CNN president Jeff Zucker, who helped propel Donald Trump to stardom with “The Apprentice” but became his nemesis after the real estate tycoon entered the White House, resigned Wednesday for failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a colleague.
As head of the 24-hour Cable News Network since 2013, Zucker was one of the most powerful media executives in the United States.
“I certainly wish my tenure here had ended differently,” he said in a message to the network’s employees. “But it was an amazing run. And I loved every minute.”
The 56-year-old said his resignation was effective immediately.
Zucker has been a frequent target of Trump’s ire and the former president immediately issued a statement celebrating his departure.
In his message to staff, Zucker said that as part of an investigation into a since-fired CNN anchor, Chris Cuomo, he was “asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years.”
“I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years,” he said. “I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong.”
CNN identified the colleague as executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust, who said she would remain at the Atlanta-based network founded in 1980 by media mogul Ted Turner.
“Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years,” Gollust said in a statement published by CNN.
“Recently, our relationship changed during Covid,” she said. “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,” Gollust said.
Zucker and Gollust are both divorced, according to The New York Times.
– ‘The Apprentice’ –
Zucker joined CNN from NBC, where he rose through the ranks to become president and chief executive officer of the NBC Universal Television Group.
While at NBC, Zucker launched the reality TV show “The Apprentice” on which Trump starred for 14 seasons and delivered the tag line for which he became known: “You’re fired!”
The two fell out after Trump became president.
CNN took a hard line towards Trump while he was in the White House, frequently calling him out for lies and positioning itself on the opposite side of the political spectrum from Fox News.
CNN and Zucker personally became favorite targets of Trump’s diatribes against the media.
The former president released a statement about Zucker’s resignation within roughly an hour of it being announced.
“Jeff Zucker, a world-class sleazebag who has headed ratings and real-news-challenged CNN for far too long, has been terminated for numerous reasons, but predominantly because CNN has lost its way with viewers and everybody else,” Trump said.
“Now is a chance to put Fake News in the backseat because there may not be anything more important than straightening out the horrendous LameStream Media in our Country, and in the case of CNN, throughout the World,” he said. “Jeff Zucker is gone — congratulations to all!”
In a statement published by CNN, Jason Kilar, CEO of the broadcaster’s parent company WarnerMedia, said three senior executives would jointly lead CNN on an interim bases.
“We thank Jeff for his contributions over the past nine years,” Kilar said.
CNN has announced plans to launch a subscription streaming service called “CNN+” in the coming months and WarnerMedia is currently in merger talks with media conglomerate Discovery Inc.