After Butting Heads With The Media, Corey Lewandowski Joins Their Team Corey Lewandowski, the pugnacious former Trump campaign manager, has joined CNN as a political pundit. Lewandowski had a confrontational, hostile relationship with the media on the campaign trail. Now he's on their team.

After Butting Heads With The Media, Corey Lewandowski Joins Their Team

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CNN hired Corey Lewandowski as a talking head just a few days after he was fired as Donald Trump's campaign manager last month. The network believes he'll be a special tool for its election coverage.

Yet Lewandowski has professed enduring loyalty to Trump. He still receives money from the Trump campaign. He can also be contentious with reporters on the trail. NPR's David Folkenflik reports that all of that leaves many journalists wondering what CNN is getting for its money.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: In Lewandowski's first appearances, CNN tried to address the elephant in the room. Here's anchor Alisyn Camerota.


ALISYN CAMEROTA: Why did you have such strained relations during your time there at the Trump campaign with the press do you think?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I don't think that's true. I think what you have is if you look at the individuals I worked closely with on a day-to-day basis, we had great relationships. I have great relationships with the media.

FOLKENFLIK: At Trump rallies, Lewandowski was the guy darting around near the candidate with close-cropped hair, thin as a blade, intense, acting as an enforcer. He once yanked a female reporter away from Trump by the arm, leaving bruises and denied it even though it was caught on video. Another reporter recorded Lewandowski ordering him to get away from protesters and to go back behind the barricades he called a pen or to be banned from all events.


NOAH GRAY: So I have to - the...

DONALD TRUMP: A lot of times...

GRAY: Secret Service is coming in...

TRUMP: ...When I'm on the stage with these guys...

LEWANDOWSKI: But I'm telling you, man. I'm telling you. Media stays in the pen.

TRUMP: ...Some are nice guys.

FOLKENFLIK: But that reporter - that's Noah Gray. He covers the campaign for CNN. So many issues here - first, does Lewandowski believe in what journalists do?

FRANK SESNO: I remain troubled by the Lewandowski phenomenon.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Frank Sesno. He's a former Washington bureau chief and anchor for CNN.

SESNO: Here's a guy who has defended his boss attacking the media, who has himself been critical and even physical with the media.

FOLKENFLIK: Problem two, Sesno says...

SESNO: I'm not comfortable with people being paid to be surrogates, people who have the most credibility, the people who deliver the most to the audience, who've worked for politicians but are perfectly happy just to observe where they fall short or where there are inconsistencies. That's valuable.

FOLKENFLIK: Lewandowski, Sesno says, comes off as a pure advocate.

SESNO: Once upon a time, we never would have paid for that. We would have called that checkbook journalism.

FOLKENFLIK: CNN will not say anything on the record. Privately, CNN executives told me Lewandowski represents a big improvement over other Trump supporters on the CNN payroll, such as Jeffrey Lord. Viewers should benefit, they argue, because Lewandowski actually knows how Trump makes decisions.

Judge Lewandowski by his performance, they say. About that - here's Lewandowski on whether Trump's rhetoric has been racist.


LEWANDOWSKI: Political correctness is something that hasn't solved problems over the last 30 years. And so with Donald Trump, what he says is what he feels.

FOLKENFLIK: Deflecting questions about Republican unease...


LEWANDOWSKI: Hillary Clinton is clearly the person in this election who is crooked, who's just beat the FBI caucus.

FOLKENFLIK: On Trump's offensive remarks toward Mexicans...


LEWANDOWSKI: If you look at this and you look at the election results and where the polls stand right now, Donald Trump is doing better with Hispanics. He says he's going to win Hispanics. He employs thousands of Hispanics.

FOLKENFLIK: So Lewandowski was telling the truth when he said he's loyal to Trump. Other longtime CNN pundits have partisan ties, too. Donna Brazile is a Democratic superdelegate. Paul Begala runs a political action committee aiding Hillary Clinton. Both are paid CNN analysts. But Lewandowski requires more disclosures than most. CNN's Chris Cuomo introduced him this way.


CHRIS CUOMO: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is still receiving severance from the Trump campaign and will be the chair of the New Hampshire delegation at the Republican Convention and is also a CNN political commentator - quite the intro you now have tied to you there...



FOLKENFLIK: About that commentating - it's peak VP season. Let's see what advantage CNN's viewers gain. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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