CNN hires commentators with a variety political viewpoints and affiliations. Some are Democratic and Republican operatives. Some have previously worked with candidates running for President or other offices.
In that sense, the announcement that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, would be joining CNN as a paid contributor is par for the course. Lewandowski was fired from the Trump campaign on Monday.
But there is one aspect of Lewandowski’s hiring that is highly unusual. Lewandowski is not only a Trump loyalist but legally prohibited from criticizing Trump, his family, or any of his businesses.
We know for sure that Lewandowski signed a non-disclosure agreement, prohibiting him from talking about the work he did with Trump.
Despite false reports to the contrary, I am not writing a book. I am under a strict confidentiality agreement with Mr. Trump.
— Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) May 16, 2016
We also know that the standard agreement that all volunteers with the Trump campaign are required to sign included a non-disparagement agreement. The Daily Dot reported that in March. Here is the key section:
No Disparagement. During the term of your service and at all times thereafter you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the Company, Mr. Trump, any Trump Company, any Family Member, or any Family Member Company or any asset any of the foregoing own, or product or service any of the foregoing offer, in each case by or in any of the Restricted Means and Contexts and to prevent your employees from doing so.
Note that the standard non-disparagement agreement does not terminate when the person is no longer work for the campaign — it extends in perpetuity.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that nearly all employees, including Lewandowski, signed agreements prohibiting them from criticizing Trump.
CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny reported earlier this week that “[a]nyone who works for the Trump campaign signs a nondisclosure agreement, so he cannot disparage or anything like that at all….”
Asked repeatedly earlier this week whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump, Lewandowski refused to answer.
His early interviews, however, do not suggest that he is free to criticize Trump. In his first interview after being fired (coincidentally or not, with CNN) he repeatedly passed on any opportunity to criticize Trump or his campaign.
CNN has been criticized for featuring the commentary of Jeffery Lord, a Trump loyalist and paid contributor, who seems willing to defend Trump in all circumstances.