Stelter Interviews His Boss Jeff Zucker: 'Smarmiest, Dishonest, Squirm-Inducing'

November 2nd, 2019 4:30 PM

Before it completely vanishes from public consciousness, we'd like to add one take to Brian Stelter's interview with his boss Jeff Zucker at the Citizen by CNN conference. It did sound a lot like McDonald's communications director asking the CEO how awesome the food is. David Marcus at The Federalist had a strong opinion: 

By the end of the half hour, I can honestly say I had experienced the smarmiest, most self-congratulatory, dishonest, and squirm-inducing discussion I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing in person. It was like watching Bill Clinton and Stormy Daniels discuss their unyielding dedication to chastity.

That's especially fun since CNN was addicted to covering Stormy and her then-attorney Michael Avenatti.

Perhaps the least self-aware statement from Zucker -- the one that sounds like he was literally born yesterday -- was this: "We don't set out to be pro-Trump. We don't set out to be anti-Trump. We set out to be pro-truth. Now, I understand in this day and age why being pro-truth can be construed as anti-Trump, but that's not our problem. That's not our fault."   

In his e-mail newsletter, Stelter happily linked to a Washington Examiner column recounting Zucker telling him he was far too generous to Fox News, another squirmy moment: 

While discussing former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith's departure and what it meant for the network, Stelter stated, "They say they have dozens of great journalists."

Yeah, well, you repeat that line a lot, and I think it's one of the mistakes you make in your journalism, and I'm serious about this," Zucker responded. "You know I believe that, listen, are there a handful of really good journalists in that organization? Sure. Is there one or two really good anchors at that organization? Sure. But that doesn't make it a news organization, and it doesn't make it a journalistic enterprise."

He went on to call Fox News "state-run TV," and argued that the conservative-leaning network has "morphed into conspiracy TV."

"You often say that there's this difference between their prime-time shows and the news side, there is no difference and I think that I don't see it that way. I know that you report it that way a lot, I think you're wrong," Zucker added.

Marcus mocked the Stelter's aw-shucks-boss interview for the lack of any real challenge: 

Asked what he thought was the biggest thing CNN does wrong, Zucker had no answer. When Stelter provided one, namely that they use the term “Breaking News,” too often, he begrudgingly agreed, but basically sloughed it off as something everyone does. That is how blameless he envisions the product he creates....

One question that Stelter — CNN’s media critic, mind you — did not ask the guy who signs his paycheck is what if anything he knew about the accusations of sexual assault among NBC employees while Zucker was a top executive there. That seemed kind of an odd thing for Stelter to leave out, given that he had a reliable source on the story right next to him.

Instead, Stelter offered fill-in-the-blank questions: "Wrapping up, the future of CNN is -- blank.How do you fill in? The future of CNN is?" Zucker shot back: "Really strong." He added: ""It's really important, I think, to the world that CNN be strong. And that's what I'm really proud of."

Let's try a few questions that would have been more interesting:

  1. CNN hosted "town hall" forums for 18 Democrat candidates and independent Howard Schultz. Are you planning town halls with the three GOP challengers to President Trump? (Zucker boasted about their town halls, and it's the only time Stelter mentioned ratings.....ouch.)
  2. If Donald Trump loses and a Democrat wins the White House, can you guarantee Jim Acosta will yell at them? Or will Jeff Zeleny ask about what "enchants" them?
  3. If Fox is "conspiracy TV" and CNN is not, how do you explain how much time you gave to promoting the concept of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russian government, when the Mueller Report crushed that conspiracy theory? 
  4. If Fox is "conspiracy TV" and CNN is not, why did Brian Stelter put a man on the air who claimed Trump would end up killing more humans than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao?