Welcome to America —2017.
There has already been voluminous reaction to this news on Twitter, and Mediaite contributor Joseph Wulfson has opined that Lord was “unjustly fired” from a network that “treated him like a punching bag.” But in my opinion, CNN was entirely justified in letting Lord go — but did so for the wrong reasons.
It is true that Lord was treated as something of a punching bag most nights he appeared on CNN. Or as I explained in a column published a couple of months ago, he was the Washington Generals of CNN. They were the “basketball team” that is always scheduled to play against — and inevitably lose to — the Harlem Globetrotters. They aren’t really there to compete, they are there to act as a foil for others to show off their entertaining tricks.
Watching Lord get schooled on the CNN’s prime time programs often felt unfair. And given how Lord very often kept a remarkably genial and respectful mien, he actually drew some level of empathy given how remarkable his Trump defenses were.
Take for example his illogically defensive approach of Trump’s critique of London Mayor Sadiq Kahn by saying that, then NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani is also open to criticism for the attacks of 9/11. Or, consider his previous labeling of President Trump as the “MLK of health care.” It was at once a hackneyed and insensitive comparison. Or the time he claimed that Trump’s tweets slamming Mika Brzezinski weren’t mimogynoistic. Or his naive assurance that Jared and Ivanka would never leak to the Washington Post. The list goes on.
But Mr. Lord’s opining increasingly felt like a man taking a final stand with little to lose before surrender. His full-throated and at many times banal defenses of President Trump often led to follow up debates a fellow panelist discussing something he said on a previous evening. Even CNN’s hosts seem to be fed up. CNN’s Jeffrey Lord experience started to feel like self-parody and had run its course.
Then there was the “Sieg Heil” tweet, which isn’t really defensible. But it was clear that he was mocking fascism not supporting it. As I have written before, there is a corollary to Godwin’s Law which states that “as a discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler increases, and whomever makes that comparison has automatically ‘lost’ whatever debate was in progress.” Extending this axiom to this episode, Jeffrey Lord is in fact a loser for making that reference.
But allow me to introduce the opinion of fellow Brooklyn father and noted actor Jeffrey Wright, who pithily summed up this situation:
CNN: “Nazi salutes are indefensible.” This is BS! Lord made a failed attempt at mockery. His many other ignorant utterances were defensible? https://t.co/HOrfb0Llwa
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) August 10, 2017
I mean, that says it all right there.
I have been particularly tough on Mr. Lord, and he has hit back at me in a super long (Fisk-esque?) column in defense. And he and I have engaged in numerous tête-à-têtes on Twitter. To his credit, he never lost his cool or was ever disrespectful in any manner. And in an era of bitterly divided political discourse, that should be lauded.
But as a CNN primetime host agreed to me, however nice Lord remained during heated CNN panel debates, his act was verging dangerously close to that of a doddering fool. He seems a lovely chap to share a glass of lemonade with, but his time on CNN needed to end.
C0lby Hall is the Managing Editor of Mediaite, who as a child, never understood why the Washington Generals continued to schedule games against the Harlem Globetrotters. Follow him on Twitter.