Discovery CEO Zaslav Surprises CNBC Host By Saying CNN is ‘The Leader in News to the Left’ … of Discovery’s Portfolio (Correction)


Correction: Mediaite has learned Zaslav was referring to the left side of the Discovery portfolio, not the left side of the political aisle. Though Zaslav himself did not dispute the context of the comment when Joe Kernen asked for clarification, his true intent was made clear when Zaslav followed up by saying he views sports as being on the right side of the portfolio. Mediaite regrets the error. See an updated version of our story below.

The executive who is soon to take over CNN appeared to make a candid admission about where he sees the network.

In an interview on CNBC Friday, Discovery CEO David Zaslav, as part of an assessment of his brand’s portfolio, took stock of CNN’s place in the public consciousness and said this:

We’re the leader in news to the left.

CNBC host Joe Kernen immediately seized on the comment.

“Definitely to the left,” Kernen said. “Did you say to the left?”

Zaslav laughed but did not retract his comment.

“Man, you weren’t kidding,” Kernen said, also laughing. Then, sheepishly taking back his question, Kernen said, “that was an aside. I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

While Kernen did not clarify his comments, he went on to say that he sees sports as being on the right side of the Discovery portfolio.

The merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery is reportedly set to be completed early in the spring. When Discovery assumes control of CNN, Zaslav will have a key decision to make right out of the box — as it will have to replace newly-resigned CNN chief Jeff Zucker.

Last year, Zaslav vowed to take a “hands-on” role in the operations of CNN. He also said, per Deadline:

“I think overall we’d probably be better off if we just had news networks in America,” rather than those with an opinion element. “But we don’t. Media tends to be a reflection of where the country is. Where the country was when we launched MSNBC was much more fact-based and less divided.”

Zucker, who joined CNN in 2013 and led the network through the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, abruptly resigned this week over a secret relationship he had with a colleague, CNN chief marketing officer Allison Gollust, which he did not disclose to the company as required.

But not disclosing a consensual relationship rarely results in the defenestration of a network president. A web of other forces have been reported as influential in the demise of his CNN career: WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who currently oversees CNN, was said not to be a fan of Zucker’s. AT&T CEO John Stankey, who oversees WarnerMedia, has been focused on the merger with Discovery, and is thought to be disinterested in any aspect of the CNN operation. And John Malone, a top shareholder at CNN’s soon to be parent Discovery, has made clear he disagrees with Zucker’s vision for CNN. According to Deadline, he even “made it known that corporate procedures had to be followed to the letter in regards to Zucker.”

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Joe DePaolo is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: Follow him on Twitter: @joe_depaolo