Just yesterday morning, CNN host Alisyn Camerota introduced Corey Lewandowski as a CNN political commentator and former campaign manager for Donald Trump who is “still receiving severance from the Trump campaign.”
It sure is, says employment lawyer Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP. “The vast majority of severance agreements that we’ve negotiated are lump-sum payments,” says Katz, especially if the firms have the financial wherewithal to pay them. So structuring the severance payments over a number of months could be the approach of a cash-starved organization.
There’s another motive, however. “It is not uncommon to string them out as a way to muzzle or control the person who’s receiving the funds,” says Katz. When Lewandowski first joined CNN, he faced on-air questions about whether he’d signed a nondisclosure/nondisparagement agreement with the Trump campaign — a common arrangement for staffers, as the Associated Press reported. In the spring, prior to his dismissal and accession to CNN, Lewandowski tweeted that he had a “strict confidentiality agreement with Mr. Trump” after rumors surfaced that he was writing a book about his experiences.
The Trump campaign referred an inquiry to Lewandowski himself. CNN, again, has failed to return inquiries about this matter, which is turning into a streak of sorts. This tweet, sent on Wednesday evening, continues to describe the hypocrisy at hand:
Loving how @cnn sits in 24-7 judgment of Trump-Clinton transparency and yet won't even return inquiries about one of its commentators.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) September 14, 2016
In mid-July, CNN anchors came forth with the disclosure that Lewandowski was receiving severance from his former employer, proof that could comply with a small-beer ethical imperative bundled inside an ethical disaster zone. Two months later, the payments are apparently still coming through for Lewandowski, who, according to the New York Times and Politico, has reasserted himself as a key player within the Trump campaign.
The longevity of the payments, says Katz, is designed to “to ensure his compliance, and it’s outrageous for CNN to hire him under these circumstances. … As long as Trump controls the payments, he controls the content.”