Playing the role of Baghdad Bob after the 2003 fall of the Iraqi capital to U.S. troops, CNN’s Reliable Sources host and chief media correspondent Brian Stelter crawled out of his shell to spinelessly shill for Jeff Zucker moments after his resignation from CNN, calling him “a larger than life” and “pioneering figure” and their “rock” who’s left them in “a stunner.”
As if some national hero had passed on, Stelter coached those watching inside CNN to continue covering “the news” as he would want them to do.
CNN has been anything but in Zucker’s nine years and instead a shell of itself, having become one of American’s most hated media organizations and hemorrhaged viewers in both prime time and total day since he took over in January 2013.
Speaking on At This Hour to host Kate Bolduan, the chickenhearted left-wing activist heaped praise on his now-ex-boss, offering zero condemnations or criticism: “Zucker's been a larger than life figure at this organization for nearly a decade, a pioneering figure, and now his resignation is stunning this newsroom and the news industry.”
Stelter then read Zucker’s full memo before lamenting that it was “a stunner for the CNN newsroom” but also played corporate tool by suggesting there was nothing percolating below the surface as, since the head of WarnerMedia hasn’t “announced...an interim leadership plan,” Zucker’s decision to quit “happen[ed] very suddenly.”
Given CNN’s recent allegations of being filled with sexual creeps and the ongoing scandal with Chris Cuomo and threats of lawsuits, it’s safe to not take Stelter’s statement as fact.
After he revealed that the woman in question was fellow executive Allison Gollust, Stelter took their word that their “consensual...relationship evolved in recent years,” before offering more state-run media-like praise that would make Chinese and North Korean propagandists blush, calling him “the rock for” CNN even though he’s been absent in recent days from “the morning editorial calls.”
Stelter concluded by insisting that, if Zucker were at a news meeting, he’d tell them the network isn’t about “the person on top,” but “the team we all played for.”
“It's CNN as an organization. This news operation so much bigger than any single person. And so, the news goes on, but now without the top executive,” he added, which Bolduan concurred with by saying “he would” tell them to “keep reporting the news.”
Over at CNN.com, Stelter and chief deputy lemming Oliver Darcy were even more effusive in their bootlicking, seeing no such errors in their Dear Leader (click “expand”):
He also brought a hands-on management style and gained the trust and respect of talent and staffers throughout the network.
In recent years, Zucker led the network as it faced sustained attacks from former President Trump and his supporters. Under Zucker, CNN adopted a "Facts First" slogan and approach to the news and was unrelenting in calling out Trump for his lies.
The approach turned Zucker into a villain for Trump, with the then-president lashing out at him during his years in office. Zucker also became a regular boogeyman in right-wing media, with Fox hosts viciously attacking him in prime time.
It was all evidence of Zucker's larger-than-life status in the news business and influence over the broader discourse in American politics.
According to Nielsen Media Research, CNN is already down 76 percent from last year in prime time total viewers and 82 percent in the 25-54 demo. Going back to 2013, they’re down three percent in prime time total eyeballs and 29 percent in the demo, so, again, it hasn’t exactly been a sterling tenure if one looked solely at ratings.
Adding one final point to the list of problems, there’s been a poisonous lack of self-reflection as to why people have stopped listening to and respecting them.
Instead of seeking to show respect for people of all political persuasions (and not venom), they’ve said things like this from Stelter on Monday to Bolduan about how those who listen to The Joe Rogan Experience are the bigger problem for American discourse than CNN newsrooms (click “expand”):
STELTER: Rogan is at the center of this because of the guests he's had on this podcast, and the anti- vaccination narratives coming out of this popular podcast. Here's what Rogan said in an Instagram video overnight.
STELTER: [N]ot all opinions are created equal. You think about major newsrooms like CNN that have health departments and deaths and operations that work hard on verifying information on COVID-19, and then you have talk show stars like Joe Rogan, who just swing it, who make it up as they go along. And because figures like Rogan are trusted by people that don't trust real newsrooms, we have a tension — a problem that's much bigger than Spotify, much bigger than any single platform, Kate. But that's what — is the heart of this right now.
BOLDUAN: Yes. But you're right, it is getting something bigger that isn't going to be solved in one Joe Rogan video or one statement from Spotify. That's for sure.
(h/t: @RedSteeze for the inspiration on the headline.)
Wednesday’s At This Hour offering one last valentine to Zucker was made possible thanks to advertisers such as 23andMe and Lexus. Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant CNN transcript from February 2, click “expand.”
CNN’s At This Hour With Kate Bolduan
February 2, 2022
11:18 a.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: CNN President Jeff Zucker Resigns Effective Immediately]
KATE BOLDUAN: We have news now to report involving our network. CNN president Jeff Zucker has just resigned after disclosing an consensual relationship with a colleague. Jeff has led our company — led CNN for the last nine. Joining me now is CNN chief media correspondent, host of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter. Brian, what more do you have?
BRIAN STELTER: As you said, Kate, Zucker's been a larger than life figure at this organization for nearly a decade, a pioneering figure, and now his resignation is stunning this newsroom and the news industry. Now, let me read his memo in full and put it into context for the viewers. He wrote to staffers a few minutes ago: “As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN” — Cuomo, of course, fired last month — Zucker says “was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years. I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.” Zucker continues in the memo here: “I came to CNN on January 28, 2013. Together, we had nine great years. I certainly wish my tenure here had ended differently. But it was an amazing run. And I” have “loved every minute. I am grateful to the thousands of incredibly talented CNN and Turner Sports employees who helped make this such a joy for me, and such a success for all of us. I wish each of you nothing but the best in the years ahead.” That memo from Jeff Zucker a few minutes ago, a stunner for the CNN newsroom and for Turner Sports, which he oversaw in recent years. Now, the head of WarnerMedia, Jason Kyler, has just announced that he will be announcing an interim leadership plan shortly. In other words, he’s not naming a new boss right away. That tells you this did happen very suddenly.
The key detail not included in the Zucker memo is the name of his colleague. He refers to a consensual relationship with his closest colleague. That colleague is Allison Gollust, who is the head of marketing and communications for CNN and for Turner Sports. She has worked with Zucker for decades. They were together at NBC at the Today show in the '90s, then at NBC Universal and now at CNN and WarnerMedia. According to this memo here, it was a consensual relationship that evolved in recent years, and that they — and he did not disclose it, and thus, that’s why he's resigning.
I’ve just received, Kate, while we're speaking here, a statement from Allison Gollust as well. As I said, Gollust, the top marketing executive for CNN, she’s remaining with the company, and here's what she says: “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years. Recently our relationship changed during COVID. I regret that we didn't disclose it at the right time.” Gollust going on to say: “I'm incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do every day.”
So, this is a scenario where you have people who are working together for a long time, then they start a personal relationship, and because they're both acknowledging they did not disclose it at the time, Zucker saying he should have disclosed it right away, that is why he is saying he's resigned effective immediately. Kate, we both know he — Jeff Zucker has been the rock for this organization. The last few days he has not been on the morning editorial calls. Some people even noticed and wondered if something was amiss. I don't think anyone saw this coming this morning, an announcement like this. But I think if Zucker was on this call this morning, I know what he would say. He would say what’s important at CNN is not the person on top, it's the team we all played for. It's CNN as an organization. This news operation so much bigger than any single person. And so, the news goes on, but now without the top executive.
BOLDUAN: Yeah. Keep reporting the news. That's what he would say. Brian, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.