe” it was “sealed and proprietary.”
“I cannot comment on items I have never seen regarding allegations I still believe to be false,” Dennard wrote. “This is sadly another politically motivated attempt to besmirch my character, and shame me into silence for my support of President Trump and the GOP.” [The Washington Post, 8/22/18]
CNN suspends Dennard after the Post report
CNN: “Dennard has been suspended from his commentary role, pending an examination of the allegations against him.” Shortly after the Post report was published, CNN suspended Dennard “pending an examination of the allegations against him.” From CNN’s August 23 statement:
CNN said Wednesday evening that Paris Dennard has been suspended from his commentary role, pending an examination of the allegations against him in a Wednesday Washington Post story.
Shortly after the Post story was published online, a CNN spokeswoman said, "We are aware of reports of accusations against Paris Dennard. We are suspending Paris, effective immediately, while we look into the allegations."
Commentators like Dennard are typically under contract with a specific network for a set period of time. Suspensions are rare, but not unheard of. [CNN, 8/23/18]
Dennard has vehemently defended Trump against reports that the president committed sexual misconduct and decried reporting on prominent cases of misconduct
In 2016, Dennard defended Trump for attacking his accusers: “Mr. Trump is a fighter. And so the idea that he can't fight back when he's been talked about, lied on … you’re going to want to defend that.”
DON LEMON (HOST): Paris, what were you taking issue with?
PARIS DENNARD: What I was taking issue with is the fact that, you know, Mr. Trump is a fighter. And so the idea that he can't fight back when he's been talked about, lied on, if you've ever been attacked or called out of your name, which I have --
LEMON: But it's about the women.
DENNARD: Yes, you're going to want to defend that. And the other point is, and this is the last point, he's done substantive speeches before. He laid out his immigration policy in Phoenix, AZ. He had a great meeting and speech in Mexico. I mean, he's done it -- and he went to an African-American church in Detroit and gave a good message there. And nobody wanted to talk about it, nobody wanted to cover it. The reason why he wanted to --
LEMON: That's not true. We covered that.
DENNARD: Well, but the reason why he wanted to defend himself is because the media continues to make this an issue so he can't set it aside. [CNN, CNN Tonight, 10/24/16]
Dennard: “This is what we do. We say things, we destroy people's credibility, we tear people down, [with] unsubstantiated facts.”
RICK WILSON: What could he know about [Montana Sen. Jon] Tester? Maybe Tester's private attorney paid a porn star $130,000.
PARIS DENNARD: There you go, your porn star schtick. This is what the problem is, John. This is the problem. Remember what happened with the senator from Alaska? How they came after him and years later after he died --
JOHN BERMAN: Ted Stevens.
DENNARD: Ted Stevens, he was exonerated.
JOAN WALSH: Right.
DENNARD: This is what we do. We say things, we destroy people's credibility, we tear people down, unsubstantiated facts, and just let the rumor -- we’ll just say, stick it out there, let’s see, it may or may not be true --
WILSON: You mean like when Ted Cruz's dad killed JFK? [CNN, White House Correspondents’ Dinner coverage, 4/28/18]
Dennard on the Access Hollywood tape: “If you want to go back and litigate what somebody said 20, 30, 15, whatever years ago before they were a candidate for president, that's one thing, but President Trump, candidate Trump, did not demean women while he was running for president.”
DON LEMON (HOST): But to my question, you didn't really answer my question. You never said that you were never sick and tired of hearing the president demean women when he was running for president.
PARIS DENNARD: Well, you know what, I didn't hear the president demean women when he was running for president. Didn’t hear it.
MARIA CARDONA: Oh, my word.
JONATHAN TASINI: Paris, excuse me, Paris, it wasn't just demean. I'm just going to use the word -- when you say, “I grabbed a woman's pussy, and I was allowed to,” that is the crime --
DENNARD: Well, let me tell you something, that was not said --
TASINI: Excuse me. Let me finish, Paris.
DENNARD: No, let me finish.
TASINI: That is a crime, that is talking about the crime of sexual assault. That is the crime of sexual assault.
DENNARD: That was not said while he was running for president. If you want to go back -- if you want to go back and litigate what somebody said 20, 30, 15, whatever years ago before they were a candidate for president, that's one thing, but President Trump, candidate Trump, did not demean women while he was running for president, and if he had, I would have come out against it. And the same --
CARDONA: Oh, Paris, if you really believe that --
TASINI: This is not credible, not credible.
LEMON: Paris, does that speak to character?
CARDONA: You should not be part of the conversation, Paris, if you really believe that that that’s the case.
DENNARD: Well Maria, unfortunately, you don't have the power to not have me a part of the conversation because you don’t agree with what I’m saying. [CNN, CNN Tonight, 4/26/17]
Dennard: Discussing report that Stormy Daniels was physically threatened to stay silent about her affair with Trump is “rude and it's offensive, and it has nothing to do with him as the president.”
PARIS DENNARD: You know what I will say is that you have no respect for Mrs. Trump, you have no respect for his children, you have no respect for his family.
RICK WILSON: Oh, I'm sorry.
DENNARD: Because this has nothing to do with him as a candidate and it has nothing to do with him as the sitting president of the United States. You can dig up dirty laundry, and I pray to God nobody goes back in your past and picks up something that has nothing to do with your present time sitting here as a commentator. But it's rude and it's offensive, and it has nothing to do with him as the president. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 3/16/18]
Dennard after Trump suggested he might sue women accusing him of sexual misconduct: “Mr. Trump is the type of candidate who always wants to set the record straight and defend himself … against things that he feels are false and malicious.”
POPPY HARLOW (HOST): What do you make of the fact that he spent the first 15 minutes talking about off-topic issues, talking about suing the women that have accused him of sexual assault instead of jumping right in and saying, “Here is what will do to make America great again”?
PARIS DENNARD: Well, the important thing is that Mr. Trump is the type of candidate who always wants to set the record straight and defend himself against -- and the campaign, and his record, quite frankly -- against things that he feels are false or malicious or just flat-out untrue from the media or from the Hillary Clinton campaign. So it’s just classic Donald Trump fashion to set the record straight, and then do what people like me and dozens if not all of the surrogates that are out there want to hear, which is the policy. And I think the American people, some 18 days left, are looking forward to hearing more about his details, and it's a good thing he laid out this policy.
HARLOW: But are they looking forward to him saying -- and he did go and lay out a lot of policies, and we dug into them.
DENNARD: Sure. Yes.
HARLOW: But he also said he would sue the women who made these allegations against him. If he becomes president, I don't know that there is any historical precedent for a sitting president suing 10 people.
DENNARD: Yes. I don't think there is precedent on the president suing. But there is precedent for people suing the president. I think a couple of administrations ago that happened. But at the end of the day, Mr. Trump is a fighter, and I think the American people -- or those that support him -- want a commander-in-chief that they know will go out and fight for them and fight for issues that he cares about for the American people. So, he's just setting the record straight. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 10/22/16]
Dennard deflected from holding Roy Moore accountable for reports of molestation: “The Democrats have their own history and own problems that are present that they need to focus on.”
PARIS DENNARD: The Democrats can't sit back and wash their hands of this issue and say this is just a Republican problem. They have their own issues in the Senate. They have with two members. They have their own issues in the House with a member. And so this is not a partisan or Republican issue as relates to what the damage could be from the allegation to a sitting member of Congress in the House or the Senate.
The Democrats have their own history and own problems that are present that they need to focus on, not to even go into the fact that when you look at fundraising and the momentum and energy, it’s all on the Republican side. So I don't think that we should say that this is just a Republican issue or Republican problem. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 11/24/17]