CNN Is Criticized for Hiring Trump Administration Aide as a Political Editor

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Republican spokeswoman who worked most recently for the Justice Department, has been hired by CNN to help with the network’s political coverage, propelling a Trump administration official directly into a news role for a top cable network.

Her hiring as a “political editor,” not a commentator, led to internal and external criticism of CNN for placing a Republican political operative in a position to help guide daily political coverage, including 2020 presidential campaign news.

In an internal memo on Wednesday announcing the hire, CNN’s Washington bureau chief, Sam Feist, said Ms. Isgur would spend the first few months getting to know CNN, and then “play a coordinating role” in covering politics.

“We’re thrilled that Sarah is coming to CNN,” Mr. Feist wrote. “She brings a wealth of government, political, communications and legal experience to our team.”

Ms. Isgur recently worked as a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, including for Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general whom President Trump fired in November, and for Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who has overseen the special counsel’s Russia investigation. She sent a goodbye email from her Justice Department account on Friday.

She previously worked as a deputy campaign manager for Carly Fiorina, a Republican who ran for president during the 2016 election.

Ms. Isgur was critical of Mr. Trump during the 2016 primaries and has also been critical of CNN, including complaining that the network was excluding Ms. Fiorina from a presidential debate. And years ago she retweeted a comment from a conservative news outlet that referred to her new employer as the “Clinton News Network.”

Mr. Feist’s memo on Wednesday came after a flurry of concern — and in some cases, deep frustration — voiced by members of the network’s political staff, according to two people familiar with the complaints. The memo was co-signed by two senior CNN executives, David Chalian and Virginia Moseley.

CNN has previously showed a willingness to hire employees from conservative-leaning news outlets and organizations, arguing that ideological diversity is helpful in ensuring robust coverage. Kaitlan Collins, one of the network’s rising star White House correspondents, was hired from The Daily Caller in 2017.

But the network is a frequent target of Mr. Trump and his allies, and its journalists have faced threats of physical violence, including a pipe bomb mailed to its Manhattan headquarters last year.

Frank Sesno, a former CNN White House correspondent who now works as the director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, said that there had long been a “revolving door” between politics and news outlets. But political aides typically have a “cooling-off period” between jobs and Ms. Isgur’s quick transition is unusual, he added.

He said CNN should clarify what Ms. Isgur’s role would be. “It’s one thing if you have somebody on staff whom you can consult, and it’s another thing if they are editing your copy,” he said. “Pretty big difference.”

CNN declined to comment on Wednesday. The memo from Mr. Feist said that Ms. Isgur would help “organize and communicate between news gathering, digital and television” arms of the network, which has a sprawling news operation.

Ms. Isgur did not respond to an email and a phone request for comment.

Some prominent journalists have forged careers in news after working in politics, including George Stephanopoulos, who was hired as a contributing correspondent for ABC News in 1996 after serving as one of President Bill Clinton’s closest advisers.

His move from the Clinton White House to ABC News — initially as a partisan member of a Sunday political panel, who would also do some reporting — raised hackles inside and outside the network at the time. He has since risen to become the network’s chief anchor and a host of “Good Morning America.”

And the road from political strategist to political pundit is well traveled on both sides of the aisle.

After Karl Rove left President George W. Bush’s administration, he joined Fox News as an analyst. David Axelrod, the chief political strategist for both of President Barack Obama’s campaigns, was hired by NBC News as an analyst in 2013, and has since moved to CNN.

More recently, in 2016, CNN announced that it had hired Corey Lewandowski as a paid contributor, days after Mr. Lewandowski was fired as a campaign manager for Mr. Trump. He later resigned. The network also severed ties with Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic operative turned analyst, after it emerged that she had shared questions from a CNN-sponsored event with friends on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

But Ms. Isgur is joining the network as a political editor, not a pundit, and departing an administration in which the president routinely criticizes the news media, including CNN.

Mr. Sesno said the “hostile environment” had created an additional perceptual problem.

“To bring someone from that administration requires a clear statement that that person does not share that disdain for the industry they are entering,” he said. “And that their real commitment is to journalism, truth and the public.”


more recommended stories

  • Its Territory May Be Gone, but the U.S. Fight Against ISIS Is Far From Over

    WASHINGTON — The fight to expel.

  • At Democratic Campaign Events, Mueller Report Is Barely Mentioned

    RYE, N.H. — For Democratic presidential.

  • Personal Data of 2.3 Million Disaster Victims Was Released by FEMA, Report Says

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency unnecessarily.

  • $1 Billion for Mental Health: The Reality of de Blasio’s ‘Revolutionary’ Plan

    [What you need to know to.

  • The Fight to Tame a Swelling River With Dams That May Be Outmatched by Climate Change

    Want climate news in your inbox?.

  • ‘Florida Is Tired of Being a Cheap Date’: Andrew Gillum Wants to Help Democrats Win in 2020

    Andrew Gillum has more free time.

  • Report Says U.S. Airstrikes Have Killed 14 Civilians in Somalia

    WASHINGTON — For years, the Pentagon.

  • On C-Span’s 40th Anniversary, a Top Executive Reflects on Its Political Impact

    Forty years ago, C-Span went live.

  • Trump Renews Attacks on John McCain, Months After Senator’s Death

    WASHINGTON — Tucked between St. Patrick’s.

  • After 2 Crashes of New Boeing Jet, Pilot Training Now a Focus

    The chief executive of Boeing backed.

  • On Politics: The Biggest Stories of the Week

    Meanwhile, candidates’ moves to the left.

  • In Beto O’Rourke’s Announcement, His Wife’s Silence Stands Out

    Beto O’Rourke, the charismatic Texas Democrat.

  • Mnuchin Vows to Protect Trump’s Privacy if Tax Returns Sought

    WASHINGTON — Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury.

  • Trump on Tech: Planes Are ‘Too Complex to Fly,’ and ‘What Is Digital?’

    WASHINGTON — He prefers Sharpies over.

  • Congress Warns Against Medicaid Cuts: ‘You Just Wait for the Firestorm’

    WASHINGTON — If President Trump allows.

  • ‘Airbnb Tax’ in N.J. Opens New Front in Battle Over Internet Economy

    [What you need to know to.

  • In Unusual Move, Fox News Condemns Jeanine Pirro’s Remarks on Muslim Legislator

    In an unusual reproach, Fox News.

  • Netanyahu-Trump Partnership Is Stronger Than Ever. Are These Its Final Days?

    What was missing with Mr. Trump,.

  • New Images of North Korea Buildup Confront Trump’s Hopes for Disarmament

    WASHINGTON — President Trump was forced.

  • On Politics: The Biggest Stories of the Week

    From the president’s checks to a.

  • Chelsea Manning Is Jailed for Refusing to Testify in WikiLeaks Case

    WASHINGTON — Chelsea Manning, the former.

  • When Foreign Leaders Send Presidents a Gift, Flattery is Usually a Theme

    Foreign officials also appear to have.

  • On Politics: Trade Deficit Hits Record $891 Billion

    • Trade talks between the United.

  • U.S. and E.U. Are Headed for a Food Fight Over Trade

    WASHINGTON — After a White House.

  • House’s Anti-Semitism Resolution Surfaces Generational Fight Over Ilhan Omar

    WASHINGTON — The decision by House.

  • Roger Stone Faces Questions Over Whether He Violated Gag Order

    The former Trump adviser Roger Stone.

  • On Politics: Behind the Failed Trump-Kim Summit

    President Trump made a bet that.

  • On Politics: The Biggest Stories of the Week

    From Michael Cohen’s testimony to the.

  • Manafort’s Lawyers, Saying He Learned ‘Harsh Lesson,’ Seek Lenient Sentence

    WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Paul Manafort,.

  • On Politics: Trump Ordered Kushner’s Security Clearance

    • Mr. Trump declared on Thursday.

  • What to Watch For in Thursday’s G.D.P. Report

    After a monthlong delay because of.

  • Supreme Court Seems Ready to Allow Cross Honoring War Dead

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed.