During his speech at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, last week CNN president Jeff Zucker renewed his criticism of cable news rival Fox News Channel, calling the network a “propaganda network.”
He also said Fox’s relationship to the White House is “completely symbiotic” and detrimental to journalism.
Zucker addressed Fox News’s response to the DNC’s decision barring the network from hosting one of the 2020 presidential primary debates.
“I think the consternation about this is a little misplaced,” he said. They don’t have to give one to CNN. They don’t have to give one to MSNBC. There’s no obligation to give one to Fox.”
Zucker also panned Fox News’s defense that it has very fair and objective news anchors such as Martha MacCallum, Brett Baier and Chris Wallace.
“They chose to work at Fox and they don’t get to hide behind the fact that they’re excellent journalists or anchors. The fact is, they work at a place that has done tremendous damage to this country.”
But he bristled at the suggestion that CNN helped get Trump elected.
“I do not believe that CNN is the reason that Donald Trump got elected,” Zucker said, “I wish we had that much power —we don’t.”
As for all the airtime CNN gave Trump during the 2016 campaign, he was unapologetic.
“I’m not going to apologize for interviewing Donald Trump when his competitors didn’t have the courage and foresight to actually take advantage of those opportunities,” Zucker said. “That’s on them. That’s not on CNN,” though he admitted it was a “mistake” to air Trump’s rallies unedited. “So we won’t do that again,” he promised.
All three cable news networks devoted significant airtime to covering Trump and his rallies in 2016 and they all benefited from it as ratings and profits rose.
Zucker told Vanity Fair in November that if CNN stops covering Trump “the audience goes away.”