During a Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics conference, rival Republican operatives had a chance to voice their displeasure at CNN's head honcho Jeff Zucker, for his over the top coverage of Donald Trump.
A lot has been made out of CNN's non-stop Trump coverage, including airing almost every single campaign rally he held during the entire presidential campaign from us and media critics alike.
Politico reported that at the event, after a calm beginning, "GOP campaign managers who worked for President-elect Donald Trump's primary opponents shouted Zucker down with increasing anger as he defended how much airtime the network gave Trump..."
Zucker has admitted before that CNN erred by giving Trump so much free coverage, but said he had no regrets over it.
What a guy!
Yesterday, Republicans got a chance to vent their frustrations at Zucker's work.
"I have to respectfully push back on the campaign managers who spoke here today, because frankly, respectfully, I think that’s bullshit. Donald Trump was on CNN a lot,” Zucker said, refusing to back down. “That’s because we asked him to do interviews and he agreed to do them. We continuously asked the other candidates to come on and do interviews."
Zucker, who described an interview Sen. Marco Rubio did on CNN, where he later objected to a question about abortion and religion and subsequently refused to appear on air for 10 weeks, said they invited all candidates to come on and talk, even by phone.
The room grew increasingly restless and the strategists started piping up, interrupting Zucker and Issenberg.“I don’t remember getting invited to call in, though,” Sarah Isgur Flores, Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager said, kicking off a parade of comments.
More irritated voices across the room quickly chimed in: “We didn’t get that call.” “We’d be invited for eight seconds.” “At 2 o’clock in the afternoon we’d be invited on,” another said sarcastically.“
All of the Republican candidates were invited to come on,” Zucker said. “Cable news in general, CNN in particular, should not be held responsible for the fact that Donald Trump said yes to those interviews.”↓ Story continues below ↓
"It’s not the interviews,” Rubio senior advisor Todd Harris said as another audience member shouted, "You showed empty podiums!""
You showed hours upon hours of unfiltered unscripted coverage of Trump, this was not about interviews,” he added.
Some members of the audience applauded, and the tension in the room built up as salads were left untouched and more wine was poured.
In fact, Zucker gave Trump his start in reality TV during his time as the head of NBC Entertainment when he launched The Apprentice, later giving him “astonishing amounts of free exposure in the Republican presidential primary … often unfiltered and without critical fact-checking.” Zucker repeatedly defended his network’s “heavy focus” on Trump and their hiring of Trump boosters -- including the ethical nightmare of CNN’s hiring of Corey Lewandowski, who was at times simultaneously paid by the Trump campaign and the network and was likely prevented from criticizing Trump.