CNN CEO Jeff Zucker resigned on Wednesday in a shock exit over an “inappropriate relationship” after a string of scandals for the network.
Zucker’s departure comes only weeks after star host Chris Cuomo was fired for helping his brother, former New York Governor Andrew, in his sexual harassment scandal.
That same month, the network fired a producer who worked “shoulder to shoulder” with Cuomo over an allegation the staffer lured girls as young as seven into “sexual subservience” training.
And that was after another star host, Don Lemon, was accused of assaulting a man in a bar more than three years ago.
In April 2021, Brooke Balwin also blasted CNN as she ended 13 years with the network.
She condemned its highest-paid anchors all being men.
JEFF’S SHOCK EXIT
Jeff Zucker, 56, announced he was stepping down in a leaked memo on Wednesday.
“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,” the memo reportedly said.
“I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t, I was wrong.”
Zucker then said that “as a result” he would be stepping down from his position.
The woman in question was Allison Gollust, CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. She is said to be remaining at the network.
In a statement, Gollust said: “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years.
“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 every day.”
Both Zucker and Gollust are divorced.
It’s unclear who will be Zucker’s successor.
In December 2021, CNN confirmed it had fired one of its star evening hosts Chris Cuomo.
The announcement came after weeks of speculation about his involvement in his brother Andrew’s sexual harassment scandal, which heightened further when the ex-governor stepped aside.
Chris was accused of giving advice to Andrew on how to deal with the fallout from the scandal.
“Chris Cuomo was suspended earlier this week pending further evaluation of new information that came to light about his involvement with his brother’s defense,” the announcement read.
“We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately. While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light.”
Chris Cuomo said at the time: “This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother.”
The review conducted by CNN had revealed that Chris was more involved than previously thought in his brother’s defense of his scandal.
Text messages obtained by New York Attorney General, Letitia James, revealed that Chris attempted to use his connections in the press to help the governor’s team when his accusers made their stories public.
Chris said he never reported on his brother’s scandal or tried to interfere with CNN’s coverage. He’s said he “tried to be there for my brother.”
“I’m not an advisor,” he added. “I’m a brother. I wasn’t in control of anything. I was there to listen and offer my take.”
RIDICULOUS ON-AIR MOMENTS
CNN initially supported Chris Cuomo, allowing his Cuomo Prime Time show to say on the air.
But the network ultimately suspended him last year.
“When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly,” the network said in a statement.
“But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second.”
It came after CNN was criticized for allowing Chris to interview Andrew about the Covid pandemic in segments full of over-the-top praise of his governor brother.
It included a segment where Andrew was “joking” around on Chris’ show in May 2020 as the Covid pandemic hit New York City hard and the death toll in the state was rising.
Andrew was the butt of his brother’s jokes, who laughed that he had a big nose and required a baseball bat-sized nasal swab for a test.
While the brothers were fooling around, Chris pulled out a cotton swab the size of a baseball bat, and teased Andrew: “So then, in scale, this was the actual swab that was being used to fit up that double-barrel shotgun that you have mounted on the front of your pretty face?”
The pair came under heavy fire for their light-hearted approach when the state had suffered more than 23,000 deaths from the virus.
Also in December 2021, Chris Cuomo’s former senior producer was arrested for allegedly luring underage girls to his ski house for sexual training.
John Griffin, who reportedly worked closely with the former CNN anchor, had allegedly used messaging apps to befriend the mothers of young girls.
The staffer said he should “train” their daughters sexually, according to an indictment from the US Attorney of Vermont.
Griffin allegedly got a mother of two daughters to bring a girl to his Ludlow ski house in June 2020.
According to the indictment, Griffin had said it was the mother’s responsibility to see that her 13-year-old daughter was “trained properly.”
Griffin allegedly sent the woman $3,000 for plane tickets to fly from Nevada to Logan Airport in Boston, where he picked them up to take them to Ludlow, according to court papers.
Authorities claim the girl was “directed to engage in, and did engage in, unlawful sexual activity.”
Griffin allegedly attempted to seduce two other children over the internet, according to the indictment, and allegedly favored apps like Kik and Google Hangout.
In June 2020, Griffin allegedly told another mother of a 16-year-old girl to take a “little mother-daughter trip” to the staffer’s ski house for sexual training.
FBI agents arrested Griffin in December after a federal grand jury in Vermont charged him with three counts of attempting to entice minors to engage in unlawful sexual activity.
Griffin, 44, denies the charges and pleaded not guilty to three counts of child sex trafficking on December 22.
In November 2021, a man accused Don Lemon of assaulting him in a Hamptons’ bar in an interview with The Meghan Kelly Show.
Dustin Hice spoke out after filing a lawsuit against the anchor.
He alleges that Lemon, who is married, put his hand down his own pants, rubbed his hand on his private parts, and then shoved his fingers into Hice’s face.
“Anybody that acts like that in public without any fear of what it might do to somebody or the consequences it might have, that’s a pattern,” Hice told host Megyn Kelly.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Hice added.
“He’s protected by the fact that he’s African American, gay man on television and I’m just some nobody.”
Lemon is fighting back against the suit and his attorneys have accused Hice of withholding texts, deleting social media posts, and hiding a witness who could argue against his claims, the New York Post reported.
The texts to the key witness reportedly show him saying that there would be a financial reward if they agreed with Hice’s story.
They also reportedly showed Hice posing with a lemon in front of the anchor’s home.
The witness, who did not back up Hice’s version of events, was not put on the witness list by the accuser’s attorneys, the Post states.
Lemon’s attorney said in a statement to USA Today in 2019 that Hice “displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts.”
“This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon,” the statement added.
GENDER PAY GAP
One week before she left CNN last April, Brooke Baldwin slammed the network over the lack of female leadership.
The anchor told the Ms Magazine podcast that she had to “fight for women’s stories” with the network’s male-dominated executive staff.
Baldwin claimed that there is a “bit of a ways to go” in making the work environment more equal.
“The most influential anchors on our network, the highest-paid, are men,” Baldwin said.
“My bosses, my executives, are men. The person who oversees CNN Dayside is a man, and my executive producer for 10 years is a man.
“So I’ve been surrounded by a lot of men.”
Baldwin said that it began in the early part of her career and as she was rising through the ranks, she was “surrounded by a lot of dudes.”
The Peabody Award finalist added that CNN is getting better “little by little” in giving power to women in digital and executive newsgathering positions.
Yet Balwin claimed that it has still not gone far enough.
“It’s getting better but we still have a bit of a ways to go,” she said. “I want more women in the room.”
“I know I, personally, fight for women’s stories,” Baldwin continued. “I got told no a lot and I still managed to do it.”
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