Chris Lange, FISM News
Jeff Zucker’s bombshell announcement Wednesday that he was stepping down as president of CNN over a romantic relationship with a colleague, later revealed to be Allison Gollust, has left many to speculate that there is something deeper to the story.
While Zucker’s eventual departure from the news network was expected, his abrupt resignation, not to mention the reason given for it, doesn’t seem to add up. Zucker and Gollust, after all, are consenting, single adults, and while they may have failed to disclose their relationship in accordance with company policy, the omission hardly seems to justify Zucker’s precipitous exit in a secular environment like CNN. Moreover, the romance has been widely acknowledged as an “open secret” among network execs for years, if not decades, leading to the obvious question: “Why now?”
Zucker sparked immediate conjecture when he inextricably linked his resignation to ousted Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo in a staff memo announcing his departure shared by CNN Business.
He writes, “As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years. I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.”
Cuomo was fired from the network in December for acting as an advisor to his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in response to multiple accusations of sexual harassment made against the elder Cuomo while he was still in office.
At the time, CNN was also covering the scandal in what amounts to an overt departure from accepted journalism practices. Cuomo was close with Zucker who, at the time, was in the throes of his romance with Gollust. Interestingly, Gollust, who remains at the network, briefly worked for Gov. Cuomo between 2012 and 2013. Revelations of the depth and breadth of these interwoven relationships are now fueling speculation that Chris Cuomo has been plotting to bring both Zucker and CNN down with him over the Andrew Cuomo scandal and force the network to fork over $18 million that remained on his contract at the time of his exit.
As part of ongoing litigation against the network, Cuomo’s lawyers tipped their hand by demanding that CNN preserve all communications between Zucker, Gollust and Andrew Cuomo. The move that did not go unnoticed.
Puck News’ Matthew Belloni tweeted, “Potentially important: I’m told CNN received a litigation hold letter recently from Chris Cuomo lawyers, demanding, among other things, preservation of all communications between Zucker, comms chief Allison Gollust, and Andrew Cuomo.”
The Hill’s Joe Concha said, “People inside the building already have busy thumbs and there’s much more to this Zucker story that goes well beyond a consensual relationship with a colleague. A few folks close to the former CNN president should be very nervous right now.”
“Reading between the lines, everyone’s interpretation of this is that Chris Cuomo knifed Zucker,” Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo wrote about Zucker’s resignation.
Various news outlets and pundits have said Cuomo feels wronged by CNN and Zucker for canning him over the conflict of interest involving his brother when Zucker purportedly did the exact same thing.
CNN’s chief correspondent Jake Tapper alluded to this in an inteview with the Wall Stree Journal in which he voiced frustration with Chris Cuomo, who he said “blew the place [CNN] up”
An outside observer might say, ‘Well, it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded.’ He threatened Jeff. Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. And Chris blew the place up. How do we get past that perception that this is the bad guy winning?”
Zucker’s resignation comes at an inconvenient time for CNN parent company WarnerMedia, who is currently in the process of merging with Discovery. CNN is also planning to launch its new streaming service, CNN+, within the next few months.