The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

As CNN dumps Donna Brazile, questions about the value of partisan pundits

The Democratic National Committee's interim chair, Donna Brazile, speaks with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before the final presidential debate in Las Vegas. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Donna Brazile's inappropriate sharing of CNN debate questions with the Hillary Clinton campaign has put the entire partisan pundit species on trial, and some journalists are ready to render a harsh verdict: Get rid of them all.

CNN drops Donna Brazile as pundit over WikiLeaks revelations

Politico's Jack Shafer wrote that he would call cable news segments featuring political operatives who double as commentators "the worst sort of tasteless soy filler, only that would be an insult to soy, which is nutritious."

NPR's David Folkenflik told listeners that pundits such as Brazile "sometimes ... know more than the average bear. But what independent assessment are we viewers getting here? Not that much."

Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley called for "a revolt of the cable-viewing proletariat in which we join together to call on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox to fire all the Lewandowskis and Braziles, so that we may build, anew, a society in which more deserving and insightful experts become TV politics personalities."

Why are journalists eager to see the likes of Karl Rove, Paul Begala, Mary Matalin and David Axelrod pay for the sins of Brazile? It could be because of something that is easy to forget right about now: Brazile was pretty good as a TV analyst.

If Corey Lewandowski were the one in Brazile's position, it would be easy to dismiss the misconduct as merely a personal ethical failing that is not reflective of the entire pundit class. The former Donald Trump campaign manager, now a CNN commentator, is often singled out for criticism (including here at The Fix) because his shilling is so over the top that he belongs in a class by himself.

Donald Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of getting debate questions ahead of time from then-CNN contributor and DNC official Donna Brazile (Video: The Washington Post)

But Brazile was, as even Shafer conceded on Twitter, "not the worst of the lot." In fact, when the Democratic National Committee picked Brazile to serve as interim chair in July, I wrote at the time that her commentary on CNN illustrated why she was a logical choice. Brazile had appeared even-handed in her on-air analysis of the Democratic primary, making her exactly what the DNC needed after an email hack showed that some party officials had favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

Now another email hack has shown that Brazile was actually trying to aid Clinton behind the scenes by leaking questions that CNN planned to ask the candidates. If even she couldn't be trusted to follow basic standards of fairness, how can we have faith in any partisan pundit?

Most commentators presumably are not leaking network information to political campaigns the way Brazile did, but her actions have caused some of her media colleagues (er, former colleagues) to argue that she should not be the last of her kind to be pulled off the air.