Thursday, August 25, 2016

Apples and Surrogates: The Revolving Door

I don't have regular access to TV, but an Internet-connected Blu-ray player with a Youtube app has been easing me back to the medium.  Last night the CNN celebrity newsperson Anderson Cooper visited Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, and in the course of "hugging it out" together he acknowledged something that in a better universe would have been embarrassing.

To be fair, it looks to me as if Cooper was embarrassed: he almost seemed surprised by what he had just admitted.  Maybe it really had never occurred to him before.  Colbert didn't press him very hard, but I think he knew what a gem he'd just unearthed.

Colbert had asked about various Trump campaign people Cooper had interviewed lately.  Cooper volunteered the name of Trump's former campaign manager Cory Lewandowski.
COLBERT: Who now works at CNN.  [pause while Cooper confirms it with a nod and a gesture] He works for you guys. [pause] Does he still get any money from the Trump people at the same time?

COOPER: I believe -- I read he gets a continuing severance from Trump.

COLBERT: So you all are paying him and Trump is paying him but he's still on your show doing analysis on a man he still gets cash from.

COOPER: Pretty much. I guess that's one way to look at it.

COLBERT: And you still respect his opinion, too?

COOPER: We have people from all the campaigns.  We have campaign surrogates for Hillary Clinton on.

COLBERT: What is a surrogate, by the way?  I have heard that term a lot.

COOPER: It's somebody who represents the campaign.  They're often paid by the campaign.  They just -- I don't know, you know, Katrina Pearson, I think, is one of those people you see on cable news a lot.  She is a surrogate for the Trump campaign.  There are a lot of surrogates. The campaign can't be everywhere so they have people out there speaking for them.
At this point Colbert abruptly changed the subject to Trump's recent "pivot" attempting to present a kinder, gentler image to minorities.  Which, it turns out, Lewandowski has something to say about too, in his capacity as a cable news journalist / commentator.

Cooper was being disingenous here, to put it nicely.  I presume that the various campaign surrogates are not paid by the news programs on which they appear, any more than the candidates themselves are -- though who knows, I could well be wrong about that.  But Lewandowski's role on CNN is not, supposedly, as a campaign surrogate: it's as someone who, as a former insider, should know what hard questions to ask the surrogrates.  Since he's still being paid by the Trump campaign, there's at least the appearance of a conflict of interest in his case, and his defense of Trump's reluctance to campaign in communities of color reinforces the suspicion.

I wonder, too, if Colbert would have brought up the point if a former Clinton campaign manager had been snapped up by CNN after being fired by his boss.  I doubt it, since Colbert has largely followed the Clinton line since before she officially won the nomination.  Also last night he did a segment on "tinfoil hat" conspiracy theories, referring derisively to a couple from the Republican side but neglecting any from the Democrats.  Oh well, maybe it was just time limitations.