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Opinion Did a CNN commentator provide Donald Trump with a defense for his proposed Muslim ban?

News outlets have busied themselves securing opinions on Donald Trump’s call for a “shutdown” against Muslims entering the United States. Politicians, commentators and other elites have pretty uniformly trashed the idea, sending all manner of scoffing in its direction.

Yet CNN managed to corral one committed backer. He happens to be on CNN’s payroll, too.

Commentator Jeffrey Lord this morning delivered a pro-Trump viewpoint on CNN’s “New Day.” “I am utterly astounded here,” said Lord. Astounded not by Trump’s insane proposal, but by the backlash. Lord cited three presidential proclamations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including “Alien Enemies — Japanese” (No. 2525); “Alien Enemies — German (No. 2526).” Lord noted that these proclamations instituted tight limits on such people, who were “liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed as alien enemies.”

And this was the work of revered President Roosevelt, noted Lord. So why are people criticizing Trump? “We have been here before. . . . We need to focus on the fact that Franklin Roosevelt was Donald Trump on steroids, and everybody thinks FDR is a great president,” said Lord.

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At that point, “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota noted that FDR’s proclamations were aimed at hostile nations in World War II and said the United States is not at war with Muslims at large. “We’re at war with radical Islam,” said Lord.

If people think that FDR’s proclamations about the Japanese, the Germans and the Italians don’t represent the best of America, argued Lord, then the memorial to the former president should be eliminated from the Mall.

Lord’s FDR argument impressed Trump himself, who cited it later in the “New Day” program. In an interview with co-host Chris Cuomo, Trump said, “If you look at FDR, ’cause I watched Jeffrey Lord this morning, and I thought he was fantastic, by the way. If you look at him, the presidential proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527 — that was very, very stringent. Very, very stringent and I thought that Jeffrey Lord did a fantastic job explaining it this morning on your show.”

Cuomo said, “He makes your case well.”

“He makes his own case well, in all fairness,” retorted Trump. “This wasn’t my case.”

The FDR argument crossed cableworld. In an interview that aired later on MSNBC, Trump told “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough: “If you look at President Roosevelt, a respected president, highly respected — take a look at presidential proclamations back a long time ago. 2525, 2526 and 2527. What he was doing with Germans, Italians and Japanese, because he had to do it. Because, look, we are at war with radical Islam.”

So it looks as though a paid contributor for CNN helped Trump fashion a really bad defense for a really bad idea. In a brief chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Lord said he’d researched the FDR angle in recent days. “I was ready when Chris [Cuomo] asked me about it and [Trump] saw that. I assume that’s where it came from,” says Lord.

Among cable news’s most compelling contributors, Lord is a former political director for the Reagan White House and a tireless contributor to the American Spectator. He does his work from a home near Harrisburg, Pa., where he balances his commentating with caring for his elderly mother. He is pro-Trump but unaffiliated with his campaign. The guy acceded to CNN via the following process, which we detailed in an earlier post:

For a while there, Lord was mounting these arguments gratis on CNN. As he tells it, Trump in the early weeks of his candidacy had completed an interview with CNNers and got to talking with some big shots about the coverage. Either Trump or an aide, says Lord, expressed concern that CNN featured Jeb Bush-friendly analysis and they suggested that the network seek the input of someone more Trump-friendly. They passed along the name of Lord. “All the sudden the phone goes crazy with CNN requests and I start doing them,” says Lord, who was merely ID’d as a Trump “supporter.”

The FDR argument raises parallels with a previous Lord argument in favor of Trump. After the candidate didn’t correct a man at a campaign event who claimed President Obama was a Muslim, Lord lashed out at the media’s disapproval. “This is enormous hypocrisy here,” he said. The alleged hypocrisy, specifically, was that Obama hadn’t gotten the Rev. Jeremiah Wright fired long before his 2008 presidential campaign. Obama’s eventual repudiation of Wright, Lord tells us, was “too little and too late.”

We asked the Trump campaign today if it’s the case that the candidate got his FDR argument from Lord. Hope Hicks, a campaign spokeswoman, replied, “Perhaps Jeffrey got it from Mr. Trump?” Or: Maybe everyone got it from Fox News’s Jesse Watters, who cited the FDR-Trump parallel in yesterday’s edition of the excellent Fox News program “The Five.”