By Matthew Balan ~
CNN President Jeffrey Zucker tried to dispel his network’s liberal reputation in a Tuesday interview with Variety‘s Ramin Setoodeh. Zucker underlined that “if everybody is a little upset at the end of the day, we’re probably doing our job.” Setoodeh spotlighted that “part of that job, per Zucker’s mandate, also has been to make CNN feel fair to viewers in red states.” He added that “Zucker…tries to keep the coverage impartial. ‘I think our air, as opposed to others’, is truly fair and balanced,’ Zucker says.”
The writer’s piece carried a triumphant headline about the network executive that referenced Donald Trump’s campaign slogan: “How Jeff Zucker Made CNN Great Again.” Setoodeh first zeroed in on Zucker’s presence at the Democratic National Convention. He touted that “since becoming president of CNN Worldwide in 2013, the intense, bespectacled 51-year-old executive has largely flown under the radar…as CNN chief, he keeps his personal thoughts about world events private–he doesn’t even tweet. ‘Probably to protect myself,’ Zucker says. ‘If I was on Twitter, I’d probably get in trouble pretty quickly.'”
Zucker certainly is no stranger to “trouble” during his time as CNN’s president. Back in February 2015, he had to defend one of his vice presidents, Virgina Moseley, for hosting the President and Mrs. Obama at her residence in Washington, D.C.: “Zucker said no [it’s not a conflict of interest ] because he goes to cocktail parties all the time with different parents of his children’s friends…The dinner was for parents and kids from Sidwell Friends School [in D.C.], where President Obama sends his kids to school,’ adding that it wasn’t a private dinner for the Obamas.”
Six paragraphs later, Setoodeh highlighted that “Zucker works from a modest office — with an open-door policy — on the CNN newsroom floor. He has 11 TVs mounted on the wall, so he can keep track of his competitors, and he’s such a news junkie, he reads six daily papers in print. (He displays a framed tweet by Donald Trump complimenting CNN, written many months ago.)” After this brief reference to the framed Tweet, he returned to the issue of the billionaire:
…At NBC, he [Zucker] launched Trump’s entertainment career by greenlighting “The Apprentice.” You could argue that if Trump hadn’t been in so many homes, playing a leader, voters wouldn’t be as comfortable with the idea of him doing it for real. “I do think it helped him,” Zucker says. “He was in a field of 17 people, and as a result, his celebrity gave him greater recognition.” But even with their history, Trump has been bashing CNN just like he has every other media outlet.
The Variety writer continued with Zucker’s “mandate…to make CNN feel fair to viewers in red states” and the CNN president’s claim that his network is “truly fair and balanced.” He cited how the network “raised eyebrows when it added Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to its payroll as a commentator. ‘The reason we hired Corey is that now that we are in the general election, I think it’s really important to have voices on CNN who are supportive of the Republican nominee,’ says Zucker.”
Despite hiring Lewandowski, CNN certainly has slanted in favor of Hillary in other ways. During the Republican National Convention, anchor Chris Cuomo falsely claimed that Republicans were “banging on…[Hillary Clinton’s] e-mail situation not because classified information got sent, because it didn’t in any real way and we all know that, but it’s about lying.” The following week, the network played six times more convention videos from the Democrats than it did during the Republican convention. The network also aired 19 minutes of Mrs. Clinton’s speech to the VFW, while it punted on airing Trump’s the following day.
Most egregiously, CNN’s New Day on Wednesday devoted 187 times more air time to various Trump controversies than it did to the Wall Street Journal’s revelation that the Obama administration made “a secret $400 million payment to Iran [that] coincided with the release in January of four Americans.”
Setoodeh later played up that “CNN has flexed its muscles covering major breaking news such as Brexit, the Dallas police-officer shootings, and the Orlando nightclub massacre….The image of [Anchor Anderson] Cooper fighting back tears as he interviewed the [Orlando] victims’ families was one of the most sustaining images to emerge from the tragedy. TV news anchors are taught to stay emotionally distant from the stories they cover, but Zucker encourages them to be real. ‘I want them to be human….I don’t want robots. If we wanted robots, we’d go hire robots.'”
Of course, a flip-side of anchors being “human” is that they could inject their political biases into their reporting. A prominent recent example of this was CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s decrying the “xenophobia” of the aforementioned Brexit vote in late June 2016, and then conducting a unprofessional interrogation of conservative referendum supporter Daniel Hannan.
It should be pointed out that just three months earlier, Zucker admitted in a May 2016 Wall Street Journal interview that there was “a legitimate criticism of CNN that it was a little too liberal.” However, he added that “we have added many more middle-of-the-road conservative voices to an already strong stable of liberal voices. And I think that we are a much more-balanced network.” If the recent weeks are any indication, CNN is still plenty liberal.
Matthew Balan has been a news analyst at Media Research Center since February 2007, and he contributes posts at the NewsBusters site.