THIS IS CNN?…. Trevor Francis, the communications director at the Republican National Committee, was forced out yesterday. A couple of hours later, the party announced that Alex Castellanos, a notorious Republican media consultant and CNN contributor, will take over as a senior communications adviser to RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

The news prompted Atrios to note, “I’m sure CNN will keep his seat warm.” I assumed the same thing, but as it turns out, that won’t be necessary — Castellanos will still be sitting in the same seat.

Longtime Republican media strategist Alex Castellanos will continue to serve as an on-air personality for CNN despite recently taking on a consulting role for the Republican National Committee, the network confirms.

On Monday, it was reported that Castellanos, who has served as a media consultant for many Republican presidential candidates as well as an advisor for the private health insurance industry, will play an expanded role at the RNC after the committee parted ways with its communications director, Trevor Francis.

Apparently, Castellanos makes enough money doing media work for private health insurance companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he’ll be unpaid for his work as the RNC’s senior communications adviser. And since Castellanos won’t literally be on the Republican National Committee’s payroll, CNN is entirely comfortable paying him to offer “political analysis” on the air.

And here I thought the ethical/professional lines had already been blurred too much. Now, CNN — you know, the network that has positioned itself as above the fray — will feature regular on-air commentary from the Republican National Committee’s new message/strategy guy.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.