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Jeff Zucker Defends CNN’s Trump Coverage, Pans ‘Destructive’ Fox News in Interview Ahead of Debates

As CNN prepares to hold the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 campaign, network chief Jeff Zucker defended his network’s coverage of the previous election cycle and swung at Fox News in a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post.

In a conversation with the Post’s Sarah Ellison, Zucker discussed how the network will be adapting its coverage to avoid the mistakes of 2016. Stressing transparency, the CNN president said “we don’t want to be the one to say” who will emerge as victorious in the upcoming presidential election.

As Zucker spoke about CNN’s handling of the debate set-up and how the network’s coverage would change, he also defended the network’s third place in the ratings and said people attack CNN “because it matters.” In particular, Zucker stood by CNN’s televised lottery process from when they announced the debate line-up this week.

“We were the first cable news network, and I think that’s why CNN gets its fair share of acclaim and a fair share of criticism. And, you know, that’s okay. I mean, I’m totally comfortable with that. Purists who thought the draw took things to the extreme of the sports analogy, none of that criticism bothers me. We were fully transparent. None of the campaigns had an issue. The DNC didn’t have an issue. We loved it. It’s okay.”

“Everybody sees a conspiracy and everybody has an opinion,” Zucker said. “Everybody sees the worst, and Twitter is a cesspool of opinion.”

In terms of how to cover President Donald Trump, Zucker acknowledged “It’s a fair criticism that we took too many of his rallies live and unedited.” The CNN boss, who spoke regularly with Trump during the 2016 election before their relationship soured, said he hasn’t spoken to the president in more than a year.

Zucker also provided a counterpoint by swiping at the competition from Fox News.

From the article:

Fox’s prime-time lineup is stacked with Trump supporters, each more strident than the last, and CNN is the president’s least favorite network. About Fox, which handily beats CNN in the ratings, Zucker says that he’s comfortable with CNN’s ratings and asserts that Fox’s ratings derive from its conservative bent.

“When you look at the last 20 years of American society culture and politics, I think they’ve been one of the most destructive voices in that entire process,” Zucker said of Fox. “And I think that they’ve had a terrible influence on the discourse in this country.”

And finally, here’s what Zucker had to say about his future plans — given gossip on Page Six that he’s flirting with a run for public office.

“I want us to make sure that we’re telling the full and complete story so that no one wakes up the day after the election and is surprised by whatever happens. I love CNN. I’m going to be here for a while. I won’t be here for the rest of my life, and at some point I will do something different. I don’t know what that is yet.”

Read the interview here.

[Photo via Jason Kempin/Getty Images]

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