Left-wing media pundit Brian Stelter addressed former CNN boss Jeff Zucker’s exit from the company on Sunday, saying it “rattled” the network to its core and that it was the “ugliest shakeup” at the network in years.
Zucker, who had been with the network since 2013, admitted in a resignation memo to employees that he had failed to disclose a “consensual relationship” with marketing chief Allison Gollust. Gollust is still with the company.
The liberal network’s media correspondent addressed the scandal on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources.”
Many staffers, Stelter said, “are confused” and “angry,” later adding that Zucker’s exit is “not what they wanted.”
“This is the ugliest shakeup at CNN since the days Ted Turner was walking the halls,” Stelter said, referring to the network’s founder who was eventually forced out of the company.
Many employees “loved” Zucker and considered him the “best boss they’ve ever worked for,” to the point some would even “walk into a war zones for him,” Stelter claimed, before digging into why he believed Zucker was forced out.
The “background” to Zucker’s exit, Stelter said, is the mega merger between Discovery and CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia. The parties want the merger to go smoothly, Stelter argued, so Zucker and the controversies surrounding him had to be out of the way. Stelter said Zucker’s departure probably wouldn’t have occurred without the very public firing of anchor Chris Cuomo. In fact, the CNN host said one could “draw a straight line” from disgraced ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s downfall directly to Zucker’s, saying it was “almost Shakespearean.”
The former Democrat governor resigned after a slew of sexual harassment allegations last year, but the political scandal stretched to CNN after his brother Chris Cuomo was found to have used his influence in the media industry to help the governor face down those allegations.
Reports revealed that Zucker and Gollust, who previously served as Gov. Cuomo’s communications director, had been “instrumental” in the televised and controversial Cuomo brothers on air interviews in 2020. Gollust reportedly appealed to the governor to continue his CNN appearances despite his office’s hesitation.
Former CNN employees have claimed that Zucker’s relationship with Gollust was an “open secret” for years, and critics suggested that Stelter was one of the many who were in the know. Stelter did not directly address that allegation on Sunday or on this weekend’s “Reliable Sources” podcast, despite telling listeners that he would address the scandal “as transparently as possible.”
Zucker’s exit was one of multiple high profile departures from the liberal network. Chris Cuomo was terminated after not only having helped his older brother with his political mess but also having faced a sexual misconduct allegation of his own. Longtime CNN senior producer John Griffin was fired after he was arrested for child trafficking. CNN said they had “no knowledge” of the case prior to Griffin’s arrest.
And overshadowing CNN for months has been the network’s struggles to compete in the ratings game with other cable news competitors.
Following Stelter’s monologue, he nodded and agreed with his guest, Insider’s Chief Media Correspondent Claire Atkinson, after she referred to last week as CNN’s “week from hell.”
Fox News’ Brian Flood and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.