Amid Backlash, CNN "Thrilled" With Hiring of Former Trump Staffer
"We're thrilled that Sarah is coming to CNN," network management said Wednesday of the former Jeff Sessions spokesperson.
Amid widespread backlash to the pick and confusion about her role at the network, CNN management said in a memo Wednesday that former Jeff Sessions spokesperson Sarah Flores will bring value as a CNN political editor.
Politico first reported Tuesday that Flores, a longtime Republican Party operative, will join the network, sparking an uproar on social media at the thought of a Donald Trump loyalist playing a role in CNN's coverage of the 2020 presidential campaign.
"We wish we had been able to share this news with you before it was reported in the press but as Washington is a town full of journalists, news like this sometimes gets out," the CNN Politics team was told in a Wednesday morning memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and sent by political director David Chalian, senior vp U.S. newsgathering Virginia Moseley and Washington bureau chief Sam Feist.
The Flores appointment was not formally announced Tuesday and was not shared internally with staffers, who The Daily Beast reported were "demoralized" by the pick.
In the memo, the CNN managers sang Flores' praises as someone who "brings a wealth of government, political, communications, and legal experience to our team," not specifically mentioning her experience in the Trump administration. "We're thrilled that Sarah is coming to CNN."
Flores will join CNN on March 11. "She will spend the first few months here getting to know our systems and our people," staffers were told in the memo. "Eventually we plan to have her play a coordinating role in our daily political coverage — helping to organize and communicate between newsgathering, digital and television. With two dozen candidates to cover, constant coordination is needed more than ever."
Reaction to the hiring was swift on Twitter, where even White House reporters were seemingly surprised by the fit. "This is absolutely insane @CNNPolitics," wrote Tommy Vietor, a former Obama administration official who hosts the left-leaning Pod Save America. "Why on earth would you hire a right-wing hack to oversee political coverage in 2020? You just gave every Democrat in the country a reason to doubt your objectivity."
"This is journalistically untenable and it's hard to fathom how anyone could argue otherwise," wrote Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery.
Even freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got into the action, asking, "Are we still pretending that hires like these are evidence of a meritocracy?"