CNN president Jeff Zucker, 55, announces he will step down at the end of 2021

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CNN president Jeff Zucker, 55, announces he will step down at the end of 2021

CNN president Jeff Zucker will leave the news organization at the end of 2021 after almost a decade in charge, it was reported Thursday. The long-t

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CNN president Jeff Zucker will leave the news organization at the end of 2021 after almost a decade in charge, it was reported Thursday. 

The long-time boss, 55, told staff: ‘I’m going to stay and finish my current contract, which, as I said, will keep me here until the end of this year. 

‘At that point, I do expect to move on.’

He added: ‘The truth is, back in November and December I had basically decided that it was time to move on.’ 

His decision, first reported by The New York Times, comes amid rumors of a rift with his new boss, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia Jason Kilar, and the end of the Trump presidency. 

Kilar had already stripped him of his role in overseeing human resources and the public relations team.

Despite that, the new chief exec had said in December that ‘the two best things that ever happened to CNN were Ted Turner and Jeff Zucker’. 

CNN president Jeff Zucker will leave the news organization at the end of 2021

CNN president Jeff Zucker will leave the news organization at the end of 2021

Zucker started his career as a researcher for the 1988 Olympics for NBC before becoming executive producer of the Today show aged just 26.

He then became president of NBC Entertainment; it was Zucker who in 2004 aired The Apprentice, making Trump a household name. 

After replacing and then reinstating Jay Leno, Zucker lost his job with the network and he joined CNN in 2013. 

Since then it has enjoyed high ratings, hitting a 40-year network record in November and beating competitors with their coverage of the Capitol siege.

Zucker’s decision to leave now raises questions over the direction of the left leaning network post Donald Trump.  

In a New York Times column last September, media columnist Ben Smith wrote that Zucker didn’t realize what a ratings success Trump would be when he first announced his bid for president.

He initially dismissed Trump as a ‘sideshow’ but then changed his tune and spent the lead up to the election saturating CNN with Trump coverage. 

Zucker was caught on tape telling Trump’s disgraced attorney Michael Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN.  

The exchange between Zucker and Cohen took place just hours before the GOP primary debate on March 10 that CNN was hosting. 

It was Zucker who in 2004 aired The Apprentice, making Trump a household name

It was Zucker who in 2004 aired The Apprentice, making Trump a household name

In the leaked audio, which was obtained by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Zucker told Cohen that ‘you cannot be elected president of the United States without CNN’.

‘You guys have had great instincts, great guts and great understanding of everything,’ Zucker told Cohen. ‘But you’re missing the boat on how it works going forward.’    

Zucker would later express worry about corresponding with Cohen by email, adding that he couldn’t risk the possible chance that Trump would mention the nature of the conversation at a rally.

‘I’m very conscious of not putting too much in email, as you’re a lawyer, as you understand,’ Zucker said.

‘And, you know, as fond as I am of the boss, he also has a tendency, like, you know, if I call him or I email him, he then is capable of going out at his next rally and saying that we just talked and I can’t have that, if you know what I’m saying.’

‘It’s not that I don’t want to talk to (Trump) every day. I’ve just got to be careful, because, I’ve just got to be careful … I just don’t want him talking about it on the campaign trail … But you know what? I’m going to give him a call right now and I’m going wish him luck in the debate tonight.’   

The conversation then changed to post-election plans with Zucker offering a ‘weekly’ show with Trump.

‘I have all these proposals for him,’ Zucker told Cohen. ‘I want to do a weekly show with him and all this stuff.’

His decision comes amid rumors of a rift with his new boss, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia Jason Kilar, right, and the end of the Trump presidency

His decision comes amid rumors of a rift with his new boss, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia Jason Kilar, right, and the end of the Trump presidency

Zucker joined CNN in 2013. Since then the network has enjoyed high ratings, hitting a 40-year network record in November. He is pictured with host Anderson Cooper

Zucker joined CNN in 2013. Since then the network has enjoyed high ratings, hitting a 40-year network record in November. He is pictured with host Anderson Cooper 

Turning his attention to the debate, Zucker took the opportunity to praise Trump’s handling of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and others. 

‘I think the other guys are going to gang up on him tremendously … and I think he’s going to hold his own, as he does every time,’ Zucker said. ‘He’s never lost a debate. And you know what? He’s good at this … He’s going to do great.’

Zucker then offered his own advice to Cohen and Trump’s team, telling them to have him ready for the attacks others were gearing to use during the debate.

‘You know what you should do? Whoever’s around him today should just be calling him a conman all day so he’s used to it, so that when he hears it from [Marco] Rubio, it doesn’t matter,’ Zucker said. ‘”Hey conman, hey conman, hey conman.” He thinks that’s his name, you know?’ 

Zucker later said he had given too much exposure to his campaign events.

And he was heard in calls referring to Rudy Giuliani as a ‘useful idiot’ and calling Trump ‘s legal team ‘crazy’ during a staff meeting. 

Zucker later said he had given too much exposure to Trump campaign events

Zucker later said he had given too much exposure to Trump campaign events

The former president repeatedly called the network ‘fake news’ and it was accused of harboring a liberal and anti-Trump bias.

Sources have said CNN’s later coverage of Trump was Zucker’s attempt to kill his ‘runaway monster’. 

Zucker said: ‘We gave the anchors, reporters and producers of our shows the freedom to tell the truth, even if the truth came off as tough sometimes.’ 

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said: ‘He’s the best boss I ever had, and it’s not even close. I’m grateful that we get him for another year.’

Zucker is understood to still lead the daily editorial calls himself. 

He is said to have no current plans after leaving CNN.   

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