Thursday, September 22, 2016

CNN: Ratings over Ethics?

Justin Holbrock

Back in June, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was hired by CNN as a political commentator three days after he was fired from his managerial position. 

Corey Lewandowski talks to reporters back in May. Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
A few weeks after hiring Lewandowski CNN revealed that his Green Monster Consulting was receiving $20,000 severance payments per month from the Trump campaign. To address this issue, the campaign released this statement:

"The campaign will continue to honor its contract with Mr. Lewandowski, which stipulates he will be paid through the end of the year. These payments are in no way compensation for services rendered."

But the statement lacks a serious omission, according to D.C. employment lawyer Debra Katz.

She said it does not say whether Lewandowski is bound by a provision that prevents him from speaking without fear of having his severance payments taken away. It's important to mention this type of provision because the Trump campaign requires other employees to abide by this nondisclosure clause.

Katz went on to say that in her experience campaigns decide to include a separation agreement in which the campaign agrees to give a "balloon" payment at the end of the severance term.

Campaigns do this as a way to ensure loyalty and compliance from the person fired and prevent them from saying negative things about the campaign.

If this is the case, Lewandowski has a significant incentive to not speak badly about Trump's campaign so that he can receive this large payment at the end of the year.

CNN and the Trump campaign have not commented on whether this type of agreement is in place, which brings CNN's ethical guidelines into question.

By not stating whether Lewandowski has monetary incentive to back the Trump campaign on national television, CNN appears to be dodging transparency.

What's worse is that this ethical issue comes at a crucial time since the general election is less than seven weeks away and the American people already have little trust in the media.

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has justified the hiring of Lewandowski by saying his presence on the network helps to maintain balance among its commentator ranks.

His explanation is sound, however, it losses all validity if Lewandowski has a nondisclosure clause agreement with the Trump campaign that will result in a sizeable pay day for Lewandowski in the near future.

The mere possibility that Lewandowski is still influenced by the Trump campaign is reason enough for CNN to figure out the details of his separation agreement.

The company has an ethical responsibility to get to the bottom of this story and find out what's going on by doing what it vows to do day in and day out — thorough investigation.

If it decides not to investigate, CNN losses credibility and gives people another reason to have a strong distrust of the media.

CNN is one of many media outlets across the country that prides itself in pointing out lies and a lack of transparency from political candidates. Now the company needs to hold itself to this same standard and find out if having Lewandowski on as a political commentator is unethical.

Lewandowski vehemently defending Trump while shouting over anchor Don Lemon a few days ago on CNN Tonight:

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