Mainstream news organizations like to get both sides of every issue. And when it comes to issues related to Donald Trump, CNN has a built-in advantage: One of its very own contributors is a Trump supporter who’s willing to defend the indefensible at every turn.
CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord came on the air today to discuss news that Donald Trump had failed to correct a man at a town hall event who’d falsely alleged that President Obama was a Muslim (he’s a Christian). “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” said the man at a campaign event in Rochester, N.H. “You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”
The front-running candidate didn’t execute an on-the-spot correction, generating a great deal of media attention for the omission. CNN, for instance, has been banging away at the story all day long. Host Wolf Blitzer moments ago averred that it was “exploding” into a major issue in the presidential campaign.
Perhaps more remarkable than the man’s assertion and Trump’s reaction, however, was the assessment of Lord. When asked by Blitzer whether Trump should apologize, Lord riffed away:
This is enormous hypocrisy here. Let me be blunt: I am a member of the United Church of Christ, a Christian. Barack Obama for twenty years was a member of the United Church of Christ. We were in exactly the same denomination. So I have some authority to speak to this. I’ve been president of my church council for six years, on the regional board of the United Church of Christ here. The theology of the United Church of Christ is that the members are responsible for the minister. The minister reports to them, the minister can be fired by the members. President Obama sat in those pews for twenty years and heard all this anti-Semitic stuff from [the Rev.] Jeremiah Wright, never moved to fire him. Never, not once. He did zero, zero. And now, we’re hearing the White House talking about Donald Trump. I want to know where is Hillary Clinton on this. Where is the shame from President Obama? This is a massive double standard, a massive double standard.
But should he apologize? Blitzer came back. “I want him to apologize when President Obama apologizes.”
Commentator Hilary Rosen disputed Lord on factual grounds, saying that “President Obama did take on Rev. Wright and in fact alienated Rev. Wright for a long time.” Candidate Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 quit his church over the remarks of former pastor Wright. Whatever: Lord is seeking to equate Trump’s behavior as a presidential candidate in a public campaign event with citizen Barack Obama’s behavior as a churchgoer.
Lord, a Reagan White House political director, joined CNN last month, ostensibly just for occasions like these, when the network needs someone to defend Trump.
His summer appearances on CNN have been colorful. In July, for instance, he spoke on a panel with Ana Navarro to address the question of whether Trump was bad news for the Republican Party. Speaking via Skype from Harrisburg, Pa., Lord said, “I don’t think you’re a Latino, Ana. I think you’re an American just like me.” Navarro proceeded to spread the remainders of Lord’s dignity all the way up to Wilkes-Barre.
In post-debate coverage, Lord again hammered away at the “Americans” theme, as he ripped Carly Fiorina for her remark at the debate about Trump belittling her face. “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” said Fiorina. Lord told a CNN anchor, “And, you know, her response frankly I thought was sexist. I mean, who cares about women and men? How about Americans? Who cares whether you’re from Mexico originally or you’re from Ireland or Slovenia, as Donald Trump’s immigrant wife is? We’re all Americans here and that’s what should be done. And I really think that kind of thing is bad for the — you know, for the conservative movement.” Opinions like that one don’t come cheap.
From a hiring spree for its CNN Digital Politics staff, to a pricey set for its debate Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, to its wall-to-wall broadcasts, CNN has invested big-time in the 2016 race. Easily the most bizarre of those investments is Lord himself, the guy who proves that the only people more dangerous than Trump are his supporters.