CNN is reinstating Ryan Lizza, the Washington political reporter who was fired from the New Yorker for alleged sexual misconduct. “Upon learning of The New Yorker’s decision to sever ties with Ryan Lizza in December, CNN pulled him from future on-air appearances while the network conducted an extensive investigation into the matter,” reads a statement from a CNN spokeswoman. “Based on the information provided and the findings of the investigation, CNN has found no reason to continue to keep Mr. Lizza off the air.”
Lizza is scheduled to appear on Thursday night’s edition of Don Lemon’s show during the 10 p.m. hour.
The restoration of Lizza to his punditry duties marks quite a turnabout from December, when his employer issued this statement: “The New Yorker recently learned that Ryan Lizza engaged in what we believe was improper sexual conduct. We have reviewed the matter and, as a result, have severed ties with Lizza. Due to a request for privacy, we are not commenting further.” Lizza’s name popped up in the controversial and once-privately circulated “Sh—y Media Men” list with the cryptic allegation of being “creepy af in the dms,” apparently a reference to unwanted direct messages on Twitter.
The summary dismissal came as part of a season of reckoning in U.S. media over sexual misconduct by men in positions of authority and prominence. Charlie Rose was fired by CBS News over allegations of sexual misconduct; Mark Halperin lost his various gigs over alleged misconduct that occurred years ago while at ABC News; Matt Lauer was ousted from NBC’s “Today” show; Michael Oreskes, the top editorial official at NPR, lost his job; and Leon Wieseltier, the target of numerous accusations from his days at the New Republic, lost backing for a literary journal he was about to launch.
That list isn’t complete.
In many cases, the accused express some level of contrition for their actions. For example “I am profoundly sorry for the pain and anguish I have caused by my past actions. I apologize sincerely to the women I mistreated,” Halperin said in a statement.
Not so Lizza, who contested every character of the New Yorker’s statement, writing:
“I am dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterize a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate. The New Yorker was unable to cite any company policy that was violated. . . . I am sorry to my friends, workplace colleagues, and loved ones for any embarrassment this episode may cause. I love The New Yorker, my home for the last decade, and I have the highest regard for the people who work there. But this decision, which was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts, was a terrible mistake.”
The matter didn’t end there, however. CNN had Lizza under contract to provide analysis for its never-ending political coverage, and it pledged that Lizza “[would] not appear on CNN while we look into this matter.” So, for the past six weeks, CNN’s own independent investigation has hung over Lizza’s career.
It looked like a messy undertaking. After Lizza released his statement calling the New Yorker’s investigation a “mistake,” Douglas H. Wigdor, a lawyer from New York, issued a statement saying that “in no way did Mr. Lizza’s misconduct constitute a ‘respectful relationship’ as he has now tried to characterize it. Our client reported Mr. Lizza’s actions to ensure that he would be held accountable and in the hope that by coming forward she would help other potential victims.”
CNN’s move marks a compelling bifurcation between two prominent news outlets over the fitness of a reporter to represent their brands. It is common for prominent media figures to work under the banners of various outlets, and when damning claims have surfaced, a domino effect has usually taken place. In Halperin’s case, for example, NBC News/MSNBC, Penguin Press and Showtime all canceled deals with the political reporter. Rose lost his perch at CBS News, as well as PBS distribution of his namesake program.
The New Yorker’s firing of Lizza prompted a number of questions on social media about the grounds for the abrupt announcement. The company, however, stuck with its statement and moved on. Debra Katz, a personnel lawyer with Katz, Marshall & Banks, told the Erik Wemple Blog at the time, “An employer does not need to show there’s been a violation of policy. It can just conclude that whatever behavior has been reported is inconsistent with the conduct that the New Yorker believes employees must adhere to.”
Read more by Erik Wemple: