CNN anchor Jake Tapper reportedly expressed his frustration with former anchor Chris Cuomo, blaming him for effectively submarining former network chief Jeff Zucker.
According to a report published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal, senior talent and staff at CNN’s DC Bureau met with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, and Tapper made it clear that he was not thrilled with the way things had happened.
Many have speculated that Cuomo might have leveraged information about Zucker in an attempt to either get revenge for his own recent termination or to pressure executives at the network to pay out the remainder of his contract — and Tapper said that any outsider who happened to be looking at the network’s current state of affairs might believe he had been successful.
From the report, written by Benjamin Mullin:
During the question-and-answer session, anchor Jake Tapper said that Mr. Cuomo hired a lawyer who seemed eager to leak damaging information about Mr. Zucker unless they gave Mr. Cuomo severance.
“An outside observer might say, ‘Well, it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded,’” Mr. Tapper said. “He threatened Jeff. Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. And Chris blew the place up. How do we get past that perception that this is the bad guy winning?”
A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment. A spokeswoman for WarnerMedia said that the company doesn’t comment on investigations.
CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter noted that the timing could have played a considerable factor in the way things ultimately played out. In his Reliable Sources newsletter published Wednesday, he explained: “All of this is happening while CNN needs a new 9pm program to replace Cuomo; while it prepares to launch the CNN+ streaming service, one of the most important ventures in the network’s history; and while AT&T prepares to spin off WarnerMedia so that it can combine with Discovery. Some sources suggested on Wednesday that the pressure to complete the deal was a factor.”
Dylan Byars at Puck.news also addressed the situation, suggesting that Warner Media’s Kilar could be the next domino to fall. He pointed out that Kilar and Zucker had not exactly been close — so when Zucker admitted to the relationship with Gollust and Kilar took that up the chain to AT&T CEO John Stankey, the situation only got worse.
“No matter what he thought of Zucker or Kilar, Stankey surely had no appetite for tolerating any scandal that might scuttle the impending WarnerMedia-Discovery deal. And so in the end, now both Kilar and Zucker will soon be in search of new jobs,” Byars wrote.