Jason Kilar, the chief executive of CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia, has heard from many employees that the ouster of network president Jeff Zucker was a difficult blow to their mental health.
On Monday morning, Kilar held yet another Q&A session with CNN’s top producers and on-air talent in New York—this time over video conference, from his office in California, not in person, mercifully. But it went just as poorly as his in-person meetings had last week in New York, Washington, and Atlanta.
The hour-long meeting, a recording of which I obtained from a source, once again highlighted the profound sense of loyalty that CNN’s on-air talent have expressed toward Zucker and the overwhelming sense of grief that they feel in his absence, especially as they head toward the impending WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. […] “I think that what you’re hearing, and what we’re all experiencing, is just a huge shockwave to all of our mental health,” Alisyn Camerota, the CNN host, said during one of the most poignant moments of the meeting.
Zucker announced he was leaving the network last Wednesday after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a subordinate — executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust.
“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,” Zucker told shocked employees in a memo. “I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.”
Zucker’s memo did not name Gollust, who served as communications director for disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Cuomo resigned last summer amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Camerota previously expressed frustration with Zucker’s removal, downplaying the seriousness of his relationship with Gollust as merely “two consenting adults.”
“This is an incredible loss. It’s an incredible loss. Jeff is a remarkable person and an incredible leader. He has this uncanny ability to make, I think, every one of us feel special and valuable in our own way even though he is managing an international news organization of thousands of people,” the host said last week. “I just know he had this unique ability to make us feel special. I don’t think that comes around all the time. I think, again, it’s an incredible loss. I just think it’s so regrettable how it happened. If what you are reporting is true, these are two consenting adults who are both executives. That they can’t have a private relationship feels wrong on some level.”
CNN Executive vice presidents Michael Bass, Amy Entelis, and Ken Jautz have replaced Zucker.