Life is “simpler” since Jeff Zucker was left CNN in February 2022, the ousted executive told The Financial Times. In fact, the former CEO said, he didn’t miss life at the news channel until this month.
“With what’s going on in Israel and Gaza. I think it’s an incredibly important story . . . this is really the only time since I’ve left where I’ve regretted not being part of it,” Zucker told the publication, while praising his former colleagues for their coverage of the war.
“In the time I’ve left, I’ve watched very little CNN. But I’ve watched more in the last week … and they’ve done an excellent job,” he said. “I think this [sort of story] is what CNN was built for … their resources are unmatched.”
“It’s a tough job, at a tough time in all media, but he’s got the right skill set to have a real impact,” Zucker said. “He’ll do great.”
Zucker said he accepts “all responsibility” for CNN’s over-the-top coverage of Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016, though he thinks he’s unfairly criticized.
“Look, were we in uncharted territory and was he a unique candidate? Yes. Did we make mistakes? Absolutely. Did we give too much unedited free airtime? Yes, of course. By the way, did our competitors do the same thing? 100 percent yes. Am I the one that takes the blame for that pretty unilaterally? Yes. But that’s OK. I get it.”
“Do I think that’s why he won the election? I do not at all. I think that fails to fully appreciate how a large cross-section of this country felt and feels about him. It’s like, everybody wants to blame somebody for the reason why Donald Trump got elected, without actually acknowledging that there’s a good portion of the country that actually agrees with him.”
Like the 2020 coverage, which skipped almost all of Trump’s rallies, Zucker said he “would do things differently in 2024” were he still at the helm.
Now the CEO of sports, entertainment and media investment platform RedBird IMI, Zucker slapped down rumors he’s eyeing a purchase of the network from Warner Bros. Discovery, a sale of which has been speculated for months.
“Zero truth to it,” he said. “Zero.”
But he would be open to buying the news organization, or some other ones.
“If Nikkei was to put the FT up for sale, I’m sure we would look at it. Be it the FT or CNN … we’ll take a look,” he said. “But we’re not sitting around, chasing or looking at things that are not for sale. I can’t be any more unequivocal.”
Zucker would not say if he’s behind the Ken Griffin-backed bid from Paul Marshall, owner of GB News, for the U.K.’s Telegraph and The Spectator.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” he said.