A little over two years ago, I left sales to begin my journalism career when Paste hired me to write here full-time. I bring this up because I already have infinitely more journalism experience than CNN’s new Political Editor, Sarah Isgur Flores, former spokesman for Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department. You, dear reader, at minimum, have exactly as much experience in journalism as CNN’s new Political Editor.
The job of an editor is basically something like a content czar. Obviously the scope of the gig varies from organization to organization, but the basic job description is to assign stories to writers, accept/reject pitches from writers, decide how to cover stories, and obviously edit content that goes up. Every single news organization's coverage is reflective of their editor's priorities, and CNN is openly stating that they want their political coverage to be dictated by a woman with no journalism experience who has frequently trafficked in conspiracy theories that are regular staples of InfoWars's content. Per The Huffington Post:
“She [Ms. Flores] knows me well,” [Trump supporter, Ed] Butowsky wrote to [Fox News commentator, Rod] Wheeler, according to the suit. “Tell her I said hello. Let her know why I was calling her, Seth Rich. Ask her to keep it quiet because we don't know…who the good or the bad people are anymore. But we know she's one of the really good ones.”
Seth Rich was a former DNC operative who was murdered in what the Washington D.C. police determined was a robbery, but that didn't stop people like Sean Hannity from falsely asserting that Rich was murdered by the Democratic Party in order to stop Rich from giving damaging information to Wikileaks.
That's right. CNN's brand new Political Editor appeared in a lawsuit filed by Seth Rich's family against the people who perpetrated this hoax. CNN knew this (or at least they should have, that HuffPo report is from 2017).
Brian Stelter, CNN's chief media correspondent and one of the biggest “both-sides” offenders in all of media, wrote about Flores' “controversial” hire (CNN uses words like controversial in instances like this because anything more descriptive could open them up to charges of bias—even if it's factual bias—never forget that cable news will always prioritize its profits over journalism):
CNN says it is hiring Sarah Isgur Flores, who most recently served in the Justice Department as Jeff Sessions' spokesman, to be a political editor in the Washington bureau. Flores is a longtime Republican political operative who previously worked for Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney.
The reaction has been strong. CNN employees are concerned, according to numerous people who reached out to me on Tuesday. They are asking what Isgur's role will be and questioning whether her sudden leap from the Trump administration to the CNN newsroom is an ethical breach.
While Stelter echoes Maxwell Tani's Daily Beast report about how CNN staffers are “demoralized,” he does not bring up Flores appearing in the Seth Rich lawsuit, nor does he address the fact that she has consistently parroted climate change denial.
Know who does think that climate change is a major threat that imposes “immediate risks” to national security? The Pentagon.
Stelter also didn't bring up in his report how Flores vigorously defended Carly Fiorina's outright lie that she saw an abortion-related video that didn't exist—nor did he highlight tweets like this that certainly would get Robert Mueller's attention given that she worked in Trump's DOJ.
CNN's chief media correspondent also did not bring up The Washington Post report stating that their new political editor pledged her loyalty to Donald Trump in a meeting where she “paid her respects to the president in the Oval Office” after criticizing him during the 2016 campaign. This seems quite problematic and vitally important context for Stelter's readers to know given that Stelter did note that “soon she'll be working with those reporters and possibly talking with them about sourcing.”
A former Department of Justice spokesman who pledged loyalty to Donald Trump talking to reporters about their sources. What could go wrong?
Last night, Stelter took to Twitter to push his brand of braindead both-sidesism in defense of this indefensible hire, and the litany of Twitter's more qualified journalists than CNN's new political editor ratioed him to high heaven.
"GOP operative joins CNN" is getting a LOT of criticism, especially from Dems. But love it or hate it, political insiders have been joining newsrooms for decades. The more viewpoints represented in newsrooms, the better. As for the critiques, @CNNPR declined to comment.— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 19, 2019
Linda Holmes of NPR is one of the actual journalists who dogpiled on Stelter's vacuous nonsense, explaining how there would be a “riot” at her news organization if someone like Flores was hired to a vital position like editor.
As pundits, sure. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find examples of campaign operatives without journalism experience becoming editors, expected to exercise news judgment, in the very next campaign cycle. Where I work, there would be a riot.— Linda Holmes (@lindaholmes) February 20, 2019
CNN has a ton of good journalists working for them, but by consistently making hires like this (Stelter’s not wrong about how normal this practice is), or putting Rick freaking Santorum on TV in the year 2019, it gives proof to the notion that CNN is now more joke than journalism. Combine this hire with the thousands of top-shelf journalists recently laid off from places like BuzzFeed News and The Huffington Post, and there is quite literally no excuse for this hire. CNN actively wanted a Republican disinformation specialist to run their politics coverage. That’s the message this hire sends. They could have picked a recently-laid off name out of a hat and found someone actually qualified for this very important position.
Stop watching CNN. It’s actively making you dumber. Read the newspaper. Read your local newspapers. No liberal has any reason to trust the fairness of CNN’s political coverage going forward (and frankly, we shouldn’t have before), given that they just declared to everyone that when it comes to politics, they want their viewers to see the world through the lens of a possible Seth Rich truther, an active climate change denier, and a fake abortion video defender (among many other far-right hobby horses). This is who CNN is by their own admission, and going forward, they should be treated with the seriousness with which they have treated their own political coverage.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.