CNN fired prominent commentator Jeffrey Lord on Thursday after he tweeted the Nazi salutation “Sieg Heil!” in response to a feud with a liberal activist.
“Nazi salutes are indefensible,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.” . . .
His undoing was an outgrowth of a long-running argument between Lord and Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog group that has been critical of Lord.
It was a belated, odd end to Lord’s run as a President Trump apologist and mouthpiece, a run that included defending Trump’s recorded comments on “Access Hollywood,” calling Trump the “MLK of healthcare,” rationalizing Trump’s attack on the mayor of London after a terrorist strike, fanning the lie that massive voter fraud occurred on Election Day and asking an African American former congressman when he would apologize for slavery. There seemed to be no lie or outrageous conspiracy theory he would not adopt in defense of the president. And yet it took Media Matters to lure him into a Nazi salute for CNN to get up the gumption to fire him.
We hope the Jeffrey Lord saga has made an impression on CNN executives and other news outlets that for a time believed that “fairness” required them to put a fact-based panelist up against an abject liar. The false equivalence (Here’s someone who says the Earth revolves around the sun, and for another view . . . ) instinct led cable and broadcast news to enable conspiracy theorists, liars and ignoramuses. It’s one thing to bring on presidential aides who dissemble compulsively and/or have no idea if what they are saying is true (because with Trump who knows?!); it’s another to slap the CNN “contributor” title on a crank, sit him at the grownup table and treat him as a legitimate, honest voice. Lesson #1 — we hope — is simple: Presenting an alternate viewpoint is not a license to lie.
Jeffrey Lord, along with fellow Trump sycophant Kayleigh McEnany, who just decamped to the RNC, perpetuated the “Crossfire” style of news-entertainment in which people with loud, rigid outlooks and searing rhetoric were pitted against people from the other end of the spectrum who were equally loud, rigid and equipped with weapons-grade rhetoric. Conflict! Tension!
Actually, the conflict is about as artificial as a professional wrestling match and, most important, not designed to inform or persuade but to anger audiences and reinforce whatever pre-existing views they had. Cage-match cable TV news is not the cause of extreme polarization and political dysfunction in our country, but it is a contributor. News executives, reporters and hosts need to seriously reflect on their civic obligations (quaint, I know). Is this the state of political discourse they want for the country? Is it journalism when the aim is to convince people the other side is insane or evil? So we have Lesson #2 — presenting differing points of view is a far cry from staging shouting matches for the sake of deepening the divide between right and left, rural and urban, religious and secular.
We hope the days of putting Lord, McEnany and Corey Lewandowski on as “commentators” is behind us. There are plenty of Republicans to come on TV who are willing to defend Trump while staying within shouting distance of reality and demonstrating some independent judgment. Perhaps if they stuck to generally agreed upon facts and did not come on with the intention of eviscerating their ideological opponents we’d have a saner conversation about the news. Just a thought. Probably won’t work out.