JERUSALEM – The president of CNN said Tuesday it was “shocking” to watch the political establishment’s silence over President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media, calling it an abdication of their responsibility.
Speaking at a media conference in Jerusalem, Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, said Trump’s labeling of the media as the enemy of the state was unfortunate and dangerous. He refused to say whether any CNN staff had been threatened and what kind of security measures the company had taken, but warned that “words can have consequences.”
Zucker also said he was stunned politicians had not spoken out fiercely against Trump’s assault on the free press. He singled out Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham as among the few who have had the courage to stand up for their convictions.
Since taking office, Trump has lashed out repeatedly at the media, taking particular aim at CNN. He’s upbraided its reporters publicly, deriding the network as “fake news,” and his press secretary blocked CNN from taking part in a White House media gaggle.
Zucker said the contentious climate has not harmed CNN, but rather its ratings and revenue have seen a huge boost.
He said the most important thing was not to be intimidated by the president and stick to aggressive journalism.
“When you are reporting, when you are standing up for the facts, when you are telling the truth, when you are standing up for the first amendment, when you are calling it the way it is, that’s not hitting back — that’s doing your job,” he told the INTV conference. “I think that he [Trump] continues to believe that the media is insinuating that his presidency is illegitimate. That is not what is going on here. We are just trying to ask questions, we are just trying to do reporting, we are just trying to do our job.”
Zucker, who in a previous role as head of NBC Entertainment, helped launch Trump’s TV career by giving the go ahead to the hit reality show “The Apprentice,” said the last time he spoke to Trump was on Dec. 21 at 7:00 p.m, when he was watching TV at home and his cellphone rang.
“I say ‘Hello.’ He says ‘Jeff, Donald.’ I say ‘Hello, Donald.’ And he spent the next two minutes railing about a guest we just had on CNN who said something about him he didn’t like. He yelled at me for two minutes and he said ‘OK, got it? Goodbye’ and he hung up,” Zucker recalled, to giggles from the audience.