Is CNN’s Terrible Hire or the Klobuchar Flop Worse News for the Network?

It’s not unusual for cable news networks to have bad days. In the case of Fox News, it’s normal for network executives to wake up to learn another advertiser has dropped Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham. That comes with the territory.

At CNN, the bad news usually begins with a threat from the White House and continues with the network’s poor editorial decisions that lead to a drop in the ratings.

On February 19, the day after the network’s Amy Klobuchar Town Hall, CNN followed most of that typical pattern. As news of horrendous ratings for the Klobuchar event rolled in, things got worse as news of a new hire — a former Trump official with no journalism experience — broke on Politico.

By mid-day, the network was catching fire from multiple sides. Here’s a look at CNN’s terrible day.

Hiring a Jeff Sessions spokeswoman to dig into 2020 campaign coverage

CNN logo is seen on an Android mobile device with a decline loses graph in the background. | Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

When it comes to dubious hires, CNN has had a poor track-record with Trump boosters in recent years. Network executives had to drop Jeffrey Lord after he tweeted a Nazi slogan then suspend Paris Dennard after sexual harassment charges from a former job surfaced.

There were more, but we’ll stop there because CNN made it back into the news for hiring another Trump official. In this case, it wasn’t for someone to repeat Trump’s tweets on a prime-time panel; instead, CNN hired Sarah Isgur, a spokeswoman for Jeff Sessions, to coordinate 2020 campaign coverage.

While that’s bad on the face of things, it actually got worse. As Politico reported, Isgur is a former Carly Fiorina and Mitt Romney campaign operative with “no experience in news.” CNN staffers with actual editorial experience responded like you’d expect.

As journalists pored over Isgur’s past statements on social media, some whoppers turned up for all to see. They included a retweet referring to CNN as “Clinton News Network” and another describing network star Chris Cuomo as “despicable.”

For a network folks already don’t take seriously because of the Trump campaign operatives on its panels, hiring an administration official with no journalism experience to do, well, journalism seems like a bad idea.

Klobuchar’s Town Hall lost to MSNBC, Fox by 1.25 million viewers.

Don Lemon attends the Pre-GRAMMY Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 9, 2019. | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for NARAS

While media critics and folks on social media lambasted CNN for the Isgur hire, the folks who traffic in ratings were having fun at the network’s expense as well. Variety reported CNN’s President’s Day Town Hall with Amy Klobuchar got hammered in the ratings.

How bad was it? Fox News (2.39 million) and MSNBC (2.391 million) topped CNN’s audience (1.139 million) by more than 1.25 million viewers. In the 25-54 demographic that has been CNN’s salvation in the ratings, the network lost big in that department as well (over 150,000 viewers) with Don Lemon hosting Klobuchar.

If we had to pick, we’d say the Isgur hiring will turn out to be the worst news of the day for CNN. A single bad ratings report can be overcome with better content in the future.

But hiring the equivalent of a right-wing troll to manage 2020 campaign coverage won’t improve CNN’s poor reputation in that department. If you think the network’s 2016 coverage was bad, buckle up.

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