CNN President Jeff Zucker on Thursday called rival Fox News “akin to state-run TV” and praised former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith Thursday, saying he’d be open to hiring him at some point in the future.
While discussing the network’s relationship with the White House with chief media correspondent Brian Stelter at the Citizen by CNN event, Zucker said, “I think Shep’s a great journalist. When he’s available, he is somebody who is very talented and I would be very open to talking to him.”
Smith, a notable member of the news division within Fox News until his abrupt departure on October 11, isn’t yet eligible to work for another company under the terms of his contract. It’s unclear how soon Smith would be able to entertain offers from competitors to return to TV news.
Zucker also took another dig at his higher-rated rival, from which CNN has recruited on-air talent such as Alisyn Camerota, Dave Briggs, Connor Powell and Rick Folbaum. He called Fox News “akin to state-run TV” that has become “conspiracy TV.”
“It’s not a place where someone like Shep Smith could work,” he said, referencing the division between the news and opinion divisions of the network. Smith’s coverage of President Donald Trump, particularly, was notably different than the treatment the White House receives during the primetime hours when opinion-based hosts are on air.
Zucker was met with laughter when he categorized CNN’s own relationship with the administration as “fantastic,” but he continued: “”We’re not looking for an antagonistic relationship at all. We don’t set out to be pro-Trump. We don’t set out to be anti-Trump. We set out to be pro-truth.”
He acknowledged that being “pro-truth” can be seen as being “anti-Trump,” but said, “That’s not our problem. That’s not our fault.”
A representative for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.