Late Tuesday night, the monthly FEC reports from the presidential campaigns were released for August. One revelation that came out of the Trump campaign is that former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was paid $20,000 for consulting fees. This was despite the fact that he was fired by the campaign in late June and has since worked as a paid on-air commentator for CNN.
On Wednesday morning, Mediaite published a huge breaking story stating CNN had suspended Lewandowski over the payments. Based on the report, he was pulled from an appearance on New Day and would be at least temporarily off the air. Mediaite’s J.D. Durkin credited the info to a high-level source at the network.
But not so fast. CNN immediately denied Lewandowski was suspended and said that he would be appearing in a segment later in the afternoon. Mediaite, left with egg on its face for trusting its source, edited the piece and attached an editor’s note acknowledging the error. Meanwhile, Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks released the following statement regarding the payments to Lewandowski:
“Corey Lewandowski, who is no longer involved in the campaign, continues to receive monthly severance payments. The campaign will continue to honor its contract with Mr. Lewandowski, which stipulates he will be paid through the end of the year. These payments are in no way compensation for services rendered.”
A few weeks after CNN hired Lewandowski, they began introducing him on-air with the disclaimer that he was receiving severance from the Trump campaign. They didn’t say how much he was receiving monthly, but we now know what he’s getting — $20,000 a month.
The real news here isn’t that Mediaite got misled by a source and exaggerated what was happening to Lewandowski at CNN. No. The real story is that the network is paying a man to be a shill for Donald Trump while Donald Trump is still paying him. And that he’s signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump that prevents him from criticizing the real estate mogul in public. And that CNN doesn’t care one little bit about any of this.
The fact that Lewandowski is continuously getting paid by the campaign — and is apparently still advising Trump — is really just a shovelful more of shit on this whole affair. From the beginning, the Lewandowski hiring has been an ethical nightmare for the network. Not only was there the issue with the NDA, but Lewandowski’s own treatment of the press as campaign manager presented problems with the current staff.
Of course, network chief Jeff Zucker doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of the Lewandowski hire. He thinks it is great, and as recently as yesterday, was defending the pugnacious Trumpkin to his employees who were concerned about his continued closeness to Trump. His reasoning is that the network needs to have a number of defenders of the GOP nominee to balance out their commentary. However, CNN already employs a bunch of conservative pundits, including several who are exclusively Trump shills. So why the need for Lewandowski?
Probably because his very presence creates controversy. Even getting past the ethical obstacles behind his continued employment, you know an on-air appearance by Lewandowski will devolve into shouting, blatant lies, race-baiting and chaos. And that’s how Zucker wants it. He wants his programming to be full of drama and debate and conflict. It is exciting and titillating and brings more not only more live viewers, but creates viral videos that get shared online. And those clicks equal revenue.
Zucker has the same mindset as CBS’s Les Moonves when it comes to the Trump campaign in that it’s bad for the country but it’s “damn good” for business.
Now, if CNN were genuinely worried about journalistic credibility and ethics in reporting, they’d can Lewandowski today. But Zucker looks at this as reality TV, not news journalism, and that’s how he’s going to treat his programming.