Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski resigned from his role as a CNN political analyst on Friday, ending what had been a controversial run as a paid commentator for the cable network. Lewandowski spent part of Friday morning at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where President-Elect Trump has been conducting transition-team meetings, and that was but one of several apparent visits by Lewandowski to the campaign’s headquarters since Trump’s upset victory on Tuesday. According to the New York Times, Lewandowski is now interested in taking a job in the Trump Administration, and also may be in consideration to replace Reince Priebus as chair of the Republican National Committee.
CNN’s journalistic ethics had been repeatedly called into question after hiring and continuing to employ Lewandowski, particularly after it was reported that he was still in regular contact with Trump throughout the campaign, and thus playing some kind of informal advisor role while still collecting a paycheck from CNN. In addition, Lewandowski continued to receive severance pay from the Trump campaign during his tenure with CNN, and his ability to criticize Trump — if and when he have ever wanted to do that — was hampered by a nondisclosure agreement he had signed with the campaign. Lewandowski was fired by Trump amidst a campaign shakeup in June and hired by CNN just three days later.
CNN president Jeff Zucker had defended the hire, arguing in August that it was “really important to have voices on CNN who are supportive of the Republican nominee.” Critics of the hire argued that CNN was paying a Trump campaign operative to advocate for the candidate on-air, which was a breach of ethics because campaign strategists are typically not paid by networks to spin for their candidate.
CNN and other news networks have also faced repeated criticism for having given candidate Trump practically unlimited amounts of free airtime, particularly during the early phase of his campaign, due to the high ratings Trump generated. Many see this free airtime as instrumental to the rise of Trump during the GOP primaries, and even Zucker, during a talk at the Harvard Kennedy School last month, himself admitted that “If we made any mistake last year, it’s that we probably did put on too many of [Trump’s] campaign rallies in those early months and let them run,” adding that the rationale for doing so was “because you never knew what he would say, there was an attraction to put those on air.”
Even before joining CNN, Lewandowski was already a controversial figure after he was briefly charged with assault; former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields alleged that Lewandowski grabbed and pushed her down while she was attempting to speak with Trump during a campaign event in March. Authorities opted against prosecuting Lewandowski, due to lack of evidence.