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CNN, which is in the middle of a pitched battle for ratings with Fox News and MSNBC, parted ways this week with two of the network’s most prominent pro-Trump political strategists. Jeffrey Lord suffered a self-inflicted wound on Thursday when he tweeted a Nazi salute at the president of a liberal media watchdog, while Kayleigh McEnany went out on her own terms and joined the Republican Party’s official apparatus.
While both Lord and McEnany caused the network occasional headaches when their arguments in favor of the president strained credulity, they also did battle on air and helped produce some of the politics-as-sport entertainment that boosts ratings.
So, will CNN hire more pro-Trump supporters to replace the pair? And, who they would be? A network spokesperson would not comment on the first question, though it’s worth noting that the departures of Lord and McEnany are still fresh.
To be sure, even without the pair, CNN still has a lengthy roster of Republican contributors and commentators — though some, like Ana Navarro, have emerged as opponents of the president rather than defenders. The list of pseudo-surrogates for the president includes Jason Miller, who was a top communications aide to the president and is still plugged into the administration; former Republican politicians Rick Santorum and André Bauer; and contributors Margaret Hoover and Amanda Carpenter.
But, while CNN is stocked with pundits that have worked for more establishment Republican politicians like former President George W. Bush, they lack some of the new-media Trumpers that have flourished in recent months.
“It’s a tough role to fill,” Christopher Balfe, former CEO of right-leaning media network TheBlaze, told The Hollywood Reporter. “The most well-known Trump supporters are probably the least likely to be hired by CNN.”
Balfe mentioned social media star and conservative media personality Tomi Lahren as a possibility. Lahren told THR that the major news networks need more on-air conservatives. “I find that the token conservative on board is either a Never Trumper or someone who becomes a de facto well-paid punching bag for the rest of the Leftists to scalp,” she said. “I enter the lion’s den every chance I get because I know it’s he only way to get the message out to traditionally non-conservative audiences.”
Former Breitbart spokesman Kurt Bardella, who appears regularly on CNN shows to discuss the administration and his onetime boss Steve Bannon, said the network should consider individuals that have real, first-hand experience with the campaign and with the president.
“Is there value, audience-wise, to have kind of a pro-Trump voice who really exists to just articulate propaganda?” he said. “Does that do more to help them or hurt them at this point?” He suggested looking for on-air talent at outside organizations that have been set up to support the president.
“My money would be on smart CNN executives signing some articulate defenders of the Trump voters,” said Carrie Sheffield, who regularly appears on Fox News and runs the website Bold. She mentioned conservative politicos Harlan Hill, Charlie Kirk and Dana Loesch as some potential candidates.
Angelo Carusone, who as president of Media Matters for America was on the receiving end of the tweet that got Lord fired, doesn’t support the concept of bringing on pundits for the stated purpose of defending the president. “CNN would better serve their audience if instead of hiring someone to defend Donald Trump no matter what, they just focused on hiring an inclusive group of honest brokers who represent a range of perspectives,” he said on Friday.
Carusone said he was surprised that CNN held Lord to account and finally dismissed him.
McEnany, for her part, seems to be enjoying her new role as spokesperson for the RNC. During a Friday morning appearance on Fox Business Network, she said her new gig “beats 8-on-1 panels,” though she admitted that her political opponents at CNN were nice to her off camera.
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