Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan Blames Jeff Zucker for the Rise of Trump

Although she doesn’t understand why Jeff Zucker, CNN chief executive, was fired from her company, Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote on Friday that “Jeff Zucker’s legacy is defined by his promotion of Donald Trump.” CNN did not have enough horror-movie coverage.

Zucker, as much as any other person in the world, created and burnished the Trump persona — first as a reality-TV star who morphed into a worldwide celebrity, then as a candidate for president who was given large amounts of free publicity.

Is this the ultimate goal? Nothing nobler than TV ratings, which always were Zucker’s guiding light, his be-all and end-all and, ultimately, his fatal flaw.

Well, if we are to judge Zucker by the TV ratings then he should be viewed as an abject failure since CNN’s ratings have gone straight into the toilet over the past year.

Two decades ago, as an NBC executive searching for a way to goose the floundering network’s popularity, he gave the green light to a reality show, “The Apprentice,” featuring a flashy mogul whose soon-to-be-famous tagline was “You’re fired.” Trump had a checkered history of bankruptcies, racism and failed real estate projects, but his confident bluster made him a natural on television.

How would Zucker have known that Trump would run for the presidency in 10 years? The Apprentice first aired? It was followed by 2015 

CNN infamously took his campaign speeches live, sometimes going so far as to broadcast images of an empty lectern with embarrassing chyrons such as “Breaking News: Standing By for Trump to Speak.” You can’t buy that kind of media.

CNN and MSNBC did the same. Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats, loved that idea at the time. Or, at the very least, that Trump would be promoting them. Sullivan insists that Trump’s surrogates shouldn’t have been permitted on TV! 

Also, Zucker invited on Trump’s air surrogates, people like Corey Lewandowski and Jeffrey Lord, who were praised by Trump as being “the Martin Luther King of healthcare care”; Kayleigh McEnany became a White House press officer, which was bad enough that one could pine for Sean Spicer.

Sullivan seems to believe that Trump’s ideal news network would exclude all people. One side should only be broadcast. And after that censorious outburst, then she had the temerity to lecture about “democracy.”

When Trump became the Republican nominee for president and started trashing Zucker’s network and staff with invective about its “fake news,” it was too late for second thoughts. The standard was set. Each Trump comment became newsworthy, and CNN was like other news agencies that failed to cover Trump’s democracy-damaging presidency.

So all of CNN’s trashing Trump as a Russian tool, an American Hitler, a journalist-endangering dictator (and later a COVID mass murderer) wasn’t enough? This is never enough. Sullivan said that they were her favorite. Democracy In Peril shows. But why is America’s democracy at risk? Some portion of the blame — not a tiny portion — belongs to the network executive who couldn’t resist the ‘ratings machine.’”

About Post Author

Follow Us