CNN has hired a former spokeswoman for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “coordinate political coverage for the 2020 campaign,” Politico reported on Tuesday. Sarah Isgur worked for Sessions during his tenure at the Department of Justice, in addition to holding roles on Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential campaign and for one of Ted Cruz’s senate campaigns. That makes Isgur an experienced political operative. But she has never worked in journalism, a qualification that seems like it should be relevant to her new job. Further details about Isgur’s role weren’t immediately available on Tuesday, but Brian Stelter, who anchors the network’s Reliable Sources program, reported that Isgur would join a team of editors. CNN also announced that she won’t cover the Department of Justice, though that doesn’t ameliorate many concerns about the hire. Isgur isn’t just new to journalism; she also can’t cover many of the day’s most significant stories, which makes CNN’s decision to hire her look especially strange. There are additional reasons to worry that Isgur won’t “coordinate” coverage of race, immigration, and criminal justice matters with accuracy as her chief priority.
Isgur’s rhetoric raises further concerns about the way she may approach her new responsibilities:
In keeping with right-wing disdain for mainstream media sources, Isgur previously made derisory comments about her new employer. As Vox reported on Tuesday, Isgur once wrote an approving response to a tweet that called CNN “the Clinton News Network,” and attacked the network on at least one other occasion for alleged bias against conservatives:
The notion that outlets like CNN have it out for Trump, Trump’s followers, or conservatives writ large doesn’t have much basis in fact. Isgur is far from being the first conservative CNN has hired to either report or provide on-air analysis. The network’s purportedly liberal tilt, however, is a persistent meme among conservatives, and is probably partly the reason why a Trump supporter included CNN in his failed pipe-bombing campaign last year. News outlets shouldn’t necessarily dismiss job candidates because they’ve been critical of potential employers. Nor should mainstream outlets refrain from hiring talented conservative journalists. But Isgur isn’t a journalist. She’s a professional flack who spread damaging and untrue narratives about her new colleagues, most recently in service of an administration that’s demonstrated consistent hostility to the press. The implications of Isgur’s hire aren’t lost on CNN staff. “It’s extremely demoralizing for everyone here,” an anonymous editorial staffer told the Daily Beast on Tuesday evening.
Perhaps CNN thought her political connections would make her an asset. But her ability to successfully coordinate sound coverage is questionable, and so is the network’s decision to hire her.