CNN President Jeff Zucker declared his network would “not going to be shamed” into covering Benghazi and other stories without “real news value” at an awards dinner Monday.
Capital New York reports that Zucker explained CNN’s post-plane plans during an interview at the Deadline Club’s annual dinner on Monday night.
“I don’t think there’s any question about our commitment to breaking news, as evidenced by all the questions about the plane,” Zucker told The New York Times’ Bill Carter
“So we’re still there whenever that happens,” he continued, “but we’re going to supplement that with some different kind of storytelling.”
What kind of stories? “Climate change is one of those stories that deserves more attention, that we all talk about,” he explained — though he lamented the fact that “when we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience’s part.”
But there are some stories Zucker is loathe to touch, like the House select committee on Benghazi scandal.
“We’re not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something,” he explained, taking a not-so-subtle shot at the Republican Party. “If it’s of real news value, we’ll cover it.”
For all his talk of “real news,” Zucker felt compelled to explain why his network obsessively covered the missing airliner for two months despite possessing almost no new information.
“I’m incredibly comfortable with it,” he declared. “It was an enormously important story: an American-made Boeing jet liner, with Rolls Royce engines with 239 people, disappears into thin air . . . That’s why we devoted the resources that we did to it.”
But Zucker did admit that CNN anchor Don Lemon’s theory that the plane could have been swallowed by a black hole was over the top.
“He was being facetious, but it did not come off that way,” he said. “And he knows that if he could do it over again, he wouldn’t quite present it that way.”
Zucker, who is famous for his inept tenure as president of NBC, moved to CNN in January 2013 and almost immediately drove its U.S. operation into the ground, with the original cable news network suffering its worst prim time ratings in twenty years.
On Tuesday it was revealed that NBC beat out all competitors in the 2013-14 September to May prime time season, increasing its audience by 13 percent while CNN continued to hemorrhage viewers.