CNN said Friday that Newt Gingrich is not in breach of its policies on financial contribution and disclosure--because the policy was different than previously described.
Gingrich, who is now a "Crossfire" co-host, came under scrutiny from Media Matters for his apparent violation of the network's rules, which stated that, whenever someone he or his PAC had given money to was a guest on his show, Gingrich had to disclose that fact.
"If Newt is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that," Rick Davis, the network's chief ethics and standards enforcer, said. "Disclosure is important when it's relevant."
Gingrich didn't do this when two people his PAC has donated to, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, appeared on "Crossfire" or were discussed on the show, respectively.
On Friday, though, Davis told the media watchdog that his earlier statement was not operative:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program.
Apparently, "disclosure is important" is old thinking. The new rules mean that Gingrich could fund a political campaign, have the candidate or politician on his nationally televised cable news show, and not have to tell viewers he was giving the candidate money.
The same rules apply to Gingrich's colleague Stephanie Cutter, who appeared to be taking full advantage of them. The Weekly Standard pointed out that she wrote a fundraising email for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia. Presumably, if McAuliffe came on "Crossfire," Cutter would not have to tell viewers she was actively assisting his campaign.
CNN's announcement drew a withering reply from, among others, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple:
CNN’s position appears to be that if Newt Gingrich declares that he’s “from the right,” well, that’s all the disclosure that’s necessary. Wrong: Everyone already knows that Gingrich is a conservative. That’s no disclosure at all. The fact that he might have a cash relationship with one of his guests? That‘s disclosure. Nothing corrupts like cash. Once you give someone money, you have a stake in that person. And CNN, in its heart, knows that.