The most significant media story of the year to-date broke Wednesday morning: WarnerMedia News & Sports chief, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker is stepping down from his role immediately. This came after Zucker admitted to a romantic, consensual relationship with another senior executive at the company, the details of which he had not previously disclosed during an investigation into former CNN host Chris Cuomo.
While Zucker does not name the “senior executive” in his memo to staff sent Wednesday morning, that executive is in fact Allison Gollust, CNN’s evp and chief marketing officer whose history with Zucker goes back to his days running NBCUniversal, where Gollust had been the company’s communications chief. In between stops at NBCUniversal and CNN, Gollust served as then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s communications director. But she returned to media and reunited with Zucker after just four months on the governor’s team.
Gollust said in a statement on Wednesday that she was remaining in her role at CNN: “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years,” adding, “Recently, our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday.”
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar in a separate memo to staff: “I have accepted Jeff Zucker’s resignation as Chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, and President of CNN Worldwide. We thank Jeff for his contributions over the past 9 years. We will be announcing an interim leadership plan shortly. Both of these organizations are at the top of their respective games and are well prepared for their next chapters.”
From my initial conversations, the attitude among many internally is that staffers are upset, and feel the punishment doesn’t necessarily match the crime. Granted, not everyone feels that way, but that seems to be the general feeling.
CNN Newsroom anchor Alisyn Camerota said on air that Zucker “made everyone feel special,” adding, “It’s so regrettable how it happened… These are two consenting adults who are both executives. That they can’t have a private relationship, this feels wrong.”
Below are some tweets from staffers:
President of CNN Worldwide Jeff Zucker has resigned effective immediately after revealing he had not disclosed a personal relationship with another senior executive at CNN. CNN’s @brianstelter has more. Read the statement from Zucker: https://t.co/RwJj9fEWZC pic.twitter.com/QVgigS6ggi
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) February 2, 2022
Jeff Zucker just resigned here at CNN. pic.twitter.com/y3jIfePoCe
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) February 2, 2022
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) February 2, 2022
Staffers inside CNN are in absolute shock right now. Employees at the company learned of Zucker’s sudden departure all at once via a company-wide email that went out just after 11am. https://t.co/yv8nH0r2Qj
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) February 2, 2022
Jeff Zucker is a rare talent; a remarkable and fearless leader, who revived @CNN and led it to great heights. I came to @CNN because of him and I’m very proud and grateful to have worked for, and with, him. https://t.co/dY23GIwViu
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) February 2, 2022
Jeff Zucker’s support has meant the world to me, both at work and in life, when I was suddenly faced with my biggest ever personal challenge: getting a brain tumor
I’m so proud of what we’ve built @CNNplus under Jeff’s leadership and I can’t wait to share it with you
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) February 2, 2022