Was Jeff Zucker fired for bad ratings? Tucker Carlson cites ‘reasons' other than affair
On February 2, 2022, CNN President Jeff Zucker announced he was leaving the network, taking responsibility for failing to disclose his relationship with chief marketing officer Allison Gollust. The scandal has quickly exploded online and led to a cascade of revelations about CNN's internal matters.
At the heart of the scandal is Chris Cuomo, who several CNN staffers have accused of leaking the story in retaliation for his firing. Others have blamed Katie Couric, who alluded to the affair in her book 'Going There'. Anger has also been directed at Brian Stelter, who was widely known to be close to Zucker, which may have played a role in him not reporting the affair. Irrespective of who you think is responsible, it appears that the relationship is the reason for Zucker's downfall.
However, it might not be as simple as Zucker makes it seem. From his statement, Zucker says his relationship is the sole reason for him stepping down, but a careful look at CNN over the past year tells a vastly different story. It appears that there's a lot more, namely the repeated scandals and ratings crisis that have played a role in the decision.
The relationship was 'the worst kept secret'
In his statement, Zucker said "I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today," putting the blame solely on his apparently secret relationship with Gollust as the reason for his resignation. But, as multiple CNN staffers and media personalities have revealed, the relationship was far from secret. In fact, one CNN staffer called it "the worst kept secret in the building."
It was apparently common knowledge, both internally and externally, with Couric writing the two were "joined at the hip." In fact, the couple were known to go on vacations together and were even snapped together at a Billy Joel concert in 2021. It appeared to be so well known, one NBC insider told The New York Post, "Second to the revelation that the Pope is Catholic, this affair is the least-shocking revelation in the world."
It was something Fox News host Tucker Carlson picked up on. During a segment on February 2, Carlson said, "Every executive in television has known about it for years. It was definitely not a secret." So if it wasn't the relationship, then what was ut that led to Zucker's resignation? Carlson appears to have a theory for that too.
Are ratings and scandals to blame?
In recent months, CNN has been besieged with repeated misconduct and sexual harassment scandals. The most high-profile is of course that of Chris Cuomo, which led to his firing on December 4, 2021. Don Lemon has also been accused of sexual harassment, and in December 2021, senior producer John Griffin was arrested for grooming underage girls. As a result of the repeatedly bad press, CNN has seen its ratings fall by as much as 90 per cent in recent months.
On that matter, The Spectator’s Washington editor Amber Athey wrote, "Zucker has managed to simultaneously protect perverts and pedophiles as well as oversee a massive decline in ratings." She wasn't the only one. media critic Jeffrey McCall said, "It would be difficult to necessarily connect all of these mistakes directly to Zucker, but he is still the head of CNN and at some point has to be held accountable for what's going on there."
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also joined the bandwagon, telling viewers "Jeff Zucker did not get canned for his sex life. The management wanted him out of CNN for other reasons, including bad ratings." He called the affair "the pretext for what you saw," and added, "you've got to wade through a lot of lies to get to what actually happened." On this, it appears Carlson has a valid point.
Unlike with Cuomo, Zucker's affair wasn't sexual harassment. Both he and Gollust have acknowledged it was completely consensual. If that is indeed the case, it should matter little if the two were in a relationship, even if they didn't disclose it. It certainly appears as if the relationship was a convenient smokescreen for CNN, as the battered network tries to change its fortunes.