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CNN president Jeff Zucker suggested that he’s interested in hiring former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith when he’s able to join a new company.
Smith abruptly departed the network on Oct. 11, and, due to the nature of his contract, won’t immediately be able to take a new job.
“I think Shep’s a great journalist,” Zucker said Thursday at the network’s Citizen conference in New York. “When he’s available, he is somebody who is very talented, and I would be very open to talking to him.”
During an onstage interview, Zucker pushed back on CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter’s contention that Fox News employs a lot of great journalists.
“You repeat that line a lot, and it’s one of the mistakes I think you make in your journalism,” the exec said.
He also pushed back on the notion that Fox News has separate news and opinion wings: “There is no difference. I don’t see it that way. I think you’re wrong. … It’s completely erroneous.”
Zucker, who has previously called Fox News “state-run television,” said the rival network is “not a journalistic organization.”
The WarnerMedia executive also defended his network’s long-standing practice of hiring pro-Trump contributors to defend the president’s position.
“It’s my belief that we should represent those out there who support Trump, what they think,” said Zucker. “It is hard to find people who will come on and support the president’s view. We need those voices, and I think there’s a place for them.”
Zucker also discussed his network’s icy relationship with the Trump administration. “We’re not looking for an antagonistic relationship at all,” he said. “We don’t set out to be pro-Trump. We don’t set out to be anti-Trump. We set out to be pro-truth.”
The network chief talked about what happened when Trump tweeted Oct. 15 that “rumor has it that Jeff Zucker will be resigning momentarily.”
“I do have an announcement to make today: I’m not resigning,” Zucker said Thursday. “I have no intention of resigning. I think there was probably too much ‘executive time’ that day. [Trump] clearly has been agitated by CNN, and there was probably something done that day and he was trying to take a shot at CNN and he uses me as a proxy for that.”
When someone showed Zucker the Trump tweet, he said he responded, “Wow, I didn’t know that. … My children started texting me and saying, ‘Is this true?'”
The network president also criticized Facebook’s policy of accepting advertisements that contain falsities.
“Maybe they should just sit out this election and not take any political advertising until they can get it right,” he said.
Stelter pressed Zucker on his past comments about harboring an interest in political office. “There are a lot of political offices that are interesting,” he said. “It is something I will look at at the appropriate time. I have no plans to do so at this time. Politics interests me.”
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