Variety Updates Controversial CNN Story After Jeff Zucker Calls for Retraction

Edits were quietly made to Tatiana Siegel’s article amid intense backlash, but the publication’s editors-in-chief say they stand by the reporting

jeff zucker cnn
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The fallout from Tatiana Siegel’s Variety article that has captivated the media industry continues, as Variety quietly added updates to the piece on Friday.

The article received backlash from many, with some calling for Variety to retract the story that claims former CNN CEO Jeff Zucker has spent the last year courting billionaires to secure funding in an effort to purchase CNN, including The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta, Puck News co-founder John Kelley and Zucker himself.

On Friday afternoon, Variety added updates to the story in order to “reflect new statements from Kelly and Alberta,” a note at the bottom of the page now reads.

“After this article was published, Alberta responded on social media that he met with Licht on seven different days and used ‘zero off-record details or quotes,’” the story says in an updated paragraph.

The update adds that Alberta “also pushed back on suggestions that he had not been honest about the type of story he was writing.”

Variety also added a paragraph to the section about Puck News and Dylan Byers, whose journalistic integrity was questioned throughout the article.

“In an email to Variety following the publication of this article,” the story now reads, “Kelly wrote that ‘we never disclosed my conversations with RedBird because Dylan was intentionally unaware of them.’”

According to the update, Kelly said in his email that Variety’s suggestion that Risa Heller, PR representative to both parties, “served as a backchannel between Puck and Zucker was ‘laughable.’”

Notably, the updates to the article did not include any corrections to the subject matter regarding Zucker, who requested a retraction from Variety on Wednesday.

On Friday afternoon, it was uncertain whether Variety’s review of the story remained ongoing.

“We have been carefully following the conversation around our investigative report about the future of CNN,” Variety’s co-editor-in-chiefs Ramin Setoodeh and Cynthia Littleton said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “The story was heavily vetted and deeply sourced. Everyone included in the story was asked to comment and given the chance to respond. We stand by our reporting and our award-winning reporter.”

CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported Thursday evening that Variety’s top editors were “taking the matter very seriously,” and “reviewing the requests for a correction.” On Friday, an unnamed Variety editor told Mediaite that Littleton and Setoodeh were “carefully addressing the questions about the story with the sources involved.”