April 12, 2012

CNN Bars Contributors Who Are Paid By Politicians, But Fine With Ones Paid By Corporations

CNN Bars Contributors Who Are Paid By Politicians, But Fine With Ones Paid By CorporationsYesterday, SKDKnickerbocker’s Hilary Rosen set off a media frenzy by saying that Mitt Romney’s wife Ann Romney has never “worked a day in her life.” This set off calls for Rosen to apologize to Ann Romney, who chooses to be a stay at home mother.

News reports and some critics of Rosen described her as an advisor to President Obama or the Democratic National Committee. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent asked CNN, which employs Rosen as a contributor, about this charge. The network told him that it does not hire contributors who are paid advisors to political parties or campaigns:

Hilary Rosen, like all CNN contributors, is not a paid advisor to any political party or presidential campaign.

By barring paid political advisers from taking on contributor positions, CNN is establishing an ethical line. Interestingly, CNN does allow Paul Begala to be a contributor, who works for Priorities Action USA, a pro-Obama Super PAC. It also allows Alex Castellanos, who advises various political candidates through GOP Super PACs and other organizations, to be one. Castellanos at least appears to outright violate CNN’s policy because the National Republican Campaign Committee paid his firm National Media Research Planning & Placement least $376k this cycle.

But it’s curious that CNN takes offense only at contributors who are paid by politicians but not by powerful corporations that lobby actively on public policy issues. Rosen, for example, worked for BP during its devastating oil spill in the Gulf Coast, helping the powerful corporation manage its public relations. She presumably has many more clients (which are confidential) at SKDKnickerbocker who are also private firms. It’s remarkable that CNN does not require Rosen or other contributors who work for corporations to disclose such ties, which would allow CNN watchers to evaluate whether commentator opinions are colored by their interest in pleasing clients.