Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
The Daily Beast reported late on Monday afternoon that CNN president Jeff Zucker defended the network's decision to air Trump’s coronavirus task force briefings live, despite employees complaining about them.
Citing “multiple sources,” the Beast reported that Zucker told staffers that CNN viewers should hear from coronavirus experts like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, who regularly appear alongside Trump at the briefings.
“It’s a very difficult decision… as of now, we are going to continue to carry those briefings,” Zucker reportedly told his staff.
But only a few hours after Zucker’s comments became public, Lemon contradicted his boss on “CNN Tonight” by suggesting the liberal network shouldn't carry Trump's daily coronavirus briefings because they've become his "new rallies."
CNN anchor Don Lemon defied his boss when he questioned the network’s decision to air President Trump’s coronavirus briefings. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
"I'm not actually sure, if you want to be honest, that we should carry that live. I think we should run snippets. I think we should do it afterwards and get the pertinent points to the American people because he's never, ever going to tell you the truth," Lemon told his colleague Chris Cuomo during their nightly handoff.
“Those press briefings have become his new 'Apprentice.' They've become his new rallies. And he treats the press and the media as if he's talking to the people at his rallies. It's the same thing. It's no different except the audience isn't there," Lemon added.
Cuomo, who announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, told Lemon Monday night that he "understands the frustration" but thought the press briefings should be carried live because there are "too many dead people" and "too much of a need for information."
Lemon didn’t back down from his anti-Zucker point, “What does the American people get out of that? Not much.”
Former CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord also seems to disagree with Lemon. He told Fox News “the very reason for the existence of CNN in the first place was Ted Turner’s insistence that they have cameras 24/7 to just report the news,” and the coronavirus briefings are newsworthy these days.
“I don’t think we’re witnessing the end of the world, just a very tumultuous moment in history. These briefings are now a central part of that moment and it would seem CNN would be living up to Ted Turner’s original vision by televising the briefings as they are,” Lord said. “Not televising them sends the message that whichever network is doing that is into politics, not news.”
It doesn’t appear that Trump’s coronavirus briefings will cease anytime soon, as the pandemic continues to impact America, so the quarrel between people like Zucker and Lemon has plenty of time to play out.
“It seems there's disagreement over airing the briefings that's spilling out externally on the air on CNN and MSNBC," The Hill media reporter Joe Concha told Fox News. "Chris Hayes shared similar sentiment as Lemon, calling it ‘crazy’ for his network and others to carry the briefing."
Concha feels that Lemon and Hayes won’t get their way, pointing to the need for Americans to be informed by their preferred cable news channel.
“Either way, the president's 60 percent approval on handling the crisis, including from 60 percent of independents and nearly 3-in-10 Democrats, shows that both hosts' perspective doesn't mesh with solid majority of the American people, who just want to be informed and educated on a daily basis by Dr. Fauci, Birx while being reassured by the president the country will emerge from this stronger,” Concha added.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.