In an interview with CNN host Brian Stelter at Thursday’s “Citizen by CNN” civic engagement conference, the network chief momentarily trolled audience members.
“I recently learned on the president’s Twitter feed that you will soon be resigning from CNN. He did spell the word resigning wrong, but he is the president, so what’s the truth?” Stelter asked Zucker at the opening of the interview.
“So, I do have an announcement to make today…” Zucker answered teasingly.
“I’m not resigning,” he added after a pause, prompting laughter from the host.
“I have no intention of resigning,” he added.
Stelter asked what Zucker thought the president’s tweets could have stemmed from.
“I think there probably was too much executive time that day,” Zucker replied.
“I think he clearly has been agitated by CNN and there was probably something done that day and he was trying to take a shot at CNN; he uses me as the proxy for that.”
The president’s tweet last Tuesday came after the right-wing nonprofit Project Veritas, which has previously been discredited for its other campaigns against the media, claimed it had exposed Zucker for bias against Trump:
Now that we have found out that @CNN is a virtual fraud, rumor has it that Jeff Zucker will be resigining momentarily?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2019
Zucker said that at the time of the tweet, he and more than 50 staff members were in Ohio doing final preparations for the Democratic presidential primary debate that evening.
“We have 50 people who are in these two rooms working on debate prep, and they’re not sure, like, is this true?”
Zucker said that after the teams speculated over the rumor for a while, one staffer walked up to him and showed him the tweet.
“I go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’” he said.
Zucker had a little fun with the president’s tall tale before clearing the air.
“So I went into the other room, I said, ‘Guys, listen, it’s been really fun working with you,’” he joked, adding that even his kids started texting him to ask if the rumor was true.
The CNN chief also revealed during the interview that he was very open to speaking with former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith about a job, after blasting the journalist’s former employer for being “conspiracy TV.”
“Shep’s a great journalist,” Zucker said.
“When he’s available, he is somebody who is very talented and I would be very open to talking to him.”
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