Wednesday’s CNN appearance by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, the morning after he acknowledged to the House Judiciary Committee that he feels no obligation to be honest with the news media, re-ignited an ongoing debate among staffers at the cable network over who should and not be accorded airtime if they are simply using it as a forum to mislead.
The controversial booking of Lewandowski also provoked a barrage of criticism from journalists who argued that he’s a confirmed liar who can’t be trusted by viewers to be a credible source of information.
Lewandowski is himself a former paid CNN commentator whose 2016 hiring, after being dismissed by Trump, embarrassed the network when it was disclosed that he was continuing on the Trump campaign payroll at $20,000 a month while working for CNN.
Among CNN’s critics is former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who told The Daily Beast that he agrees with concerns that Lewandowski’s appearance didn’t serve the public, and that a fiery televised confrontation of the kind that occurred Wednesday potentially helps the Senate Republican primary campaign Lewandowski is widely expected to launch soon in his native New Hampshire.
“Unfortunately, the Congress, the press and the best interests of the country—in my opinion—lost that round,” Rather, who runs the News and Guts Media production company and anchors shows on AXS TV and The Young Turks YouTube channel, said in an email.
CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker declined to respond to the criticism on the record, as did several staffers reached by The Daily Beast.
A quick spot survey of CNN employees, however, suggested that some CNN employees agree with Rather while other staffers believe that it’s not the news media’s job to censor government officials or prominent political figures such as Lewandowski, but instead to bring them on, interrogate them, and hold them accountable.
During a 16-minute-long exchange that shed far more heat than light, Lewandowski regularly dodged, talked over and shouted over New Day anchor Alisyn Camerota’s questions and repeatedly insulted the network that once wrote him handsome checks.
Lewandowski accused CNN of “hypocrisy” for employing fired FBI acting director Andrew McCabe as an on-air analyst, even as McCabe is being targeted by the Trump Justice Department for a criminal referral for allegedly making false statements to the DOJ inspector general.