CNN President Jeff Zucker abruptly resigned Wednesday after acknowledging a sexual relationship with another network executive, ending a nine-year tenure at the helm of one of the nation’s largest media companies.
Zucker said he acknowledged the relationship when asked about it as part of an investigation into Chris Cuomo, linking Zucker’s downfall to the former CNN star anchor who was recently fired after it was discovered that he aided his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as he also navigated a sexual harassment investigation.
“I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t,” Zucker wrote in a memo. “I was wrong.”
Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, told employees in a memo that an interim leadership plan would be announced shortly.
Zucker, 56, has been an industry leader since he was executive producer of the “Today” show in the 1990s. In the following decade, he ran NBC’s entertainment division, where he was instrumental in putting Donald Trump on the reality show “The Apprentice.”
He rose to become chief of NBC Universal and left in 2010 when Comcast took over.
In a statement, Zucker said he wished that his tenure at CNN had ended differently. Still, he acknowledged, “It was an amazing run. And I loved every minute.”
Allison Gollust, CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, acknowledged the relationship in a memo of her own.
“Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years. Recently, our relationship changed during COVID. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday,” she said.
Prior to joining CNN, Gollust served as communications director for Andrew Cuomo, according to a biography posted on the CNN website. Like Zucker, she worked at NBC News prior to that.
Chris Cuomo actively helped craft his brother’s responses to sexual harassment charges, according to emails and a transcript of his testimony to investigators working for state Attorney General Letitia James. Her office found that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women; the former governor resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial.
Chris Cuomo’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Cuomo is reportedly seeking a settlement following his firing, and speculation that Zucker and Gollust’s relationship might come up in those talks was raised when Radaronline.com wrote a story about the two last month.
The news was met with shock within CNN, where Zucker was well-liked and known for running a tight ship. His top aides were Gollust and Michael Bass, another NBC News veteran.
Insiders like CNN star Brian Stetler responded on social media with disbelief —
Jeff Zucker just announced his resignation to a stunned CNN. pic.twitter.com/sWXYNBO20d
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 2, 2022
Zucker was named chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports in March 2019. He has also served as president of CNN Worldwide since 2013.
Zucker oversaw all of WarnerMedia’s live programming, including all divisions of CNN Worldwide and Turner Sports. At CNN, that includes the US television network, CNN International, HLN, and CNN’s digital properties. His sports portfolio includes Turner Sports, and Bleacher Report.
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Over the past year, CNN has dealt with a massive downshift in ratings. The cable news channel has outpaced its competitors, losing far more viewers than both MSNBC and Fox News since Trump left office.
At the time of his sudden resignation, Zucker was overseeing the expected launch this spring of CNN+, a new streaming service.
The Associated Press contributed to this article