WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar Faces More Pushback From CNN Staffers Over Jeff Zucker Exit

A tense staff meeting on Monday follows reports last week that Zucker had no choice but to resign

Jason Kilar (Getty Images)
Jason Kilar (Getty Images)

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar continued to be on the receiving end of pushback from CNN staffers on Monday over last week’s unexpected resignation of longtime network president Jeff Zucker.

According to tweets from Washington Post reporter Jeremy Barr citing CNN staffers who attended a staff meeting with Kilar, the WarnerMedia CEO sidestepped pointed questions about why Zucker’s exit was described as a “resignation” when reports suggest that Zucker would face firing if he did not agree.

CNN anchor Victor Blackwell asked if the request for Zucker’s resignation came about due to Zucker and CNN marketing exec Allison Gollust’s previously undisclosed romantic relationship coming to light, according to Barr.

Also at the meeting, Barr reported that CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter asked Kilar why he wasn’t helping the network’s “4,000 employees move on,” adding, “I kind of think, Jason, you need to pick us off the mat and shake us off and get us back to work.”

A rep for CNN had no comment about the meeting.

Over the weekend, Stelter, who hosts “Reliable Sources,” rallied to the defense of his cable news colleagues following the Zucker ouster. “CNN was not built by just one man, not by only Ted Turner and it was not led only by Jeff Zucker,” Stelter said on his Sunday show, alluding to network founder Ted Turner. “CNN is so much bigger than any single individual. It is about teams and teams of people, thousands of individuals who make up CNN.”

Zucker’s sudden exit after he disclosed a romantic relationship with Gollust was met with public and private laments by many of the network’s top on-air talent — but with schadenfreude by the network’s critics and many of its former staffers. 

In interviews with and texts between former staffers leaked to TheWrap, Zucker was slammed for failing to elevate new talent, making opinion segments from the likes of Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon the centerpiece of its primetime coverage, and elevating the political career of Donald Trump (both as the former head of NBC who greenlit “The Apprentice” and in his decisions on how to cover Trump during the 2016 presidential election). 

“Sure, [Zucker] could be very charismatic,” one former producer said. “But the thing people will never get over is how he elevated Trump. It’s not liberal or conservative, it was all about ratings. He could care less what it would do to the country. That should be his legacy. He delivered four years of a bigot in the White House.”

After Zucker’s ouster, Kilar named CNN executives Michael Bass, Amy Entelis and Ken Jautz as interim leaders of the network.