- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined a growing chorus of progressives and others who criticised CNN after news broke Tuesday that the network hired GOP operative Sarah Isgur to be a political editor.
- “Are we still pretending that hires like these are evidence of a meritocracy?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after noting that thousands of journalists have recently lost their jobs in a series of industry layoffs.
- Isgur is a longtime GOP operative who served as Jeff Sessions’ spokeswoman in the Justice Department and has no previous experience working in journalism.
- She will not be involved in coverage of the DOJ.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined a growing chorus of progressives and others who criticised CNN after Politico reported that the network hired Sarah Isgur, a GOP operative who served as Jeff Sessions’ spokeswoman in the Justice Department, as a political editor.
“Sorry, didn’t get the latest memo after 1,000 experienced + qualified journalists of all stripes were let go w/o warning a few weeks ago and still looking for work: are we still pretending that hires like these are evidence of a meritocracy?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Tuesday evening, presumably referring to the recent layoffs at BuzzFeed News, Verizon, Vice Media, and elsewhere.
Isgur is a longtime GOP operative who previously served as Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager in 2016 and has no previous experience working in journalism or at a news network.
She’s been critical of CNN in the past, calling it the “Clinton News Network” in 2014. And she worked for a president who has waged a years-long battle against the network, regularly labelling it “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people.”
As a political editor at CNN, Isgur will coordinate coverage of the 2020 presidential campaign and will work alongside more than a dozen other editors, CNN’s Brian Stelter reported. She will not take part in coverage of the DOJ, Politico reported.
Isgur was critical of Trump before his election, calling his campaign trail threats to criminally prosecute Hillary Clinton “scary and dangerous” in an October 2016 tweet. Trump reportedly resisted hiring Isgur in early 2017, but relented after Isgur assured her loyalty to the president in an Oval Office meeting.
It’s not uncommon for news networks to hire former political operatives to work as commentators and show hosts.
A few prominent examples include MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, and Lawrence O’Donnell, a former Democratic Senate staffer, Fox News’ Dana Perino, White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, White House communications director under President Bill Clinton.
But it’s less common for former political operatives without news experience to direct political coverage behind the scenes.
Progressive critics slammed the hire online.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, the former public editor of The New York Times, called the move “even worse than it looks.”
“If you’re trying to deepen understanding, bridge the divide or do excellent journalism, this is one of the last moves you’d make,” Sullivan wrote in a Wednesday column. She added that it “makes even less sense” given the number of journalists currently out of work.
1. It’s impossible to argue with a straight face that Flores will approach coverage in an unbiased fashion, with no agenda. It’s just not credible.
2. The very idea that executives at CNN contemplated this, let alone went ahead with it, is profoundly revealing and disturbing. https://t.co/IxbxYcw4so
— Adam Jentleson ???????? (@AJentleson) February 19, 2019
pretty dumb for CNN to hire a political editor who has never worked in journalism and has so many conflicts of interest that she can't cover important political stories, but maybe Trump will respect Jim Acosta now I dunno https://t.co/DweNWHCe44
— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) February 19, 2019
And some CNN employees are reportedly concerned about Isgur’s hiring.
“It’s extremely demoralising for everyone here,” one CNN staffer told The Daily Beast.
One CNN editor toldStelter, “We hired a former Trump administration official to help ‘guide’ our coverage of his re-election. Reporters are up in arms about this.”
CNN executives defended their decision, praising Isgur and insisting her deep experience in GOP politics will enhance the network’s reporting.
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