CNN President Jeff Zucker: We Understand Trump Better Than Any Other TV Network

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By Tom Teodorczuk | 5:34 pm, November 30, 2016
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President-elect Donald Trump is hardly a fan of CNN, echoing many of his supporters who call it the “Clinton News Network.”

Many Trump voters will therefore take exception to CNN President Jeff Zucker’s claim in Unpredecented, the TV channel’s new book about the election out next week, that CNN understands the 45th U.S. President better than any other network.

In an essay published in Unprecedented, Zucker writes: “When Trump jumped in, CNN recognized, I believe sooner than most others, that there was something to his candidacy. I feel incredibly proud of our overall coverage with regard to Trump.

“People have been critical of the amount of attention we gave Trump in those early, initial months, but I think that’s a testament to the fact that we understood—more than most other newsrooms in New York and Washington—that Trump had much broader appeal.”

Zucker, who was one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders in his former post as President of NBC, the network that broadcast Trump’s hit reality show The Apprentice, modestly adds: “I am amazed at what CNN did throughout the course of what arguably is the nation’s most historic election, ever.”

Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter writes in a separate article in the book: “Trump was clickbait. Many days, all of five of the most-viewed articles on The Washington Post’s website were about Trump. He was a ratings magnet, too.”

But Stelter also scoffs at Trump: “Day in, day out, for more than a year, he denied the very legitimacy of journalism…Trump’s frequent fibs and exaggerations pushed many reporters into a more adversarial posture than they were used to.

“As a TV host and reporter, I wrestled with this personally, and I gradually became more blunt about describing Trump’s fictions…Trump routinely said things that had no basis in fact, and famously never apologized for any of it.

“When it came to the truth. the two candidates were not equal. It was imperative to say so. Journalists who ignored this were, in effect, shading the truth from their readers and viewers.”

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik estimates that CNN generated $100 million this election year. In a rare moment of self-awareness, Zucker tells Stelter in the book: “Do I think we took a few too many of his rallies in those early days, just unedited and straight to air? Yeah, that’s probably a fair criticism.”

The book, which will set you back a not inconsiderable $40, comes out December 6.