CNN Lowered Its Ethical Standards to Make Things Easier for Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich failed to disclose his financial contributions to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul's elections when the senators appeared on Crossfire, thereby violating CNN's ethics standards. That made things kind of tricky for CNN, so CNN just changed the standards.
You had one job, Newt. Gingrich, the 2012 Republican presidential hopeful and co-host of CNN's revived Crossfire, failed to disclose his financial contributions to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul when the senators appeared on the show, thereby violating CNN's ethics standards. That made things kind of tricky for CNN, so CNN just changed the standards. The new policy, released to Media Matters today in a statement, reads:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program.
Basically, Gingrich and co-host Stephanie Cutter, a former Obama aide, don't have to disclose their involvement because you should kind of just know.
So when universally-beloved Cruz was on the show earlier this month, Gingrich didn't need to mention that he'd raised funds for the senator through the American Legacy PAC, of which he's an honorary co-chair. We shouldn't have expected that, even though Rick Davis, CNN's executive vice-president of standards and practice, went on the record saying "of course" Gingrich would disclose such information. Earlier this month, Davis told Media Matters "If Newt is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that," Davis said. "Disclosure is important when it's relevant." By "of course" he meant "eh, maybe."
In a way the change makes sense. Does Gingrich, a conservative and a Republican, need to explicitly state that he supports a conservative Republican senator? On Crossfire, Gingrich supported Cruz's filibuster and sided with Paul during a discussion on a Syria strike. As Media Matters noted today, Gingrich also said Cruz is "proving to be a pretty clever guy" on Anderson Cooper 360, and again didn't mention his PAC contributions.
That sounds bad, but didn't Crossfire sort of throw all that neutrality out the window when they hired a former Republican candidate for the presidency and Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for President Obama's re-election? As we noted earlier this month, whereas the original Crossfire featured journalists who were independent of political parties, Crossfire 2.0 isn't even trying. If Obama appears on Crossfire (imagine that!), Cutter probably won't need to clarify that she likes the way he thinks. In fact, Cutter got a lot of flack earlier this month for meeting with the Obama administration on Syria and then defending the administration's strategy on the show. But as she told Politico, "No one's ever accused me of not saying exactly what I think [... that's] one of the reasons that CNN hired me to co-host Crossfire."
And now we see why the ethics standard was changed. CNN couldn't keep its high ethical standards and its stars, so the network made a choice.