Taylor, who has since left government and now supports Joe Biden’s candidacy, acknowledged in a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo Wednesday night that he was the author of both pieces. He also admitted he hadn’t been truthful when he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in August that he wasn’t “Anonymous.”
Taylor’s reversal brought a raised eyebrow from Cuomo. “You lied to us, Miles,” Cuomo said. “Why should CNN keep you on the payroll after lying like that?”
Taylor replied that he lied about his authorship in order to avoid Trump’s personal attacks and to force Trump to address the issues Anonymous raised.
In the wake of Taylor’s admission, CNN has made no announcements of any disciplinary action. Instead, it has continued to book him on the air; Taylor appeared on CNN again on Thursday.
In response to a request for comment, CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas offered a terse statement: “Miles Taylor will remain a CNN contributor.”
CNN’s virtual silence has rankled some at the network, although they said the issue has been vastly overshadowed by preparations for Election Day. “I think people are upset about it,” said one employee, who asked not to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak without the network’s approval. “Some of us feel we need to make a stronger statement. But it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.”
The network’s response to Taylor is similar to its limited disclosures about its longtime chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who reportedly was caught masturbating during a video conference call with colleagues at the New Yorker, where he also works. The New Yorker has said it has suspended Toobin, who apologized for “an embarrassingly stupid mistake.” CNN, however, has made only one brief statement: “Jeff Toobin has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted.”
Given Trump’s continued demonization of the news media, and CNN in particular, the cable news giant has a special responsibility to demonstrate accountability, said Nikki Usher, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois.
“This is a great opportunity for CNN to show transparency and moral leadership,” she said. “At a time when so many people think CNN is ‘fake news,’ the last thing CNN can afford to have is someone who is actually putting out fake news. CNN has to show that it has the internal mechanisms” to address questionable practices.
CNN itself has placed great store in calling out Trump for lying; last year, it hired an on-air fact-checker, Daniel Dale, who regularly notes the president’s false statements. Under its slogan, “Facts First,” CNN says it “holds elected officials and candidates accountable by pointing out what’s true and what’s not.”
CNN hired Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, in September after he began to speak out against Trump and in favor of Biden. At the time, he was among a handful of former Trump administration officials who had publicly turned against the president (Taylor wrote his New York Times column while serving as deputy chief of staff).
There’s no indication CNN was aware that he was Anonymous at the time he became a contributor to the network. Network contributors are contract workers who are paid either a set amount or a fee when they appear on the air.
In his interview with Cuomo on Wednesday, Taylor acknowledged that he misled Cooper. He said he owed Cooper “a beer” and a “mea culpa” for his knowingly false statement.
But Cuomo pressed the issue.
“You know the problem is with having lied, [it’s] that now you are a liar, and people will be slow to believe you when you lied about something as important [as] whether you wanted to own this,” Cuomo said.
“Chris,” agreed Taylor, “that’s the truth.”