By now you probably know that Donna Brazile is out at CNN for doing something really stupid and improper. The Democratic heavyweight and former CNN political contributor, it was revealed in one of the most recent troves of stolen e-mails to hit the internet — because everything this election is ugly and underhanded — apparently passed along two questions to Hillary Clinton in advance of CNN’s Democratic presidential debate and town hall. She got the questions not from CNN, but reportedly from a separate source as well as one of the debate questioners she happened to run into at an event. Either way, really, really dumb, unethical and unnecessary thing to do and so now CNN has “parted ways” with her.
That could’ve and should’ve been the end of it on CNN’s end. The network fired her. Over and done. Unfortunately, Jeff Zucker — CNN president and the guy who, it should never be forgotten, practically burned NBC to the ground during the 2000s — can’t let this one go before speaking his mind and airing his considerable umbrage. According to a report, Zucker ripped into Brazile during an editorial meeting earlier today, calling what she did “disgusting.” “I have no tolerance for her behavior or that kind of behavior,” he said, according to sources who were part of the meeting.
While it’s fun to picture a Napoleonic twerp like Zucker getting all indignant and shaking his little fists at the sky, here’s the thing about it: It’s complete bullshit. At the very least it’s breathtakingly hypocritical to express outrage that a longtime political operative whom you hired knowing exactly who she is and what she does was and did exactly that. CNN has maybe the most notorious stable of highly paid partisan political insiders on television — hacks they pit against each other in on-air death-matches knowing full well nothing unexpected will ever be said by anybody — and to think their loyalty is strictly to their cushy network gigs is shockingly naive. You hired these people because they’re movers and shakers within their respective parties so don’t act surprised when they continue to, you know, move and shake.
What’s more, though — more specifically at least — Zucker has balls of steel to make a show out of his disapproval of Brazile’s behavior when his network hired and continues to keep on the payroll former Trump campaign manager and female journalist manhandler Corey Lewandowski. This is a guy who was still getting paid by the Trump campaign when CNN brought him onboard and who even now travels with Trump and advises him in an unofficial capacity. That’s precisely the kind of conflict of interest that, if unethical behavior really makes him oh-so-furious, Zucker should be steaming over. But of course he isn’t.
The reason for this is obvious: because what Zucker is concerned about here isn’t that one of his paid contributors tried to collude with a campaign, it’s that she put CNN in a position of potentially appearing to be in the tank for Clinton. Zucker’s outrage is all about CNN’s reputation not as an above-the-board news operation but as one that doesn’t go out of its way to earn the dreaded “Clinton News Network” moniker. As long as phony, toothless “balance” is maintained, with people like clownish Trump apologist Jeffrey Lord squaring off against whatever exhausted Clinton surrogate the network can prop up in front of a camera, everything is just fine.
Now, though, CNN is in a position where it can be accused of genuinely helping out Clinton, which is why Zucker is making sure everybody knows he’s pissed and CNN is making it a point to say that the leak of information came not from them but from an outside source. Still, Zucker asked for this by making so much of his network’s campaign coverage about people loosely and even directly attached to the presidential campaigns shouting at each other with no resolution. You play with fire, you get burned. Or maybe the better analogy is, you roll around in shit, you end up smelling awful.