- President of CNN Worldwide
- Detests Donald Trump and his political allies
Jeffrey Zucker was born to Jewish parents on April 9, 1965 in Homestead, Florida. He attended Harvard University, where he was president of the school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, and graduated in 1986 with a B.A. in American History. Upon completing his education, Zucker was hired by NBC Universal as a researcher for the network’s scheduled coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics. Zucker continued to work for NBC Universal in a variety of positions — including high-level executive posts like President and CEO – until 2010. When Comcast acquired 51% of NBC Universal in 2010, Zucker was paid between $30 million and $40 million to leave NBC. He then worked a brief stint as producer of Katie, a Disney-ABC Domestic Television talk show starring Katie Couric, before becoming the President of CNN Worldwide on January 1, 2013.
When Al Gore ran for the White House in 2000 he offered Zucker a position in his presidential administration, though it never materialized because Gore lost the election that November. In 2008, Zucker donated money to Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign. And in 2013, Zucker’s son Andrew worked briefly for Democrat U.S. Senator Cory Booker.
In 2004 Zucker and his then-wife attended a dinner party in San Francisco, where, Zucker later recalled, the city’s then-district attorney, Kamala Harris “really knocked our socks off.” So impressed with Harris was Zucker, that in 2009 he hosted a “power breakfast” at New York’s Rockefeller Center in order to introduce Harris to some of the city’s most prominent and influential people. “Kamala is not just important for the city of San Francisco, the state of California,” Zucker told those in attendance, “but for the entire country.” “This is in fact the first time I’ve ever done one of these [power breakfasts],” Zucker added, “and that’s because I have a very, very strict policy because of my job. I’ve taken a position that I completely stay out of supporting candidates of any party and try to stay out of politics entirely.”
In 2019, Cary Poarch, an employee at CNN’s Washington, D.C. Bureau, contacted Project Veritas, which uses undercover investigative journalism to expose political and media corruption, and offered to “wear a hidden camera … to expose the bias running rampant” at CNN. Over the course of several months, Poarch compiled undercover audio and video footage of numerous long-term employees at CNN, some of whom spoke candidly about Zucker’s hatred for President Donald Trump. In one video clip, for instance, CNN media coordinator Nick Neville stated: “Jeff Zucker – basically president of CNN – has a personal vendetta against Trump. Your own biases are gonna be there. They’re going to seep into what you think, they’re gonna seep into what you say, so if Jeff Zucker like blatantly hates Trump, and he runs CNN (which he does) … it’s not gonna be positive for Trump. He hates him [Trump]. It’s gonna be negative!”
In another clip, CNN media coordinator Christian Sierra recounted an instance where, while host Jake Tapper was on the air conducting a contentious interview with White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, Zucker entered the control room and told the program’s executive producer to skip commercials and continue grilling Conway, because Zucker wanted to “just fu**ing nail her.” Added Sierra:
- “Jeff Zucker runs the show. He made, he will personally go into the control room. and if Jake Tapper’s interviewing Kellyanne Conway, he went into the control room during that interview and he was like, keep going and keep going. Ask the questions. We’ll pass the commercial breaks. Keep going … I mean they turned a seven minute interview into a 25 minute interview.”
- “Jeff Zucker personally got on the phone with the executive producer of Tapper’s show…. [Conway] was arguing back and forth with Jake Tapper and Zucker told them in the ear piece, keep going, keep going, keep going. Don’t stop you guys.”
In recordings of conversations between Zucker and CNN staffers, Zucker could be heard saying things like this:
- “I want to stay with this, our top, top – our own reporters, our own political analysts, the top, the top [unintelligible] we have. Okay, so make sure we’re doing that. All these moves are moves towards [Trump’s] impeachment. So, don’t – don’t lose sight of what the biggest story is.”
- “Let’s just stay very focused on impeachment. We shouldn’t just pretend, oh, this is going one way. And so all of these moves are toward impeachment.”
Zucker’s contempt for Trump also manifested itself in CNN’s overwhelmingly negative coverage of the President and members of his administration, coverage that frequently featured demonstrably false information. Journalist Sharyl Attkisson has documented numerous instances of such bias. Some examples:
- January 20, 2017: CNN claimed that Nancy Sinatra was “not happy” about her father’s song “My Way” being used at Trump’s inauguration. Sinatra subsequently responded, “That’s not true. I never said that. Why do you lie, CNN?… Actually I’m wishing him the best.”
- May 10, 2017: CNN reported leaked information falsely claiming that Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey shortly after Comey had requested additional resources to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
- June 6, 2017: Four CNN reporters said that Comey was going to publicly refute Trump’s claim that Comey had told the President three times that he [Trump] was not under investigation. Instead, Comey confirmed Trump’s claim.
- 2017: CNN repeatedly reported, as though it were fact, the Hillary Clinton claim that 17 separate U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia was behind a number of election-year attacks designed to help Trump win the presidency. In reality, only 3 or 4 agencies, not 17, had done so.
- September 5, 2017: CNN’s Chris Cillizza claimed that Trump had “lied” when stating that Trump Tower had been wiretapped. It was later learned that numerous wiretaps had indeed been conducted against Trump Tower.
- November 6, 2017: CNN’s Daniel Shane deceptively edited excerpts from a Trump event to (falsely) make it seem as though the President was unaware that Japan built automobiles in the United States.
- November 6, 2017: CNN deceptively edited a video to falsely make it appear as though Trump had broken protocol by impatiently dumping a box of fish food into the water during a fish-feeding ritual at a Japanese palace.
- December 4, 2017: CNN referenced the “lies” that Trump’s Deputy National Security Adviser, K.T. McFarland, supposedly had told about another Trump official’s contacts with Russians. CNN’s claim turned out to be untrue.
- December 8, 2017: CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb reported that Donald Trump Jr. had conspired with WikiLeaks in advance of the publication of internal emails that were highly damaging to the Democrat Party and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. But CNN had the date wrong: WikiLeaks and Trump Junior had been in contact after the emails were published.
- May 16, 2018: CNN’s Oliver Darcy deceptively excerpted a Trump comment in a manner that made it seem as if the President had referred to immigrants or illegal immigrants generally as “animals.” But in fact, Trump was referring specifically to members of the murderous MS-13 criminal gang.
- May 28, 2018: CNN’s Hadas Gold used her Twitter page to share a news story with photos of illegal-immigrant children in cages at U.S. detention facilities, as though the story and photos were about conditions under the Trump administration. But the article and photos were actually from 2014, when Barack Obama was president.
- November 14, 2018: CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported that President Trump had decided to fire a Deputy National Security Adviser upon the First Lady’s demand. But the story was untrue; the adviser had simply been reassigned to another job.
- January 22, 2019: CNN was one of multiple news outlets that mischaracterized as aggressors a group of Trump-supporting Catholic teenagers from Kentucky at a pro-life rally in Washington, D.C.
- July 13, 2019: In a story about a lawsuit alleging that Trump, during his presidential campaign, had forcibly kissed a campaign worker, CNN failed to mention that that lawsuit had already been dismissed.
- August 2019: CNN falsely reported that an illegal-immigrant mother had her baby ripped from her arms while she was breast-feeding.
- September 10, 2019: Citing anonymous sources, CNN falsely reported claims that the CIA had removed a top U.S. spy from Russia in 2017 because of concern over President Trump’s careless handling of classified information.
On another occasion, in July 2018, CNN falsely claimed that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, was prepared to tell special counsel investigators that the President had known in advance about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russia lawyer.
In October 2019, CNN published a “fact check” claiming that President Trump had grossly exaggerated the depleted state of America’s munitions stockpile when he was first sworn into office, and also his impact on the subsequent rebuild of that stockpile. But in its presentation, CNN completely omitted a large amount of data provided by a Heritage Foundation defense analyst demonstrating that Trump’s assertions were absolutely accurate.
In light of CNN’s long history of inaccuracies and dishonesty vis-a-vis President Trump and other conservatives, liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz said in July 2019: “[Zucker] has destroyed CNN. He has made it impossible for people to hear two sides of a view or any side of a view other than Jeff Zucker’s view, and that’s not the way television should operate…. [Viewers are] not getting analysis or reporting; they’re getting wishful thinking, and that’s not a substitute for hard news.”
On December 1, 2020, Project Veritas released a batch of new audio clips that it had secretly recorded over a period of two months, of CNN’s daily 9 a.m. rundown telephone conference calls in which Zucker and several other CNN executives had given voice to their extreme political biases against President Trump and conservatives. Some examples of what these individuals had said in those calls:
- Zucker: “This is a president [Trump] who knows he’s losing, who knows he’s in trouble, is sick, maybe is on the after-effects of steroids or not. I don’t know. But he is acting erratically and desperately, and we need to not normalize that.”
- Zucker: “You know, this is what we’ve come to expect for the last three and a half years, four years, but it clearly is exacerbated by the time that we’re in and the issues that he’s [Trump is] dealing with. I think that we cannot just let it be normalized. He is all over the place and acting erratically, and I think we need to lean into that.”
- Zucker: “Frankly, if we’ve made any mistake, it’s been that our banners have been too polite, and we need to go well after [Republican Senator] Lindsey Graham. There’s a ton going on. Let’s stay strong. Let’s stay newsy. Let’s stay urgent. Let’s be smart. There is a lot of news out there, and Lindsey Graham really deserves it.”
- Stephanie Becker, CNN field producer: “On the issue of why it’s important to get the transition [to a Joe Biden administration] going right, the 9-11 [Commission] report talks about one of the problems was that the trouble that was brewing [got] lost during the transition [from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration]. So, if you want a good, concrete example of what happens when you don’t have a good transition, well, look at the Twin Towers.”
- David Vigilante, CNN’s General Counsel: “I think it’s unavoidable that you have to talk about the naked racism of [Fox News anchor] Tucker Carlson. Because that’s really what drove this anti-diversity push, you know, Trump watches Tucker Carlson’s show and then reacts. And just as sort of the white supremacy hour they have on Fox News every night, I think it’s the — You can’t disconnect the two.”
In response to the foregoing recordings, Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe said: “These statements made by high-up executives at CNN prove that they are simply not interested in being unbiased when reporting on the news. CNN likes to call themselves ‘the most trusted name in news,’ but how can the public ever trust a network that routinely bashes people simply because those people hold certain political views that are not aligned with the mainstream media?”
On December 2, 2020, Project Veritas released a second tranche of audio clips from Zucker’s 9 a.m. conference calls, where, as James O’Keefe explained, “Zucker orders his people to suppress some stories—not because they are false—but because they will hurt his political agenda.” Following are some examples from a discussion about how CNN should avoid publicizing an October 2020 New York Post report indicating that emails stored on the laptop computer of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, contained evidence of massive financial malfeasance in the Biden family’s dealings with a Ukrainian gas company named Burisma Holdings:
- Zucker: “The Breitbart, New York Post, Fox News rabbit hole of Hunter Biden, which I don’t think anybody outside of that world understood.”
- Zucker: “The Wall Street Journal reported that their review of all corporate records showed no role for Joe Biden on the Chinese deal, and yes, I do put more credibility in The Wall Street Journal than I do in the New York Post.”
- Unidentified male participant: “Obviously, we’re not going with the New York Post story right now on Hunter Biden, which seems to be giving its marching orders to Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber about what to talk about today. Obviously, Hunter Biden’s lawyer is quoted in the New York Post, and we’ll just continue to report out, this is the very stuff that the president was impeached over, this is the stuff that Senate committees looked at and found nothing wrong in Joe Biden’s interactions with Ukrainians.”
- Another unidentified male participant: “Having an email that — perhaps there was a meeting with someone from Burisma it seems, Rudy Giuliani’s sort of ‘dream-a-vision’ of how to throw stuff at the wall in these closing days of the campaign.”
- Another male participant named David: “Hey, Jeff [Zucker], it’s just David, on the Burisma story, and we should be awfully careful about that obviously, but I do think there’s a media story. What in the world are [New York Times reporter] Maggie Haberman and [Politico reporter] Jake Sherman doing retweeting that story?”
The same batch of audio clips released on December 2, 2020 by Project Veritas contained audio of Zucker and staffers deciding not to cover stories of alleged ballot irregularities and voter fraud that had occurred in the 2020 presidential election of November 3:
- Zucker: “Trump continuing to undermine election integrity with baseless claims of fraud. OK? And he’s continuing to do it, and that leads to the question of whether or not Trump, in himself, is a national security threat, in light of what he’s doing and in light of what he did in the debate.”
- Another male participant named David: Suggesting that CNN should rely on the Washington attorney Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a self-described Republican who had recently stated that the Republican Party was “destroying itself on the altar of Trump,” David said: “Hey Jeff, it’s David. I just wanted to make one point about contextualizing Ben Ginsburg. He’s without a doubt the preeminent election lawyer on the Republican side, and probably one of the most pre-eminent election lawyers in America. [Ginsberg] also had a front row seat to every Republican election issue for the past four years. If [Ginsberg] says voter fraud isn’t a thing, that’s kind of the end of the story. We got to treat that as a definitive answer, as we cover the story throughout. Our refrain ought to be, ‘Ben Ginsburg was across us for 40 years and says, ‘It doesn’t exist.’’”
In another audio clip released by Project Veritas on December 2, 2020, CNN Senior Vice President and Managing Director Cynthia Hudson said the following about Cuban-Americans’ strong support for President Trump:
“Trump has used the communism, socialism, rhetoric as part of his hook for the Cubans in Miami, how that has resonated and how the Biden team, has not done enough to counter that. This is all that, that the only reason [Cubans in Miami] are supporting Trump is because of that [‘Biden is a socialist’] narrative—and that narrative, and the fact that sadly, I have to say, there’s a [Cuban] population that’s very attracted to bullies…. No one is countering it properly in Florida, the Cubans are going to vote for Trump and that’s terrifying.”
On February 2, 2022, Zucker resigned from his post at CNN after acknowledging that he had failed to disclose a long-term affair he had been conducting with the network’s chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust, who had previously served as communications director for former New York Governor Andrew 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,” Zucker, without explicitly naming Gollust, wrote in a memo to CNN staffers. “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.” Upon Zucker’s departure, he was replaced at CNN by executive vice presidents Michael Bass, Amy Entelis, and Ken Jautz.
But Zucker’s explanation for his sudden decision to step down from CNN was highly misleading, particularly in light of the fact that his relationship with Gollust had long been known about in media circles. As New York magazine put it: “Zucker and Gollust’s relationship was one of the biggest open secrets in media. CNN staffers awkwardly navigated the pairing, since every time they dealt with her, they were keenly aware that she was involved with the boss. They were rolling their eyes at Gollust’s own statement that said ‘recently, our relationship changed during Covid.’ It had been going on for much longer: Page Six would wink at it from time to time, and the two have known each other since they worked together at NBC decades ago.”
In reality, Zucker’s resignation came as part of an agreement he negotiated with John Stankey, the chief executive officer of AT&T, which owned CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia. Under the terms of that agreement, Zucker would quietly and compliantly leave CNN while Stankey, in turn, would give a $9 million payoff to former CNN host Chris Cuomo, to prevent the latter from moving forward with a threatened lawsuit against CNN. It was expected that Cuomo, if he were to move forward with that suit, was prepared to reveal details of how Zucker and Gollust in 2020 had unethically: (a) coached then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on how to best handle his televised COVID-19 press briefings, and (b) advised the governor on how he could respond to criticisms from President Trump in a manner that would maximally enhance his (Cuomo’s) public image. “Jeff cut a deal to say ‘I’ll leave, and you settle with Cuomo,’” a source told the New York Post. “He [Zucker] thought AT&T would fight a lawsuit and it would go public otherwise.”