CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter on Sunday appeared struck by former Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller arguing that anonymous sources providing information and materials to journalists are doing so in an effort to “attack the president.”
Stelter suggested that the motivations of sources may rather be to “inform people” and that perhaps these unnamed individuals were “whistleblowers.” He then asked Miller if the Trump team shares the view that such disclosures are “attacks.”
“Well, they are,” Miller replied.
Miller said Trump is “constantly being faced with these attacks from these nameless, faceless, anonymous sources, and expected to respond and defend himself.” And the media, he said, has a responsibility to draw “the line on these leaks and attacks that are coming at the president.”
Three days later, Miller joined the media as a paid contributor on CNN.
It’s a role in which Miller will surely be asked to respond to the Trump news of the day, including unflattering stories that may rely on information provided by unnamed current or former officials. So does Miller simply dismiss such reports, including those from CNN reporters, if they rely on anonymous sources?
Miller vigorously defended President Donald Trump as a campaign spokesman, even in response to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer expressing alarm over the candidate’s vilification of the press and suggesting it should be easier to sue news organizations.
Sopan Deb, a New York Times reporter who covered the Trump campaign daily, questioned CNN’s decision to hire someone who he said would “consistently spout falsehoods.”
Following the election, Miller was tapped as White House communications director, though abruptly withdrew from the job on Christmas Eve, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. But even without an official role in the administration, he’s often gone to bat for Trump on cable news.
During an appearance last month on CNN, Miller pushed back against news reports of communications between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials as “completely cooked up” and said that “nameless, faceless sources” had yet to provide evidence to back up the allegations.
Miller’s response echoed that of the Trump administration, which has brushed off negative stories that rely on anonymous sources.
Though Trump acted as an anonymous source last week, and key members of his team are known to speak with journalists off the record, the White House dismisses stories with damaging revelations or that raise uncomfortable questions if they feature unnamed sources. Trump has baselessly alleged journalists make up sources, a perception that a majority of Republicans seem to share.
The president has shown particular disdain of late for CNN, which he has repeatedly labeled “fake news” and included among media outlets that are the “enemy of the American people.”
While Trump has been blasting CNN publicly, his team has been privately trying to influence coverage. Top adviser Jared Kushner recently complained to CNN executives that coverage was slanted, despite the fact that the network built a stable of paid, pro-Trump commentators during the campaign, some of whom, like Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, have continued on-air into the presidency.
CNN’s most controversial 2016 hire, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign while being paid by the network to argue on Trump’s behalf, has joined the conservative One America News Network.
In 2016, networks had struggled to find commentators to speak on Trump’s behalf given that most seasoned conservative pundits were critical of his candidacy or opposed to it. CNN chief Jeff Zucker defended hiring Lewandowski, calling it a move to ensure the network had enough voices in support of Trump.