CNN Worldwide President Jeffrey Zucker has been accused of waging a vendetta against President Trump, and undercover footage released Monday by Project Veritas did nothing to dispel that view.
The self-described guerilla journalism outlet released a hidden-camera report featuring audio of a man identified as Mr. Zucker pushing for coverage advancing the Trump impeachment narrative and blasting Fox News for its “fake conspiracy nonsense.”
“Jeff Zucker, basically president of CNN, has a personal vendetta against Trump,” said a man identified as Nick Neville, media coordinator for CNN in Washington, D.C., adding, “It’s not going to be positive for Trump. He [Zucker] hates him. He’s going to be negative.”
CNN spokesman Matt Dornic did not deny the identify of network employees featured in the undercover sting by Project Veritas, which has targeted several prominent left-tilting media outlets since Mr. Trump took office, but dismissed the report as unworthy of comment.
“There’s really nothing to comment on,” Mr. Dornic said in an email.
Cary Poarch, a contractor and satellite uplink technician for CNN in D.C., said he wore a hidden camera and recorded the daily “9 a.m. rundown call” led by Mr. Zucker, who can be heard pushing for the cable network to “stay very focused on impeachment.”
“We’re moving towards impeachment,” Mr. Zucker said in the audio. “I mean, don’t like, you know — we shouldn’t pretend, oh, this is going one way. And so all these moves are moves toward impeachment. So don’t lose sight of what the biggest story is.”
In another clip, Mr. Zucker also told staff it was time to “call out” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
“I know that there’s a lot of people at CNN that are friendly with Lindsey Graham. Time to knock that off,” Mr. Zucker said in the audio. “And it’s time to call him out.”
Those commenting on social media said the video revealed beyond a doubt CNN’s anti-Trump agenda and political bias, while others downplayed the report’s significance.
“Missed the part where any of this is bad,” tweeted filmmaker Jeremy Newberger. “Jeff Zucker telling people not to buy Lindsey Graham’s bull—-t or someone on the call accurately describing Fox News? You gotta have something a little more smoking yes? Your disgruntled satellite op ain’t quite Deepthroat.”
In one clip, a man identified as CNN floor coordinator Hiram Gonzalez referred to the network’s role in promoting Mr. Trump, who has been credited with juicing the network’s flagging ratings during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Between you and I, we created this monster and now we’re eating him full plate every single day,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Media created the Trump monster.”
CNN has faced criticism from both the right and left for its Trump coverage. Both Mr. Trump and conservatives have accused the network of an anti-Trump bias, while the left blamed CNN for propelling the Republican’s 2016 rise with its heavy coverage.
Mr. Zucker has been upfront about how Mr. Trump drives ratings, telling Vanity Fair in a 2018 interview that when CNN stops covering Mr. Trump, “the audience goes away.”
CNN staffers caught on undercover video also referred to anti-GOP bias.
“Our Democratic interviews are softballs compared to the Republicans,” said a man identified as media coordinator Christian Sierra.
In another clip, Mr. Neville said CNN journalists struggle with the anti-Trump push.
“What’s difficult is like, we have some conflicting things at play here,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out here just trying to do what they think is the best of journalistic integrity. Then you get on the 9 a.m. call and big boss Jeff Zucker f—-ing tells you what to do.”
Mr. Poarch said that he initially considered working for CNN a “dream job,” but that it “turned into a nightmare,” based on a culture he described as the “I hate Trump train.”
“He [Zucker] was calling Fox News fake news and a propaganda machine, and with what I saw, that’s pretty much what CNN was,” Mr. Poarch said in the Project Veritas video report. “Like, it’s just pumping out propaganda.”
At the same time, he said not all those working at CNN subscribed to the “groupthink,” saying “many of them felt the same way. They felt trapped that they couldn’t say it.”