Patterico's Pontifications

2/4/2022

More on L’Affaire Zucker

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:07 am



[guest post by JVW]

A follow-up to yesterday’s post on the departure of former CNN honcho Jeff Zucker when it came to light — though it appears now that everybody seemed to know — that he was carrying on romantically with Executive Vice-President and Head of Marketing Allison Gollust. First, an interesting Tweet storm from Megyn Kelly from Wednesday evening and Thursday morning:

Megyn Kelly Tweets

Always trust content from Megyn Kelly. (Just kidding, Boss. Please don’t fire me.)

And it appears that she will be proven correct. Earlier today, Rolling Stone published an article alleging what so many of us have suspected: that this relationship between Mr. Zucker and Ms. Gollust actually began, oh, about two dozen years before Ms. Gollust acknowledges:

In relationships, timing is everything. And the timeline on Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust’s coupledom is not only off by more than two decades, say sources who have worked with the pair — the CNN power couple also repeatedly lied about their relationship to their corporate bosses.

According to CNN president Zucker’s Feb. 2 resignation memo to staff, the romantic relationship — which marked a flagrant violation of corporate policy given that Gollust, the network’s top communications executive, was a direct report to Zucker for most of her nine-year tenure there — began sometime in the past two years. Gollust said in that same memo: “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years. Recently, our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time.” Added Zucker: “The relationship evolved in recent years.”

Zucker noted in his memo that WarnerMedia’s ongoing investigation into Chris Cuomo — who was fired in December for a breach of ethics after it was discovered he’d been advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, while the latter faced accusations of sexual harassment — brought the affair to light and prompted his resignation. And it seems the probe, which is being overseen by the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, is unearthing plenty of embarrassing details about the goings-on at CNN. The scope of the investigation has now expanded to include Zucker and Gollust’s relationship with Andrew Cuomo, too, a WarnerMedia source acknowledged.

But sources who worked closely with Zucker and Gollust dating back to their days at The Today Show in the mid-Nineties dispute their statements in the memo. In reality, these sources tell Rolling Stone, Zucker became romantically entangled with Gollust back in 1996, when she was a trainee in NBC’s corporate communications group and he was the married executive producer of The Today Show. “It was the worst-kept secret, but Jeff was seen as untouchable,” says one insider. “And their statements [in the memo] are total bullshit.”

The article goes on to report that WarnerMedia (the parent company of CNN) had repeatedly questioned the clandestine lovers regarding rumors that had made it as far as the gossip pages of the New York Post, and that at one point they launched a formal investigation that did not lead to any disciplinary action. WarnerMedia denies that they ever investigated, though they do confirm that they had asked both Zucker and Gollust on more than one occasion about the nature of their “friendship.” It also informs us that when new WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar arrived in May 2020, Zucker was shorn of his responsibility overseeing CNN’s finances, human resources, and corporate communications, the latter of which meant that Gollust no longer reported directly to him. The Rolling Stone reporter, Tatiana Siegel, had questioned WarnerMedia as far back as September 2020 as to whether that restructuring had anything to do with the gossip that the CNN chief was sleeping with his marketing director, but a Warner spokesperson refused to answer.

When AT&T divested itself of WarnerMedia the following spring, Kilar began negotiating an exit arrangement and the word around the office was that Zucker would be given back much of the oversight authority that he had lost the previous year. In fact, rumors abounded that Zucker would amass even more authority in a new CNN-Discovery Channel conglomeration, while Gollust would be in line to become the new boss at CNN. These plans got waylaid by the Cuomo imbroglio, which as we know laid bare (yeah, my double entendres again; sorry) the nature of the relationship between Zucker and Gollust, as well as the connections the two had with the stupid, venal, and thuggish Cuomo brothers:

The source says the investigation suggests Zucker and Gollust were advising the governor at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in ways not dissimilar to what led to Chris Cuomo’s dismissal. As Andrew sparred on a daily basis with then-President Trump over Covid messaging, the couple provided the governor with talking points on how to respond to the president’s criticisms of the New York crisis. They also booked the governor to appear on the network exclusively, which became a ratings boon for CNN, with Chris Cuomo doing the interviewing. Cuomo and Gollust’s conduct, too, would appear to mark an ethical breach for executives acting on behalf of an impartial news outlet.

“The autonomy of a news organization requires it to not be engaged in any sort of direct activity with any political actor,” says Tim Gleason, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon and media ethics expert, speaking broadly. “If they’re advising a politician [while] presumably reporting on activity that that politician is engaged in, that’s duplicitous and deceptive and a disservice to the audience of a news organization.”

Here’s a timeline of the Zucker/Gollust professional relationship. As you follow it, recall that it is alleged that their romantic entanglement began in 1996:

1996 – Zucker is a producer for NBC’s Today show; Gollust is a trainee.
1997 – Zucker remains a producer; Gollust becomes senior publicist, reporting to Zucker. Gollust soon also begins working on other NBC shows.
2000 – Zucker becomes president of NBC Entertainment; Gollust continues to work in publicity for multiple news shows under the NBC umbrella.
2006 – Zucker becomes CEO of NBC Universal.
2009 – Gollust becomes Executive VP of NBC Universal and Zucker’s chief spokeswoman.
2010 – Zucker ousted in June when Comcast acquires controlling stake in NBC Universal; Gollust resigns her position in December.
2012 – Gollust becomes communications director for Andrew Cuomo.
2013 – Zucker named President of CNN in January, hires Chris Cuomo; Gollust comes aboard as Senior VP for Communication.

What is sad and pathetic is the report published in Vanity Fair yesterday detailing an internal meeting held at CNN on Wednesday in which many members of the staff expressed their dismay at how unfairly their former boss was being treated by mean old Jason Kilar, who apparently stayed around as CEO after all. Featured prominently is a fantastically mindless claim by a staffer that she had received a call from a member of Congress (betcha it’s either Zoe Lofgren or Adam Schiff) who currently serves on the January 6 Committee and claimed to be “devastated for our democracy” that Zucker was shitcanned. Jake Tapper, who publicly has stayed pretty quiet on the matter except for a few retweets here and there, asked if firing Zucker wasn’t handing Chris Cuomo a victory of sorts (the answer would be no, Jake, because CNN is still refusing to pay Cuomo any severance money). How a bunch of alleged journalists could be so surprised at these developments — the execrable Brian Stelter acts as if yesterday was the first inkling he ever had that the two executives might be an item, which, if true, makes him the least observant journalist in the fucking world (slipped in another double entendre there; not sorry) — is beyond me, but it’s a solid bet that the general sense of contentment and professional inertia apparent at CNN would go a long way towards explaining why that network’s ratings continue to slide more alarmingly than the agony of defeat guy.

I expect we’ll hear even more in coming days, and that eventually (perhaps even by the time you are reading this) Allison Gollust will join her lover in the unemployment line. But what a messed up story, and what an indictment on how dysfunctional the world of big media truly is.

– JVW

21 Responses to “More on L’Affaire Zucker”

  1. A bit of irony that one of the big stories in the media when Zucker and Gollust started their relationship would have been the Bill Clinton – Monica Lewinsky scandal. I’m guessing that neither one of them had the self-awareness to understand that, even if their circumstances were slightly different.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  2. This is a cautionary tale for those who trust our media – they are staffed with humans with assumptions and biases, just like the rest of us. And they have their fair share of scumbags too, as we are seeing now.

    Hoi Polloi (15cfac)

  3. Featured prominently is a fantastically mindless claim by a staffer that she had received a call from a member of Congress (betcha it’s either Zoe Lofgren or Adam Schiff) who currently serves on the January 6 Committee and claimed to be “devastated for our democracy” that Zucker was sh!tcanned.

    is this a commentary on cnn, or the jan6 committee?

    yes

    JF (e1156d)

  4. I’m guessing Zucker set her up with a contract that pays her regardless without all those negative thinking details the rest of the CNN employees agree not to do or forfeit future compensation.

    steveg (e81d76)

  5. They were both executives…she’s 49….they’re both divorced. Why exactly does CNN need to know that they are dating…especially since they had been seen out in public together at numerous occasions. Sure there’s a power gap, but I don’t think I heard that about Hannity and Ainsley Earhardt. Hey, if it’s a rule, then they should follow the rule…but it seems more than a little paternalistic. I guess I’m supposed to view him as “the enemy”, but on a human level, this seems like Chris Cuomo trying to burn the place down in retaliation…..and I kind of hate to see the “bad guy”…meaning Cuomo…win. Schadenfreude can mess with one’s karma….

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  6. “our democracy” seems to have developed “alternative facts” and “alternative truth”

    steveg (e81d76)

  7. I believe it was cnn that reported a crowd ran into a car and kept a black man from voting.

    mg (8cbc69)

  8. Trump was President and rightly held to a higher standard, but his bucket of sleaze in room with those of Cuomo’s Zucker, Avenatti etc at CNN would be unremarkable

    steveg (e81d76)

  9. Sure there’s a power gap, but I don’t think I heard that about Hannity and Ainsley Earhardt…

    Or Roger “Jabba the Hut” Ailes and the Fox blondes.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  10. Otherwise is this a bunch of little old ladies gossiping while playing bridge.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  11. @5

    They were both executives…she’s 49….they’re both divorced. Why exactly does CNN need to know that they are dating…especially since they had been seen out in public together at numerous occasions. Sure there’s a power gap, but I don’t think I heard that about Hannity and Ainsley Earhardt. Hey, if it’s a rule, then they should follow the rule…but it seems more than a little paternalistic. I guess I’m supposed to view him as “the enemy”, but on a human level, this seems like Chris Cuomo trying to burn the place down in retaliation…..and I kind of hate to see the “bad guy”…meaning Cuomo…win. Schadenfreude can mess with one’s karma….

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74) — 2/4/2022 @ 9:00 am

    The bigger issue, AJ, to me at least… is that did Zucker favor her, career-wise, because of that relationship?

    I’m good with Cuomo trying to burn everyone down with him. What this tells us, is how much of a cesspool that place is and that we should always take anything from CNN with heaping amounts of salt.

    whembly (840a86)

  12. @6 especially since they had been seen out in public together at numerous occasions

    why does that make a difference?

    if they were married, that would be even more obvious, but no major organization would allow married couples to be in the same power hierarchy

    JF (e1156d)

  13. meant @5

    JF (e1156d)

  14. Or Roger “Jabba the Hut” Ailes and the Fox blondes.

    Yeah they only made an entire Hollywood feature movie about it.

    JVW (135eb2)

  15. @5. And what of MSNBC’s Mika and Joe potboiler?

    Pshaw.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  16. This is a cautionary tale for those who trust our media – they are staffed with humans with assumptions and biases, just like the rest of us. And they have their fair share of scumbags too, as we are seeing now.

    The difference today is the obscene drive for profitability, the relentless ratings chase– which can now be metered by seconds– in the deregulated world of cable versus network. Back in the day, network news was a loss leader for corporate and a public service fulfilment necessary for license renewals; their budgets paid for by entertainment programming. Bill Paley famously quipped that the entire annual CBS News budget was paid for by advertising revenue from one entertainment show: ‘I Love Lucy.’

    The race for ratings today dictates editorial content of news programming– hence the increasing entertainment elements in news– a concern Walter Cronkite often cited. Which is why the film ‘Network’ originally quilled a satire, has become increasingly prescient. Allison Gollust and Jeff Zucker are Diana Christensen and Frank Hackett, sans the humping.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  17. Jake Tapper, who publicly has stayed pretty quiet on the matter except for a few retweets here and there, asked if firing Zucker wasn’t handing Chris Cuomo a victory of sorts (the answer would be no, Jake, because CNN is still refusing to pay Cuomo any severance money).

    So far. But Chris Cuomo may pull out a partial victory. He is persisting in his lawsuit, and AT&T may settle in order to prevent Zucker from having to testify. It is reported he may get about half pf his $18 million severance payment – $9 million – in order to prevent CNN or Zucker or some other executives from being embarrassed or worse.

    Chris Cuomo, threataned to sue (no court papers have been filed – if filed they may be freely quoted from – on the grounds that AT&T was not consistent in enforcing its employee policies, and mentioned Zucker’s affair. Zucker was interviewed by AT&T lawyers and was caught in a lie and has now done a limited hang out, confessing that they had an affair and attributing it to Covid. (both of their divorces were completed before)

    But there’s more than just the affair.CNN was urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to go on the air, (not illegitimate in itself) and may have been instrumental in persuading him to do more briefings (many networks aired them but it boosted CNN’s ratings relative to other networks)

    And CNN even encouraged Cuomo to attack Trump (after all, they say, that – and the idea Andrew Cuomo might be a good Democratic candidate for president- raised the ratings of the press briefings, so it wasn]t motivated necessarily by political bias or friendship) and coached him at times.

    Jeff Zucker got on the telephone with Andrew Cuomo at least once to argue he should appear more on his brother’s show. Governor Cuomo’s staff thought these appearances were hurting him, and they wanted him to cut down.

    Sammy Finkelman (c49738)

  18. Allison Gollust also was friendly with top Andrew Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa:

    https://nypost.com/2022/02/03/jeff-zucker-allison-gollusts-cozy-ties-with-andrew-cuomo-deeper-than-previously-known

    CNN boss Jeff Zucker and his paramour Allison Gollust had an inappropriately close friendship with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo — personally calling him to do news segments with his brother Chris Cuomo and even coaching him on what to say during his infamous COVID briefings, The Post has learned….

    …According to a source {close?} to {which?} Cuomo, “Zucker and Gollust even advised Andrew what to say — how to respond and particularly how to hit back at [President Donald] Trump to make it more compelling TV. {or that’s their fallback reason. Maybe they were hoping he’d become vice president at least}

    ….The ousted network boss is expected to face further questioning about his cozy relationship with Andrew if he is deposed in Chris Cuomo’s lawsuit against CNN over his firing.

    CNN and Gollust didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Andrew Cuomo’s rep declined to comment.

    Meanwhile, the Post also learned that Zucker and Gollust made personal calls to Andrew Cuomo in 2020, in a bid to lure the governor to make more flattering appearances on Chris Cuomo’s show.

    Looking to keep Andrew Cuomo on his brother’s show and boost ratings even as controversy swirled around the puffy segments, Gollust personally called Cuomo and leaned on her “good relationship” with the governor, sources with direct knowledge told The Post.

    Gollust also looked to capitalize on her ties with the governor’s top aide Melissa DeRosa, which she had cultivated years earlier when she briefly worked as Cuomo’s communications chief in 2012 and 2013, the source said.

    Sammy Finkelman (c49738)

  19. Fred Zucker and Allison Gollust are victims of the archaic patriarchal cisheteronormative genital fetish myth which automatically assigns the social constructs of gender roles to persons and then punishes them for acting them out. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists like Megyn Kelly are engaging in a dangerously divisive game of identity politics by clinging to their assigned roles of “women” and projecting them to healthy non-binary relationships simply on the basis of superficial appearances.

    nk (1d9030)

  20. If Zucker had grown up somewhere out West (but not all the way to California) he would have known that company managers should not ride the working stock.

    GlendaleGreybeard (443593)

  21. I think what probably happened was that Jeff Zucker’s relationship with Allison Gollust was discovered by someone at CNN and reported to a lawyer, sometime around April or May 2020 and they claimed it had just started amonth or two before. Allison Gollust was moved out of direct reporting to Jeff Zucker, and nobody high up in CNN informed.

    That’s why they are sticking to the Covid explanation (when it seems, the truth is, the relationship started even before Allison Gollust was first hired by Jeff Zucker at NBC in 1996.)

    And when they say they should have informed CNN earlier they are sticking to what they said in 2020 – that they should have told them in March, 2020.

    Jeff Zucker quickly resigned now so that he would not have to testify in the lawsuit threatened by Chris Cuomo. The idea is they would settle. Chris Cuomo was asking for what is reported as his $18 million severance pay. (CNN was going to try fror $9 million)

    Chris Cuomo has now upped his settlement request to $60 million it is reported.

    Not sure any of these amounts are accurate.

    Sammy Finkelman (46ec7d)


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