It’s been another downbeat week, with the unhinged hotelier deeming us “locked and loaded” for nuclear strife, but we do end with an upside: Jeffrey Lord, cable TV’s most notorious air polluter, finally got axed.
This isn’t the biggest deal in the world – Lord’s firing, announced late yesterday, will only resonate with the small share of Americans who watch CNN’s pundit roundelays – but nonetheless it’s a celebratory event. What’s amazing is that it took CNN two years to get rid of him.
The problem was not that Lord was a Trumpkin; if only for the sake of balance, CNN needs Trump defenders, ideally people who can craft rational arguments. No, the problem was that Lord could not defend Trump without performing Orwellian gymnastics, wreaking havoc on basic facts and the basics of American history. Despite his Reagan administration pedigree, he was no better than an Internet troll; the only difference was, he used his real name and sported an impressive silver mane.
As you may know by now, CNN dumped him because he apparently crossed the line. (In our brutish culture, that line keeps moving; however, anything to do with Nazis is generally deemed to have crossed it.) Lord’s fatal offense wasn’t even committed on the air. Yesterday, he got into a tit-for-tat Twitter spat with the leader of a liberal watchdog group, he mocked the guy as a fascist, and followed up by tweeting “Seig Heil!”
To which a CNN spokesman said, “Nazi salutes are indefensible. Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.”
OK, fine, the Nazi salute was judged to be the final straw. But CNN allowed him to build his rancid national brand, with scores of freak-show episodes that easily should have warranted cancellation. For instance:
Lord said that Trump’s incessant birther lies about Barack Obama had nothing to do with racism. (Right. Trump’s repeated suggestions that Obama was “born in Kenya” had nothing to do with racism.)
Lord said, in the wake of James Comey’s firing, that the deposed FBI director was “a walking one-man swamp” whose conduct in office was “just beyond belief.”
Lord defended Trump’s Muslim travel ban by arguing that “if George W. Bush had instituted the measures that Trump is instituting now, 9/11 would never have happened.” (15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia – a nation that wasn’t listed in the ban.)
Lord said that special counsel Robert Mueller “reeks of insiderdom…the establishment personified,” and that if Trump decides to fire him, “the president would have a huge political advantage.” (Even the congressional Republicans have warned that firing Mueller would be a political disaster.)
Lord called the Ku Klux Klan “the military arm, the terrorist arm of the Democratic party.” (Making no distinction between the southern wing of the Democratic party of 1870, and the Democratic party of today.)
Lord called Trump “the Martin Luther King of health care.” (Somehow equating a civil rights humanitarian with a guy who wanted to sign a bill canceling health coverage for tens of millions of people, most notably the people King sought to help.)
Lord said that Trump’s emboldening of white supremacists is very understandable because “the left sort of provoked this.”
Lord said that if Donald Trump Jr. took information from Russians in his June ’16 meeting, that’s no different than Democrats agreeing to meet with young immigrants known as DREAMers. (To which I can only say, “Huh?”)
Lord said that Trump was absolutely right to attack Gonzalo Curiel, the “Mexican” judge in the Trump University case – in truth, Curiel was born, raised, and educated in Indiana – because, in Lord’s words, “the judiciary has been politicized and radicalized.”
It’s no mystery why CNN kept Lord around: heat and buzz and all that. CNN president Jeff Zucker has referred to his pundit lineup as “characters in a drama” – catnip for news junkies with ADD. And since it’s very difficult to find quality Republicans who are willing to defend Trump (quality Republicans wouldn’t hose down Trump if his hair was on fire), the only alternative, all too often, is to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Lord made Kellyanne Conway sound like Cicero.
(By the way, Steve Bannon reportedly called Lord last night to voice his support. Of course he did.)
The First Amendment guarantees Lord the right to speak freely; it does not guarantee him a national platform, or a place on the payroll of a national media outlet that presumably favors quality discourse. Lord’s stint lasted two long years. If only his hero’s tenure will be equally brief.