WarnerMedia faces mounting pressure to investigate a widely disputed claim by CNN marketing chief Allison Gollust, who said her relationship with ousted network boss Jeff Zucker changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“No question Allison lied in her statement that they didn’t become intimate until COVID. It’s amazing she can say that with a straight face,” a media industry veteran who has worked with Gollust told Fox News Digital.
Zucker was forced out from CNN on Wednesday, claiming a failure to disclose his relationship with Gollust was the reason. She quickly issued a statement indicating they have “been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years” but the relationship “changed during COVID.” Her claim immediately raised eyebrows, as rumors about the couple have circulated for years, and they even lived in the same apartment building.
The media industry veteran, who worked with Zucker and Gollust roughly a decade ago at NBC, said “everybody knew” they were a couple well before they joined CNN. Gollust is currently Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for CNN Worldwide.
“I think Warner is obligated to do a further investigation to determine she lied and fire her,” the insider continued. “Can’t have a chief of comms for a news org who lies.”
The comments came after a bombshell Rolling Stone report Thursday indicating the timeline on their relationship was “off by more than two decades,” and cited sources who claim “Zucker became romantically entangled with Gollust back in 1996, when she was a trainee in NBC’s corporate communications group and he was the married executive producer of The Today Show.”
While Zucker is out, Gollust said this week she would stay at CNN. WarnerMedia declined comment when asked if the company will investigate whether Gollust lied about the relationship’s timeline in her statement.
“It was so widely known it was just assumed everyone knew,” the media industry veteran said.
WarnerMedia did not immediately respond to a follow-up asking how anyone can trust CNN if executives appear to be lying in corporate statements.
A variety of former CNN employees and media industry insiders have also suggested that Zucker and Gollust have been in a consensual relationship for quite some time.
“Jeff and Allison have been in a relationship for many years, everyone knew … If they really cared [about] it, he would have been fired ages ago,” a second source close to the situation told Fox News Digital.
It was also well known that Zucker became irked when a 2020 corporate restructure enacted by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar took oversight of some of Gollust’s responsibilities away from him.
“Back in September 2020, this reporter placed calls to WarnerMedia and specifically asked if Kilar’s decision to move Gollust out from under Zucker was a result of learning about their relationship, which was in violation of the company’s code of conduct. At the time, a WarnerMedia spokesperson declined to answer and referred the matter to Gollust herself,” Rolling Stone’s Tatiana Siegel wrote.
Other media reporters have long been warned to tread lightly when asking Gollust, who oversaw CNN’s public relations unit, for comments about Zucker because of rumors about their relationship.
Gollust did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Former CNN digital producer Steve Krakauer tweeted, “Everyone who needed to know about Zucker’s relationship with Gollust already knew.”
“I encourage you to google the two parties and read the details about their relationship that dates back years. That said, I’m sure company emails can easily determine if she’s lying in this statement. Again—It was an open secret and I haven’t even worked there for like 8 years,” former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien tweeted in response to Gollust’s statement.
Former CNN correspondent Roland Martin bluntly declared it an “open secret” that Gollust was in a relationship with the boss.
“It was an open secret at @CNN that Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust, who he hired as head of communications, were having an affair,” Martin tweeted. “I was only there with them for four months in 2013 and knew. NBC folks knew when they worked together there. @katiecouric intimated that in her book!”
Indeed, Katie Couric’s 2021 book insinuated something was going on with Zucker and Gollust and passages were quickly shared on social media once Wednesday’s news broke.
Gollust became close to Zucker when the duo worked together at NBC starting in 1996. She quickly climbed the corporate ladder but eventually left the Peacock Network a few months after Zucker was ousted. Gollust was then appointed as former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s communications director in 2012. However, she bolted to join Zucker at CNN only four months later.
Martin also tweeted, “Look, there were many folks who were not happy that Jeff Zucker brought in Allison Gollust when he got hired. There were top inside staffers who got passed over. That rankled MANY on the inside at @CNN. But no one wanted to oppose Jeff because he would go after people.”
Gollust was once even floated as a candidate to eventually replace Zucker atop the liberal network. Other industry insiders, inside and outside CNN, have long considered Zucker’s relationship with Gollust to be an open secret and they were recently spotted together attending a concert at Madison Square Garden.
Kilar told CNN staffers on Wednesday that he was unaware of Gollust’s relationship to the former CNN boss until recently.
Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.