The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition-team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.
Scaramucci got an unusual public apology but still hired a top Manhattan lawyer to put further pressure on CNN and “look after [his] interests in this matter,” one source said.
Sources also said the three journalists responsible for the retracted story — reporter Tom Frank, editor Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris, who headed the CNN Investigates unit — were urged to resign.
Zucker was afraid of facing a high-profile suit from Scaramucci while the US Justice Department weighs the proposed $85.4 billion media merger.
At last week’s Cannes Lions festival in France — where Zucker boasted that viewers trust CNN “more than ever” — rumors were rife that he’d be out of a job if the AT&T deal goes through.
“What is interesting is that the AT&T execs who will decide who goes and who stays are [AT&T CEO] Randall Stephenson and [AT&T Entertainment Group CEO] John Stankey — who have a very good relationship with the current administration.”
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“People are trying to attack us, trying to take us down,” CNN’s president, Jeffrey A. Zucker, said in a newsroom conference call on Tuesday morning, according to a network employee who listened to the call and was granted anonymity to describe private remarks, according to The NY Times.
“Our reputation is everything; that is our currency, and that’s why we have processes in place,” Mr. Zucker said, according to the employee. He added, “If you don’t follow those procedures, you don’t work here, period.”
Those procedures broke down last week, according to several people at CNN who, in speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, recounted a scramble inside the network after the story was published last Thursday.