Reza Aslan says Jeff Zucker canceled his CNN series to appease Trump

reza_aslan_cnn-e1489849197582Over the weekend, fired CNN host Reza Aslan made quite the allegation: CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker made the decision to cancel his show, Believer, in the summer of 2017, in order to appease President Donald Trump.

Aslan had tweeted that Trump was a “piece of shit.” Then, he apologized, under pressure from CNN execs.

“[Jeff] Zucker informed the production company that he was pulling the plug on the show. The response from the production company was, ‘Wait a minute, what? We thought this was over. He apologized. You accepted the apology. This was four days ago,'” Aslan explained to The Daily Beast. According to him, he indicated Zucker said, “I have no choice in the matter.”

He continued, “I had enough friends there who were able to tell me: ‘Look, it’s a matter of access. It’s an access issue.’ The idea was that Trump wouldn’t come on CNN anymore as a result of this. And also, this was at the height of the AT&T merger where Trump was illegally—and publicly—saying that he wasn’t going to allow this merger to happen unless CNN fire Jeff Zucker, because they have this fake “conflict” between them.”

“Why do you say all is forgiven and then four days later cancel the show? It came as a surprise both to us, and to people at the network. Even the higher-ups at CNN were surprised by this move.”

He finished to The Daily Beast: “We tried to call [Zucker] and get some clarity, and that’s when I was sat down and told that the following came directly from Jeff Zucker. What he basically said was, ‘Keep your boy in line, stay quiet, don’t do any interviews—this is obviously going to be a big story—don’t comment about this, and in exchange, when this brouhaha dies down, you will get the show, the masters, and the format’ — because CNN technically owned not only Believer but the format, by which I mean they owned Reza Aslan goes around the world exploring religions, or my entire livelihood. So I couldn’t go around doing that for anyone else. I was told I could have all of it back if I just stayed quiet. So I had been purposely muzzled—fooled—into keeping my mouth shut.”

CNN announces new Race beat and expands Police beat

cnn-640x480-1CNN has created a new beat, the Race team, and has expanded its law enforcement beat, CNN Worldwide Jeff Zucker announced in a memo on Monday. “Our reporting has been powerful, emotional, and helped to shed a light on the growing movement against institutional racism. Today, I am pleased to announce that we are making an even more significant, sustained commitment to ensure race coverage is a permanent part of our journalism,” Zucker said.

In introducing the new team, he said, “We are pleased to share the news of a new and expanded race team, which will contribute to all CNN platforms. This team will build on what so many do already at CNN and will provide the needed structure to cover this beat with more focus and force,” before noting “team will break news and cover the stories and conversations around race. The struggles, progress, and triumphs.”

Zucker continued, “Delano Massey will be the leader of this new beat. Delano joined CNN recently from the AP, where he was the leader of the race and ethnicity team. He will also continue to run the team covering the Justice Department. Delano will report to Matthew for newsgathering and into Cathy for digital priorities. The three of them will collaborate closely and make sure these stories reach and serve audiences across the network. They are recruiting as of today.”

Furthermore, he noted the expansion on the law enforcement beat. “We’re formalizing a structure to increase our commitment to reporting on policing in America—the power that law enforcement has, how they wield it, and the full view of policing as seen from individuals and communities who value, fear or question their authority. The challenges that officers face and the stories of where the system is working and where it’s broken. Pervaiz Shallwani will oversee this beat. Pervaiz joined CNN recently after spending more than a decade editing and reporting on policing. Pervaiz will report to Matthew and continue his leadership of daily enterprise and investigative efforts in New York. In addition to drawing on the already-strong work of Shimon Prokupecz, Josh Campbell, Ryan Young, Mark Morales, Scott Glover, and others, we are going to add a new digitally-focused Senior Writer to this beat team who will contribute important context to breaking stories and think of policing as a business and an institution. The senior writer will go deep into the renewed scrutiny on police tactics, training, and unions.”

Selina Wang joins CNN as Asia international correspondent

selina-wang_horizontal_webOn Monday, CNN announced the appointment of award-winning journalist Selina Wang as an international correspondent based in Asia. Wang will report on key stories from the Asia-Pacific region for CNN’s television and digital platforms. She is fluent in Mandarin and begins with CNN later this month.

“I am delighted to welcome Selina to CNN as we continue to strengthen our commitment to Asia,” said Ellana Lee, Senior Vice President and Managing Editor, Asia Pacific, and Global Head of Features. “The Asia story has never been so critical and Selina’s deep understanding of China and its relationship with the U.S. will prove invaluable for our cross-platform audiences.”

Wang said, “I’m thrilled to be joining CNN as an international correspondent!”

Prior to joining CNN, Wang was a correspondent and anchor for Bloomberg TV based in Beijing. Before moving to China she was based in San Francisco covering the global technology industry, venture capital and social media industry for Bloomberg News, Television, and Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine. Wang has also reported across Bloomberg’s platforms in New York and Hong Kong.

Wang graduated from Harvard University with an Economics degree and a secondary degree in government. At Harvard she was a John Harvard Scholar for being in the top 5 percent of her class and was awarded the Detur Book Prize for her high academic standing.

Richard Quest got covid two months ago, but he’s still discovering new areas of damage

richard-questIt was two months ago when CNN anchor Richard Quest, 58, announced he had tested positive for coronavirus. But now, he says he is still suffering from a cough, and is now clumsy and forgetful.

But today, the CNN International host of Quest Means Business wrote for, “The cough has come back, without warning and seemingly for no reason; so has the fatigue. Like many others, I am now coming to realize that I am living and suffering from the long tail of Covid-19.”

“My symptoms were on the milder side: I never had breathing difficulties, or loss of sense or smell. I was wiped-out tired and I always had “the cough,” which has now returned,” Quest wrote.

“I have tested negative for the virus and positive for the antibodies, and my doctor says it won’t return. But there are days when I feel that it has. I am also discovering new areas of damage: I have now become incredibly clumsy. I was never the most lissome person, no one ever called me graceful, but my clumsiness is off the chart. If I reach for a glass, or take something out of a cupboard, I will knock it, or drop it on the floor. I have tripped over the curb and gone flying.”

“At times there’s a sense of mild confusion,” he added.

Pamela Brown returns to CNN’s air

brownCNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown returned to work last Thursday, and Monday, she was in the anchor chair, filling on for Jake Tapper on The Lead at 4pm. Brown gave birth to her baby at the beginning of February and has been away since then — both raising the newborn and mourning the death of her mother, sport broadcaster Phyllis George. George died in May.

“Never could I have imagined how my personal world and the world at large would change on such a grand scale when I left for maternity leave…. had a baby (making me a mom of 2 kids under 2 )and then laid my dear mom to rest amid the COVID-19 pandemic and race reckoning in America,” Brown reflected on Instagram.

“It has been a transformative time for me personally as I reflect on how I can be a better person and a better journalist. If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of these past few months, it’s the importance of an open mind, an open heart and humility to learn and grow. What I thought was true about life yesterday may not be today. It is a privilege to be back in my role as a journalist for CNN during this critical time,” she concluded.

Trump isn’t done with Cuomo yet: Move him back to New Day

chris-cuomojpgOn Wednesday, President Donald Trump suggested CNN cut Chris Cuomo’s pay check due to CNN’s low ratings. (Despite the fact CNN just celebrated its highest ratings in 40 years, and Cuomo Prime Time is currently CNN’s number one-rated news program).

Thursday evening, however, the president has another idea for Cuomo: send him back to New Day. “Give him another shot in the morning – He would easily beat Morning Joe’s poorly rated show,” the president suggested.

“CNN should move Fredo back to the morning slot. He was rewarded for bad ratings with a much better time slot – and again got really bad ratings. Getting totally trounced by Fox News,” Trump analyzed.

CNN’s chief comms man, Matt Dornic, swooped in with a dunk, saying, “CNN is not seeking a new head of programming. But there is a job opening up at the White House.”

Although, if CNN president Jeff Zucker runs for mayor in 2021, CNN may be needing a new programming chief . . .

Zucker declares: “We are the most trusted name in news”

zuckerCNN just enjoyed a record-breaking second quarter, the highest ratings period CNN has ever seen. CNN’s audience increased at a higher pace than its rivals, and it is also seeing strong numbers for its digital operation.

CNN’s weekday primetime audience of 1.95 million was up 120% over the same period last year, according to Nielsen. Fox News, which has led in the ratings, had an average of 4.07 million viewers, a 43% increase, while MSNBC’s count of 2.47 million was up 13% from 2019.

“We are a news organization that is built for this kind of time,” CNN president Jeff Zucker said to the Associated Press. “The others in this space are political talk channels, and so even when they’re talking about these stories, they’re talking about the politics of the stories. We’re talking about the news of the stories.”

“All of our research shows we are the most trusted name in news. Others may not believe that, others may scoff at that, the president of the United States makes fun of it, but it’s true.”

Zucker concluded, “More people are watching us than at any time in 40 years. The mere fact that there’s a handful of people left in Washington who can’t figure that out is not our problem.”

MSNBC president Phil Griffin didn’t like Zucker’s jab at him doing “political talk”: “[Our reporters are] doing a hell of a lot more than ‘political talk.'”

President Trump lobbies for Chris Cuomo to get a paycut

chris-cuomo-skeptical-face-1280x720-1With perfect timing as usual, President Donald Trump weighed in on CNN’s 40-year ratings high news: by saying he can’t “believe how badly” CNN performed last quarter.

CNN had its biggest audience in the network’s 40-year history in the second quarter, averaging 1,824,000 viewers in prime time and 1,124,00 in Total Day, which runs from 6 am to 6 am.

In its press release, CNN touted Cuomo Prime Time‘s success, noting it had its “highest 9p time period quarterly delivery on record.” Furthermore, Cuomo Prime Time delivered CNN’s highest viewership in the second quarter among total viewers, 2,210,000, and among adults 25-54 635,000.

But Trump thinks Cuomo deserves a paycut. “Fredo should be given a big pay cut!”

CNN’s press team noted it was “exhausting” to explain this to the president, but since his White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said “you can read and also consume intelligence verbally,” the press team included a link to the release detailing CNN’s ratings. Or, if he couldn’t read it, CNN suggested he ask “one of your staffers to read it aloud to you: Q2 of 2020 was the Most-Watched Quarter in CNN’s 40 Year History.”

For his part, Cuomo didn’t reply.