Jeffrey Lord isn’t bitter about his firing by CNN. Far from it. But he does note an irony: The thing that he was protesting — the suppression of controversial opinions — was the same thing that got him canned.
“I have enormous respect for CNN, they’re great people who do a great job,” Lord told The Washington Post on Friday, a day after CNN booted him from his role as the chief pundit-defender of President Trump. “But I told them I totally disagree with this. They did exactly what I was writing about.”
Lord’s demise at the network came a few hours after he tweeted “Sieg Heil!” at a liberal activist, Angelo Carusone, with whom he’d been feuding on Twitter. Lord used the phrase, a Nazi salute, to call out Carusone and his organization, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America, for leading a sponsor boycott against Fox News’ personality Sean Hannity.
CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, apparently saw no nuance or irony in the tweet. Just as Lord was traveling from his home in Harrisburg, Pa., to CNN’s studios in New York to appear on the network Thursday afternoon, one of Zucker’s top executives called him to say he’d gone too far and was done.
“Nazi salutes are indefensible,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement a few hours later in announcing Lord’s departure.
In fact, Lord politely begs to differ.
Lord says he invoked the phrase in a “mocking” way after a series of combative exchanges with Carusone on Twitter. His use of the incendiary salute was meant to point out his revulsion with Carusone and Media Matters for their tactics in their fight against Hannity, a pro-Trump conservative.
The two-word tweet was the culmination of a series of blog posts by Lord this week in the American Spectator, in which he called the group “Media Matters Fascists, the anti-free speech bigots who, in typical fascist style, make it their mission to shut down speech they don’t like.”
So, sieg heil and no regrets: “I strongly believe that when you’re dealing with people who are doing something not just abominable but dangerous, you have to use every tool at your command,” Lord said by phone from Harrisburg. “Mocking them is one of those ways.”
Speaking of Hannity, though he could be speaking of himself, he added: “This is an important thing. You have the free-speech right to say things people disagree with without someone trying to haul you off the air.”
In any case, the firing instantly elevated Lord’s profile, which was already high because of nearly two years of prime-time appearances on CNN. He became a favorite topic (and guest) on conservative talk-radio stations throughout the day on Friday. As he was being interviewed by a reporter from his hometown paper, the Patriot-News, the caller ID on his landline phone popped up on his TV screen: “Stephen K. Bannon.” (Lord won’t say what Trump’s chief White House strategist had to say to him).
He also became the subject of a budding conspiracy theory: That CNN — which Trump has denounced repeatedly as “fake news” — was looking for any excuse to dump its most prominent pro-Trump talking head and had used his tweet as a pretext.
Not so, says Lord.
“I have nothing to back that up, zero,” he said. “I haven’t seen it. There’s no personal animosity going on here. They were terrific to me, I really like the people there. . . . We disagree on this, but he [Zucker] has to do what he has to do.”
Lord, who cares for his 98-year-old mother, says he’s looking forward to a vacation, during which he plans to sort out his options. He’ll continue writing for the Spectator, and has a book in the works about Trump. He said Friday he received two job offers — he won’t say from whom — within a few hours after his firing.
More punditry is probable, though Lord suggests that video streaming, rather than cable TV, may be in his future.
For its part, CNN hasn’t reported anything on the air about Lord or the circumstances of his departure. People at the network said it’s unlikely he’ll be mentioned again.