CNN fired conservative commentator Jeffrey Lord on Thursday after he directed the Nazi salute at a critic. Lord, an unwavering defender of Donald Trump, previously clashed on-air with Anderson Cooper, but it was a social media exchange that ultimately lead to his termination.
Lord said in a telephone interview Thursday night that he respected CNN and its journalists, but fundamentally disagreed with the network's decision to fire him. He said his "Sieg Heil!" tweet was not an endorsement of Nazism or fascist tactics, but was meant to mock Media Matters and its use of boycotts of advertisers of conservative voices such as Sean Hannity, which Lord equated with fascism.
"I want to make something very clear. I have nothing but respect, affection and love for CNN. I think the world of CNN," Lord told The Associated Press. "I think they're terrific people and serious people."
He called himself a "First Amendment fundamentalist" and called CNN's decision disappointing. "From my perspective CNN caved on the First Amendment of all things. I disagree. I respectfully disagree."
He declined to get into specifics of how he was fired, saying he wanted to keep that a private conversation.
Retained by CNN in August 2015, Lord was an indefatigable on-air supporter of Donald Trump throughout his candidacy and since his election. A contributor to the conservative magazine The American Spectator, Lord is a former aide to Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan.
He had repeatedly clashed with Media Matters president Angelo Carusone, whose group condemned CNN for employing him as a commentator.
Following a harsh exchange of tweets with Carusone earlier this week, Lord posted an article for The American Spectator on Thursday morning, calling Carusone's group the "Media Matters Fascists" and casting them as "anti-free speech bigots who, in typical fascist style, make it their mission to shut down speech they don't like."
During the day, the Twitter sparring resumed, with Lord finally responding to Carusone with the tweet: "Sieg Heil!"
In subsequent tweets, he insisted he meant to be "mocking Nazis and Fascists."
"I believe in a writer's toolbox there are several ways you deal with people," Lord said. "One of them is to mock them."
During his presence on CNN's airwaves Lord had frequently riled CNN hosts including Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, fellow commentators, and viewers with many of his statements. During Super Tuesday election night coverage in March 2016, he argued that the KKK was a left-wing organization because of Democrats' support of it many decades before. In April, he called President Donald Trump the "Martin Luther King" of health care.
Lord said he did not know what his next steps would be, but said he didn't intend to stop speaking out about the First Amendment and other issues.
Asked about how he felt about having a tweet end his CNN career, Lord said he wasn't necessarily surprised given the vitriol Twitter can provoke. Ironically, he said, tweeting more was a New Year's resolution.
He said he had received "a tidal wave of support" from conservatives after his firing.