WarnerMedia News & Sports chief (and CNN president) Jeff Zucker participated in a wide ranging discussion with Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo at South by Southwest over this weekend.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr covered the discussion, and here’s what he found:
Regarding the allegation in Jane Mayer‘s New Yorker story that Pres. Trump instructed his former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn to influence the Department of Justice to shut down AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner, Zucker said: “Do I think there was political motivation in trying to block the deal? I do. And, do I believe it came from the highest parts of government? I do.” But the DOJ’s suit failed, so the issue is somewhat “moot.”
Zucker also addressed the DNC’s decision to ban Fox News from hosting a debate. “This idea that they’re owed a debate because they reach a different audience is silly,” he said, while noting that no one, not even CNN, is entitled to a presidential debate.
According to Barr, Zucker also said “the relationship between the two is completely symbiotic” and described Fox News as “a propaganda outlet,” not a new sentiment expressed by the CNN chief.
Regarding the cable news landscape, Zucker said, “At Fox, Donald Trump can do no wrong. At MSNBC, Donald Trump can do no right. And I don’t think either one of those is right.”
He apparently reiterated some previous public remarks, saying that while he would apologize for CNN interviewing Trump during the 2016 cycle, he admitted it was a “mistake in airing as many of his rallies live and unedited.”
Zucker apparently remarked to Pompeo “we don’t air his rallies or most of his speeches live and unedited and that will continue through the campaign.”
Additionally, according to Barr, Zucker addressed recent criticism from the NABJ and NAACP about lack of diversity in the executive ranks: “We need to continue to improve,” especially “among African-Americans in the most senior editorial positions at CNN U.S. TV.”
CNN consistently has had a huge presence at SXSW, and 2019 has been no different. The network hosted parties and other on-site events over the weekend. They apparently included an 80s-themed party on Friday night in honor of Ted Turner. Biz Markie DJed the event, and TV newsers in attendance included Dan Rather, Nicolle Wallace, Maria Shriver, Symone Sanders, and the CNN team of Jeff Zucker, Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, Poppy Harlow, Chris Cillizza, Brian Stelter, Andrew Morse, Meredith Artley, Allison Gollust, and Matt Dornic.
The network hosted Sunday night town halls from ACL Live with three presidential candidates: John Delaney, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.