CNN said Thursday it had cut ties with Jeffrey Lord, one of its most polarizing and ubiquitous personalities, after he used a phrase largely associated with Nazis in World War II. The separation is the latest at the Time Warner-owned cable-news outlet, which has come under increased scrutiny since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.
On Twitter, Lord used the phrase “Sieg heil” in a retort to Angelo Carusone, who heads the liberal activist organization Media Matters for America.
“Nazi salutes are indefensible,” the network said in statement. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.”
As the Trump administration has thrust CNN into an adversarial relationship, the cable-news outlet has had to jettison relationships with on-air personalities almost as fast as it can mint them. In recent months, CNN has walked away from a years-long relationship with comedienne Kathy Griffin and declined to renew a programming pact with author Reza Aslan. Griffin had posted a picture of herself holding a bloody head resembling President Trump. Griffin has for several years co-hosted the network’s New Year’s Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper. Aslan on Twitter used profanity to describe President Trump in the wake of remarks he made about recent terrorist attacks on London. CNN also parted ways with three senior editorial staffers after a recent article in which they were involved had to be retracted. CNN said the process by which the piece was published did not meet its standards.
Lord has been a staunch defender of the president’s policies, and made a wider name for himself by backing Trump during the campaign and throughout his early White House tenure. In doing so, the conservative commentator and former Reagan administration staffer has infuriated viewers and even some members of CNN’s on-air staff. In May, as Lord rose yet again to Trump’s defense, primetime anchor Anderson Cooper interrupted him and said, “If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it. I don’t know what he would do that you would not defend.” Cooper later apologized for the statement on screen and on social media.
Critics have charged that Lord’s presence on the network helped give rise to an on-screen atmosphere that emulates that of professional wrestling. For months, CNN has in primetime relied on big panels of analysts, reporters and commentators – and let a prickly conversation erupt.
Lord joined CNN as a commentator in August of 2015. After his arrival, CNN began to rely more heavily on so-called “surrogates” whose passion for the Trump agenda often outweighed their mastery of facts related to the issues of the day. Scottie Nell Hughes, a radio talk show host and TV producer, came to wider renown on CNN before leaving the network after the election. Another Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany, recently left CNN to take a position with the Republican National Committee.
In October of last year, Columbia Journalism Review published an article titled, “CNN’s pro-Trump posse clouds its journalism.”
Jeffrey Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, has defended the network’s reliance on these figures. “At the other cable networks, I rarely hear the other point of view,” he noted during a meeting with reporters in June, adding that people offering a different viewpoint to the prevailing sentiment at rivals are treated like “punching bags.” People who support President Trump provide “an important point of view,” said Zucker. “To not allow that point of view to be heard would be a disservice.”
While Lord and McEnany have departed, CNN has a full larder of analysts who lean conservative. Among their ranks are Paris Dennard, Mike Shields, Andre Bauer, Scott Jennings, Jason Miller and former U.S. Representative Rick Santorum. Alice Stewart and Ana Navarro, two Republicans who have been critical of the President in recent months, are also on hand.