Live from Harrisburg: It's Jeffrey Lord, Donald Trump's defender on CNN

JEFFREY LORD, even in a season of odd politics, is an unusual political commentator.

He's paid by CNN to justify, explain, and defend Donald Trump. And he has: on the wall, Mexicans, Muslims, Carly Fiorina's face.

It can be a full-time gig. It will be at both upcoming conventions. And it raises a couple questions.

First, why is a news network paying somebody to do what campaigns and candidates already pay somebody to do? Second, who the heck is Jeffrey Lord and how'd he get on CNN?

The answer to the first is, what, you never watch cable TV news? They hire anybody. Ed Rendell, former Trump campaign chief Corey Lewandowski.

But the answer to the second question's more complicated.

"It is amazing, I have to say," Lord tells me.

He's 65, born in Massachusetts, loved the Kennedys, moved to Pennsylvania, went to Franklin and Marshall College, worked in the state Senate and, at 24, lost a bid for the state House.

He worked for a string of GOP pols: former U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, the late Sen. John Heinz, the late Drew Lewis - who ran Ronald Reagan's Pennsylvania reelection campaign - which led to a job in Reagan's White House as associate political director (1985 to 1988).

Oh, and he caught Joe Biden stealing a Kennedy speech; more on that later.

Lord did some writing, then moved home to care for aging parents in Camp Hill, outside Harrisburg, where he still lives with his 97-year-old mother.

He did some cable stuff from home, on the phone or Skype (which he still sometimes does), and wrote a 2013 piece for the American Spectator, "Never Ignore Donald Trump."

The Donald saw it, liked it, called Lord, and they ended up hanging out.

Last summer, after Trump complained about unfair CNN commentary, Lord got the call.

"It was because of him, no question," says Lord.

Now, in addition to "a good contract" with CNN, he's contributing editor for the American Spectator and has a book out, What America Needs: The Case for Trump, by Regnery Publishing, the self-proclaimed "leader in conservative books."

Like Trump, Lord's offered up some far-out stuff.

He's compared President Obama to Chairman Mao, called for Obama's impeachment, and suggested Trump's initial refusal (later reversed) to denounce the KKK was like Obama's not quickly disowning his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, famously taped saying, "God damn America."

A heated exchange on that topic included CNN contributor and former Obama staffer Van Jones telling Lord, "Rev. Wright never lynched anybody."

Generally, though, Lord presents something less than ranting; insistent, yes, but not wacko-like in tone or delivery.

He believes in Trump, who he says "stands a real shot" at winning the White House, partly due to "things I hear right here in central Pennsylvania."

And the Biden thing? In 1987, Lord was in the Reagan White House (with a JFK portrait on his office wall) watching a Biden speech as Biden ran for president.

As a young - he says - New England "nerd," Lord listened to recordings of Kennedy brother speeches often enough to learn some by heart.

Hearing Biden, he recognized an RFK speech and started "finishing sentences" before Biden did. He contacted the New York Times, offered his evidence. It wasn't the first time Biden got caught un-attributing the words of others.

Lord was quoted in a Maureen Dowd Times article Sept. 16, 1987. Seven days later, Biden quit the race.

So Lord's seen some limelight before. Now it's a little brighter.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer