CNN President Jeffrey Zucker’s sudden resignation for failing to disclose his romantic relationship with the network’s chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust, sent shock waves throughout the cable news community last week.
Questions immediately began to swirl regarding who Zucker’s replacement might be and what impact the change would have upon the ailing network.
Once Discovery Inc. closes its merger with CNN’s current parent company, Warner Media, this spring, Discovery CEO David Zaslav will be calling the shots at the beleaguered network.
The New York Post reported that during a discussion on Friday with CNBC host Joe Kernan about CNN’s future, Zaslav said the network was “the leader in news to the left.”
Zaslav said, “We have this great entertainment menu, which should keep people in the home, from the kids to the grandparents. Why would they go anywhere else? And then we’re the leader in news to the left.”
Surprised by the admission, Kernan responded, “Definitely to the left. Did you say to the left?” He then said he “probably shouldn’t have said that.”
The Post noted that Zaslav did not “clarify” his comment and reported that the segment instantly “went viral on social media, where users pointed to it as an acknowledgement that CNN leans left politically.”
Spooked by Zaslav’s honest assessment of the situation, Discovery’s communication team immediately sprung into damage control mode.
The Post contacted Discovery about Zaslov’s comments and reported the team “insist[ed] he wasn’t talking about politics.”
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A representative said that Zaslov “didn’t finish his thought,” explaining when Zaslov speaks of “the left” or “the right,” he’s referring to “current and future business initiatives.”
The representative pointed to Zaslov’s reference later in the CNBC interview to growth “on the right side of the company,” which he said included HBO and their portfolio of sports rights.
The Post was told this was how Zaslov organized his discussions about Discovery’s portfolio.
Now, for anyone to buy that would require what Hillary Clinton once famously called, a “willful suspension of disbelief.”
It’s hard to imagine any corporate communications department doing a worse job of resetting an unfavorable narrative than the folks over at Discovery did. Truly.
The Daily Mail reported that CNBC had posted a clip of Zaslov’s interview with Kernan on Twitter. For obvious reasons, they quickly deleted it.
Additionally, the Mail reported that “Mediaite, which initially reported on the comment as a political remark, later issued a correction to clarify that ‘Zaslav was referring to the left side of the Discovery portfolio, not the left side of the political aisle.’”
According to the Post, CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that Discovery brass see Zucker’s departure as a “fresh start” for the network.
In a November interview with Deadline, Zaslov described Fox News as “much more of an advocacy network than a news network.”
That tone-deaf statement applies even more to CNN and shows that Zaslov is unwilling to take an honest look at the network he will soon be leading.
Given Zaslov’s history as a liberal, we shouldn’t expect any serious departures from CNN’s far-left take on the news. Yes, a new leader will implement some programming changes at the network, but don’t expect any real material changes to the content CNN is putting out or the audience to which it is crafted and marketed.
Zaslav will name a replacement for Zucker when the deal closes this spring.