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Adam Kinzinger, former congressman and leading Trump critic, hired by CNN

By Sarah May
|
January 5, 2023

A staunch critic of former President Donald Trump and one of two Republicans who accepted spots on the Democrat-led House Select Committee probing the events of Jan. 6, 2021, former Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois has been hired by CNN in the role of senior political commentator, according to The Hill.

Kinzinger found himself at a loose end, employment-wise, after previously deciding not to seek re-election to his congressional seat when redistricting in his home state resulted in unfavorable electoral odds for the outspoken lawmaker in the midterm cycle.

Kinzinger joins CNN

As the network's newest high-profile hire, Kinzinger made his first appearance as a contributor on Erin Burnett Outfront,” the host of which welcomed the ex-legislator by saying, “Congressman, we really are thrilled to have you onboard,” as Fox News noted.

Kinzinger enthusiastically replied, “It's great to be on the team, by the way,” adding, “I'm excited.”

The outlet's decision to hire Kinzinger comes amid a series of on-air changes orchestrated by new CEO Chris Licht, who has indicated an interest in steering the outlet away from the virulent anti-Trump coverage that characterized its program offerings in recent years, an objective the hiring of the controversial former congressman may or may not further.

Speaking to the New York Times recently about his vision for CNN, Licht explained that he wants the network to foster “a rational conversation about polarizing issues” that will allow viewers to “take what they've heard to the dinner table and have a discussion.”

Licht even went so far as to suggest that that reactions he has received to the changes he has initiated have only emboldened him going forward, noting, “The uninformed vitriol, especially from the left, has been stunning. Which proves my point: so much of what passes for news is name-calling, half-truths, and desperation,” said the network CEO.

In support of his apparent grand plan for CNN, Licht oversaw the cancellation of longtime network staple Reliable Sources and ousted its highly partisan host, Brian Stelter, parted ways with left-leaning journalist Chris Cillizza, and booted liberal personality Don Lemon from his prime-time perch.

Reaction pours in

Kinzinger's move from the halls of Congress to a spot with CNN came as a surprise to virtually nobody, with numerous pundits and commentators intimating that much of the Illinois Republican's professional life in recent months has been designed with this outcome in mind.

Tim Baysinger of Axios declared that Kinzinger “[w]as basically giving CNN his resume for the past year,” as Fox News noted.

Offering a similar take was Chuck Ross of the Washington Free Beacon, who said of the hire, “It's the least CNN could do after his 2-year apprenticeship there.”

Commentator Yossi Gestenter called Kinzinger's morality into question, tweeting, “Hustled out his integrity, country and voters in exchange for TeeeVeee time to sound like a random lib.”

Leveling a broader indictment of the revolving door between government and cable news outlets was conservative pundit Stephen L. Miller, who said, “I know it's cliché for a lot of people to say they're only doing this for a media contract. It also turns out to be true most of the time.”

"All about him"

For many observers, however, it is highly debatable whether the addition of someone like Kinzinger to the network's contributor roster will help Licht achieve the goal of bringing CNN's coverage closer to the center, despite his nominal identification as a Republican.

A particularly vocal critic of Kinzinger in recent months, Fox News' Tucker Carlson recently bid a sarcastic farewell to the departing congressman, recounting that he “was first elected to the House 12 years ago, and for the bulk of his time in office, he served utterly without distinction, in virtual anonymity. A few of his constituents had heard of him, but none expressed interest in learning more.”

“Then, in 2018 came the transformation. That was the year that Adam Kinzinger turned 40 and things began to change inside of him,” Carlson joked, adding, “[b]y 2021, Kinzinger had a full-blown case of menopause with all the familiar, painful symptoms: mood swings, hot flashes, food cravings, uncontrollable weeping,” an apparent reference to the congressman's teary performance during a hearing of the aforementioned Jan. 6 committee.

Carlson continued, “In Washington, Kinzinger's performance was considered deeply inspirational. Here's a man who has no control of himself at all, so we'd better put him in charge of important things. Kinzinger quickly became regarded as an essential voice on foreign policy. When the world hangs in the balance, you want a guy who cries a lot.”

Blasting Kinzinger's conduct in Congress over the past several years, Carlson said, “For his part, Kinzinger demonstrated a remarkable ability to make any situation on the planet, no matter how complex or weighty, all about him: diplomacy by narcissism,” but presciently predicted, “[i]n just weeks, Adam Kinzinger will be another CNN contributor. No one will ever see him again, but we will never forget him.”