CNN’s rabidly pro-Trump pundit Jeffrey Lord said he had an epiphany while reading a book about the history of Italian fascism in the 1930s — an epiphany that would set off a bizarre chain of events that ended with CNN’s decision to fire him on Thursday.
Lord accused Media Matters president Angelo Carusone of adopting allegedly Mussolini-style tactics in an American Spectator column and on Twitter. When Carusone complained about the column’s headline, Lord mockingly responded: “Seig heil!”
Exceedingly obvious that Lord's "Seig Heil" was a sarcastic way of calling someone a fascist, not an actual expression of Nazi sentiment. pic.twitter.com/3Tt00BmYag— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) August 10, 2017
In a statement, CNN said it fired Lord because “Nazi salutes are indefensible.” But in a phone interview after his firing, Lord said that CNN had gotten the story backward — that he was mocking Nazi salutes, not embracing them.
“I was saying they were fascists modeling themselves after Nazis,” Lord said of Media Matters.
This is where the book on Italian fascism comes in. Lord claims Media Matters had adopted the same “anti-free speech” tactics that Benito Mussolini’s Ministry of Popular Culture used in Italy close to a century ago — tactics that, Lord alleged, came from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
In an interview shortly after his firing, Lord justified comparing Media Matters to Mussolini’s Ministry of Culture by saying both were determined to suppress free speech.
The connection between the two, Lord said, dawned on him when he saw Media Matters’ campaign to get advertisers to sever their ties with Fox News’s Sean Hannity. Both movements are leftist in nature, Lord said he realized.
“This came out of the roots of socialism — Mussolini was anti-capitalism. I was reading this stuff and making notes, and then I saw what was happening with Sean Hannity, which matched perfectly what I was reading,” Lord said. “And I just thought, ‘This is a perfect description of what happens when they take over the media.’”
But isn’t Media Matters is a private media and advocacy organization, whereas Mussolini’s culture ministry had the full power of the state behind it? “I looked this up with original sourcing. I wasn't making this up,” Lord said.
On his way back to his home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Lord criticized CNN for its decision but thanked the network for giving him a platform for the better part of two years.
Over those two years, Lord blamed Ariana Grande for the Manchester terror attack, said the Ku Klux Klan was an arm of the Democratic Party, defended Donald Trump's encouragement of police brutality as a form of "New Yorker sense of humor," suggested Black Lives Matter created a neo-Nazi group, lied about voter fraud, falsely claimed Trump’s travel ban would have prevented 9/11, and called Trump the “MLK” of health care. (Credit to ThinkProgress and the Daily Beast for compiling Lord’s remarks.)
“I want to emphasize that I love CNN,” Lord said. “And I have a lot of respect for Jeff Zucker and all the people there.”