Jack Tapper says that his former CNN colleague Chris Cuomo “blew up” the network, and his actions led directly to the firing of Jeff Zucker.
Tapper reportedly accused his network’s corporate parent of throwing Jeff Zucker under the bus after the ousted news honcho refused to capitulate to Chris Cuomo’s demand for a multimillion-dollar payout.
According to reports, during a heated meeting mere hours after Zucker’s resignation, Tapper asked WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar about the “perception” that Zucker’s refusal to pay Cuomo the remaining $18 million on his contract ultimately led to him losing his job, according to Puck News.
“Jason, if you could address the perception that Chris Cuomo gets fired by CNN, Chris Cuomo hires a high-powered lawyer who has a scorched-earth policy, who then makes it very clear to the world that unless Jeff gives Chris Cuomo his money, they’re going to blow the place up,” Tapper asked Kilar, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by the NY Post.
“Stuff starts getting leaked to gossip websites about Jeff and Allison … and then weeks later, Jeff comes forward, discloses this, and resigns — not willingly,” Tapper continued. “An outside observer might say, ‘Wow, it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded,'” Tapper told Kilar during a tense staff meeting.
Tapper continues on the recording, “He threatened, Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists, and then he blew the place up.”
Tapper is then heard asked Kilar, “How do we get past that perception, that this is the bad guy winning?”
Kilar told Tapper in response, “When it comes to perception, all I can offer you, Jake, is, every minute of every day we’ve got what’s on the screens [of CNN]. I believe that’s what’s going to define us going forward, far more than what’s happened today and what you alluded to.”
CNN star Kaitlan Collins pressed harder after Kilar appeared to dodge Tapper’s question, saying, “I think the issue is that it’s not a perception.”
Collins continued, “What Jake just described is actually what happened here … Cuomo is a man scorned because he was fired for being held accountable … and Jeff is part of the result of this. And it sounds like you didn’t consult any other executives on removing a critical part of the company.”
Her colleague Dana Bash also weighed in, questioning whether Zucker deserved to be fired over his affair.
“For a lot of us, the feeling is that, for Jeff, the punishment didn’t fit the crime … There are so many people who work here and got a second chance because that’s what Jeff believed in, and … it feels like he didn’t get that chance,” Bash said.
Zucker resigned from his post as CNN president on Feb 2. after acknowledging a years-long “consensual relationship” with Allison Gollust, the network’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
In announcing his resignation to staff, Zucker admitted that he failed to disclose the relationship with his underling to his superiors. Zucker’s bosses at WarnerMedia became aware of the relationship during an investigation into Cuomo’s tenure at the network.
The scandal grew deeper as The Post exclusively reported that Zucker and Gollust made personal calls to then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2020 in a bid to lure the chief executive to make more flattering appearances on his brother Chris Cuomo’s show, and even coached him on his COVID briefings.
Despite the affair and other allegations, Zucker remains popular with many of those employed by CNN, including some of their top talent, as evidenced by the questions brought up by Tapper and Collins. Others in the tense meeting even suggested that the historically tense relationship between Zucker and Cuomo played a role in the CNN president’s ouster.
Cuomo was fired by Zucker late last year after it was learned that he helped his brother fight back against allegations that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed an aide. Since he was let go, the former “Cuomo Prime Time” host has hired a high-powered attorney, Bryan Freedman, in an effort to force CNN to pay him $18 million in salary that he was slated to earn on the remainder of his contract.
Zucker refused Cuomo’s demand for the payout because of revelations that he helped his brother cast the network in a negative light.
Cuomo’s lawyers then decided to go over his head and appeal to executives at WarnerMedia’s parent company, AT&T. According to a source speaking to the Post, Cuomo’s lawyers argued AT&T was involved in selective enforcement because Zucker — who violated company policy by dating a colleague without disclosing it — was able to hold onto his cushy job, but Cuomo had gotten the boot for helping his brother navigate sexual harassment claims.
Given those circumstances, Cuomo’s lawyers argued, AT&T should pay Cuomo the full $18 million he was demanding.
But, instead, they turned around and fired Zucker, which Tapper and others say fulfilled on Cuomo’s revenge filled promise to “blow up” the network if his demands were not met.