CNN Defends Decision to Hire Ex-Sessions Spokeswoman as Political Editor After Sparking Confusion

February 20, 2019 Updated: February 20, 2019

CNN has defended its decision to hire former Department of Justice spokeswoman in an internal memo on Feb. 20, after the hiring decision caused confusion among the network’s staffers.

On Feb. 19, Politico first reported the news that Sarah Isgur Flores, the ex-spokeswoman for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would be joining CNN as a political editor in March, where she will coordinate news for the coverage of the 2020 election campaign.

The news of the decision to hire Isgur Flores was met with a negative internal reaction due to the network’s sluggishness in communicating the news to staff, reported The Daily Beast. By Tuesday afternoon, CNN had not circulated information to staff about Isgur’s new role.

“People are generally confused,” one editorial employee told the news website, adding that the decision to hire a partisan political operative with no journalism experience was “very bizarre.”

Security guards walk past the entrance to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

In the Wednesday memo signed by CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist and obtained by TPM, network managers expressed their excitement for the new addition, saying that they were thrilled.

“You may have heard that Sarah Isgur will be joining CNN in the coming weeks as a Political Editor. We wish we had been able to share this news with you before it was reported in the press but as Washington is a town full of journalists, news like this sometimes gets out,” the memo read.

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

The memo went on to say that the network hopes to have Isgur “play a coordinating role in our daily political coverage” as well as help “to organize and communicate between newsgathering, digital, and television.”

CNN’s Brian Stetler also shared the network’s perspective on the hiring, writing in a tweet: “GOP operative joins CNN” is getting a LOT of criticism, especially from Dems. But love it or hate it, political insiders have been joining newsrooms for decades. The more viewpoints represented in newsrooms, the better.”

The decision to hire Isgur Flores received criticism from many progressive commentators and members of the Democratic party. Isgur Flores has previously been critical of CNN and called the media coverage of President Donald Trump biased.

While it’s not uncommon for former administration staff to join the media, they typically do so as analysts and commentators rather than editorial staff, according to Politico.

Other well-known departing government officials that entered into the media include Tim Russert, who served as a special counsel and chief of staff to former Senator Daniel Moynihan and a top aide for New York Governor Mario Cuomo before moving to NBC News and quickly becoming the Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press; and George Stephanopoulos who was a senior aide for Bill Clinton before joining ABC News.

Isgur Flores previously served as the deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also worked on the campaign teams of candidates Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, and Mitt Romney. She worked in the DOJ as the director of public affairs from February 2017 before becoming the senior counsel to the deputy attorney general.

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