With the departures of Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, CNN has suddenly become a less annoying cable network.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that these inane commentators should have been gone a long time ago.
Each of them, regulars on CNN’s inadvisable but time-filling pundit panels, was frequently intolerable to watch or listen to, each in his or her own inimitable way.
In their bought-and-paid-for defenses of the often indefensible — candidate Trump and then President Trump — each of them could set a viewer’s teeth on edge.
Their mere appearance on one’s screen was triggering, and what it triggered was a strong impulse to reach for the remote. Maybe even to go immediately to a bookstore or the public library and find something that nourishes the mind and intellect, something deep or beautiful or classic.
Thoreau, perhaps. Shakespeare. Dostoevsky.
Lord was unceremoniously fired Thursday because he used the expression “Sieg Heil” in a Twitter feud with a liberal commenter, and according to CNN brass, “Nazi salutes are indefensible.”
Well, yes, but so is the vapidness that Lord has made his trademark over the months. (Matt Wilstein at the Daily Beast quickly put together a compilation of the worst of Jeffrey Lord; it’s a masochist’s delight.)
McEnany, by contrast, was not fired but is going on to her reward for being such a loyal Trump mouthpiece — the 29-year-old has been hired as the Republican National Committee’s spokeswoman and the voice and face of the new state TV effort (“real news!”) that will be broadcast from Trump Tower.
So, no longer will CNN viewers be subjected to moments like the one in which Lord, a former Ronald Reagan aide, referred to Trump as “the Martin Luther King of health care.”
Lord’s defense of Trump for calling former FBI director James Comey a “nut job” famously caused Anderson Cooper to quip, in frustration, that his CNN colleague would defend the president “if he took a dump on his desk.”
Cooper had to apologize for his crudeness, but he did have truth on his side.
As for McEnany, she may be a Harvard Law School graduate but was frequently and bizarrely wrong as she, too, maintained utter fealty to Trump, using redirection and distraction as her tools of choice.
Defending Trump’s devotion to his golf game, for example, she took a shot at “President Obama” for rushing off to the course after the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Some pesky facts, however, intervened: Pearl was killed in 2002, when Obama was an Illinois state senator.
These departures — crushing as they are — point to a deeper problem. In its well-intentioned effort to appear evenhanded (though never “fair and balanced,” let’s hope, since that’s taken), CNN has made too many hires that call forth the adjective of the week: indefensible.
It makes sense, of course, for CNN and other cable networks to have a cross-section of views. There are plenty of voices criticizing Trump — those aren’t hard to come by.
But when it comes to defending him or speaking on his behalf, the pickings apparently are far slimmer. Remember, for example, the bullying Corey Lewandowski, who was hired at CNN even after managing the Trump campaign’s blacklist of news organizations?
In each of these cases — Lewandowski, Lord, McEnany — the commenters weren’t hired to provide nuanced commentary but merely to defend and represent the administration’s positions. Given that that’s what they were paid for, it’s no surprise that they did it so doggedly.
They were the pundit version of Trump’s own revealing self-appraisal: that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any votes.
For Lord and McEnany, Trump could do almost anything — perhaps even defile a desk — and it wouldn’t have made a dent in their sycophantic support.
For more by Margaret Sullivan, visit wapo.st/sullivan.