But as much as CNN tried to resurrect its lead character – who was banned from social media and largely off the grid for the year – his absence clearly showed the network was a one-trick partisan pony. Ratings fell 90 percent overall when comparing January 2021 to January 2022. That’s hard to do.
Which brings us to the events of this week: Zucker released a statement saying he had to resign because of a consensual affair with a female executive named Allison Gollust. WarnerMedia apparently has a rule against this, so Zucker – instead of a slap on the wrist for a benign offense – simply had to go abruptly.
Nobody believed this excuse. Turns out they may have had plenty of reason to be skeptical.
Per several reports, Zucker and Gollust allegedly advised then Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) – the older brother of then-CNN anchor Chris Cuomo – on what to say during his COVID-19 daily briefings in the spring of 2020. They also reportedly told Cuomo how to respond to and how to criticize then-President Trump, to make it more compelling TV. (Gollust is a former communications director for Andrew Cuomo.)
Let’s unpack all of this:
In the spring of 2020, the country was in a horrific place. Businesses shut completely; people were scared. There were no COVID therapeutics, no vaccines. Hospitals were overwhelmed, thousands were dying each day. If ever there was a time for news organizations to educate and inform the public, this was it.
Instead, Zucker apparently believed it was the perfect time to exploit the situation for political gain and to help the network’s ratings.
Andrew Cuomo benefitted from briefings that made him appear to be the adult in the room regarding COVID and Trump appear to be the villain. Cuomo got a $5.1 million book deal as a result.
Chris Cuomo and Zucker/Gollust/CNN benefitted from marathon interviews with Cuomo’s governor/brother, which didn’t touch the governor’s alleged nursing home scandal. Ratings soared.
So, was Zucker’s departure simply about a consensual relationship with a co-worker? One might be forgiven for questioning that.
Moving forward, what’s next for CNN when the company falls under the Discovery Channel umbrella later this year? Let’s hear from its soon-to-be largest shareholder, John Malone of Liberty Media.
“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone said in an interview that recently aired on CNBC.
The collapse of CNN is now complete: Nine-out-of-ten viewers, gone. Its top-rated anchor, Chris Cuomo, gone. Its network president, gone. Its integrity in shambles.
Oh, and new management coming in that is signaling big-time changes … changes that may bring CNN back to the proud network it once was before Jeff Zucker destroyed it.
Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason