The CNN media minds fall over themselves in trying to make the crater look presentable.
When your job is a spin merchant, days like this are what you train for. When the head of your network abruptly departs it is Go-Time. When you have an assistant helping, it should be easier to deliver the goods, except by the look of things, Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy were turning this story in opposing directions, cracking their skulls and getting dumped on their backs. It is a fitting epilogue to a corporate meltdown.
To get a read on the dysfunction of CNN, look at the conflicting reactions coming out of Atlanta's news center. When Zucker delivered his exit strategy this morning “unexpected,” “stunning,” “shocking,” and “a huge surprise” were just some of the initial reactions to come from his announcement. Also, at nearly the same time, we heard from others who commented how Zucker's relationship with Allison Gollust was an open secret at the network. So everyone knew, yet no one saw this coming? It explains so much.
The hard work begins right away in their headline, calling it a “consensual relationship.” This is the automatic dodge we have seen, whenever there is a revelation of inappropriate coupling in the workplace. Already, we have seen years of ‘MeToo' lectures tossed away when those in the media or in politics have been caught in the very snare they set for others. Bosses like Zucker were not supposed to commingle with underlings, as it was a result of pressure from a power position. But now, nuance and understanding are being brought in to explain things.
Alisyn Camerota also invoked the term, as she was waxing sad about the departure. She had glowing words for Zucker, as she added how it “feels wrong” their consenting feelings could not allow for a private relationship. Of course, Camerota's words fall flat, when you remember, she left Fox News in 2000, declaring the place rotten, and that relationships just like Zucker's were the work of predators.
Yet, she could only wax rhapsodic towards the man who protected Chris Cuomo's ethical lapses, shielded him from punishment for sexual abuse allegations, and ignored Don Lemon's own charged behavior. He also saw fit to welcome Jeffrey Toobin back on the air after his sexual Zoom call, and multiple pedophile cases involving other CNN producers recently came to light. If Fox is rotten, by Alisyn's measure, then CNN is a festering toxic swamp with a tire fire adjacent.
During one of his appearances today, Stelter commented on the events leading to this, noting Andrew Cuomo, his brother Chris, and ultimately Zucker's demise revealed a remarkable domino effect. What this seems to indicate is that a series of unfortunate mishaps led to this. In truth, what we see is a self-created scandal of Zucker's own doing. He permitted the ethical lapse in journalism by allowing the Cuomo brothers' comedy routine on the air, which became a way to enhance the governor's image amid his own scandals. But now, we can start to see the machinations.
Allison Gollust, while a longtime associate of Zucker, was also something else. She had been a communications director for – Andrew Cuomo. This could go far to explain how brother Chris not only burnished Andrew's public image but why – when he was seen to have been a player in Andrew's defense of multiple sexual assault charges – he was allowed to remain in the anchor chair. More than it being a case of nepotism-fed defense by their pundit, the network executives had an entrenched relationship with the governor.
For these and possibly other reasons, we see Stelter and Darcy fall back on predictable and pathetic motions – they have to invoke the very same tropes of opposition they are addicted to using in their work. You can almost see them at work independently here. Oliver drags in the name of someone wholly unrelated to what transpired.
In recent years, Zucker led the network as it faced sustained attacks from former President Trump and his supporters. Under Zucker, CNN adopted a “Facts First” slogan and approach to the news and was unrelenting in calling out Trump for his lies.
And since Stelter is involved, you just know next what topic has to be introduced.
The approach turned Zucker into a villain for Trump, with the then-president lashing out at him during his years in office. Zucker also became a regular boogeyman in right-wing media, with Fox hosts viciously attacking him in prime time.
Annnnnd there it is. These two are like a pair of addicts, incapable of operating in any fashion without bursting forth with reflexive outrage at their targets. The remarkable aspect here is that we are expected to pretend that Zucker was unfairly maligned by these entities. The problem, of course, is that we are well aware that Zucker has been an avowed opponent of both Trump and Fox. He has been heard, and it was reported from within, that he intentionally went after the president. As for his competitor in the news game, all permissions of attack had been granted.
What remains now amid the flotsam and shrapnel is to see how the network will be configured going forward. The takeover of CNN by Warners-Discovery was bound to lead to some changes, now those seem to have been provoked at a much faster pace than expected. Last November one of the executives at Warners – John Malone of Liberty Media – declared his intention of getting CNN to begin “to evolve back to the journalism it started with.” It was a stunning comment, where a media expert was stepping and declaring that the product CNN has been putting out was not journalism.
The departure of the network's biggest draw, and now the president of the network, indicates that wholesale changes are not just inevitable, but imminent. By the looks of it, Stelter and Darcy do not appear to grasp this reality, as they continue to churn out the very same, predictable opposition to their longstanding targets. Tilting at those windmills of Trump and Fox will not lead to career entrenchment, if journalism is the goal of the new bosses.