CNN president Jeff Zucker lashed out at competitor Fox News at an industry conference Thursday afternoon, saying that the network “is really state-run TV. It is a pure propaganda machine, and I think does incredible disservice to this country.”
He said Fox News has changed substantially in the last two years, following the departure of late founder Roger Ailes. He described the change at the network as “shocking.”
“There are a handful of good journalists there, but I think they are lost in what is a complete propaganda machine,” said Zucker, who claimed Fox News “has nothing on” the Russian government-run TASS Russian News Agency.
Zucker added: “The idea that it’s a news channel, I think, is really not the case at all.”
Despite criticizing the network, Zucker acknowledged that Fox News has owned the market space for conservative programming and has done “incredibly well,” as have CNN’s other competitors, including MSNBC.
“This is the heyday of cable news, there’s no question,” Zucker said at the Financial Times Future of News conference. “All the cable news channels are doing incredibly well as different forms of TV decline. Those that have live sports and news have thrived. There’s no question: Live news and cable is probably one of the only genres that’s grown. Everybody’s doing well, including Fox News.”
FT‘s Matthew Garrahan, who interviewed Zucker, said that Fox News was invited to participate in the event but declined. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Fox News for a response to Zucker’s comments.
At a Business Insider conference in late November, 21st Century Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch directly rebutted Zucker’s claim that Fox News is “state-run TV.” “I don’t think that’s true,” Murdoch said at the time, pointing to hard-news anchor Shepard Smith as a rebuttal to the thesis that Fox News talent tries to prop up President Donald Trump.
Zucker said Thursday that the last three years have been CNN’s best in the 38 years since it was founded by Ted Turner. “We’ve had a very good run,” he said. “We made CNN very much relevant again, very much a part of the national and international conversation.”
Zucker added that Trump’s negative comments about the press have potentially dangerous real-world consequences. “He has created an atmosphere in this country that has resonated around the world in a very unhealthy way that has whipped up anti-media sentiment that is dangerous and frankly harmful and potentially incredibly dangerous,” he said. “He doesn’t even understand the danger he’s causing to journalists and the danger he’s doing to media organizations.”