Donald Trump’s son-in law, and putative secretary of state, vice president, and First Lady Jared Kushner doesn’t seem to understand the concept of a free press.
It’s a remarkable thing for any American, let alone one who works for the president. But it’s also noteworthy because Kushner owns a magazine, the New York Observer. So you think he’d have a basic understanding of journalism.
The revelation came in a lengthy New York Times story about how Trump has been the best thing ever for CNN. CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker tells the NYT about a breakfast he had with Kushner:
Zucker had breakfast with Kushner a few weeks later in Manhattan. Kushner wanted to know why CNN still hadn’t fired anti-Trump commentators like Jones and Ana Navarro, who said on CNN in October that every Republican would have to answer the question of what they did the day they saw a tape of “this man boasting about grabbing a woman’s pussy.” (The comment elicited an angry response from one of CNN’s pro-Trump talking heads, Scottie Nell Hughes: “Will you please stop saying that word?” she demanded. “My daughter is listening.”) Zucker tried to explain that even though Trump won, the network still needed what he described as “a diversity of opinion.”
It’s a bizarre comment coming from Kushner, who along with Ivanka is alleged to be a moderating influence on Trump. But less so when you consider that Kushner may be little different than Sean Spicer — his job is to dance with the girl who brung him. And in this case, that girl is an obese lunatic with a fetish for autocracy. It’s entirely possible that Kushner was simply parroting Trump’s message of the day.
But putting that aside, it’s an interesting question as to CNN’s choice of pundits. Zucker recently responded to criticism of CNN’s commentators Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany by noting that you know their names. Meaning, they’re doing their job in a “at least you’re still talking about me” kind of way.
The thing is, as former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett noted recently in a high-profile appearance on CNN, there are pundits and then there are pundits. It’s one thing to invite people on who further a discussion, and help enlighten viewers to a deeper understanding of the issues. It’s quite another to have people on simply because they fill some checkbox — female Trump supporter, check!
Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany (and Jack Kingston, who’s the worst) are a certain category of pundit who don’t just stick to the party line, they stick to the party talking points of the day. That means you usually won’t learn anything from them that you couldn’t just as easily get from a quick read of the daily Republican party press release. (Think: Jeff Gannon, with clothes.) And in today’s era of fake accusations of fake news, in order to obfuscate the truth, their presence becomes more problematic. I fear that cable news is becoming one never-ending version of CNN’s late show Crossfire, where everyone seemed to just yell at each other.
Having said all of that, it’s hard to argue with numbers. Clearly people are tuning in, more than ever. So I can appreciate Zucker not wanting to rock the boat by tinkering with success. But I wonder if there’s isn’t a way to have a little more PBS NewsHour and a little less WWE, and still pay the rent.