The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion CNN dismisses Jeffrey Lord after Nazi tweet, instantly upgrades panel discussions

Jeffrey Lord. (Associated Press/Matt Rourke)
Placeholder while article actions load

Telling: It wasn’t something inane that Jeffrey Lord said on CNN’s airwaves, like the time he spoke about places in Upstate New York that are “seen as Muslim training camps.” Or the time that he performed a history-stretching act to justify candidate Donald Trump’s call for a Muslim ban. Or the time he talked about the Ku Klux Klan being a “leftist hate group.”

It was a tweet — this tweet:

That got Lord fired from his two-year-long gig as a contributor to CNN, a role in which he seemingly would twist anything — logic, history, his own sense of decency — to defend Trump. Recently CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, after Lord did a particularly absurd job of sticking up for the president, joked on air that Lord would come to the president’s defense even if he defecated on his desk.

“Nazi salutes are indefensible. Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network,” notes a CNN spokesperson.

Context for this invocation of Nazism is an Aug. 9 post written by Lord in the American Spectator, in which he bashes Media Matters for America — and its president, Angelo Carusone — for its campaign against Fox News host Sean Hannity. “The objective of Media Matters (and let’s stop with the camouflage and from now on call them what they really are, MMF — Media Matters Fascists), clearly, is to rewrite the First Amendment so it will now be modeled after Fascist Italy’s Ministero della Cultura Popolare — Mussolini’s Ministry of Popular Culture. The Ministry was in turn modeled after the Nazi Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda,” wrote Lord. He also joked in the piece, “The American Spectator has been unable to confirm reports that the original draft of this Media Matters revision ended with the words: ‘Seig Heil!’”

Follow Erik Wemple's opinionsFollow

Carusone criticized his American Spectator piece on Twitter: “Your headline has a mistake in it. Why do you expect anyone to take you seriously when you don’t take yourself seriously.” Lord zinged him with the Nazi tweet.

Ever the prolific opinionator, Lord posted a reaction story on the American Spectator on Thursday: “Mr. Carusone is not happy. I am delighted he is not happy. I am even happier that he has put his fascist spirit out there in re-printable form. So in the spirit of free speech — for Sean Hannity and Angelo Carusone and every other American of whatever political stripe.”

Bosses at CNN were not impressed. Conventional public-square wisdom holds that invoking Nazi Germany during any argument signals defeat — and, apparently where CNN’s concerned, grounds for dismissal.

Embarrassing though this episode has proven, it may well herald a new day for CNN. During the presidential election campaign, the network hired a number of pro-Trump voices just to speak on behalf of the candidate, considering that its stable of reasonable conservatives wouldn’t perform that service. The result has been something approaching madness, with red herrings, false equivalencies, non sequiturs, disjointed rationales and every other polemical foul imaginable besmirching CNN transcripts. Just last week, a co-conspirator in this whole charade — Trumpite Kayleigh McEnany — announced she was leaving her contributorship for other endeavors, in her case a job with the Republican National Committee.

So panel discussions on CNN just got a lot more sane. CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has always justified his use of the Lords and the McEnanys on the grounds that Trump needs people who will speak on his behalf — it’s part of the network’s commitment to fairness. Well, that’s what White House spokesmen are for. The network’s we-can’t-win relationship with Trumpland will remain robust with the news or Lord’s sacking: While he was there, the anti-Trump crowd blasted the network for the low level of public discourse during the segments in which he starred; the pro-Trump crowd complained that he was drowned out by too many anti-Trump voices. Expect more of the latter in the days to come, plus a tweet or two from the quasi-vacationing president.

When he’s not debasing himself with Trump defenses, Lord is a wonderful guy who cares for his mother in his Pennsylvania home. He has always been open and available for comment whenever this blog has sought his input. We just called for comment and didn’t get through and will update once we do.