Jeff Zucker says relationship with Allison Gollust was an excuse to bring down CNN

Former CNN President Jeff Zucker told Yale University students he was led to believe the network’s former owners were using his relationship with Allison Gollust as an excuse to quit, people familiar with his comments said The New York Times.

“I gave them a gun and they shot me with it,” Zucker said, according to these sources.

Zucker’s sudden resignation in February 2022 threw a spotlight on Gollust, his longtime deputy, and those of the station marketing chief. Gollust, who worked with Zucker for decades and returned to CNN in 2013 as his “closest colleague,” was identified as the woman with whom he had a “consensual relationship,” which he didn’t disclose to the CNN owner at the time. AT&T in apparent violation of company policy.

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Gollust resigned two weeks after Zucker’s fall and following a WarnerMedia investigation into Chris Cuomo and his efforts to help his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a memo at the time, “The investigation found violations of company policies, including CNN’s news standards and practices, by Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust and Chris Cuomo.”

Since their split, Zucker and Gollust have openly continued their relationship, traveling to Las Vegas to see Taylor Swift in a concert and attending the Sports Emmy Awards at the invitation of Bryant Gumbel and Matt Lauer.

Zucker’s frequent expressions of frustration and dissatisfaction with the terms of his exit and his criticism of current CNN boss Chris Licht have grown louder over time. According to the TimesZucker has become the go-to resource for current network employees who have complaints about Licht’s choice of direction.

Jeff Zucker's CNN Legacy: A 29% drop in key demo viewership during his nine-year tenure

But the numbers of the network legitimize criticism. The news division, which once made $1 billion a year, was down to $750 million in 2022, of which $200 million was due to losses from streaming service CNN+, according to Warner Bros. Discovery. Additionally, according to Nielsen data, ratings are down 30% compared to the first quarter of 2020, when Donald Trump was the main driver of cable news.

CNN’s Town Hall with Trump in May proved to be one of Licht’s most notable gaffes in recent months. According to reporter Tim Alberta’s latest profile on the executive for the Atlantic, Licht knew the crowd’s makeup was geared more toward MAGA enthusiasts than the “GOP-affiliated independents” that CNN initially claimed would fill those spots. Outside City Hall, Licht even made a remark to his deputies about how the crowd was “extra Trumpy.”

CNN boss Chris Licht knew the crowd at Trump City Hall was packed with MAGA supporters and told Trump to

While Licht’s staff is reporting his organization’s failings to other media outlets, many on the left have criticized the network’s renewed focus on the right. Meanwhile, many right-wingers remain skeptical about the network as a whole.

According to sources who spoke to The Times, Zucker’s criticism of the network has sparked much anger at WBD, which even suggests that “Zucker leaked unflattering information to the press about the network’s activities” and that he was “waging a proxy war against” light leads.

Zucker’s spokeswoman, Risa Heller, told the Times, “It’s not at all surprising that Jeff Zucker, the architect of CNN’s unprecedented success, has grave concerns about the direction the network has taken since he left.”

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