From sex scandals to the sordid Cuomo mess, and – the last nail in the coffin – the fall of Jeff Zucker, people are asking when the last bolt holding this dumpster fire will be freed? Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent, appears not to be one of those people, and he is selling excuses by the truckload in an attempt to bolster his beloved employer. He’s either the most loyal guy in the business, or just the only shill left standing.
Forty-two years ago, Ted Turner created the first 24/7 news network for cable television: CNN. No one seemed to have a good thing to say about the channel initially: Who wants to watch the news all day? But those same folks, who are probably tuned in to Fox News or MSNBC now, have a lot to discuss as the network nears complete collapse. Comparing ratings from January 2021 to 2022, CNN has lost 90% of its total viewership, including an 86% decline in the most sought-after demographic: ages 18-54. This is, quite possibly, kismet.
The Lone Ranger Out in Front
Stelter – the unassuming, unflashy, everyday guy – told us during his program Reliable Sources he was a tad irritated: “I’m going to go a little bit rogue here,” he intoned into the camera. “CNN was not built by just one man. Not by only Ted Turner.”
Dead serious, the CNN anchor went further: “And not led only by Jeff Zucker. But the people who say we’re lacking journalism, that we’ve become an all-talk channel, that we’ve run off and are all opinions all the time. That Jeff Zucker led us astray. Those people aren’t watching CNN.” And that was an interesting point in his rogue rant because, obviously, 90% fewer people are watching the troubled network. “But we’re not going anywhere,” Stelter insisted. And his game of point and blame began in earnest, as he brought out the heaviest of tragedy hitters, using the term “Shakespearean.”
Stelter finally began the duck, weave, and deflect – a common defense tactic that has bled into journalism from the political games. It’s the merger, man, he hinted. AT&T has swallowed up CNN, HBO, and the rest of Warner Media to form Warner Brothers Discovery. Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket. And Discovery CEO David Zaslav will run the new company. There’s no room now for Zucker. It’s just business, nothing personal. Zucker’s exit had nothing whatsoever to do with mismanaging the once-respected news outlet.
Dirty Laundry on Air
So where does the increasing line of dirty skivvies, unfurling almost like clockwork at the network recently, rank in causing the chaos? Some say Zucker is the guy who simply let it all happen. Scandal on top of scandal has been building for some time to create a rather wobbly house of cards at CNN.
Did anyone notice the drunken tirade by Andy Cohen on New Year’s Eve, laser-focused at exiting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio? He let loose symbolically at the stroke of midnight: “Watching Mayor de Blasio do his ‘victory lap’ dance after four years of the crappiest job as the mayor of New York! The only thing that the Democrats and the Republicans can agree on is what a horrible mayor he has been, so sayonara, sucka!” Then there were also the sexual harassment claims against Don Lemon and the arrest of senior producer John Griffin on charges involving sex crimes with children.
Instead of the inanimate enemy, the merger, perhaps the unstable edifice that Zucker added to was blown over by the Cuomo brothers. Former CNN talking head Chris Cuomo was summarily fired for attempting to use his press pals to aid his brother, then-Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, during his battle against a bunch of angry women, who accused the man of sexual harassment, misconduct, and other crimes. Zucker relieved Chris of his primetime job, and Chris responded with a plethora of lawyers to rattle CNN’s cage and expose Zucker’s closeted relationship with another CNN executive, Allison Gollust. One good turn deserves another roll under the bus.
Amber Athey, Washington editor for The Spectator, quite nicely slapped a bow on the CNN package: “Zucker has managed to simultaneously protect perverts and pedophiles as well as oversee a massive decline in ratings.”
Frying Pan to Fire
The former anger evoker for Fox News viewers, Chris Wallace, may find it difficult to take pride in his new CNN home. Sources have tattled that since the departure of Zucker, the man who lured him to the CNN+ streaming service, Chris is dealing with staffing issues – or no staff or producer – and having a bit of a meltdown. Journalists like Jenna Ellis at Newsmax are asking: “Did he really think he was joining a top-notch outfit?”
But back to Stelter, the Lone Ranger in struggling to keep the love for CNN alive with the percentage of viewers needed to power an advertiser or two. He jumped on the bandwagon and rolled over the Cuomos again. “This is the ugliest shakeup at CNN since the days Ted Turner was walking the halls,” he said, and then he finally got to the point: “You can draw a straight line from Andrew Cuomo’s downfall to Zucker’s. It’s almost Shakespearean.” Did you hear the “thump-thump” as he backed up over Chris Cuomo? And really, the only thing Shakespearean about the demise of CNN is its distinct resemblance to Titus Andronicus. It’s that bloody.
~ Read more from Sarah Cowgill.