CBS News Chooses Former GOP Operative With No Journalism Experience for Key Role

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CBS News announced on Thursday that it had named a top flack in its Washington bureau who was previously a GOP communications staffer as its new political director.

Caitlin Conant, executive director of communications for CBS News in Washington, will jump to one of the top jobs in political broadcast journalism next month. She replaces Steve Chaggaris, who was fired in January for what CBS called “inappropriate behavior.”


Conant’s LinkedIn suggests this will be her first job in journalism after eight years working in GOP Senate offices and on various political campaigns. CBS News laid out her pedigree in its statement on her new gig:

Conant joined CBS News in May 2016, in the midst of the historic presidential election. Prior to joining CBS News, Conant spent eight years working in the U.S. Senate and on various political campaigns. Conant most recently worked for Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) presidential campaign where she directed regional press and surrogate communications. Prior to that, she served as communications director for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Conant also served as a communications advisor for Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) U.S. Senate campaign; press secretary for Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC); deputy press secretary for Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (R-MN) presidential campaign, and legislative correspondent for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Conant got her start in politics right after college while working for McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008.


“[Conant’s] background in national politics and her experience here at CBS News give her the strengths and perspectives to be a superb political director – we are all very excited that she will be leading our political coverage as we head into what will certainly be a fascinating and challenging political cycle,” CBS News VP Christopher Isham said in a statement.

Going straight from political PR to journalism can be controversial, but it happens at a rather stunning rate. The late Tim Russert, of NBC News, was an aide to Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was chief of staff to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. And ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos was White House communications director and then senior adviser to President Bill Clinton. It’s an indictment of our media culture that being part of the club makes you more appealing to those purportedly trying to hold it to account.

Among those congratulating Conant on her new gig Thursday was AshLee Strong, national press secretary for House Speaker Paul Ryan:


Conant referred my request for comment to a CBS spokesperson, who has yet to respond to my inquiry. I’ll update this post if she does.