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CNN Needs Pro-Trump Voices, but Has a Hard Time Keeping Them on TV

Analysis: Contributors who defend Trump are essential to CNN’s middle-of-the-road positioning. But some of their behavior is indefensible

Donald TrumpCNN Republican Presidential Debate, Las
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CNN’s shows regularly feature people who like to defend the administration of President Donald Trump. Keeping their seats filled is becoming a tougher task.

Jason Miller had become a steady presence on CNN, appearing on programs like “Erin Burnett OutFront” to defend White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, among other Trump officials. But Miller, a former Trump campaign aide, left his role as a CNN political analyst this weekend after allegations about his off-camera behavior surfaced, in the process becoming the latest pro-Trumper to exit the network after gaining national recognition for his appearances.

He joins a growing parade of Trump defenders who have found it difficult to stay on CNN. The AT&T-owned cable-news network in August suspended Paris Dennard, a strong defender of Trump decisions, after The Washington Post reported Dennard had been fired from a job at Arizona State University for what the paper called “inappropriate incidents” involving two women there. Ed Martin, a former Missouri Republican Party chairman who also hosts a radio show, offered outspoken pro-Trump commentary on CNN for several months before parting ways after describing some African-American members of a CNN panel in which he was included as “black racists.” And of course, CNN cut ties with one of its most polarizing and well-known Trump backers, Jeffrey Lord, after he used the phrase “Sieg heil!” on Twitter.

Is Kayleigh McEnany, the young conservative commentator who gained popularity on CNN ahead of the 2016 election, still available?

Many of the Trump defenders spark controversy and social-media hand-wringing, but they are an important part of CNN’s current programming stance. While no one will tell you MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell or Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity come into any debate from a neutral standpoint, CNN’s brand is deeply rooted in staying away from partisan presentation. That stance has been questioned more regularly since Trump’s election in 2016, and CNN has devoted many hours of programming to examining the machinations of the Trump White House along with heated question-and-answer sessions with Trump officials.

The network’s Trump defenders may sometimes come across like professional-wrestling villains, ready to say anything just to spark viewer outrage. But having them on screen regularly helps CNN maintain its down-the-middle positioning.

While CNN can defend airing the views of these sundry political analysts, it cannot defend their behavior. Several of the aforementioned commentators were separated from the network after unseemly accusations come to light. Jason Miller, for example, announced his departure from CNN Saturday evening after allegations were made in a Miami-Dade Circuit Court about the way he treated a woman he may have impregnated. Miller said the claims were false, and also noted “I will clear my name in the matter.” A report in the online news outlet Splinter, citing court documents, alleged Miller had an affair with a woman. When she later found out she was pregnant, Miller “surreptitiously dosed her with an abortion pill without her knowledge,” leading to the end of the pregnancy.

At least McEnany left CNN for more understandable reasons – to take up as the host of a pro-Trump video posted on the President’s Facebook page, then to work for the Republican National Committee. The new work created a conflict of interest, to be sure, but not one that would keep her off the air at a future point if her circumstances were different.

Miller’s exit hasn’t left CNN without a supply of pro-Trump sentiment at the ready. Other conservative CNN commentators include former Pennsylvania congressman Rick Santorum; former Georgia congressman Jack Kingston; former George W. Bush official Scott Jennings; and former Trump legislative director Marc Short.