Jeff Zucker’s sudden departure from CNN has created an uneasy workplace environment rife with tension and questions about the network’s future, but two of his most loyal employees have defended and praised their now-former boss until the bitter end.
Zucker loyalists Alisyn Camerota and Brian Stelter have both spoken out about the CNN honcho leaving the network after failing to disclose a “consensual relationship” with network executive Allison Gollust. Stelter referred to Zucker’s resignation as a “seismic moment” because he is “a singular figure in American media.”
Stelter made headlines of his own on Wednesday when an insider called for his firing after he declined to expose Zucker’s romantic relationship that has been dubbed an “open secret” by critics, while Camerota made news by fawning over her now-former boss during her dayside news show.
Camerota was handpicked by Zucker to help fix the long struggling morning show “New Day,” in 2015, but she was shifted to an afternoon program in 2021 as “New Day” struggled to attract viewers. One of her first duties on the afternoon gig was a famously awkward segment where she described Jeffrey Toobin’s masturbation scandal to viewers in painstaking detail, but it appears she doesn’t hold any hard feelings against Zucker for the embarrassing assignment.
Camerota and Stelter teamed up on Wednesday to inform CNN’s audience about the latest information regarding their now-former leader. During the segment, Camerota openly expressed concern for post-Zucker CNN as she gushed about her outgoing boss.
“I just want to say something personal for a moment, if I may. I feel it deeply personally, but I think I speak for all of us and our colleagues. This is an incredible loss,” Camerota said.
“Jeff is a remarkable person and an incredible leader. He has this uncanny ability to make, I think, every one of us feel special and valuable in our own way even though he is managing an international news organization of thousands of people,” she continued. “I just know he had this unique ability to make us feel special. I don’t think that comes around all the time and I think, again, it’s an incredible loss.”
Camerota went on to call Zucker’s ousting “regrettable” and went on to downplay the sexual relationship being blamed.
“These are two consenting adults who are both executives,” she said. “They can’t have a private relationship? Feels wrong.”
Stelter followed Camerota’s defense of Zucker with his thoughts on the situation, noting that he learned Zucker was actually forced out by WarnerMedia executives and wasn’t given the chance to help transition to new leadership.
While Camerota heaped praise on Zucker, Stelter seemed to place blame on former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo while downplaying the fact that his former’s boss’ relationship with Gollust was common knowledge inside CNN and calling Zucker a “larger-than-life leader.” His online article about Zucker’s resignation also gushed, “He also brought a hands-on management style and gained the trust and respect of talent and staffers throughout the network.”
The left-wing media pundit, who was also handpicked by Zucker to join the network in 2013, has worked closely with him along the way and is often accused of serving as a quasi-spokesperson. Over the years, CNN insiders have told Fox News Digital that Stelter regularly embraced Zucker in full view of the network’s old Columbus Circle newsroom with over-the-top greetings that left staffers thinking he wanted to show off his cozy relationship with the boss.
On Wednesday, Stelter told Camerota he had two layers to add to her praise of Zucker.
“Number one is the Chris Cuomo reference. Cuomo was fired in December, and he is not going out quietly. He was fired and there were reports he wasn’t going to get paid the millions of dollars on the remainder of his contract. As a source said earlier today, he was trying to burn the place down,” Stelter said.
“He was going to court trying to burn the place down and claiming he had incriminating information about Zucker and Gollust, so if this is the case, this is a domino effect that begins with Andrew Cuomo going down the governor’s office and Chris Cuomo being fired from CNN and Jeff Zucker losing his job at CNN. That’s a remarkable domino effect, a chain of events, I think that’s part of the story,” Stelter continued.
“There may be elements here we don’t know,” Stelter said. “For now, what we do know, is through that Cuomo investigation, Zucker was asked about his relationship, he acknowledged it, he said he should have acknowledged it earlier, and that was the reason WarnerMedia says he’s out.”
Also on Wednesday, Radar Online suggested Stelter served as his now-former boss’s attack dog by attacking the publication hours after it asked network management about his sexual relationship with Gollust.
Zucker’s note to staffers, which was first shared by Stelter himself, also invoked Chris Cuomo.
“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. 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 wrote.
“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 loved every minute,” Zucker continued. “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.”
Fox News’ Lindsay Kornick and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.