Zucker Will Be Remembered for the Ascent of Trump

Executive launched 'The Apprentice' before focusing on him at CNN
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2022 5:20 PM CST
On 2 Networks, Jeff Zucker Made a TV Star of Trump
Jeff Zucker, shown in 2018, resigned this week from CNN.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Jeff Zucker announced that he was quitting CNN because of his failure to disclose his romantic relationship with a colleague, Allison Gollust. But he'll also be remembered for Zucker's mutually beneficial relationship with Donald Trump, Margaret Sullivan writes in her Washington Post column. In some ways, the TV executive produced Trump. "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," Sullivan writes.

It was Zucker who put The Apprentice on the air when he was at NBC, making Trump, with his "confident bluster," a reality star. "The show was built as a virtually nonstop advertisement for the Trump empire and lifestyle," Marc Fisher and Michael Kranish wrote in their book, Trump Revealed. When Trump launched his candidacy, Zucker had moved to CNN but hadn't forgotten their past rating success. CNN added to the hype by famously showing a vacant stage during the campaign with such breathless messages on the screen as "Breaking News: Standing By for Trump to Speak." He spoke, and CNN cameras rolled.

CNN's ratings rose with Trump. And by the time he became the GOP presidential nominee and started accusing the network of being "fake news," it was too late for CNN to turn back. The network was all in on Trump. Now, Sullivan writes, US democracy is threatened partly because Zucker wanted the ratings. He once showed a glimmer of regret in 2016, she says, acknowledging that "if we made any mistake last year, it's that we probably did put on too many of his campaign rallies in those early months and let them run." Zucker then backed away, Sullivan points out, saying, "You never knew what he would say." Trump was ratings. You can read the full piece here. (Read more Jeff Zucker stories.)

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