New CNN hire Corey Lewandowski refuses to say if signed contract banning criticism of Trump

The Internet was atwitter today about the news that CNN has hired ex- Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to be a paid contributor offering political commentary this election season.

The concern is whether Lewandowski has an undisclosed conflict of interest that even CNN isn’t acknowledging.

When asked today by CNN’s Erin Burnett if he had signed a contract promising to protect “confidential” information about the Trump campaign, Lewandowksi said yes he had. (And good for Burnett, for asking.)

But then, Burnett showed a standard Trump non-disparagement agreement — stating that former employees couldn’t criticize Trump or his campaign — and Lewandowski bobbed and weaved, refusing to answer the question as to whether he’d signed one.

And that usually means the answer is “yes.”


Why does this matter? Because CNN may have just hired someone with an undisclosed conflict of interest. Lewandowksi may be legally bound to never say anything critical of Donald Trump or his campaign. That might mean that when Lewandowski is asked on CNN about a Trump snafu, or even a simple campaign strategy, he is legally bound to lie about it, lest he criticize the candidate or the campaign and break his secret oath.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. a katz /

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. a katz /

The issue here isn’t that Lewandowski is a Republican. CNN has lots of Democrats and Republicans as on-air talent. But none of them are legally bound, as far as we know, to never ever say anything negative about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or either’s campaign.

It’s one thing to know one’s bias. It’s quite another to be asked about it outright, on the air, and to avoid answering the question entirely. Lewandowski couldn’t even give an honest answer about whether he can give an honest answer. And that’s just creepy.

Here’s the video of Lewandowski avoiding the question. Note that first Burnett asks Lewandowski about signing a document saying he would keep confidential information confidential. Lewandowski says “yes.” Then she asks him about a non-disparagement agreement, and Lewandowski refuses to answer.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of CNN. For example, Anderson Cooper’s heart-wrenching coverage of Orlando last week was award-winning, IMHO. But it’s precisely because I like CNN that I have to speak out on this one. It’s all just a bit too creepy. And we haven’t even discussed the rest of the allegations about him.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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14 Responses to “New CNN hire Corey Lewandowski refuses to say if signed contract banning criticism of Trump”

  1. 2karmanot says:

    Exactly so

  2. 2karmanot says:

    A fan of CNN huh? Well, that’s interesting. I think of CNN as FOX news with more expensive suits and fewer red dress bimbo’s.

  3. That Guy says:

    CNN is a journalistic cesspool. IMO, there is no defense of this. But we live in a post-corruption world, so I guess it would be wrong to question where Lewandowski was employed before CNN.

  4. DoverBill says:

    Is this an oath he feels necessary to take to his death or could a few unbiased greenbacks make a dent in his opinion one way or the other?

    I mean, have you ever met anyone more honest since Dick Cheney?

  5. Sally says:

    One would think that this might have come up in his interview for the job. “So, Mr. Lewandowski, I see you worked for Mr. Trump. If you had to report on him, can you assure me that you could criticize him or would you have to refrain from any criticism of your former employer?”

  6. DGT says:

    CNN is simply awful. Aside from occasional lapses into actual journalism by Anderson Cooper, its coverage is wretched. Don Lemon and Wolf Blitzer are so vapid as to be almost caricatures of newspeople, and most of their programming seems to be squeezing as many talking heads onto the screen as possible and allowing them to yell at one another.

  7. Sally says:

    I have no problem turning off anything Trump. Never watched his self-promotional crap, will not listen to his lies now. And Lewandowski is a shill. What was CNN thinking? The man attacked a woman at a rally. He was under arrest. His business dealings are under investigation. Will they keep paying him when he goes to jail? Surely there are real journalists who would have loved a CNN gig. I mean, somewhere in America, there are still journalists.

  8. mgiltz says:

    Great point. I’d suggest that such an agreement isn’t actually legally binding: you can’t sign away your basic rights though companies try to do it all the time. Still, the mere fact that he couldn’t even say “Yeah I signed it but give me a break; that’s not worth the paper it’s written on” or “No I didn’t sign it” is pretty telling.

    For those who long for decent media coverage, the hire itself is absurd, agreement or not: it’s like the revolving door between the govt/military and the weapons industry. Couldn’t CNN have at least waited an election cycle before hiring such a partisan figure and pretending he’s some sort of independent commentator with experience? The idea that a campaign manager for a Presidential candidate who secured the nomination could serve as a useful paid talking head for that same candidate’s general election is crazy. Have him on as a guest? Sure. But a paid, exclusive member of your team — commenting on the guy he helped get the nomination? Absurd.

  9. josiann says:

    Trump has been given a free pass throughout this election cycle so far by CNN. Since Trump is a one-man circus viewership is a given. The audience can’t turn away from this train wreck. The Lewandowski hire only proves how little real journalism is in play. Money is CNN’s drug of choice.

  10. basenjilover says:

    More free media for Trump. Twice I watched Don Lemon programs and had to switch channel. He didn’t have the balls to call out Trump’s spokespeople. Now CNN has stooped so low hiring Lewandowski.

  11. BeccaM says:

    So the unavoidable conclusions are (1) Lewandowski did indeed sign such an agreement. (2) His equivocation and refusal to answer whether he considered himself still bound by a “no criticism of Trump EVER” agreement would indicate he feels he still is. (3) Every single thing he will say on CNN will be first as a Trump spokesman and surrogate who is somehow on the CNN payroll, and not as anything like an independent analyst.

    I know you’re a fan of CNN, John, as you say, but I tried to watch it the other night during the Democratic House sit-in protest. On Don Lemon’s program he had a panel of argumentative children — 7 of them — of which at least two were raving Trump-ites who wouldn’t let anybody talk.

    This isn’t news or information or even reasoned analysis. It’s blathering entertainment pretending to be news. And it’s a sure bet every time Lewandowski appears on CNN, it’ll be to shill for his former boss, who somehow managed to con CNN into paying for his own spokesweasel’s salary.

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