CNN president Jeff Zucker has defended the network’s anchors for voicing their opinions and showing emotions as ‘authentic’ and ‘real’.
The long-time boss, 56, told The Washington Post: ‘One of the things that I’ve tried to encourage is authenticity and being real.
‘If we pretend not to be human, it’s not real.’
That came after hosts cried on air, called Donald Trump ‘another crackpot on the Internet’ and described the first presidential debate of 2020 a ‘s*** show’.
Former CNN anchor Carol Costello said Dana Bash, the anchor who used the expletive, may well have faced disciplinary action for those words in the past.
She told The Washington Post: ‘I can’t imagine that being accepted in 2001.’ But she added: ‘It was what anybody was thinking, so it wasn’t wrong to say that.’
And for Zucker those kinds of emotions give the network a ‘dynamic feel’.
He says he even called to reassure Sara Sidner after she said sorry to viewers for becoming emotional covering COVID-19 deaths. Brianna Keilar also cried on air while discussing the pandemic.
Zucker added: ‘What I told her [Sidner] was, ‘Don’t ever apologize like that again. She was just being real. She’s a human being. She was expressing an emotion that probably many people in the audience were feeling.
‘And I’m totally comfortable with that happening on television. What people react to is authenticity and reality.’
CNN president Jeff Zucker, pictured, has defended the network’s hosts for voicing their opinions and showing emotions as ‘authentic’ and ‘real’
Zucker says he even called to reassure Sara Sidner, pictured, after she said sorry to viewers for becoming emotional covering COVID-19 deaths
Brianna Keilar also cried on air while discussing the pandemic
Zucker, who announced in February that he ‘expects’ to leave CNN at the end of 2021 after almost a decade in charge, admits there have been times when has had to call anchors to tell them their coverage ‘might have been a little too much’.
He added: ‘That’s the role of the coach. The coach is supposed to encourage you and then bring you back.
‘I don’t want everybody doing the same thing all day long. Yes, you’re going to have folks who are more comfortable, folks who are more traditional, and I think that’s what gives it a dynamic feel.’
Dana Bash described the first presidential debate of 2020 a ‘s*** show’
Former CNN anchor Carol Costello said Bash may well have faced disciplinary action in her day
It is not known what examples Zucker is referring to but Anderson Cooper was forced to apologize after comparing Trump to ‘an obese turtle on his back, flailing in the hot sun, realizing his time is over’.
And Chris Cuomo is now prohibited from speaking with his New York governor brother Andrew on air after the latter was accused of sexual harassment and a cover up of COVID deaths in nursing homes.
Zucker told staff in February: ‘I’m going to stay and finish my current contract, which, as I said, will keep me here until the end of this year.
Former CNN anchor Carol Costello
‘At that point, I do expect to move on.’
He added: ‘The truth is, back in November and December I had basically decided that it was time to move on.’
His decision, first reported by The New York Times, came amid rumors of a rift with his new boss, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia Jason Kilar over the direction of the network in the wake of the end of the Trump presidency.
Zucker had initially courted the former president, telling his disgraced attorney Michael Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN.
But he later turned on the Republican and thought he had given too much exposure to his campaign events with the network’s left leaning coverage leading to calls of ‘fake news’ from Trump and his supporters.
Zucker started his career as a researcher for the 1988 Olympics for NBC before becoming executive producer of the Today show aged just 26.
He then became president of NBC Entertainment; it was Zucker who in 2004 aired The Apprentice, making Trump a household name.
After replacing and then reinstating Jay Leno, Zucker lost his job with the network and he joined CNN in 2013.
Chris Cuomo, left, is now prohibited from speaking with his New York governor brother Andrew, right, after the latter was accused of sexual harassment and a cover up of COVID deaths in nursing homes
Anderson Cooper, pictured right with Zucker, was forced to apologize after comparing Trump to ‘an obese turtle on his back, flailing in the hot sun, realizing his time is over’
Wolf Blitzer joined the network in 1990; Zucker said: ”I don’t want everybody doing the same thing all day long. Yes, you’re going to have folks who are more comfortable, folks who are more traditional, and I think that’s what gives it a dynamic feel’
Since then it has enjoyed high ratings, hitting a 40-year network record in November and beating competitors with their coverage of the Capitol siege.
The former president repeatedly called the network ‘fake news’ and it was accused of harboring a liberal and anti-Trump bias.
Zucker said: ‘We gave the anchors, reporters and producers of our shows the freedom to tell the truth, even if the truth came off as tough sometimes.’
CNN anchor Jake Tapper said: ‘He’s the best boss I ever had, and it’s not even close. I’m grateful that we get him for another year.’
Zucker is understood to still lead the daily editorial calls himself.