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WarnerMedia and parent company AT&T have stayed silent on what now-former CNN boss Jeff Zucker did to violate the network’s News Standards and Practices after it was revealed “journalism integrity” was breached by the ousted executive.
Zucker was showered with praise from CNN’s biggest stars when he was shown the door earlier this month for what was initially chalked up as a consensual relationship with fellow CNN executive Allison Gollust that was never disclosed to the company. CNN staffers and outside observers alike never bought that explanation, as their relationship was said to be an “open secret” throughout the media industry.
But on Tuesday night, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced Gollust would also leave the company after a third-party probe into CNN’s handling of the “issues” associated with Chris Cuomo and his big brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D., found that everyone involved violated company policies related directly to news.
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“The investigation found violations of Company policies, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices, by Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and Chris Cuomo,” Kilar wrote, indicating Zucker’s nondisclosed sexual relationship was not the reason he was forced to step down.
The letter also indicated that more than 40 people were interviewed and over 100,000 texts and emails were combed through. The revelation came on the heels of an explosive Rolling Stone report that Zucker and Gollust fed “talking points” to the former governor on how to respond to former President Trump’s criticism of the New York COVID crisis.
WarnerMedia declined comment when asked a series of questions including, how did Zucker violate CNN’s News Standards and Practices and whether texts and emails reviewed indicate that he advised Andrew Cuomo when he was governor of New York.
CNN executive vice president of standards and practices Calvin Sims did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
WarnerMedia parent AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.
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Kilar previously faced the wrath of Zucker loyalists when he held a series of town hall-style meetings with CNN staffers, who were bewildered their beloved boss was forced to exit. The network’s biggest stars including Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Alisyn Camerota reportedly complained about everything from the punishment not fitting the crime to the sudden dismissal impacting mental health. Other CNN stars including Don Lemon and Fareed Zakaria openly celebrated Zucker on the air.
CNN executive Michael Bass, who is part of a trio of interim leaders, even urged staffers to honor Zucker’s legacy in a somber call praising the man who was forced to resign. But it appears the key figures from “The Most Trusted Name in News” were mourning the exit of a leader who failed to comply with journalism ethics.
“We have the highest standards of journalism integrity at CNN, and those rules must apply to everyone equally,” Kilar wrote in the memo announcing that Gollust and Zucker both violated policies.
“Given the information provided to me in the investigation, I strongly believe we have taken the right actions and the right decisions have been made.”
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Bass, who worked with Zucker for decades, dating back to their time as colleagues at NBC during the Matt Lauer-era of “Today,” did not violate CNN’s News and Standard Practices, according to a WarnerMedia spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Gollust was still listed as the WarnerMedia press contact for questions related to news as of Wednesday morning, but she has since scolded the company.
“WarnerMedia’s statement tonight is an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks,” she said as part of a memo to close colleagues that was quickly leaked to the media.
A representative for Zucker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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