Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski signed a deal joining CNN as a political commentator three days after he was fired by Mr. Trump. CNN has been widely criticized for hiring Mr. Lewandowski because of his behavior toward the press during his time on the Trump campaign.
Lewandowski was hired to a salaried position that makes him exclusive to CNN, starting immediately, according to Politico.
CNN received immediate criticism for giving a platform to a political operative who was constantly hostile to the press, including CNN, during the campaign, as The Washington Post reported. As campaign manager, Lewandowski enforced Trump's "blacklist" on media organizations Trump didn't like, including the Post. Lewandowski confined reporters to a "pen" during Trump rallies, even threatening to blacklist CNN reporter Noah Gray if he did not "get back in the pen," Politico reported.
Lewandowski made headlines in March after he was charged for battery after an altercation with then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. Lewandowski grabbed Fields' arm and yanked her out of the way of Trump, The Washington Post reported. The charges were later dropped.
The hire also drew criticism as Lewandowski, like all Trump employees, has signed a nondisclosure agreement that prevents him from speaking negatively about the candidate or revealing information about the campaign, an agreement that critics say greatly reduced his value to CNN.
"Even if Lewandowski wanted to say something critical of his old boss – and there is zero indication he would – he would be legally prohibited from doing so," media critic Rem Rieder wrote for USA Today. "So CNN has essentially placed a Trump propaganda minister – at a hefty salary, according to published reports – on its payroll."
Mr. Rieder described Lewandowski as more of a "right-hand man, a body man and an enforcer" for Trump than a strategist. Writing "there is little reason to suspect Lewandowski will add much insight and perspective to the political dialogue," Rieder argued against CNN's practice of hiring designated Trump defenders into its lineup of commentators.
"Why CNN thinks it's a good idea to have such designated defenders, for any candidate of any political stripe, is completely lost on me," he wrote.
There have been conflicting reports about how CNN's journalists are reacting to the hire.
The New York Post's Page Six, an entertainment, sports, news, editorial, and gossip section, had reported on Friday that CNN was "facing a near internal revolt" over the hiring.
"Everyone at CNN – and even people who used to work there – are [angry] about Trump's former campaign manager being hired on salary," a source told The New York Post.
However, this report was countered by a Washington Post article that reported CNN reporters had "expressed guarded optimism" that Lewandowski could bring value to the station's campaign coverage.
"There aren't many people who know more than him about how [Trump's] campaign thinks and works," a CNN employee told The Washington Post. "That could be very valuable to us over the next few months."
On his show "Reliable Sources," CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter addressed the hiring:
"There are some people that are uncomfortable with the hiring, and there might be some awkward moments in the makeup room. But everyone [he spoke with at CNN] also said they understood the hiring, understood the logic of it."