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    • Reasons For Hope (1): The Solutions Are Known
      Ok, this place has mostly been about how fucked we are, and how we’ve fucked up. Blame is more on our leaders than us, but as a species we’re on the hook. But there is cause of hope because mostly we know what we have to do. We know we have to reduce CO2 and Methane emissions. We even know mostly how. We pretend we don’t, because the how will involve changin […]
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The Venal Values of Jeff Zucker and CNN

Just about everyone is interested to hear at least a bit about celebrity scandals, but this one finally led to the resignation of CNN President Jeff Zucker, who by any reasonable assessment, had a great deal to do with Donald Trump ostensibly defeating Hillary Clinton, and becoming the worst American president in history, who is still stoking the fires of racism, anti-semitism, contempt for law, and endless violence.

Zucker was President of NBC in 2004, when it started “The Apprentice” show which was created by Mark Burnett, and which made a fiction of Donald Trump as a very smart and very successful businessman, when he was neither. People tend to believe what they see on TV, and Trump parlayed that into national fame, and the illusion that if people voted for him, they were getting a “winner,” someone who would cut through politics with his brilliant and pragmatic insights.

Many Americans had longed for a “businessman president,” and various people such as Lee Iacocca and Peter Ueberroth were featured on the covers of national magazines as possible antidotes to the “politicians” who attained high office. Ross Perot convinced millions of people that he was just what the country needed; and he led in national polls against Bill Clinton and President George HW Bush in the early part of 1992, before dropping out for some strange reason, then getting back in; and he still got 19% of the national vote.

So the myth of Donald Trump, carefully nurtured by Burnett and Zucker, was appealing to many. During the coverage of the 2016 campaign, I read that Zucker prominently featured a framed autographed picture of Donald Trump, with lavish praise of Zucker, on the wall of his office suite. Zucker of course claimed no bias, but every ounce of CNN’s coverage of Trump screamed out that he was completely in the tank for Trump.

Who can forget the coverage of campaign rallies? Hillary would have one at around 8:30 pm EST. Trump would always schedule one for about 9pm EST, and call it a rally and press conference. CNN would show about fifteen minutes of Hillary speaking, juxtaposed with pictures of Trump’s rally site, plus earlier showing pictures of his airplane on the tarmac. The minute Trump landed, they would show him being driven to the site, in the corner of the frame.

Trump would start speaking, and he was put in the center of the picture, while Hillary, now muted, was in the upper right corner. The host would always say, “We will get back to Clinton’s speech later…” but never did, and her face would quickly disappear from the screen. Trump would rant and rave for about an hour and half, and then would ostensibly take questions for another 45 minutes. And then the so-called CNN panel would talk about Trump for the next half-hour. That was the essence of their campaign coverage.

Remember, these were not major addresses, they were campaign rallies; they are not usually covered by major news networks, particularly in prime time, but Trump’s always were. This was the exemplification of Zucker’s efforts to get Trump elected. Do you remember the clock on the screen every day on CNN, that clock having the caption, “Hours since Clinton’s last press conference,” the number going up every hour, until she had one?

What responsible network would do something like that? Trump went months without a press conference as President, but CNN never put up a clock. They did show about ten thousand replays of Hillary, who had walking pneumonia, staggering as she was helped into a car; that story used by Republicans and and the media to pretend that she was very ill, had some kind of neurological deficit, which was categorically untrue.

There is no sense in recounting more of this, but Zucker proudly carried Trump’s banner. As far as the rest of his tenure, he hired Sarah Isgur, who had previously worked for Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina, and who was spokeswoman in the Department of Justice, under Trump, as CNN Political Director. What a disgrace, and an affront to journalism. He also essentially fired the estimable Brooke Baldwin.

There was little doubt that Zucker and Isgur and CNN were going to push Trump for election again. What fun for him, what a nightmare for the country and the remaining parts of the free world. But Zucker has today just left CNN. Why? Well, the story is that he did not admit to an affair with an associate there, which he said “was wrong” not to have done.

The associate is the second highest person at CNN, Allison Gollust, who is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. This affair, which broke up both of their marriages, appears to have been “rumored” for years. Gollust’s family had moved into the apartment right above Zucker’s. Katie Couric hinted about this affair in her book. Various sites had indicated that no one dared to come out with the story because of fear of reprisal from the all-powerful Zucker.

Call this remark whatever you like, but my personal comment that while Golllust is quite attractive per pictures, Zucker is extremely unprepossessing, which can only give credence to Henry Kissinger’s famous remark that “power is the greatest aphrodisiac.”

Then there was the dovetail with the Chris Cuomo story; where it was apparently learned that he had been trying to help his brother Andrew defend the accusations of sexual harassment against him. That led to Chris Cuomo being put on indefinite suspension by CNN, which has refused to pay the remainder of his salary, which is $18 million, claiming that a clause in the contract allows the network to fire anyone who “sullies its reputation.” It appears that he is preparing to sue CNN over this.

I can only imagine that some big money persons above Zucker forced him to leave, because of the obvious hypocrisy and double standard being used against the network in a trial obtained by Cuomo based on his lawsuit. I would not for a second believe that Zucker suddenly was beset by conscience and remorse for his adulterous affair with his top subordinate.

So what can one say about this? Well, at least it gets rid of Zucker for now, but it is unlikely to make CNN better, in a time when the cable news networks bear significant responsibility for the growing and very serious danger to American democracy. Nothing that Zucker could ever do would make up for his part in electing a certifiable madman to the highest office in the land.

How many people died of Covid because of Trump’s lies and hiding of medical evidence? How close did the country come to a coup which overthrew the elected President, and established martial law, and led to the killing of many political figures and police officers? Does Zucker ever think of that? I guess not, he was too busy feeling powerful, and reveling in his friendship with Trump.

For democracy to survive, it requires more than a few good people. There have to be journalists, and the people who employ them, who care about truth, who care about journalistic ethics, and who value integrity above personal remuneration, fame, and power. If it is just about self-indulgence and power, then we do not have a free press, we have a carny show run for profit by a cabal of people who have utter contempt for the populace they pretend to serve.

Zucker will undoubtedly resurface. Maybe CNN will invite him back. Maybe he will join Fox Network; the money is good, and obviously the truth, and the welfare of the country do not matter to him. Maybe he will join the Trump campaign. What does it matter, it is all just about power, influence, and some sort of weird sexual charisma to him. Zucker and his counterparts revel in only that, and seek to indulge and gratify their various personal needs, while the country burns. Where is the clock now?