CNN President Jeff Zucker speaks at the 2017 Business Insider Ignition: Future of Media conference in New York, November 30, 2017. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Four members of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Capitol riot are “devastated for our democracy” after CNN president Jeff Zucker announced his resignation earlier this week, according to a CNN correspondent.
Zucker stepped down on Wednesday after acknowledging that he had failed to disclose a romantic relationship with CNN executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust.
“As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years,” Zucker wrote in a memo to staff. “I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong.”
During a 90-minute meeting with Jason Kilar, chief executive of CNN’s parent firm, WarnerMedia, staffers from the cable news channel’s Washington bureau went to bat for Zucker and expressed concern over the future of the company, according to an audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
“I think we’ve heard a lot of corporate double talk,” said Washington correspondent Jamie Gangel. “I think the company has made a terrible mistake by doing this.”
Gangel, who has worked with Zucker since her early days as an up-and-coming producer at NBC, said she received calls from four members of the nine-person congressional panel investigating the Capitol riot “who felt devastated for our democracy” now that Zucker has left CNN.
“I do not think you have any appreciation for what you’ve done to this organization,” she said.
The committee is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans: Representatives Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.), Elaine Luria (D., Va.), Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D., Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (D., Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), Liz Cheney (R., Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.)
During Wednesday’s meeting with Kilar, CNN Washington correspondent Jim Acosta claimed that without Zucker’s leadership during the Trump administration “we would have probably been taken out and you would have something like Fox News lite on the air right now,” according to the report.
“It’s a rather delicate time, not just for this country but this business,” he added.
Meanwhile, anchor Jake Tapper said the network would have turned into “benign, vanilla gruel” without Zucker.
Tapper went on to claim that WarnerMedia was caving to disgraced anchor Chris Cuomo, who has promised to retaliate against Zucker for firing him without pay, the report says. Cuomo is likely to pursue legal action over his compensation, an estimated $6 million annually, according to the report.
“He threatened,” Tapper said. “Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Chris blew the place up. How do we get past that perception that this is the bad guy winning?”
CNN fired Cuomo in December over his involvement in advising his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on how to handle nearly a dozen sexual harassment allegations.
Zucker had supported Cuomo for months before the anchor was finally let go following the release of documents by the New York State attorney general showing that Cuomo had leaned on contacts in the media business to help his brother navigate his sexual-harassment scandal. CNN reportedly learned of a sexual misconduct allegation against Chris Cuomo by a former junior colleague at another network days before it fired the anchor, though Cuomo has denied the allegation.
For her part, Gollust, who served as a communications director for Andrew Cuomo for just four months in 2012 and 2013 before quitting to join CNN, said Wednesday she plans to remain in her role at the company.
“Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years,” she wrote. “Recently, our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday.”
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