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?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: 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.
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.